Five Reasons Why I Write.

An author shares five reasons why she writes.

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This challenge for writers is circulating on Instagram.  Because it is a very positive thing,  I decided to share mine here, too.

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Five Reasons Why I Write:

1. Compulsion: the words flow and I can’t stop them.

2. Satisfaction: there is immense joy in creating and crafting something meaningful.

3. Encouragement: I write about things that everyone experiences- grief, anger, pain, happiness, challenges, victories — in a way that shows others they are not alone.

4. Self-preservation: delivering justice fictionally carries fewer penalties than actually hurting people.

5. Sanity: It’s the most effective therapy I have ever had.

Bonus Reason: 6. It’s the only way I can explain my browser history.

I’d love to see you follow me and join in this fun challenge on Instagram.

You’re more than welcome to tag me in your post so I am sure to see it.

Also, I hope you feel free to comment and share the reasons why you write.

When The Difficult Falls Into Place.

It’s exhilarating when something you’ve been working on starts to come together.

Any author will tell you that some works are much more difficult than others to write. This is true in every genre and every style of writing. It’s true for other artists, too, and in most walks of life.

As a poet, I deliberate over every word choice, I measure the rhythm and listen to the music of each poem. They’re all different. Some rhyme, some don’t. My poems vary in length, subject, tone and style. They all demand to be written. And some are really challenging.

There is one poem I’ve been writing since May 2nd this year. I knew when I started it wasn’t going to be easy – it’s a medieval fantasy narrative poem, for crying out loud, so that was never going to happen overnight. It’s not ‘The Lady of Shallot’, but I suspect I may have a fair idea of what Tennyson might have experienced while writing it. It has developed in bits and pieces, sometimes just one or two lines at a time, while at other times it’s just been a matter of reading through what I’ve written and changing one or two words, while the rest remained incomplete.

It really has been like doing a complicated jigsaw puzzle. I had an image in my mind that I wanted to create through the narrative of the poem, and planning the stages of the poem was a little like finding all the edge pieces and joining them together to form the frame. Then it was a matter of finding pieces that matched and fit together, and bringing the story to life bit by bit. It’s been slow and steady work, but it’s also incredibly exciting when the different sections link up and the whole thing starts to take shape.

Today was the day that the “big picture” of my poem started to come together. That which has been difficult and frustrating is now exhilarating. My motivation has had a boost, and I feel as though I am cheering myself – and my heroine – on from the sidelines.

It’s not finished yet, but it’s getting closer. I can smell victory in the air. And it’s fair to say I’m more than a little in love with this poem.

Joey'sMapleLeafTatt

My friend Helen and I completed this puzzle together on a rainy Sunday afternoon,a couple of weeks ago. Here’s the completed image.

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Joey'sMapleLeafTatt

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A Protest.

Some people think you can write any old thing and call it a poem.
That’s not how it works.

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This
Is
Not
A
Poem.

This
Is
A
Protest.

A
Word
On
Each
Line
Does
Not
Make
It
A
Poem
Unless
Each
Line
Means
Something
In
Itself.

Wouldn’t
It
Be
Ironic
If
This
Became
My
Most
Popular
Piece
Of
Writing
Ever?
A
Bestseller,
Even!

©2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

Writing What I Know.

One of the simplest pieces of advice given to writers is to “write what you know”.

One of the simplest pieces of advice that is given to writers, especially those just starting out, is to “write what you know”.2018-04-08 18.10.55

It’s good advice.
It doesn’t take long, though, before it gets more complicated: it’s what you do with it after the first draft that makes any piece of writing effective and powerful.

While I don’t have any personal experience of unicorns or magical black cats— yes, it’s hard to believe, isn’t it?— my poetry is full of what I know. Every poem is inspired by real-life experience, either mine or that of someone close to me, or my own observations of other people and their actions. Even those poems that appear to be fictional are grounded in personal truth.

For this reason, there really isn’t anything that I won’t write about.
Grief. Fear. Joy. Sadness. Depression. Temptation. Despair. Determination. Anger.
It’s all there.

Writing poetry is the most effective therapy that I have ever experienced. At different times in my life, I’ve sat through grief counselling, infertility counselling, and therapy sessions to help with my depression. Each was worthwhile in its own way but, for me, none of that has come close to the healing power of ink on paper, working through ideas, shaping and crafting meaning with the words I choose, so that I can express my thoughts and feelings effectively.

Late last week, for example, I found myself confronted by the actions of a particular individual whom I had not seen for some time. Churning inside with revulsion and anger, I knew I was not ready to get into the car and drive home in that state, so I went and found a place where I could think and write and start to deal with both the new knowledge and the way it made me feel.

I didn’t write one poem. I started several, and have made progress on three. Only one is finished- at least, I think it is. It doesn’t identify anyone, nor is the finished poem specific to only my situation, but it leaves the reader in no doubt whatsoever about how I feel. It’s a poem that is entirely relatable for anyone who finds themselves horrified by the unsavoury actions and/or evil intentions of another.

My hope in publishing it is that, if someone in a similar situation to mine should read it, they will know they’re not alone in their feelings. There is, after all, solidarity in numbers.

Evil

I haven’t decided whether or not ‘Evil’ will make it into a future collection for a book.
I do know that I felt a great deal better when I had written it than before I started. And really, that was the whole point.

If you’d like to read more of my poems, there are a number of them published on WordyNerdBird Writes.

Joey'sMapleLeafTatt

If you appreciated this post, or the poem included, please like the post by clicking the button below, or leave a comment. All constructive feedback is welcome. 

Writing About Family and Friends.

Authors: keep your writing from causing problems with your family and friends.

Writing about family can be fraught with danger. The last thing you want to do as a writer is offend or alienate your family, especially if things are already fragile in some way.

 

That poses a challenge: what happens when there’s something you desperately want to write about? For starters, writers should know to always, always change names and details.  If possible, don’t mention names at all. Even when writing about positive feelings or experiences, people who aren’t used to putting themselves out into the public eye might hesitate to have something written about them and published. A great idea for a story or poem should never be pursued at the cost of an important relationship.

 

When I do write something about friends or family, I make sure they’ve seen it first, and I tell them I’m going to publish it. That way, they can’t say they didn’t know.

 

For example, I recently wrote a poem after two completely separate events: one was the wedding of my nephew, the other was a conversation with a friend who had recently lost her own nephew in tragic circumstances.  The poem, titled My Child, does not mention anyone by name, nor does it mention those particular situations. It is an expression of my feelings – and my friend’s feelings – for those whom we have loved, held, and helped to raise.  This is what I sent to “my children” and to my friend, well over a week before I posted it. That same text is what I posted on my writing blog where I published the poem today. Poem My Child

 

The other alternative, of course, if you feel you must write about something or someone, is to disguise the situation and details enough so they don’t know it’s about them. I’ve written plenty of poems about broken friendships, people in my life who have been determined to cause me trouble, and others who really deserve some special treatment from Karma, but it’s always been presented as me facing an invisible, unnamed challenger or enemy… or a certain black cat named Friday who metes out justice to people who really deserve it. It is not possible for anyone to identify who I was writing about at the time, and that’s a very good thing.

As a writer, it’s important to protect oneself. The last thing you want is something coming back to haunt you.

 

And if you’re a friend or family member of a writer,  remember that age old piece of advice: Never annoy a writer, or they might put you in a book and kill you. It’s true. 

 

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One Poet’s Approach to Writing Poetry

Today, I’d like to share with you my own approach to writing poetry.

If you’re not really a poetry reader, it may reassure you to know that it’s not always super-formal language and words that are hard to understand.  Sometimes it is- especially if you’re approaching poetry written a hundred  or more  years ago. In my mind, though, making it so elegant and clever that people are resistant to it or almost afraid of it really defeats the purpose. I want the reader to connect with what I’m saying, not feel like I’m some self-important hyper-intellectual with an overactive sense of rhyme.

 

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It’s also helpful to understand that there are different types of poetry. Some types, like sonnets, are formal in structure and rhyme pattern, and a poet really has to stick to those rules.  Haiku is said to be one of the most popular types of poetry in the world at the moment, and while it seems quite simple, it still has formal rules that have to be followed. Other types, like free verse, is much more liberated and often easier to understand because those same rules don’t apply.

Some people these days insist that poems shouldn’t rhyme at all – to that, I say– possibly rather loudly and perhaps quite rudely – “Poppycock!”. There is nothing wrong with using rhyme, or any other tool in the poet’s toolbox, as long as meaning is not sacrificed for the sake of making that device work. I write poetry that rhymes, but I also write poetry that doesn’t.

I don’t aim for things to sound pretty and sing-song, or to rhyme neatly, but I do try to use language that sounds beautiful when its read. The important thing is to choose words, and language styles and poetic techniques that suit my subject and deliver the meaning the way I want it to be understood.

I aim for my ideas and feelings to be communicated in a way that makes someone stop and think, and maybe see something or someone in a new way.

Sometimes my writing helps me – and other people – make sense of what’s going on in my head or in my life. It’s the best therapy, because I get to explore and deal with my thoughts and feelings as I work with the ideas, and I always have an outlet to say what’s on my heart and mind.

And sometimes I write poems because it’s the only way I can find to say what other people are afraid to say. I’m happy to provide a voice for others, and I’m always keen to have my readers see situations or experiences from different perspectives.

Let me give you an example. One of my favourite poems among those I’ve written is the one titled ‘Nocturne’. Try reading it aloud, not worrying about the rhythm but just letting the language carry you along.

promo nova nocturne poem

When reading it, you’ll see that it rhymes,  and the lines are of similar length when read aloud. This enabled me to achieve a musical type of rhythm in the words, which suits the idea of a nocturne, given that that’s the name of a piece of music written to be played or listened to at night – which is also when the poem is also set at night, for which the idea of a nocturne is also really appropriate. Despite all of that, it’s still quite plain in its meaning.

I’d love to know what you think of it, so feel free to leave a comment below.

You’re also welcome to jump over to WordyNerdBird Writes and read some of my other poems and stories.

T.S. Eliot’s letter of advice to a sixteen year old aspiring writer

This article is a marvellous piece of writing in itself.  I really hope you’ll take the time to read it. 

Every now and then, I stumble across an absolute gem of inspiration. Sometimes it’s in a book. Sometimes it’s a quotation. Sometimes, as it was tonight, it was a blog post written by someone else.

This article is a marvellous piece of writing in itself.  It’s beautifully put together and composed, and the content is just magnificent.

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It’s something every author, whether published or aspiring, should read because it addresses that infernal question with which we all torture ourselves: What’s the right way to do this? And the answers come from T.S. Eliot himself, esteemed 20th century author and poet.

I really hope you’ll take the time to read it.

You’ll find the post titled T.S. Eliot’s letter of advice to a sixteen year old aspiring writer on the Nothing In The Rule Book blog,

Women in Horror Month: Facing My Own Fears

An Author’s Perspective on Facing One’s Own Fears In Writing.

One of the principles of writing good horror is tapping into your readers’ fears and anxieties, albeit in a controlled manner – I don’t want to trigger a heart attack or a psychosis, but I do want their skin to crawl and their innards to lurch. After all, that’s why they pick up a horror book or film in the first place.

It’s interesting – at least to me, at any rate – that I haven’t got any better at confronting my own fears.

I have always been, and still am, terrified of spiders and snakes. Of course, I do live in Australia where just about everything that crawls or slithers is deadly, so that is quite sensible. We’ll call it a healthy sense of self-preservation. Butterflies and moths, though… not so much. And crickets: ugh! Not exactly the stuff of nightmares— until they touch me. That’s when I lose all sense of reality.

fear-of-heights-2040805_960_720When I was a child, I considered that I had a fear of heights. As I grew older, I realised that what I actually have is a fear of falling. I can look out of the window of a plane that is flying at altitude, and it doesn’t bother me a bit. Ask me to step onto the balcony of a lookout at the top of a mountain, or to walk on stairs or a surface where I can see through to underneath, and you will only ever be disappointed. It’s not going to happen. The times I have been in such places, I have frozen to the ground in fear.

Interestingly, these are not fears that I have explored in my own writing— not yet, anyway. I’m far more comfortable playing on someone else’s weaknesses. Death. Hell. Demons. Fire. Hair. Monsters. Ghosts. Superstition. Possession. Unexplained coincidences. Easy peasy!

Maybe I will try to address one of my own fears in my writing this month, given that it is Women in Horror Month, and I happen to be a woman who very much enjoys writing horror.

I’ll get back to you on that one.

Maybe.

Women in Horror Month 2018 : An Interview with Joanne Van Leerdam

Originally posted on Unusual Fiction :
I’m really excited to introduce our next author to Women in Horror Month 2018 at Unusual Fiction. Joanne Van Leerdam is a poet, writer in many genres and of course horror lover. ? In addition to writing poetry and short stories, Joanne is a teacher of English, History and Drama/Production.…

WiHM9-GrrrlLogoTall-BR-M

This is my third author interview in fairly quick succession, but the questions have all been so different that I couldn’t even recycle any! This one focuses on my work as a writer of horror where the others were more general.

Many thanks to Fiona Hogan at Unusual Fiction for asking clever questions and publicising my answers in honour of Women in Horror Month 2018.

Unusual Fiction

I’m really excited to introduce our next author to Women in Horror Month 2018 at Unusual Fiction. Joanne Van Leerdam is a poet, writer in many genres and of course horror lover.

jo van l

In addition to writing poetry and short stories, Joanne is a teacher of English, History and Drama/Production. She is an active member and performer in her local theatre company.
Her hobbies include reading, music, travel and photography.

Joanne loves travelling, and has visited many places in Australia as well as holidaying in New Zealand, Fiji, the USA and Canada at different times.

Question 1. What drew you to horror as a genre?

I’ve always loved Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I also loved The Addams Family and The Munsters on TV as a kid – although they’re lighthearted, that macabre sense of humour of mine just adored them.

Question 2. What horror writers do you read?

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Women in Horror Month: My Kind of Horror

I want to give my readers a reading experience that is original, well-written and provocative enough to give them the chills and shudders that they seek when they pick up a horror story.

One of the most powerful features of excellent Gothic, horror or macabre writing is the ability of an author to affect the reader on an intellectual and emotional level, even more than they do physically.

This is something that I aspire to in my own writing. I always try to engage the mind and the emotions, not just the reflexes that make one gag or feel their skin crawling, although those are certainly effects that I enjoy stimulating in a reader. I don’t write splatter for splatter’s sake – there has to be a deeper meaning and a greater purpose to it than that if I really want to connect with and move my reader on a psychological level. There needs to be a story, not just a scene, and the reader needs to be able to connect with that story in order for it to have full effect on them.

I sought to do this in ‘The Silver Feather’ by developing strong emotions in my main character’s responses to things that happened around him and to him – grief, shock, dread, surprise, horror, and fear. Phil is an ordinary guy with talents, strengths and flaws that make his situation one in which any of us could find ourselves. Not everything is explained in full, because as an author, you want the reader to be wondering what’s going on, and holding their breath as they anticipate what’s coming next. Things become clearer as the story progresses, but sufficient questions remain at the end because you want the reader to remain interested enough to read the sequel.

‘Curious Things’ is a little different in that it consists of thirteen stories, all featuring a black cat named Friday and his interaction with people who are all doing the wrong thing in one way or another. It’s not enough to blow them up or have them arrested – I want to make them face consequences, to be confronted by their conscience, and to pay the price for their less-than-savoury ways. Each story develops from some kind of superstition – do black cats bring bad luck? What would happen if the ground really did open up and swallow someone? Again, some questions about Friday remain unanswered, although it is evident that he’s not exactly your ordinary house cat. The reader doesn’t need to know everything to understand that Friday is actively involved in the strange events that occur, one way or another.

I do have plans for more horror stories this year. Friday will emerge from time to time, as he did on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, when new stories were published on WordyNerdBird Writes. There may, or may not, be a sequel to The Silver Feather – the truth is that I haven’t decided on this just yet. There will be another collection of horror stories, two of which have already been written and edited, and another is well under way. I’m not setting myself a due date for any of these projects – they will happen when they happen, and I will work steadily toward them.

My goal in all of this is to give my readers a reading experience that is original, well-written and provocative enough to give them the chills and shudders that they seek when they pick up a horror story. I want them to hold their breath, and gasp, and recoil when they read my work. And I want them to come back for more, because that is the greatest compliment and honour that an author can receive from a reader.

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So here’s to all the women writing horror, and to all the readers who love what they write. Here’s to all the authors whose horror works I love reading, and to celebrating them and their books during a delightfully creepy Women in Horror Month.

I’m dead keen. Are you?