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.