Music by Frank O’Hara


If I rest for a moment near The Equestrian
pausing for a liver sausage sandwich in the Mayflower Shoppe,
that angel seems to be leading the horse into Bergdorf’s
and I am naked as a table cloth, my nerves humming.
Close to the fear of war and the stars which have disappeared.
I have in my hands only 35c, it’s so meaningless to eat!
and gusts of water spray over the basins of leaves
like the hammers of a glass pianoforte. If I seem to you
to have lavender lips under the leaves of the world,
I must tighten my belt.
It’s like a locomotive on the march, the season
of distress and clarity
and my door is open to the evenings of midwinter’s
lightly falling snow over the newspapers.
Clasp me in your handkerchief like a tear, trumpet
of early afternoon! in the foggy autumn.
As they’re putting up the Christmas trees on Park Avenue
I shall see my daydreams walking by with dogs in blankets,
put to some use before all those coloured lights come on!
But no more fountains and no more rain,
and the stores stay open terribly late.

Interview with Anique Sara Taylor, author of Civil Twilight

Today, we have an interview with Anique Sara Taylor, who is the author of Civil Twilight, which won the 2022 Blue Light Poetry Prize.

Please welcome Anique:

Poetic inspiration can come from life or art or anywhere. In some cases, poets are influenced by other poets. Which poets or poems did you try to emulate when you began writing poetry? Do they still influence your work today?

I’d studied 19th century poets in high school, then college. Also, Shakespeare and 17th century French poets. I’d always written vignettes and short stories using contemporary language. When I first began writing poems I tried writing formal sonnets in meter with end rhymes. I counted syllables, searched for the proper end-rhyme, but the poems felt stilted and formal.

Sometimes I used words like upon and bower, for sooth, and twisted the syntax into something completely uncomfortable, so that the rhyme could land just at the end of the line. It didn’t go well!

When I lived on the Lower East Side in NYC, I was half-a-block away from St. Mark’s Poetry Project. The poets wrote about everything around us. The City, subway, people, stores, garbage —a moving kaleidoscope of images. All words, stories, history, research, media, with open rhythms and sound. I learned poetry could be anything you could make it be. I learned to listen to my own inner rhythms. The whole world opened up with imagery and metaphor.

No. I never try to write like Robert Frost or William Wordsworth. Ever. But I do read them sometimes.

In addition to the forms throughout Civil Twilight, what are some of your favorite poetic forms and why?

I’m not a fan of forms. With a few exceptions: Sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay for their musicality. (I used to read them to my dear cat who listened, rapt over Millay’s lyric rhythms.) Also, Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

One of my favorite poets Gerard Manley Hopkins (who wrote well over a hundred years ago) created jagged self-propelled lines from his own inner rhythms. This is called “sprung rhythm.” Decades ahead of his time, he became known and appreciated long after his death. The famous poems “The Windhover” and “Pied Beauty” are exquisite examples of his beautiful rhythms and diction.

A contemporary poet, Patricia Smith, wrote a collection of thirteen poems called “13 Ways of Looking at 13.” It’s about the difficulties of being thirteen years old. Beautifully alive, pulsating, and shocking. I loved the thirteen poems. Later on, she said in a performance that in her thirteen, thirteen-line poems, each line has thirteen syllables. What mastery!

I often don’t recognize a form when reading a poem, but I’m excited that poets are inventing new forms all the time. There’s no limit to what can be created.

There can also be personal requirements hidden within a poet’s work, regarding subject matter, point of view, objectivity/subjectivity, description, direction, surrealism, etc. Forms within forms. Requirements within requirements. A good way to read a poem is to ask what the poet’s personal requirements in creating the piece might have been. The more I learn, the more degrees of layering among tools I discover. What a wonderful cornucopia, a never-ending opportunity to learn and grow.

If you were to teach poetry to a child in middle school who had never read a poem nor seen one on the page, how would you outline or begin your lesson?

First, I would choose a few poems from Kenneth Koch’s work with children to read to the class. From Wishes, Lies and Dreams or Sleeping on the Wing. I’d pick poems I find innovative, touching, and surprising. I’d say now we’re going to have some fun with words.

Lists! I haven’t mentioned lists yet!

I’d have them:

Write down a response to each prompt below with a full space between each line:

  • Write a short phrase with concrete nouns of what you’ve seen today:
    (I’d explain what concrete nouns and verbs are.)
  • While you were looking out your window
  • Leaving the house
  • Entering school, Etc.
  • Some Examples:
    • A bird on the bench.
    • A lady carrying a milk carton.
  • Look around the room.
  • List ten objects you see, including sounds you hear.
  • List five phrases or images from any dream you’ve had.
  • Answer in a few words:
    • What does the block you live on look like?
    • What is in your kitchen?
    • Write down something your mother said.
    • What did you hear at the grocery store?

Next. Slides:

I show around five or ten different slides. Each one for about one minute.

For each one I say:

  • Write one descriptive phrase with concrete nouns and verbs.
    (I’d explain again what concrete nouns and verbs are.)
  • Include the name of a different color in each line.
    (Also notice shapes, patterns, objects.)
  • Finish this sentence with fewer words than your age:

And what I wanted more than anything is…

With scissors:

  • Cut each phrase or line so that it is its own strip of paper.
  • Rearrange these phrases in any way you like.
  • Have fun. Experiment.
  • Do not try to make sense.
  • Tape them (with removable tape) to a blank piece of paper.
  • Take your “… and what I want more than anything in the world” line.
  • Pass it to the person on your right. That is your title.

Parts of these exercises can be shifted and changed to accommodate different situations. Children of different ages. Ones who can write. Ones who cannot write yet. I have taught children. I have also taught adults with similar age-appropriate exercises. So much beautiful work has come from it. I am forever thankful to my brave and wonderful students.

What are some of the hardest lessons you have had to learn as a poet so far?

It’s hard to know what a learned lesson is for me. Creating something new, it’s always unfolding. Craft, palette, voice may be something learned. Otherwise, it’s trying to work it out as I go. Maybe all of these below are about learned lessons.

Strangely enough, the hardest writing part may have been at the beginning, when I thought poetry was supposed to sound like Frost or Wordsworth, and I knew I could never write a sonnet as musically alive as one of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnets. Maybe because I thought I had to be different than myself, that I had to be someone else to write. I couldn’t find a way inside the poems.

When the freedom of St. Marks Poetry Project came into my life and I saw poets all around me using images, description, sound, overheard conversations, memory, dreams, lists—anything you could think of, that was when my own words began to flow.

After that there might not have been hard lessons in the way one thinks. I tend to have low self-esteem and high expectations, which can be challenging personally, but not such bad traits for a poet. I’ve learned gentler ways of dealing with myself as a creative. I’ve come to see that ego, high or low, impedes the work on several levels. Writing needs to be about the work, not our ego. It’s about learning, discovering, exploring layers of possibility. Curiosity. Devotion. Honing tools. Craft, where the writing develops.

I love reading poets who can do things I can’t. I love to be surprised and delighted with others’ work. I love learning new elements, layers, and techniques.

Sometimes writing isn’t easy. I feel like I’m up against the infinite. Making decisions is a challenge. Work can go in any direction. I rewrite continually. I keep coming back to the work after my passionate attachment to it has cooled. I come back over & over & over again. I carefully sculpt what I feel the forming poem needs. Until it feels right —but not too tight. Loose enough to breathe, loose enough to let the reader in.

How to know when it’s ready? There’s no official science to this. There’s no right answer. It helps to read. To search for what feels like excellence in other writers.

Poetry can be vital in how it enters into a person’s life, and opens something up with metaphor, non-sequitur and imagery that direct language might not be able to do.

In other countries, at other times, poetry has been revered and adored by the masses. Sadly, not so in our society, not here or now. It doesn’t have the lure of best-selling novels. Most people don’t know the name of our national poet laureate. It is extremely difficult to get published. Most poets are not compensated. But that does not diminish the importance of poetry or the possibility of its impact.

Even knowing all of that, I wanted to be a poet in the poetry world. The words, poems, friendship with other poets are so rewarding. I’m forever thankful to be in that world.

How have you handled obstacles/challenges you’ve faced in your poetic career?

Maybe everything in a poetic career is an obstacle or challenge, given the cost of submitting work, the difficulty of publishing, and the challenging job of promoting a book.

When Civil Twilight was chosen First Prize, my publisher asked what my platform for promoting the book was. This is usual with almost all poetry publishers and small presses, which can be a different situation than novels published by large publishing houses.

I went from being what I call an inner poet, to an outer poet. I finally had my personal writing practice going smoothly. I’d wake up each morning at 6am. Coffee. Three hours of writing, working on poems, the next book, projects in process.

But promotion required a completely different type of activity. I didn’t know if I could figure it out. I didn’t know if I had the aptitude for promotion. But I’d just signed up for a class on podcasting. I was interviewing other poets on their process of developing and releasing their new books. I was studying recording and learning how to promote my podcast. When the publisher emailed me that I had won first prize and Civil Twilight would be published in the spring, it was exhilarating and transformational. But I realized I’d have to learn a whole new series of skills.

To get my bearings, I studied and researched. I made copious lists, asked friends. I needed to update my website and learn to make ongoing changes. I needed to arrange readings, events, lectures, workshops.

Each of these activities had many parts. Each had its own learning curve. I was also proofing the book and working on artwork for the cover. Being an artist, I was able to easily access and process images needed for promotion, but some tasks like developing a website were difficult. I tried to be patient with myself while learning new things. I made wrong turns and mistakes, but I was pleased with what I was able to learn. And over time, I realized I was always moving forward.

It was a year of deadlines and overwhelm, even as I was continuing to work on a new book. Now many of these processes are set into place, but there is still more to do and learn. More excitement, but always moving forward.

Projects still waiting in the wings:

  • Getting together and sending out a regular newsletter with events, announcements, sharing creative development and teaching points.
  • Launching my blog with posts on creativity and the creative process.

I believe the outer job of being a poet and promotion will always be part of my work from now on. Though the beginning was a challenge, I look forward to seeing growth and change in the outer work, as its own form of creativity.

Which poems did not make the manuscript or what edits did you make to poems in Civil Twilight that could be considered “killing your darlings” (also known as your favorite lines)?

Poems that didn’t make it into the book were ones that couldn’t fit within the arc or forward movement of the book. Some were too parallel in meaning to poems I’d already included. Other poems happened in the wrong season or didn’t fit geographically. Sadly, there were a few I couldn’t bring to a place where I felt good enough about them.

Edits. With thirty words, every word was up for being edited. Continually, scrupulously, with an exquisitely sharp scalpel. The early writing process rambled along in full feeling, often with story, whole sentences, and poetic phrases. I was writing parallel at the same time with longer poems for other projects. As this collection grew, I looked for the heart, fire, image, substance, whatever felt central within the nub. The alive, short phrase within the material. I continually cut extraneous words, replaced dull or lifeless words with those more substantive. I looked for the phrase to hold enough in its short form, to deliver impact. To bring the diction to enough of a point.

And just when I’d get it all to flow and flame the way I wanted, the word count would come to thirty-two or thirty-one. How could I cut one or two words exactly when every single word was necessary. How could I cut without cutting off an arm or a leg. Or. If the word count came to 28, how could I bring it up to thirty words, without inserting a flaccid, meaningless stretch.

With the necessary requirement of the feel of a long line; and color, sound, and imagery, I wanted each poem to hit a nerve. To be an alive snapshot, a surprise. It may have been the most difficult sequence I’ll ever write.

When looking to publish your manuscript, what publishers and/or contests did you consider and why? Were there specific criteria you used to make your decisions?

Blue Light Press is a beautiful, independent book publisher in San Francisco. In 2014 when I first began to gather poems into a chapbook, I was just out of grad school and writing, but not connecting with the outside world. I got my courage up. I chose Blue Light Press for the deadline. When the manuscript was returned, it had a small note on top written in blue ink. “finalist.” I wasn’t sure I’d read it correctly. I handed it to a friend to read it to me. “Finalist!” she said. That was life changing for me. Someone had chosen my chapbook Finalist. Afterward, Minerva Rising also chose it as Finalist in 2014. In 2015 Blue Light Press chose my next book Under the Ice Moon as Finalist.

When it came to sending out Civil Twilight, I needed a deadline goal to pull another finished work together. I chose Blue Light Press again because they’d been so welcoming and supportive. I asked the post office mistress to give my chapbook package a good luck rub send-off. She was so thrilled I’d finished the book that she gave it a good-luck rub. Then, a good-luck kiss! Then invisible magic dust! That must be why months later I got an email that Blue Light was choosing my book First Prize and would be publishing it in the spring of 2023. I was shocked and thrilled, as my life was turning around, completely transformed again.

Although that’s my personal story about this book this time, and I am forever thankful to Blue Light Press for the beautiful job they’ve done on it; there might be general information that could help readers. Rules for publishing other forms of writing are a little different, so I’ll just focus on poetry.

For sending out poetry chapbooks you can search for contests and open reading periods. Both will probably involve a fee. Search listings in venues such as Poets & Writers, Submittable Discover, New Pages, Duotrope. Search online for lists of small presses and chapbook publishers. Read carefully. Always adhere to their rules. Research each publisher’s website for requirements. Also search their website for style, book covers and collections, to see what suits your needs. Chapbooks are mostly chosen in contests, but some publishers also have open reading times. Many now also have self-publishing options.

What does writing poetry and being a poet mean to you?

“Writing Poetry” and “Being a Poet” both encompass many wonderful elements.
The over-arching answer is that “Being a Poet” has brought me to a place in life I’ve always wanted to be. Being a poet is the constant challenge of courting creative fulfillment. It’s a continuing opportunity for meaningful learning. I am forever thankful for this. It’s not a static place. Each part encompasses many different sections that shift in an ongoing way as if they were alive. Maybe some lists here?

What “Writing Poetry” means to me:

  • Being in training for creativity.
  • Self-care involving healthy food, exercise. Lifestyle health on all levels.
  • Showing up daily for a time to write, to be with the writing.
  • Working well, working badly, feeling on target, feeling completely lost.
  • Researching. Exploring. Wondering. Asking.
  • Using the whole world for my palette.
  • Speaking from the point of view of any voice I choose.
  • Re-organizing. Collaging. Letting strange juxtapositions happen.
  • Inventing new forms.
  • Gathering. Discarding.
  • Carrying a notebook with me always.
  • Realizing that everything is material.
  • Reading. Reading. Reading. Reading.
  • Writing. Rewriting. Rewriting. Rewriting

What “Being a Poet” means to me:

  • Having the glorious gift of poetry friends.
  • The joy of poetry communities.
  • The wonder of poetry readers.
  • Taking classes.
  • Giving workshops.
  • Getting my work out.

Looking into the outside world to connect with:

  • Readings. Interviews. Workshops. Podcasts. Social Media. Etc.
  • Learning all the technical skills as they become necessary.
  • Taking care of my health so that my voice is in good condition for readings.
  • Supporting the beautiful work of other poets.

And for both “Writing Poetry” and “Being a Poet”:

  • I am always thankful to everyone who has contributed to making this possible.
  • I am thankful that it has brought me to the place I’ve always wanted to be.

Thank you, Anique, for this very detailed and helpful interview, especially for poets just beginning their careers.

About the Poetry Collection:

Anique Sara Taylor’s chapbook Civil Twilight is the winner of the 2022 Blue Light Poetry Prize.

As the sun sinks 6 ̊ below the horizon at dawn or dusk, it’s 5:30am/pm someplace in the world. In thirty shimmering poems (30 words/5 lines each), Civil Twilight probes borders of risk across a landscape of thunderstorms, quill-shaped mist, falcons that soar, the hope of regeneration, a compass to the center. Tightly hewn poems ring with rhythm and sound, follow ghosts who relentlessly weave through a journey of grief toward ecstasy. Spinning words seek to unhinge inner wounds among sea shells and hostile mirrors, eagles and cardinals––to enter “the infinity between atoms,” hear the invisible waltz. Even the regrets. The search for an inner silhouette becomes a quest for shards of truth, as she asks the simple question, “What will you take with you?”

About the Poet:

Anique Sara Taylor’s book Civil Twilight is Blue Light Poetry Prize 2022. Where Space Bends was published by Finishing Line Press 2020. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her chapbooks chosen Finalist in 2023 are: When Black Opalescent Birds Still Circled the Globe (Harbor Review’s Inaugural 2023 Jewish Women’s Prize); Feathered Strips of Prayer Before Morning (Minerva Rising); Cobblestone Mist (Long-listed Finalist by Harbor Editions’ Marginalia Series). Earlier Chapbook Finalists: Where Space Bends (In earlier chapbook form 2014 by both Minerva Rising & Blue Light Press.) and Under the Ice Moon (2015 Blue Light Press). She holds a Poetry MFA (Drew), Diplôme (Sorbonne, Paris), a Drawing MFA & Painting BFA (With Highest Honors / Pratt) and a Master of Divinity degree. Follow her on Facebook, X, Instagram, LinkedIn, and her blog. Sign up for her newsletter.

Buy the book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Check out the rest of the blog tour at Poetic Book Tours.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Holiday of Reflection & Hope

Take this time to reflect on the freedoms we have in this country, and how there was a lot of sweat and blood that went into making them a reality.

Also take a moment to think about how precious those freedoms are and what you are willing to do to keep them.

Finally, the time is NOW to take action to actively preserve your rights.

What would you do, if you were Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Here are some books about the Civil Rights Movement:

Mailbox Monday #755

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Corona/Crown poems by Kim Roberts, Photography by Robert Revere for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

“Corona” is Italian for crown. This series of prose poems and photographs borrows from the formal tradition of heroic crowns of sonnets, in which each section is connected to the last by a repeated line or phrase. The coronavirus was named for its the series of spikes radiating outward from a sphere-like core resemble the sun’s rays, or the crowns worn by royalty.

Of Love and Angels: Poems for My Fiancee by Christian Alexander Barkman for review.

Of Love and Poems for My Fiancée is a love-gift made by the author to celebrate his engagement. It is a collection of thirty love poems that melds romantic, earthly love with the love of God and the divine. The poetry attests to the sacredness of romantic love as a spiritual venture in our increasingly disenchanted world. The use of verse forms such as the heroic couplet and ballad and the application of traditional methods of rhyme and meter is a deliberate attempt to reconnect with the musicality of past poetics—to the lyric traditions of poetry and hymn in which Christianity is so abundantly rich. Free-verse compositions also feature throughout the collection and present an opportunity for contemplation on how both old and new forms alike can express romantic and spiritual sentiment in a way that resonates powerfully with our contemporary ways of life.

What did you receive?

First Book of 2024

Review can be found on Substack.

One Word 2023

Mailbox Monday #754

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Musical Tables by Billy Collins for review.

You can spot a Billy Collins poem immediately. The amiable voice, the light touch, the sudden turn at the end. He “puts the ‘fun’ back in profundity,” says poet Alice Fulton. In his own words, his poems tend to “begin in Kansas and end in Oz.”

Now “America’s favorite poet” (The Wall Street Journal) has found a new form for his unique poetic style: the small poem. Here Collins writes about his trademark themes of nature, animals, poetry, mortality, absurdity, and love—all in a handful of lines. Neither haiku nor limerick, the small poem pushes to an extreme poetry’s famed power to condense emotional and conceptual meaning. Inspired by the small poetry of writers as diverse as William Carlos Williams, W.S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, and Charles Simic, and written with Collins’s recognizable wit and wisdom, the poems of Musical Tables show one of our greatest poets channeling his unique voice into a new phase of his exceptional career.

Bullet Points: A Lyric by Jennifer Sutherland for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

Part prose poem, part lyric essay, BULLET POINTS considers an American courthouse shooting, its aftermath, and its echoes in law, history, and capitalism. Tracing a woman trial lawyer’s experiences of violence–from the intimate and domestic to the national–attorney and poet Jennifer A Sutherland brings a deeply perceptive tenderness to the reality of historical abuses grounded in law and capitalism. Drawing on acts of language and power, art and trauma, BULLET POINTS raises questions about the systems and structures that enable violence via a poetry brilliantly awake to this truth: “Language is one way of doing business across time and into spaces. Image is another.”

Night Life: A Folk Horror Collection by Alba V. Sarria for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

Tucked away in the mountains lays a small town where old gods, demons, and creatures with long forgotten names live frighteningly—and hopelessly— entangled with the humans who call it home. Quick, take the clawed hand of your guide, slip into the skins of the town’s inhabitants, and let this eerie collection of folk horror poetry ensnare you in the tales of the town, and awaken you to the coming rapture of the world.

Containing new and previously published poetry, multi-award winning poet Alba Sarria debuts a narrative folk horror collection spoken through the unusual eyes of 2nd and 1st person. This is a read for a lone dark night.

Rescue Is Elsewhere by Donald Illich for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

In Rescue is Elsewhere, humans are abducted by disappointed UFOs, an astronaut is returned home to Earth by aliens, moon creatures steal our comedians, and a boy dreams of building a rocket to fly to another planet. Alternately serious and satirical, Donald Illich explores the phenomenon of UFOs and how they shape our imagination and lives. His poems unravel from the outer reaches of space to the neighborhood that you or I might live in, and the magic of language brings to the page multiple worlds hidden in the universe. Illich’s collection belongs in the sci-fi section of the library, where its tales can rub up against the fiction in classic pulp magazines of the 20th century.

Homeland of My Body by Richard Blanco for Gaithersburg Book Festival consideration.

In this collection of over 100 poems, Richard Blanco has carefully selected poems from his previous books that represent his evolution as a writer grappling with his identity, working to find and define “home,” and bookended them with new poems that address those issues from a fresh, more mature perspective, allowing him to approach surrendering the pain and urgency of his past explorations. Pausing at this pivotal moment in mid-career, Blanco reexamines his life-long quest to find his proverbial home and all that it encompasses: love, family, identity and ultimately art itself. In the closing section of the volume, he has come to understand and internalize the idea that “home” is not one place, not one thing, and lives both inside him and inside his art.

The poems range in form, voice, and setting, showcasing his command of craft, but in essence they are one continuous reflection on the existential question at the core of all of Blanco’s poetry: how can we find our place in the world. All are characterized by his keen eye, deep sensibility, and polished craft, without pretense. This volume is a gift to Blanco’s many readers but even more to those who have yet to discover that they can understand, and fall in love with poetry, that a poet can speak to them about his own and their own lives so profoundly, and that this poet, as Barack Obama discovered, can speak for all of us.

Richard Blanco has been justly celebrated for his poetic gifts and his command of the many forms poetry can take, from the finely structured to the prose poem formats. His previous volumes have been praised by Patricia Smith, Eileen Myles, Sandra Cisneros, Elizabeth Alexander, and many others. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and dozens of other publications.

What books did you receive?

Check out Amazon’s Top Lit Fic

Interview with Author Eden Robins

***This is the last interview that will be published on Savvy Verse & Wit; please subscribe to Substack.***

Eden Robins is the author of Gold: Heart of a Warrior, and today, she’ll be sharing her writing journey, what her favorite characters are like, and what advice she has for aspiring writers like you.

“Thank you for having me on Savvy Verse &Wit. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share more about my writing journey with you…,” said Eden Robins.

Savvy Verse & Wit (SVW): What has your writing journey been like? When and how did you start writing and what keeps you going?

Eden Robins (ER): My writing journey has been a learning experience, both in terms of developing my craft as a writer, and my own personal evolution. It’s also been a trek of getting lost for a while and then, eventually, finding my way back.

My first book, a sci-fi futuristic romance entitled, Never Until Tomorrow, was published in 2000. Writing “The End” on the last page of that story was the act that made me decide to take writing seriously. While growing up, creativity had been my close and consistent companion, but up until finishing that first book, I had only considered writing a hobby to indulge in when I wasn’t working at my “real job”. I thought getting a business degree, opening a bakery with my husband, and raising three children was the real life I was supposed to be living, while writing was just for fun.

Never Until Tomorrow came about when I lost my paternal grandfather. After he died, I kept wishing I could go back to before his death and spend more time getting to know him. That thought stayed with me for months and the urge to write about it grew inside me until one night I sat down at my computer and started typing. Being able to translate what was in my heart to paper in this way was not just cathartic, it was also an epiphany. I realized not only how much I loved the writing process, but also that I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.

Once that decision was made, I was lucky enough to find publishers interested in my work and had the privilege of sharing my stories with others. Nine novels later, my husband and I separated, then divorced and I simply stopped writing. I just couldn’t seem to put the words together, except for sporadic, distracted scribblings that didn’t amount to much. It was like my creativity had suddenly dried up and disappeared. It was incredibly frightening to think that the thing which had been my companion and guide since I was little would suddenly leave me. A decade later and lots of lessons learned, my creative spark returned, and I began to write again. I realize now that my creativity had never left me, it had just shifted to a different part of my life that needed my attention. But that’s another story for another time.

Today, what keeps me writing is love and hope. The love I have for the emotional hills and valleys I go on as I invest my heart and mind in the people and worlds I’ve created, and the love I hope grows in my readers hearts when they connect with the characters and stories I write. I also keep writing because of the Happily-Ever-Afters. As an avid reader myself, I savor the feeling of a satisfying ending, one that leaves me hopeful and happy, and as a writer, providing that same gift to my readers feels like the right path for me to be on, and stay on.

SVW: How long did it take you to write Gold: Heart of a Warrior? What were some of the obstacles you encountered?

ER: The first part of your question is a tricky one. Sounds strange, I know, but since I wrote Heart of a Warrior over ten years ago, while in the midst of a separation and eventual divorce, the exact timing is a little fuzzy. I believe it took about a year and the greatest obstacle I encountered was myself.

Finishing the book wasn’t an issue. I had the story pushing to come out of my head and onto the paper, so I let it flow. Once my divorce went through, however, something shifted for me and my priorities changed. I half-heartedly submitted Heart of a Warrior to a couple of publishers, but when I didn’t get a request for more, I let it drop and stuffed the story away. My mind set at the time wasn’t conducive to connecting with a publisher and getting that first story in my Gold series out to readers. I was distracted and disheartened, so more than anything else, that book not getting published for over a decade after I finished it was me being the obstacle.

Having said that, I also believe strongly that it’s the obstacle which can often guide me to where I want to go. Ryan Holiday, in his book The Obstacle Is the Way, writes a lot about this. The obstacle to me getting published again was me. My life was in transition, I didn’t feel ready, and I had lost belief in myself and what I was doing. It was only when I came back to myself, and fully embraced the journey I was on, that my work got published again.

SVW: Who are your favorite types of characters to write? Why?

ER: Interesting question. I don’t think I’ve been asked that before. I’d have to say that I like writing about a character who is or becomes determined to evolve in their life, no matter where they’re starting from or how messy it becomes, and I also enjoy penning a villain who savors and revels in their villainy. In both cases it’s about determination and intention, and there’s a richness and depth to it that’s so fulfilling to write about. A character who is willing to grow, even in the face of ugliness and fear is a character who’s multifaceted and can or learns how to access those different parts of themselves. They are or become resourceful and self-contained in a way that takes them to that next level of life they’re facing or seeking. Think of Harry in the Harry Potter series or Frodo in The Lord of the Rings.

A villain who isn’t tortured by regrets, guilt, doubts or uncertainty, but instead revels in their villainy and is ripe with the kind of arrogant certainty and self-aware intention that keeps propelling them forward is fascinating and fun to write about. Think of Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs or the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

SVW: When and where do you most often write? Do you have special totems on your desk? Music playing in the background? Paint a picture of your writing space and day, or include a couple of photos.

ER: I write most often in my home office, or what I call my Creatress Space. My desk faces two large windows with amazing views. I’ve stared out those windows more times than I can count, imagining the stories, people and worlds I write about. I do have several totems on my desk. A tiger pin for strength. A coin inscribed with the words, “The Obstacle Is the Way,” to help me remember to look at obstacles as opportunities, and a rough cut stone amethyst to remind me that the gift I want to share with the world is already inside me. There are others, but those are a few.

I also have some posters and paintings up around the alcove where my desk sits. One is Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “Live the life you’ve imagined”. It helps me remember to stay present to the life I’m living each day.

I often, but not always play music while writing. The type of music varies. I often listen to Lo Fi instrumental while writing or editing. Music, for me, is a magic carpet that can take me to so many places, past, present and future, across the globe or just next door. It brings me back to my feelings, which then get expressed in my writing.

SVW: If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?

ER: Write. Keep writing. In my opinion, when one is just starting out, it’s so important to focus on putting the words on the page rather than trying to create a perfect masterpiece. There’s a magic that comes from simply getting the story out of your head and on paper. And the more you write, the stronger the magic. Know what that magic produces? Better writing. Know what else it does? Creates more ideas.

Simply put, writing begets writing, which begets better writing, which begets more creative writing, which begets better, more creative writing, which leads to the masterpiece one wanted to write in the first place. It’s definitely important to begin with the end in mind, but only to the extent that one doesn’t back themselves into a corner. Knowing what one wants without worrying about how one will get it is key. Focus on one step at a time and trust that the magic of writing will get you there.

SVW: Who is your favorite poet or what is your favorite poem?

ER: My favorite poet is Mark Nepo. His poetry and prose capture so much of what I feel in both the mundane and spectacular moments of living. I really like his poem, Breaking Surface. It conveys the hope and faith that is, for me, the lifeline of living wholeheartedly…

Let no one keep you from your journey,
no rabbi or priest, no mother
who wants you to dig for treasures
she misplaced, no father
who won’t let one life be enough,
no lover who measures their worth
by what you might give up,
no voice that tells you in the night
it can’t be done.
Let nothing dissuade you
from seeing what you see
or feeling the winds that make you
want to dance alone
or go where no one
has yet to go.
You are the only explorer.
Your heart, the unreadable compass.
Your soul, the shore of a promise
Too great to be ignored.

SVW: “Thank you, Eden, for sharing your thoughts and journey with us.”

Learn more about her novel:

It’s just gonna be one of those days… Empathic healer and business owner, Dora Alexander decided to celebrate her 25th birthday by exploring the stalagmites and stalactites in Kartchner Caverns. Kinda nerdy? Maybe, but you do you, right? Things take a nasty turn when an earthquake rocks the cave, leaving her alone in complete darkness. Searching for a way out, she accidently awakens an immortal warrior who’s kind of cranky after his 100-year nap. Wouldn’t you be?

Philoctetes, one of Demeter’s immortal Gold warriors wakes up to the disturbing sound of a female sobbing. Thinking she’s one of the Silver demons he’s sworn to hunt down and destroy, he almost kills her before realizing she’s human. Correction. Turns out she’s not just human. She’s also the woman responsible for sending his kind to hell and causing woe and misery for the entire human race.

Dora never asked to be Pandora reborn. And she certainly didn’t ask to be paired up with an insanely hot immortal demon hunter on a mission to save the world and redeem them both. But The Fates seem to have their own quirky ideas.

One of them being if she and said hot demon hunter consummate the inferno like attraction blazing between them, they’ll simply cease to exist, with any memory of their time on earth erased forever. Oh goody, the day just got worse.

Follow the blog tour at Poetic Book Tours.

Buy Eden’s book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:

Eden Robins believes in second chances. She’s been lucky enough to have a few in her life and knows there’s a magic in seizing the moment to try again. As a mentor and founder of A Wholehearted ME, her heart’s purpose is to guide people into living as their full, innate, creative potential. As a writer, Eden’s heart leads her to inspire joy, love, and hope in her readers through her tales. Creating stories about people courageously living, loving, and experiencing life true to themselves, no matter how messy it gets, are the ones she wants to write and will keep writing for you … and for her. Connect with Eden at https://linktr.ee/edenrobins and check out her blog, Living the Path, at https://awholeheartedme.com/blog

Jane and the Final Mystery by Stephanie Barron

***This is the last review that will be published on Savvy Verse & Wit; please subscribe to Substack.

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 312 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Jane and the Final Mystery by Stephanie Barron (book 15) is the final installment in the series of mysteries in which Jane Austen herself uses her ability to read a room and ask the right questions to solve a murder. As each book is a mystery unto itself, you don’t necessarily need to reach them in order, but they do follow Jane Austen’s timeline and if you don’t know what happens to Jane in real life, you may want to begin at the start of the series because this one is the last.

Readers, like me, will not want to read this novel too quickly because we know that Jane’s life is nearing its end, but we cannot help but turn the pages in Barron’s story to find out who did murder the boy at Winchester College.

“Elizabeth and her deep anxiety for her son were much in my thoughts in the days that followed her visit; but it was not until two months later, and from a very different source, that I was to hear of actual violence at Winchester College — and the death of an unfortunate schoolboy.” (pg. 15)

Barron does well the show us how Jane may have suffered from her illness and the care she would have received from family members along the way, but we also see how determined Jane is and how dedicated to truth and family she continues to be despite all the pain. Barron also clearly has researched the time period very well, and she includes footnotes for those who need a little clarification, which I appreciated.

William Heathcote, the son of Jane’s friend Elizabeth, has been bullied at Winchester, but what Jane soon learns about life at the college will make teasing in today’s world seem less dire. Boys are shoved into canals and sluice gates opened so they flow into the canal and river, and so much more. Hazing is taken to a whole new level, but it isn’t just about fitting in. Sometimes rivalries can stem from classism and social ostracism. When William is accused of murder, Jane and her nephew, his friend, get to work on clearing his name.

Jane and the Final Mystery by Stephanie Barron is a page-turner. I couldn’t put it down. I had to unravel the mystery with Jane and her nephew, even though it broke my heart to see how much pain she had to deal with. Barron knows how to weave a historical tale that will leave readers wanting more.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Stephanie Barron is a graduate of Princeton and Stanford, where she received her Masters in History as an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow in the Humanities. Her novel, THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN (Ballantine, January 22, 2019) traces the turbulent career of Jennie Jerome, Winston Churchill’s captivating American mother. Barron is perhaps best known for the critically acclaimed Jane Austen Mystery Series, in which the intrepid and witty author of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE details her secret detective career in Regency England. A former intelligence analyst for the CIA,  Stephanie—who also writes under the name Francine Mathews—drew on her experience in the field of espionage for such novels as JACK 1939, which The New Yorker described as “the most deliciously high-concept thriller imaginable.”; She lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and GoodReads.

Mailbox Monday #753

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Ladyparts by Deborah Copaken from the library.

I’m crawling around on the bathroom floor, picking up pieces of myself. These pieces are not a metaphor. They are actual pieces.

Twenty years after her iconic memoir Shutterbabe, Deborah Copaken is at her darkly comedic nadir: battered, broke, divorcing, dissected, and dying—literally—on sexism’s battlefield as she scoops up what she believes to be her internal organs into a glass container before heading off to the hospital . . . in an UberPool.

is Copaken’s irreverent inventory of both the female body and the body politic of womanhood in America, the story of one woman brought to her knees by the one-two-twelve punch of divorce, solo motherhood, healthcare Frogger, unaffordable childcare, shady landlords, her father’s death, college tuitions, sexual harassment, corporate indifference, ageism, sexism, and plain old bad luck. Plus seven serious illnesses, one atop the other, which provide the book’s narrative skeleton: vagina, uterus, breast, heart, cervix, brain, and lungs. Copaken bounces back from each bum body part, finds workarounds for every setback—she transforms her home into a commune to pay rent, sells her soul for health insurance, turns FBI informant when her sexual harasser gets a presidential appointment—but in her slippery struggle to survive a steep plunge off the middle-class ladder, she is suddenly awoken to what it means to have no safety net.

Side-splittingly funny one minute, a freak horror show the next, quintessentially American throughout, Ladyparts is an era-defining memoir.

What did you receive?