Guest Post: Daydreaming Is the Thing by Mary Salisbury, author of Side Effects of Wanting

Today’s guest is Mary Salisbury, who has a new book out from Main Street Rag. Let’s learn about Side Effects of Wanting:

Side Effects, Mary Salisbury’s impressive debut collection, introduces a writer whose voice compels and enchants, its quiet and subtle vibrancy pitch perfect, story after story, and intensified by the quietness that surrounds each. Stories of love, longing, and loss, and behind each the writer’s charitable heart, and an observing eye that misses nothing. ~Jack Driscoll, author of The Goat Fish and the Lover’s Knot

Compelling and remarkably honest, Side Effects of Wanting investigates the sharper edges of our unique emotional landscapes in a series of exciting, accessible stories that explore both the strengths and frailties of the human condition in its varied aspects—personal identity, grief, fractured relationships, the ghosts of the past, transformation, and slowly mending hearts. Weaving together small-town stories filled with secrets, hardships, and that ever-present ache of almost becoming the person you want to be, Mary Salisbury tenderly renders heartbreaking narratives in which characters reach out to be loved, to be understood, and to finally feel safe. ~John Sibley Williams, author of As One Fire Consumes Another

Mary Salisbury’s stories are infused with the precision of a poet and the wisdom of a deep thinker, amounting to some of the best stories I’ve read about milestone matters of the heart, everyday regrets with life-altering outcomes, and the painful nuances of long-haul love. Side Effects of Wanting not only invites us in, it lets us laugh and cry while we watch on the edge of our seats as lovers, siblings, parents, and co-workers face private, universally relatable conundrums head-on. ~Katey Schultz, author of Still Come Home

Thank you, Mary, for stopping by today to share your thoughts on the creative process.

Daydreaming is part of writing to me. When I was young I climbed trees on our elm-lined street in Flint, Michigan, and hid so I could daydream in peace. My secret dream was to be a songwriter or a back-up singer.

Music was what captivated me, the music of the mid-60’s—Motown was the thing. In my Catholic school it was all plaid skirts and white shirts and daydreaming was not considered a prerequisite to good writing or to singing. But I knew in my heart that it was.

I read the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. I found the poetry of William Carlos Williams, and more, as I grew into my teens. I began to write poetry of my own, and I continued to write poems and stories as I got older and raised children and worked as a registered nurse.

No, I did not become a back-up singer, but I’d still like to be one. My love of music and my love of reading allowed me to enter the world of other worlds and I kept writing so that I could be there, in those other worlds.

As an adult I worked and lived in a small town in Southern Oregon and absorbed the life and natural world around me. I witnessed the act of quiet heroes—people who got out of bed every day and did what was necessary, despite their troubles. These are the people who populate my stories.

I wrote in the car, waiting for my children’s soccer, baseball, or basketball practice to end. I wrote in the library, or early in the morning before the day began. That’s the thing about writing—you only need a notebook and a pen.

I had my first book of short stories published two days before I turned seventy. Writing has sustained me through loss and love. If you love writing, if you need to write, keep writing, and always keep reading. They go together like lyrics and melody.

About the Author:

Mary Salisbury’s short fiction has been published in Cutthroat’s Truth to Power, The Whitefish Review, Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, and Flash Fiction Magazine. Salisbury’s essay on writing was featured in Fiction Southeast. Two of Salisbury’s chapbooks, Come What May, and Scarlet Rain Boots, were published by Finishing Line Press, and her poetry has appeared in Calyx. Salisbury is an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship recipient and a graduate of Pacific University’s MFA in writing program.

Excerpt: Because I Could Not Stop for Death by Amanda Flower

Poetry is my love, and I’ve loved Emily Dickinson’s poetry since I was in school. My copy of The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson is well worn. And one of her most famous poems (#479) begins “Because I could not stop for Death—”.

Today, I have a treat. Amanda Flower will share an excerpt from her new Emily Dickinson mystery, Because I Could Not Stop for Death.

About the Book:

Emily Dickinson and her housemaid, Willa Noble, realize there is nothing poetic about murder in this first book in an all-new series from USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award–winning author Amanda Flower.

January 1855 Willa Noble knew it was bad luck when it was pouring rain on the day of her ever-important job interview at the Dickinson home in Amherst, Massachusetts. When she arrived late, disheveled with her skirts sodden and filthy, she’d lost all hope of being hired for the position. As the housekeeper politely told her they’d be in touch, Willa started toward the door of the stately home only to be called back by the soft but strong voice of Emily Dickinson. What begins as tenuous employment turns to friendship as the reclusive poet takes Willa under her wing.

Tragedy soon strikes and Willa’s beloved brother, Henry, is killed in a tragic accident at the town stables. With no other family and nowhere else to turn, Willa tells Emily about her brother’s death and why she believes it was no accident. Willa is convinced it was murder. Henry had been very secretive of late, only hinting to Willa that he’d found a way to earn money to take care of them both. Viewing it first as a puzzle to piece together, Emily offers to help, only to realize that she and Willa are caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse that reveals corruption in Amherst that is generations deep. Some very high-powered people will stop at nothing to keep their profitable secrets even if that means forever silencing Willa and her new mistress….

Without further ado, please read the following excerpt from Amanda Flower’s Because I Could Not Stop for Death:

“The Dickinsons are moving?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said in a crisp voice. “It has been Mr. Dickinson’s goal to return to the homestead for many years. His father ran into a bit of financial trouble and lost it. He fled to Ohio in disgrace.” She looked
around with bright red cheeks. “Don’t repeat that.”

“I won’t,” I promised. My hands began to shake. I clasped them in front of me and pressed them into my skirts.

“Was the boardinghouse your first position?” Miss O’Brien asked, getting back to the task at hand.

“No, I’ve been in domestic work for the last eight years.” She frowned. “Eight years. You can’t be more than sixteen.”

“I am twenty, ma’am. I started work when I was twelve.”

“What made you work so young?” She eyed me. “Should you not have been in school? The Dickinsons put great value in education, even in the education of girls such as yourself.”

“My mother died, ma’am, and I had to provide for my younger brother and me. I had to go to work. Our mother taught us to work hard, so it was no trouble to take over that role.”

“Haven’t you got a father?” She narrowed her eyes.

“Not that I know of,” I said and pressed my clenched hands deeper into my skirts. My father was not a topic for conversation even if it cost me the position at the Dickinson household. I would not speak of him, ever.

“How much younger is your brother than you?”

“Two years, ma’am,” I said. “He’s an adult now, too, and works just as much as I do. He works even harder, I should say, because of the physical labor required for man’s work.”

Miss O’Brien stood up. “I’m interviewing several more girls for this post. I will let you know by mail by the end of the week if we choose you.” She looked at my wet, muddy skirts again.

My heart sank. If there were several young ladies applying for this position, what chance did I really have at winning the spot? I was the girl who came to the interview covered in mud and who was too young without the proper experience for the post. Why did I think I was the only one who would have been interested in the ad? As I told Miss O’Brien, the position was a chance to move up-this was true not just for me but for anyone in domestic work. There were many young women in my place that would want to do so.

“Thank you for your time,” I said. “Would you like me to let myself out?”

Before Miss O’Brien could answer, a breathy voice said, “There will be no more interviews. Margaret, you have found the right maid.”

I turned and a small woman stood in the doorway. She was petite and wore a brown dress that was cinched around her small waist. Her chestnut red hair was pinned back in a fashionable knot and her dark eyes shone with interest, but there was a faraway look about them too. She was a very pretty woman, but there was something birdlike in her movements as she stepped into the room. Her hands fluttered like the tips of wings.

Miss O’Brien jumped to her feet. “Miss Dickinson, can I help you with something?”

“You have helped. You have found our new maid. I’m very grateful to you for that. Mother wants us to keep a clean house, especially when she is in the middle of one of her episodes.”

Episodes? What does she mean by this?

Miss Dickinson studied me with an exacting gaze. “She looks like she has a strong back too. It’s something that we will need if Father insists on pulling us up and moving us back to the place of my birth.” She said this like she wasn’t very keen on the idea.

“Very well, Miss Dickinson.” Miss O’Brien dipped her chin.

“Thank you, Margaret.” The small woman looked me in the eye. “I like someone who would sacrifice herself for her family and duty. That’s just the kind of person I want on our staff. I think there have been enough questions. Margaret, please show the young maid to her room and cancel the rest of your interviews for the position.”

Miss O’Brien pressed her lips together as if she were unsure. “If you are certain, Miss . . .”

“Very certain. I like her, Margaret. If I like her, Father will agree.”

Miss O’Brien nodded. “Please follow me, Miss Noble. I will show you to your room.”

I blinked; it was all happening so fast. I glanced back at Miss Dickinson, but she was no longer there. She was gone.

— Excerpted from Because I Could Not Stop for Death by Amanda Flower Copyright © 2022 by Amanda Flower. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Thank you, Amanda, for sharing this excerpt.

About the Author:

Amanda Flower is the USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award-winning mystery author of over forty novels, including the nationally bestselling Amish Candy Shop Mystery Series, Magical Bookshop Mysteries, and, written under the name Isabella Alan, the Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries. Flower is a former librarian, and she and her husband, a recording engineer, own a habitat farm and recording studio in Northeast Ohio.

Listen to an excerpt here.

Guest Post: Lari O’Dell, author of Mr. Darcy’s Phoenix

First, please let me apologize that this post was meant to be posted on Aug. 30, but due to some family emergencies and other issues, it didn’t get posted during the blog tour. I humbly apologize to Ms. O’Dell.

I want to welcome Ms. O’Dell to the blog today with her guest post about Mr. Darcy’s Phoenix. Please check out the book synopsis below.

Book Synopsis:

A phoenix brings them together. Will a curse keep them apart?

When the hauntingly beautiful song of a phoenix lures Elizabeth Bennet to the Netherfield gardens, she has a vision of an unknown gentleman. He whispers her name with such tenderness that she wonders if this man is her match. Unfortunately, her gift of prophecy has never been exactly reliable.

Mr. Darcy is a celebrated fire mage, the master of Pemberley, and the man from her vision. But he is not tender; he is haughty, proud, and high-handed. His insult of her during the Summer Solstice celebration makes her determined to dislike him in spite of her love for Dante, his phoenix familiar.

After Mr. Darcy is called away by his duties, Elizabeth’s magic runs wild, and it is only their reunion at Rosings that offers her any hope of controlling it. They are drawn together by their love of magical creatures and their affinity for fire. But Elizabeth soon has another vision about Mr. Darcy, one that may portend a grave danger to his life.

Can Darcy and Elizabeth overcome misunderstandings, curses, and even fate itself?

Please welcome Lari Ann O’Dell:

I’m excited to be back at Savvy Verse & Wit to talk about my new fantasy Pride & Prejudice variation, Mr. Darcy’s Phoenix.

The world of Mr. Darcy’s Phoenix is filled with a plethora of fay folk and magical creatures.

There are several magical creatures and fay folk that play an important part of the story. Of course there is Dante the phoenix, the titular character. But there is also a unicorn named Aurelia, several household elves, wood nymphs and water nymphs, a griffin, and many others.

In this variation, Pemberley is not only a grand estate in the north, but it also serves as the largest conservatory for magical creatures in England. Darcy was raised with magical creatures and fay folk, and has a deep appreciation for them that is not always shared by his peers. Part of what draws him to Elizabeth is her appreciation for magical creatures and her obvious bond with his companion Dante.

The phoenix is a symbol or rebirth, renewal, immortality, healing, and eternal fire. Darcy is a fire mage and so having a phoenix as a companion made perfect sense. Not all Darcy men have been fire mages, but Dante has been with the Darcy family since the time of William the Conqueror. Dante is reborn with the birth of each new master of Pemberley.

Dante serves as an extension of Darcy himself. He forges an early bond with Elizabeth, despite Darcy’s poor first impression and insult. Even Elizabeth acknowledges that a person bonded with such a magnificent creature cannot be all bad. Dante helps Elizabeth to see Darcy’s better attributes sooner than she normally does in Pride and Prejudice. He also serves as a healer, both physically and metaphorically, and a messenger. I have always loved Fawkes the phoenix from Harry Potter, but now Dante is my favorite fictional phoenix.

When selecting the other magical creatures I wanted to feature, there was some research involved. There are some creatures I mention just to flesh out the world and because I like them. But the others that served a greater function to the story, I wanted to use them in a way that is supported by lore.

For example, unicorns represent goodness and purity. In mythology, it was said that only people who were pure of heart can approach a unicorn. There is a scene in the book where Darcy helps deliver a unicorn foal, and Elizabeth names the baby. The unicorn later helps Elizabeth in a significant way. Darcy and Elizabeth are able to interact so closely with unicorns because despite their flaws, they are truly good people at heart.

As in the original novel, Elizabeth seeing Darcy at Pemberley gives her a new appreciation of his character. The griffin, which makes a small appearance in the second half of the book, is a symbol of strength and valor. It was also seen as a guardian and protector of secretly buried wealth or treasures. It was said to help ward off evil influences. It certainly plays an important role in the story.

The nymphs were fun to write because they were very much like human characters with a magical twist. There are four nymphs in the story, Nyxie, Nyla, Whitley, and Serafina. Fay folk famously do not lie. I liked having characters who were not afraid to tell Darcy and Elizabeth when they were being foolish. Darcy and Elizabeth did not always appreciate it, but the nymphs certainly helped them along their journey to finding their happy ending.

I hope you all enjoy reading about all of these magical creatures and more in Mr. Darcy’s Phoenix.

Thank you, Lari Ann, for stopping by the blog.

About the Author:

Lari Ann O’Dell first discovered her love of Pride & Prejudice when she was eighteen. After reading a Pride & Prejudice variation she found in a closing sale at a bookstore, she said, “This is what I want to do.” She published her first novel, Mr. Darcy’s Kiss, two years later.

Born and raised in Colorado, she attended the University of Colorado in Boulder and earned a bachelor’s degree in History and Creative Writing. After graduating college, she wrote and published her second novel, Mr. Darcy’s Ship. Her third novel, Mr. Darcy’s Clan, is her first supernatural variation, and she is working on two more fantasy variations. She is now back at school and pursuing a degree in Nursing. She adores her three beautiful nephews, Hudson, Dean, and Calvin. She enjoys reading, singing, and writes whenever she can.

Guest Post: Book Signing Horror Story by Khanh Ha

Thank you for joining us today’s guest post from Khanh Ha. I’ll have a review of his newest short story collection next week. Also stay tuned for how to enter the giveaway.

About the collection:

From Vietnam to America, this story collection, jewel-like, evocative and layered, brings to the readers a unique sense of love, passions and the tragedy of rape, all together contrasting a darker theme of perils. The titular story captures a simple love story that transcends cultural barriers. The opening story “A Woman-Child” brings the shy eroticism of adolescence set against a backdrop of the seaside with its ever present ecological beauty. A youthful love affair between an older American man and a much younger Vietnamese girl has its poignant brevity in “All the Pretty Little Horses.” In “The Yin-Yang Market” magical realism and the beauty of innocence abounds in deep dark places, teeming with life and danger. “A Mute Girl’s Yarn” tells a magical coming-of-age story like sketches in a child’s fairy book.

Bringing together the damned, the unfit, the brave who succumb by their own doing to the call of fate, their desire to survive never dying, it is a great journey to inhabit this world where redemption of human goodness arises out of violence and beauty to become part of its essential mercy.

As readers, we understand how much we love authors and want to get our books signed at events when we can, but today, Khanh Ha, author of All the Rivers Flow into the Sea & Other Stories, is going to share with us what it is like to be on the other side of that equation. What’s it like for an author at a book signing?

Please give Khanh Ha a warm welcome for his guest post in the form of a poem:

The Late Night People

I met a woman
during one of my book signings
She came to the table where I sat with
two stacks of hardcover copies
She picked up one copy and said,
What is it about?
I’m never good at summarizing my work
in a nutshell
for something that had taken me
two, three years to write
Well, I said, it’s on the jacket flap
where she could read what the copywriter
had done
as part of the cosmetic surgery
so the work looks more like a movie actress
than a whore
The woman nodded, but
didn’t read a word of it
where I hoped she might have caught
the advance praises
full of superlatives
that sometimes you thought they must’ve been
copied and pasted in
from another work
But she just wanted to talk
A soft-spoken woman
straw-yellow hair
no makeup
like she’d just got out of bed and
wandered into this place
full of books
like Alice in Wonderland
We talked about pets
and, in the name of God,
she owed at least a dozen cats
some of them neutered
for overpopulation purpose
and pet fish
whose names I forgot
expensive though
She said one of them cost a hundred dollars
And I learned that she worked part time
somewhere in a graphics shop
It was a quiet evening
with no more than three interested readers
who dropped by at my table
but none bought any copy
only she did
without any idea of what the book
was about
When I left she had gone to an in-store coffee shop
sitting on a high stool with a cup of coffee
reading a day-old newspaper
I had to run an errand that evening after
the book signing and when I was done
it was half past midnight
I was driving down a cross-street
two blocks from the bookstore where
earlier I had my book signing
Stopping at the intersection on a red light
I looked over at a donut shop
on a corner
well lit, near empty
I saw the woman who had bought a copy
of my book
sitting by herself
close to the glass
a Styrofoam cup of coffee
in front of her
She wasn’t reading anything
just sitting and staring ahead
I wondered
where my book was
For certain it wouldn’t have fit in her purse
unless she had returned it after I left
for a full refund.

Thank you, Khanh Ha, for sharing this horror story with us.

To Enter the Giveaway, Click Here.

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Guest Post, Excerpt, & Giveaway: A Season of Magic by Sarah Courtney

Today’s guest Sarah Courtney is here to share with us her new book, A Season of Magic, which is a Pride & Prejudice variation. Before get to her guest post and excerpt, let’s learn a little bit about the book.

Book Synopsis:

When the girls are forced to reveal their elemental magic, it does not matter to the Mage Council that they did so only to save lives. Their parents were traitors and the entire magical community is simply waiting for them to descend into evil themselves.

The Council reluctantly admits Elizabeth to the magical university (and unofficial marriage market) called The Season, where she will learn how to control her powers. If she can keep her head down and avoid drawing any untoward notice, she might be able to graduate and finally be accepted as a fire mage.

But fading into the background will be difficult. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, nephew to Lord Matlock of the Mage Council and a student himself, is assigned to observe her and report any misstep. One mistake could send her back to her foster parents, the Bennets—or worse, to prison. Yet when that mistake inevitably comes, he stands up on her behalf. Could he be an ally instead of an enemy?

Please welcome, Sarah:

Thank you so much, Serena, for having me on Savvy Verse and Wit! I’m so excited about the release of my newest book, A Season of Magic, a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation.

I’ve been working on this story for a couple of years and actually wrote several other books in between. Since I read a ton of fantasy, I thought writing a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation would be easy! But it took me a while to really discover the story I wanted to tell beyond the initial hook that was my inspiration.

You would think that a Jane Austen story that takes place in a fantasy version of the Regency would not require a lot of research because, hey, it’s fantasy! But I did find a surprising number of topics that I had to put lots of research time into—and they weren’t all about Regency manners or what words existed during that era.

Elizabeth Bennet is a fire mage in Season, which means some of my research went into fire and flammable materials. I was looking over a scene I had written in which Elizabeth needs to identify what is being burned on a fire without seeing it. She identifies it as some kind of wood, and then narrows it down to paper.

Some of you may have already noticed the problem here, but I didn’t catch it myself until a reread. Of course, paper was not made from wood during the Regency era! Until at least around the 1840s, it was still being made of linen and rags.

Describing Elizabeth’s fire abilities and knowing the flammability of different materials could be a little tricky, since her fire is magical and does not absolute require fuel or oxygen to burn—although it burns more readily when they are available, of course. But fire was so prominent in the story that I did still have a great deal to learn. In fact, at one point I needed to know about potential arson materials during the era, and my husband put me in contact with a firefighter so that we could discuss wax and turpentine!

Did all of these pages of research go into the story? Of course not. I end up using maybe a line here and a line there. Such is the life of a writer. At least half of your research, if not most of it, never ends up in the book. But those lines that stay ought to be good!

With Elizabeth and Darcy at a magical university, I couldn’t resist putting them through what most students dread: a group project. To make it worse, they end up on the group project together with Mr. Wickham and several other characters you’ll meet in A Season of Magic. Wouldn’t you just love your grade to depend on Mr. Wickham doing his share?

Their group project and other classes led to all sorts of interesting research, from aphids to Oliver Cromwell and from herbs to William the Conqueror. I had a lot of fun imagining how the history of England might have been affected by mages, or how an insect might have been altered as part of a magical experiment. A lot of this research went into the little glimpses we get into Elizabeth’s magical education.

One real historical event that has a prominent mention in A Season of Magic is 1816, sometimes known as The Year Without a Summer. This was the year after a violent eruption of a volcano caused an ash cloud that affected temperatures and weather systems worldwide. Crop shortages caused significant starvation and illnesses from North American to Europe to Asia. This was a life-altering event that would have been felt by Jane Austen herself in the year before her death.

While this event would happen several years after Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy completed their time at the Season, it was an ideal way to show what their magical education was for, as well as how the mages could work together to help in desperate times. Most of my research into this time period was focused on history and how the situation was different in North America versus Europe versus elsewhere in the world, but it did lead to some interesting searches like, “Can animals graze in the rain?”

Now that I’ve shared a glimpse into some of the process of writing a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation, here’s a little tidbit from the story itself:


There was no air. Elizabeth’s desperate gasps were worse than holding her breath, and yet she could not stop from trying to suck in air.

Her head was pounding, eyes stinging. Although the smoke had long been too thick to see through, she could still tell that the edges of her vision were going black. She was not going to make it. Was she even still crawling towards Maria? Even if she reached the girls, how would she turn around and make it back towards the door when she could see nothing and could not breathe?

Jane’s hand clenched on hers. Jane. Her beloved Jane.

Jane. She could barely form the silent call.

I am here, Jane’s mental voice said, sounding very faint. Weak. Jane, too, was barely holding onto consciousness.

When she was very young, Elizabeth had thought of doing something heroic, something amazing, something that would clear her family’s name and restore their reputation. If she had succeeded in saving the girls and Sir William, perhaps she would have.

Instead, she and Jane would die together.

Just as that maudlin thought crossed her mind, the surrounding air cleared. Elizabeth greedily sucked in the fresher air, but that only brought on a fit of coughing.

She could see now. Her vision was improving, although her eyes still stung. Maria and Pen were still alive! They were both lying on the floor, clinging to each other in the same way Elizabeth and Jane were. Sir William was just next to them, lying on his stomach. Elizabeth could not see his face.

Elizabeth looked up with blurry eyes to see a strange and amazing sight. The smoke was not blowing out a window. It was just . . . evaporating. Even as she watched, the remaining grey smoke in the room disappeared as if . . . by magic.

She coughed at a sudden odd sensation, as if the smoke in her lungs, too, had suddenly become pure fresh air. She coughed again, but now her lungs did not feel as if they were about to burst.

Jane let go of Elizabeth’s hand to wipe tears from her eyes. Whether she was crying with relief or whether it was from the pain of the smoke, Elizabeth did not know. She felt on the verge of tears herself.

Sir William sat up, looking bewildered. Maria and Pen were looking towards the door of the room, and Elizabeth turned, pulling Jane with her.

A man stood silhouetted in the doorway, the lit torches of the villagers who had come to the rescue behind him.

Sir William scrambled heavily to his feet, reaching towards the burnt table for support before thinking better of it and getting up without it.

“Sir,” he choked out, “my deepest thanks.”

“Well,” the stranger said with a wry grin, surveying the room, “I had not expected such an exciting welcome to Meryton. Still, it is a pleasure to meet you all.” His eyes caught on Jane’s, and his smile turned brilliant. His next words seemed to be for her alone. “My name is Charles Bingley.”

Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your exploits in writing this variation and for sharing an excerpt with us.

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below.

About the Author:

Sarah Courtney loves to read fantasy, fairy tales, and Pride and Prejudice variations, so what could be more fun than combining them? She currently lives in Europe where she homeschools her six children and still manages to write books, which has to be proof that magic exists! Visit her blog and on Facebook.


Sarah is giving away 1 eBook per blog stop.

If the winner has already preordered the book, he/she may choose another one of Sarah’s books for their prize.

Leave a comment below with an email.

Deadline to enter is Aug. 8, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Guest Post: And Silent Left the Place: Tall Texas Tale or Moral Exploration? by Elizabeth Bruce

I’d like to welcome Elizabeth Bruce to the blog today to talk about And Silent Left the Place, which was published and re-released in 2021 by the Washington Writers’ Publishing House (purchase the book, here).

Before we get to the guest post, let’s learn more about this book.

About the Book:

A silent old man climbs into his secret hole, burdened by his Great War bargain–his voice for life with his beloved. On this night in April 1963, the burden of silence passes from old to young. The debut novel of Texas native Elizabeth Bruce is a lyric tale of violence, redemption, and love reclaimed through the cruel dry land of Texas.

Please welcome, Elizabeth Bruce:

In my debut novel, And Silent Left the Place (published by Washington Writers’ Publishing House), I crafted, at one level, a mythic, metaphorical, folkloric tall Texas tale. There are wildly theatrical, at times profane, almost circus-like Texas spectacles. There’s a bulldozer ballet, a desert dancehall, and V-Day autoworkers painting all the cars red, white, and blue in jubilee. There are loose horses, rattlesnakes, jack rabbits, coyotes, and a blind dog named Lorraine. There’s Old Man Hopper, the Body Hunter, and his searchlight cracking open the Texas night. There’s a circle of fire, an underground bunker, a New Orleans’ Madam, and the grass Jesus walked on. And there’s Patsy Cline Walkin’ After Midnight and Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys wailing about Right or Wrong.

At the same time, in the novel I dove deeply into grievous moral wrong—”sin” in a religious context—and what to do about it. Set in South Texas in April of 1963, Silent revolves around Thomas Riley, an 81-year-old World War One vet who came back from the Great War middle-aged and silent. He can speak, but he doesn’t speak, and Riley’s burden of silence is the mystery of the novel. Over the book’s 24-hour period, a young couple passing through trespasses on a wealthy rancher’s land and sets into motion a cascade of bizarre events that eventually reveals Riley’s secret.

With Washington Writers’ Publishing House’s 2021 release of a new edition of Silent, I’ve revisited the novel’s moral journey, and realized how it was shaped by our friend and fellow artist, the late Mphela Makgoba. For eight years in the 1980s and 90s, my husband, Robert Michael Oliver, and subsequently our two children, shared our home with Makgoba, a fierce South African dissident poet, actor, and freedom fighter who spent 31 years in exile in the USA. He was a ferocious critic of apartheid, of course, but also of the geopolitical forces and nation states that enabled such injustices, the U.S. and the West, most especially. Makgoba and I spent all of those eight years in deep, daily dialogue about these forces and what to do about them. He was the most uncompromised, uncompromising person I have ever met, and he profoundly shaped my understanding of myself, American society, and the broader world.

And all the while I was in dialogue with Makgoba, my writer’s imagination was incubating what ultimately became And Silent Left the Place. Makgoba went home to South Africa in 1995 and he never read my novel, but in many ways its moral investigations are dedicated to him: how to respond to grievous moral wrong?

As the world watched, post-apartheid South Africa, under the extraordinary leadership of the late Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, sought to respond to the atrocities of apartheid. It rejected both the retaliatory “tribunal” response of the Nuremberg Trials and the “national amnesia” response of granting blanket amnesty to all the wrongdoers. Instead, the country pursued a third path: the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

What is this path of reconciliation? What is the journey of truth?

While I absolutely—emphatically do not—liken the moral explorations in my short novel in any way to the South African experience, I am reminded of how shaped my moral Geiger counter was by those many years of discourse with Makgoba, as I sought to fathom the radioactivity of human wrongs.

And Silent Left the Place sets forth a backstory of grievous wrong, moral wrong, of “sin” if you will; it offers silence as atonement; it speaks of truth-telling and imagines forgiveness. It even envisions divine retribution—a deux ex machina of sorts—all played out in the cruel, dry land of Texas and the squalid trenches of the Great War. It is often a bleak picture. As I said in my interview with Tom Glenn in the Washington Independent Review of Books, there is “an absence of modern interventions in the narrative arcs of Riley and others. There is no therapy, no drug regimen, no support groups for the traumatized old soldier Tom Riley. No one intervenes to reunite this lonely old man with his beloved wife, Dolores, wherever she is. There are no trials bringing justice to the aggrieved.”

What I aspired to offer in the novel, however, is a vision of possibility, of reconciliation through truth, of forgiveness through atonement, of the reclamation of joy through endurance, and that makes And Silent Left the Place, in my view, a deeply hopeful—if wildly theatrical—book.

Washington Writers Publishing House, in its remarkable generosity to longtime members of the press, has embarked on a journey of issuing new editions of several books published in the press’ 47-year legacy.

In addition to And Silent Left the Place, in 2021 WWPH also issued a new edition of poet Sid Gold’s Working Vocabulary, and in 2022 the press released new editions of poetry books by WWPH Co-Founder Grace Cavalieri—Why I Cannot Take a Lover—and former press President Myra Sklarew—Altamira.

Founded in 1975, WWPH has published over 100 poets and writers, many during their early years of literary work. Published authors become members of the press and volunteer for at least two years supporting its operations. As a nonprofit, cooperative press long dedicated to publishing poetry and literary fiction by writers living within 75 miles of Washington, DC (including Baltimore), WWPH has just expanded its scope to include writers from all of Maryland and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.

For the first time, in 2023, WWPH will also include Creative Nonfiction in its annual literary competitions. In 2021, the press published its second anthology in 47 years, This Is What America Looks Like, edited by current Co-Presidents Caroline Bock and Jona Colson, which includes poetry and fiction by 100 writers from D.C., Maryland, or Virginia. Bock and Colson have also launched WWPH Writes, a bi-weekly online journal showcasing the work of many area poets and writers.

Happily, the press’ 2022 publications will soon be released: The Witch Bottle, a new collection by short story writer and speculative novelist Suzanne Feldman, and You Cannot Save Here, a debut collection by Baltimorean queer poet Anthony Moll.

For more information about Elizabeth Bruce or And Silent Left the Place, please visit Elizabeth’s website at https://www.elizabethbrucedc.com.

For more information about Washington Writers’ Publishing House, its catalogue of books, or publication opportunities, go to www.washingtonwriters.org.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your experiences with us.

Photo credit: K. Whipple Photography

About the Author:

Washington, D.C.-based Texas writer Elizabeth Bruce’s debut novel, And Silent Left the Place (new edition– 2021), won Washington Writers’ Publishing House’s Fiction Award and ForeWord Magazine and Texas Institute of Letters’ distinctions. Her collection, Universally Adored and Other One Dollar Stories, is forthcoming in 2024 from Vine Leaves Press. She’s published in the USA, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, Malawi, Yemen, and The Philippines and studied with Richard Bausch, the late Lee K. Abbott, Janet Peery, John McNally, and Liam Callanan. A former character actor, Bruce has received DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities and McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation Fellowships.

Finding Inspiration in Unlikely Places by Eric D. Goodman, author of Wrecks and Ruins

Today, I’d like to welcome back Eric D. Goodman to the blog. He’s written so many unique books from stories linked together in Tracks to his latest novel, Wrecks and Ruins. Before we get to his generous guest post, let’s check out his newest title.

About the book:

Stuart believes romantic love is like the cycle of a cicada: a few months of excited buzz-romance, lust, excitement-followed by a monotonous silence that can’t live up to the promise at the start.
He strings together more than broken relationships, seeking art in the defective. After finding love, sabotaging it, and rekindling the fire again, Stu comes to understand that his drive to end relationships prematurely and his attraction to damaged goods are connected to his fear of being broken himself. Part romantic comedy, part buddy novel, Wrecks and Ruins finds beauty in the most unusual places.
Please give Eric a warm welcome as we explore beauty in unusual places:

Some would say that it is one of the jobs of a writer or a poet: to find inspiration in unlikely places. In some ways, that’s what I tried to do with my most recent novel, Wrecks and Ruins, which compares romance with an annoying horde of insects.

More specifically, the book compares stages of romantic love to the cycle of 17-year cicadas: short moments that buzz with excitement followed by years of routine monotony.

The main character who struggles with this perspective also has a knack for finding beauty in the most unusual of places. He is fascinated with the remains of automobile accidents and abandoned or destroyed buildings. He visits such sites to take photographs, sometimes even pocketing pieces of the wrecks and ruins—a twisted hood ornament or charred scrap of burnt metal from an exploded furnace—to add to his own little collection of damaged goods. He sees the stories and the histories contained within these remains, and he clings to them.

Of course, the main character soon comes to see the correlation between his collection of broken things and his collection of broken relationships. He finds value and beauty in each. And, as good characters should do, he learns, grows, makes mistakes, and learns some more.

The imperfect characters that populate this short novel are people I’ve met before, so to speak. This book is an unexpected follow up to a short story I wrote shortly after the cicadas emerged in 2004. New to the Baltimore-DC area at the time, it was my first experience with such a phenomenon, and I just had to feature the cicada experience in my fiction. The fact that a couple of friends had recently married gave me this inspiration to write “Cicadas,” which was published in Old Lines from the New Line State: An Anthology of Maryland Writers, and featured in abridged form on Baltimore’s NPR station, WYPR.

Fast forward to 2017: I wanted to write a story that was sort of an anti-love story that corrected itself. I was thinking of it as sort of a literary rom-com about an older couple who still loved each other but were not in love, and who giddily planned a divorce the same way younger couples in love may plan a wedding.

I thought back to some characters I’ve used before to see if any would fit as side characters to make an appearance. I realized that Stuart, from “Cicadas,” would fit perfectly as the main character of this new book.

Beyond that, I came to realize that not only would Stuart and his friends be the right age for these characters at this time—but the cicada horde was about to emerge again in 2021. It all came together.

It can be strange and unexpected, where inspiration comes from, whether writing a
novel, a story, a poem, or a song. Sometimes writers find inspiration in the most unlikely

of places. Like a character finding beauty in a twisted hood ornament, or a writer finding inspiration in a seething swarm of insects. The most unlikely of inspirations can bring forth things of beauty.

Have you found inspiration in unusual, unexpected, or unlikely places?

Thanks, Eric, for sharing your journey into unusual places to find the beauty and the story.

About the Author:

Eric D. Goodman is the author of six books, his latest being Wrecks and Ruins (Loyola University’s Apprentice House Press, 2021), set in Baltimore. Eric lives and writes in Maryland, where he lives with his wife of 28 years and two taller-than-him children. Learn more about Eric and his writing at www.EricDGoodman.com

Guest Post: Clarity in Poetry by Shoushan Balian, author of Through the Soul Into Life

Today’s guest post is from poet Shoushan Balian, author of Through the Soul Into Life.

Check out the collection:

“This abrupt jolt
That rattled
The realms of my faith
Bent me, knocked me down
To the ineffability of my resilience”

A woman’s enigma and quest in search of herself and her power. Redefining her relationship with the world and the Divine with an earnest urge to pinpoint the cause of human suffering with an intent of alleviating it.

In Through The Soul Into Life by Shoushan B, we experience the complexities and the challenges of our inner world in relation to social norms, religion, politics, anguish, love, human rights and the hurdles that we have to face to recover our authenticity, spirituality and empathy.

Without further ado, please welcome Shoushan:

A time comes in our lives when we can no longer live life at face value, always distracted by everyday demands. Out of anxiety, frustration, and tiredness—and if we are curious enough—we stop… and start asking questions about our reality and the purpose of life. Questions without apparent answers, questions that keep us in limbo, or even questions that we avoid asking.

This journey started for me about twenty-five years ago. The more I examined my life, the more I realized the presence of pain, dissatisfaction, agony, disappointment, and so on… with a void almost impossible to fill. The more I scrutinized life in general, the more I perceived the wreckage caused by the human ego.

Eventually I began journaling my everyday inquiries and emotions. As I went along with my puzzling query, I came upon insights, as if some wiser part of me knew these all along. As I searched deeper and deeper, my understanding and explanations took a flight in such extensions, all the way to the distant beginning of our universe… tracing and understanding our journey, now as human beings, originating from the birth of our universe. A journey we are still continuing to unseen horizons. A journey worth living as long as our hearts are open to the presence of love. A journey to be ready to lose ourselves totally to redefine ourselves and to be ready to lose totally our misconception of life to reinvent ourselves from a place of self-acceptance, self-understanding, and respect for others and life.

This journey and introspection eventually, about seven years ago, led me to share my insights on my Facebook writer’s page, Shoushan B. This is how the process of writing poetry developed for me, combining my raw emotions and insights, distilling and condensing them in a distinctive style, in rhythmical lines and in rhyming words.

I owe my decision to publish my poetry collection, Through The Soul Into Life, to a very dear friend of mine, Hripsime. After reading my poems on my Facebook page, for four years she persistently pushed me to publish a book. Encouraged by her enthusiasm, I decided to polish some of my poems, write new ones, present them in a poetry collection, and actively search for a publisher until I found Atmosphere Press last February, who accepted for publication my first collection.

Life is a journey with its highlights and challenges, and it’s up to us how we navigate through it to grow and to discover our inborn gifts in order to share our experiences with others.

And I’m thankful for it!

About the Poet:

Shoushan Balian is of Armenian origin, born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, later living in Paris, and now a resident of California. She is a writer, a poet, a visual artist and a visionary. She has published some of her poems on her Facebook and on Shoushan B writer’s page, and has read at poetry reading circles in the Bay Area. Through the Soul Into Life is Shoushan B’s first published poetry book.

Challenges While Photographing for Poetry: Himalayas by Jon Meyer, author of Clouds: love poems from above the fray

Today’s guest post is from Jon Meyer, author of Clouds: love poems from above the fray, which is a available digitally or as a coffee table book.

Here’s a little more about the book:

Clouds: love poems from above the fray features beautiful black and white photographs from around the world, paired with Jon’s reflective and inspirational poetry and stories behind the photographs. One such story explains the unforgettable experience behind Jon’s photo of a small plane surrounded by the snow-capped Himalayas in Nepal:

After sitting in the tiny airport in Pokara, Nepal for 5 hours, I started to get restless. We still had not taken off to fly up into the Himalayas.  So, I asked a man wearing a pilot’s uniform when we would board and take off. “When I can see blue sky,” he replied, “because in Nepal, the clouds have rocks in them.” (Jon Meyer, 2022) (#21)

Please give Jon Meyer a warm welcome:

Photography for use with poetry requires patience, sometimes requiring hours of waiting for the right light or having a cloud in the right place, or even the position of a cold midnight reflection.

Traveling to take a photograph can be a macro or micro adventure. The micro may be just walking around the corner or into a nearby forest. A macro adventure sometimes requires visiting a new country, learning about new (to me) cultures, or finding places that illustrate previous writing. Capturing the right image may require climbing mountains, flying to remote destinations, trudging through mud or snow, riding in a car on a steep mountain road without guard- rails and having the brakes fail, or even barely avoiding an avalanche.

The latter experience occurred when trekking in the high Himalaya and taking photos of their magnificent snow- covered peaks. The tiny villages along the Annapurna Circuit trek in Nepal are basic. The most prosperous of the small dwellings are made of carefully placed stone, and some are covered with whitewash. At the time that I was there, my guide and I stayed overnight in hut/ homes with minimal heating that consisted of a cooking fire inside, and most villages at altitude did not have electricity nor running water. The villagers were always welcoming and gracious with Namaste greetings to all strangers. We were happy to take shelter from the night’s wind and cold. The views of the ice- covered Himalayan peaks remain unsurpassed. Homes are now starting to acquire solar for lighting and essentials.

We passed by the prayer flags in the cover photo for Clouds on our trek up toward Thorong La, the world’s highest pass at 18,000 feet (over 5,400 meters). That morning, we had a good start before dawn, and by 10 AM we were well above the tree line at 16000 feet in a steep valley. Above us to the left was a peak with a sheer, high degree inclination, and on that smooth stone face was a thick ice field extending down from 26,000 feet to just above the rock- strewn trail we were scrambling on. The continuous ice was more than a mile wide.

By this time of morning, the strong sun was out with scattered clouds, similar to those in the photo. As we passed below the ice field, my guide and I both noticed the increase of water pouring down the smooth black mountain from below the ice field. It was really a rushing river. A shiver shook my body at the thought that in a moment the whole ice field could collapse, avalanche down, and cover the narrow valley we were in.

We looked for large boulders to crouch behind if the ice let go, but there were few with no guarantee that the ice wouldn’t roll them over us if we took cover there or back down the trail. So, we increased our pace but the altitude’s reduced oxygen made progress slower than necessary. With help from adrenaline, we pushed on and up. It was like a dream of running as fast as possible but still very slowly. When I was in High School, I ran sprints while on sports teams. The longest I could go was less than 30 seconds all out. This time, after 45 minutes of a maximum effort slow sprint and my repeating Love’s name with great intensity, we reached a point on the trail out of peril.

Just then I heard a loud crack, like a rifle shot too close to my ear. The ice field had let go, and cascaded down over the trail where we had just been. Since we were now ‘above the fray’ my stress and determination changed to gratitude. The Ancient One, Lord of the Mountains sent a lesson and a message, “Now that’s the way to remember Me always.”

Clouds: love poems from above the fray has been a project spanning more than four decades containing poems influenced by visiting many places, giving lectures, and witnessing beautiful vistas, in towns, cities, and above all, in nature. Over my career, I have been invited to speak at universities and cultural centers across the US and in a number of other countries, and I took photographs while in those places. Thousands of those photos are now in my archive. Hundreds of five- line quintain poems were written down, from which 64 were chosen for Clouds. These were then matched with photos in my archive.

Thank you, Jon, for sharing your poetry, photos, and stories.

About the Poet:

Jon Meyer has written for The Village voice, ARTnews, ARTS, New Art Examiner, Visions Quarterly, CRITS, Q, Dialog, Art New England, Fictional Café, and many more publications. As Department Chair, Meyer led a small team producing a film about one of his students, Dan Keplinger. This film, King Gimp, won the Oscar for best short documentary at the 2000 Academy Awards. Meyer’s work has been in 60 solo and group exhibitions (18 museum exhibitions) and 20 museum/public collections globally. He has received 12 grants, including a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

Guest Post: Publishing Poetry by Kurtis Ebeling, author of Beneath Stretching Pines

Today’s guest post is from Kurtis Ebeling, author of Beneath Stretching Pines.

Here’s a little bit about the poetry collection:

Please give Kurtis a warm welcome:

Publishing a collection of poetry, even one as modest as Beneath Stretching Pines, was a rather extensive, drawn-out endeavor. Some of the 30 poems were composed and then published in journals nearly 3 years before I decided to compile and organize them, and a few others were composed within a couple weeks of the book’s publication. It is also important to note that these poems are, in many respects, an extension of my graduate studies at EWU—my studies of the modernist poets in particular. Thus, for better or worse, I have both teachers and academia to thank and/or blame for the inadvertent inspiration for these poems.

While Beneath Stretching Pines takes simple, modest subjects as its focus (trees, dead leaves, streetlamps, bedside windows, etc.), it is also at play with a somewhat complicated philosophical subtext. Namely, the poems in this collection are inspired by the epistemological, or meaning-
producing, relationship created between the self and the world as we experience it. I like to think that my poems use language in a way that collapses (and questions) the distinction between abstraction and the perceived world (selfhood and worldhood), and that, in doing so, they articulate self-expression in relation to self-effacement. They suggest that thought and the experienced world are, moment to moment, co-emergent and intertwined. To use a favorite metaphor of both W.B. Yeats and William Carlos Williams, these poems suggest that the material world and perceiving mind come together to perform a kind of dance, which, in this case, symbolizes sensory experience and abstract meaning making observation and thought active rather than passive. That said, I hope that my readers will interpret my work in other, perhaps more interesting, ways unique to their own thinking. My ideas about poetry can be—to my chagrin—deceptively romantic.

It is also very likely that I was slightly overeager to publish Beneath Stretching Pines when I did. While I am incredibly happy with the way this collection turned out, I do remember feeling like I needed to be free of these poems to continue writing new ones. Ultimately, the only difference additional time would have likely made is that this collection would have probably ended up longer. Nevertheless, there is a certain charm to its brevity. Beneath Stretching Pines is also my debut collection, so I wasn’t entirely conscious of the effort I’d have to put into marketing, post-publication, if I wanted to reach an audience outside of my friends and family. As time passes though, I am becoming more and more comfortable with its small, intimate audience. Art doesn’t have to find a home within the larger culture to be worthwhile—its creation is an accomplishment either way. Of course, a large part of me would like to find a larger audience, which is why I continue searching for places like Savvy Verse & Wit to promote my work.

Opportunities like these are always exciting.

Thank you, Serena, for extending this opportunity, and thank you readers for spending time with the words I’ve strung together!

Thank you, Kurtis!

Please take a moment to read a sample poem from his collection:

A Willow

A willow—limbs cracking under
grayish white bark and hunching
under gravity (somewhere between
consciousness and sleep)—shrugs

in early spring: where breath flows
in woody veins. Behind the guise
of death—undressed by winter,
touching spears of grass—there is

a small kind of hidden horizon:
a small kind of scene.

Curling from some central stem,
an entangled mess of branches
sway with the subtle breeze; sunlight
colors in yellow and clarifies 
what little we get to know
before dying: what little we get
to see without undressing.

This poem speaks the beauty of nature and the many unknowns we face in the shadow of death.

Guest Post: Poetry Writing Tips from a Published Poet by D.L. Heather

Today’s guest post is from D.L. Heather, author of Life Interrupted. Here’s a little about the book:

Life Interrupted is a powerful and intensely moving poetry book of one woman’s journey into a life of chronic pain-and the unyielding resilience of the human spirit. D.L. Heather’s collection of poems takes you on a journey through living with chronic pain, healing, self-discovery, inner strength, and personal transformation. A journey through powerful feelings that grow from seeds and change into blooming flowers.

Please give D.L. Heather a warm welcome:

Ever wondered how to write a poem? For writers who want to dig deep, composing verse lets you sift the sand of your experiences for flickers of light and insight.

If you’re tempted to try your hand at a few verses but you’re not sure where to start, keep reading this blog by haikuist author & poet D.L. Heather.

Start with an idea

Don’t force yourself to write your poem linearly, from the first line to the last. Instead, start with an idea your brain can latch onto as it learns to think in verse.

Your starting point can be a word, a line, or a phrase you want to work into your poem. It might be a vivid picture floating around in your mind. It can be a complex feeling you want to execute with precision, or a memory that you can’t seem to let go of. I think the most powerful poems give voice to something true about the human experience and help us look at everyday experiences in new and exciting ways.

Think of your starting point as the why in your poem, what’s your motivation for writing it?

Mind Mapping

Now that you’ve got a starting point, it’s time to put fingertips to the keyboard or, if you’re old school like me, pen to paper. Before you write out verses, take some time to look deep into the feelings, imagery, or theme at the centre of your poem.

Take as much time as you need and write anything that comes to mind when you think of your initial idea. You can draw your mind map by hand, add bullet points, jot down words, form brief paragraphs. The purpose of this mind map isn’t to produce an outline, rather to gather raw material to draw upon as you draft your poem.

My advice, don’t censor yourself. Overthinking or mentally grumbling will drive you crazy! “This line will never make it into the final draft”? Tell that inner critic to be quiet for now and just keep writing. You just might refine it down into a witty, poignant line.

Choosing your style

Once you’re happy with your mind map, look at what you came up with. Chances are, you’ve got one beautiful mess: sentences that trail off or change structure midway. That’s okay! Don’t beat yourself up! I promise you, there’s a poem in there somewhere.

You’re going to take your creation and sculpt the hell out of it. You will figure out what kind of shape you can make out of it — whether it’s naturalistic, free flowing or restrained.

Will you write free verse, or do you prefer following more traditional “rules,” like rhyming poetry or the syllabic constraints of tanka or haiku? Even if your words beg for a poem without restrictions, like free verse, you still have to know the tone and texture of the language of your poem.

Read… Read and Read Some More

A poem isn’t like reading a novel: you don’t have to spend hours upon hours researching to write a wonderful poem. Although, reading poetry of any style can keep you inspired throughout the writing process, especially if you’re feeling stuck.

Say you’re writing a sensory rich poem about a toxic relationship between a married couple. In that scenario, I would recommend reading some key imagist poems, alongside some poems that sketch out complicated visions of relationships.

Choose a poem that speaks to you and:

  • Find examples of simile and metaphors
  • Look for other senses than sight
  • Come up with questions and try to answer them
  • Try to analyse what emotions it stirs in you

Write for yourself

With an idea, a mind map and some inspiration under your belt, it’s time to draft your poem!

After all the exploratory thinking, you’re ready to write. But the pressure of actually producing verse can still cause self-doubt and anxiety. I suggest writing for yourself, at first, to take some of that pressure off of you.

I wholeheartedly believe that as writers, songwriters, poets, novelists that we can determine the validity of our success if we start by writing for ourselves. Personally, my life has certainly changed through the years. By certain lines, I’ve had the bravery to think of and then write — and those moments are when I’ve most felt like I’ve made it. Most of those lines in those first drafts were for my eyes only, and they were the most poignant.

As the first draft comes together, treat it like it’s meant for your eyes only.

Read your poem out loud

A memorable poem doesn’t have to be beautiful on paper: maybe a flowing, melodic prose isn’t your aim. Though it should come alive on the page regardless of your style. To achieve that, always read your poem out loud — at first, word by word, line by line, and then all together.

Trying out every line against your ear can help you weigh out a choice between synonyms. Reading out loud can also help you hear line breaks that just don’t fit. Is the line too long? Does it force you to speed through it? Do you want to give your readers some time to take it all in and give them room to breathe?

Take a Breather

By now, you’ve successfully written your first draft. It may not be perfect, but you should be proud of yourself – you’ve written a poem! Congratulations!

Now it’s time to step away and take a breather. If you’re like me, you’ve probably read out loud every single line so many times that all meaning has leached out of the syllables. So take some time off, go for a walk, catch up on some reading, or start your next writing project. Then come back with a fresh set of eyes because trust me, you’re not finished, not just yet — you still have to do revisions.

Revision Time

Revising poetry is a process that requires word play and loads of patience. Don’t beat yourself up if it’s not coming together how you imagined it. Take your time. Have fun with it! Your poems will grow and evolve. For me, my revision process is much like my brainstorming and writing process. I find a quiet place where I can be alone with myself and really listen to how I’m feeling at the moment.

About the Poet:

D.L. Heather is the pen name for poet, writer, and former music journalist Debra Heather. She has a B.A. in English and is the author of the inspirational poetry collections; Life Interrupted and Metamorphosis. Debra was born on 04 December 1978 in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada, and now resides in Detroit.

Writing came into her life in her teens by way of therapy and the exploration of healing through journaling. Her writing is motivated by her experiences with childhood trauma, love, loss, healing, heartbreak, and self-discovery.

A private person by nature, she prefers to let her work speak for itself, in the way poetry allows her to. She hopes to inspire others and reinforce the fact that you are not alone.

When she isn’t writing in her studio, she enjoys traveling, reading, movies and gardening. Her current book, Metamorphosis: Extended Edition, will be available December 21, 2021. Connect with her on Instagram @dlheatherpoetry

Character Interview & Giveaway: The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy by Don Jacobson

Don Jacobson has been a featured author on the blog before for the Bennet Wardrobe series, and today, we have the final installment in the series: The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy

Read more about this book:

“You must throw away notions of what you want. Only then will you be free to accept what you need.” —The Brown Guide to Fitzwilliam Darcy, 1840

Long has the amazing Bennet Wardrobe involved itself in the affairs of Longbourn. Where before its actions have been cloaked in mystery, its purpose now becomes clear. The fey cabinet has molded the universes to strike a balance that can be achieved only by saving the greatest love story ever told.

Follow the paths taken by Pemberley’s master and mistress after their children are grown. See Elizabeth Darcy struggle to rekindle the love glow that has dimmed after a quarter century.

Grasp the unaccountable pain her departure levels upon the entire Derbyshire family. Watch Fitzwilliam Darcy learn that which he must in order to become the best version of himself: worthy of his Elizabeth.

The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy closes out the Bennet Wardrobe series. The disparate threads spun by the remarkable women born to a Hertfordshire couple of insignificant fortune are woven together. These lives have become the tapestry that records the destiny of Jane Austen’s lovers, immortal in any here/now or where/when.

Without further ado, please welcome Don Jacobson with today’s character interview:

An Interview with Rachael Weisz, Elizabeth Darcy in The Grail:

A Cambridge graduate, Rachael Weisz quickly stepped from university to television and onto the stage. Cinematic roles followed where her dark eyes, arresting style, and deep authenticity led to a plethora of awards. Her role in “The Constant Gardener” brought her an Academy Award. Her portrayal of Sarah Churchill in “The Favourite” led to a Best Actress BAFTA. On stage, her immersion in the character of Blanche DuBois in Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” led to her carrying home the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress from The Society of London Theater.

Weisz took time from her busy schedule at the Cannes Film Festival to discuss with the View From Here her most recent outing — The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy.

The View From Here: Thank you, Ms Weisz, for joining us to speak about your role as Elizabeth Darcy in the biopic The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy. While her earlier life has been the subject of multiple productions since 1940, this is the first which focuses on a mature Elizabeth Bennet Darcy. I imagine that the obvious question is what attracted you to the character?

Weisz: And there is an equally obvious answer. Elizabeth Bennet Darcy is one half of history’s greatest love story. The world, though, has been captivated by the early months of her relationship with Darcy. That would sideline every single actor over the age of twenty-five. When the chance came along to play Mrs. Darcy as a woman in her forties, I jumped at it. Of course, Daniel, my own Mr. Darcy, was jealous that he could not play opposite me.

TVFH: You are referring to Daniel Craig, of course. I wonder if Pride and Prejudice aficionados would be willing to include Mr. Bond in their Firth/MacFayden debate.

W: Yes, there was some good-naturing twigging going on in our household about just that. But Daniel was occupied with shooting No Time To Die and, even though he was age perfect for this Darcy, he could not contemplate the part. He did strut around the house grimly glowering while muttering ‘My good opinion once lost…’

TVFH: But his lack of availability led to the casting of Ewan McGregor.

W: Ah, dearest Ewan: I so enjoyed being opposite him once again (2005 Red and Black). Of course, he was the right Darcy for me. His eyes smolder and he gets the Darcy growl and grumble just right: probably the Scot in him.

TVFH: The producers sent me some of the rushes. I was astonished at the new depth you found in Elizabeth Darcy. Did you study Ehle and Knightley?

W: We all go to school on our fellow actors. I looked for a through line between their portrayals of an unmarried twenty-year-old woman to my character in her mid-forties. After more than a few cups of coffee and walks in the park, I realized that I could only use their Elizabeths as a starting point. Their films cut off just as the Darcys’ married life was beginning. As a result, the events that would have informed my backstory were not there.

However, I was fortunate in that the Bennet Family Trust had begun opening their archives by the time I was studying for the part. I was able to spend time in a reading room below Lincoln’s Inn reading Jane Bennet Bingley’s journals. Her memories of Elizabeth Bennet and the wedded Mrs. Darcy — both before and after her time in the Wardrobe — laid bare the complexities of this accomplished woman.

Between Mrs. Bingley’s diaries and Lydia Fitzwilliam’s papers, I learned that Elizabeth, like so many of us who have married well, still had to navigate the rocks and shoals of aging. For her it was living with a man who thought too much, worried too deeply, and too often tried to control every event to protect those he loved. If he would have remembered that one part of his life was built on bedrock, he might have been spared eighteen years in the wilderness. His wife was one of our species who loved but once in her life, and it was a fierce kind of love. Although Elizabeth was quick to judge, she was equally quick to forgive if not to forget.

The classic example was the famous insult casually tossed at her by Darcy the night they met. Jane found decades of amusement when her Lizzy would unsheathe that weapon at precisely the correct moment to puncture Darcy’s pretensions.

TVFH: What was the most difficult part of Elizabeth Darcy to capture? After all, she died nearly forty years ago. There are few alive who could reminisce about her.

W: That is not true. One contemporary remained. Although the information is not widely known, one of Mrs. Darcy’s sisters lived until 2019. This film has been in development since before Mrs. Benton’s death. She was gracious enough to sit with me on more than one occasion.

TVFH: And?

W: I will never forget our last meeting. Mary Benton clearly was feeling the effects of age. At that time, she was an objective seventy-three years old. But she had spent the bulk of her life in a pre-antibiotic, heavily-polluted era. She was paying the price the Industrial Revolution exacted, although as Britain’s Conscience would have noted, the toll was heavier on the poor who could not escape the cities. There was a spark, a fire, that burned brightly even in a weary body. Her mind was sharp, and her memories of her times at Kympton Parsonage were crystalline. All of those added texture to my understanding of Elizabeth Darcy and her relationship with her husband, a man who began nine years older than her and ended up almost thirty years her senior.

As I was leaving her rooms, Mrs. Benton grabbed my arm and speared me with those incredible caramel eyes. She distilled Elizabeth Darcy for me. “Lizzy was the best of us because she embodied each of us: Jane’s belief that each person owned inner goodness that could be revealed: my iron jawed determination—some would say outright stubbornness: Lydia’s ability to survey the field as if she were a general: and Kitty’s willingness to sacrifice herself for the good of all. Oh, she also captured our parents, too: Papa’s studied impertinence and Mama’s ability to well love her family.

“The Old One picked the right woman—and the right man—as the epitome of his grand design.”

TVFH: The Old One . . .?

W: Oh dear, look at the time! I fear I must leave you with that.

Weisz hurried off reminding this reporter of his earlier conversation with Charlotte Rampling, who played the older Kitty Bennet in “The Exile: The Countess Visits Longbourn.”

About the Author:

Don Jacobson has written professionally for forty years, from news and features to advertising, television, and radio. His work has been nominated for Emmys and other awards. He has previously published five books, all nonfiction. In 2016, he published the first volume of The Bennet Wardrobe Series, The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey.

Since then, Meryton Press has re-edited and republished Keeper and the subsequent six volumes in the series. The Grail: The Saving of Elizabeth Darcy is the eighth and concluding volume. Other Meryton Press books by Jacobson include Lessers and Betters, In Plain Sight, and The Longbourn Quarantine. All his works are also available as audiobooks (Audible).

Jacobson holds an advanced degree in history with a specialty in American foreign relations. As a college instructor, he taught United States history, world history, the history of western civilization, and research writing. He is currently in his third career as an author and is a member of JASNA and the Regency Fiction Writers.

Besides thoroughly immersing himself in the Austenesque world, Jacobson also enjoys cooking, dining out, fine wine, and well-aged scotch whiskey. His other passion is cycling. Most days will find him “putting in the miles.” He has ridden several “centuries” (hundred-mile days). He is especially proud of having completed the AIDS Ride–Midwest (five hundred miles from Minneapolis to Chicago) and the Make-a-Wish Miracle Ride (three hundred miles from Traverse City to Brooklyn, both in Michigan). When not traveling, Jacobson lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his wife and co-author, Pam—a woman Miss Austen would have been hard-pressed to categorize. Follow him on Amazon, GoodReads, and Twitter. Subscribe to the Newsletter.


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