Thursday, April 21, 2011

Guidelines for writing poetry

April is National Poetry Month, which I have sorely neglected on my blog. I'll try to add at least one more poetry post before the end of the month, but here is one offering for you.

Often I talk to writers who want to try their hand at writing in verse. Writing in "verse" simply means that your lines are rhymed and metered. A common mistake of aspiring children's book writers is the assumption that if it's for kids, it must be written in verse. Not true. Although many, many children's books are written in verse, many, many others are not. Writers sometimes hear that editors don't "like" verse. What editors don't like is poorly written verse. So here are some quick guidelines which I will try to write more about another time.

1. Consider whether your book should be written in rhyming verse. Rhymed poetry packs a lot of information into one line. Each line is full of information. Rhyming verse is actually quite difficult to do well. It takes many, many revisions to get it right. If you want to write in verse, do it well and take the time to revise thoroughly.

2. Near-rhymes are very rarely okay. You should strive for perfect end-rhymes. Yes, even the best poets have at times broken this rule. But 99.9% of your rhymes should be dead-on perfect.

3. The meter needs to be smooth and easy to read. Avoid "off-beat" syllables.

4. Avoid "reversals." Say the words in ordinary English. Often, writers reverse the normal order of the words in order to accommodate a rhyme. Try to make your lines read as logically and smoothly as you would speak a normal sentence.

5. Try an unusual form, like a tercet (a three-line stanza) as opposed to the very common couplet.

6. Use fresh and original language, and avoid cliches.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A milestone?

So, I normally don't get too "personal" with my blog and try to keep it related to books and writing and teaching. But today I thought I'd post something that hits a little closer to home.

In the past couple of months, I've been seriously trying to trim down a bit. The typical American diet was causing this over-40 body to expand just a bit too much for my good health. So, what did I do? My husband got this brilliant idea that we should adopt a caveman diet. Geez. Basically, the idea is you eat protein (lean meats, seafood, etc.) and vegetables. It's sort of similar to the South Beach diet, from what I've heard. Anything that a caveman could hunt or gather is what our bodies really need--that's the argument anyway. We've cut out all cereal, most carbs (except what's naturally found in fruits and vegetables), and while my husband's weight loss is much more dramatic (and makes me seethe), I'm also seeing good results.

The first week I thought I would die. Seriously, I felt nauseous, grossed out by meat, terrified that my cholesterol was soaring due to eating too many eggs. But it's gotten much easier, and the weird thing is that I am craving lots fewer carbs than I used to.

The milestone I may have reached today was my experience this morning. I picked up two dozen donuts for my husband's pastors' conference this morning, and truly, didn't even feel all that tempted to order a spare to nosh on as I drove home.

I've discovered some great recipes and some not-so-great ones. Here are some of my favorites so far:

- Moroccan Chicken Soup
- Asparagus Soup (very simple--just asparagus, leeks, onion with a recipe like this)
- Curry Chicken Salad (I can't find the exact recipe I used, but this is similar)
- Almond Carrot muffins
- Almond Banana pancakes
- Spaghetti squash with sausage spaghetti sauce over the top (yummy with hot Italian sausage)
- Garlic Lemon Sea Scallops
- Boiled shrimp with Old Bay seasoning

I do miss tacos and pizza. I am not willing to try the "caveman" versions of these. Caveman pizza has a ground nut crust (ew), sauce, veggies, meat, and no cheese. Come on. That just isn't right.

For tacos, the tip is to replace the taco shells with lettuce. Ugh. It just doesn't work.

I adore this store, the Villa Park Fruit Market and only wish it were a little closer to home.

At the same time we're doing this, we're also limiting our grocery expenses. I have to shop around, but between Aldi and the Villa Park Fruit Market, we've kept our grocery budget low as well.

Friday, April 01, 2011

What I did for spring break and Chinatown

So, this past week was spring break from my online teaching and tutoring jobs, and now I'm wondering...where did the week go? Well, here's the lowdown in case you're mildly interested. Monday, I worked on taxes. Tuesday was my b-day, so my son humored me and helped me find my first letterbox for 2011. (Letterboxing, in case you haven't heard of it, is kind of like geo-caching. If you haven't heard of that, then go here to learn more. It's a great hobby. Shout out to Melissa DeGroot for introducing me to this.) Wednesday, I have no idea what I did. I think I worked on the budget and some editing. I have also been finalizing some poems which I sent to Highlights for Children this week.

Yesterday, I decided to be a little adventurous and take my teenage son and his girlfriend to Chinatown in Chicago. It was quite the experience! Some random thoughts:

- Chicago expressways are too crowded (but we all know that)
- Chicago side streets are riddled with potholes (we all know that too)
- There are such neat little neighborhoods tucked into this great big city. That's what I love about big cities--it's really just a conglomeration of lots of little towns.

Chinatown was well worth an afternoon's visit. If I were visiting Chicago from out of town, I'd are probably better places to spend your time and money. But for a 20-30 minute trip there and back, it was a fun afternoon.

I learned that Dim Sum is--I think--the Chinese version of tappas. It's lots of small dishes that everyone shares. We tried shark fin dumplings (ew) and some shrimp dumplings. My taste buds generally go for the super high fat spring rolls or shrimp rolls, so the lunch was definitely not diet-friendly.

We mostly enjoyed the little shops with the trinkets and interesting hats and little buddhas. It was a blend of all things eastern and western. The grocery stores were the best. In one grocery store, there was a basket to-the-brim-full of live crabs. When we walked in a woman was using tongs to check out the meaty underside of the crab. The poor thing was flailing his little claws around until he got shoved into a paper bag. The whole basket was sort of crawling, and being the very brave person I am, I ran out of the store. Literally.

But we went back in, the kids picked up a few of the crabs, kicked the box of live eels, and we found some of the oddest looking foods, like these:

...and something in a "bakery" called "Green Bean Paste Cake." Those words simply do not belong together.

All in all, though, it was a fun outing. Now, back to reality next week.