My Next Book! Drumroll, Please... :)

Marvelous news! I’ve just received an acceptance letter for my next craft book for writers, Photography for Writers, from Vine Leaves Press.

My book’s birthday will likely be in December, just like mine and my darling birthday-twin niece! Couldn’t resist sharing.

Photo courtesy of: Jim Strasma, Unsplash, https://unsplash.com

Photo courtesy of: Jim Strasma, Unsplash, https://unsplash.com

A sneak-peek at the content and concept:

"Calling all shutterbugs! At last! Here's a craft book about photography specifically written from a writer's POV. Brimming with insight into image-making process and prompts to motivate, this down-to-earth, expressive guide is directed towards developing your writing and visual arts skills concurrently.

Written by a published photographer and writer who has been there, rest assured: this isn't a dusty technical jargon-filled tome of F-stops or aperture priority, and no previous photography skills are necessary to jump into this adventure. Love taking pictures? Have a passion for writing? Dig self-expression? This book is for you.”

Photo courtesy of: Roven Images at Unsplash, https://unsplash.com/

Photo courtesy of: Roven Images at Unsplash, https://unsplash.com/

Three Clover Keys Published (and an Impromptu Prompt for You)

A photo from my In the Green Series, “Three Clover Keys,” has just been featured today at Fourth & Sycamore.

In the series, I highlight at least one element of the color green in each photo. :) This can be a really fun exercise to give a whirl, both for writers and photographers. To begin: pick a color and integrate it into one element of the next scene, poem, or photo you take. Challenge yourself to include the color in the next three or four pieces you create, altering saturation, hue, or word-descriptors of the shade as you go. Making a series from color-connected pieces is a snap after that.

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10/10 Book-Lovers and Creative Folks Agree...

Books and prompts make the BEST holiday presents.

Get a jump-start on your shopping with one of my three AWESOME books and some prompt cards to boot. Hey, stockings also have to be filled, right? ;) I’ll be happy to sign the books with any inscription you’d like. :)

Peruse these classics, make your list, and no need to stand in line or check twice! :) Just break out your gift wrap and surprise them with these inspiring treats:

Image courtesy of freestocks.org at unsplash.com

Image courtesy of freestocks.org at unsplash.com

It's Publication Day! :)

It's my book birthday! Welcome to the world, Poetry Power!

Photo courtesy of Kyle Head at unsplash.com

Photo courtesy of Kyle Head at unsplash.com

My subtitle says it all: “An Interactive Guide for Writing, Editing, Teaching, and Reflecting on the Life Poetic.”

Write poetry? You know you need some new prompts. Teach? Your students will thank you for this advice and for the publishing tips. Have some poet friends in your workshop or writing group? I hear that their birthdays and the holidays are just around the bend.

Signed copies available (pm me).

Ebook and tactile copies available at Amazon and Vine Leaves Press.

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"How Sweet it is: Writing Resonant Flash Prose"

My craft article was published as a spotlight today at Women on Writing. If you’re interested in writing more flash, check out my online class that starts on November 2nd. :) In a Flash

“How Sweet it Is: Writing Resonant Flash Prose”

By: Melanie Faith

 

            When I was a kid, my dad used to stop on the way home from work each night to get the newspaper for my mom and a candy treat for me and my sister. One of our favorite treats was wrapped in a long, thin piece of see-through cellophane. Inside, was a string of thick white floss that had elasticity, and strung along this floss were shiny, bright candies. These circular gems, in popping pastel shades of yellow, pink, orange, and blue, were vaguely-sweetened like fruit and floral flavors (the yellow was slightly tart yet banana-ish and the blue, I recall, tasted like a cross between raspberry and the way a rose smelled).

Each candy bead had the kind of brittle crunch that a child relishes—chomp-chomp!—but which would make my adult teeth weep. The hues of the candies melted with each chomp until the string was bare and vaguely pinkish-whitish-yellowish-blue-orange by the time the last candy was presto-change-oed. After just a few moments, the candy dye bled onto fingertips, tongue, and face, revealing opaque-white candies’ underbellies.  

            A vivid sense memory I repeat is the internal debate—holding the cellophane-wrapped treat, after a hug from my dad: should I rip into the cellophane immediately and wear the candy-pretty necklace (sometimes I doubled it around my wrist like a fancy lady’s bracelet)? Yet, there was the candy, so tantalizing, that who could resist just a tiny bite? On the other hand, once bitten into, the string was sticky and not really conducive to wearing—destroyed, in a sense, for displaying.

It was a catch-22, albeit one of the best kinds, and the tension between knowing when to hold onto something and when to begin was the kind of life lesson that doesn’t have a perfect answer and yet which gets repeated, unbeknownst to the child’s mind, again and again in life. Timing— whether strung on a string or not, whether involving choosing a major or a love interest or a house or a car or another job or having a child— is an infinite loop of weighing pros and cons and, eventually, just diving in. A lesson, as a Type A elder daughter, I struggled with endless times, weighing the sour against the sweet, second-guessing myself:  Was it too soon? But could there be a too late? Even after the satisfying crunch, the soggy, lone string.

           

            In the above flash nonfiction, I began with a simple note I’d jotted this morning in my writer’s notebook while still half-asleep and making my to-do list for the day. Idea: candy necklaces we ate as kids.  Hours of student correspondence, errands, lunch, and dishes passed before I sat down again, opened my notebook on my desk and commenced to write the above passages.

            Clocking in at just under 400 words, my creative process and this piece highlight some of the best facets of the flash genre. Let’s examine them:

·         Flash begins with—well, a flash! Ever used a writing prompt? Sure, most of us have encountered them in writing classes, writing groups, and in books. The genius of a prompt is that it revolves around one idea. Good flash starts with a kernel of a topic which the reader then writes into in discovery. In the case of my candy-necklace flash, my random memory (which popped into my head after seeing a necklace online of white beads) became the prompt I explored.

·         Flashes are focused. Notice above how I say “one idea?” In flash, there’s not room for asides or diversions. Any details about the rest of my childhood—the scented dolls I adored, the children’s jokes I loved to tell and invariably flubbed the punch lines of, have no place in this piece—they need to be moved to their own flashes. One is plenty in developing flash.

·         Flashes are about what they are about, and they are also about something bigger than their subject, too. In other words: readers learn about you and your characters but they also learn something resonant about humanity. Sure, this is a flash centered on a personal memory, but it also has a theme that readers can connect with their own experiences: timing. How do we know when it is the right, or the wrong, time to do anything? The reader should walk away asking and connect to circumstances in their own past or present.  Consider universal themes.

·         It’s all about the imagery, baby! Without hitting readers over the head by spelling out theme, how can we explore themes and other literary language? One of the easiest ways is to develop imagery. Just like in poetry, another condensed form, flash nonfiction and flash fiction often employ plenty of sensory images to get the job done (as does this flash with taste, smell, auditory/sound, and visual imagery).

·         Flashes include tension. Without the final paragraph of my flash, there wouldn’t be a lot of resonance or conflict in my piece. Most of the other paragraphs are a nice memory involving candy—perhaps interesting for my nieces to read or some other Gen Xer or Baby Boomer who remembers this type of candy, but not the stuff of literature per say. The final two paragraphs introduce the pressure of both leaning on one’s own internal judgment and the suggestion (without spelling it out) of external conflict/judgment over choosing something too soon or being too late to spoil the fun.

 

Try this exercise: Set a timer and write for fifteen minutes without stopping about a food associated with your own childhood. Incorporate at least three of the five elements of successful flash either as you write or when you return to edit your piece after writing.

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That Holding-First-Copies Feeling

Look what arrived, straight from my awesome publisher at Vine Leaves! I had to commemorate the moment with my new photo backdrop. ;)

I couldn’t be happier with the text and cover of my new craft book for poets, Poetry Power! One month and counting until publication day! #oct26thlaunch

More details at: Vine Leaves Press, Poetry Power . (The Amazon link for ordering in the States and abroad is at the site as well.)

What reviewers are saying: "Reading Poetry Power by Melanie Faith--chock-full of humour, personal asides, and sensible, doable suggestions to improve one's writing--I felt a continual urge to write and revise my poems. A perfect guide for the poet who wants a refresher course in the basics of this 'little genre' (and a few photography hints) from a new point of view and who needs a nudge to live more deliberately, Faith's book reminds me of an intimate conversation between two engaged introverts for whom layers of complicated interior depth--juxtaposed in the 'nooks and crannies' of dreams and fragments of memory--hold the key to discovery and development of a unique, artistic voice that rings with universality." Helen Losse, author of  Every Tender Reed     "This is the definitive book on, for, and about poetry. Melanie more than delivers on the promise she made in the Introduction: This book is meant to reach you where you are and to withstand multiple readings as you explore your individual writer's path. Indeed! I find that no matter what funk I'm in, I open Poetry Power and I discover my next step on my poetry journey. I know my fellow poets will too!" Mari L. McCarthy, International Best-Selling Author of  Journaling Power: How To Create The Happy, Healthy Life You Want To Live!

What reviewers are saying: "Reading Poetry Power by Melanie Faith--chock-full of humour, personal asides, and sensible, doable suggestions to improve one's writing--I felt a continual urge to write and revise my poems. A perfect guide for the poet who wants a refresher course in the basics of this 'little genre' (and a few photography hints) from a new point of view and who needs a nudge to live more deliberately, Faith's book reminds me of an intimate conversation between two engaged introverts for whom layers of complicated interior depth--juxtaposed in the 'nooks and crannies' of dreams and fragments of memory--hold the key to discovery and development of a unique, artistic voice that rings with universality." Helen Losse, author of Every Tender Reed


"This is the definitive book on, for, and about poetry. Melanie more than delivers on the promise she made in the Introduction: This book is meant to reach you where you are and to withstand multiple readings as you explore your individual writer's path. Indeed! I find that no matter what funk I'm in, I open Poetry Power and I discover my next step on my poetry journey. I know my fellow poets will too!" Mari L. McCarthy, International Best-Selling Author of Journaling Power: How To Create The Happy, Healthy Life You Want To Live!

What reviewers are saying:  "Melanie takes her readers by the hand and walks them through the whole process of writing, publishing, editing and loving poetry. Little personal vignettes scattered throughout Poetry Power made me feel like Melanie was a friend. It was as if we were in a writing group together and she was sharing her writing secrets. Each chapter ends with a Try this Prompt that are easy and exciting to try. They range from something that might take a few minutes, to others that were more involved. In my second, third, and so on readings of Poetry Power I will jump into the prompts with feet, hands and heart. I am already making a list of the people I will be purchasing a copy of Poetry Power for--and they include writers from all genres, not just poets. This is a book that all writers will benefit from reading." —Tricia L. McDonald, Writer and CEO Splattered Ink Press

What reviewers are saying: "Melanie takes her readers by the hand and walks them through the whole process of writing, publishing, editing and loving poetry. Little personal vignettes scattered throughout Poetry Power made me feel like Melanie was a friend. It was as if we were in a writing group together and she was sharing her writing secrets. Each chapter ends with a Try this Prompt that are easy and exciting to try. They range from something that might take a few minutes, to others that were more involved. In my second, third, and so on readings of Poetry Power I will jump into the prompts with feet, hands and heart. I am already making a list of the people I will be purchasing a copy of Poetry Power for--and they include writers from all genres, not just poets. This is a book that all writers will benefit from reading." —Tricia L. McDonald, Writer and CEO Splattered Ink Press

Poetry Power: Update!

Hurry, fall! Next month, my poetry craft book will be released. 

Super excited to share this volume packed with prompts and real-world writing, editing, and publishing advice with poets, teachers, writing groups, classes, and more. 

My book birthday: October 26, 2018. You know you want one for you and the writing friends in your life.  

 

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Announcing-- Poetry Power: An Interactive Guide for Writing, Editing, Teaching, and Reflecting on the Life Poetic

SUPER excited to announce my Poetry Power: An Interactive Guide for Writing, Editing, Teaching, and Reflecting on the Life Poetic. Check out its awesome cover, and many thanks to Jessica Bell and Alexis Paige, my dream team at Vine Leaves Press. Can't wait for the October 26th release! 

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Craft Article: "Three Qualities of Good Short Stories.."

My fiction craft article appeared at Women on Writing today. Ta-da! Hope it inspires, and enjoy the prompt at the end. 

 

"Three Qualities of Good Short Stories (and Why You Need Them in Your Own Stories)"

By Melanie Faith

 

 

"The cat sat on the mat is not a story. The cat sat on the other cat's mat is a story."

--John le Carré

 

 

We've probably all had that experience where we read the latest edition of our favorite literary magazine and thought, Meh. What was so great about that piece? Editorial tastes aside, there are some key elements to making good fiction that transcend the names on the masthead. Let's take a look at a few elements that make a good short story.

 

There's enough conflict. Readers get invested in stories that have something at stake, both for the protagonist and for the reader. As in the John le Carré quote, merely having a character in a scene doing something isn't enough to generate and sustain interest. Just as our actions or refusals to act create ripples of effects in real life (Wonder about that? Don't pay your taxes, show up at your child's recital, or buy groceries: the reactions are sure to pile up speedily), your characters live in a setting populated with other people, places, and things and whatever they do or don't do has consequences aplenty. Consequences create the potential for conflict and increase tension in a story. Conflicts and consequences are good. Characters who do something (anything) in a vacuum: boring city!

 

We know who to root for and who not to. Ever read a story where there were so many characters that you weren't sure who you should focus on or what was the point of all of these characters being in the scene? Good stories might have a few characters, but it's clear who the protagonist is and isn't. Same goes for the antagonist, which may be a person but doesn't have to be (in man vs. nature stories, for instance, a storm might be the antagonist). Every action/reaction, snippet of dialogue, and description must support the reader knowing who the main character is and who works against the main character. All other details (or characters) can either be edited out of the story or need to be pared back to supporting status for the protagonist's journey.

 

They have a clear setting--which just may prove significant to the character's quest. Just like us, your characters exist in time and space. A character typing in a coffee shop in Smalltown, USA probably has a different life and set of goals than a character in a coffee shop in LA, Tokyo, Milan, or the moon (hey, this could be science fiction, right?). Remember that storm example a few sentences ago? Some settings, such as a character outrunning a tornado in Missouri, might be significantly impact by where the action of the story happens. Other times, the action of the story might have little to do with the conflict but it's important to create a scene in which your character breathes and moves through a landscape just as we all do. Keep in mind: characters don't have to like where they live (be that their city/town or their living conditions, such as apartment/condo/house/basement/friend's couch), but good stories need a place for all of the action of the story to take place. Otherwise, characters can become mere talking heads, doing a lot of thinking that could easily alienate readers who want to be grounded in place and time.

 

Try this prompt!

Take a draft of a story and let's flip the script: write a new story, making your antagonist your protagonist. What is the main conflict your new protagonist must confront? Who creates obstacles for this new protagonist? What do they want? Where does your protagonist spend most of their time? Make that the setting. How does the setting either support your new protagonist or work against them? 

 

Care to write more short stories?

Check out my May short-story class .

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