Spring 2021 Update

Hello folks!

We have selected the finalists for the Spring 2021 journal. For everyone who submitted, you will receive a decision soon in the submissions manager or via email. Congratulations on those who were selected. Keep an eye out for those acceptance emails as the editors move into phase 2: the editing process.

We challenged ourselves with this journal as we are going to try and do all of the background art ourselves. We are headed to Wyoming in a few weeks for some outside adventure, and to safely embrace the cold, maybe snow, and beautiful sites Wyoming has to offer (we may also dabble in what South Dakota has to offer, too). We are also staying in a supposedly haunted hotel, maybe some ghost blogs/stories to come!

Are You a Prose or Poetry Writer?

How do you choose?

Many people can argue that a writer is better fit to write either prose or poetry? Are they right? Others will argue that if you master writing poetry, than you can master writing prose, and you have the ability to write both. Are they right? If you are a beginner, how do you know where to start: poetry or prose? If you are a more experienced writer: how do you know if you really are meant to be a prose or poetry writer? In my own opinion, people can write both, but slant to writing one better.

Think of it this way, writing prose is like writing or being more suited to writing script. Prose is really any form of writing by putting words into a specific order for others to read like nonfiction and fiction genre writing. Poetry is really using figurative language to convey a message through verse, meter, rhythm and/or rhyme.

So ask yourself:

Are you more attracted to films/movies than stills/moments?

Do enjoy storytelling? Telling people stories from your life? Or stories you created?

Do you prefer to read stories over poems?

If you said yes to these questions, then you are more suited to writing prose over poetry. If you said no, you might slant more towards writing poetry. Prose writing are like films, we have before the action, the action, and then what happens after the action. In most poetry, we just have a slice of the moment, snapshot taken of the moment the poet has chosen to written.

Finding the right one…

Here is an exercise you can do: write down a creative thought, it could be a topic, a writing prompt, a moment of inspiration, something you want to write about whether it be poetry or prose. Now take that thought and list 20 words that communicate or describe the writing idea. Once you have those words, create and write! Use them in a poem less than 20 lines and in a short story less than 500 words.

Re-read each, which one was easier to write? Which one was harder to write? Which one is written better? Which form, poetry or prose, have you best communicated the creative thought?

Whichever is best is what you are more suited to or have more experience in writing. I have written fiction since I was nine. Stories about aliens coming from out of the sky to god-like beings raging war on earth with magic (I like fantasy) to also going to college to become a grim reaper in society as a job (please don’t steal my ideas). In college, (just a few years ago) I learned I was way better at poetry, even though I hated it since I was a child. Though some self-discovery with my writing self, I learned I am naturally more suited for writing poetry than what I was for fiction. My only struggle on writing prose is the structure and I write like I talk. From some reason on writing critics that is what confused people. When I write poetry, I found though there are rules, it is more my engaging to my brain and I have more independence for my creative mind to express what it wants more freely and spontaneously. Reading critics on my poetry come back more positive, I have even had poetry published in literary journals.

So how can you really tell if you are meant for poetry or prose?

Poetry is art, so are you more direct and straightforward with your writing? Do you like figurative language and the aesthetic properties of words and how to use them? Is your writing more moved by the beauty of language?

Prose is communication: is the form of writing longer than poetry? Does it consist of characters, narration, a plot, and is the reader moved by the message rather than the language?

It really boils down to your artistic sense, do you craft language to be read as art or do you craft a story to be unfold in a series of crafted letters and words? Who do you want as your audience, and how do you want to communicate to them? With musical language where meaning is conveyed through sounds or is the message more important than the language, which is prose.

Another exercise you can do, is to take the same exercise you did earlier and give it to a friend, family member, co-worker, even a stranger and have them read both the poem and story. What are their critics or takes on your writing? What does this tell you as a writer?

The beauty about writing is that it is not picky, you can marry it or divorce it, put it on the side and forget about it, or plant it and watch your words grow every day. So have fun with self-discovery on what kind of writer you were meant to be!

Previously published on HubPages.

8 Books to Read This Year to Improve Writing

John Steinbeck—A Russian’s Journal—1948

Norman Mailer—The Armies of the Night—1968

Joan Didion—Play it as it Lays—1970

Brian Turner—Here Bullet—2005

Mohsin Hamid—The Reluctant Fundamentalist—2007

Flannery O’ Connor—The Violent Bear it Away—1955

William Gibson—Neuromancer—1984

James Baldwin—Notes of a Native Son—1955

Why? Here is what you can learn from these authors and their writing:

Steinbeck

If you break his sentences down, record his syntax, find his diction, and watch for his descriptions, you’ll learn a lot from this author. Steinbeck is famous for simple syntax and diction that contrasts his complex descriptions. There are six keys things to his writing: 

1. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

2. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

3. Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.

4. If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.

5. Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.

6. If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

For more check out the article here: 

Also a great insight is The Paris Review. They interview authors, and get the in-depth reasoning of how they view their own writing.

Mailer

Mailer can teach you many journalistic techniques in this book. He also refers to himself in the third person. He uses very complex syntax and imagery filled with lots and lots of thoughts and beliefs and values. 

Here is another interview with The Paris Review for more reading!

Didion

Didion can teach you how to write in a masculine syntax, the same syntax and descriptions as Steinbeck. Didion even admits she broke Steinbeck’s sentences down to understand them and learn how to write like him. She writes fiction like nonfiction, and can be intimate as well as distant with her characters. She also often omits commas and has very short chapters within this novel. 

Here is more reading on Joan Didion’s fiction on The Paris Review and here is an article about her nonfiction.

11 Writing Tips From Joan Didion, Because She Knows A Thing Or Two About It (from Bustle.com

1. “Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors. Every stroke you put down you have to go with. Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing.”

2.  “Yes, and the last sentence in a piece is another adventure. It should open the piece up. It should make you go back and start reading from page one.”

3. “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

4. “The impulse to write things down is a particularly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself.”

5. “It’s hostile in that you’re trying to make somebody see something the way you see it, trying to impose your idea, your picture. It’s hostile to try to wrench around someone else’s mind that way. Quite often you want to tell somebody your dream, your nightmare. Well, nobody wants to hear about someone else’s dream, good or bad; nobody wants to walk around with it. The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream.”

6. “Let me tell you one thing about why writers write: had I known the answer to any of these questions I would never have needed to write a novel.”

7. “All I know about grammar is its infinite power. To shift the structure of a sentence alters the meaning of that sentence, as definitely and inflexibly as the position of a camera alters the meaning of the object photographed.”

8. 8. “As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs… The way I write is who I am, or have become…”

9. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

10. “What’s so hard about that first sentence is that you’re stuck with it. Everything else is going to flow out of that sentence. And by the time you’ve laid down the first two sentences, your options are all gone.”

11. “I think of writing anything at all as a kind of high-wire act. The minute you start putting words on paper you’re eliminating possibilities.”

Turner

He is a poet. Turner can teach you how to observe from the outside and describe the details from the inside. He uses strong images and strong metaphors to explain the world. 

You can check him out here.

Hamid

In this book, Hamid can teach you how to place the setting and how to position the gender of the narrator; how to use archetypes to exchange with the story, and how to set the tone of a story. 

See more about his writing style and thoughts here.

O’Connor

If you want to write a confusing and complex story that confuses the hell out of your reader, then read this book to learn how twisted your readers can get over what you write. Also, if you want to learn how to write a story set in the 1950s, this is a great book to learn the diction of the time. She uses repetitive images throughout to carry the theme of the book as well. 

Check out her thoughts on style here at The Paris Review, and here.

Or take a look at eight writing tips from Flannery O’Conner.

Gibson

If you want to learn how to write Cyberpunk, here you go. Gibson is kind of the forefather to this genre even though he refuses the title. The great thing about Cyberpunk is it can teach a writer how to create complex descriptions about a single thing using several figurative language techniques. These quotes are both from his book:

“His eyes were eggs of unstable crystal, vibrating with a frequency whose name was rain and the sound of trains, suddenly sprouting a humming forest of hair-fine glass spines.” 

“A year here and he still dreamed of cyberspace, hope fading nightly. All the speed he took, all the turns he’d taken and the corners he cut in Night City, and he’d still see the matrix in his dreams, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colourless void… The Sprawl was a long, strange way home now over the Pacific, and he was no Console Man, no cyberspace cowboy. Just another hustler, trying to make it through. But the dreams came on in the Japanese night like livewire voodoo, and he’d cry for it, cry in his sleep, and wake alone in the dark, curled in his capsule in some coffin hotel, hands clawed into the bedslab, temper foam bunched between his fingers, trying to reach the console that wasn’t there.” 

His book and writing style is very dense. Here is his interview with The Paris Review.

Lastly, Baldwin

What’s makes his writing so unique is the eloquence of his syntax and his rhetorical attack of any topic. Baldwin really lets readers view the world the way he views the world. His sentences may be short, but they are packed with dynamite syntax. He likes to write a sentence that has heart–making the reader feel. Despite this, his style was criticized for being over-bearing, too moral, and too direct with any moral statements. Most of the topics he writes about are morally complex, so if you want a character who can be complex with morals, learn from the nonfiction of Baldwin.

His history and upbringing also make him an interesting writer. Check out his interview with The Paris Review here.

An Update and Some Prompts

We are opening for submissions on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, for our spring journal!

This journal has no theme and you can submit fiction, nonfiction, poetry and art/photography.

To help kick off the spring journal and nanowrimo; here is a website for prompts that are submitted daily for writers to write: https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/.

For the Halloween spirit, here are some prompts from that blog:

·         Write about a group of witches meeting up on Halloween night.

·         Write about someone’s first Halloween as a ghost.

·         Start your story with two characters deciding to spend the night in a graveyard.

·         Write a ghost story where there’s more going on than it first appears.

·         Set your story in a Gothic manor house.

You can submit these stories to us if you want to, or use them as fuel to submit another story to our journal starting this Sunday.

You can also include a quote, the first line, or an excerpt from the story you created in the comments below. We’d love to see what you come up with!

Happy Halloween and Happy Writing!

A Recommendation…

This week I have a blog and website I would like you to check out. It provides good resources for writers, editors and readers. 


I frequent this website to see the new content posted on the daily life of a writer, an editor, their personal experiences within the publishing industry and community. Writers in the Storm blog is all about what other authors and writers have learned and they share it with you.

https://writersinthestormblog.com/resources/

A lot of writers may feel alone, but they are not. This blog proves that authors, writers, editors, and readers all share experiences and it can shape our view and helps us find the way treading through the literary waters.


So take a time of solace and read an article or blog or two, do you share some of the same experiences?

The Storm Experience that Wreaked Solace (and Some Submission Updates)

If you would not like to read the experiences, scroll down to the important information at the end about submissions!

My brother (third-shift worker), 8/10/2020

I woke up with the house shaking, swaying, shifting, my fan cut off in mid-spin, and my tired mind raced with what could be making a deafening howling sound. I ripped the covers off and tried to walk unbalanced to the front living room window. There I saw tree branches whipping the truck, leaves and sticks racing through the road on the wind going by, and whole trees being snapped in half and pulled up from the earth to crash with thunder to the ground. I immediately called you freaking out. Seeing where you were and the amount of damage raging outside was so shocking, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

My next-door neighbor, Barb, 8/10/2020

I was so terrified, I took my dog and we hid in the bathroom, cowering in the tub. Wishing all of the rain, thunder, noise, wind, horror to be washed away. I have survived many storms in Iowa, but this storm truly terrified me, never have I felt my house shake with such force.

Neighbor three streets over, Tom, 8/10/2020

I was watching the news, eating a bowl of ice cream for my afternoon snack. I slowly rocked in the recliner, I am a bit deaf, so the TV is loud enough to drown out my neighbors, the busy street, and anything else. I didn’t notice the storm outside until I heard a crack so loud it made me wonder if the TV was broken. I stood up to get the remote when another crack sounded. I muted the TV and then a bang felt by the entire house, I looked over to the left and a tree rushed down onto the house and my kitchen was gone, just wiped from the side of the house. Nothing is left now but a tarp hanging off the house as a silent reminder: I need to turn down the TV.

Me, Nicole, 8/10/2020

I was in no hurry to make my way more east to my parent’s house. I was to spend the week for my birthday up there, taking a motorcycle class, and getting my license, my small but rewarding birthday gift to myself. I was jamming to music when I noticed to the right, a very large wall of clouds and rain and thunder. There was no rain yet, but if the winds switched, it would be raining in no time. Ellie Mae and Thunder Storm were peacefully sleeping in the back seat and I thought nothing of it and kept driving my steady pace. About 30 minutes go by and a large gust of wind hits me from behind, the semi-truck in front of me swerving all over the road and made me swerve to try and gain control back over my own vehicle too. A large crash from the farm on the left and a storage grain steel building crumbles to the ground, signs bend over, and large billboards, are blown through. With two grips firmly on the wheel and the semi-truck now controlled and pulled over on the side, I slowly crept up to a speed I could manage. My dogs fully alert, Ellie in the passenger seat and Thunder’s two front paws leaning on the armrest and the rest of his body on the backseat, were worried. As corn was pushed to the ground, cars and trucks on the side slowed and forced their way through the wind looking odd, as if some invisible force was holding them back, and some force was pushing me forward. I got to Dubuque safely, I talked to my freaking out brother, who had to chainsaw people out from their houses and to their cars on the street. 14 days later, damage to the roof, foundation, truck, and outside décor has the insurance and city engineer threatening to make my house unlivable as many of the houses behind me are. I only got electricity Monday, the 24, and still no internet. The derecho storm of 2020 in Iowa, will be marked in the brains of those who lived through the land hurricane forever.

Everyone who submitted should have received by now a notification from Green Submissions, please check there. Next week an email will be sent with an acceptance note and revisions/edits for the upcoming fall journal. This theme of mysticism fits so well because one thing after another seems to get stranger and weirder about this year. For those who were not accepted, we are very honored you submitted and were glad to read the talents out there. You can resubmit to the non-themed journal with submissions opening in October. Follow us on social media @borrowedsolace for much more information and updates (we’re even on TikTok and posted a video of what my neighborhood looks like now if you’d like to give us a follow!)

The Book Club Swaps: Nicole and Addey

I can’t even remember how I stumbled upon the book Red Queen, probably in a bookstore while I roaming around the young adult section. Usually, titles and covers that speak to me, or interest me, are the ones I pick up to read the inside cover summary. What probably got me to buy this book and to take it home was the dangerous chess game, with elements of fantasy, betrayal, power plays, and beating the impossible. I have read up to the third book in the series, and I find Victoria Aveyard’s writing fresh and intriguing. The way she plots her books is very interesting, and she keeps everything exciting yet familiar to the reader.

I selected this book for Addey to dabble in the world of young adultness because it has an element of refinement that I very much see in Addey. I like to think books fit certain personalities and interests of people, so I carefully chose this one. Not only that, but this book holds a lot to traditions and history of the land and the way of the people, which Addey reads historical fiction and literary stories, so I thought it would fit in her wheelhouse of being comfortable to at least try and read this book. I am interested and excited to read and see what Addey has thought of this book!

Now that Addey’s finished reading the book, here are her thoughts…

I definitely think Nicole was right in thinking that I would like this book! It was intriguing to me almost from page one, and got even more interesting the more I learned about the world that Red Queen takes place in. It does have some elements of the historical fiction that I usually read. The world has many traditions and characteristics that harken back to earlier times but also mixed with technology and modern tendencies. It was an interesting combination, but one that I think worked!

I also liked the plot of the book–it was unexpected and kept me guessing. I also appreciated that there was romance involved, but it wasn’t too hot and heavy (something that I wish more books adhered to.) The characters were believable but also easy to root for (or hate.)

I do think that there were times the dialogue felt a little bit unnatural and the description of characters’ actions didn’t always flow or make sense, but it was minimal enough that I didn’t really care! I am planning to read the next books in the series, for sure, so I am excited to see if that improves as the books go on and the characters become more fleshed out.

Overall I really liked Red Queen! Nicole did a good job choosing this book for me to read in our book swapping series, and I would definitely recommend the book to all of our readers out there.

Image Source

Stay tuned for more from the book club as we all read books picked for each other and write our reviews here.  And if you want to join the club and recommend books for us to read, or take a stab at our recommendations, leave your comments and suggestions below!

Where’s the Magic?

There are two weeks left to submit to the fall journal!

We have been excited reading the submitted stories and poems.

We want to say more about what we want. For nonfiction, have you had a dream or nightmare that didn’t make sense but mystified you? I want to read that! Or what about a break in the pattern of your normal life, what was different, and how did it affect you? What is the magic going around you and your life, is pointing to the sky and telling what a cloud shape looks like to you? Or one moment in your life—not COIVD-19—that turned your world upside down? Were you saved by a bit of magic that mystified you? Like, for me, I was caught in a muddy landslide, but I magically made it to the bottom without a scratch and it was a cliff that nature shifted when I was just 16 years old. During that slide, I also saved my little cousin and my dog from sliding down with me and threw them up on a ledge before I went down.

I want to see what made you change religions, stop believing, or started to believe. Religion doesn’t just mean believing in a “god”, it is also a set of rules to live your life and abide too. What is mystical about you?

For fiction, Amber is pretty open to all. She wants you to mystify her. Whether it be mystery, suspense, the paranormal, the horror, magical myths you created, show her—ahem—I mean telling her by showing her in your writing what kind of magic imagination is!

For poetry, Addey wants to see the mundane written about in a mystical way. She wants to see captivating stories told in as few words as possible and read poems that explore what haunts the speaker. She wants to see life summarized on the page the mystical way that only writers can do it!

So there’s a little bit more about what we are looking for. We can’t wait to read what you submit.

Happy Submitting!!

P.S. Submissions close July 31st, as a reminder.