My craft article appeared today at Women on Writing. Ta-da! :)
“Break Out Your Cameras to Enhance Your Image Writing”
By Melanie Faith
For a year, off and on, I shot a series of photos called "In the Green." The series included many different subjects, some that you might expect (from an emerald, leafy landscape to the green whirls of a decorative cabbage I saw at a farmer’s market), and others that might surprise. A perfect example of the latter was the mint-hued upright piano I spotted at a craft store in the Midwest while visiting my sister one summer. Needless to say, I couldn’t let that piano, which also sported a giant ivory stencil of a splash of roses above the keyboard, go undocumented.
Not all of the elements in each shot were green—such as three clover-shaped skeleton keys I couldn’t resist from an auction—but I incorporated a Kelly green into the background.
Each image, several of which have been published over the past year, including in Fourth & Sycamore, includes at least one aspect of the color I’d chosen, which also happens to be my personal favorite. (A little trivia for you.)
My photography practice has enhanced my writing practice for years, and vice-versa. What can photography bring to enhance our writing skills on the page and screen?
- Photography is imagery-focused, just like writing. Do you like to take photos of your family dog or cat? How about landscapes? Or food shots from restaurants or your own kitchen? What about your children or grandchildren? Or sports? In each of these types of shots, and more, there is a subject in your composition that you zero in on, to the exclusion of other details in the shot. The same is true for our writing. In our writing practice, we narrow down the subject we’d like to explore and the best genre to explore it (poetry, nonfiction, fiction, and flash, to name a few options).
Just as in our compositions we decide if we want to take a long, wide view (as in a landscape) or the close-up view (as in a macro or micro shot), in our writing, we make choices about how we will present the protagonist(s) or antagonist(s). What will be their main motivations? What action will be the catalyst for beginning the story in conflict, in media rest? What word pictures will bring to life the tone and theme in our poem?
- Photography evokes numerous senses within visual imagery, just as good writing does. No, we don’t have scratch-and-sniff photos yet, but a great photo of a box of popcorn triggers our memories and associations with the scents and textures of popcorn just as multi-sensory imagery in prose or poetry within the minds of readers.
- Photography teaches us about connections, symbolism, and resonance. Just like in our writing, in photography there’s the surface subject—perhaps a platter of enchiladas—and then there’s the deeper meaning of the picture—your grandfather taught you to include a lime wedge to garnish them and so you always make yours with limes at the ready. The evocative personal and background details in such a shot will influence not only why you chose to document your delicious dish, but also will affect the way that viewers approach and appreciate the composition, even if they don’t know 100% (or any) of the backstory. Good photos, just like good writing, reveal key, carefully-selected details that draw in the audience.
- Photography, much like writing, is self-expressive and just plain fun. It can be easy, amidst craft talk, to forget that there’s a magical and exciting sense of exploration in both art forms. Many times, I’m surprised and entertained by the subjects and themes that both my lens and pen create and how much they share in common.
Try This Prompt! Choose a color from the ROY G BIV spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). Make a photo every day for four or five days of something with this color. Warning: it’ll only take a day or two until you notice the color everywhere.
Feel free to use the camera on your phone, if that’s easier than hauling around a larger camera.
On the last day, use one of the images from your photos as a prompt to kick-start a new poem, short story, scene, or essay. Include unique descriptions to denote each color in your writing. Thesaurus.com is a wonderful resource for hue synonyms.
Consider continuing to take photos in your series for as many days or weeks as the idea appeals, and then repeat this exercise as often as you’d like with a piece of writing inspired by your new photo compositions.
Need more inspiration? Consider my upcoming Imagery Power: Photography for Writers class.
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.
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.”
Super excited to share the scoop on my spring 2019 writing and creativity classes at WOW! Whether you love prose, poetry, or photography (or all three, like me), there’s a little something and some big inspiration for everyone.
I’d love to have you join us! Course synopsis and direct links below.
I also just got a batch of my new writing books, In a Flash! and Poetry Power, that are all set to be signed and sent to fellow writers to spark the Muse. I have both individual copies and a special, sale book bundle of both texts that are jam-packed with prompts, examples, and literary goodness.
To a fabulous, creative spring ahead!
beginning Friday, March 15, 2019
I have just a few spaces left in this fun workshop. Reserve your spot today. :)
COURSE DESCRIPTION: Flash is a dynamic, fun genre that more and more editors seek. Both flash fiction and flash nonfiction share many of the same qualities, from characterization and setting to conflict and dialog.
In this five-week workshop, we’ll explore this eclectic art form and everything you’ll need to have a lively flash-writing practice, from where to get ideas and drafting to editing and submitting your work. We’ll discuss practical tips and techniques along with inspiring exercises from our text, In a Flash!: Writing & Publishing Dynamic Flash Prose, by Melanie Faith. Students will submit drafts weekly for constructive and supportive instructor feedback. There will be a private group for students to discuss the literary life and for sharing of literary resources, such as markets and quotations about the writing process.
Imagery Power: Photography for Writers (back by popular demand!),
beginning Friday, April 5, 2019
COURSE DESCRIPTION: “Fiction, like dreams, exists in images... Fiction must exist in images, not abstractions,” wrote John Dufresne. Indeed, the ability to develop imagery is important in all forms of writing, from poetry to essays and all sorts of descriptive writing. The art of photography, an evocative visual art, frequently helps authors hone our image-seeking and development skills. There won’t be technical jargon of F-stops or aperture priority in this course and you are free to use any form of camera you already own and love—from camera phone to digital, DSLR to Lomo, instamatic, you name it; this class is about cracking open the everyday extraordinary, about the kind of seeing and focusing on detail that will enhance your writing and spark ideas for months to come.
In this four-week workshop, we’ll take a daily photo-taking prompt for a spin, post our response, and describe what inspired each photo at our class group. During the second week, you will begin a piece based on one of the photos you’ve taken that you will share (in part as an excerpt or in full, up to you) with the class during our fourth week. Handouts on topics covered will include: Truthiness: Adding Layers to Your Art with Art; The Genesis and Development of Imagery: Example Sheet of Published Work; Submitting Your Work to Literary Magazines & Other Venues Looking for Photos: Cover Letter Tips; Photographic Resources to Check Out!; Tips for Writing about [Our] Art; How to Match Your Photographic Style to your Writing Style; Ekphrasis and You: Writing in Tandem with the Visual Arts; and Tips for Writing Fabulous Writer/Artist Bios. There will be a private group for students to discuss our creative process and share daily responses to each prompt and for sharing of literary resources, such as markets and quotations about the image-making process.
starting Friday, May 3, 2019
COURSE DESCRIPTION: Ever wonder how to go from scratching drafts in a notebook to sending poems to literary magazines that will get chosen for publication? Ever pondered what editors look for in literary journal submissions? How should we keep track of poetry submissions, and should we do that odd thing: “simultaneously submit?” Ever started a manuscript only to find it all a bit daunting to know what poems to include and which to omit? Want to prepare a chapbook or full-length collection but not sure where to start? How do we get past stalled drafts or stalled manuscripts to persevere and find our writing and reading community? If you've wondered any of these questions, then this is your workshop! Learn real-world, first-hand advice and tips from a poet who has judged poetry contests, published chapbooks and a full-length collection, and regularly submits poetry to literary magazines. Just because it’s chockfull of practical information, doesn’t mean it won’t be fun.
In this four-week workshop, we’ll explore what literary magazines look for in submissions, how the instructor as well as several other poets put together chapbooks and/or larger collections of poems, and insider advice for editing work with an eye towards publication. Students will read Ordering the Storm: How to Put Together a Book of Poems edited by Susan Grimm as well as excerpts from Poetry Power by Melanie Faith. There will be a private group for students to discuss the literary life, ask specific questions related to putting together a submission and/or manuscript, and for sharing of literary resources, such as markets and quotations about the poetry writing and submission process.
Topics covered will include: Best Foot Forward: Arranging a Poetry Manuscript; Journey without a Map; Finding, Unifying, and Revising the Body of Our Work; Throwing Poems at an Editor to See If They Stick; Keeping Company: Thoughts on Arranging Poems; Write Opportunity, Wrong Timing; Wild Cards: 8 Tips for Choosing Poems for Submission; The Art of Offering Feedback; The Plandid and Other Splendid Editing Options; Lavender Disappointment: on Adjustment of Expectation and Stalled Drafts; 76 Rabbits out of a Hat: or: The Quirky Tale of How One Poem became a Whole Book; 21-Century Publishing & Guidelines for Finding Your Ideal Audience; Spring out of a Writing Rut! 8 Tips for Getting back to Business, and more.
My spotlight article was published today at Women on Writing. Enjoy!
“Three Reasons Why Flash is the Genre for You”
By: Melanie Faith
Don’t let the small size of flash fiction and nonfiction fool you—there’s a ton to recommend this little-genre-that-could.
· Got sci-fi? Got a personal essay? Got romance? Got magical realism? Great! Flash is diverse in subject matter. Just like its longer contemporaries, flash is a hot genre sought by many markets. I’ve seen seeking-submission ads just this week for flash fiction in anthologies, magazines, and for conferences. One market sought speculative fiction, which includes science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, and slipstream subgenres. Another market asked for flash memoirs, romance, horror, adventure, and cowboy tales. Still another market seeks environmental and travel narratives in flash. I’ve seen (and submitted my own flashes to) markets for humorous flash as well.
Both fiction and nonfiction flashes are prized by editors, so whether you like to write about yourself or to create characters, there’s room in flash for either. Or why not try writing flash in both genres? In my craft book, In a Flash! Writing & Publishing Dynamic Flash Prose , I offer oodles of practical tips and prompts for exploring and marketing flash in fiction and nonfiction.
Clearly, just about any topic you could spend a novel, novella, (auto)biography, or short story writing about can translate well as a subject for flash, too.
· Another advantage of flash is that most markets want multiple flashes at once. This is great news, because if they want three or five stories at a time, then you have three or five chances to wow them. Include what you think is your strongest flash first in the submission packet. Not sure which is your strongest piece? Ask a friend which piece stands out to them.
· Worried about not having enough plot development within such a small space? No worries. Many of us writers are already used to writing texts and Tweets. Trying our hands at flash in its many styles should be a snap.
Flash is economical but also has wiggle room to fit any plot. While the top word-count for flash is often set at either under 1,000 words or 750 words, that’s not the only length markets seek for flashes they publish.
Ever head of the “drabble?” That’s a flash of exactly 100 words. There’s an excellent book by Michael A. Kechula, called Micro Fiction: Writing 100 Word Stories (Drabbles) for Magazines and Contests , that details more about how to write and submit these 100-word gems.
There are also fifty-word stories, two-sentence stories, and even six-word stories (you read that right). I’ve seen contests and literary magazines, like Narrative Magazine , that seek six-word stories and often pay for them.
Whatever subject, style, or word-count works for you, there’s sure to be a market eagerly awaiting your flash submission!
Want to learn more?
Check out my upcoming online workshop that begins on Friday, March 15th. Here’s the scoop and the skinny:
Signed copies of my book for writers that is chockfull of great tips and examples for nonfiction and fiction flash writers, In a Flash: Writing & Publishing Dynamic Flash Prose, available at WritePathProductions.
A sale book bundle, of both my flash- and poetry-writing books, is also available for book lovers at Etsy.
Thrilled to announce that my article, “3 Tips for a New-Year, New-You Journal at Any Time of Year,” was featured today at the createwritenow blog. Check it out for some writing inspiration.
While you’re there, please peruse Mari McCarthy’s motivating Journaling Power book (I’ve read it and found it super helpful on my own writing journey) along with her inspiring courses and authentic mentoring, guaranteed to kick-start your 2019 to new levels of awesomeness.
My craft article was published at Women on Writing today. Enjoy! :)
“3 Tips for Developing Theme within Poetry”
By: Melanie Faith
I started as a fiction writer before discovering the wonders of poetry at the grand age of 17. (Thank you, Mr. B!)
One quality shared by resonant poems I read in literary journals, anthologies, and from my students' pens is a strong theme.
How can we explore theme to deepen our own poetry?
1. Imagery is where it's at. As poets, we are all about compression. Can we say it in fewer words? Can those few chosen words be rich in the five senses? Can the chosen diction include a symbol for a bigger idea? All of these questions help lead us to imagery that razzle-dazzles our readers.
If I wanted to write a love poem about tentative love, it's unlikely my readers will be as stirred by my flat-out stating, "We were on-again, off-again," as they would with a simple mention of a flickering candle on the windowsill.
Imagery is economical and meaningful. It also creates vivid pictures in your readers’ minds that they’ll remember long after reading your work and, in many cases, invite them back for further reads.
2. Characterization and setting can get the job done. I hear a boatload of discussion in fiction and nonfiction classes about creating realistic characters, and for good reason. This same technique can be applied to poetry to create fantastic engagement from readers and underscore your theme without the dreaded (drumroll, please) telling instead of showing [shiver].
Writers can create poems from numerous characters’ POVs to underscore theme. Persona poems develop a narrative and can be read as individual works of art, such as Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” or paired together to develop a longer narrative, conflict, and/or setting. Great examples include Edgar Lee Masters’ 1915 classic Spoon River Anthology, Traci Brimhall’s Saudade (2017 Copper Canyon Press), and poems in my most-recent collection, This Passing Fever (2017 FutureCycle Press).
Paired poems may move back and forth through time and setting (as they do in Brimhall’s work and my work) or remain in one town or place (as in Masters’ collection).
3. Subtlety is your friend.
Sometimes, once we have chosen a theme for our poem, we excitedly write lines that spell out our meaning with all the charm of a doornail. For instance, using the word “grieving” and “died” in a poem whose theme explores death, or stating “flowers always make me happy” in a poem about the therapeutic powers of gardening.
Many poems I see that run off the rails do so when poets begin to explain (or over-explain) rather than trusting readers to intuit the theme on their own.
How can we provide clues for our readers so that they will be sure to deduce the theme?
Glad you asked: figurative language aplenty. Figurative language is understated yet satisfying. Similes and metaphors are often great indicators of theme. As are usage of symbols and imagery. Incorporating sound effects, such as words with hard d sounds for dramatic or tense themes or words with soft m or n sounds for quieter or peaceable themes, can other excellent thematic indicators.
Try this prompt: Choose a poem where you have stated part or all of the theme directly in your poem. Make a list of three images, symbols, characters, or settings that could highlight your theme instead. Pick one detail from your list and, after omitting your theme-stating line, add in details related to your chosen image, symbol, characters, or settings. Compare drafts.
Looking for inspiration to jump-start your Muse in early 2019? Have I got a class for you! Vigorous and Vibrant Verse: an Online Poetry Workshop.