Monday, March 29, 2010

Animating the Inanimate

The Miss Rumphius Effect has issued a Monday Poetry Stretch to animate the inanimate.

On Wednesday, my parents will disembark a plane from Thailand and see their two grandsons, now 9 months and 11 months. They are very different boys from when they saw them last at 1 month and 3 months. They will also see their two granddaughters, ages 6 and 5, who have grown a lot too.

by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

poses like a great winged bird
who never flaps his wings.
poised for take-off
goes from 0 to 600
quick enough
to make your ears pop
and your sinuses dry out.
closes up
like a Tupperware container,
preserving people
from one destination
to the next.
nose dives and screeches
to a halt,
spitting out people,
stretching and anxious
to hug awaiting necks.

Time Marches On

I realized last summer that if I wanted to write, really write, I was going to just have to make time. No more excuses. See, I have been involved in these wonderful MA and MFA programs of Children's Literature at Hollins Unversity. Every summer, I became a writing maniac. I banged out a lot of writing, but I had a hard time keeping motivated after Hollins. When September hit and school got into full swing, I would taper off.

My life has gotten busier, and since I have two kids, I don't think it will settle down for many, many years. I made a determination. Write. Write. Write. Even if it is only for 15 minutes everyday.

Things I've learned about myself in this process:

1) Deadlines help me. I joined a local critique group. I must turn something into them every month, so I'm accountable.
2) Challenges help me. I did the picture book marathon in February. I have spent much of March rewriting and writing some more. I will be doing a poem-a-day in the month of April.
3) Little bits of time do add up. I write in the evenings after my kids go to bed. I am a morning person, but so is my son. So unless I get up before 4:30am to write, I have to write after he goes to bed at 7:00pm. I always have a journal in my bag so I can write when I have short snippets of time. When my daughter has ballet, I throw Cherrios at my son, and revise my writing. When she has Daisy Scouts, I leave my son with my hubby, and I write in my car while I am waiting for her to come out. It does add up.
4) I really don't need to watch TV that much. The best Christmas present I bought myself is a DVR. I record things I want to watch. I'm not beholden to that stupid TV. I watch it without commercials when I have time on the weekends.
5) Sometimes writing is serendipitous. I feel like ever since I made the commitment, I have found lots of articles about this very idea. Apparently it's a very common thing.
* Kristi Holl at Writer's First Aid talks about using "hidden time" to write.
* Kim Norman talked about "squeezing creativity into an overbooked life" at her talk at the VSRA conference (which I didn't get to go to, but her handout is on their website). She gives a dozen habits to foster creativity.
* Eileen Spinelli talks about this on an e-mail I just received from Highlights Foundation. I couldn't find this online, so I'll quote from the e-mail. Spinelli says, "In terms of 'writing time'—it's not a matter of finding it. It's a matter of making it." She also talks about finding snippets of time in your day.

6) Taking a day off is okay. I have worked 12 out of the last 14 days. I was exhausted, mentally and physically. Yesterday I cleaned my house, took care of two sick kids, and I read a book! I read the last 250 pages of the latest Jodi Picoult novel called House Rules. I was about halfway through yesterday morning and it was already two days overdue.  I never turned my computer on all day. And I don't feel one bit guilty about it. to practice what I preach. I will be writing...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Throwing My Hat in the Ring...

Call me a glutton for punishment... or just a person who thrives on deadlines. In any case, I'm joining Read Write Poem's NaPoWriMo for the month of April.

The challenge? Write a poem a day in the month of April.

I recently participated in the Picture Book Marathon in the month of February. It was a struggle, but I eeked out 26 picture books. And I'm still working on them--one by one. It will take me a long time to make my way through them all, but it was worth it. I have a huge folder full of material to work with.

I hope this poetry challenge will be good for me too. I bought a new journal at Michael's for a dollar for all of my little poems to go into.

What do I think will be challenging? It will be spring, so I'll probably want to be outside more than inside. That being said, many of my poems might be about my garden, spring, etc because I'll probably take that journal outside with me.

Also, my parents will be visiting, so I may alter my writing schedule a bit. I don't get to visit with them very often, so I will be taking advantage of getting to spend some time with them.'s a poem a day. Even if I get a draft or two of each poem done, I think that's an accomplishment.

I'll publish a few here, but I might try to work a few into my novel-in-progress which has poems in it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eat Your Greens for St. Paddy's Day

The Miss Rumphius Effect issued another Monday Poetry Stretch. Today it was all about flowers in spring. I didn't write about flowers exactly, but I did write about something we discovered this weekend while getting ready to plant our spring veggies.


Last year’s lettuce
seeded itself,
after July's growth spurt.

Seeds huddled together
under snow
popping up in time

for salad on St. Patrick’s Day.

by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Writer on the Move

I have been in a good mode lately--writing everyday. I've been writing something, even it's something very small. This weekend, however, didn't work. For the next two Saturdays I have to work my day job. My parents are coming in 3 weeks. They live in Thailand, so when they come to visit, they stay for a couple of months. After my youngest took over the guest room, we've had to move my parents to my office. It gives them some privacy, but I have to relocate my writing location temporarily.

The good?
I cleaned out a LOT of stuff. I pared my writing paraphernalia down to the absolute necessities to bring upstairs. I can always get things out of my office, but I didn't want to clutter up my bedroom with more stuff than needed. I brought up my laptop, my printer, my basket of pens and markers, sticky notes, and two file boxes of books and files. That's it. And when I move back into my office in June, I will be going back to a clean space with little clutter of files, papers, and such.

The bad?
This writer didn't write all weekend. She spent time cleaning out. Fourteen hours to be exact. I didn't spend all of that time in my office, but my office, plus my entire upstairs got a deep clean and reorganization. The downstairs will still hasn't been fully cleaned and decluttered.

I did do some writerly things though. I cleaned up my writing stuff and I went to my writing critique group. So, I have a mission for the week--work on what they suggested.

The second part is that I will have to redo my routine. Normally, kids to bed, then I go down to write in "the cave" (as my hubby calls it). Now, I'll have to write in my room. Change of place, but hopefully my mindset will still be there.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book Spine Poetry Challenge

100 Scope Notes put out a challenge to do a book spine poem.

I took at a look at my Hollins writers shelf where all of my friends and professors from Hollins have their own designated shelf in my office for their fabulous books. There are a lot of them, but I picked a bunch and then rearranged them to try to make a poem. So, here is my book spine poem made from some of the Hollins' friends books.

My photography skills are lacking, so I have the text below too.

Border Crossing
The Boy Who Dared
Seeing Sky Blue Pink
Send Me Down a Miracle
The Other Side of Blue
Something Beautiful

Monday, March 8, 2010

Local paper publishes haiku

One of my haiku is featured in our local paper. We were given the challenge to write about Salem in the spring.

Bradford pears burst white
raining petal confetti
celebrating spring

Here's the link to the So Salem blog where it is featured.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Haiku to Welcome Spring #2

first day of sunshine
wraps its blanket around me
promising spring

by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Haiku to Welcome Spring

dormant, twiggy bush
trades brown bark for a red coat
coming soon: blueberries

by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Saturday, March 6, 2010

LMBO at Chicken Cheeks

Books I Wish I Had Written: #1
I begin a new series of reviews on books entitled "Books I Wish I Had Written". While I was writing in the picture book marathon in February, I read lots of picture books to keep my mind in the "picture book mode." I came across quite a few books that I thought were utterly brilliant and I wish I had written. I will feature them and more as I come across them.

Chicken Cheeks
Written by Michael Ian Black
Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Simon & Schuster, 2009

My ten-month-old was fighting a nap. I sat down with a pile of picture books I had requested from the library. He loves to listen and look at the pictures of books. In fact, he gets down right vocally angry if you leave him out of a book. If my daughter and I are reading a book, he will crawl over and grunt and make loud noises until we let him in.

Chicken Cheeks was next in the pile. I hate chickens. They are my one intense fear in life. I'll save my sob story of roosters clawing at my legs and leaving welps for another time when we talk about why I'm scarred for life over chickens.

But I was willing to give Chicken Cheeks a chance because the cover is so darn funny. Really funny. And my son was enthralled with the bright colors.

This book is HILARIOUS--LMBO hilarious!!!! It's all about BUTTS of animals, but not in explicit detail. In fact you will never find the word BUTT in the book. Instead you see "moose caboose" and "toucan can" and "flamingo fanny" among others. In this 43 word picture book, you will probably read nearly every CLEAN word for butt you can think of. All paired with Kevin Hawkes bright, silly animal illustrations.

This book has to go back to the library soon because I owe nearly $30 in fines for overdue books. But, my little ten-month-old, who kept pointing and smiling at EVERY picture will probably find his very own copy of this book in his Easter basket.

It's brilliant. It's short. It's funny. ALL IN ONE BOOK!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Poetry Stretch--Pantoum

Miss Rumphius Effect handed out a tall order this week--a Pantoum. I wrote two--I'll share one here. The other I might work into my current novel-in-progress. For a clear explanation of this form, see this link.

A Plead for Spring

Vanish, never-ending sub-zero chills,
Perpetual sledding, constructing igloos,
Enough of the snow days, I've had my fill.
Disappear, winter weather in view.

Perpetual sledding, constructing igloos,
Closets cleaned, to-do lists done.
Disappear, winter weater in view.
We must feel the summer sun!

Closets cleaned, to-do lists done,
Skip over March, windy spring days.
We must feel the summer sun!
Enter three months of soaking up rays.

Skip over March, windy spring days.
Enough of the snow days, I've had my fill.
Enter three months of soaking up rays.
Vanish never-ending sub-zero chill!

by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Monday, March 1, 2010

March Madness

I just ran that writing marathon, and I am tired, but riding on the coattails of some good momentum. I am in the habit of writing everyday now, and that's GOOD. I want to keep at it! I will not be spending my March watching basketball. But I do have quite of bit of "madness" planned for March.

1) Submit poetry--specifically haiku--to two different places.
2) Rewrite the beginning of my novel (my thesis for my MFA). I got some great feedback from my critique group and I will be working hard on this in March.
3) Rewrite at least one picture book. I know I just wrote 26, but that doesn't mean 26 good ones. I want to pick one or two to really rewrite. It's going to take some time and a sharp eye and pen.