We have Beatrice Szymkowiak here to tell us about poetry.
Beatrice and I are alumni of the Institue of America Arts. We graduated with MFAs in 2017. Hers in poetry, mine in fiction writing.
My research includes environmental literature, Indigenous contemporary poetry, and translingual literature. I am also particularly interested in Caribbean literature.
I am currently working on my creative dissertation, entitled B/RDS, a poetry collection that questions the Western heuristic approach to nature, and that has for a starting point, the iconic Birds of America by John James Audubon.
Book title and blurb and any comments about any other of your books:
Red Zone (Finishing Line Press, 2018) explores the WWI environmentally ravaged landscapes of my childhood.
Praise for Red Zone;
“Before the shrapnel, before the night in hell on the way to hell, and after that night, too, we were: ‘naming the woods.’ RED ZONE does a lot of things, but it also draws our eyes to the risk of our own departure. Description, sure. Timing, of course. But cognition and argument also? Szymkowiak makes me want to read more.” Joan Naviyuk Kane
Joan Naviyuk Kane is the author of several poetry collections: Milk Black Carbon, The Straits, The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife, Hyperboreal, Milk Black Carbon, and forthcoming Dark Traffic. She is the recipient of multiple awards, fellowships, and prizes, including a Whiting Writer’s Award, the Donald Hall Prize in Poetry, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and an American Book Award.
“In a complex meditation on the destructiveness of war and the persistence of nature, poet Beatrice Szymkowiak explores France’s Zone Rouge, the area so devastated by war that people are still forbidden to enter, where things still blossom and explode. Where “crows burst” above the land of “unexploded explosives.” Where “slow soil & / shrapnel” yield to “a murmuration of starlings.” In the long poem “Fleury-Devant-Douaumont,” the page itself becomes the zone, mined & grenaded & shrapnelled by words, words that begin to merge, becoming neologisms of compost—”betweenroots,” “shrapnelspades,” “inboots.” In the end, despite human interventions, “yellow-bellied toads frogs salamanders / crested newts thrive” and “corpses tuber / into russets.” Szymkowiak has written a crucial book, especially critical as the entire globe quickly becomes a Red Zone.” Jon Davis
Jon Davis is the author of several poetry collections, including Improbable Creatures, Preliminary Report, Scrimmage of Appetite, and Dangerous Amusements. He is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Award in Poetry and the Peter I.B. Lavan Prize from the Academy of American Poets.
Do you write in more than one genre? I do write poetry and non-fiction
Tell us about your writing process: My writing process varies following the projects. However, I often start a poem with a list of words, images, and an idea or a conceptual arch. Once I have a first draft, I revise until I feel that the poem does or evokes what I wanted it to do. Then I let it aside for a while and go back to it for additional revisions. This pause between two revision processes is necessary, as it creates a new perspective on the poem.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? The very first word of a poem!
What kind of research do you do? As my poetry work often incorporates non-fiction, I do extensive research: reading essays, articles, historical documents, watching documentary films, etc.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I am interested in writing more non-fiction, and I have recently developed an interest in epic poems. But you never know what might come up!
How do our readers contact you?
My website: https://szymkow9.wixsite.com/bszymkowiak
Twitter account: @OhOldOcean
Buy your book?
I read to discover, to learn, and to be astonished.
Ed Miracle writes sociological science fiction. He lives with his wife in an adobe house they built together in Northern California. Ed is a university graduate who served six years in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service. Now retired from his computer systems career at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Ed continues to support his community as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical responder.
My novel, Maker Messiah, begins when a fierce young man unveils a Trojan horse technology that empowers ordinary citizens to subvert the world’s power elites. All of them. Overnight. Are his 55 million Maker machines destroying civilization, or is he a secular messiah bent on lifting humankind out of our existential ruts? More than a tale of survival, Maker Messiah explores the motives, possibilities, and intensely personal outcomes that arise from one man’s quest for his perfect revenge.
It has come to my attention that many novels are not really – at least not very – novel. Even science fiction has turned dark and fearful, too often derivative or predictable. Where did our visions for a better world go? Maker Messiah is one answer that over 3,000 readers are now pondering. Check it out and add your reviews at http://www.amazon.com/dp/b07wzgnlbv (This story is not religious.)
Years ago, I joined Tri-Valley Writers Club, a local affiliate of California Writers Club, to find a critique group. Forming a sci-fi gang-of-two that expanded to four improved everything about my writing and added three good friends to my life. Not all critique groups are as happy as ours. Still, I recommend every writer regularly swap chapters or stories with other active scribblers. Unless you’re in a bar, then don’t.
I believe writing, as an unnatural act, should be indulged behind closed doors. If only to avoid getting caught with that cute little adverb on your lap. I can’t imagine delivering an unwritten, unpracticed speech, so I plan what I write. Not to limit the possibilities so much as to corral my impulses. If I need to get somewhere, it helps to see a destination with guideposts along the way, especially when detours pop up.
I re-wrote Maker Messiah from scratch five times, not counting multiple edits. I was so relieved to complete the first version, I hoped the product of my long labors would . . . work. Beta readers said it didn’t. I was disappointed, angry, determined to do better, so I got serious. I bought and read Everything About Writing. Basically, through draft after draft, I taught myself what worked and what worked better. A publisher read my third draft and suggested re-writing from a different character’s viewpoint, which I did in six months. “Sorry,” my crit group said, “It’s not that person’s story. It’s this other guy’s.” Back to square four. Moral: it ain’t good enough until it’s way better than good enough. Then push some more. If it’s not everything you’ve got, you’ll only cheat yourself.
Here are my essential writing guides:
- The 10% Solution, Self-editing for the Modern Writer by Ken Rand (My editing bible)
- Story Genius, How to Use Brain Science to Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron
- Damn Fine Story, Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative by Chuck Wendig
- Fire in Fiction by Donald Maas
- Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
- Writing Tools, 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark
- Deep Point of View by Marcy Kennedy
- Internal Dialog by Marcy Kennedy
Since publishing Maker Messiah, I’ve gathered a fistful of my smaller yarns, a mix of fiction and true events, between the covers of Short Stories with Long Tails. These include “Submarine Dreams,” my award-winning reply to the question, “What’s it like out there on a nuclear submarine?” http://www.amazon.com/dp/b0859r88ys
Finally, readers of this blog may contact me directly by email at email@example.com Flattery and supplication indicate good taste; insults are accepted only if they make me laugh.
This week, I revisited a few posts from bygone years. The oldest post was February 28, 2013. Here is what I wrote way back then:
Yesterday I glanced at the cover of a recent issue of AARP’s magazine. There on the cover was the “Hook.” Find the Work You Love!
Today is an anniversary of sorts. One year ago today, I was laid off from a great job. I have found work I love, writing, however so far sans pay. It would be nice to find a paying job.
I had to look at the article. Maybe this can help me find something that pays?
The article presents several senior citizens’ stories but is primarily about two women, Maz Rauber and Amy Reingold. The two write “juicy novels for young adults” under the pseudonym Ella Monroe.
They have an exciting and inspiring tale about the job they love. If you visit this URL, you can read the article and watch a video interview of the duo.
In the eight ensuing years, a lot of water has passed under the bridge (cliché alert). I accepted the reality of age discrimination and gave up looking for a new job, earned an MFA, and published my debut novel, The Mona Lisa Sisters.
The URL for the article no longer works. I did find a URL (https://us.macmillan.com/author/ellamonroe/) for Ella Monroe but did not locate the interview.
There were two comments left, one by my best friend Jim Kennemore, who passed away last year. I miss him every day.
The other by my youngest daughter, Katie Cramer Rosevear, who has been an inspiration to me. She is a successful businesswoman, give her a visit at http://www.lolaandivy.com
Watched the video…Interesting. So you want to collaborate on a book? Just kidding. You know I think if you are serious (and I believe you are), I think you ought to write and submit some short stories to different publications. The pay might be small, maybe nonexistent, but if you can get published, you begin a resume. I thought about submitting that D.C. story of mine to HOG magazine a few years ago, but it was way too long…anyway, good luck with it all…JAK
Katie Cramer Rosevear:
Happy one year of writing, Dad! Thank you for inspiring me every day! Xo
Her new romantic comedy mystery, Temporarily out of Luck is the third in the Hattie Cooks mysteries and follows Temporarily Employed and Temporarily Insane.
Here’s a bit from TOOL: Great job. What man? And murder. Newly employed at Wedding Wonderland, Hattie Cooks is learning the industry from a woman she greatly admires. When her former brother-in-law is found dead in his luxury SUV, all fingers point to Hattie’s sister, who is planning her own I Dos.
Detective Allan Wellborn is caught between a rock and a hard place—Hattie’s family and investigating the murder of a well-connected Sommerville resident, the same loser who was once married to Hattie’s sister. Determining who’s the bad guy—or gal—isn’t going to be easy and sure to piss off someone. Can Hattie beat the clock to find out who murdered Tracey’s ex before she is charged with the crime and her wedding is ruined?
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I start my day with an early workout, eat breakfast, shower, and am usually working at my desk by 9-ish. I get all the nuts and bolts out of the way, then move to writing. I like music in the background, like classical guitar, Simply Frank, 70’s. My two malt-poos plop on the couch but sit up when I move about in case they might miss something.
Who’s currently your favorite author? In my early mom years, I discovered Dick Francis and have followed on to Felix Francis, who I met last year at Bouchercon—a fun thrill for me. I like Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes, Jill Mansell, Carl Hiassen. And revisit Emilie Loring, Mary Stewart.
How long did it take you to write your first book? I tackled my mystery head-on and had a good draft in less than a year. I subbed to some contests and did well. I met my critique partner in my local RWA chapter, and we traded work. She changed my life with her six 800-word short stories for Woman’s World magazine. I got the rhythm and wrote my own shorts. Soon I was subbing stories and sold lots. I still like writing them and have indie pubbed several collections. After a while, I tackled my mystery with new eyes and was offered a contract.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? Lordy, the things people say, what they wear, what they look like! These details make characters really come alive and not be paper dolls. My sons live in fear they might do something and end up in my book (and yes, they have. LOL.).
What is the best book you ever read? I’ve only read two books and then instantly reread them—A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Devereaux and Come to Grief by Dick Francis. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is up there. In eighth grade, my English teacher assigned our class to read a book and give an oral book report. I was terrified! However, I managed, and afterward, the teacher told me I could have read a more challenging book. I asked my friend what she read. She said, “Rebecca.” That book pushed me into reading more adult books, specifically Agatha Christie.
A little bit about Vicki: Funny, sweet, and quirky, Vicki Batman’s stories are full of her hallmark humor, romance and will delight all readers. She has sold many award-winning, and bestselling romantic comedy works to magazines and, most recently, three humorous romantic mysteries. An avid Jazzerciser. Handbag lover. Mahjong player. Yoga practitioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Cat fancier. Best Mom Ever. And adores Handsome Hubby.
Find Vicki Batman at:
Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/author/vickibatman/
Sheldon Siegel is the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon best-selling author of the critically acclaimed legal thriller series featuring San Francisco criminal defense attorneys Mike Daley and Rosie Fernandez.
Sheldon is the author of the thriller novel The Terrorist Next Door featuring Chicago homicide detectives David Gold and A.C. Battle. Sheldon’s books have been translated into a dozen languages and sold millions of copies worldwide. A native of Chicago, Sheldon earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois in Champaign in 1980 and his law degree from the University of California-Berkeley in 1983. He specializes in corporate and securities law with the San Francisco office of the international law firm of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP. Sheldon began writing his first book, SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES, on a laptop computer during his daily commute on the ferry from Marin County to San Francisco. A frequent speaker and sought-after teacher, Sheldon is a San Francisco Library Literary Laureate. He is a former member of the National Board of Directors and the Past President of the Northern California chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, and an active member of the International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. His work has been displayed at the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley. He has been recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Illinois and a Northern California Super Lawyer. Sheldon lives in Marin County with his wife, Linda, and a 17-year-old tabby cat named Betty. They also have twin sons named Alan and Stephen. He is a lifelong fan of the Chicago Bears, White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks. His twelfth Mike Daley/Rosie Fernandez story, FINAL OUT, was released on January 26, 2021. He is currently working on his next novel.
What brought you to writing? I always wanted to be a writer, but I don’t know why. I’ve discussed this with other writers, most of whom have said that it seems that there is something hot-wired into our system to try to tell stories. It’s a bit presumptuous for us to think that we have something interesting to say. I have no formal training. I studied accounting in college at the University of Illinois, and I’ve been a corporate lawyer with a big law firm in San Francisco for more than 35 years. I have never handled a criminal case (not even a parking ticket), but I’ve written twelve best-selling novels about murder trials. I like to tell people that I’m a fraud on multiple levels.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? When I was practicing law full time, I used to write on a laptop computer on the ferry between Marin County and my firm’s office in San Francisco. I no longer work full-time, so I do most of my writing at home in the spare bedroom in our house. It’s a great luxury to be able to write almost full-time.
Tell us about your writing process: I start with a light outline. It helps me to know the beginning and the ending. I write a series, so I know that the books will feature Mike Daley and Rosie Fernandez and will be set in San Francisco. I outline in greater detail about 50 pages ahead of wherever I am in the story. I try to write to the end of the outline, and then I outline another 50 pages. I generally try to write straight through from beginning to end, but I sometimes skip ahead and write the ending. I spend about 50 percent of my time on the first 100 pages because if I make a mistake in the early part of the book, I’ll pay for it later. Once I get to the midway point in the book, I don’t stop until I get to the end. I tend to write long and cut. I usually do at least six full drafts. The first draft takes about eight months, the second about two months. The remaining drafts take a couple of weeks.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? I’m self-taught, so I find plotting to be challenging. First drafts are more difficult than second and third drafts. There’s nothing scarier than looking at a blank sheet of paper. Once I have something in the computer, I know that I can go back and fix it.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I have been a member of MWA, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers for years. I served on the national board of MWA and as the president of the Northern California Chapter years. These organizations provide a supportive environment for writers since we spend so much of our time in front of our computers.
How long did it take you to write your first book? It took three years. I had the idea for my first book, Special Circumstances, for about ten years before I started writing it. I took one creative writing class at Book Passage in Corte Madera, which was very helpful. Then I worked on the book in short increments on my commute to work and late at night.
How long to get it published? I got very lucky. When I finished the manuscript for my first book, I was introduced to an agent who was friends with one of the attorneys at our law firm. She agreed to read the manuscript as a favor to my colleague. The agent liked the manuscript and agreed to represent me. She submitted it to multiple houses in New York, and they liked it. Two weeks later, I had a two-book deal with Bantam for a six-figure advance. The chances that this would happen again are one in a million, so I am very grateful.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? My characters have minds of their own. At times, I feel like I’m just a stenographer. That’s why my outlines are so light—my characters tend to misbehave, and they rarely follow the plotline that I’ve started.
Do you try to make the antagonist into a more human character? Yes. Good guys are interesting when they have flaws, and bad guys are interesting if they have some positive elements. Characters who are all good or all bad are one-dimensional.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Read a lot and write a lot. Work on your craft so that you can make your story as good as it can be. It’s fine to read a few books about writing, but it’s better to spend your time writing than reading books about writing. I would recommend Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and On Writing by Stephen King.
How do our readers contact you?