Saturday, December 27, 2014

Writing an Acrostic Poem

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     Acrostic poems can be really fun to write, but also kind of difficult. There is only one rule to writing acrostic poems, and that is that it must be an acrostic. An acrostic is usually a couple of words that spell something else, like FBI, except the letters combined actually mean something. With a poem, that could be the first letter of each line, first word of each line, or also the last of the lines. It can rhyme, have meter, all of that, but it isn't required.

     I'll try one of my own. It'll spell "writing".

Wonderful, like making a dream and living through it
Riddle-like in the making, so hard to see an hear
Inspiration comes slow at times, others like rushing rain
Thoughts fill my head, I worriedly begin to fear
Ideas, are they good enough? Why does this bring pain?
Never, though, will I give up, though it bring me tear
For the greatest joy I find, is when at my desk I sit

     This is extremely rough, I wrote it in like ten minutes. If the rhyme scheme seems odd, it's ABCBCBA. It would probably make more sense like this: odds go ABBA and evens go AAA. Anyway, though this is a rather badly-done poem with zero editing (edit your poems, guys, I know it's hard) it is an acrostic. Actually, only almost. You may notice that I forgot about the lettering on the last line, because I was focusing on the rhyme.
     This, of all poem types, probably needs most editing, because you need it to spell something, but it also needs to sound good, and you may have to worry about meter and rhyme scheme as well. Let's edit mine so that it actually spells "writing", rather than "writinf", and try to make it sound better.

Wonderful, like making a dream and living through it
Riddle-like in the making, so hard to see an hear
Inspiration comes slow at times, at others like rushing rain
Thoughts fill my head, I worriedly begin to fear
Ideas, are they good enough? Why does my dream bring pain?
Never, though, will I give up, though it bring me tear
Greatest joy I always find, when at my writing desk I sit

     I really didn't change much, which is why they always say to give your writing a break before trying to edit. Sometimes, months after writing them, sometimes more than a year, I'll come back to read my poems and end up editing them, even thought that wasn't my intention. Anyway, despite the fact that it's still considerably clunky, it is actually an acrostic now.
     I can't wait to see you guys' acrostic poems, I think they're so cool. We'll have to have an acrostic contest sometime.

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK.

We have one prose contest open for short stories containing sacrifice, see the guidelines here.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Lesson on Relatablity from POKéMON

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     I'm a POKéMON nerd. You can tell this from the fact that I capitalize the o, k, m, o, and n, plus that I use "é" instead of "e". But another way you can tell is that I started watching the original Pokémon episodes, and the fact that I know that Jesse was extremely poor, hated Princess Day because she never had dolls, and loves "snowgasborde", that James was rich, collected bottle caps, and owned his own swimming pool, and that Meowth learned to talk and stand like a human in order to impress a female Meowth named Meowthy.
     What does Team Rocket have to do with writing? Well, despite Pikachu being one of the most adorable POKéMON, I always liked Jesse, James, and Meowth more. Why?

  • They fail
     Team Rocket always fails. No matter what they do, they always fail. We can identify with that, so we feel sorry for them.

  • They have sad back stories
     This is more for Jesse and Meowth than James, but seriously, they've had very sad childhoods. Jesse was so poor that a holiday where they ate a snow feast was the highlight of her childhood. Meowth was so desperate to be liked by someone that he became a Pokémon freak to gain the affection of Meowthy. Even better, it didn't work.

  • Though they are the bad guys, they are loyal

     They fight like cats and dogs, but they love each other. James throws away his favorite bottle cap to help Meowth, despite nearly breaking to tears when they took it from him earlier in the episode. James, Meowth, and the other POKéMON dress up as human dolls when Jesse fails the contest that would give her the dolls that she never had on Princess Day. Jesse panics when James and Meowth fall asleep in the snow, because she knows they could freeze. They all try to comfort Arbok and Weezing when they don't make the cut to star in a movie.

     In contrast, the only hero with an even vaguely sad backstory is Brock, who's dad left, but then comes back. (It never says what happened to Ash's dad.) And Ash rarely fails. Granted, of course, he is loyal, and we do like him, but Team Rocket still manages to evoke a surprising amount of sympathy for being the people trying to steal Pikachu.

     So, if kidnappers can be that likable, using these techniques, what do you think you can do with good guys? Probably one of the hardest things for writers to do, is make their heroes fail. They're the hero! They should be capable! But if they never fail, we won't care. Of course they'll win, when do they not? Don't be afraid of making your hero fail. There is nothing we identify with better than failure. That, if nothing else, is something every human is familiar with.

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

3 Ways You Should and Shouldn't End Your Novel

Post by Catsi Eceer, co-founder

     It's an important thing that is often overlooked by beginning writers--The ending. Everyone stresses out about writing a great opening, one that will hook your readers and won't let them go 'till the end.
     Openings are important, very important. Because without a good one, your readers won't even get to the end. But the question is, are they going to like the ending? Or are they going to be thinking, "Seriously? I just spent the last hour/day/week/however-long-it-takes-for-me-to-read-a-novel for that?"
     Here's the deal. When you have a bad ending, no matter how well written the book is, no matter how well developed your characters are, no matter how hooking your opening is, your reader is always going to look back on the book and say, "I didn't really like it."

     We're going to go over some ways you should and shouldn't end your novel. I was going to use some examples, except then I realized that it would kind of spoil the story for you if you hadn't read it yet. So, you'll just have to think of your own examples.

     Ways you shouldn't end your story:
  1. Deus ex machina. (It's pronounced day-us ex mah-kin-uh. Yeah. I didn't get it right the first time either.) This is a Latin term literally translated "god out of the machine." In modern literary circles, it means you as the author helping your hero out in the climactic scene. It's when your hero is about to be killed by the villain, when hooray! the sheriff comes and shoots the villain. The end, throw a party, marry Susie. In your novel, your hero must cause the end of your story. If there is some interruption, then it must be because of something s/he did earlier on in the story.
  2. Ending? What ending? This would be when you meander the story off into nothingness. Don't do that. We need a climax, the moment when all the conflict you've been building up finally gets resolved in one, big clash. Not just kinda unraveling until there's no story left anymore.
  3. Destroy the conflict! Basically, don't put a big reveal in the end that erases all the conflict you had in the rest of the story. (I read a book that did that, once. After reading the ending, you looked back at all the other story events and went, "Well. That really had no point after all.") While it's not horrible while you're reading the story, it's no fun to re-read, and leaves your reader with a sort of unsatisfied feeling.

     Ways you should end your story:
  1. Expected result, unexpected action. It's what we wanted to happen all along, but how on earth did they do it like that???
  2. Bigger and better. Make your climax even more exciting than you had built up for.
  3. Conclusive. It should fully wrap up the story. Don't leave some subplot unresolved, unless you're planning to write a second book. It'll just annoy your readers.

     What are some of your favorite ways to end stories? Any book ending that you really like or dislike? (Don't spoil the ending!)

Catsi Eceer is an aspiring author of fantasy and dystopian novels. To learn more about her, visit our "About Us" page.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sacrifice Short Story Contest

This contest is closed.

     A new month and a new contest. This contest is sponsored by Leah Good, the winner of the poetry category of our last contest, and author of Counted Worthy. Thus, this will be our first contest with a prize: a free ebook copy of Counted Worthy.
     So, we've got to have a theme, right? Well, our theme will be "sacrifice". You must portray it in some way in your story. I can't wait to see what you submit, so here are the rules:

     Include "Sacrifice Contest" in the subject line.

     Your name or pen name should be in the body of the email ONLY, but be sure to include it.

     Attach as a doc., docx., or txt., or in the body of the email.

     Keep the content PG-13 or cleaner.

     You must own the rights to the submitted piece and be the creator (or translator).

     Previous and simultaneous submissions are welcome.

     All rights remain with the creator, though we ask to post your story on this blog and the newsletter. If you would rather that your story not appear here, let us know in the email. This will not affect your chances of winning.

     You may include a short bio, as well as link to your blog and/or social media.

     Send your submission or any questions to

We look forward to seeing your work!

Another contest currently open is for poetry with a holiday theme, you can find the rules here.

Winners of the Autumn Contest

     Our autumn contest has concluded! Originally this was for all three categories, but we didn't get any for art, so the categories are now poetry and short stories. Drum roll for the winners, please.
     The winner of the poetry category is Lead Good's "Nostalgic Autumn"!

Nostalgic Autumn
By Leah Good
Sweet donuts, cider, and tea.
Crisp air, crisp apples, and leaves.
Warm snuggly leggings and sleeves.
Orange with yellow and green.
Country fairs with squash and gourds.
Pumpkin pie and Indian corn.
Winter coats soon to be worn.
Afternoon hikes and painted trees.
Clouding breath and frosty grass,
Cold-nipped nose and fingertips.
Rosy cheeks and cocoa sips.
Roaring fires and Jack Frost glass.
Hayrides at dusk of shortened days,
And stomachs filled with turkey.
Indian summer and harvest moons.
And fall is almost over.
     I would also like to include the honorable mention of Hannah Fromm's "I Hate Fall", due largely to the pure uniqueness of the poem.
     Another drum roll! The winner of the short story category is Cherise Taylor's "Black Cat's Luck: A Hallow's Eve Tail"!
Black Cat's Luck: A Hallow's Eve Tail
By Cherise Taylor
      Bright leaves crunch under paw as I walk. Dark has come and the streets are lit by harvest moon and streetlights. Doorbells ring almost continually and I pin my ears at the obnoxious noise. I pick my furry black paws up high, jumping over a puddle of rain water gathered in an indent in the sidewalk, created by a massive tree root.  I pass in front of a large white stucco house. Children stand on the porch. The children scream and hide behind the porch railings. I huff and roll my eyes at them, stopping.
      I can still see you. Humans are so stupid.
     "The black cat! The black cat!" cries a little girl in a pink tutu.
       She points with a plastic wand and I flick my tail in annoyance.
       "Ooooooohhh, careful!" warns a teenage human carrying a bowl of shiny, crinkling wrappers.
       I stretch to avoid the temptation of the shining things.
       It would be best not to get trampled by little humans just to get a shiny.
      My ears flick and my back bristles as the teenager crows, "You'll have bad luck if it crosses your path!"
      Why is bad luck always my fault?
      I sniff precociously and raise my chin. My whiskers quiver in the fall breeze as I saunter down the street once more.  I swish my tail at them as I go, frowning and hissing when they run away without paying any attention to me. I pin my ears.
      Be that way then.
      The children are laughing and going to the next porch. I break into a trot and hurry down the street. The license on my collar begins to jingle. The rough leather strap buckled around my neck rubs irritatingly. I shake my head, ears twitching back and forth. 
       The soft glow of Master's porch light filters down the steps as I mount them. I hop up the steps and then trot in my "kitty door". I scowl and glare around the kitchen as the wire scrapes across my back.
     That thing wants to take the hair right off my body. Only dogs would make humans invent such a foolish contraption.
     I trot down the hall, claws clicking against the tile floor. I make my way to the living room. It's dark except for the tiny lamp on the table at the far side of the room. I pause in the doorway and rub my side against the wall, entering as Queen of Master's House.
     Master is lying in the middle of the floor on his back. There is a puddle of red stuff on the floor by his face. Sniffing, I trot to his side and climb up on his chest. Sitting there, I see a hole in his forehead. Purring, I bend down and begin to lick the wound. Master doesn't move as I clean the red stuff off his face.
      Silly Master. What did you do now? It's alright. Kitty is here to fix it.
      I purr happily, sitting back to survey my work. Master keeps sleeping. I lay down on his chest and relax, swishing my tail back and forth contentedly.
      See, you silly little humans. I'm not bad luck.
     Cherise Taylor resides on a farm in Glen Elder, Kansas with her parents, three sisters, her dog; Ocie, and her cat; Sea Monkey. She is attending Sterling College where she is working toward a double major in Writing and Editing and Psychology and Counseling.
     She has been writing for more than ten years and won several state level awards in Kansas and Mississippi. Her first published work was Scarlet Light (2013) and her second was Beautiful Scars (2014), both published under the pen name 'Laine Colarossi.
You can see her blog here:
     Congratulations, winners! Well done! We hope to see more of your work in the future.

We have another contest up, a holiday-themed poetry contest. You can see the rules here.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

7 Things to Do Before You Give Up on Your Novel

Post by Catsi Eceer, co-founder

     I bet we've all been there at some point--your novel is just too boring/cliche/unbelievable/plotless/whatever that you feel there's no point in writing it any more.

     You loved this story at some point. It was a shiny plot bunny then, and you could just picture it on the shelf at the bookstore.

     But now it's lost all its charm, and you dread opening up the document. In fact, most days, you don't open it up at all.

     What do you do? Do you give up on the story, and start something new? Do you take a break? Do you force yourself to keep writing, even though you hate it?

     I think the answer is different for each writer. Sometimes you're really just burnt out writing-wise, and taking a few days off will clear up any problems. Or maybe you've taken off for too long, and you're having trouble getting back into the routine.

     But sometimes, the answer might really be that the story just isn't worth continuing.

     Now, before you enthusiastically pump my hand and thank me for giving you permission to ditch your story, there's a few qualifiers. You need to get through the list I have below, and you need to think each item through before moving on.

  1. Are you really sure your story is boring? Or is there just another "better" story that you want to write?

    I won't pretend that I've never had this happen to me. Plenty of times, I'll be about halfway through a rough draft, when I'll get a new story idea--one I'm sure is far better than this story will ever be.

    Sometimes, that really is the case. If you started this story spur of the moment, maybe there's just not a lot of good plot to keep the story going. It might really be best to drop this story and work on something else. But be careful--if you start writing that new story idea right away, what's going to keep it from doing the same thing halfway through?

    Just make sure to identify the difference between a good story idea, and a "shiny plot bunny." Plot bunnies are not reliable, shiny or otherwise. Develop, develop, develop, until you've gotten down to the core of the story. If it's still worth writing, go for it.

  2. Have you taken a break from the story?

    Try taking a break, if you're stuck. Spend the day with your family, or go somewhere with your friends. Watch a movie. Go for a walk. Do something away from your computer, laptop, or notebook.

    If you're just stuck on a story problem that needs to be solved before you can keep going--a very crippling issue; I know this from experience--chances are, just ignoring it for a few days will actually help. Your subconscious will be at work solving the problem while you get a break from your story.

  3. Have you gone back to writing after the break?

    I'm serious. After you're done with your break, sit down and write. Don't just say, "Okay, I've gone for three days without writing this story and I still don't feel like writing it. Goodbye, story!" Of course you're not going to want to write. Imaginations are lazy. When you go for an extended period of time without using it, it's going to be tricky getting back into the swing of writing.

    Do it anyway. After your break, spend a few more days writing. If you're still having problems with your writing after a week, maybe it is time to think about moving on.

  4. Identify what your story is really about. Are you still writing that?

    I've had this happen to me very often. I get so caught up in the words, the actions, the scenes, that I forget what the story is about. I have to take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember what I'm writing.

    What is your story goal? What does your main character want? What about that unnamable feeling you get when you think about your climax? Are you still writing that?

  5. Is it really a bad story, or do you just have Chapter Seven Syndrome?

    Chapter Seven Syndrome is my word for "I'm about two-thirds of the way through the story and I'm very sure that this is the worst thing I've ever written." It's not usually at chapter seven for most people, but when I started writing using a twelve-chapter outline, chapter seven was always where I lost my enthusiasm.

    If this is where you're at, take heart--it's a passing phase. Take a day off today, and start writing again tomorrow. Write as much as you can, even if it's awful. Eventually you'll get to a scene you've been wanting to write, and hopefully you'll start enjoying it again.

  6. Remember the enthusiasm you had for this story when you started. Is there any of that passion still left inside of you?

    I've found that writing a little note of encouragement to your future self when you start writing a story is very helpful. Take all of your enthusiasm and passion and love for your story, and write a few paragraphs about how amazing this story is. Go ahead and make it all flattery. Just make it sincere. If you have a good writer friend, ask them to write a little bit of something too. Then hide it all away somewhere, and don't look at it again until you're completely stuck and hating the story.

    Can you blow on that ember and relight the fire you had for this story?

  7. Are you really willing to give up?

    It sounds kind of harsh when I say it like that, but it's the truth. By giving up on your novel, you're doing just that--giving up. Are you ready to admit defeat?

     If you've gotten this far, and nothing is getting your interest back in your story, maybe it is time to start something new. Something you're truly passionate about, and something you'll see all the way through to completion.

     Just make sure you won't burn out halfway through again. Develop, develop, develop. Make sure this is a story you truly love. Make it something you'd want to read, and read again. Daydream about seeing it on a bookshelf, on, on a random review blog, read by somebody you've never met and probably will never meet. Imagine what the cover will look like, and the movie that will be made from it.

     Go ahead and dream. That's how we write, isn't it?

Catsi Eceer is an aspiring author of fantasy and dystopian novels. To learn more about her, visit our "About Us" page.

We have currently have a holiday poetry contest open, which you can find here.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

5 Quick Tips for Cleaning Up Your Writing

Post by Catsi Eceer, co-founder

     Hullo there, Catsi again. I've got another writing post for you all to suffer through enjoy. Today's subject is on the little things you do after writing to make your prose sparkle.

     This is kind of an after step. Like when you're building a house, you don't paint first. First you have to make sure the building is sturdy, the structure sound, and actually get the house built. Painting is really the last step. You don't make it pretty until you make sure it stands.

     However, it's still an important step. Ever read a book where you couldn't understand anything that was happening, because the writing itself wasn't clear? That's what I'm focusing on for this post--"painting" your writing to make it look nice.

  1. Sentence length and structure.
         When you have a bunch of long sentences in a row, it starts to feel redundant and monotonous. Short sentences, too. By varying the sentence lengths, you'll be making your writing flow smoother and easier to read.

    I ran to the car. Mel glanced at me. "What's up?"
    "Nothing really." I caught my breath. "Where did Anna go?"
         Yay for a bit of example writing I wrote on the spot.

         You'll noticed that all of the sentences are pretty much the same length, not too short, but definitely on the shorter end of the sentence-length spectrum.

    I ran to the car, breathing hard. Mel glanced at me. "What's up?"
    "Nothing really." I grimaced inwardly at the easy way I told the lie. "Where did Anna go?"

         In addition to the conflict I added in this example, we also have some varying sentence length and structure. It makes the reading easier, and makes you want to keep reading.

         This rule goes for sentence structure, too. In my writing, I tend to over use the type of sentence as the first one in the second example -  "I did something, doing something else." Look for the types of sentences you use frequently, and cut as many of them as possible.
  2. Look for adverbs.
         Lots of people are extremely (adverb) against these particular words, but I don't think they're always evil. (Elisabeth wrote a great post on them a while ago, which you can check out here.)

         My general rule is, if there is a verb that describes your adverb-verb pair on it's own, use it. And if you take away the adverb and it doesn't change the meaning of the verb, leave it out. I love strong verbs, and I think using them may be one of my writing strengths. I still use adverbs every now and then, though.

    She walked silently over to him, nervously thinking of everything that could possibly go wrong. He looked at her angrily, like he already knew what was coming.

          Yep, I love my strong verbs. That was a tricky example to write.

    She crept over to him, fingers trembling and mind racing. He turned his glare on her. His eyes flashed, like he knew what was coming.

         See how much more descriptive this example is? It (hopefully) creates a mental picture of our heroine's fear and timidity, and the other character's anger. While we knew those things were there in the first example, we could feel them in the second one.
  3. Look for places you could show rather than tell.
         This is another thing that I love, but I often have trouble making it work in my writing. Instead of telling your reader what the hero is feeling, thinking, or doing, show them feeling, thinking, or doing it. Don't tell what the location looks like--Show it to us.

    The air in the room was hot, and it made Sadie even more irritable.

         There's nothing particularly wrong with this (besides that it's a bit passive), and we know that the room is hot and Sadie's not too happy. However, with a bit of showing, we can make the reader feel the warm air and how grumpy Sadie really is.

       The air in the room felt sticky and humid, and the back of Sadie's shirt stuck to her skin. Her arms prickled from the heat. A drop of sweat dripped down Connor's forehead as he shot her a glare.
       Another bubble of irritation welled inside of her. If he made one more sarcastic comment about this being her fault...

           Do you blame Sadie for being grumpy?

  4. Check for the word "was."
         This isn't always something horrible, and you can't always avoid it, but keep on the lookout. Using the word "was" often fails to create a picture in our head, because it doesn't describe an action, merely a moment in time.
    She was leaning against the wall. Her arms were folded. I was suddenly feeling nervous, and wondering why she was here.
    She leaned back against the wall, arms folded. A flood of nervous questions filled my mind. Why is she here?
  5. Beware passive voice.
         Passive voice is when the subject of your sentence is the recipient of the action, rather than the one performing the action. In the following example, the subject of the sentence is "the gear," and the action is ("was set") is happening to it.
    The gear was set into place by Hawke's quick fingers.
         Active voice has the performer of the action as the sentence subject. Since Hawke is performing the action, we rearrange the sentence so he becomes the subject.
    Hawke set the gear into place, his quick fingers finishing the job in less than a second.
         Now, technically, the subject should be "Hawke's quick fingers," but I've found that it always sounds weird to have a body part as the subject of a sentence. It makes it sound as though Hawke's fingers are unattached to the rest of him, and he has no control over what they're doing. So I took that out, and added the last part of the sentence so we still have the description of Hawke's fingers.
     Now, all of these "rules" are things I think makes writing stronger. Maybe you love passive voice, or adverbs, or whatever else I said not to use in this post. If that's the case, forget what I said. Write what you like to read.

     What are some things you look out for when you're cleaning up your writing?

Catsi Eceer is an aspiring author of fantasy and dystopian novels. To learn more about her, visit our "About Us" page.

We have currently have a holiday poetry contest open, which you can find here.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

How to Write Free-Verse Poems

Post by Catsi Eceer, co-founder

     I was looking through the poetry posts earlier, and realized that we'd never done a post on free verse poems. Seeing as I write free verse almost exclusively, I thought I'd step up to the plate and scribble something down.

     Here I am twenty minutes later, still staring at a blank screen.

     The funny thing about free verse poetry is that, well, they're free verse. There's no specific rhythm or meter. They don't need to rhyme. They don't really need to do anything, except convey an emotion. There are no rules to them. Which makes it rather difficult for me to write about them.

     A free verse poem is basically a bunch of words. But somehow, the words need to convey the emotion the writer means them to convey.

     Ack. I'm explaining this miserably.

     Okay, I'll use a poem of mine as an example. I wrote this one a while ago, but I kinda like it. 

Step one: Find some inspiration.

     I was helping out in children's church one Sunday, and there was something about hearing each of the kids pray in turn while my sister played softly on her guitar that just made me want to capture that moment in a poem. It was the kind of bitter-sweet feeling that makes you want to cry when there's really no reason to.

     You can tell a story with your words, or capture a moment in time, or carry an emotion. How you choose to write it is up to you.

Step two: Choose your words. And choose them carefully.

     When you're writing free verse, a large vocabulary is your friend. Being able to choose just the right word is very important to the quality of the poem. Because most free verse poems are quite short, each word counts.

Step three: Just write.

     After that, just let the words spill out. There's no "right way" to do this. I think everyone writes a little differently. Some people might write all of the poem at once, then go through and edit. I tend to edit as I write, meaning I'll go back and fix up each line as I put it down. Do whatever works for you.

Step four: Fix it up.

     Try reading your poem out loud. Even though it doesn't have a set rhythm, the words should still flow. Make sure all of the lines run smoothly into one another, and the stanzas into one another.

     That's pretty much it. Four easy steps to writing a free verse poem.

     Since I promised you an example, here's mine:


Head bowed, eyes closed
A dozen hands-folded kids
The whisper of “Amen”
And the soft strum of the guitar

“Dear God, please help Mommy and Daddy;”
The little girl across from me prays,
eyes squeezed shut tight;
“Make our family happy again.”

“We love you, God:”
The last chorus of Amen
And I look into her eyes
She knows God will make it happen

I want faith like that
so even when it’s tough
I can keep praying

Any questions? Got a poem you want to share? Let me know in the comments!

Catsi Eceer is an aspiring author of fantasy and dystopian novels. To learn more about her, visit our "About Us" page.

We have two current contests, one is a holiday poetry contest, which you can find here. The other is an autumn contest for poetry, prose, and art, but the deadline is just days away! See the guidelines here.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Drawing What You Can

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     Hello there. If you guys have been reading my art posts, you'll notice that all I post are Photoshop tutorials, while the drawing tutorials are done by Catsi and guest bloggers. Why is this? Because I'm horrible at drawing. Seriously, I can draw two things with any decency: dragon and eyes. The dragons take over an hour, and can't have feet, and the eyes can't be in pairs. So, why the heck am I talking about drawing? What could I possibly have to teach you?
     Well, recently, I've started drawing eyes in my notebooks again, and making them more complicated. I've really been working on shading, making the highlights look right and whatnot. (When you only have a pencil, there isn't much you can do besides highlights.) But here's the thing: they look pretty cool. I'm getting better at them. I couldn't draw a face to save my life, but I can draw a single, unpaired eye pretty well. Well that's nice, you're thinking. But how does that apply to me?
     For one, it shows that even if you're crappy at something, you can still enjoy it. For two, if you simply draw what you can actually make work, you do gain proficiency. Someday I may be able to put my eyes on a person's face. Someday I may even be able to put two eyes on a person's face.
     So, even if you're a pathetic drawer (isn't there a better term for that?) like me, if you can find one thing you can draw decently, then you're on the right track. Eyes may lead to faces, faces to people, people to scenes. Don't give up because you feel that you can't draw. It's all a process. Just like writing, or poetry. The only difference is that it's easier to tell if you're doing well or not. Keep your old drawings, so you can see how far you've come.

     What do you say we all keep track, huh? I'll draw something today, keep it, and next year, same time, we'll all share them. Hopefully I won't be comparing two eyes.

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet, as well as a failing artist. (But luckily, she doesn't plan to make a career out of that.) To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK.

Also, we have two contests currently open. One is for poetry, prose, and art, which you can find here. The deadline is this month, so hurry! We're particularly looking for prose and art submissions.
The other one is a holiday themed contest for poetry, which you can find here.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

How Do I know If My Idea Is Good Enough?

Guest post by Emily Tjaden

     Sometimes writing is easy. Sometimes it feels like swimming in a bay, surrounded by a tropical paradise. You can breathe a long sigh of stress-releasing contentment. Other times, writing is like climbing a mountain, lugging a fifty-pound backpack and gasping for every breath. Or, worse yet, dangling off a cliff by your pinky finger. All the time, the life of a novelist is a rollercoaster.

     I’ve recently been climbing the mountain. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I fell off the cliff and had to have someone pull me back up. Around 90% of the rollercoaster ride is a result of the internal war that we authors have with ourselves over whether or not what we’re writing about is “good enough.” We’re worried about people rejecting our stories. Naturally, we want to be accepted, but too often, the fear and insecurity caused by the possibility of rejection makes us slow down writing—or worse, stop.

     But how do you know if your ideas are worth writing? Let’s take a look at a few things that every good story has.

• Unique characters
• An exciting plot
• A compelling theme
• Enjoyable prose

     Four things. They aren’t complicated, but often, we make them so. We agonize over the details, and constantly compare ourselves to others. Maybe you just finished a novel in which the protagonist was a brilliant undercover agent who also happened to be hiding a deadly secret, that, if exposed, could cost him his career, and his life. And maybe the protagonist in your story is a farm boy who has been kidnapped and sold into slavery, and has to find a way to regain his former life. Each of these characters is beautifully unique, but the temptation is to compare your protagonist to someone else’s. To think he’s not good enough because someone else wrote something different. The same is true for plot, theme, prose; everything. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean your idea isn’t worth writing.

     Now let’s look at a few things that good stories are not.

• Boring to the writer
• Told out of obligation
• A copycat of someone else’s

     As long as your story interests you, it’s worth writing. If you’re writing out of obligation to create something others will like, it’s probably not going to work. If it does, it will be hard, and possibly fruitless. Certainly not enjoyable, to say the least. And stories that are enjoyable to read are the ones that were enjoyable for the author to write.

     One of the biggest pitfalls for writers is the idea that someone else writes better than you do, when in reality, they simply write differently. You have your style and they have theirs. Trying to mimic another author’s prose does not make a good story. It makes a shadow. And who wants a shadow when you can have the real thing?

     Of course, I’m not saying this means you should never change your style. It’s certainly not wrong to desire improvement. For those of you who seek a career in writing, you should always be looking to improve your craft. But improvement doesn’t mean copying someone else. It means developing your own style.

     This is the part where doubts start to creep in. Things like, “What if people don’t like my style?” or “What if it looks like I’m copying someone else, but I’m really not?” Some people’s styles are similar, and it’s okay. All I’m saying is don’t try to make yourself into something you’re not.

     However, I think that one of the biggest doubt-evoking phrases is, “But I’m just a young writer.” The idea that somehow, age is relevant to whether or not you are capable or generating good plots and writing good prose.

     It’s not.

     I’ve seen many people under the age of twenty come up with spectacular ideas and write gorgeous prose. And they all write differently. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of, “My ideas won’t be appreciated because I’m too young.” Writing well takes practice, and it’s true that expertise comes with experience. But don’t write yourself off because maybe you haven’t had as much as some people. Remember what I said about improving? While you’re still improving, so are they. I’ll bet you that Tolkien was still hoping to improve after he finished The Lord of the Rings. Don’t think of yourself as a “young writer.” Instead, just think of yourself as a writer, always going up.

     So how do you tell if your ideas are good enough? Ask yourself these questions:

1. Are you excited by it?
2. Are you writing for yourself rather than someone else?
3. Do you think you can use it to help improve your craft as a writer?
4. Is this a story you would love to read?

     If the answer is yes, then write your story. You never know who might love it.


Emily Tjaden is a novelist, editor, and blogger. At nineteen, she is the oldest of five, and a Lord of the Rings fan who likes hobbits, dragons, and coffee. Aside from writing weird, speculative fiction, her passions include music, photography, and helping others see the potential they have to make a difference. She can be found blogging about various creative imaginings at

Also, we have two contests currently open. One is for poetry, prose, and art, which you can find here. The other one is a holiday themed contest for poetry, which you can find here.

Holiday Poetry Contest

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

This contest is now closed.

     Hello everyone! Had a fun Halloween? I sure did, though no one recognized my costume. Seriously, how many creatures have a tail that splits into two? (I was Espeon, by the way.) Because of this wonderful, festive time of year (Halloween, Thanks Giving, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.) Catsi had the wonderful idea of a holiday-themed contest. We're not picky, so you can make it about any holiday you'd like! Valentines Day, Veteran's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Caviar Day... I'm not kidding, that last one is real. Look up "holiday calendar" and you'll find more than enough to write about. Anyway, this is a poetry contest. Any kind of poetry (including freestyle)  on any holiday. They can even be mythical holidays. The prize is, as always, as much publicity as we can give you, unless you ask us not to.

     Include "holiday contest" in the subject line

     Submit to

     Submissions must be attached in doc., docx., or txt format

     You may include a short, 200 word, bio, plus a picture

     You may also include links, either in your bio or separate from them

     Submissions must be PG-13 or cleaner

     ALL rights remain with the creator, we only ask that we be allowed to display your poem and bio on the website and newsletter, but if you would rather we didn't, let us know in the email. It will not impact your chances of winning.

     Please do not include your name in the attached document, only in the body of the email

     You must be the sole creator of your poem, or have the permission of all the other creators and have been an integral part of making it

     Previous and simultaneous submissions are welcome

     You may submit as many pieces as you'd like

     The deadline is December 20th

     Results will be published January 1st

     I can't wait to see what you guys make! With any luck, we'll have those ads up soon, meaning occasional cash prizes! Remember, if you have any questions, you can either comment down here, or email us at the same address as you submit to.

We have one other contest open, this one for not only poetry, but art and prose as well! See details here.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Outlining for NaNoWriMo

Post by Catsi Eceer, co-founder

Hey, everyone! Catsi here, back (finally!) from the hiatus. So excited to get into posting again!

I'm also pretty excited for the event coming up in a few weeks, to be specific, on November 1. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I'll give you a hint: It's the time of year that most writers either love or hate, or a combination of the two.

Give up?

(Come on, this should be easy. The answer is also in the title of this blog post.)

NaNoWriMo is the abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. It's an organization that challenges you to write 50,000 words (a novel) in one month (November). Sound insane? Yeah, that's pretty much how we writers are.

This will be my first year doing it, so as always, I've been researching a ton. What I've found is that since I'm such a structured, planning writer, I should definitely spend as much of October as I can spare outlining. If you want to do NaNo the traditional way, you don't outline a speck and just start writing on November first. Knowing me, I'd be excited for the first few days and then burn out by the end of the week and trash the novel. So I'm outlining.

Now, I don't want to outline too extensively. That's also a recipe for burn-out. I'll spend all of my enthusiasm sketching chapters and developing motives, and then won't ever start writing. (Not a great way to get a book published, trust me. No one wants to read an outline.)

So I have to do it somewhere in the middle. Where exactly in the middle varies from novel to novel, writer to writer. I still haven't pinned down exactly what works for me. Everyone outlines differently, so I do my best to try several different outlining methods, and then keep what works and toss what doesn't.

With my last novel, I wrote out the "boring facts," and then wrote a step-outline--a list of scenes in the order I thought they would go in the novel. (They weren't all at the right place, but the good thing about using Microsoft Word is that you can just move things around to adjust your outline. Or you can just ignore your outline completely while writing. I think I have a little bit of OCD, so I have to keep my outline accurate the whole way through the rough draft.)

This is what I've found works best for me, and what I'm doing to outline my fourth novel. It isn't going to work for everyone--chances are, it'll only work for me--but maybe it will give you some ideas to try out.

Step one: Find a piece of paper and sharpened pencil. (Harder than you would think.)

The Boring Facts


If you've ever taken a literature class, chances are you've heard these five words before. They're the "Elements of a Story," and my literature textbook loved to make sure I knew them. (And here I am, three years later, and I still know them by heart.) Dry and uninspiring as they may be, they're still important, and they can be useful during the outlining process.

Characters are one of the most important parts of every story. The reason should be pretty obvious--A story has to be about someone. If it's just a bunch of events, we won't feel any sort of emotional connection. There won't be someone for us to care about, to root, cheer, and cry for.

Take the time to develop your characters. Give them all a goal, a reason to be in the story. Something they want, something they want to stop, someone they care about. A backstory, some family and friends, and a good antagonist. (Spend plenty of time on the antagonist--he's important.)

Here's the second most important story element. (Or, at least, for a character-driven writer it's second important. If you write plot-first, you probably think differently.) Your characters need to do something besides sit around and look pretty.

One of my favorite ways to figure out the plot of a story is to ask "What does my main character want?" and then follow that up with "What can stop them from getting that?" Explore any plot threads that come up until you have a main goal, a villain, and maybe some subplots too.

Where and when is your story set? It can't be floating out in nothingness. (Or can it?)

I read somewhere that if you can pick up your whole novel and drop it somewhere else without affecting the story, you haven't found the right setting yet. Make the location an important part of the story, and maybe it can tie into the characters too. If your character is terrified of water, maybe it's on a ship. Or if they're claustrophobic, caves would be an interesting place to put it.

The exact definition of this is a little different than how I use it when I'm outlining. (Creative license, okay?) By this, I mean the obvious details: Past or present tense, first, third, or even second person, the genre, target audience, and whatever else you feel like writing down.

The actual writing style, or your voice, isn't something that can be easily noted down. Some people have a very informal, laid-back writing style. Some have a wordy, where-is-my-dictionary-because-I-have-no-idea-what-this-word-means style. It all depends on the author.

What is the moral of your story? What does it mean?

I don't recommend spending a ton of time on this, especially if you're a beginning writer. Preaching a moral through a story is very difficult to avoid when you have a specific theme in mind. I've always found it best for me to just write the story, being true to the characters, and see what theme comes out. Then during rewrites I work it in more. (Although during this story, I have a far more specific idea for a theme than I've ever had for one before... We'll see how it goes.)

Once I've gotten everything figured out, I write a quick synopsis for the story, like one that you'd find on the back cover. It tends to get me excited about the project, because I can picture it as a published book.

The Outline

Now I start figuring out exactly how the story will go. Usually, I have a few ideas for scenes in my head already at this point, but I still need to brainstorm more and put them all in order.

Five Important Scenes:
The Inciting Incident (The day everything changed)
The Choice (Accepting the call of the story goal)
Plot Twist (A surprise halfway through the story)
The Black Moment (Everything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong.)
Climax (The final clash between hero and villain)

After I've figured out those scenes, I'll start filling in between them as best as I can. This gives me a list of "scene summaries," each scene summarized in one or two sentences. I can move scenes around, add more, and take some out at will. This also helps me see where any plot holes may arise, and do my best to fix them before they become a problem.

Once I'm happy with the way the story goes, I'm ready to write!

 How do you outline? Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Let me know in the comments!

To learn more about Catsi, visit our "About Us" page.

We have a contest open for art, poetry, and prose, all together! Come see details here.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Guest Post: Negative Shading

Guest post by Alexandra S. Grey (P. H. Alexandra)

     Have you ever done a drawing where you felt that you needed to fill in all the space with shading of some sort?

     It might surprise you when I tell you that you don’t have to do that. In fact, it’s sometimes good if you don’t. Leaving white places can illustrate the spots that the light is hitting most, which in turn gives your drawing more shape.

      I call this negative shading. Your piece of paper is all negative space. Leaving some of the ‘negative space’ with nothing in it and shading the rest helps the shading to look shadier! Think of it as white next to black vs. grey next to black. Black looks much darker next to white, even if the same shade of black is placed next to grey.

Posted Image

      Have a look at this pumpkin I drew. (Really gets you into autumn mood, doesn’t it?) See how I left a little bit towards the top only very lightly colored? And that’s the most 3D part of the drawing. To leave those spots clear and decide where the shadow should be, you have to decide where to put the imaginary light source. I chose the top left area for the light source.

Posted Image

     Here’s a girl I drew, focusing mostly on the hair. I wanted to give the hair a glossy effect, and to accomplish that I left a few areas blank. These lighter areas are darker than what is around them, giving the impression that they are bright spots on something dark, rather than simply undrawn space.

     Have you ever taken a picture and seen that some of the spots were washed out because they were in such intense light? Look at something shiny, or almost anything near you. Which places are lightest? Probably the ones being hit most directly by the light. That’s the sort of thing you want to be aware of while drawing. Think about whatever you’re drawing and where the light source is, the shape of your object, and where it would be logical for the light to hit. Hold back from shading certain places. Experiment. Pencils have erasers because everyone messes up, so do not be afraid to erase or make mistakes.
      Next time you sit down and pick up your pencil to draw, remember these steps for (not)shading:
1. Decide where the light source is.
2. Figure out how the light is landing on your object.
3. Leave the places in the most direct light either white or extremely lightly shaded.

      Now go draw something! I’m sure Catsi and Elisabeth would LOVE it if you posted your work using this technique! :D

~Alexandra S. Grey (P. H. Alexandra)

We have a poetry, prose, and art contest with the theme "autumn" currently open. See details here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Autumn Contest

This contest is closed.

     First of all, welcome back to the Window to the Soul contest blog! The hiatus is over, and we're happy to be back to our contests and articles. If you're wondering why some of the changes we promised aren't here, I'll have to admit that the new image I simply didn't have time to make, and I don't have a Paypal account, so no ads, and thus not cash prizes yet. (To be clear, we wouldn't have had any immediately after getting ads anyway.) So, I apologize for that, and it's purely my fault, not's Catsi's.
     Anyway, we decided to begin again with a contest for everyone! The theme is "autumn". Write a story or poem with fall as a central theme, or maybe give us a drawing or painting. Anything works, and we will take a winner from each category. And don't worry if you want to draw something but also write a poem, you can submit any number of things to any number of categories! (Though I have to warn you, if you submit zero things, your chances of winning aren't very good.) The prize is as much publicity as we can give you. (Unless you would rather we didn't, that's fine too.)
     Include "autumn contest" in the subject line

     Submit to

     Stories and poetry must be in doc., docx., or txt. format and images must be in PNG, GIF, JPEG, or PSD

     3-D art is welcome, though please submit it in one of the above formats, not a blend file or something

     Photography also works

     You may include a short (200 word) bio if you wish

     Links (website, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) may also be included, either in the bio or separately

     Submissions must be PG-13 or cleaner

     All rights remain with you, though we ask that we be allowed to display your submission on the blog and in the newsletter. If you would rather that we didn't, let us know, it won't affect your chances.

     You submission should not contain any identifying information. You may sign your art, but please use the Blur tool or something to make it illegible, and have an alternate one with a legible one for if you win. (Optional)

     You must own all rights to the material, or have permission for the other creators, and must be an important part of its creation

     Previous and simultaneous submissions are welcome

     The deadline is November 20th

     Any questions? Comments? Either way, I can't wait to see your submissions! Fall is most certainly my favorite season.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     Hello everyone. As all of you who know what the word "hiatus" means have probably guessed, we're taking a break. We will not announce any new contests until October 1st or post any new articles until October 4th. I know that that's a long time, but because contests stay active for two months, we kind of have to if we want to have any kind of substantial break.
     Why are we doing this? Well, multiple reasons, some of which are the fact that we have a lot of school (yeah, we're both still in high school), we want to be more prepared when posting contests and articles, and that we want to kind of re-think things. Don't worry, we will be back, and we'll be better! We plan to have the articles written earlier, so that we have more time to go over them for spelling and such, we're going to try to get more guest posts, a new and much cooler banner, and we'll also have one, or possibly two, ads on the website. While that last one may seem like a bad thing, it actually means that we'll be able to start having cash prizes occasionally, and we still don't plan on having any entrance fee. Neat, huh? I know how hard it is to find a contest that doesn't have an entry fee, but does have a cash prize, and isn't obviously some sort of scam.
     So, for these reasons, we will not be seeing you until October, but remember, we're still happy to answer any questions, receive guest posts, and we still have a contest open. See you in October!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blog Hop!

Hey, guys!

So sorry it's taken, like, forever to get this post up. We've been busy with real life and working out some blog-related ideas (and problems). We'll let you know more about the latter sometime (hopefully) soon.

A while ago, one of our loyal followers (that sounded funny...), Writefury, asked us to participate in a blog hop. It looked like fun, so we agreed. :)

We each took turns answering the questions, and then we'll pass them on to three other bloggers.


What are you currently working on?

I'm editing the rough draft of my current novel, under the working title Pitch Black Stars. It's about an orphan boy with no memory of his past who becomes entangled in a plot to overthrow the king, and must choose between the royal family he's fallen in love with, or the truth of who he is. (Read that all in one breath, because that's how I wrote it.)

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

Good question.
*goes off on a long mental bunny trail*
Y'know, I'm not really sure. It's shorter. A lot shorter. (Epic fantasy, only 30,000 words....) I guess the only good answer I have here is that I wrote it, so it's different to me because of that.

Why do you write what you do?

Because if I didn't, my main character would kill me.
:P Kidding.
Mostly, I write because I have to. I tried to go without writing for a month, and nearly went insane. I write because I love this story. (Which is a big deal for me. My last story I ended up hating by the time I finished the rough draft.) 

How does your writing process work?

*snicker* What writing process?
It's different every time for me. With my last novel, I plotted and outlined and developed every little thing before I even thought about writing. With Pitch Black Stars, I started it totally spur of the moment and just had fun seeing where the story went. I'm definitely a character-first writer--I develop every nuance of the MC's personality waaay before I have pretty much any of the plot figured out. It's just how I work.


What are you currently working on?

     I’m currently working on a mystery series, the first of which is currently named Beautiful Murder. Normally, I write fantasy, plus some dystopian, but never non-speculative. (speculative fiction is set in a different world or reality) My brother challenged me to write a non-speculative book to help me grow in my writing skills, and so far it has been pretty fun!
     It is set in the 80s, which forced me to make it the first book I’ve ever researched for. The main character is a girl named Rachael, and a detective named Linda. Rachael's uncle is murdered, and she believes it is connected to the deaths of her cousin and father, both of which were believed to be accidents. Unfortunately, the only person who even accepts that as a possibility is Linda, but, being a female police officer, no one will take her seriously either.
     To be honest, a lot of the plot is my brother’s creation, but that generally means that it’s better, so I’m glad it is.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

     Um, I have no idea what I’m doing? Haha, not really, but I don’t read mysteries very much. My brother actually checked one out of the library for me to read. But the book is probably unique in the plot (which I can’t reveal, due to spoilers) and the fact that it isn’t just mystery. It’s not at all what they call a “cozy mystery”, and edges more and more towards thriller with each book, which I’m currently planning three, my brother says four.
     The story goes deeper than the individual murders, while yet being completely unconnected.

Why do you write what you do?

     I write because I like to make worlds and characters, as well as stories, and to play them out. I usually write fantasy and dystopian, because that is what I like to read. Telling a story is very enjoyable (sometimes) and I write to find those occasional nuggets where you write something that flows, that is full of emotion. I LOVE that feeling. I've only done it twice, but it's reason enough to write.
     Also, though, I write because I want to make a living doing it. I "have the writing bug", as people say, and so I will write regardless, so I figure I ought to try to make a living off of my passion.

How does your writing process work?

     I write a particular amount of words per day or week (I rarely meet the quota) until I finish the rough draft, then I set it aside until the next rough draft is done. Then, I set aside the second book, and rewrite the first one. I'll keep doing that hopping, sending out the manuscripts to people to read, and posting them on the OYAN writer's forum.
     Honestly, though, I haven't completed that writing process at any point. I have finished the rough draft of one book, but I hate it so much that I doubt I'll pick it up when I'm done with Beautiful Murder, but instead will likely move on to writing the rough draft of a different book.

     Like Catsi, I'm a character-first writer. Though my book ideas may start with any random thing, from a character, to a plot point, to a novel title, to a funky way of speaking, my characters are the most developed part of my books, and the most important to me. Plot? Well, while I usually have some scenes in mind such as "good guy arrives at certain city", "friend is nearly killed by villain", and "main character defeats villain", I certainly don't know how they're going to get there. My characters tell me that.

These three bloggers are also going to do their own version of this post. If you're interested in doing it for some extra views on your blog, talk to one of them, I'm sure they need some more bloggers to pass it on to!


Elly Gard:

Tabitha and Azaria:

Saturday, June 28, 2014

3 Simple Steps to Implement Before You Write to Make Formatting Easier

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     So, for those of you who plan on self-publishing, formatting is a huge issue. Now, there are many good books on this, many of them free on Kindle, that can tell you how to format you book, but generally you look for those after you've written your book, right? Well, today we'll be looking at a few steps that you take before and during the writing of your book that will make formatting much easier when you get to it. Also, if you're paying someone to format it for you, and they are paid by the hour, then these will severely decrease the cost, as your formatter will have much less to do.

     Step 1: CTRL+Enter

     If you use a computer, then you know that CTRL+Z is "Undo", and lots of people know CTRL+Y means "Redo", but few people know that CTRL+Enter (Or Command+Enter in Macs) means "Page Break". So, instead of simply pressing enter until you reach the next page when you finished a chapter, you just hold CTRL and click Enter, and it will jump to the next page.
     This is especially helpful for ebooks, which normally can be flipped on their side and are rarely in the same proportions as they appear on your computer, which means that pressing enter won't take it to the next page, but rather to somewhere in the middle of the next page, or possibly the same page, or two pages forward. But ebooks understand page breaks, so if you put one in, no matter the proportions or rotation, your next page will actually be the next page. They also making things neater for print books, so if you later on decide to add or subtract something, all the subsequent chapters won't need to be re-positioned. Same for if you change font type or size.

     Step 2: Do not use headings in ebooks

     Or footers, for that matter. Ebooks don't understand them, and they'll either end up as text or something else, maybe have code attached. The best-case scenario is that they won't appear at all. Remember, because ebooks can flip, they don't have page numbers, and does your reader really need the title of the book up there every page? Like Brian Reagan said, have you ever been half-way through a book and gone, "What the heck am I reading?"
     Obviously you can use them in print books (depending on your provider, but if yours doesn't, you may want to find a different company) and when the pages stay the same, it's really nice to have page numbers.

     Step 3: Do not use Tab

     Tab is evil. Neither print books or electronic ones deal with it well. Ebooks generally put the line to about the middle of the page, which does not look good. Instead, before you've even started, set the indent of the first line to .5, or whatever your preference is.

     On a modern Word program (it may be a bit different with Mac or older Word versions, or as new versions come) press CTRL+A to select the whole document. Then look at the top ribbon and make sure you are on the "Home" tab, which is where it starts. One of the sections (e.g., clipboard, font, etc.) should be called "Paragraph". Find the expand button, which is normally in the bottom right corner. Click on it, and a window should open up.
     Go down to "Indentation". There you can choose the right and left indentation, but leave those alone. To the right of them will be a drop-down menu that says "Special". Select "First line" from the list, and then go to the "By" option to the right and set it to .5, or as I said, your preference.

     Now, every time you hit "Enter", your computer will make the indentation for you! Now, if you have anything that is going to be centered, like poetry, you'll have to select that section and undo this, otherwise it will be a half inch to the right, rather than completely centered.

     I hope these have helped, and I know it'll save whoever's doing your formatting in the future, especially if you're doing ebooks!

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK.

We have a poetry contest open, the theme is "patriotism". Come see the guidelines here!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Reply Poems

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     Reply poems are not like sonnets or haiku, but refer to a completely different aspect of a poem. They are pretty self-explanatory: reply poems are a reply. However, they are specifically to another poem. One of the better-known examples would be "A Passionate Shepherd to His Love" and "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd".

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
By Christopher Marlowe

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;
A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;
A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.
The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.
The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd
By Sir Walter Raleigh
If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd's tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love.
Time drives the flocks from field to fold
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.
The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward winter reckoning yields;
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall.
Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten
In folly ripe, in season rotten.
Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.
But could youth last and love still breed,
Had joys no date nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love.  
     As you can see, they sometimes copy the rhyme and/or meter of the original poem, but they won't necessarily. There is nothing specific that needs to be done to make a reply poem, though the most important thing, aside from poem quality, is to make it so that people can tell that it is a reply poem. With the previous one, it is pretty obvious (to those of the time) because the original was a fairly well-known and it has many lines that are quite close to the original. Another option is to do what I did in my poem below, which is to "address" the poem.
     First, I'll give you the poem I'm replying to:
By Percy Bysshe Shelley

The flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow dies:
All that we wish to stay
Temps and then flies.
What is this word's delight?
Lightning that mocks the night,
Brief even as bright.

Virtue how frail it is!
Friendship how rare!
Love how it sells poor bliss
For proud despair!
But we, thought soon they fall,
Survive their joy, and all
Which our we call.

Whilst skies are blue and bright,
Whilst flowers are gay,
Whilst eyes that change ere night
Make glad the day,
Whilst yet the calm hours creep,
Dream thou- and from they sleep
Then wake to weep
To Shelley’s “Mutability”
By Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley
Wrong! For though much I live is dream,
 I know it is only that, no more
 But from what you seem
 To say, the truth is but sore
 But I look around and I see,
 Though I could live off dreams if need be,
 There are more joys in reality!

 Though left and right there is sorrow
 And morality seem only to decay
 I need look only to tomorrow
 For the Lord guides each and every day!
 What can we expect after the Fall?
 That the world would be perfect as a doll?
 Nay, but the Devil shall not take all

The skies need not be bright,
 Nor the flowers gay, for me to know joy
 Will a mere day without light
 My heart’s happiness destroy?
 To last, happiness must be deep
 And while I loves the dreams of sleep
 I shall not wake to weep
     I hope you've enjoyed this, and I hope that you have a good time with your poetry. Perhaps we should have a reply poem contest soon, huh?
Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK.
We have two contests right now, one of which is poetry. To see the guidelines, click here.
 Our other contest is an art contest, we extended the deadline! Come see more here.