We Are Saul
by Richard Dee
My favorite poet Emily Dickinson sent her poems to The Atlantic Monthly Magazine in 1862. Editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson promptly rejected them. That rejection inspired more poems. The communication turned into a relationship based on poetry that went on for many years.
If there’s a chance the winner might only receive a virtual pat on the back, why do people enter writing competitions? They might lose. Sending your writing to a competition involves risk. What if nobody ever acknowledges them and they have to contact the magazine to see who won? I did that. Sometimes, only Grandma and your husband will know you won that gift certificate or a Famous Writers tote bag. Do it, even if all you win is a note saying your work is promising.
A writing competition is where a person submits a piece of writing by the deadline following the submission guidelines and paying a fee. Different publications and contest sponsors have varying standards. The judges likely have favorite things to look for or that one thing that catches their eye. Judges may have diverse lifestyles, experiences, or education. Submissions are often read first by assistants before sending their choices to the judge. Prizes may include money, from ten dollars to thousands. Your writing could win publication. The prize could be a subscription to the magazine or a free course. Don’t forget that part where your name appears in print. If you’re lucky, your photo could be featured. The word “winner” looks good on a resume.
One of the best things I said to myself after I lost a prestigious contest is “I’ll show them! Just wait until next year. “
One of the best things I said to myself after I lost a prestigious contest is “I’ll show them! Just wait until next year. ” Even losing a competition for creative writing at the county fair caused me grief. ” They’ll be sorry. The State Fair has a better prize anyway!” I have lots of dialogue and pep talks with myself. After all, I’m a writer. Who else is going to listen to me analyze why my writing wasn’t chosen? Was it that word I changed at the last minute? Can they tell how old I am by my writer’s voice? I guess they wanted a younger person. Was my poem too conservative or too artistic, or too political, religious, personal, or contained too many foreign-language words? A woman ridiculed me once because I lost a poetry contest. I composed a great comeback on the spot. Being a winner means continuing to do what matters. It shows you’re alive and you didn’t let life defeat you!
Then there are the questions about what my writing was “not.’ Not creative enough, not contemporary enough, not relevant, not rigid enough, not original enough, or not bold. I didn’t make the judges cut since I was afraid to go outside the boundaries, whatever those unspoken boundaries are, those boundaries that are really what the judges say they are but never stated in the guidelines. Maybe my story was offensive since my poem talked about a sensitive topic. My novel had things that might trigger a reader’s anxiety or cause bad memories. I forgot to include trigger warnings at the front of the manuscript. How am I to know what will trigger another person’s anxiety? What about the thousands of years since writing was invented and the author just wrote whatever was in their mind?
“They’ll be sorry. The State Fair has a better prize anyway!”
I’d be crazy not to use my education. I love writing so much that I majored in creative writing. My dream was always to be a writing teacher. I used examples of writing competitions in the classroom; the winners, the losers, the good and not so good, even though they were officially the winning submission. We discussed many of the things I’m writing about today. My students worked in groups to critique winning entries. They judged each other’s writing for fun. They learned where winning poems and stories are published. Students researched literary journals, magazines, online publications, and competitions sponsored by libraries and schools. Entering all those competitions gives the writer practice in editing, proofreading, and other valuable skills.
Why do I continue entering competitions after suffering so much doubt about myself? I might give up writing forever and take it easy. What good does it do to hit the submit button again after feeling so hurt when my manuscript wasn’t chosen? What makes me sure of my creative talent that I write cover letters and check to see if I used the correct font or spacing? I remember my Dad’s favorite answer when my sisters and I would fail at something. Try, try again, he’d remind us.
What have I won? I’ve won honorable mentions, third place, and a critique. Two of my stories were published in an anthology. Three of my poems are now included in the Indiana State Library’s Hoosier Author Section. I won a scholarship to a writing course in Lithuania. There’s more as they say on those late night info-commercials. My writing resume keeps getting better and better.
Here are the links to read my poems on the Indiana State Library website.
Have you ever noticed those photos of hands that some people use for blog headers or advertising? You may have seen an ad for an editing service or a proofreading business that shows a pair of hands on a keyboard. Anyone who sees the ad would likely be convinced the company knows how to edit. The text in the ad would explain about the service. Schools many times use hands in their ads or on their website. A photo of hands on a keyboard or a hand holding a pen are common. Sometimes all you see are the fingers on the keyboard, not the whole hand. I could expand on types of ads, but I will stick to those writing-related.
Learn to type, Learn penmanship, learn cursive!
The hands are usually young hands with manicured nails polished in pretty colors. Some wear jewelry to show their individuality, whether tastefully conservative, artistic, boho, glittering jewels or antique. The hands you see typing or using a pen to write in a notebook can be neatly summed up into one category. Color. The hands are usually White.
One of the images often seen shows a woman typing on a laptop as she works at her favorite coffee shop. Another image marketers use features a young girl sitting cross-legged on her bedroom floor, writing in her journal with purple ink pen or pink gel pen, whatever they use these days. The girl writes by hand in cursive, sometimes for the world to see, or other times for her eyes only. But the hands are usually White.
The setting can vary from a library, a classroom, a woman writing on a park bench, or a young girl at the beach. The girl is spread out on a blanket typing on the laptop she brought from home. She’s writing a novel, or a short story, a poem. Slowly, no hurry, yet her hands stay busy. They are tan from her days at the beach, but they are White.
Busy moms are a common theme in advertisements. Moms who write at the kitchen table while their young child plays happily on the floor; Moms writing at the bookstore cafe while their daughter or son searches the shelves; or Moms sitting on the sofa, writing on a tablet, the coffee table serving as a desk. A bassinet over in the corner represents Moms who write while their baby naps. One Mom’s hands busily type the article she’s submitting to a magazine today. Her hands, all the Moms’ hands, are White.
You may come across a photo of an older woman writing her first book or her tenth, maybe a letter to her grandchildren, or she’s recording her memoirs which she plans to publish one day. Advertisements with women taking classes at the Community Center are common. Ads that promote self-improvement and a better life use strong language and large fonts.
Start A Blog! Start Your Online Business Today! Go Back To College!
Of course, hands are prominent in the photos. These are directed at retirees, empty-nesters, or anyone at a quieter time of life, possibly unemployed. A gray-haired woman sits at her desk with a blank notebook in front of her. She gazes out the window while holding a new pen she bought for her first day as a writer. What is she thinking about? The blank paper represents so many chances to begin putting her thoughts down on the page. The hands that hold the pen are White.
This post isn’t meant to be a thesis on race, inequality or poverty, although those are important topics. In my opinion, the advertising world is getting better but they have a long way to go in selecting models to represent products and services. All these examples are stereotypes, someone’s preconceived notion of what a writer looks like. Maybe it’s just a habit. Those are the types of hands and the color that’s always been used.
I just wanted to analyze the images of hands I see so often and explore my observations. Why do I notice the color of these hands? Why does the subject of hands pop into my mind when I see these types of ads or images? Why is this topic relevant enough for me to write about in a blog? What do hands mean to me? The characters I write about, not all, are white. Like me. I’ll try to go beyond color.
I’ve taken several art classes. I love to draw and paint. A teacher once said that hands are the most difficult part of the body to draw accurately and I believe it. The hands on my drawing page looked nothing like the model’s hands!
Children have an easier time with art and writing because they don’t censor themselves. If they feel like using a pink crayon, a blue one or a white crayon, they just do it without thinking or debating. Color plays no role in their life. Color just IS.
Maybe I notice the color of hands because I’m a writer. I notice people who later become inspiration in my stories. Voices, mannerisms, facial expressions, hair, eyes-these have given me inspiration to base a character on or to deepen that character’s personality. I think it’s also difficult to write about hands. I don’t want to only write “He reached out with his hand” or “She folded her hands together.” I admire writers who describe people and their actions with originality, who go beyond the usual.
Ten years ago, I broke my wrist when I fell. It was my fault because I was standing on the toilet seat to reach the top of a cabinet so I could dust up there. Who was going to inspect anyway? The seat was down but it slid, then I fell, hitting my head many times. I can still remember the sound of my right hand smacking the wooden cabinet over and over again like I was doing it on purpose. The surgeon placed eight screws and two titanium plates in my wrist. During the six weeks I wore the cast, I learned to do everything with my left hand. Things I used to do so easily such as brushing my teeth, combing my hair, and showering were difficult. Holding a fork was impossible so I ate with a spoon. I never realized how many times I used my hands until I tried to drink my morning coffee and dropped the cup on the floor.
I was so worried that I would never be able to write with my right hand again although my left did an okay job scribbling. Typing with the fingers of my left hand was better. At least people would be able to read whatever I wrote. My physical therapist probably thought I was too concerned with being able to write instead of daily activities of living that a normal person needs.
I’m not normal. I’m a writer, and the ability to write is something I’ve always loved. If I couldn’t write, it would make me feel hopeless. Sure, I could speak into a microphone and let the computer type my book. But that wouldn’t be fun. I wrote on my blog about things a writer does and talking to a computer wasn’t one of them. Maybe I should update that post. https://bookplaces.blog/what-does-a-writer-do/
My wrist healed and it works the same as ever thanks to God and my talented surgeon. The scar isn’t ugly. I see the scar every day when I reach for my coffee cup, when I brush my hair or put lotion on my hands and of course, when I write.
Writing Challenge: Write a Poem or Story About Your TBR Pile
There once was a lady who read and read
anything with words to her family’s dread,
memoirs love stories spies cops and killers
kings queens and handsome prince thrillers.
Books on the floor the bed the tables
up to the attic the rafters the gables
Libraries yard sales airports vacations
all you can carry store liquidations.
Her family, her kids, her friends got worried,
that look in her eyes and off she hurried
to the best ever sale-three books for a dollar!
Her cheeks got red and she tugged at her collar.
So they sat her down said no books for a year.
She cried, she pleaded, she panicked with fear.
Then she calmly recalled the box in her drawer-
electronic books, nine thousand eighty four.
Now she’s happy again, at home she’ll stay
night after night till dawn the next day.
But why oh why, all those books to be read?
She’ll never be done till they find her dead!
This month, I’m taking part in Blogging from A 2 Z April Challenge where each day, writers use the letters of the alphabet as a prompt. The main theme of my blogs for the challenge are to write about female poets as this is National Poetry Month. This is also a great way to learn more about poetry.
I wasn’t familiar with any female poets whose name began with the letter “L” so I searched through a list. I also wanted to stay within the not too distant past so research would be easier. The list of female poets begins in antiquity! Gwyneth Lewis caught my eye. When I read one of her poems, Gleision, I knew I had to write about her! The poem gave me chills with its imagery of frightened families waiting and hoping near the entrance of the mine for word of their loved one’s safety, or worse, death. “The cave’s an open mouth whose words are men who work their mountain.” The open mouth of the cave has black breath. Those waiting there must not ring the bell anymore or the mouth will swallow the miners trapped deep within the mountain. Lewis uses the literary device of personification to write about the accident. By writing about the mountain with its open black mouth with evil, monster-like characteristics, the poet creates emotion for the reader to maybe experience the deaths in sympathy with the families. Instead of reading a dry news account with facts, poetry is art through which a reader can be part of the story. I live in a mining town where many of my family members work, and this poem especially resonated with me. The mine employs thousands of workers, so it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say the whole town works there. We all have such images of disasters in our minds but push those images far back. http://www.gwynethlewis.com/news.shtml
The website Literary Devices https://literarydevices.net/personification/ explains the term as “Personification is a figure of speech in which an idea or thing is given human attributes and/or feelings or is spoken of as if it were human. Personification is a common form of metaphor in that human characteristics are attributed to nonhuman things. This allows writers to create life and motion within inanimate objects, animals, and even abstract ideas by assigning them recognizable human behaviors and emotions.”
Tops of trees, their roots in seams
Of dark. King under mountain.
The cave’s an open mouth whose words
Are men who work their mountain.
Pine, larch and oak. Don’t touch the bell
That tolls from out the mountain
Or he will stir, and miners die
Like light inside a mountain.
His breath is black and marks each face
That seeks beneath the mountain.
Leaves drift down, but they won’t heal
The sentence of the mountain.
It’s time to lose all hope and seal
The grave. King lies in his mountain.
“The cave’s an open mouth whose words are men who work their mountain.”
Poet Gwyneth Lewis was born in 1959 in Cardiff, Wales. She studied English at Cambridge University. Lewis also studied at Harvard and Columbia, was a Harkness Fellow, and worked as a freelance journalist in New York. Gwyneth Lewis was Wales’s National Poet from 2005-06, the first writer to be given the Welsh laureateship. She published eight books of poetry in Welsh and English, with a ninth forthcoming in October. Gwyneth’s first non-fiction book, Sunbathing in the Rain: A Cheerful Book about Depression (2002), was short-listed for the Mind Book of the Year. Her second, Two in a Boat: A Marital Voyage (2005), recounts a voyage made with her husband on a small boat from Cardiff to North Africa. In 2014 she was Bain-Swiggett Visiting Lecturer of Poetry and English at Princeton University. For the last three years, she has been Faculty at Bread Loaf School of English, Vermont, USA, and was the 2016 Robert Frost Chair of Literature.
“Please don’t let all that suffering go to waste […] People who ignore depression are the ones who go mad, not those who go through it and treat it with the respect it deserves.”