poetry, Uncategorized

The Book Trailer: Just Say Yes

In contrast to my recent post about the triviality of “cover reveals,” this post deals with a technique that I and other authors find effective: The Book Trailer. Simple to produce, short enough to keep interest, and crazy affordable (you can’t beat FREE), the book trailer has a vast reach. Within the first hour of uploading the book trailer below, I had more than 100 views. I haven’t checked the stats today, but the trailer is probably one of the more popular marketing steps I’ve taken in preparing for the release of Middle Class American Proverb. The book has its own website, http://www.middleclassamericanproverb.com/, and its own Facebook page:¬†https://www.facebook.com/middleclassamericanproverb?ref=bookmarks.

But none of these has received the attention that the book trailer did in such a short period. Maybe that’s my own fault — I could have pushed the website and the Facebook page harder, but at some point, marketing becomes annoyance. Anyway, without further ado, here’s the book trailer for my loyal blog followers:

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poetry, Uncategorized

Against Resolutions

pencil_redDon’t get me wrong: Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that in years past, I’ve posted the “obligatory” writing resolutions post. This year, however, I have a new perspective. Not only are resolutions cliche, they are made to be broken. “I’m going to ________ this year” ensures that most likely, the sayer of the statement will not, in fact, do whatever filled in the blank. Resolutions, because they seem forced and common, fail for the very reasons people make them in the first place. Every January 1, people around the world become motivational lemmings, jumping over the same cliff as their fellow resolutioneers. Research proves that, for the most part, people fail at keeping these well-intended goals. “Everybody’s doing it” doesn’t stop at high school, and the broken resolutions of the majority prove that the artificiality of popular sentiment will not sustain us individually as we seek after objectives in our personal and professional lives.

So as a writer, to say, “I resolve to (get my new manuscript published by Knopf, get work into The New Yorker, win the Pulitzer, etc.)” is a silly endeavor at best. One, because many of the victories of the writing life depend upon a healthy dose of reputation, timing and luck; and two, because we as authors and creators should be constantly resolving to put forth our best, not just at one time of the year. If we desire to really resolve something (in every sense of that word), it should be a daily effort rather than an annual one.

Do I have goals for 2014? Sure. Am I going to increase my likelihood of failure by framing those goals in the dime-store filigree of a resolution? Definitely not. Fellow reader, if you’ve made your resolutions for 2014, good for you. I wish you the richest of success in the year ahead. May you shed those pounds, quit smoking, write the next Dover Beach, or do whatever it is that this day inspires you toward. Best Wishes, Happy New Year, and Cheers. I’ll be at my desk.

poetry, Uncategorized

Embracing the Shel Silverstein moment

Shel, looking especially Whitman-esque.
Shel, looking especially Whitman-esque.

As a child, my mother and grandparents read a good mixture of genres to me. About once a week, usually on Fridays, my mom made a special effort to expose me to poetry. Sometimes it came from the Childcraft series, a collection of gilt-spined hardcover books that were like thin encyclopedias of primary knowledge. Sometimes, it was the inimitable Dr. Seuss, with his nonsensical rhymes and his worlds of whimsy and fantasy. And then, there were the nights before bed that I was privileged enough to be exposed to the great Shel Silverstein, an author whose work had been slammed by public school districts throughout the south because of Shel’s past career choices (artist for Playboy, among them) and his shocking use of words like “butt” and “pee.”

The thing I really liked about Shel’s work is that, often, it would start with a simple premise (having to do the dishes, preparing to clean one’s room, etc.) and by the end, the poem had morphed into something totally unusual and unexpected. I find my own poetry doing this more and more these days. A poem will start with something pretty standard, but by the end, an entire other world or scenario will have emerged on the page.

At first, I was troubled by this occurrence, thinking that structure and form demanded I stick to the original idea and pursue it to its most logical and rational conclusion. I should persist, in other words, to do justice to my work’s inspirations. After letting the “distracted” works rest, though, I came back to them with fresh perspective. It was then I recognized that, even though the poem had taken the road less traveled somewhere along the way, it still held merit. Revision would still be necessary, but the original form — weirdness and all — warranted its own continued existence. Not unlike Shel’s digressions into crazy landscapes, my own poetry is sometimes fueled by what my fiction friends would call “the not-knowing.”

No doubt the Beats would approve of this editorial decision, reiterating their “first thought, best thought” mantra. Not every poem has to show up for work in a starched oxford shirt and presidential-looking tie. Still, I can’t help feeling that words without boundaries are somehow lost. Frost’s misgivings about free verse resonate even today in the minds of poets everywhere, mine included. I feel that certain limits and strictures make poetry stronger, and poems without rules, even self-imposed ones, often fail the test of relevance. Call me a “new formalist” if you will. Many of my peers disagree, asserting the wildness of words renders a poetic experience that is exclusive and unique. Too often such justifications provide fodder for “artists” who want to assign depth to drivel, however. “It’s not that I can’t write; it’s that I find meaning in error and ugliness,” they’ll say, as if ignorance plus garishness equals enlightenment. Rubbish.

Giving in to occasional rabbit-trails along a poem’s path may be acceptable, even artful. But when diversion turns to disruption, it’s time to get out the old poets’ toolbox and get to work. Accepting moments of Seussian whimsy and Silversteinish play can make work more human, and add an element of fun to otherwise serious poetry. It remains up to the poet, however, to know when and where those moments are beneficial. For today, I think I’ll do a few re-writes and see what happens. Wish me luck, respected reader.