Sunday, November 18, 2007


It's Sunday, and you know what that means: time for a bit of quoteskimming.

On Poetry:

"Poetry began when somebody walked off a savanna or out of a cave and looked up at the sky with wonder and said, 'Ah-h-h!' That was the first poem. The urge towards 'Ah-h-h!' is very human, it's in everybody." ~Lucille Clifton

"Don't shackle poetry with your definitions. Poetry is not a frail and cerebral old woman, you know. Poetry is stronger than you think. Poetry is imagination and will break those chains faster than you can say 'Harlem Renaissance.'" ~Mark Flanagan

On Writing Poetry:

"One of the most definable characteristics of the poetic form is economy of language. Poets are miserly and unrelentingly critical in the way they dole out words to a page. Carefully selecting words for conciseness and clarity is standard, even for writers of prose, but poets go well beyond this, considering a word's emotive qualities, its musical value, its spacing, and yes, even its spacial relationship to the page." ~Mark Flanagan

"The imagery gets richer as I write. 'I walk the dog and it’s there' is fine for a rough draft, but I made it more specific in the final draft: 'I walk the dog and plot how it gets stamped on my ankle bone.' . . . I find this to be true of nearly all my rough drafts---the triggering words are mundane, the ending words, much richer. I get more 'live hits' the deeper in I go." ~Sara Lewis Holmes, in her notes about the construction of her poem, "Inked: On Memorizing Gerard Manley Hopkins". You can read Sara's poem, hear Sara read her own poem, and check out the rough draft and notes (from whence came this quote) at Sara's podcast site, A Cast of One.

"Writing a poem is like conducting an argument between your unconscious mind and your conscious self. You have to get unconsciousness and consciousness lined up in some way. I suspect that's why working to a form, achieving a stanza, and keeping to it—deciding that the first and third and fifth lines will have to rhyme, and that you're going to insist on so many stresses per line—oddly helps the poem to be born. That is, to free itself from you and your attentions to it and become a piece of art in itself. Heaven only knows where it comes from! I suppose working out a form diminishes the thousands of possibilities you face when you begin. And once you've cut down the possibilities, you can't swim off into the deep and drown." ~Anne Stevenson

On revision and critique:

This week, the lovely and talented Jennifer Hubbard spoke to a college class about the art of revising. "One interesting question that came up was what to do with criticism that seems to be based on a misunderstanding of your intent. I could think of 3 reasons for such criticism: 1) the person didn't read the work closely enough; 2) the person read into the work something from his/her own mind; 3) whatever was in your head didn't actually make it down on paper. Talking to the critiquer can help establish which one it is." You can check out Jenn's post and the comments here.

"Take a break. Let the story sit a week or two before you go back to revise. After all, 'revise' means 'see again.' You can't take a second look at something unless you first look away." ~David Lubar, quoted by Kate Messner in her speech to the NYS English Council. You can read more revision tips from others (including, well, me) in Kate's blog post.

On characters

What makes a memorable character, particularly in a children's book?

"'It has to do with an intensity of presence,' [Philip] Pullman says. 'Just as some people are so much there that you can sense when they come into the house, so some characters in fiction have the same authority or charisma. Some personal quality makes them more alive than their fellow characters. It has nothing to do with how good or friendly a characters is. They can be horrible, and you can still not lift your eyes from the page when they appear.'" From an article by Amanda Craig that appeared in The Times, called Creating Characters.

On character motivation, again from Jenn Hubbard (and if you aren't reading her yet, really, why aren't you?):

Some things that help me get in touch with the motivations of my characters--the secret and the not-so-secret motivations:

Asking myself, 'What does this character really, really want, more than anything?' (sounds obvious, but I can't believe how far into a first draft I can get before I remember to ask this!)
Writing some scenes from different characters' points of view
Writing scenes that don't appear in the final manuscript, but that help me see how characters interact in other situations
Rewriting scenes with different endings (I thought the scene went this-a-way, but what if it went that-a-way instead? What if the character said this, not that? Then where does the scene go? What am I learning about everyone?)

THE FIRST AUCTION STARTS TOMORROW! You can see precisely which flakes will be on the block this week at The Robert's Snow page. While there, you can find information on how to register to be a bidder, and can check out the bidding rules.

To check out the snowflakes featured in today's blogosphere, click on the Robert's Snow button. Jules at 7-Imp has posted two new 2007 snowflakes: an astonishing winged snowflake featuring "Cupid and Psyche" from Rebecca Guay, and Kathy Jakobsen's DC-inspired "Jefferson Memorial/Washington Monument". In addition, Jules and Eisha have also been keeping an ongoing list of blog posts thus far featuring snowflakes and the artists who created them.

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