Wednesday, April 30, 2008


So I've been lazy about my blog this week. Blog+lazy = Blazy.

That new word actually sounds much cooler than the definition I've given it. BLAZY! Like you're on fire, either metaphorically, literally - or both, gosh darn it!

Instead of writing poetry I've been reading the writing of folks in my new critique group (great stuff, guys!) and in this online class I'm taking while working on my own novel. Oh, and working at my day job too. Oh yeah, that!

It takes a lot of energy to beat back the demons of self doubt. The teacher in my online class assessed my idea as fun, and said it should be campy.

Hmm. That's not what I had in mind. I want humor, sure. And it's heightened. But campy? No. Tonally I'm going more for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. No, not fantasy and horror, but that tough mix of real life difficulties (yeah, people die!), having special power/knowledge, and adolescent angst. A mix of humor, adventure, blah blah blah.

So now what? Have I been utterly deluded all this time, after all the work I've done? Do I take this one statement by someone who hasn't read my stuff yet and run off and hide?

Well, I was tempted. It's amazing how fragile this whole conception I have of being a writer is. Especially when I haven't been published yet. But today I'll online chat with my teacher and probably get more constructive thoughts and all that will go away, and I'll feel invigorated again.

Must. Keep. Moving. Forward. Despite the quicksand and crocodiles in my brain swamp trying to drag me under.

If you want to kill time when you should be writing, check out your very silly horoscope at The Onion.

Mine today is:

Cancer June 22 - July 22
Balancing work and family is never easy, but with looming deadlines and daily staff meetings—well, it's just—what the hell do you expect from us, Margaret?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Language and Poetry

After reading this very interesting article in the NY Times today about language (did you know most languages do not have different terms for the colors blue and green? Yet another reason to fall in love with English.) I then found out that in Hungarian word endings need to "rhyme" with vowels in the word they are attached to.

I love this idea! I love playing with language, learning where words come from and how they secretly relate to other words and ideas. What a marvelous idea, to make it a priority to harmonize the sounds in words as you speak them.

Apparently, the Hungarian rules of "vowel harmony" are quite complex. Hungary has a rich tradition of poetry and literature, and some argue that the language's flexibility (you can put words in just about any order) leads to creative and experimental thinking. This may also account for the extraordinary number of prominent Hungarian scientists - the language they work in allows for a huge range of options. Could this lead to a more open mind?

But the language is also completely different from nearly every other Western tongue; it's vaguely related only to Finnish. Russian and Sinhala (spoken in Sri Lanka) have more in common with English than Hungarian. The complexity and flexibility of the language make it resistent to translation, which keeps its literary heritage a secret from the rest of the world.

They also have two words for the number 2. Which is rather poetic in an of itself.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Wanna be a Movie or TV Writer?

Read this.

It's Chad Gervich's latest post on his Writers Digest blog Script Notes. In it, Chad answers some basic questions sent in by a ninth grade aspiring screenwriter. He goes into great detail about pay scale, where writers write, how to break in, what sort of experience you need and don't need. For anyone who knows very little about the business and is interested in breaking in, it's chock a block with valuable info.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Insult Poem

There goes a piece of history
Another bit of truth

You've pruned away what happened
While I wasted all my youth

We never were in love
You never held me close

I just misunderstood you
Sorry to impose


I wrote this prompted by Robert Lee Brewer's blog from yesterday. In case you haven't been paying attention, this is Poetry Month, and I'm doggedly spewing out evil bits of poetry in honor of that. The idea is to write an insult poem. I'm not sure mine qualifies. It's more angry than insulting. I started off just accusing the unnamed object of the poem of being a liar, of altering history. But I found that dull and pedantic. So I tried to insult without outright accusation. Not that I'm claiming this poem is at all subtle, mind you.

It's interesting to try and be angry. I'm always trying to forgive and be nice. It's rather fun to have an excuse to wallow in ugly emotions for a little while. All in the interests of "art." *cough*

Monday, April 14, 2008

Always a Sky

a hot diamond sky
ironed down the palm leaves
fired up the roof

stood like a lion on my limbs
breath scalding my face
Fur smeared with sun

I lay as if forever
would always be this blue


It's Poetry Month! I didn't follow a prompt today. Just wrote how this hot weekend in Los Angeles made me feel.

Heat = no poetry

It was over 90 degrees in Los Angeles this weeked. Temperature records wilted.

So I used that as an excuse to be lazy and not write any poetry over the weekend, in spite of this being Poetry Month.

Oy. Work is nutty, but I still hope to churn something dreadful out today and keep some sort of momentum coming. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Poem - Object

Today's poetry prompt from Robert Lee Brewer's blog is to write a poem about an object you find fascinating or you think is overlooked.

The Egyptian Ring

I kept passing
the ring
on the way to my cabin.

On the top deck
I sat
and watched Nile birds swoop

Below, I passed the shop
the ring
had a Nile blue sapphire

The river banks passed
Blue sky
Fishermen cast their nets

It didn't sparkle much
square cut
bound in two golden bands

Tut's funeral mask embedded
lapis lazuli
no sapphires, but carnelian and gold

Frivolous jewelry,
unecessary ornamentation
Too expensive anyway.

A call home to a friend
broken hearted
while I lounged on the Nile

I bought the ring
it fit.

My poem picked

So I've been terribly lax the last couple of days about this Poem-a-day thing I promised to do for Poetry Month. Work has been crazy busy, and then my brain shuts down. And I think some of my poetry reflects that!

However, my chocolate chip poem was selected as one that stood out by Robert Lee Brewer, who blogs about poetry at the Writers Digets site. Click here and scroll down to see my poem "published" online.

Okay, so there are like twelve poems picked for that day. But hundreds were submitted. I'm ridiculously happy, especially since I don't consider myself a poet. Goes to show - if you're gonna rip anyone off, rip off the best, since I borrowed the form from Wallace Stevens's 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Poem - About a Painting

Today's poetry prompt is to write a poem about one of two paintings. They are:

Piazza d'Italia by Di Chirico

The Little Deer by Frida Kahlo

Deer by the Water

A flight of arrows
prickle from my hide
an antlered porcupine
spotted with blood.
But I keep flying
by the water
buried deep in trees
Cool hooves hover
branches do not tremble
as I pass.
The river runs too
in the distance.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Ramble Poem

So I wrote a poem, tried to post it, and there was a glitch, and it was lost forever.

Is this a sign?

Today's poetry assignment is to write a poem from the rambling thoughts in your brain. Rigorous editing is suggested.

How is it
that as poetry month progresses
my poetry
gets worse?

My Diet Coke
Tastes like coffee.
My butt
feels like it's been sitting here forever
even though the day
has just begun.

The headset over my right ear
causes a build up of moisture
in the ear canal
leading to a fog upon the brain.

Will I ever finish this novel?
Will I ever finish this script?
Will I ever matter?
Will lunchtime ever get here?
Blame the
brain fog.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Guest Poem

My father, Paul Berry, wrote the poem below in honor of Poetry Month.


Across the freeway
at dusk,
the wind flies a

a lost consumer soul,

full of nothing,
dodging traffic.

longing for

to fill
the bag

Poem - Day's Activities

Today's poetry assignment is to write a poem based on your day's activities. A mere list probably won't work, but you never know!

Max climbs the mountain that is me
places his two front paws on my sleeping shoulder
stand grand as a stag stamping hooves on a hillside
and wails
(Much too early on a Sunday)
to be fed.

Rumpled resistent
out to the kitchen
to scoop out a glop of wet
Then back to bed
thank you very much
the peaceful sleep of a single woman
with no children.

Phone calls
the drama of others
but inside
I am warm
and dark
and peaceful

now that the damn wailing is done.

I told you the poems would often suck. It's Sunday. Just deal.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Poem - Worry

Today's poetry prompt from Robert Lee Brewster's blog is to write a poem about worry. Something that worries you.

I am tempted to write again about the dentist, since that is what has dominated my life of late, and worry about my teeth dates back to an accident I had as a child that set me on a collision course with many endodontists. But I think I've worried that subject (oh do forgive me, I could not resist that pun) enough. I'll manage something else.

At the Office

Did I send her an email
letting her know that Sandy Applebaum called?
No scribbles on my call log
Not with that name.
She's not on the phone sheet.
But I swear
She called.
Like, around 3?
Fuck, it's 5 now.
Check my Sent mail and pray.

Dear god of executive assistants
watch over my emails
and make one of them replete
with Sandy Applebaum
noting time of call
and number.

Rows of emails
rows and rows and rows
sent and sent
Is this how I'm spending my day?
How many hours have
I spent
sending emails
about phone calls
phone calls returning other phone calls --
phone calls that weren't even for me.

My parents spent so much money
on college.
red weight
I can't climb over it
the underside of a moving cliff
moving down, gasping
a fish thrown onto the carpet
by a careless child.

Oh wait.
There's the email.
sent at 3:07pm
RE: Sandy Applebaum.

Twirl the office chair three times
Look out the window
Remember the sun.

And do check out this Sunday's Opus comic strip, which, as it happens, is all about anxiety.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Poem - Gratitude

Today's poetry prompt is to write a poem about something you're grateful for, or a tribute poem to someone or something. See Robert Lee Brewster's blog with the poetry prompts here.

I had a root canal this morning (well, technically I had three root canals because the tooth has three roots), so expect terrible free verse. Here we go, with apologies to Wallace Stevens (one of my favorite poets):

Seven ways to be grateful for chocolate chips
Among the cooling cookies
the chocolate chips sit liquid hot.
semi-sweet bombs ready to explode
on your tongue.
After the dentist's drill,
A chocolate chip sits melting
Alone in the corner of my mouth.
The mouse nibbles at the corner
of a yellow plastic bag
of chocolate chips
shoved in the back of the cupboard.
Rodent ecstacy.
She rode past the suburbs
in the back seat of a minivan
Once, fear pierced her
as her mother glanced in the rearview mirror
and saw the shadow of chocolate chips
smeared across her lips.
I was of three minds
Like three kids
Fighting over a chocolate chip cookie
The chocolate chip rolled across the floor
A small part of the mess.
It was evening all afternoon
It was foggy.
And the fog would never lift.
A chocolate chip cookie sat waiting
in the tupperware.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Poem - Haiku

YAY! Today's poem prompt is to write a haiku.

Robert Lee Brewer's blog entry today is a wealth of info on the haiku, a poetic form I thought I knew. I don't want to steal from him, but here's the gist:

1. Haikus are 17 sounds long, not 17 syllables. Entire poem is three lines long.
2. The 5-7-5 syllable line scheme is not a hard and fast rule. Just make the first and third lines shorter than the middle.
3. Haikus do not have titles.
4. Haikus include a word to indicate a season. So "petal" might indicate spring.
5. Haikus describe nature, with an emphasis on description, not metaphor. No rhyming.

Well! It's a bit more complicated than I thought. My high school pal Chris's famous haiku comes to mind:

Little cockaroach.
Bam bam bam bam bam bam bam
I missed you each time.

There's no word to indicate a season, but in Hawaii, where Chris and I both grew up, there are no seasons. Cockroach is not spelled cockaroach and thus should be two syllables, not three. But in Hawaii, the word is pronounced cock-a-roach by locals. And maybe "missed" is two sounds, not one... miss-d.

But this haiku is genius. Let's be honest. It's hilarious and turns beautifully on that last line, as the best haikus do.

But enough stalling! To work! Prepare all month for hastily written poems...

Rain plops on green hills
Sunshine slants across wet leaves
Cars ignore rainbow

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Poem - The Dentist

From Robert Lee Brewer's blog, here's the prompt for today's poem:

Put yourself in someone (or something) else's skin and write a poem about the experience. Who (or what) ever you become, please make that the title of the poem. If you're Buddy Holly, your poem should be called "Buddy Holly." If you're the Bates Motel, your poem should be called "Bates Motel." And so on.

I have to go to the dentist later this afternoon and get some major drilling done. Wish me luck! My dentist is a nice woman, but I nonetheless hate dentists generally. What better skin to step into?

The Dentist

When I glance up from the drill
I see the iris of his eye

As blue as the scrubs
my hygenists wear
but with a pinpoint
a black hole.

a falling into darkness
a window to nowhere
a shrill whine
the scent of burning tooth

I squint despite the protective eyewear
as dust from the molar
coats his tongue.

the back of a throat is also black
Up into the brain
Down into the heart

But the tooth lies beneath my fingertips.
I've made it white

National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, and Writers Digest blogger Robert Lee Brewster challenges us to write a poem a day this month in his Poetic Asides blog. He gives a specific challenge and then asks you to answer it in a poem.


Well, I already missed yesterday, and I don't have time to backtrack, but I'm going to try to post a poem a day from now on for this whole month here on this blog.

Warning: my poems will probably suck.

And they will likely be short.

But I've been wanting to flex my metaphorical muscles and remember the joy of poetry. What better way than to make it a chore?


Fellow SCBWI member and children's author Gregory K. is doing the same on his blog. Today's poem, about a hippo, is not only charming and funny - it rhymes! Expect haikus and, er, free verse from yours truly. I'll be back later to day with the prompt and my poem in response.

If you wish to participate, Robert Lee Brewster encourages everyone to post their poem in the comments on his blog. Go for it!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

How TV Development Works

I'm listening in on a call about a pitch for a TV series as I type this. This is about the seventh call/mtg about this pitch that has happened so far, and the last mtg that will take place before the pitch goes to the network.

How does this work? TV is complicated. Let me explain.

First, you have the writer. The writer is hired by the studio (in TV land that means generally ABC/Disney, Warner Bros., Fox, NBC Universal, CBS/Paramount, Sony/Columbia and a few other places) and sent to work with some producers. The producers will be experts on developing scripts for television that have an overall deal at the studio. Often these producers are former studio or network execs, writers, or agents.

So the writer goes off and comes up with a general "take" on the idea he's working on.
(To back up a little, she can either come up with this idea herself, pitch it to the studio, and they agree. Or the studio takes an idea to the writer - often an idea based on a book that a network has expressed an interest in, or an arena (a noir cop show, blended family dramedy) the network likes.)

The writer discusses her take on the idea with the producers. They give notes.

The writer reworks the idea, discusses with producers, and gets more notes.

The writer reworks the idea, discusses with the producers, and hopefully by now it's ready to go to the studio exec.

The writer and producers discuss the idea with the creative studio execs. (These are the development execs you may have heard of). But now you may have up to six people listening to the writer and giving their opinion. The studio execs give notes.

The writer reworks the idea again, talks to the producers about how they've reworked it, and may have to rework again just for the producers. Then writer and producers come back to the studio with the idea, incorporating those notes, or explaining why the notes were not incorporated.

The studio gives more notes.

I am not kidding.

The weird thing is, often the idea does get better and more focused and fleshed out through this process. I swear. Good writers take feedback and make it work for them, one way or another.

The same thing happens again. And probably again. And perhaps again.

Finally, the writer, producers, and studio go over it all once again, prepping the pitch, organizing everything, so that it's ready to go to the network.

Enter the network. For newbies, the network is NBC, ABC, TNT, HBO - the channel that you watch. Thanks to vertical integration, the network is now often owned by the same corporation as the studio, but the executives are different than the studio execs, regardless.

The writer, producers, and studio execs go to the network execs and pitch the idea. At this point, the writer is talking to up to ten other people in the room, trying to convince them their take on this idea is the right one. The network gives notes. At this point the writer either reworks the idea or goes to outline.

You get the idea. Being a television writer requires infinite patience and a talent for pleasing others while keeping your integrity. It's very difficult. And it helps explain why many TV shows feel like many other TV shows. The more cooks you have throwing ingredients into the soup, the more watered down the taste becomes. It takes a writer of great talent and adaptability to survive this process with not only something that will succeed on the air, but that will actually be good.

That said, I've seen writers steered away from disastrous ideas by talented execs. I've seen mediocre ideas shaped into wonderful ones. And I've seen execs give no notes at all when they encounter an idea they think is perfect. And nobody knows their network "identity" better than the network execs. They are the only ones who know what audience they'd like to attract.

But it's minefield.