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Enhancing Writing Skills

A Volume in:
Adult Learning in Professional, Organizational, and Community Settings

Series Editor
Carrie J. Boden-McGill
Adult Learning in Professional, Organizational, and
Community Settings
Series Editor
Carrie J. Boden-McGill
Texas State University

Building Sustainable Futures for Adult Learners (2014)

Jennifer K. Holtz, Stephen B. Springer, and Carrie J. Boden McGill
Enhancing Writing Skills

Edited by
Oluwakemi Elufiede
Tina Murray
Carrie J. Boden-McGill


Charlotte, NC
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

The CIP data for this book can be found on the Library of Congress website (

Paperback: 978-1-68123-356-7
Hardcover: 978-1-68123-357-4
E-Book: 978-1-68123-358-1

Copyright 2016 Information Age Publishing Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a

retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, microfilming, recording or otherwise, without written permission
from the publisher.

Printed in the United States of America


Acknowledgments .......................................................................... ix

Foreword: Creative Upwelling ....................................................... xi

Mary Buckner

Preface ...........................................................................................xv

Introduction ............................................................................... xvii

Oluwakemi Elufiede, Tina Murray, and Carrie J. Boden-McGill

S E C T I O N 1

1. Some Essentials of PoetryIn No Particular Order ..................... 3

David M. Harris

2. How Poetry and Lyrics Are Different ............................................17

Lisa Aschmann

3. Writing Historical Fiction ............................................................. 23

George Spain


4. Researching the Novel ...................................................................31

Patricia H. Quinlan

S E C T I O N 2

5. The Connection between Brain Science and

Written Expression ....................................................................... 39
Oluwakemi Elufiede

6. A Transcultural Perspective of Creativity in Academic

Writing .......................................................................................... 45
Emmanuel Jean Francois and Carrie J. Boden-McGill

7. A Sense of Wonder: Why Every Creative Writer Needs One..........59

Tina Murray

S E C T I O N 3

8. Academic Literacy and the Creative Writer: Why Should

Anyone Care What Theorists Have to say About Creativity
and Literature? ..............................................................................67
Joseph Ballantyne

9. Academic Writing: Expanding Your Creative Writing

Through Use of the Library...........................................................77
Janet Walsh

S E C T I O N 4

10. Speaking Your Truth: Freedom and Authority in an

Era of Independent Publishing .................................................... 85
Candy Paull

11. In the Eye of the Beholder ............................................................ 95

Carissa Barker-Stucky
Contents vii

S E C T I O N 5

12. Lightning and the Lightning Bug: Why Language Matters

and How to Make It Work for You................................................103
Beth Terrell

13. As Clear as Mud: The Correct Usage of

Metaphors, Similes, and Idioms ..................................................115
Jamie Hughes

Conclusion ...................................................................................123
Oluwakemi Elufiede, Tina Murray, and Carrie Boden-McGill

Contributor Biographies..............................................................125

To editors and contributors, thank you for sharing your time, expertise, and dedi-
cation. To Dr. Carrie Boden-McGill, series editor for Adult Learning in Profes-
sional, Organizational and Community Settings with Information Age Publishing
(IAP) for taking on the book project. In addition to George Johnson, the founder
and publisher of IAP. Along with formal and current Executive Director at Nash-
ville Community Education, Lovette Curry and Mary Beth Harding for partnering
with CW to host the rst writing conference in the Nashville Community. To CW
publication committee, thank you for your time and effort for the completion of
the book cover illustration.
Oluwakemi Elufiede

Mary Buckner

Creativity. Where does it come from? From what source does creativity spring?
The unconscious mind? The universal soul? The zeitgeist spirit of our shared cul-
ture? Whatever its source, creativity is owing inside each one of us, ready to be
tapped at any moment. We writers are like the old-time water witches who wave
divining rods over the earth to nd hidden currents. Without the generative waters
of creativity, we thirst and wither. And so we dig, with every tool at hand, every
stick and spade, and when the fountain gushes forth, there is joy.
Creativity is playful and free, open to anything, unafraid of mistakes and fail-
ure. Its reckless, unpredictable, and it seems to come out of nowhere, like a gift
from heaven. For all these reasons, we might think creativity is the antithesis of
discipline and hard work, yet only through steady methodical work can we chan-
nel and harness it.
That means, when the impulse of creativity bursts forth, we have to be at the
right place and time, and that place and time is wherever and whenever we write
or think about writing. If our minds are freshest in the morning, thats when we
write. If our brains are more energized in the evening, thats when we write. When
were showering, or taking a walk, or doing our laundry, or waiting in line for a
show, thats when we think about writing. And thats when and where creativity
will nd us.

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages xixiv.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. xi

Creativity is our bliss. And yet we know that raw creativity is not the same
as good writing. Creativity is the substance. Only skill transforms it into art. So
we work. We study writing craft all our lives because there is no end to learning.
We read articles and books and blogs. We take classes and workshops. We join
writing critique groups. We analyze the works of authors we admire, and we mull
over every piece of advice we receive. We reach out in every direction to improve
our skillso that when our creativity surges, we are ready. Of course, it isnt easy
to be a writer. Ernest Hemingway said, Writing is something that you can never
do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge, and it is most difcult.
Every writer here knows that feeling, dont we? And not only is perfection
beyond our reach. There are also many voices urging us not even to try. Theyll
say were too young and inexperienced, or too old and used up, or that we dont
have the time or the talent, that its hopeless. Theyll warn us about the stiff com-
petition, the volatile publishing business, the dwindling readership and all these
warnings are true. It takes a strong passion to block these voices out and carry on.
But as the renowned writer Maya Angelou has said, There is no greater agony
than bearing an untold story inside you.
You may know about her journey. Its worth considering again. Angelou was
born in St. Louis in 1928, and soon after her birth, her parents broke up. At the age
of seven, she was raped, and her uncles killed the rapist. In utter shock, Angelou
didnt speak a word for years. At the age of sixteen, she gave birth to a son, whom
she had to support alone, working at any job she could nd. As an African-Ameri-
can woman, she suffered all the usual prejudices, both racial and sexual that were
prevalent at that time. Still, she studied acting and dancing, and a decade after her
sons birth, she got a role in a touring production of Porgy and Bess.
Other roles followed, and in 1961, she appeared with James Earl Jones and
Cicely Tyson in Jean Genets, The Blacks. After that, her acting career took off.
When her son was grown, she began to travel and live abroad, and her novelist
friend James Baldwin advised her to write about her experiences. The result was
her poignant memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This book became the
rst nonction best-seller by an African-American woman. And Angelou gained
international fame.
Later, she became the rst African-American woman to have her screenplay
produced, and she won an Emmy nomination for her acting in the TV mini-series,
Roots. Among many other honors, she also won a Pulitzer nomination for her
poetry collection, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water Fore I Die. President Bill
Clinton asked her to compose a poem for his inaugural ceremony, and President
Barack Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom. We may encounter many
defeats, she wrote, but we must not be defeated. The entire world mourned
when she died last year, yet her life remains a stirring example of the power of
perseverance against all odds.
Many writers have stories like this, stories of labor and struggle against tre-
mendous barriers that, by dent of perseverance, still end in success. Maybe the
Creative Upwelling xiii

effort to face and overcome failure actually strengthens our writing by giving us
deeper insights into the human condition. Kurt Vonnegut once said, Do you real-
ize that all great literature is all about what a bummer it is to be a human being?
Lets consider another inspiring story that you may have heard before the case
of Thomas Lanier Williams III, better known as Tennessee Williams. Williams
wrote, Success is shy. It wont come out while youre watching. He wrote that
from the heart because hed learned it in the school of failure.
Born in 1911, also in Missouri, Williams grew up in an unhappy home where
he suffered physical abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father. As a small child, he
nearly died of diphtheria and had to spend a year recuperating in solitary conne-
ment. The experience left him physically weak. As a young man, he came out as
gay at a time when homosexuality was not only illegal, it was considered a moral
sin. A shy loner, he studied writing and drama at various schools, yet he didnt t
in well anywhere. Writing was his solace, and he wrote copiously. Yet for years,
his work remained obscure, and he earned his living at monotonous menial jobs
which left him depressed and nervous.
But in 1945, his long labor paid off. His play, The Glass Menagerie, seemed
to come out of nowhere as a break-out hit in New York City, and two years later,
A Streetcar Named Desire solidied his success. He wrote numerous other cele-
brated works whose titles are now household names, and his many honors include
two Pulitzers, three New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, and a Tony. Well . . .
I hope that few of us in this room ever face the trials and tribulations that these two
writers had to overcome, but we all have our own hurdles. The work of becoming
a writer is never easy. As Ernest Hemingway has famously said, There is nothing
to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
Those words resonate with my own writing experience. My process hasnt
been painless or free of stress. I wrote my rst novel in third grade. It was pretty
short and pretty juvenile, and so was most of the poetry I wrote as a child. But
from that time on, I wanted to be a novelist. I had no money, though, and needed
to earn a living, so I spent decades working in ad agencies and corporate market-
ing departments as a copy-writer and creative director. I wrote annual reports,
newsletters, TV and radio commercials, web sites, blogs, packaging copy, on-hold
phone messages, you name it.
Finally, by the age of forty-ve, Id socked away enough money to quit my
full-time job and start writing novels. It wasnt easy to leave a safe, productive
career behind, and I was scared. I studied, took workshops, read dozens of books
and wrote for hours every day. I wrote three novels that were all rejected before
nally one was published. My third novel won a national award. My work has
now been published in ve languages on three continents, but its still a struggle.
Yet I love to do it. I love to try always to get better, and I feel the most exquisite
pleasure when something turns out well. I never want to stop writing.
When people ask me for advice, one of the rst things I say is, give yourself
time. Writing takes TIME. As Adam Gopnik said, Writing is turning time into

language. So put writing rst on your schedule. Choose the time of day or night
when you are most energetic and clear-minded, close your door, and just do it.
Write a journal. Write your life story. Write about what you love or hate or
fear. Writing is like playing piano. It takes lots of practice, so write as much as you
can. Write till your ngers know the words before your conscious mind decides.
Second, dont force yourself to be brilliant in your rst draft. Give yourself
permission to write freely, and dont worry about mistakes. You can x them later.
Hemingway said, The rst draft of anything is shit. So go off on tangents. Fol-
low strange paths. Allow yourself time to PLAY. Allow yourself time to THINK.
Promise yourself in advance that you wont show your work to anyone until you
feel ready.
Third, believe in yourself. If you feel earnest passion to be a writer, you already
are one. Stay with it, and believe. But also remain humble. There is no end to
learning about writing. So keep reading and studying and practicing. Keep reach-
ing out in every direction to learn more. Even though perfection is beyond reach,
never settle. Keep moving toward it.
I applaud you for reading this book. Its a mark of your sincere desire to invest
your time and effort. Another line from Maya Angelou that I love is, You cant
use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
So tap into your creativity, and let it ow. Write for yourself and for the people
you love. Write for fun. For solace. For a deeper understanding of existence. Write
for the sheer joy of creativity.
Now Ill close with the wise words of another brilliant writer, Benjamin Frank-
lin. He said, Diligence is the mother of good luck.
So I wish you good diligenceand good luck!

The Carnegie Writers, Inc. (CW) is pleased to present its 2nd publication, En-
hancing Writing Skills. Since August 2013, CW has provided community educa-
tion to adult learners who have interest in various writing endeavors. The need for
the enhancement of writing skills is apparent in all aspects of daily life. Writing
itself enhances personal growth, encourages self-awareness, self-expression, and
condence. When writers improve their writing skills, they are able to meet chal-
lenges they would not be able to meet otherwise. They are able to access meaning
resources, both in the world and within themselves.
This anthology is intended to help writers learn from other writers and to en-
courage networking relationship among writers. It is intended to foster profes-
sional development by helping writers to use and develop their writing talents.
Furthermore, it is intended to provide publishing resources related to both non-
traditional and traditional publishing.
Another goal of publication is to enhance writers understanding of marketing
strategies in the 21st century and to evaluate learned skills that reinforce critical
thinking skills in writers. The themes of the book focus on genre-based writing,
creativity in writing, mechanics of writing, academic writing, and writing as a

Enhancing Writing Skills, page xv.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. xv
Oluwakemi Elufiede, Tina Murray, and Carrie Boden-McGill

Enhancing Writing Skills is comprised of 13 chapters based on 5 themes; genre-

based writing, academic writing, mechanics of writing, creativity in writing, and
writing as business. The themes of this book are based on those from the inaugural
conference of The Carnegie Writers, Inc., held November 14, 2015 in Nashville,
TN. The purpose of the conference was to provide diverse adult writers with vari-
ous writing resources that can provide a benet to their daily lives along with their
individual writing goals. Contributors of this book range from authors, editors,
publishers, educators, to writing professionals. The Carnegie Writers, Inc, is a
community-based non-prot organization for diverse writers and was inspired by
The Carnegie Writers Group, founded in August of 2013 by Oluwakemi Elu-
ede. The mission is to advance education, encourage collaboration, and provide
resources for writers. The vision is to encourage writers by providing positive and
productive support for a successful writing experience based on writing goals.
The organizations motto is to educate, write, and collaborate.
In Creative Upwelling, author M. M. Buckner introduces Enhancing Writing
Skills with us an insight into the dynamic mind of a contemporary creative writer.
The title alone suggests the passionate fervor with which she approaches writing.
However, as a dedicated teacher of writing, she has emphasized for us, also, the
importance of craft, hard work, persistence, and dedication. We thank her, espe-

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages xviixiv.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. xvii

cially, for participating as the keynote speaker at our rst conference. She has
provided a basis for the chapters that follow.
The rst section of this collection addresses genre-based writing in areas such
as poetry, songwriting, and historical ction. This section provides tips for under-
standing and researching within a specic genre. Poet and publishing-industry
veteran David M. Harris, gives a clarifying overview of poetry and its attributes.
His chapter, The Essentials of Poetry, will be edifying for anyone who seeks
to learn about the nature and scope of writing poetry. Prolic, professional song-
writer Lisa Aschmanns chapter, How poetry and lyrics are different, provides
writers with an explanation of the difference between writing poetry and writing
song lyrics. Writers who are interested in poetry and/or lyrics will be enlightened
by these two illuminating articles.
The second section, creativity in writing, focuses on bridging the gap between
theory and real world writing, including the areas such as literary theory and
the library, including brain-based strategies, imagination, and writing activities
that are geared towards blending knowledge, recall of information, self-expres-
sion through writing, and the how the creative process is utilized in the academ-
ic process of writing with identity, vision, intent, and insight. Creative writing
serves the purposes to entertain, educate, pr spread awareness about something or
someone (Read Me First, 2003). Oluwakemi Eluede suggests that writers may
benet by unleashing unconscious thoughts through experience, exploration, and
engagement that in return will improve their writing. Emmanuel Jean Francois
and Carrie Boden-McGill elucidate The Transcultural Perspective of Creativ-
ity in Academic Writing, by addressing important issues in regards to diversity
and inter-cultural understanding, as related to attitudes of academics and creative
writing. Tina Murray suggests the possibility of an interactive participatory rela-
tionship between the writer and the forces of creative imagination in The Sense
of Wonder: Why Every Creative Writer Needs One. Each of these authors has
approached the subject of creativity in a unique and special way.
The third section, academic writing, focuses on the mechanics of writing,
which species and establishes the conventions used in documentation (Read Me
First, date). Joseph Ballantyne gives insight into the world of literary criticism.
His chapter, Academic Literacy and the Creative Writer is a compelling glimpse
into the minds of academics and other arbiters of taste. Ballantyne discusses how
and why writers works can be impacted by professional analyses of their merits.
He allows a glimpse into halls of judgment by explaining how critical analyses
are formulated. If writers want to know why bestsellers and classics do not always
coincide, they will not want to miss this introduction to the topic. Janet Walsh
presents the importance of the inclusion of library resources and space for the de-
velopment of ideas, research, and writing skills in creativity. Both authors provide
a diverse perspectives related to writing productivity in academia.
In the fourth section introduces strategies for marketing, publishing, and edit-
ing that in return can provide a source of revenue to individuals or organizations.
Introduction xix

MacGregor (2013) explains that writers should treat their writing as a business.
Candy Paull offers words of encouragement and delineates new opportunities for
todays writers as she describes recent changes in the world of publishing in her
chapter, Speaking Your Truth: Freedom and Authority in an Era of Independent
Publishing. In The Eye of the Beholder, Carissa Barker-Stucky charmingly
points out the advantages of using an editor to improve the quality of nished
work. She also discusses what to expect after hiring an editor. Both authors offer
valuable information in regard to state-of-the-art practices.
In the fth section, mechanics of writing, Beth Terrell, who writes as Jaden
Terrell, spells out the basics of grammar, punctuation, syntax, and usage in
Lightning and the Lightning Bug: Why Language Matters and How to Make it
Work for You. She gives valuable information every writer can use, regardless of
age or stage. Poet Jamie Hughes gives a stellar explanation of imagery in writing
in his article, Clear as Mud: Correct Usage of Metaphors, Similes, and Idioms,
in addition to offering insights into the appropriateness of such usage. These two
authors combine expert knowledge with practical experience to provide much-
needed information for writers who want to be at the top of their game.
In closing, the anthology seeks to engage the reader by identifying the common
areas of support for advancing and sustaining writing skills. The key to writing
is learning to write critically along with acceptance of criticism (Reineke, 2015).

MacGregor, C. (2013) Treating your writing as a business. Retrieved from www.chipmac-
Read me rst! (2003). A style guide for the computer industry. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Prentice Hall. Retrieved from
Reineke, M.(2015). Critical writing skills. Retrieved from


David M. Harris

Many people decideusually in the rst two years of high schoolthat they
are going to be poets. A small portion of them go on to write some poetry. Most
of those never go on to write anything that is of any interest outside of a small
circle of friends. These people dream of being poets in about the same way that I
dreamed of being a pitcher for the New York Yankees: concentrating on the being,
not the doing. Frankly, Im not nearly as interested in people who want to be poets
as I am in people who want to write poetry.
Any working writer has had countless encounters of the Ive always wanted
to write a novel/screenplay/poetry collection variety. And Ive always wanted to
play for the Yankees, or litigate a case in the Supreme Court, except that I havent
been prepared to do what is necessary to get there. There may be a gift for poetry
which some people have and others do not, but great, or even good, poetry doesnt
come from just spilling your emotions onto the page as you did in high school.
Part of the job of poetry is making the right decisions, and part of it is learning
what you need to know before you can be a good artist. And part of it, of course,
is just practice. Hemingway (who wrote poetry early in his career) is rumored to
have said that everyone should burn their rst novel. Malcolm Gladwell said that
it takes 10,000 hours of practice to make you an expert in anything (Gladwell,

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages 315.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 3

2011). Hemingway may be right, but Gladwell is only right if your practice is
directed intelligently. If you just keep practicing your scales for 10,000 hours,
you still wont be an expert pianist. You have to deal with other essential issues
as well.
So here, in no particular order, are some of the essential issues you have to deal
with if you want to be a working poet.

Decide why you are writing poetry. If it is for your own private purpose, such as
therapy, then all the rest of this is irrelevant. All you need to do is go through the
process of writing and get your work on paper. If you want other people to read
itthat is, for it to be publishedthen you have to start worrying about craft. Ill
mention a few useful books as we go along. But if you are not interested in pub-
lishing, your job is nished when your last word is written.
And if you want to get published, it helps if you have some good idea of why
you want that and what you expect from it. If you expect wealth and fame, you
can nd the name of a therapist in the Yellow Pages. Fame and fortune are not
part of poetry, unless you are a dying child, a movie star, or Billy Collins. My
publisher told me that she would be thrilled if my book sold two hundred copies.
So far, it has not.
Do you just think it would be cool to see your name in print, or do you feel you
have something to say, or are you going to write no matter what and you might as
well try to share what you produce?
This actually goes to the core of your relationship with writing. Before you
can really produce what you want, you must know what you want. As obvious
as this may sound, many new writers just start putting words on the page, or on
the computer screen, without the slightest idea of their real intentions other than
to be a writer. It may be true, as Red Smith is reported to have said, that You
simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed but even that only
works if you have some idea what you are trying to write, and some idea of how
to manipulate the words to get there. Starting to write and hoping for inspiration
is the fast road to bad poetry.
If all you want is to see your name in print, you are fortunate to live in the age
of self-publishing and blogs (which are, after all, online self-publishing). You can
post your work and send links to your friends, or have a few copies printed and
hand them to friends and families, without worrying about the intermediation of
an editor.
Other people, of course, want the validation that comes from an editors selec-
tion, and the somewhat greater visibility that goes with an established journal,
whether in electronic or dead tree form. What you want will determine how you
choose to present your work to the world.
Some Essentials of PoetryIn No Particular Order 5

None of these choices is intrinsically better or worse than any other. They suit
different people differently. But you should know what your choice is, so you can
act on it.

Not all poems need to have rhyme or meter or a classical structure, but why not
have these tools in your kit? You may come up with an idea that would benet
from being cast in sonnet form, or kyrielle, or sestina, and you cannot take advan-
tage of that if you do not know those forms and what theyre good for.
There are two arguments against knowing the forms. The rst is that they are
old-fashioned. This works only if the people in the argument have not read the
New Formalists (Jarman et al., 1996) who are writing excellent formal poetry
right now, as you read this.
The second argument is that it is much harder to write formal poetry than free
verse. This one is true. But it is valid only if you think poetry is supposed to be
easy. Good poetry is only very rarely easy.
The truth is that the traditional forms of poetryor even new, invented ones
are not really all that hard. Mostly, all they take is work and practice, and the
practice can be fun. I worked my way through Stephen Frys The Ode Less Trav-
eled, which is informative and witty (this is the same Fry from Peters Friends or
the BBC Jeeves & Wooster programs) and came out with a notebook of formally
correct but mostly uninspired verse and a few ideasand the skill to use meter,
at least, when a poem needs it (Fry, 2005). Im still weak on rhyme (I can make
the lines rhyme, but not in an interesting way). But I can recognize most of the
standard forms when I run into them, and I have at least a rough idea of when I
might want to try one of them.
For example, if you want to write a love poem, or something that plays against
the idea of a love poem, a sonnet is an interesting form to try, since it began as a
form dedicated to love poetry. Edna St. Vincent Millay made good use of this in
sonnets such as I, being born a woman and distressed (many sonnets are known
by their rst lines) (Millay, 18921950).
Forms with repetitions, such as villanelles and pantoums and, to some extent,
sestinas, can echo how our minds return to ideas or phrases, sometimes transform-
ing them through repetition. Theodore Roethkes The Waking is a particularly
ne example of the villanelle, in which he makes use of some slight variations on
the form (Roethke, 1961). You can also make variations, but you must understand
the form before you can play with it.
Each form has a history and a function. They arent arbitrary, except for a
few of the more recently invented ones. Forms call on you to respond to them, to
stretch yourself into new skills and new ideas. Looking for the right word to t the
meter or rhyme of a formal poem can lead you off into an unexpected direction,
and as a poet you should be open to accident.

And you do not have to write every poem in a received form. You can write
some free verse, some blank verse, and some strict forms. Most of my own work
is free verse, but some of my best, and best-received, poems have been in forms.
Now, there are some people who argue that any piece of text that does not have
meter and rhyme is not poetry. They are just as mistaken as those who think that
formal poetry is only for the fogies. The battle against free verse was lost long
ago, arguably with the publication of Leaves of Grass and certainly no later than
the Imagists, about a century ago (Whitman, 2007).
A good reference book on formal poetry is The Book of Forms, by Lewis Turco
(Turco, 2000). Miller Williamss Patterns of Poetry is also ne (Williams, 1986).

At the beginning, I referred to the job of poetry. Like any art, and the sciences, it
involves imagination and hard work. You remember what Edison said: Genius
is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Dont lose track
of that ratio.
Over my desk, I have a quotation from the painter Chuck Close: Inspiration
is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up for work (Pinora, 2013). Under that
I have a portrait of Anthony Trollope (2006), who wrote most of his 47 novels
while working for the Royal Post (where he invented the pillar-box). Trollope got
up early every morning to write, and wrote 250 words every fteen minutes until
it was time to go to the ofce. If you want to be a writer, the minimal necessary
step is writing. And if you wait for inspiration, you are not writing. If I wait for
inspiration to strike, Im likely to be out on the golf course when it does, in a four-
some that will not stop and wait for me to write an ode.
Inspiration does sometimes strike, of course. That is why I usually carry a
notebook (see Tools, below). And if an idea comes to me while playing golf, I can
make a note in my notebook or on my scorecard and save it. But ideas are plenti-
ful, once you get into the habit of noticing them. I cannot tell you how many times
I have been told by non-writers, I have an idea for a poem/novel/movie, but I
dont know what to do about it. A writer is different from other people in sitting
down and writing when those ideas come along.
A writer is also distinguished by not just noting those ideas, but developing
them. And development does not come along on the wings of an angel; it is cre-
ated (creative writing; get it?) through hard, concentrated work. Sometimes that
work looks a lot like staring blankly at the page, or even like taking a long walk
with the dog (this is why so many writers have dogs; that, and dogs are not judg-
mental), but it is still work, and you have to do it to make progress as a poet.
None of this work is easy, but why should it be? Without hard work you will
never be a good tennis player or mechanic or painter or teacher; why should po-
etry be different?
Now, not all of a writers work is sitting at a desk and putting words on paper
(or on a computer). Some of the work is going out and walking with the dog,
Some Essentials of PoetryIn No Particular Order 7

clearing the mind so that the new words (or the solutions to other problems) can
have room. Some of the work is reading (see below) or research. (Yes, there can
be a lot of research in poetry. You do not want to have an accidental reference
to something that some readers will recognize as bogus, such as having wolves
in Tennessee. I almost said badgers, but there are reports of badgers in Tennes-
seesee?) Sometimes you just follow a series of links in Wikipedia to see where
you end up. And sometimes you do just sit and stare at the page and, every ten
or fteen minutes, write down a few more words. That may be how your process
When I was at Goddard College, there was a lot of emphasis on learning and
embracing your own process. Your process probably is not the same as Trollopes,
or Billy Collinss (he writes a poem in the morning, polishes it, and never touches
it again), or David Kirbys (he thinks about a poem for a couple of years, then
writes it down, sometimes in as little as fteen minutes), but it works for you, and
part of your work is understanding how to get the work done.

I do not get specic ideas from other poets, but I get ideas about what can be
done with language, or with poetry, or with ideas. I look at a poem sometimes
to see how the poet got an effect, or how the images are put together, or how the
poet has played variations and evolutions on a single complex image (Go back to
Shakespeares sonnets for a lot of this, especially #18, Shall I compare thee to a
summers day? Shakespeare, 15641616). Sometimes I just get a particular in-
spiration (or reminder), such as that great poetry does not have to sound elevated,
or that ordinary language can sound elevated if the poet is talented enough (and,
of course, Im always trying to gure out how it was done). I read poetry on my
radio show Difficult Listening, WRFN-LPFM, every Sunday morning, so I am
constantly getting new inuences and new ideas.
But it is also useful to know what has been done; the converse is to have an
idea of what has not been done. Ezra Pound urged us to make it new, and we
cannot do that without knowing the old (And new does not have to mean a sub-
ject that no one has considered before; it means expressing yourself in a way that
no one else can, since they are not you.).
Besides, if you are interested enough in poetry to write it, you should be reading
it for pleasure. Could you like only your own poetry, and not that of Shakespeare,
or Auden, or Donald Hall (to mention just three of the poets whose work I am likely
to pick up for fun)? If you do not get any pleasure from reading great poets, maybe
you need a new hobby (Unless, of course, you are only writing to express your in-
ner soul and, maybe, to impress that cute guy in your English class. Then it does
not matter if your poetry is any goodunless he is actually interested in poetry.).
And you should not limit yourself to recent poetry. The genre was not invented
when you were born, after all. Knowing what has been done in poetry means
knowing Homer and Chaucer and Dante. Even knowing American poetry means

knowing Phillis Wheatley and Anne Bradstreet, Poe and Longfellow, Whitman
and Dickinson, and so on. Art exists in a context, and part of that context is his-
tory. Poems refer to each other directly and indirectly, a process called intertextu-
ality, and you should want to be part of that conversation.
One of the great advantages you gain from reading the work of other people
is that it gives you permission. If Maya Angelou tried something, you can try it,
too. If, after learning how to write a conventional sonnet, Shakespeare could write
sonnets that were thirteen or fteen lines, so can you. You can experiment and
expand your horizons, once you have learned where those horizons are.

If I write a poem that is only about how bad I feel about my tight shoes, all anyone
will get out of it is that I do not like tight shoes. That will not mean anything to the
readers. If I use tight shoes as an image representing overcrowding in the schools,
or the restrictions on our behavior imposed by social expectations (or both), then
the poem has some real meaning. The trick is to take the triggering idea (the idea
that gets you started writing; if you have not read Richard Hugos The Triggering
Town, you really should; it is about getting from the rst idea to the best poem
you can make from it) and the generated idea (the one you come up with in the
writing) and connect them to something outside your own consciousness (Hugo,
2010). I think of it as universalizing, although I doubt its ever really universal.
But it is larger than my preference for shoes of the proper size, and more likely to
touch the lives of my potential readersto mean something to them.
This transition is not easy, but that goes back to what I said about work. And it
is necessary. Even the best light verse reaches out to something larger than itself;
read some Dorothy Parker to see what I mean.
The concept of the generated idea implies that you do learn something while
writing the poem. You are not writing to put pretty words together, you are explor-
ing an idea and looking for a new idea.
Poetry can just be pretty, right? No. There may be some people who will read
poetry that is beautiful but meaningless language, but not many, and they will not
really be touched by it. There was once a movement called euphuism, spear-
headed by the Elizabethan writer John Lyly. Have you ever heard of him? But
you have heard of his contemporaries who wrote poetry that manipulated ideas
at least as much as words. If you want to make real contact with real people, you
have to give them something that connects with their lives. That is what I mean
by meaning. The purpose of any representational art, after all, is to provide
meaning to life.
Besides, most of the truly beautiful language you can point to, in poetry or in
prose, is beautiful at least in part (and in many cases mostly) because of the ideas
it conveys. Martin Luther King, Jr.s (1963) I Have a Dream speech is not full
of owery language, but it is moving because it is full of evocative ideas, clearly
and beautifully stated.
Some Essentials of PoetryIn No Particular Order 9


If all you do is write an essay and break it into lines, you can call it poetry if
you like, but I usually will not call it poetry (there are exceptions, like Marianne
Moores poem Poetry). We have to leave something for the reader to do, to
nd the meaning and make it personal. One of the ways we do that is by leaving
something out, and also by alluding more than we state overtly. For example, in
Easter, 1916, Yeats never mentions the Rising in Dublin other than the reference
to the date, but its clear thats what the poem is about. It is not right on the page;
the reader has to get involved with the poem to see it, but its there for every Irish
schoolchild. The date and the names mentioned in the poem are reference enough.
We can also use ambiguity and surprise to make the reader think about inter-
connections between ideas and meanings. Words that have more than one mean-
ing (most of them, after all), interruptions that suddenly lead in unexpected direc-
tions, and all sorts of ambiguities can get the reader involved in the ideas of the
poem. Alicia Ostrikers (1937) poem psalm for example, is a series of rejec-
tions, preparing us for the greatest of all rejections at the end. But the closing line,
unless you ask me, is a potent afrmation. Another idea is drawn into the web
of the poem without being stated overtly, and another layer of emotion is added
to all of what came before (Interestingly, this is the same mechanism that works
in telling a joke.).
Imagery is a way of directing the indirection. Mary Oliver, in The Black Wal-
nut Tree, starts with the question of a large, old tree in the yard and uses its image
to lead us to a meditation on family and ancestry and deep values (Oliver, 2005).
Look, for contrast, at what Joyce Kilmer did with a tree. Every image should
mean something more than just the picture it conjures; ideally, all the images
should work with and against each other, as in a collage.
One of our goals in poetry is to get as much information as possible into as few
words as possible.

The line is a unit of its own, and it does not have to match a grammatical structure.
Try always to have a line break do some work for the poem (You wont always
succeed, but every success will make the poem better.). Do not be afraid of cae-
sura (a pause in the middle of a line) or enjambement (a grammatical phrase that
carries over from one line to the next) or any of those tricks; they are just tricks,
and you can use them when you need to. A decent book of poetic jargon would not
hurt, either; the best is the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics, but it is
more than you need, and more than you need to pay (Preminger & Brogan, 1993).
Edward Hirschs A Poets Glossary is more accessible (Hirsch, 2014). There are
a lot of glossaries online, too, until you need something more elaborate.
is a good place to start for everything poetic.

You can actually trace, in early modern English poetry, when people nished
with end-stopped lines (lines whose grammatical structures end with the line) and
started using enjambement and caesura. Today, some poems are spread out on the
page in ways that it is hard to tell where a line begins or ends. No matter how we
may feel about this technique, it gives a poet another tool for directing our atten-
tion to the relationships between ideas, between words, and between words and
ideas. And that is what lines, at their best, do.
Too many contemporary poems are written in sentences and then broken into
lines. But lines are not just a way of organizing the words on the page so they do
not look like prose. They are, or should be, units of meaning and of direction.
They are part of the toolkit that a poet can use to teach the reader how to read each
poem as it goes. A poem does not actually have to be written in sentences, but it
does need to be in lines (except for prose poems, which we are not going to get
into here). So we have to start thinking in lines as we write. One way to practice
this is to take a good poem that you dont know really well and type it into your
computer without the line breaks. Then, a day or two later (when you have forgot-
ten the original breaks) try to break it back into lines. Or have someone type it in
for you. See if you can match the original lines, or see why the author broke them
where she did.
Then apply those rules, or those instincts, to your own work.
Another way of manipulating lines is by making them longer and shorter. Most
of the time, we use lines of consistent length throughout a poem, and long lines
have a different effect than short ones. Consider the opening two lines of Longfel-
lows Evangeline:
This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight . . . (Longfel-
low, 1847) and how they have a different effect than the rst two lines of Brown-
ings (20032006) Porphyrias Lover:

The rain set early in to-night,

The sullen wind was soon awake . . .

There are a number of differences, of course, but the effect of the longer lines
in contrast to the shorter ones should be pretty clear.

Hold on! I just said, a little while ago, that making beautiful sounds had no place
in poetry? Not exactly. What I said was that you should avoid beautiful language
for its own sake. The music of the language can be harnessed in the service of the
meaning; in fact, it should be whenever possible.
What do I mean by music? Organizing the sounds of the words. Sometimes,
even often, this means choosing words for their sounds as well as their meanings.
If you want to write that the trees are quite beautiful this evening, but you are
Some Essentials of PoetryIn No Particular Order 11

working in iambic pentameter (if you dont know what that is, go to the glossary
at, you have to say the trees are very beautiful tonight, or it wont t
the music you are trying to write.
Even if you are not writing in a regular meter, you may want to have a section
or a phrase that uses a rhythm or a sound for a particular effect. You can repeat a
vowel sound (assonance) or a consonant sound (consonance) or start a string in a
statement with the same sounds (alliteration). The sound of the words is another
element you can manipulate to bring the reader closer to the experience you want
to create in your poem.
Poe is the great example of how to do this, sometimes even how to go too far.
But his poetry begs to be read out loud, and rewards the effort.

This is just a technical term but worth bearing in mind. Any good poem should
have a turn, a point where the meaning shifts or the new meaning emerges. Look
at most of Shakespeares sonnets, and the turn is at the beginning of the last stanza,
no matter which sonnet form he is using. In the works of Basho, the Seventeenth-
Century haiku writer, it is often at the end of the second line. (He didnt have as
much room to work with as Shakespeare had.) But most good poems will have a
turn, and it is one of the elements we need to look for in our own work.
Here is an example from Shakespeare. All through Sonnet 18 he is compar-
ing his beloved to larger and larger units of time, until he gets to eternal lines
of time. Then, in the nal couplet, the comparison turns back on itself, so he is
talking about the very poem that he is writing, transforming the meaning of ev-
erything that has come before.
The turn is like the punch line of a joke. Consider Henny Youngmans one-
liner: Take my wifeplease. He starts off in one direction, and then reveals
that what we thought was happening is not happening at all. You do not have to
do this in every poem, but it is a very useful tool to keep in mind, if only because
sometimes you need to change what you are writing about (Leslie, 1998).

A rst draft is just a starting point. I think it was Robert Lowell whose rst draft
was called To Jean, on her Conrmation, and who eventually revised the poem
into To a Whore at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. My own October 1979 ranged
from six to two pages long at various points in the revision and was published at
four (and went through ve or six titles, and was a story for quite a while). Very
often the only real function of the rst draft is to tell us what we mean to be writ-
ing about. Then we need to make the poem be about that.
I could never have learned to revise poetry on my own. I needed lots of help,
and was lucky to get it (I did not do poetry in my MFA). I got a lot of guidance
from my friend Michael Foran (who did do poetry at Goddard), and from my

wife, Judy, and I also have two poetry groups that meet monthly here in Nashville.
I cannot overemphasize how important a good writing group can be. And it is a
lot better than showing one person your work, unless that one person is a superb
editorsometimes even if that person is a superb editorbecause the different
people will get ideas from each other about the poem under discussion.
Finding a group can be pretty easy, depending, of course, on where you live.
Start by putting [town or county where you live] poetry group into a search
engine. If that does not help, expand it to include the nearest large town or city
within reasonable distance, and I bet you will have quite a choice. I found one of
mine through Or you may have to start your own, through Meetup
or the local library or bookstore. Look for workshops, too; one of my groups grew
out of a weekend workshop that was only supposed to last two days, and weve
been meeting now for a few years.
Finding the right one for you is mostly a matter of trial and error, but you want
writers who are at about the same level of craft that you are and who are looking
to improve their craft rather than for a mutual admiration society. Those can be
fun, but they wont help you grow.
And once you have got your critiques, of course, you have to do something
about them. If you do not revise, you are skipping the real work of making the
But you need to start revising before you get to the group. Part of what you
learn from the group is how to see the aws in your own work, by seeing the aws
in theirs.
One of the easiest aspects of revision, or easiest to learn, is deletion. Get rid
of excess words. When I was working with Mary Jo Bang at Tin House Writers
Conference, one of her catchphrases was What work is this doing? Sometimes
that meant I had to take out a stanza, sometimes just a word. But everything in a
poem must be taking its share of the work of the poem. No decoration.
No decoration does not mean no beautiful language; beautiful language can be
part of the work of the poem. It does mean no beautiful language for its own sake.
Have I said that before? It bears repeating. Dr. Johnson said, Read over your
compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particu-
larly ne, strike it out. There is a kind of elaboration that distracts from the issue
at hand, and that is the sort of decoration I ban from good poetry.
One of the most common problems that beginning poets face is their inability
to delete or change what they have written. They remember exactly what they
meant when they wrote those words or those lines, and they treasure the feeling
that writing gave them. And that feeling, after all, is a lot better than the feeling
of deleting those words or lines. Writing feels like success, and deleting feels like
failure. At rst.
But deleting, like all revising, is success. It is nding a better way to com-
municate your ideas, and sometimes we have to let the ideas stand in front, while
Some Essentials of PoetryIn No Particular Order 13

we sit in the background like parents at a graduation. The poem should be more
important than your ego; in the long run, a better poem will make you look better.
You can also save all the wonderful phrases that you delete; maybe there will
be places for them in some other poems. Another of Mary Jos suggestions was to
save your deletions and look through them for the title of the poem.

I will not pretend that I carry my notebook everywhere, but almost everywhere.
I have a plastic box with a clipboard instead of a handbag, and I have pens and a
little notebook in there so if I get an idea I can write it down (and sometimes start
drafting). In fact, I start all my drafts in the notebook. I also use only fountain pens
because I like the way they feel and how I can switch colors just for fun as easily
as loading a different color when the pen runs dry, or by carrying a few different
You do not have to use fountain pens. Some people prefer cheap ballpoints,
or computers, or their smartphones. But its important to have tools that are con-
venient and that you like. If you like your tools, you are more likely to use them
(And if you want to get into fountain pens, you can get a nice Mont Blanc or
Pelikan, or you can go to eBay, spend about the same amount, and get a double
stful of nice Chinese pens. They will last basically forever, and even the best
inks are not very expensive considering how long they last. When I teach poetry,
I give each member of my class a cheap fountain pen and a cartridge to get them
There are some very elegant notebooks you can buy, or you can stay at the
cheap end. It does not matter, as long as they come in a size that is convenient for
you to carry. I know people who swear by the Field Notes or Moleskine notebooks
that will t in your pocket, and others by the Rhodia or Levenger versions. Use
what pleases you, and if that turns out to be your phone, use it in good health. The
main point is to use it.

All the rest of our craft is in service of trying to write the raw truth. I sometimes
tell my students or workshoppers, I want to see the blood on the page. Readers
can tell when you are not being honest, and you are cheating them and yourself.
After all, none of us is going to get rich writing poetry. We might as well learn
what we have to say in the process of saying it.
And, in fact, your poetry does not have to be honest. This goes back to where
we started, with your purpose in writing. I suppose not everyone wants to write
honest and true poetry. But everything I have said here assumes that you want
to write the best poetry you can, and that is honest poetry. What does that mean,
honest poetry? What does it mean to have an honest relationship with your

This is not a question of not lying to them. Sometimes you need to diverge
from the literal truth in a poem, as when you relate a real event and add rain
where, through an oversight, it had not been raining, or when you combine words
in unusual and possibly illogical ways, such as enlightened shoes. Those may
be challenging, but they are not dishonest.
When you write a poem, you are entering a contract with your readers, or po-
tential readers. They agree that they will try their best to understand what you are
saying and give you the opportunity to convince them of something. You agree
that you will offer something that might be convincing, and that you will try your
best to present it in the most meaningful and interesting way that you can. Fulll-
ing that contract is writing honest poetry.
When you write about a subject that is controversial, or painful because it is
deeply personal, and you nd yourself turning away from the truth to protect
yourself, you are not writing honest poetry. When you settle for the not-quite-
right word, the lightning bug rather than the lightning, you are not writing honest
I do not mean that all poetry should be painful, or that it should try to bring
the readers to tears. Sometimes, after all, the emotion we are trying to evoke is
laughter, or outrage, or horniness. Whatever we are trying to do with each poem,
we should try our hardest to do that in the best possible way.
Only then will be truly honest with our readers and ourselves.

The books Ive recommended in this essay, all in one place, with a couple of ad-

The Ode Less Traveled, by Stephen Fry

A rhyming dictionary: there are plenty of good ones.
The Book of Forms, by Lewis Turco, or Patterns of Poetry, by Miller Williams
The Triggering Town, by Richard Hugo
Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics or A Poets Glossary, by Edward Hirsch

Browning, R. (20032006). Porphyrias lover. Retrieved from http://www.englishverse.
Fry, S. (2005). The ode less travelled. New York, NY. Gotham.
Gladwell, M. (2011). Outliers: The story of success. Bay Back Books. Boston, MA. Bay
Back Books.
Hemingway, E. (2015). Ernest Hemingway biography. Retrieved from http://www.biogra-
Hugo, R. (2010). The triggering town. New York, NY. W. W. Norton & Company.
Jarman, M., & Mason, D. (1996). Rebel angels: 25 poets of the new formalism. Ashland,
OK. Story Line Press.
Some Essentials of PoetryIn No Particular Order 15

Kilmer, J. (2015). Joyce Kilmer biography. Retrieved from http://www.poetryfoundation.

King, M. L. (1963). I have a dream speech. Retrieved from http://www.americanrheto-
Leslie, K. (1998). Henny Youngman kept them until the end. Retrieved from http://www.
Longfellow, H. W. (1847). Evangeline. Retrieved from
Millay, E. (18921950). I, being born a woman and distressed (Sonnet XLI). Retrieved
Oliver, M. (2005). New and selected poems (vol. I). New York, NY: Beacon Press.
Ostriker, A. (2001). Psalm. Retrieved from
Pinola, M. (2013). Inspiration is for amateursThe rest of us just show up and get to
work. Retrieved from
Preminger, A., & Brogan, T. V. F. (1993). The New Princeton encyclopedia of poetry and
poetics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Roethke, T. (1961). Collected poems of Theodore Roethke. New York, NY: Knopf Double-
day Publishing Group.
Shakespeare, W. (15641616). Shall I compare thee to a summers day? (Sonnet 18). Re-
trieved from
Whitman, W. (2007). Leaves of grass: The original 1855 edition. Mineola, NY: Dover
Williams, M. (1986). Patterns of poetry: An encyclopedia of forms. Baton Rouge, LA:
LSU Press.


Lisa Aschmann

What is poetry? Here is a dictionary denition: A verbal art written in verse

using a heightened sense of language to convey feeling experience, meaning,
and consciousness (Moustaki, 2001). Poetry serves to elevate and heighten the
awareness of language. Poetic speech is speech in a style more concentrated,
imaginative and powerful than ordinary speech (Lawrence, 2001). What does
lyric mean? According to Websters dictionary, the adjective lyric roughly
means: suitable for singing, as to the accompaniment of a lyre, song-like, spe-
cically designating poetry expressing the poets personal emotion or sentiment,
rather than the telling of actual events. Lyrics, by denition, are lyric or lyrical.
There are similarities between poetry and lyrics, but I would argue that lyrics are
not simply poems set to music, but a different sort of writing altogether, with dif-
ferent forms, aesthetics, uses, and agenda.
Form, in poetry, is either verse (rhymed rhythmic patterns across groups of
words), often using classic verse forms such as: sonnets (10 or 14 lines), couplets
(2 lines), quatrains (4 lines), haiku (3 lines), sestinas (6 groups of 6 lines and 1
group of 3 lines), and free verse (unrhymed, of variable length). Forms of lyr-
ics are dictated by accompanying music. Repetition of lines, sections, or phrase
rhythms, or all of these, are crucial in establishing lyric form. Choruses and re-

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages 1721.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 17

frains of song lyrics are identical to each other, musically and lyrically. The two
principal forms of lyrics are either a versechorusversechorus form or a verse
versebridgeverse form. The length of a lyric is most often two or three verse
structures (conventionally, less variable in length than poetry).
Poetry has occurred in pre-literate societies and languages, such as Homeric
Greek, in which epics (long-form heroic and historic tales) were declaimed or
perhaps sung. But ever since written language arrived on the human landscape,
poems have been written down and remained part of literature. Poetry is expected
to be more beautiful than other forms of verbal expression. A great deal of atten-
tion is paid to word choices by poets. Lyrics, on the other hand, are intended to be
sung, and so their aesthetics meet vocal considerations apart from word choices.
The locksmith fashioned a key on his workbench while descriptive, would
never be written by a lyricist because its too hard to sing (and does not sound
good accompanied by a lyre, either). Neither a poet nor a lyricist would write
that line when he or she could say He made a key on the table. Regularity of
rhythm, repetition of vocal sounds, and open vowels, not clustered consonants, as
in that mouthful, locksmith, would allow a singer to breathe and to match rhyth-
mic structures which have been already provided by music. Fashioned would
throw phrase rhythm off the pattern established by accompanying music. A poet
might insist on the specicity and exactitude of locksmith and workbench
over table, but a lyricist would always sacrice that descriptive power for the
sake of singability.
With few exceptions in the history of music, the length of the lyric verse is
between two and sixteen lines long, 4 being the most common in modern songs
with 2 lines of a pre-chorus preceding a chorus. Metric feet or rhythmic feet (i.e.
groups of accented and unaccented syllables) are counted, in lyric forms across
musical forms. So, how many bars a lyric covers is usually the measure that
applies to a lyrical line of verse. Poetic line lengths and meter are handled differ-
ently. Its not uncommon to have odd numbers of verse lines in modern poetry,
and varying line lengths or verse lengths. Its extremely rare for lyrics to have odd
numbers of metric feet, bars, or lines.
Repetition is prized in the aesthetics applied to lyric, less so in poetry. That is
because being catchy (easily remembered after hearing it) is an aesthetic ap-
plied to lyrics, but not to poetry. A poem can have tremendous emotional impact
and not be committed to memory. Usually poems are more cerebral and complex
than lyrics. The nonsense syllables, Da doo ron, Oo-de-lally, or Obla dee
obla dah are perfectly acceptable lyrics. Other than The Hunting of the Snark
by Lewis Carroll, I cant think of any entirely nonsensical poetry (Carroll, 1971).
On the subject of relative complexity, Id like to refer to an article regarding the
decreasing vocabularies and reading levels appearing in hit songs of the last ten
years: Lyrics in Popular Music: A Ten Year Analysis, by Andrew Powell-Morse
(Powell-Morse, 2015). In this recent analysis, most popular (Billboard-charted)
How Poetry and Lyrics Are Different 19

songs required listeners to employ a 2nd to 3rd grade vocabulary, down from an
average of a 4th grade reading level ten years ago.
Speculating on what has propelled this trend, we can observe that songs in-
creasingly accompany visual media. Long sentences or even complete sentences
distract the viewer from paying attention to the picture. Vocalists and musicians
demonstrate their skill (and exaggerate dramatic impact) by playing or singing
or stuttering increasingly elaborate mellismatic sounds over held vowels (e.g.,
Mariah Carys vocals). Advertisement and texting has created demand for as brief
messages as possible to be sent and received. Increasingly, we live in a world
dominated by visual media, not by literature. Photographs, lms, and screens
lled with slogans and short texts or captions are what we view most often. Fre-
quently, only headlines and videos convey the news.
Lyrics are typically encountered in bursts of three minutes or less. College and
graduate literature courses span months and years, while people study and write
commentary on the meanings of poems (by Donne, Pope, Yeats, Spencer, etc.).
You can appreciate the relative intellectual rigor asked of readers compared to
that asked of listeners. Listeners and viewers have a shorter attention span than
readers just by virtue of the way semantic content is delivered to the brain. Lyrical
aesthetics favor conversational style (no unusual uses of language or of vocabu-
lary) or extremely simple vocal utterances. A wail or a moan that might go on
for several bars of music and is not an articulated word in anybodys vocabulary
counts as a lyric.
Poetry is a thoughtful, thought-provoking form of literature. Lyrics are chiey
an emotion-producing form of literature, and they fail in their aesthetic if listeners
have to think too hard as they are going by. Lyrics occur in a limited time, across
a listeners attention span, as opposed to being read and re-read slowly, taking
an arbitrary amount of time to be pondered. Gleaning more and more refreshed
meaning intended by the author of a poem, similar to studying a puzzle, is an
activity of readers. Catchiness or memorability, not philosophical or semantic
depth, are prized aesthetics of lyrics. People speak of understanding poems, but
they speak of feeling lyrics. People like to dance to lyrics, not to poems.
What might a vocalist nd easier to sing instead of reading, possibly silently
reading a poem? Sammy Cahn, in the preface to his eponymous rhyming diction-
ary described how his co-writer, Jimmy Van Heusen objected to the lines: There
are those wholl bet / Love comes but once and yet / Im oh so glad we met / The
second time around. (Cahn & Heusen, 1958). Jimmy had written a lot of Bing
Crosbys songs, and this objection puzzled Sammy until he noticed that these
lines made use of short vowels and closed with consonants instead of with long
vowels. Yet, bet, etc., had a percussive, closed-mouth quality instead of an
open-throated quality suitable for singing. Saying and holding a sound was easier
for a vocalist. Sammy got his way in this debate with Van Heusen because he
could point to a sing able, successful song by another lyricist, Alan Jay Lerner,
from the musical My Fair Lady: Ive Grown Accustomed to Her Face.

I was serenely independent and content before we met. Surely, I would al-
ways be that way again, and yet... Young Sammy Cahn noticed that in Alan Jay
Lerners use of yet it was in a ballad, not among crowded lines. The vocalist
paused after more uid and sibilant lyrics preceded the percussive consonant t
and for Jimmy Van Heusen (a more senior writer to Sammy Cahn at the time)
the rhyme the word yet was an exception that tended to prove the rule. The
rule was to avoid ending lines with short vowels and consonants. In later lyrics,
penned by Sammy Cahn, such as Come Fly With Me *1, sung by Frank Sinatra,
broad, legato lines ending in I and Eee and Ay (Fly awayyy) were more
singable. Consonants can be classied as: fricative (voiced: b, d, g, or unvoiced:
p, t, k); plosive (voiced: v, th, z, zhj or unvoiced: f, th, s, sh, ch); or nasal (voiced:
m, n, ng).
The consonants tend to get lost in translation (are not audible) if they occur
at the end of lines and notes are held over vowel sounds. This is especially true
if they are unvoiced plosive or fricative. Sung, vowels in lyrics are exaggerated.
Frequently, songwriters even use the technique of making vowel sounds while
writing a tune prior to lling in meaningful words. After rst establishing the
vowel phrasing, the sense is added. Beth Nielsen Chapman and Paul McCartney
have each described this as a writing technique on the way to generating lyrics.
The corn is as high as an elephants eye worked for Oscar Hammerstein ,
whereas The corn is as high as a giraffes eye might have worked as a descrip-
tive phrase in a poem, but would not scan in parallel to the previous line, neces-
sary for verse structure of a lyric. It would not t the melodic rhythmic pattern
that a lyric ts.
Both poetry and lyrics make use of poetic devices. The chief devices shared by
poetry and lyrics are: the use of metaphor (verbal comparisons) and their variants
(simile, synecdoche, symbolism, etc.), parallel grammatical construction (copy-
ing parts of speech or verb forms), assonance (same vowel sounds), consonance
(same consonant sounds), alliteration (same vowel or consonant sounds), copying
the pauses and stress and un-stress of syllables, rhythms, and rhymes.
Poetic devices may be the same for both lyricists and poets, but their intended
use or applications is not necessarily the same for a lyric as for a poem. For lyrics,
sound is valued over sense. The lyrics must marry the music and be maximally
singable. No such considerations exist in poetry. The song I Will Always Love
You, and the poem Pied Beauty illustrate these differences.
Is Pied Beauty, Gerard Manly Hopkins poem, emotionally evocative (Hop-
kins, 1877)? Certainly. Is it melliuous? Yes. Easy to sing? No. Hardly! Fresh,
descriptive language is admired vastly over a vocalists ability to open her throat
and convey the lyric as was the case when Whitney Houston sang Dolly Partons
simple, declarative lyrics. Few adjectives or adverbs appear in Dolly Partons
lyric and no metaphors. The line, I will always love you is not particularly
poetic. It occurs in the midst of a conversation. Who would ever say, Glory
be to dappled things in conversation? The title, I Will Always Love You, oc-
How Poetry and Lyrics Are Different 21

curs three time in a row in this lyrical form (a chorus). This is a repeated, utterly
simple, direct, and emotional lyric.
Note that the word things cannot be sung as loud and as long as you (the
vowel, ooo is more beautiful-sounding by being less nasal and percussive than
the word things). Ironically, the poem, Pied Beauty, is more musical than the
song lyric, I Will Always Love You because Pied Beauty makes more use of
poetic devices alliteration, assonance, consonance, rhyme, and parallel structure
to make the individual sounds of the work more beautiful. I Will Always Love
You is, overall, more singable, personal, emotional, and easier to remember than
Pied Beauty. Using long vowels and rhymes, it satises the aesthetics of lyrics.
Pied Beauty satises the aesthetics of poetry: to be a concentrated, elevated
use of language, heightening awareness. I Will Always Love You is perfectly
matched to a beautiful melody. So, outside the sounds created by word choices,
the sound of this lyric relies on music for its musicality and beauty.
It seems to me that to ignore the differences in these art forms and their pur-
poses is to make neither great poetry nor great lyrics and to misjudge their value.
No, there is no beautiful stretching of the mind, thoughtful elevation of the lan-
guage, unusual vocabulary, and profound observation in Dolly Partons lyrics.
There is only an emotional impact from a lyric that relies largely on a melody to
carry its impact. Nevertheless, each of these works of art are rightfully beloved
and celebrated. They are models of poetry and lyrics of the highest order. May you
generate more great lyrics and poetry for all of us to celebrate.

Barry, J., Greenwich, E., & Spector, P. (1977). Da doo ron ron. The Crystals in 1963.
Cahn, S. (1984). Sammy Cahns rhyming dictionary. New York, NY: Cherry Lane Music.
Cahn, S., & Heusen J. (1958). Come y with me. Frank Sinatra 1958 album.
Carroll, L. (1971). Alice in wonderland and other favorites. Publisher Unknown.
Hopkins, G. (1877). Pied beauty, poems of Gerald Manly Hopkins. New York, NY: Bar-
Lawrence, S. M. (2001). Storybook lives. AuthorHouse.
Lerner, A., Loewe, F. (1956). Ive grown accustomed to her face, My Fair Lady.
McCartney, P. (1968). Ob-la-di, ob-la-da. The Beatles, The White Album.
Miller, R. (1973). Oo-de-lally, In Robin Hood. Disney Animation.
Moustaki, N. (2001). The complete idiots guide to writing poetry. New York, NY: Penguin
Group USA Inc.
Parton, D, Ozcarkci,G, Menasi, L., & Yukseler, A (1974). I will always Love you, The
bodyguard [Motion Picture]. United States: Warner Brothers Pictures.
Powell-Morse, A. (2015). Lyric intelligence in popular music: A ten year analysis. Re-
trieved from


George Spain

In the spirit of full disclosure, which is all the rage nowadays, I have fourno
vedisclosures to make:

1. I am not a professional writer and thank the good Lord, for my family
would have starved to death.
2. I am not a professional historian.
3. I do not read books about how to write books and may not read this one.
4. I hate beets.

Almost all of my stories are based on personal, family, and southern history. Most
of the stories referenced here are mine. Proceed now at your own risk or go on to
the next chapter. It will not hurt my feelings one little bit.

I was raised on books and Classic Comics and began writing poetry in the mid-
nineteen sixties. Early on one of my poems was published in a Russian magazine,
another in a prestigious American poetry journal. Heady stuff. It fueled my re.
Kind people said kind things, which helped me persevere through the long dry
years that followed.

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages 2330.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 23

Let me stop here and say how important it is to support a want-to-be-writer.

My early poetry was inuenced by Dylan Thomas, James Dickey, and Walt Whit-
man. In hindsight, most of my poems were not that good, but one of my admired
college English professors kindly agreed to read them. After doing so he said,
George, you can write, so keep at it and keep on reading lots of the best poets.
I was twenty-two. You cannot imagine how his words spurred me to keep going.
My professors advice to, READREADREAD, was the best I could
have received. If you aspire to write historical ction, read good historians, biog-
raphers, and writers of historical ction. Let them be your primary teachers, more
than technical books on, How to Write Historical Fiction. And, as you begin
your own writing, do not be afraid to let them help you with one of their wonder-
ful phrases or a lightning word, to enhance your words.
Think about what makes these writers good. And then think about what you
have just written. Look at the words, the sentences. Can they be improved? Think
about your audience. To whom are you writing? But remember this, for an ac-
complished writer, the ultimate satisfaction for what they have written must be
their own.
First and foremost, the writer has an obligation to be true to their characters;
let them speak as they would have spoken; and let them do as they would have
done, even if, at times, they are disturbingly violent. But remember, all the bad
language and all the bad behavior is not going to make a silk purse out of a sows
ear. If the story is no good, it will not be made better by how many obscenities or
throat cuttings you put into it. And for heavens sakes, if you want your characters
to come alive, do not just write what makes people feel good; write what makes
people feel that what they are reading is, or could be, real. Infuse their veins with
emotional and psychological blood.
I have never known an all-good, or all-bad person. In Gods Punishment, a
kindhearted, strong, mountain woman takes two young Confederate deserters in
for the night and while they are sleeping she kills them both with an ax` in revenge
for Confederate guerillas killing her husband and son. I have known many preach-
ers, politicians, and physicians, a few killers and some drug dealersnot one was
totally good or totally bad. To give more reality to primary characters, avoid their
being one-dimensional.
Good stories set a hook in the reader with the rst sentence and rst paragraph,
snaring the readers attention so tightly the reader does not want to stop. Death of
a Confederate Captain begins:

They said Captain Robert Taggert hanged himself in Ladys stall on June 27, 1874,
because she had been his son, Bobs, favorite saddle horse. Bob had died on that
exact same day, ten years before. Years later, Aunt Sally, the Taggerts cook, told me
that the rope broke after the Captain was dead and that his body fell into the straw
but the mare never stepped on him. Though he didnt leave a note, I knew why the
Captain, for thats what everybody called him, did what he did. (Spain, 2013a)
Writing Historical Fiction 25

What is writing historical ction? Its creating a story around a historical per-
son or event: one where the reader might even learn something; more importantly,
a story that is not boring. Best of all, one that is memorable. I follow the rule that,
A fact should never stand in the way of a good story. While at out falsifying
history should not happen, you are not writing pure history; rather, you are creat-
ing a ctional story that mixes historical characters, places, and events with those
that are made up. Read Truman Capotes reportage In Cold Blood as history cre-
ated as reality.
Where do you get your ideas for stories? From everywhere, though some
seem to come from nowhere. From personal history, family history, or, some-
times, they just pop into your head. My Russian poem came from a photograph
of a childs sled, with a childs body on it, being dragged through the snow during
the siege of Leningrad in 194142. An idea might come from a fragment of family
history that is so intriguing it will not leave you and slowly it evolves into a story.
Last spring, one popped into my head at about 4:00 AM. It came as a question.
Could I write a ghost story about my wife who died in 2009? That wondering
became Come Sit With Me. There is enough factual history in it that several who
have known us well thought it had really happened.
Once you have settled on an idea for a story, the real work begins. Hemingway
was once asked if writing was hard. He answered, No, you just sit down at the
typewriter and bleed. Thats a tad dramatic, but I can tell you right now, It aint
easy. A huge amount of research may be required to set the stage for a story. For
example, in the short story The Searcher, which occurs two days after the Battle
of Nashville on December 1516, 1864, there is a detailed description of the city
and the battleeld. You can see it, smell it, hear it, almost taste and touch it (Spain,

It is nearing late afternoon of the second day after the Confederates have retreated
southward. The shell-torn hills and elds are covered with debris. Bodies and parts
of bodies are still being found and buried. It stinks with a moldy odor: the Confeder-
ate dead in their shallow graves, buried where they have fallen; parts of men and
horses scattered in the mud and litter; the blood of the wounded; the dead and the
sick lling the hospitals; churches, home and schools; the stench of the unwashed
thousands of prisoners packed into abandoned buildings and warehouses; the burn-
ing of dead horses and the wreckage of battle; the piles of rubbish, the piss, the
shit and decay of all the living and the dead. It is the odor of war rising from a city
of 30,000, now lled with 70,000 Yankee soldiers and thousands of Rebel prison-
ers and hordes of refugees, freed slaves, laborers, teamsters, gamblers, drummers,
prostitutes, and herds of cattle and horses and mulesIt is bitter cold. At times
smoke and sleet mingle with rain. Fires burn night and day as the smoke drifts high
above the city, spreading a dark smudge across the sky, a cloud that can be seen
and smelled from miles awayWithin the city the air is lled with the crunching
of wagon wheels and the clopping of hooves of horses and mules on the unpaved
streetsthe high-pitched whistles of steamboats and gunboats on the Cumber-
landthe sounds of music from the theaters, and of soldiers singing and ofcers

shouting orders, of teamsters and drovers cursing animals and of campres hissing
as the freezing rain continues to fall steadily all across the elds and hills of middle
Tennessee. (Spain, 2013a)

Then, out onto this stage walks the major character, Katrine OConner, an Irish
woman searching the city and battleeld, for the father of her son, a black soldier,
who has fought in the battle with the 13th United States Colored Troops Regiment.
Hours of research went into this story.


Unless quoting another writer, you are creating from what exists inside your own
head. Every icicle hanging from the nostril of an oxen, every bit of dust falling
from a wagon wheel, a herons call, the hot milk-gravy poured on biscuits, the
pain from a knife twisting in your stomach, the words of slaves and the owners.
The kindnesses, cruelties, the words of love, hate, the ock of black crows ying
beneath the white clouds and blue sky. They all have come from your imagination.
So represent your brain the best you can. After the rst draft, read it out loud and
listen to the words, images, and feelings. Do they ring true to you? Let me assure
you that, rare to never is something written that cannot be improved by seven or
eleven rewrites.
Faulkner (1930)God love himwas a helluva writer. Listen to this:

Tomorrow is just another name for today.

But tomorrow is today also.
Yao. Tomorrow is today.

Thats from Red Leaves. If youre a Southerner, especially an old one like me,
who was bred and born in the South and whose family has been here for genera-
tions, you know how our memories and story tellings of our yesterdays, todays,
and imagined tomorrows get all jumbled up together. In the South, there are lots
of dead people in the ground who still talk to us. In grave yards and almost every-
where else, when a backhoe or bulldozer digs up the ground there is going to be
bones of Woodland Indians, Cherokees, French trappers, frontiersmen, slaves, or
Civil War soldiers. As the bones of our past come to the surface, they can be the
seeds that bear the fruit that you, the writer, harvests.

Research gives life to dem dry bones. If you are writing about an old former
slave who, after the war became a preacher and about an old former Confederate
talking to one another as they sit, side by side, on a wagon seat riding toward Win-
chester, Tennessee, on June 3, 1898, for the annual Confederate Decoration Day,
nd out what the weather report was for that day. What crops were in the elds?
What wild owers and shrubs were growing beside the road? What birds called
Writing Historical Fiction 27

from the elds and hedgerows? What were the names of the mules that pulled the
wagon and what sounds did their hoofs and snorts make? What did the air smell
of? What wood was the wagon made of and was it painted? How did they know
one another? What did they look like? How were they dressed? How did they pro-
nounce their words? What, if anything, did they feel toward one another? What do
you want them to tell us about life?
Answer these questions; weave them together with words that, when spoken
out loud, sound correct to your ear, and slowly you give life to these old men. If
the writing is good enough, you are transported back in time and, it is as though
you are seated in the wagon bed behind them, leaning forward, listening and
watching two old friends who love one another dearly.
There are multitudes of sources for gathering detail if you are willing to do the
digging: photographs, paintings, illustrations, diaries, journals, wills, newspaper
accounts, and trial testimony from the period about which you are writing. Pile
stacks and stacks of books around you: old, new, histories, and biographies when
possible. Visit the actual sites where the events occurred. And of course, there is
lots of stuff on the Internet. Read and read, make lots of notes, and then set the
books and notes aside and begin to write.
In, My Grandfather and The Heron (2013b), I wanted to replicate the call of a
Great Blue Heron. I listened to the website for the herons call over and over; then
Id take a shot at writing it, then said it out loud again and again until nally, after
several changes, I got as close as I could to their calls when they are startled. To
my ear it sounded like



Taggarts Six Letter begins with a description of a sixty-three year old woman that
intertwines her outer and inner beauty and strengthMy Lord, Lucy Gaunt Tag-
gert was a stunningly beautiful woman! Every small bit of her body, every small
bit of her mind and soul and all of her spirit was a womansa woman second to
none and certainly second to no man (Taggart, 1923). Her long, straight neck was
crowned by a nely shaped head with a face so strong and striking, that men, and
even women, could not help but stare at her. Her head was always held high with
her slightly curly, soft-gray hair drawn tightly back in a bun. Her face toned with
pride; her eyes ash-colored, intelligent, reserved, almost cold, seldom blinked as
they saw the lies and fears beneath the masks of others; her lips, full and pink,
pursed slightly as might a young womans who was about to kiss her lover. She
was sixty-three
Her beauty was sensual, not like that of a rose or a sunset, it was the beauty
of the bed; her esh touched with light and shadows, spread over her body like
smooth, white milk. Men sought her but never once did she seek them. Many

men, including her minister, Reverend Thomas Dark of the Estill Springs Baptist
Church, could barely control the lust in their faces or voices when they were near
her. She treated these men, even if they were among the gentry, with the same
coldness she might use when dealing with ill-mannered white trash. When she
saw sex in the eyes of Reverend Dark the day he came to her house to comfort her
and pray with her after Bobs death, she told him to take his Bible and hat and go
home and go to bed with his wife. After that, she never set foot in church again.
Men saw her beauty, her aloofness, her perseverance; what they did not see was
her anger, an anger that eventually turned into hatred when death came to her
I believe your charactersyour ctional childrenshould think and talk as
they would have in their day and place. Field hands did not talk like house-ser-
vants; an uneducated man, from deep in the mountains of east Tennessee, did
not talk like an educated plantation owner from west Tennessee; the words and
sounds of a woman who has just come over from Ireland differ from those of a
third generation Irish Bostonian; I do not talk like my far-back-in-time ancestors.
Some of their sayings are no longer regularly used. Some are extinct. Some of the
words we now use have only recently been put into Websters.
How are our people to speak? How are their words to be written down? Some
writers and readers do not care for dialect. I do. Heres an example from,

The Hunters (2013)

Ye say hits down thar?
Un huh.
Neath them bluffs?
Un huh. Thats whar hit kilt her an I seen hits tracks.
Ye say hit et her?
Un huh an hit drug her leavins back in tha cave.
Lord Pa, you reckon hits still thar?
I God if hit is I aims to kill kill hit.
Well I shore dont want to git kilt.
Well then damn ye if ye be scairt give me tha lanterns an git on back home!
Hell Pa, Ius jest a mouthin.

This is the dialect of the Appalachians not far back from today; bits of it are found
there in the mountains and on out into hills (Spain, 2013c). Books such as Our
Southern Highlanders, Smoky Mountain Voices, and Down in the Holler are good
As has been, is, and will be, words and their pronunciation are caused by ump-
teen inuences: race, education, family, geography, religion, economics, history,
and on and on. A wonderful man, Reverend Billy Higheld, began life as a slave
and eld hand, but his educated master favored him, so he began working in the
yard at the Big House and became his masters buggy driver. After the war, he
worked beside white engineers as a railroad reman on the Nashville, Chatta-
nooga, and St. Louis Railway and then became a minister for the Mt. Zion African
Writing Historical Fiction 29

Methodist Church in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Here he is talking to the Colonel as

the ride to Winchester in 1898

You/ know, Colonel, you nevah ask me what it was like bein a slave an Is nevah
said a thing til nowfolks look at me an they sees a kind-lookin, ole white haired
colored preacher who likes to help people, an thats pretty much true now, but I
hadnt always been this way. A long time ago, tha Lawd an Liza change me. I wants
to kill peoplewants to kill white people fo what they done to usId wanted to
kill you Is so full of hate. Bein a slave is a bad thing, so bad you cant nevah know
it, we wadnt much mo than a bunch of two-legged animals worth lots of money
the Major an his wife, they was church goin people who said the blessin at all their
meals an always talking bout Jesus an how someday theys goin to heaven, an look
at what they didtheys made me hate Jesus an tha Lawd God. But all tha while I
nevah lets on, Is covered it all up, all my sadness an hate, even when theys sold
my Liza an Hattie away, Is didnt show nothing cause Is promised her I wouldnt
kill someone or do something awful an that one day Id come an nd em an wed be
togethah again An thas what I didAn tha Lawd was good to me an forgive my
sinful heart an answered my prayers, an so Him an Liza, theys teach me to want to
be good an to help others an He move my heart to preach His word an help sinners
like me To nd Him (Spain, 2013a)

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Federal Writers Project sent out
hundreds of jobless writers to interview former slaves about their lives in slavery.
Two thousand slave narratives came from this; many were written in dialect, a
resource available in several publications. Ive drawn from them for a two-dozen
We are the creators of our characters and the worlds they live in, the air they
breathe, the earth they walk upon, the words they speak. Your primary obligation
is to them, not the reader. To paraphrase Hemingway, bleed your bloodand
theirsinto the words you write. And, for heavens sakes, do not drive yourself
crazy trying to answer each and every question a reader might have about a story,
especially when it comes to the ending. Our lives leave lots of unanswered ques-
tions. Come the nal page, life raises more questions than answers. A writer, if
they are any count at all; a reader, if they are any count at all, can beshould
beleft to wonder.
And so to one last disclosure

5. I also hate broccoli.

Faulkner, W. (1930). Red leaves V. Saturday Evening Post. Philadelphia, PA: Curits Pub-
lishing Company.
Spain, G. (2013a). Our people: Stories of the south. Kingston Springs, TN: Westview.
Spain, G. (2013b). The grandfather and the heron. Unpublished manuscript.
Spain, G. (2013c). The hunters. Unpublished manuscript.

Taggart, S. (1923). Letters of Samuel Taggart: Representative in Congress from 1803 to

1814: Part I, 18031807. Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 33,


Patricia H. Quinlan

All my life, I wanted to be an artist, but an artist, whatever the medium, lives to
create something new, something that had not existed before. I did not start out
being a writer. But a writer is no different from here, the sculptor (Ive done that)
in that the sculptor creates something new. So the writer takes bits and pieces from
today, yesterday, or some other time and place. I have borrowed from history and
from family.
Writing was not a plan of mine until a few years before retiring, dreaming in-
stead of pursuing my art. I spent seven years at Mammoth Cave listening to stories
of the cave and its history. Many years later, I began telling friends that someone
should write the history of Mammoth Cave. I guess they got tired of hearing me
say it because they began telling me to write the book. I was no writer, as I repeat-
edly informed them. But slowly, I began to think about some of them. My second
husband thought it was a great idea. He loved history, and he liked to write.
There were three different men I knew, all far more knowledgeable than me,
but none of them had any desire to write a complete history of Mammoth Cave. If
I were to write such a book, I wanted it to be a novel, not non-ction history. All
three of these men were encouraging, and two of them offered to help me in some
way. I had no idea how to even begin, and my rst attempts were miserable. My
rst husband had spent twenty years collecting material on the history. He had a
passion for the cave, but in 1995, he died here in Nashville. My son let me borrow

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages 3136.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 31

whatever I needed to write the book. I returned to Colorado with three large boxes
of material, much of it photocopies, pamphlets, and antique books.
Still not sure how to begin the actual writing, I spent a few months sorting
the pile of material and putting it into chronological order. I still had a full time
job and was taking care of my mother, who was developing dementia. The book
would cover 140 years of history from 1811 to 1941. By the time I nished sorting
it all, ideas began to form in my head. By then, I knew who the main characters
were, people who were prominent in the caves history. But, there were many
gaps. I wanted to tell the story through the lives of the people who lived there, so
next, I had to create a family and its genealogy, linking them to the true characters.
I learned that no matter how overpowering the task may seem, it could be done.
The one simple trick was to break it down into parts and deal with each part sepa-
rately. With all the material, and with the family genealogy mapped out, I began. I
wrote and destroyed three attempts before I learned how to begin. I hadnt written
a thing since college, and I was not a very good English student, even then. Fi-
nally, I found a way to begin. I borrowed an idea from Mark Twains Tom Sawyer.
From then on, I followed the outline, provided by all that material arranged in
chronological order, year by year and decade by decade.
I had not been back to Kentucky in over 15 years, so I was not able to adequate-
ly describe the cave. When I moved to Denver, I thought I was done with caves.
My second husband was an unpublished writer and a prolic reader of history. He
told me I was not describing the cave with enough detail so he could see it. I spent
several vacation trips going back to Kentucky. On each trip, I took two or three
tours and talked with the guides as we walked through the cave.
My husband and I also spent hours at the Louisville Public Library copying
articles found on Microlm. There were also visits to libraries in Lexington and
the university at Bowling Green. My book only covered those parts of the cave
as they had been discovered during the course of 140 years, or up until 1941, and
most of them are on the commercial routes now available to tourists.
On one trip to Kentucky, I spent a few hours with Angelo George at his home
and ofce in Louisville. He knew the history of Mammoth Cave as well as anyone
I knew, and though he has published several small books on various parts of his-
tory, he did not want to write the book. However, he let me copy numerous items
from his extensive library, and later he answered my many questions by mail
since, at that time, he did not like using the computer. Angelo George graciously
edited the book and helped me enormously with details of history
During the six years it took me to write that book, I developed rheumatoid
arthritis, so I retired in 2000. I had attempted to nd an agent and traditional
publisher, but the best response I received was that the agent liked the book but
thought it had too narrow an audience. In 2004, after losing both my mother and
my husband, I nally self-published Beneath Their Feet through iUniverse.
For my second book, I decided to avoid research. It was pure ction. That
did not last long. I placed the book in the mid 60s, during the Vietnam war. The
Researching the Novel 33

Internet became an invaluable tool to answer the many questions that popped up.
I needed to understand farming and ranching in Kansas, weather in Kansas, and
the terror of being caught in a tornado. Fortunately for me, my next door neighbor
had spent two tours in Vietnam and gave me several tips, movies, and books, and
he edited that part of the book for me.
For my third book, I needed to know something about the French and Indian
War. My mother spent thirty years researching our family genealogy. So after she
died, I went through all her papers, a laborious job because she left a four-drawer
ling cabinet stuffed full of papers, plus binders of material. In there, I found
a small newspaper article published in 1757 about Peter Looney, who was the
younger brother of a direct ancestor. He had been captured by the Indians. Well,
that got my attention. According to the article, he had lived with the Indians south
of Detroit for one year and was sent to Niagara, where he met another white man
who had also been captured and together they escaped.
I had a lot of questions, many of them concerning the French and Indian war
in general. Where was it fought? Who were the main characters? Who were the
Indians? The only thing I knew was from that tiny article my mother had found. I
bought a membership in an online library. As a member, I was able
to read complete books and articles on a wide variety of subjects, and I could
subscribe month to month.
The next step was to answer the question of travel. From southwestern Virginia
near what is now Roanoke, how did the Indians move their 24 captives across the
mountains into what is now West Virginia and north across the Ohio River ending
up in Michigan south of Detroit? I collected a complete set of topographic maps
covering the area, then I used Google Earth to see what the terrain looks like. I
learned from my reading that the Indians often followed the rivers, so I did the
same, inch by inch along the maps and spent hours looking at it on Google Earth.
Peter Looneys family had a farm near what is now Roanoke, Virginia. He was
a Sargent in the militia at Fort Vause. The fort was destroyed in 1756 by 100 Indi-
ans and a few French soldiers. Seventeen men, three women, and four girls were
taken across the Shenandoah Mountains north of the Ohio River. My knowledge
of the area was skimpy. I went to school in Blacksburg and had driven through
parts of West Virginia, but I did not know how anyone would travel that far on
foot and with only a few horses in the 18th century. Not only that, I had been liv-
ing in Colorado for over 20 years. I spent hours on Google Earth, following every
river between Virginia, West Virginia, and across the Ohio. How did I know I
was on the right trail? I knew from the history book that one of the captives was
a girl named Levisa. From the history book, I learned that she wrote her name on
Beech trees along the way. On one of the topo maps, I found a river running north
through West Virginia that was named for her. It could not be a coincidence.
I had to ask myself, how would they have crossed the Ohio River? Reading
books about the Indians, their habits, and their mode of travel was very important.
Peter Looney was adopted by an Indian chief as his brother and lived with them

for a year. Reading about Indian life was essential in order to make his life with
them believable. But, that was not all. He was sent to Niagara the following year
on a fur-trading trip. How did he get there? Google Earth gave me the idea of ca-
noe travel. Then, while he was at Niagara, he met another white man and together
they escaped. Where did they go? Again, Google Earth helped me out. A surprise
to me was crossing the Potomac River. I had learned where the major roads were
in the 18th century, so I followed them. Until I saw the view from Google Earth,
I did not realize how steeply the Potomac River cut through the countryside. But
there is always an answer. Sometimes you just have to look a little farther or
harder. If you spend enough time with Google Earth, you begin to imagine how
it might have looked from the ground, how dense the woods were, how steep the
ravines and waterfalls, so you begin to create a trail that they could have followed.
It sounds laborious, but you can get quite addicted to the study of an area.
Another book I had been wanting to write was the story of my great-grand-
mother, Henrietta Looney. My mother lived with me for the last seven years of
her life, during which time she suffered from dementia, and though she could
not remember 10 minutes ago, she remembered her childhood as if it as it were
yesterday. I listened to her talk about her grandmother, a woman she loved very
much and was very close to. Mom told me these stories again and again, and I
grew to feel I knew my great-grandmother well. I cannot remember ever meeting
her. Through my mothers stories, I grew to admire my great grandmothers spunk
and resourcefulness and wanted to write about her. I took a few trips from Colo-
rado to Alabama, met with relatives, and they mainly reiterated all that my mother
told me. On various trips around the county, the places where she had lived were
pointed out to me.
Of course, I had to look past the current buildings and imagine what it looked
like when it was a farm and before the National Forest took over. Much of Win-
ston County is now in the Bankhead National Forest, but there are a few farms
scattered around. For instance, the house in which my youngest uncle was born
87 years ago is still standing, so I could see for myself how it looked like and the
picture of the eld across the road is what I used on the cover of my book.
For my latest book about northern Alabama during the Civil War, I had to
do a lot of reading. Another wonderful source of information is the Civil War
archives on the internet. As you may imagine, the Civil War is extremely well
documented. I knew, through relatives that my great-great-grandfather, Anderson
Looney, served in the Union Army, that he was a Quarter Master sergeant in the
First Alabama Cavalry, but not too much more than that. But through Google, I
got more information than I could use. From there, I learned of other sources.
Then, on a visit to Alabama, I spent an hour or so with an elderly second cousin,
a retired doctor, now sadly no longer with us. He had reached that stage of life
where he may remember a lot, but it was rather disjointed, or so it seemed to me.
I wrote down everything I could and went home more confused than ever. I had
a puzzle, but I did not know how it all t together. I took each piece and looked
Researching the Novel 35

it up. Finally, I began to see the connection, and it was far more interesting than I
could have imagined.
Again, I thought I was nished when I found, on Amazon, another book that
seemed far too important to ignore. I was right. Everything would have been
easier if I could have discovered this book, The Lightning Mule Brigade, a year
earlier. This required several chapters to be completely rewritten. During all of
this, I was reminded of a comment that Barbara Tuchman, the author of The Guns
of August wrote. At some point during your research, you have to stop and write
the book, or you will never stop doing research, and you will never get the book
written. I am sure I have paraphrased the idea, but basically thats what the author
was saying.
Following are things I have learned along the way and hope they will make
your journey an easy and pleasant one.
First of all, be sure to have your core idea mapped out. Know where you want
to go before you begin the trip. Know the time period and the place. Second, we
all need a system for keeping information handy. I have tried 4x6 index cards,
copies of articles in binders, as well as notes on the computer. Though sometimes
I get lost as to what is where, I do not know how to consolidate it into one place.
How you keep it may depend on the source of information you use. Even if you do
not need to cite your sources, you should denitely keep track of them.
Third, study social history so you know how it was to live in the time of your
story. It might be helpful to establish a timeline so you understand how one event
can affect another. This was very helpful with my last book that took place during
the Civil War. Even if I did not directly allude to other events, it was helpful to me
to know what else was going on during the events of my story.
How did these people live? What did they eat? What kind of clothes did they
wear? Was their speech pattern different from what you are accustomed to hear-
ing? What books might they read? What games could they play? If you introduce
an item, a machine, or a make of car, was it available at that time? What else was
going on in the country? You might be surprised how one small event could make
the difference between your story being believable or not. A recent example of
keeping true to a period is the attention to detail given by the producers of Down-
ton Abby. There are other recent examples on TV and in the movies (Movies made
in the 30s and 40s can be laughable in their lack of accuracy). In my second book,
I overlooked the fact that the interstate highway system was not complete in 1965.
This was pointed out to me by a friend, and fortunately I had time to x it.
The Internet is perhaps the one tool you will use more than any other. Aside
from, there is the Library of Congress website, plus the National
Archives, and more is being added all the time. Names are another thing to pay
attention to. There are websites to help with this. If you Google the words: last
names you will nd a long list of searches. The right side of the screen is another
list, depending on what nationality you are searching. Another interesting site is which is an online language dictionary, which will give you a

translation into whatever language you need. I continue to learn more from more
recent searches. By typing in the question, I get all sorts of answers. It continues
to amaze me.
Other obvious resources are friends and family associates. There is always
your local library. But, the local library may not have all the information you
need. For instance, while I was living in Colorado, my local library had very little
on Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama. is a powerful online research tool, more so now than when I used
it several years ago. It is designed more for the student engaged in research for
papers, but not limited to that. It is available for anyone. There is a membership
fee, but it is month to month so you are not locked in for more than you need it.
Google online libraries and you will see a long list of other possibilities.
Another resource is Google Earth. It is free, and you can get a birds eye view
of the terrain in which your story takes place. It is also fun to look at. An example
of Google Earths feature, a friend of mine is writing a book that takes place dur-
ing the Civil War in Pennsylvania. She refers to the western part of the state as
prairie land. Well, prairies are a different ecosystem and a simple search would
tell you that. I hated to set her straight, but as a friend I could not let her continue
making that mistake.
Now, aside from what I have listed so far theres another source that cannot
be overlooked. Sometimes, if it is at all possible, you just have to go there. As an
example, I said before, I was living in Colorado when I decided to write my rst
book about Mammoth Cave. I had lived at Mammoth Cave for seven years, but
I had forgotten what it felt like to walk through it. For my second book, a friend
and I drove from Denver to Kansas to study the area, take pictures, and visit the
local library.
To summarize, theres Google Search, Google Earth,, The Li-
brary of Congress, and the National Archives. There are also old newspapers,
many of which are being digitized. And if you do not mind spending the money,
you can nd hundreds of books on Amazon. I hope all this rambling has been of
some use to you. In short, there are tons of materials available, and more is being
added all the time. You just have to take that rst step. It may seem like the hard-
est, but it puts you on the path. Just keep going. You will get there. Have a pleasant
and successful journey.

Tuchman, B. (1962). The guns of August. New York, NY: Macmillan.


Oluwakemi Elufiede

Brain Science is the process of how the brain functions. The brain consists of
four parts: brainstem, cerebellum, limbic system, and cortex. The brainstem deals
with survival; the cerebellum regulates the autonomic nervous system; the limbic
system deals with emotions; the cortex is involved in reasoning. The brain has two
hemispheres that work together. The hemispheres of the brain play a larger role in
particular functions; for example, the left hemisphere generally controls speech
(van Dam, 2013). Research reveals that learning techniques that enhance memory
formation include elaborating, verbalizing, writing, drawing, and sharing learned
information. Short-term and long-term memories include four components: de-
clarative, episodic, semantic, and procedural. These four concepts impact the cre-
ativity within writing for facts, events, experiences, words, and the process for
the completion of tasks. Once writers understand the major functions of the brain,
they are able to allow natural things to ow for accommodating experiential strat-
egies in writing, assimilating new ideas for writing exploration, and engaging in
possibilities in writing.

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages 3943.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 39

Most writers base their writing on personal experiences and knowledge obtained
throughout their lifetime, which may be considered lifelong learning (LLL) and
reective expression, which deals with learning to know, do, and live together.
LLL is considered exible and diverse ( The concept of LLL impacts the
degree to which writers express themselves because it is solely based upon per-
sonal experiences. Reective writing encourages critical thinking skills in formal
and informal educational environments. Creativity helps writers realize their tal-
ents through identity and self-awareness for respecting their unconscious depths
(Innerwriter). Brown and Inglehart (2014) explains that greater self-expression
values mean having more action resources that include material and cognition.

Creativity includes identity, resistance, art, and culture. For instance, when writers
have unpleasant experiences with written expression, there is a hesitation to ex-
press themselves. This hindrance has a major impact on personal well-being and
societal relations. Experience is what makes the world go around. People relate
to text based on past experience and the desire to experience new things. Kolb
(1984) developed the Cycle for Experiential Learning, which includes concrete
experience, active experimentation, reective observation, and abstract concep-
tualization. Concrete experience is the act of doing something as it relates to be-
ing an expert. Active deals with the inclusion of what you have learned to work.
Reective deals with analyzing and reviewing individual experience. Abstract
conceptualization deals with learning from a particular experience.

In the classroom setting, brain-based learning (BBL) is most commonly used for
best practices in teaching strategies and lesson planning based on cognition and
improvement of the implementation of scientic approaches that inuence educa-
tional practice, which is neuro-education. Worden et al. (2011) explain that ignor-
ing important ndings from educational neuroscience can be just as dangerous as
uncritically embracing brain-based interventions, but there is not always a cor-
relation between brain size and intelligence for academic achievement. These are
essential to the stimulation of cognitive abilities in written expression. Although
BBL has a major inuence in the educational environment, it also impacts written
expression without BBL, written expression would not exist. Writers should
express their emotional thoughts because those same ideas will become repressed
thoughts that will continue to recur when writing new ideas, and the brain will ex-
perience memory overload. The brain is not meant for multitasking because it can
slow down the learning process brains are not wired for multitasking. Subcon-
scious and unconscious mental processes harbor the treasure for writers because
the brain stores facts absorbed through living in the world (Arms-Roberts, 2013).
The Connection between Brain Science and Written Expression 41

Learning is always occurring unconsciously, but people do not notice it con-
sciously because it is a function that is consistently relied on and not thought
about. Writers should take advantage of their internal knowledge based on innate
and learned skills. Writing is thinking and discovery as it relates to reverence of
mystery (Mbalia, 2004). Writing is also signicant to the emotions and motivation
within the brain (van Dam, 2013). Expressive writing and written emotional dis-
closure are psychosocial interventions that promote emotional expression (Naz-
arian & Smyth, 2013). In the traditional educational setting, learning has been
stagnated based on standards, expectations, and subjectivity. The discovery of the
role of emotions and stress may present a threat to memory systems for motiva-
tion because of the challenging assumptions in traditional education. The truth is
that every writer has an equal chance to express because cognitive brain processes
are congured the same for every human.

Writers should be willing to explore new ideas in order to improve writing skills
along with overcoming writing challenges. Lamb (2011) notes that regardless of
education or other presumable factors, most individuals demonstrate a marked
disinterest or active resistance to considering new information when it challenges
existing beliefs. Some existing beliefs derail new possibilities as there is always
something new to learn. Boss (2011) notes that when people encounter new in-
formation, the brain quickly transitions to pattern-recognition mode because it
causes people to think about things that they may have encountered before. When
new information does not relate to existing information, the brain gets excited.
Exploration of new ideas enhances brain abilities for remembering and articulat-
ing specic details in writing. For example, when writers are describing what
they have seen or heard, they demonstrate the ability to document information
vividly. Writers should look out for new ideas that can drive innovation for criti-
cal thinking in relation to sparking creativity for breaking the thought patterns
through challenging assumptions, rewording the problem, thinking in reverse,
and expression through different types of media (Cook, n. d.). Cook also notes
that people can enable idea generation by allowing creative loang time, shutting
out distractions, and including humor. Although there are several strategies for
exploring new ideas, many writers experience writers block, which means the
writer is blocked from exploring current or new ideas. Writers should focus on
the topic and not the concept of writing. Writing faster than thinking can unleash
creativity and prevents writers block because the subconscious and unconscious
mental processes harbor the treasure of writers (Arms-Roberts, 2013). Figure 5.1
provides a realistic formula to initiating new ideas, which is learning, exploring,
and then writing. With all three steps, it requires motivation, determination, and

FIGURE 5.1. Steps to Exploring New Ideas

Writing is a vital part of active learning and progression in society (Shinko, 2006).
When writers learn to utilize various techniques for expressing themselves, this
increases self-esteem and condence. This chapter provided three perspectives for
unleashing creativity through experiential practices, the exploration of new ideas,
and engagement. Engagement is making a commitment to acknowledge uncon-
scious thoughts that have never been initiated. This can be challenging because
most unconscious thoughts have been blocked due to structured instruction in
the educational environments, but with repetition, it will improve. With improve-
ment, writers are able to represent their experience and the history of society.

Arms-Roberts, K. (2013). Writing at the speed of the unconscious. Retrieved from www.
Boss, S. (2011). Six tips for brain-based learning. Retrieved from
Brown, K., & Inglehart, R. (2014). Millennials: Narcissists, or hope for the future? Cen-
ter for Political Studies (CPS) Blog. Retrieved from http://cpsblog.isr.umich.
Cook, L. (n. d.). Generating new ideas: Think differently and spark creativity. Retrieved
Writing from your subconscious. (n. d.). Retrieved from
Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning as the science of learning and development. Engle-
wood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Lamb, R. (2011). Lifelong learning institutes: The next challenge. The LLI Review, 118.
Mbalia, D. (2004). Toni Morrisons developing class consciousness (2nd ed.). Selinsgrove,
PA: Susquehanna University Press.
The Connection between Brain Science and Written Expression 43

Nazarian, D., & Smyth, J. (2013). An experimental test of instructional manipulations in

expressive writing interventions: Examining Process of Change, 32(1), 7196.
Shinko, R. E. (2006). Thinking, doing and writing international relation theory. Interna-
tional Studies Perspectives, 7, 4350.
van Dam, N. (2013). Inside the learning brain, learning and development. American Soci-
ety for Training And Development. T+D, 67(4), 30.
Worden, J. Fisher, K., & Hinton, C. (2011). What does the brain have to do with learning?
Brain Research, Kappan Magazine, 12(8).

Emmanuel Jean Francois and Carrie J. Boden-McGill

Creative writing provides a literary framework and a exible setting that incentiv-
izes imaginary, symbolic, and metaphoric contents, as well as informal, artistic,
and gurative styles, which enable the writer to captivate, provoke, or even en-
tertain a variety of audiences. While this reality represents a refreshing well of
opportunities for creative writers, scholars in the social and human sciences found
a rationale to raise doubts about the scholarly value of creative writing, especially
in regard to its subjective tone and arbitrary organization. Obviously, academic
writing is known to be conformist to the rules of scholarly accepted principles
that may limit the full release of creativity in ways that are truly liberating and
satisfying in the eyes of a creative writer. Consequently, many seem to develop
an assumption that creative writing and academic writing cannot dwell in a co-
existentially shared universe without compromising the integrity of one another.
This chapter intends to channel a counter narrative by arguing that creative and
academic writing can foster and nurture a healthy and fullling relationship that
allows for both scholarly and imaginary expressions. The purpose of this chapter

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages 4558.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 45

is to explore, analyze, and reect on the transculturally implications of creativity

in academic writing.
The chapter is articulated around a transcultural irtation framework, drawing
from the cross-cultural experiences of two creative writers and co-authors, who
are positioned from unique, but similar cultural backgrounds.


This section will position co-authors as members of transcultural communities,

thus carrying transcultural experiences related to their personal, cultural, and aca-
demic backgrounds that inuence their creative and academic writing. This sec-
tion will include two sub-sections, co-authors as academic writers and co-authors
as creative writers.

Co-Authors as Academic Writers

What is academic writing? As the term indicates, academic writing is done
for academic purposes and is based on rigorous requirements to justify the ex-
pectations of relevance set by targeted audiences. Academic writing concerns the
underlying theories and causes governing processes and practices in daily life.
Therefore, a piece of academic writing will explore alternative explanations for
every day events, follow a particular tone, adhere to traditional conventions of
punctuation, grammar, and spelling. More specically, a writer produces academ-
ic writing to:

Sustain academic life,

Share teaching experiences and scholarly ndings,
Foster academic career growth,
Maintain esteem (Self, group, department, institution),
Develop and maintain a network of support, and
Provide lived meaning to academic life.

Academic writing must comply with the need for connectedness to empirical real-
ity, expectations for scholarly structures, some level of objectivity, and overall ac-
ademic relevance to readers. Academic writing can be refereed (i.e., blind review,
peer review) or non-refereed (Self, invited). Academic writing has the challenges
of being time consuming, having a lack of adequate resources for data gathering,
and sustaining the scrutiny of lengthy blind/peer reviews. This section will posi-
tion the co-authors as academic writers through their academic backgrounds and
scholarly products (i.e., books, book chapters, peer review articles).
A Transcultural Perspective of Creativity in Academic Writing 47

Author Jean Francois as Academic Writer of Books, Edited Books,

and Book Chapters
As an academic writer, author Jean Francois has published four books, one ed-
ited book, and ve book chapters. Although the academic publications are schol-
arly in nature they are none less inuenced by the creative writing of the author
to create new words, new expressions, and alternative ways of looking at phe-
nomena or issues. The following paragraphs will outline summaries of selected
publications as a way to illustrate their creative facets.

Transcultural Blended Learning

Transcultural blended learning and teaching in postsecondary education (Jean

Francois, 2012) was written based on a desire to strengthens the understanding
of readers across nations and cultures on theories, models, research, applica-
tions, best practices, and emerging issues related to blended learning and teaching
through a holistic and transcultural perspective (Jean Francois, 2012). While this
text provides ideas and conceptual frameworks to plan, develop, implement, and
evaluate blended learning programs and courses, it also introduces new concepts
in the literature on transcultural teaching and learning. For example, the author in-
troduced the dimensions of transcultural integration framework, which argues for
analysis, and understanding of uniqueness, sameness, sameniqueness, and unique
sameness. Transcultural uniqueness concerns what a group of people learns,
teaches, knows, understands, sees, or does uniquely or differently. Transcultural
sameness refers to what a group of people learns, teaches, knows, understands,
sees, or does similarly, but calls differently. Transcultural unique sameness ad-
dresses the transcendental question What do we learn, teach, know, understand,
see, or differently, but serve a same general purpose? Transcultural samenique-
ness is about What do we learn, teach, know, understand, see, or similarly, but
has potential for applications in a unique context?

Financial Sustainability for Nonprofit Organizations

This book (Jean Francois, 2014a) was inspired by the reality of erce competi-
tion faced by nonprot organizations to secure sustainable funding, especially in
times of nancial and economic hardship. This book offers creative frameworks
to enable nonprot organizations to effectively further their goals and make a
long-term impact in the communities they serve, and to ensure they are nancially
sustainable. The book includes creative and practical tips and illustrative case
examples for the reader.

Building Global Education With a Local Perspective: An Introduction to

Global Higher Education

Building global education with a local perspective (Jean Francois, 2015) intro-
duces a creative and provocative conceptual framework that challenges existing

paradigms in global education, and promotes concepts, theories, and practices

associated with glocal higher education, based on the ideas of think globally,
act locally, and think locally, act globally. The book explicitly challenges the
critical thinking of scholars and policy makers in international, comparative, and
global education.

Author Jean Francois as Academic Writer of Refereed Journal Articles

Author Jean Francois has conducted empirical research that led to refereed
publications in professional journals. Article publications are primary for scholar-
ly purposes for use by scholars, faculty, and practitioners. The following represent
a sample of peer review articles published as an academic writer.

Motivation for Internationalization Scale

The Motivation for Internationalizing the Curriculum Scale (Jean Francois,

2012) was informed by Herzbergs two-factor motivation theory, involving intrin-
sic (motivator) and extrinsic (hygiene) factors of motivation. The MICS includes
20 items, and was administered to a national random sample of 418 college pro-
fessors in the United States. The validation of the case revealed that inuence
facultys motivation to internationalizing their curriculum is inuenced by a com-
bination of dominant intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors.

Perceptions of Globalization

The study that led to this article involved non-traditional American and inter-
national students at several U.S. colleges and universities, using interviews and
focus group techniques (Jean Francois, 2014b). American and international stu-
dents in the United States acknowledged some positive effects as well as their
discontent about globalization. However, the meanings of the discontent about
globalization differed based on the students cultural backgrounds and eld of
study. American students saw the offshore outsourcing practices of U.S. busi-
nesses as a threat for the American economy and hegemony in the world. Interna-
tional students in the U.S. perceived globalization as a transnational exploitation
of the working class in developing countries. Students in business related pro-
grams have different views of globalization in comparison to those in human and
social sciences. This underscores the implication that discontent about globaliza-
tion may not be properly understood exclusively in terms of industrialized versus
developing countries, but also in the context of a transnational, intercultural, and
cross-disciplinary framework.

Motivational Orientation Study

The purpose of the research that involved this article was to investigate the mo-
tivational orientations of non-traditional adult students to enroll in a degree-seek-
A Transcultural Perspective of Creativity in Academic Writing 49

ing program based on their academic goal (Jean Francois, 2014c). The Education
Participation Scale (EPS) was used to measure the motivational orientations of
participants. Professional advancement, cognitive interest, and educational prepa-
ration were found to be the dominant motivational orientations of non-traditional
adult college students. There were signicant differences in motivational orienta-
tions among associates, bachelors, masters, and doctoral degree students. The
ndings from this study provide opportunities for instructors and administrators
in higher education to use motivational orientations data in designing recruitment
materials and activities for their program as well as in adopting curriculum and
instruction strategies to increase students motivation toward learning.

Cross-Cultural Readiness

The CRES was developed from a grounded theory of intercultural interactions

(Jean Francois, 2012). The items were pilot tested on a convenience sample of
graduate students, administrators of international education programs, and faculty
members of postsecondary education institutions in various countries around the
world. The CRES encompasses six sub-scales, assessing racism bias, discrimina-
tion bias, ethnocentrism bias, prejudice bias, stereotype bias, international curios-
ity, cultural relativism, international communication, and intercultural sensitivity.
The CRES was designed to be used to assess the effectiveness of intercultural
interactions in study abroad programs or assignments in a foreign country.

Author Boden-McGill as Academic Writer of Books and Book

As an academic writer, author Carrie Boden-McGill has published four text-
books, four edited books, and eighteen book chapters. These publications are
scholarly in nature, but many of them employ literary tools such as metaphor,
imagery, word play, and recurring symbols. In the following paragraphs, excerpts
from selective publications will exemplify instances of creative writing elements
woven into academic writing.

Pathways to Transformation: Learning in Relationship

Transformative learning occurs through the process of perspective transforma-

tion, which often results from a disorienting dilemma or an accumulation of small
changes in meaning schemes over time. Perspective transformation includes
changes in self-perception (psychology), beliefs or meaning schemes (convic-
tions), and behavior (interaction with the external world). Pathways to Transfor-
mation: Learning in Relationship, co-edited with Sola Kippers (Boden-McGill
& Kippers, 2012), examines how two elds, adult education and counseling, ap-
proach transformative learning theory. In reviewing the literature, the editors soon
learned that there are divergent and convergent lines of research related to trans-
formative learning. To capture this phenomenon, the editors used the metaphor

of pathways. The framework facilitated by this metaphor enabled the editors

to fulll the mission of including multiple voices from various contexts in the
collection. The subtitle and organizational structure of the book, learning in rela-
tionship, also functioned as a metaphor-of-sorts to describe how transformative
learning occurs through the mutuality of learning in relationship (Walters,
2008) with self and others, with culture, context, and technology, and with aca-
demic elds of study. The collection synthesized current research on transforma-
tive learning and created a space for dialogue among scholars from various elds
to expand the knowledge base around transformative learning.

Developing and Sustaining Adult Learners

This book, co-edited with Kathleen P. King (Boden-McGill & King, 2014), is
the second volume in a book series afliated with the annual Adult Higher Educa-
tion Alliance Conference. The book encompasses signicant issues and questions
at the forefront of the eld of adult education. The books title was gleaned from
the theme of the 2012 conference. The editors asked the questions . . . What does
it mean to develop and sustain adult learners? What image, symbol, or metaphor
illuminates development and sustainability? When the editors answered this ques-
tion, the idea of symbiosis came to mind. In Greek, symbiosis is derived from
biosis (living) and sym (together). The editors used this metaphor to explore
how, in the eld, we might live together in relationship between facilitator and
learner, institution and students, organizations and stakeholders, and institutions
and constituents.

Seeing Oneself in the Other: A Model for Intercultural Competence in


This book chapter, coauthored with Nora Cavazos, Melisa Kakas, and Dorinda
Noble (Boden-McGill, Cavazos, Kakas, & Noble, 2014), builds on the model of
intercultural competence proposed in Conversations about Adult Learning in Our
Complex World, edited by Carrie J. Boden-McGill and Kathleen P. King. In this
model, the intersecting elements of the learning environment, teaching and learn-
ing practices, university redesign, leadership and professional development, and
meaningful assessment form the model of intercultural competence. The meta-
phor of a mirror is used throughout Seeing Oneself in the Other . . . to encourage
the reader to continuously reect and to examine his/her motivation, knowledge,
and skills in the areas of intercultural competence.

Author Boden-McGill as Academic Writer of Refereed Journal Articles

Author Carrie Boden-McGill has conducted studies that have resulted in ref-
ereed publications in professional journals. Journal articles are expected to be
written in a dispassionate tone and rarely allow for creative word choices or ex-
tensive use of metaphor. In some instances, such as qualitative research, sub-
A Transcultural Perspective of Creativity in Academic Writing 51

jectivity, lived experiences, and thick descriptions are included. The following
sample includes recent published peer-reviewed articles.

Research Goes Digital: Some Methods, Frameworks, and Issues

This article, co-authored with Geraldine Torrisi-Steele, Victor Wang, Amy Se-
divy-Benton, and Carrie Boden-McGill (2015), examines how the role of librar-
ians is changing in the digital age. The traditional work of librarians is connecting
researchers with resources. Currently, in order to remain relevant in the digital
age, librarians often take on an additional role by acting as digital guides and/
or engaging in research as co-investigators. In order to contribute to this work,
librarians must be well-trained in research methods, frameworks, and issues. This
article outlines competencies librarians need related to digital research.

Good Ol Boys, Mean Girls, and Tyrants: A Phenomenological Study of the

Lived Experiences and Survival Strategies of Bullied Women Adult Educators

This article, coauthored with Amy Sedivy-Benton, Gabriele Strohschen, Nora

Cavazos, and Carrie Boden-McGill (2015), examines the increasingly common
phenomenon of bullying in higher education. Workplace bullying in a university
setting may have a negative impact on the students learning environment, the
workplace culture, and the quality and quantity of work completed. This study
was a phenomenological investigation of the lived experiences of bullied women
adult educators. Six themes, positionality, differences, jealousy, clandestine deci-
sion-making, accountability/leadership, and blame the victim, emerged from the
data. Participants shared survival strategies for avoiding bullying and/or reducing
its personal and professional impact.

Unpacking the EffectsIdentifying School and Teacher Factors and Their

Influence on Teachers Intentions to Stay or Leave the Profession

In this article, co-authored with Amy Sedivy-Benton and Carrie Boden-McGill

(2013), the authors examined the costly implications of teacher turnover. Using
the most recent School and Stafng Survey (SASS) data from the National Center
for Education Statistics, the researchers conducted an analysis of teachers inten-
tions to stay or leave the profession of teaching. The results of the analysis indi-
cated that three factors, teacher inuence on school, teacher perception of control,
and teacher perceived support, are signicant in in teachers intentions to leave or
remain in the eld of education. By understanding these factors, administrators
and policymakers can implement interventions to improve work environments
for teachers. Teacher retention is an essential element of improving teacher and
school quality nationwide.

Co-Authors as Creative Writers

Simply put, creative writing refers to a form of expression that relies on the
use of imagery, narrative, intrigue, drama, and thought provocation to convey
particular meanings that can be diversely interpreted by various readers. There-
fore, creative writing is very subjective in its essence, in the sense that the writer
tends to primarily follow the lead of ones imagination rather than the scholarly
structures of academic writing. Creative writing allows exibility in its structure
to nurture the ourishing of imagination. The production of creative works has
provided opportunities to observe patterns in creative writing. Therefore, creative
writing is not without structures or organization. There are simply different forms
of structures that grant themselves license to defy certain rules of scholarly writ-
ing. Creative writing is inherently a very engaging and sophisticated endeavor
that requires the writer to be a prisoner of ones freedom to create ones own
universe and be the sole liberator at the same time. Both co-authors are creative
writers. Their cultural backgrounds shape their relationship with imaginary ex-
pression and their mental models when writing.

Co-author Jean Francois as a creative writer

Co-author Jean Francois was born in Haiti, and grew up in a country that cher-
ishes sentimentalism but was also troubled by ongoing political instability and
socio-economic inequality. Co-author Francois started to write poems and short
stories while in school, and started his writing career as a creative writer while
teaching literature in high school. His rst publication was a collection of poems
titled Cache-cache (Translation: Intimate Secret). As the title indicates, the col-
lection included exclusively poems that depicted the experience of the author with
love and his adventures with his lovers. The rst-person poems where inspired by
the French Romanticism of the 19th Century, as the following verse from one of
his poems illustrate:

You are the air I breathe.

My heart beats every breath you breathe.
Your smile satises my thirst.
Your words calm my hunger.
The souvenir of your beauty makes me fall asleep
And life would be meaningless
Without the hope of your love.

Later, he found his muse in political poetry, and more specically, social activ-
ism. He wrote on various themes such as poverty, social justice, political and eco-
nomic imperialism, and inequality. His poems related to such themes reected his
anger about oppression, exploitation, and injustice. In one of his poems, he wrote:

The GI put his boots

On the neck of the naked body
A Transcultural Perspective of Creativity in Academic Writing 53

The GI raped her hope

Until there was no blood left
Then, took a cup of hypocrisy
With a dirty smile
And said: Take! Take it! Take it!
This is democracy!
Take it! Take it! This is capitalism for your good!
And I spit on his face!

And later in his journey, his poems became closer to surrealism. They involved
more and more the creation of imageries that associate mist words and gures
for most people, but not for the creative universe that he created inside his imagi-
nation. His poem I stop learning a thing is an example of this quasi-surrealism

I spent all my chaos

In one page of your homework
And my condence bled, bled, bled
Until my grades go for the jugular,
Until I realized I was in your wilderness.
Your patience ran away!
Your compassion faded with the wind
You muzzled the mouth of your heart,
And I stopped learning a thing!

Co-author Boden-McGill as a creative writer

In the fourth grade, co-author Boden-McGill decided that she would become
a writer. She began writing stories, poems, and journaling as a hobby. In college,
she took studied creative writing and English Language and Literature. Follow-
ing college, she pursued a M.F.A. in creative writing, and her rst academic ap-
pointment was as a Writing Center Professional and English Instructor. She fell
in love with adult students and simultaneously began to think practically about a
life in academe. . . What would a THIRD degree in English/Writing do to help her
career? What is the job market like in the humanities? Given the dismal answers
to these questions, she decided to retain her post as an English professor while
pursuing a doctorate in adult education. For many years, she lived with a foot in
both worlds as an English professor who taught classes for adult students. Over
time, as opportunities arose, she migrated from a focus on publishing creative
writing and literary analysis pieces to social science-style writing needed for jour-
nals in the eld of adult education and to fulll administrative assignments. As the
trend continued over time, she realized that she had, like those who immigrate to
another country to seek new opportunities, intellectually and practically left her
academic home for another eld. Consequently, in 2007 she went on the market
as adult educator and has held adult education-related academic appointments
since that time.

Co-author Boden-McGills published poems are heavily inuenced by writers

such as Maxine Kumin, Mary Oliver, James Wright, Sharon Olds, Walt Whitman,
and Adrienne Rich. Her collection of poems, The Unabridged Body, explores the
relationship of text, place, and the human body. The introduction to this work dis-
cusses poetic inuence and the notion that all texts, regardless of time span, genre,
and geographical location, engage contemporaneously in conversation with what
T.S. Eliot would call the living whole of all literature.
The topics of Boden-McGills poems span from deeply personal reections
to political and intellectual matters. She experiments with poetic forms. Some
poems are concentrated with haiku-like brevity while others ramble through un-
expected associations and verbal play. Her favorite poetic devices include allitera-
tion, assonance, consonance, allusion, and enjambment. Examples follow in the
poem, Imprinting.

I dream about landscape and geese, hills like bosoms

and the online of full-bodies in ight occluding the moon

as Conrad Lorenz appears as a hologram or reection, the surface

and depth of his movements indistinguishable. His geese know

precisely when to turn together to fracture wind into words, topo-

graphy into syntax, terrain into the lexicon of the language of a perfect V

formation. I cant follow exactly what is being inscribed,

but can sense the sway of sounds straying into the evening

where wings beat in the wind, on water, manifest their motion

in ripples pushing out into the creases of pillow lines on my face.

I stretch and pull back skin, as if this would work like make-up
to conceal the fault underneath. I reveal nothing. The lines tell all

that cant be guessed. Indentations are superimposed

onto the ranks of geese who have memorized the clay and clouds

of countless counties from Canada to Kansas, where I know little

of either soil or sky, but return to the hollow where the moon,

half empty, holds me in her gaze for hours. Reected

light illumines impressions long after the geese nd home.

Co-author Boden-McGills story of her relationship with creative writing is

one of living in diaspora, with an occasional trip back to the homeland through in-
cidental encounters in everyday life: regular recognition and appreciation of craft,
stumbling across lines of poetry while surng the Internet, and once in a while, in
A Transcultural Perspective of Creativity in Academic Writing 55

a time of great inspiration, composing a new poem. Like the geese in the poem,
she always returns to her creative roots.

Transcultural Flirtation: Academic Writing Versus Creative Writing

in Transcultural Contexts
The co-authors have academic and creative writing experiences and have cross-
cultural experiences and interactions with people from diverse backgrounds, at
both the personal and professional levels. Their reections from their personal
experiences suggest that academic writers who are also creative writers deal with
transcultural irtation that involves ones own culture (self), the readers culture
(reader), and the reviewers culture (reviewer).

Own Culture (Self)

Academic-creative writers irt with desires to express their deepest selves
even when they aim to further a scholarly purpose. Obviously, creative writing
is about both the expression of ones feelings, but also the art of communicating
such feelings in ways that others can feel. For the academic/creative writer, it is
not that different. Therefore, academic writing of creative writers tends to borrow
from their creative selves, and consequently, they try to express their scholarly
ideas in creative ways that are still relevant to both scholars and practitioners.

Readers Culture (Reader)

Academic/creative writers are challenged with the intent to satisfy readers
from both similar and different cultural experiences, needs, expectations of the
writers, and variable levels of exibility or tolerance for the ego of the writer. In
other words, readers bring their diverse life experiences to any text with which
they are interacting with. That life experience can be objective, subjective, or
combine both subjectivity and objectivity.

Reviewers Culture (Reviewer)

Academic/creative writers set their own expectation to please and convince
blind reviewers from both similar and different cultural experiences, needs, ex-
pectations of the writers, and variable levels of exibility or tolerance for the
ego of the writer. There is a serious risk for their writing to be perceived as un-
t, inappropriate, inadequate, or unacceptable, and not as serious work.
In other words, the greatness and uniqueness of personal expression in academic
writing can be easily dismissed. Similarly, the presence of formal structures in
creative writing can be easily challenged as too orthodox.

Transcultural Insights
This section will provide practical insights to the readers with respect to strate-
gies that can help successfully navigate the transcultural irtation and remain a
creative academic writer.

Openness to Social Reinvention

Writing is about recreating or reinventing our own world and the world around
us. Obviously, the world around us is made of our acquaintances, our relation-
ships, our communities, and our overall society. At the heart of all these facets of
our surrounding world dwell joy, love, hope, dream, happiness, success, achieve-
ment, and satisfaction. Similarly, our surrounding world carries pain, sorrow,
depression, neglect, abuse, low self-esteem, despair, oppression, exploitation,
discrimination, prejudice, racism, sexism, unmet needs, and other issues related
to the reality of life. An academic/creative writer should embrace the wholeness
of these facets with both their negatives and positives, and use her creative and
scholarly imagination to reinvent the surrounding world by inspiring as much
positive and sustainable change as possible. There is no guarantee that such social
reinvention will always be possible. The only thing that is possible is for one to
remain open to opportunities for social reinvention through creative and/or aca-
demic writing.

Embracing Subjective Knowledge as Valid

Academic research that is inspired by creative writing principles tend to be
dismissed as subjective, thus considered as not being scholarly work. The reality
is that subjectivity exists in both academic and creative writing. It is obvious that
creative writing carries a great deal of subjectivity. It is also obvious that scholars
select research topics based on their research agenda which simply is subjective.
This is why different researchers have different research agendas based on issues
or topics that interest them more or they are more curious about. The selection
of research topics is subjective. The choice of method of inquiry is subjective in
most cases. However, their subjectivity can be corrected through the adoption of
conventionally accepted objective framework. Therefore, academic/creative writ-
ers should embrace subjective knowledge as valid. They should push the boundar-
ies of inexible dogmas, without positing themselves against objectivity because
objectivity is contextual, and hence, limited.

Proactive Critical Creativity

The embrace of subjectivity should not be taken as a license to transform such
subjectivity into a dogma. This would be a reverse dogmatization. Subjectivity
must be purposeful and open to the scrutiny of critical thinking. The academic/
creative writer should proactively adopt principles of critical thinking by chal-
A Transcultural Perspective of Creativity in Academic Writing 57

lenging her writings, inviting others to challenge her work, and open to adjust-
ment subjectivity becomes an excuse for lack of professionalism.

Accommodation for ScholarlyPracticality

Creative writers should be open for creative research with potential accom-
modation for scholarly practicality. This serves as a win-win proposition. The
creative writer remains authentic to his own universe, but allows for others to
enter his universe in ways that are scholarly and practical to reviewers, readers,
researchers, and practitioners. Academic/creative writer should accommodate for
scholarly-practicality. In other words, whether subjectively or objectively written,
a piece of work should show some relevance to both scholars and practitioners.
Scholars can nd relevance even in work that provides them an opportunity to
make valid criticism. Practitioners will nd relevance in works that make sense to
their lived experience or their practice.

Academic writing is ruled by the principles of compliance to specic purposes re-
lated to theoretical or conceptual frameworks which are conventionally accepted.
Therefore, the rules of academic writing are set a priori. On the other hand, cre-
ative writing provides license for subjectivity or the ability of the writer to create
ones own universe. Academic writing is based on the need for connectedness to
empirical inquiry, expectations of scholarly structures, implications for research
and practices, and some form of objectivity. Creative writing is inspired by cre-
ativity and novelty, license for subjectivity, and exibility to go outside, inside,
above, underneath, or beyond the box, while surviving the scrutiny of convention-
al standards or dogmas. In a transcultural context, principles of academic writ-
ing and facets of creative writing can mingle to give birth to creative academic
writing works that serve both scholarly and literary purposes. Academic/creative
writers dispose various tools to that end, by embracing the challenge of trans-
cultural irtation and make themselves vulnerable to the magic of their favorite
words, as well as the seduction of their burning creativity. More concretely, this
may be likely to occur when an academic/writer opens herself for to opportunities
for social reinvention, embraces subjective knowledge as valid, adopts proactive
critical creativity, and accommodates for scholarly-practicality. It is important to
acknowledge that individual transcultural experiences must be considered only
within their own contexts.

Boden-McGill, C. J., Cavazos, N., Kakas, M., & Noble, D. (2014). Seeing oneself in
the other: A model for intercultural competence in education. In J. Gourlay & G.
Strohschen (Eds.), Building barriers and bridges: Interculturalism in the 21st Cen-
tury (pp. 7183). Oxford, UK: Inter-Disciplinary Press.

Boden-McGill, C. J., & King, K. P. (Eds.). (2014). Developing and sustaining adult learn-
ers. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
Boden-McGill, C. J., & Kippers, S. M. (Eds.). (2012). Pathways to transformation: Learn-
ing in relationship. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
Jean Francois, E. (2012a). Transcultural blended learning and teaching in postsecondary edu-
cation. Hershey, PA: IGI-Global.
Jean Francois, E. (2012b). Development of a scale to assess faculty motivation for internation-
alizing their curriculum. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 36(4). doi:10.1
Jean Francois, E. (2012c). The Cross-cultural Readiness Exposure Scale (CRES).Interna-
tional Pre-Conference of the American Association for Adult & Continuing Educa-
tion. November 35, 2012, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jean Francois, E. (2014a). Financial sustainability for nonprofit organizations. New York,
NY: Springer.
Jean Francois, E. (2014b). Perceptions of globalization by non-traditional adult students in
the U.S. International Journal of Business and Globalization, 13(3), 307321.
Jean Francois, E. (2014c). Motivational orientations of non-traditional adult students to en-
roll in a degree seeking program. New Horizons in Adult Education and Human
Resource Development, 26(2). doi: 10.1002/nha3.20060
Jean Francois, E. (2015). Building global education with a local perspective: An introduc-
tion to glocal higher education. New York, NY: Mcmillan.
Sedivy-Benton, A., & Boden-McGill, C. J. (2013). Unpacking the effectsidentifying
school and teacher factors and their inuence on teachers intentions to stay or leave
the profession. Research in the Schools, 19(4), 7589.
Sedivy-Benton, A., Strohschen, G., Cavazos, N., & Boden-McGill, C. J. (2015). Good ol
boys, mean girls, and tyrants: A phenomenological study of the lived experiences
and survival strategies of bullied women adult educators. Adult Learning, 26(1),
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cation, 26(2), 111118.

Why Every Creative Writer Needs One
Tina Murray

Each human being has an innate sense of wonder. As a child, you used yours
continually without realizing you were doing sowithout conscious awareness
every time you played pretend or created a mud pie or performed a cartwheel
spontaneously. You were using your imagination. You were lled with wonder at
being newly alive. You believed you could do or be anything.
Wonder and imagination go hand in hand. While pretending to be a prince or
princess, you believed in your imaginary world. Today, as a weary adult writer;
however, you may feel you have lost touch with your imaginative faculty, but it
is still there.
Its probably in your mental closet, right next to your sense of wonder. Most
likely, your sense of wonder is lying dormant within you, too, pining away, wait-
ing to be rediscovered and dusted off, along with your imagination and belief. Be-
coming aware retrieving your sense of wonder will go a long way towards helping
you create your own vision of good with your writing. By bringing your capacity
for wonder into conscious awareness, you can tend it, feed it, and develop it until
it becomes a vital and active part of your creative process. Nurture the capacity
for wonder, and it will bloom abundantly, informing your writing with grace, ro-

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages 5964.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 59

mance, beauty, wisdom, and insight. Cultivating it will help revive your abilities
to imagine and believe.
Who knows? It may even lead you to ultimate truth. The purpose of this chap-
ter is to guide you in furthering this process. In the following paragraphs, I will
address, briey and informally, two questions so that writers who are unfamiliar
with the concept of a sense of wonder may put a name to their heightened experi-
ences and benet creatively from them. These two questions are:
What is a sense of wonder? Why do creative writers need a childlike
sense of wonder?
By opening yourself in abandonment, both mentally and spiritually, to wonder,
you, as a writer, indeed, every member of the creative communitycan expand
your own creative production and enable yourself to bring more and better writing
projects to completion. So, let us look rst at meaning.


A sense of wonder, ultimately, is that state of innocent sudden or gradual aware-
ness in which you feel or experiences the grand reality of the entire universe and
beyondits majesty, mystery, and dynamic energy. It can happen to you or any-
one with any outlookfaith-based, science-based, or a combination thereofat
any time or place. Sometimes, wonderment erupts internally when you are con-
fronted by grandeur and spectacle, such as when you are contemplating an ocean
or a mountain range. Often, however, it emerges when you stumble across a small
or simple scene, such as raindrops on a windowpane or the antics of a beloved pet.
Sometimes it occurs as a result of delight or great joy, such as in lovemaking or
the news of a birth, or even tragedy, as in the midst of battle. It can be brought on
by visiting historic sites, handling relics, or learning about breathtaking scientic
discoveries. It can be avored with poignancy, pathos, joy, faith, or gratitude. It
can encompass the magical, the mystical, the strange, and the exotic. It can be a
eeting or long-lasting experience, a glimpse or a shadow or a full-blown know-
While experiencing wonder, you may feel an overwhelming inner knowledge
of transcendence, that quality of being stricken with awe and at-one-with by the
magnitude of life. In this state, you are able to see and experience the grandeur
of the endless life cycle, the miracle of existence, and the fragility, the transience,
of all living things. Deep within your personal core, you can sense with knowing
that you are part of an incredible, mysterious world, a world at once gigantic,
yet innitesimal, and beautiful, yet terribleincredible, astounding, fascinating,
fantastic... This experience is holistic, an exercise in totality of consciousness, of
wholeness in being, whether it occurs as an epiphany or a reverie. No rules exist,
and each experience is unique. If you, the writer, can bring such experiences into
conscious awareness, you can cultivate the capacity to experience and communi-
cate them, thereby giving readers what they ultimately crave: connection.
A Sense of Wonder 61


Writers, as well as readers, often feel the need for connection. We write to share
and communicate our thoughts and feelings. Connection with whom or what?
Among other things, with ourselves, other human beings, the Higher Power, the
known universe, and beyond. How you conceptualize the world will impact how
you answer that question. Only you can answer it for yourself. I am suggesting
that, no matter what your world view, wonder will open you to a greater experi-
ence of being alive while you exist on the planet. It will add color, depth, and
dimension to your work as a writer.
For a creative writer, an active sense of wonder can broaden the scope and un-
derstanding of lifemental, spiritual, and physical. It can support your growth in
wisdom and profundity as you experience and express the human condition in all
its glory and degradation. If you are able to see life as it is, but then, see beyond
what is to the possibilities, you will write about that, thus encouraging intelligent
change for the better. You may nd that, as you challenge yourself to greater un-
derstanding of many difcult life experiences, wonder will enable you, the writer,
to discover beauty and hope in situations of ugliness and despair. Wonder will
allow you to envision hope where there is no hope, to examine humanitys height
and potential and realize the wonder-lled comfort found in minute, shared details
of everyday life. As you grasp the challenges faced by all sentient creatures, your
own expanded awareness will ow into your writing.
As you grow in understanding and compassion, your readers will relate to your
observations, both in details and generalities. Your readers will be more likely to
see themselves and others whom they know in the characters and situations you
create. As you increase your ability to nd the extraordinary in the ordinary, you
will help your readers to relate deeply to their own inner selves and to their con-
cept of a higher power and the innitebecause that is what you will be doing,
too, when you write.
Furthermore, the wonder-connection to higher realms or energies can help
strengthen your belief in yourself. Belief in yourself will enable you to bring
more of your own works to completion. The sense of wonder can help you ac-
complish a great deal as a writer. As you accomplish these feats, your condence
will explode, and your writing will be more likely to approach artistry. Certainly,
it can take on greater signicance.
Artistry in writing is a manifestation of not only talent and skill, but also pro-
found awareness and insight. To be most effective as a creative writerpoet, nov-
elist, playwright, screenwriter, and lyricistyou need to be in touch with as much
true-life experience as possible, while also being able to experience the transcen-
dent and, perhaps, impact humanitys understanding of itself and the universe(s).
If you are a writer who wants to change the world or express it or both, a purpose-
ful, ever-widening scope can help you to mature, as a creative individual, through
the development of important qualities such as compassion and empathy, often
by-products of awareness, wisdom, and life choices made, for better or worse. As

you come to comprehend the vicissitudes of life, the consequences of thoughts

held, and the actions taken as a result of specic thoughts dominating the mind of
an individual or group, you will develop into a sage. Like a singer coming down
on a note, you will comprehend rightly what previously seemed incomprehen-
sible. All this thanks to wonder!
An active sense of wonder can lead you to a feeling of unity with the whole
whatever it is, in actualityand, as a result, allow you to realize that you are
part of the great totality. This may lead you to grasp that your own mind is a
creative portal for innite mind. Awareness is the path, and wonder is the gateway
to bringing ones vision into reality by believing in oneself. Belief is the latchkey
that will open your door to creation and fulllment. The rst step in this process,
as a writer, is to increase your awarenessto become aware of awareness.


Awareness is not necessary to the experiencing of wonder, but it can increase
your receptivity and control. However, just as writers can have differing goals,
so awareness can mean different things to different writers at different stages.
For some writers, awareness can mean a cognizance of the physical environment,
ones immediate surroundings. For others, it can indicate a receptive intuition,
a feeling for the emotional vibrations or energy given off by human and other
sentient beings. For still others, it can mean a focus on tiny, telling detailsof
movement, expression, appearance, sound, and scent. For some, awareness can
indicate focus on the ve known senses: smell, taste, touch, hearing, and vision.
All these understandings of awareness are valid, and all are gifts, ne tools t for
any writers toolbox.
However, the discussion here is focused on awareness-in-the-moment as ex-
panded consciousness with realizationa grand, innocent awein the qualied
form of a childlike sense of wonder. Two of wonders aesthetic offshoots are
romance and beauty, and I advocate for both. However, such loveliness can be a
tough sell in an age of cynicism and skepticism, which, of course, is all the more
reason to pursue it. The need is great. If humanity loses its ability to visualize and
create beauty or anything else positive, there will be no future. A sense of child-
like wonder is the foundation for the building of creative works by individuals and
the destiny of our creative speciesand there is hope if awareness can prevail.
Your innate sense of wonder can be developed only through an ever-expanding
awareness of mind. Your sense of wonder grows the awe in awareness. Be-
gin by communing with nature, preferably in solitude. Focus your attention on a
single leaf, for instance. Contemplate it deeply. . .
Art as well as nature offers opportunities to raise awareness. A work of art is
often an expression of wonder as experienced by the works creator. Artists in all
eldsvisual arts, performing arts, literary artstend to be creative adults who
have retained the childlike capacity for play and make-believe. Hence, they seem
A Sense of Wonder 63

to be able to create something out of nothinglike magic: a poem, a composition,

a dance, a painting, a novel. Voila!
Not only do they experience childlike wonder, but they also use it operation-
ally. They visualize and produce their visions. In doing so, they also attempt to
preserve and communicate their heightened experiences, along with the insights
and observations they have gained, to others through the creation of works. Leg-
endary action teacher, Harry Maestrogeorge, relentlessly encouraged his student
actors to open their instruments to childlike wonder in the moment, thus freeing
the actors to imagine and believe during rehearsals and performances. You, as a
creative writer, are your own instrument, also, and may benet in a similar fash-
ion, if you based your awareness in acceptance.
Acceptance extrapolates wonder. Resistance shuts it down. To ourish, the
sense of wonder requires an openness of mind and heartan innocent acceptance
of all that is. This willingness to accept, which is the forerunner to pretending and
make-believe, allows for the realizationand the operationof a greater force
beyond the obvious physical manifestation. Without imagination, there can be
no creativity. As a writer, actor, artist, one must accept the possible reality of an
imaginary situation. Unless you do this, all hope of bringing an imaginary world
into being is lost. A refusal to accept without hesitationi.e., disbeliefnegates
wonderment and imagination. Creation requires the inhaling of ideas and formu-
lating these thoughts into careful plans.
Thus inspired, creative individualsincluding visual artists, actors, musicians,
dancers, and creative writersoften discover intuitive perceptions which allow
them to function as intermediaries between the physical and metaphysical realms,
not unlike artistic shamans. For these creatives, who haveor wish to increase
experiences of heightened consciousness and convey such to others, the possibili-
ties are innite. If communing with nature and art seems outlandish to you right
now, then start your quest for wonder where you live: in your own writers head.
Start with words. In addition to communing with nature and works of art, I sug-
gest contemplating words which conjure aspects of wonder, such as astonishment,
rapture, enchantment, incredible, fantastic, fascinating, mesmerizing, charm, ro-
mance, awesome, magnicence, mystical, cosmic, energy, miraculous, marvelous
vibration, joy, truth, beauty, love, faith, and belief. No doubt, you will come up
with words of your own, many of them, if you choose to believe.
Belief is a component of success in creativity in more ways than one. The abil-
ity to love and believe in ones vision is crucial to artistic attainment. The differ-
ence between creatives who bring their ideas to fruition and those who do not is
a function of belief, the belief in ones own vision, worth, and ability to produce
work of value. Belief is what pulls a creation out of the ether and into the physical
realm. To participate fully in this process of creation, one must have a capacity
for wonder, imagination, belief, and love. In days to come, I will develop on these
ideas in a broader format and present them, along with applications and exercises,
in future publications and workshops. I hope they will be of benet to you.


To sum up, we have addressed the meaning of a sense of wonder and discussed
some of the reasons why a sense of wonder is important if you are a creative writ-
er. I encourage you to resurrect your own sense of wonder, the one you discarded
when you left childhood behind. Remove it from your mental closet and air it out.
Then try it only for t. The resurrection of your sense of wonder will allow you,
as a creative writer, to nd the marvelous in even the most mundane aspects of
living. All of us live daily with millions of small miracles happening around us.
Realizing what is causative, what underlies creation, and not just seeing, hearing,
feeling a thing or action itself, which is merely the result of causation, is the hall-
mark of a hearty and thriving sense of wonder.
I encourage you to become a practitioner of wonder. Make it a lifelong pursuit.
To the practitioner of wonder, the utter complexity of existence itself becomes
apparent in the perfumed petals of a single lily. Become a practitioner of the sense
of wonder and assure yourself of a fascinating life and writing experiences. Even-
tually, you will realize that the greatest miracle of all is youwho you really are,
that is.


Why Should Anyone Care What Theorists Have
to say About Creativity and Literature?
Joseph Ballantyne

The ambition of much of todays literary theory seems to be to nd ways to

read literature without imagination.
Charles Simic, The Unemployed Fortune-Teller: Essays and Memoirs

At rst, I was glad for the help [offered by literary theory]. My freshmen
English class, Mythology and Archetypal Experience, confounded me.
I didnt understand why we couldnt just read books without forcing con-
torted interpretations on them
Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Reading a novel after reading semiotic theory was like jogging empty-hand-
ed after jogging with hand weights. What exquisite guilt she felt, wickedly
enjoying narrative! Madeleine felt safe with a nineteenth century novel.
There were going to be people in it. Something was going to happen to them

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages 6776.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 67

in a place resembling the world. Then too there were lots of weddings in
Wharton and Austen. There were all kinds of irresistible gloomy men.
Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot

To the uninitiated reader, academic culture is often intimidating, confusing, and

alienating. To these readers, it is opaque and useless; to aspiring writers, it is
frustrating and unrewarding because their purpose in writing is unclear, and the
audience from whom they wish to gain approval is unresponsive. Consequently,
few readers or writers who are not already trained and experienced in academic
literacy venture to explore and exploit the wealth of insight and inspiration that is
available through a cross-disciplinary study of the natural world, human psychol-
ogy, and our shared social reality. As the range, scope, and depth of our knowledge
continues to expand at an unprecedented rate, this inability to access this reservoir
of knowledge and inspiration is a great misfortune and unnecessary handicap for
one who is interested in individuals and the society as a whole. Learning a little
about the nature and purpose of academic writing can expand anyones horizons
and open great reservoirs of beauty and knowledge as well as empower the writer
to address complicated and controversial issues of personal and public interest.
Academic literacy is reading and writing using theory and evidence to explore,
explain, and change the world with the intention to advance our knowledge of
fundamental elds of enquiry and to promote progress toward social justice and
personal enrichment. Every academic discipline addresses distinctive problems
using characteristic methods that are dened and adjudicated by qualied and
concerned communities of experts. Readers in these elds need to understand the
essential vocabulary, the discourse procedures, and the frames of reference for
the current set of problems and objectives that are signicant to the community
of experts within the discipline. Books and articles in any academic eld of study
assume a prior knowledge of these basic elements. Without this foundation, there-
fore, interested, yet uneducated, readers will often lack sufcient background
knowledge to interpret their selected academic writing. Frequently, they will be
unable to apply or extend the specialized results, conclusions, or implications.
Similarly, aspiring writers seeking to contribute to an academic discipline and
assert their voice within the academic community must understand and master
these rules of the game or risk being ignored or, worse, dismissed as ignorant
and irrelevant.
Many students and writers of all kinds have found academic writing, especially
academic literary studies, to be intimidating, obtuse, and frequently irrelevant.
It neither enlightened them about the nature of their craft nor enabled them to
write better prose or poetry. This is understandable. For readers and writers to
appreciate academic writing, we must be familiar with the assumptions and prin-
ciples, the goals and methods, and the terms and values of the eld. This is true
of any academic discipline. Few can open a calculus text and immediately relish
the beauty of the theory of limits. And the same is true for physics, chemistry,
economics, philosophy, etc. Yet, we can often read a poem or a novel and im-
Academic Literacy and the Creative Writer 69

mediately be moved and fascinated by the language, the images, the story, or the
wisdom embodied in the text. Nevertheless, few readers or aspiring writers can so
easily describe, analyze, or evaluate these works, and not surprisingly, the normal
response is to dismiss literary criticism and analysis as vain and arrogant intellec-
tual games that only serve to extinguish all the wonder and joy in reading or writ-
ing creatively. Many great creative writers have shared this opinion, so I cannot
deny that the creative process may be incompatible with academic analysis. Most
of the other academic disciplines have not found deep, systemic knowledge of the
eld as expressed in abstract terms and complex arguments to be an impediment.
Most, to the contrary, have found this knowledge to be essential for substantial
work that advances the horizons of their eld. As an example of academic writ-
ing, could literary theory and critical analysis also serve to empower writers of all
kinds to read more sensitively, think more astutely, and write more meaningfully?
In this short paper, I will try to make this case.
In this paper, I hope to open the door to one eld of study that can illustrate
the basic features of academic writing by offering insight into the art of creative
writing and the inherent structure guiding the forces that determine the publish-
ing choices, evaluation, and reception of literary genres and imaginative litera-
ture. First, I will briey discuss the current dominant literary theories, and then I
will employ these theories to explore and explain a few important aspects of the
structure and character of the literary marketplace. To illustrate these features of
contemporary literary studies, I will discuss two related examples of the puzzle
of popularity: why some works are received enthusiastically by the reading pub-
lic and others are ignored, and why the popularity and prestige of those works
sometimes rise and fall with time. I will briey analyze the very famous case of
the crossing fates of two American classic novels: Uncle Toms Cabin and Moby
Dick. Based on this analysis, I will conclude with some suggestions for authors
on how they might understand ction, genre, and literature in order to develop
their work further and position themselves within the literary market for greater
satisfaction and success.
All academic writing usually includes three basic modes: description, analysis,
and argument. Academic writers must identify their area of study by naming and
describing the phenomena of interest. They must develop their description by sit-
uating the problem or topic within a framework of interpretation that illuminates
issues of concern for the reader and the researcher. Then they need to indicate the
principles that structure their eld of study and the methods that will be used to
examine their topic.

Literary theory refers to any principles derived from internal analysis of literary
texts or from knowledge external to the text that can be applied in multiple interpre-
tive situations. All critical practice regarding literature depends on an underlying
structure of ideas in at least two ways: theory provides a rationale for what consti-
tutes the subject matter of criticismthe literaryand the specic aims of critical
practicethe act of interpretation itself. (Brewton, n. d., para 1)

Some issues of great interest in literary theory over the last century have been:
the role of the author in determining and controlling the meaning or the work;
the role that literature plays in advancing or retarding political and social change;
the value of the traditional canon in educating and socializing students as well
as its capacity to transmit meaningful and desirable cultural traditions and moral
values. Other issues of more recent concern have been: the effects of intensied
commodication of all arts, and the viability of literature in a rapidly evolving
technological environment that is replacing the book with the computer, the page
with the screen, and the sentence with the interactive image. To address these is-
sues, literary theory has had to adopt, adapt, and articulate specic applications of
theories from many other elds: psychology, history, linguistic philosophy, soci-
ology, economics, and applied engineering. This multidisciplinary approach that
relies on conceptual eclecticism and inter-textual analysis is one of the distinctive
features of current literary studies.
One question that engages most of the important issues of the eld of literary
studies is: Why are some works so much more popular than others? Related to
this question is the puzzle of durability and universality: Why do some books
continue to be read and treasured by generations of readers who differ in race,
class, gender, and culture? Any writer who wants to secure an audience for his
work and who wants to earn a living from his work, must be concerned with these
questions, even if they do not determine his choices and creative efforts. Shake-
speare is the standard example with which to frame these questions. Why were
his plays and poetry so popular and why did they wax and wane over the century
following his death? Why did his revival approach idolatry, and why has his ap-
peal persisted so long with so many readers and playgoers in so many different
cultures, religions, and social arraignments? Dr. Johnson, the great 18th Century
scholar and critic, argued that nothing lasts long that does not both please and edu-
cate the reader. He thereby claimed that Shakespeares work possessed a natural
and universal beauty that revealed eternal moral and intellectual values that enrich
and enlighten the reader.
More recent critics might argue that continued popularity is not due to any
superior aesthetic value or greater depth of thought. Instead, the public preference
for certain authors work is the result of the socialization process that begins with
school curriculums and extends into commercial and artistic choices through-
out the cultural marketplace that are based on the bias of cultural guardians, like
teachers, professors, critics, editors, and play and lm producers, exercising the
reinforcing powers of capital, social prestige, and political ideology. The game
is rigged from the beginning, and the chosen spokesmen for the privileged elite
classes continue to serve the goals of the master class. Shakespeare did write for
the monarchy and the aristocracy; he was a successful businessman who was un-
ashamed of his wealth and reclaimed his fathers lost title as a gentleman. Some
have called him a Tutor propagandist, but his vision seems wider to me and his
talents seem to speak to a broader spectrum of humanity about issues of common
Academic Literacy and the Creative Writer 71

interest in a manner that has proven to be inspirational to many with no interest

in political or social conicts. The question is open to debate and the problem
remains unresolved.
The example we will consider is more recent but no less fraught with signi-
cance for American writers, readers, and critics: Why was the initial reception of
the two great novels of mid-nineteenth century America, Uncle Toms Cabin and
Moby Dick, so different and why were their relative critical and nancial fates
reversed in mid-twentieth century only to arrive a approximate parity by early
twenty-rst century? In other words, what is the source of artistic value and how
is this related to nancial success? Why do great books fail to nd an audience?
Why do bad works prosper? Is there really any way to distinguish between good
and bad writing independent of the marketplace? Can millions of readers be mis-
taken about their choices? Are those readers really free to make independent judg-
ments or are they merely choosing products that have already been prepared for
them and for which they have been predisposed and programmed to prefer? What
would cause subsequent generations of readers to reverse these general opinions?
Is artistic value intrinsic to the work or merely a transient fad of momentary popu-
lar taste? Do writers have any enduring principles to guide their choices as they
imagine, compose, and craft their work? These are deep and abiding questions
that would require an extended discussion with detailed descriptions of a wide
selection of texts, rigorous analyses of those works, and sound and complete ar-
guments that address the literary and critical antecedents as well as conicting
voices and their alternative approaches. An adequate and thorough response to
these questions is well beyond the scope and purpose of this paper, so I will limit
my efforts to a very inadequate sketch, hoping to indicate the basic elements of
academic writing as exemplied by literary analysis and to suggest the potential
value, for writers of all kinds, in the academic study of literature, including the
mastery of its discourses, its methods of analysis, and its standards of argument.
After the initial statement of the question to be examined and an explanation of
its relevance and importance to the reader and the community of concerned schol-
ars, traditional literary analysis begins with denitions of the critical terms used in
the investigation, indicating the theoretical framework. For example, traditional
criticism from the late 19th Century would begin with an examination of the genre
and the authors biography, seeking to establish important experiences and intel-
lectual inuences that might have shaped the authors thoughts and expressions.
As a denitive basis of interpretation for ction, biographical and source studies
have been abandoned as the linguistic, socio-political, and psychological theo-
ries of Saussure, Marxism, and Freud persuaded critics that ctional products are
constructed from pre-existing concepts, values, and terms within the language
to meet commercial goals predetermined by the marketplace and motivated by
hidden unconscious desires and displacements reecting innate struggles against
social conventions and restraints. Most critics today assume a collectivist stance
that looks to the preexisting moral, artistic, and linguistic environment that sur-

rounds and incorporated the writer and from with the work emerges. In our case,
both works are novels, so we can begin with this vehicle of signicance. The
Oxford English Dictionary denes a novel as a ctitious prose narrative or tale
of considerable length depicting characters and actions representative of real life
(Novel, 2015).
In his recent study, The Novel: A Biography, Michael Schmidt (2014) ques-
tions the adequacy of this brief formal denition and offers a more complete his-
torically informed description:

The novel, a form that grows with protestant individualism, education, technology
and capitalism, is rooted in medieval soil. In structure, in intended effect, it has more
in common with medieval than Renaissance concerns. Its audience is not, to begin
with aristocratic or learned; nor is it limited to the new middle class. The illusion of
factuality that ction tried and often still tries to create, lying to entertain and at the
same time morally to instruct and exhort, means that it has much in common with
allegory. Concentrating on trial, on testing character, with evidence presented and
examined, it relates also to medieval verse debates and dialogues and early theater,
the mystery and miracle plays. It is more serious in its intentions than romance,
which supplied the pleasure but only a specialized form of moral uplift. In formal
terms it owes little, in its early phases, to the classics or to humanism. (p. 25)

What distinguishes the novel is that it is a new story, reecting its origins in
Italian, but its newness does not only consist in innovations in the basic formal
elements of plot, character, setting, or style. The novelty of novels is their capacity
to transform the reader: we become new people. The readers self-understanding
is transformed through the process of reading and reecting. After reading a great
novel, we are not the same persons. In the spirit of the old Protestant journals of
reection, an attractive and persuasive novel will induce us to confront our joys,
our hopes, our fears, our sins, our strengths, and our weaknesses. We take an ac-
counting and contemplate our fate, our past, and our future. We emerge from the
struggle, the quest, the dance with new sense of the world and our place in it.
Uncle Toms Cabin (UTC), published on 20 March 1850, is captivity romance,
beginning in slavery and ending in emancipation, a quest to overcome monstrous
injustice to achieve freedom. From the beginning, Uncle Toms Cabin was a stun-
ning success:

The initial printing of 5,000 copies was soon exhausted, and by 1 April 1852 a sec-
ond printing of 5,000 had appeared. In mid-April, Jewett announced that these two
printings had been sold in two weeks and added: Three paper mills are constantly
at work, manufacturing the paper, and three power presses are working twenty-four
hours per day, in printing it, and more than one hundred book-binders are inces-
santly plying their trade to bind them, and still it has been impossible, as yet, to sup-
ply the demand. And demand did not slack off. By mid-May it was announced that
fty thousand copies had been sold, by mid-September seventy-ve thousand, and
by mid-October one hundred twenty thousand. (Winship, 2002, p. 314).
Academic Literacy and the Creative Writer 73

We follow the journey from slave to free person and in the process, Harriet
Beecher Stowe intends for her readers to free their minds of prejudice, bigotry,
intolerance, and cruelty. Stowe spoke and found resonance in an America stum-
bling toward civil war.
Moby Dick (MD) is quest or adventure romance. Beginning in fear, depression,
and despair, and ending in resolution, acceptance, and calm, the hero searches for
meaning and redemption. We follow the journey from callow novice to chas-
tened survivor, and in the process Melvilles challenging story and intricate,
multi-vocal narrative demands that his readers free their minds of intellectual
and moral arrogance, indifference to suffering, greed, and unbounded ambition.
Melville gained an audience in the wake of the cataclysm of the horrors of the
industrial slaughter in the Great War. In contrast to the almost universal acclaim
and approval showered on Stowes melodramatic romance of enslavement and
emancipation, Moby Dick was almost completely ignored initially and then for-
gotten for nearly a century.

On 18 October, the English edition, The Whale, was published in a printing of only
500 copies. On 18 October, the English edition, The Whale, was published in a print-
ing of only 500 copies bout 1,500 copies were sold within eleven days, and then
sales slowed down to less than 300 the next year. After three years the rst edition
was still available, almost 300 copies of which were lost when a re broke out at
the rm in December 1853. In 1855 a second printing of 250 copies was issued, in
1863 a third of 253 copies, and nally in 1871 a fourth printing of 277 copies, which
sold so slowly that no new printing was ordered. Moby Dick was out of print during
the last four years of Melvilles life, having sold 2,300 in its rst year and a half
and on average 27 copies a year for the next 34 years, totaling 3,215 copies. Mel-
villes earnings from the book add up to $1,260: the 150 advance from Bentley was
equivalent to $703, and the American printings earned him $556, which was one
hundred dollars less than he earned from any of his ve previous books. Melvilles
widow received another $81 when the United States Book Company issued the book
and sold almost 1,800 copies between 1892 and 1898. (Tanselle, 1988, pp. 810812)

So if we were to explore the reasons that a work of ction is popular, nancially

successful, critically admired, and artistically inuential, we might begin by ob-
serving that linguistic theories such as deconstruction would insist that these are
really several inter-related but separate questions that must interrogated through
specic, concrete examples.
According to current approaches in Cultural Studies, any specic example
would have to be acknowledged to be only an individual work that is representa-
tive of a particular culture, time period, genre, and language. Thereby, any at-
tempt to generalize or universalize our argument would be invalid and its ndings
would have a highly circumscribed scope and limited application. Feminist theory
would emphasis the authors biography in order to draw attention to the privi-
leged role men have had in educational preparation, cultural uency, access to the
marketplace, and critical acceptance as well as intergenerational prestige which

embeds their work within the canon thereby perpetuating standards and expecta-
tions that promote and ease acceptance and rewards for subsequent generations
of male authors. Modernists would seek the autonomous aesthetic qualities that
reveal innovative formal expression of enduring human problems within the con-
text of daunting and difcult historical moments that threatens disintegration and
meaninglessness. Great and signicant ction for them would be that thread of
Ariadne that leads us up from the dark labyrinth of despair and into the light of a
new made world of fertility and community. Post-modernists would seek for the
hidden collaborations between the author, the market, and regimes of oppression.
They would search the seams and crevasses of the ctional structure of language,
form, and meaning for the contradictions within the text that reveal the lies lurk-
ing within any and all systems of thought. These systems form the background
and framework of the work of ction and covertly claim to explain or justify
the unjust institutions that uphold the current malignant and exploitative world
order. A post-modernist critic might wish to expose the culture industry of late
capitalism, which includes all kinds of ctional modes, lm, television, music,
games, and books. According to some of these theorists, these cultural products
are all based on trivial entertainments, intended to disorient, distract, and disem-
power the consumers; and thereby, robbing them of meaningful lives and politi-
cal agency, thus allowing for the perpetuation of a power elite dedicated to class
dominance of the economy, racial superiority, global political hegemony based on
industrial and military violence, and the repression of political change.
Without delving too deeply into the implications, any one of these theoretical
constructs for the two novels in questions, we can at least note that masculine
adventure sagas and historical romances like the Leatherstocking Tales by J.F.
Cooper and Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott were very popular in the rst half of the
19thC as were the emerging genres of Gothic and Horror as represented in the
work of the Bronte sisters and Poe; so, formal and genre considerations would ap-
parently have favored Melvilles novel. However, tastes in genre were changing.
UTC combined melodrama and sentimentality with social message and reformist
intentionlike Dickens in The Old Curiosity Shop and Oliver Twist. While the
established dominant paradigm favored MD, the popularity of the emergent style
provided a sympathetic audience for OTC. Furthermore, the French revolution,
the Napoleonic wars, and the Second Great Awakening had created a social, polit-
ical, and cultural framework in which personal, spiritual, and national emancipa-
tion facilitated demands for universal suffrage and the abolition of slavery; so so-
cial and political considerations favored Stowes story of resistance, protest, and
liberation as well. In addition, white middle-class women dominated the reading
public. UTC relocated the center of power away from traditional male bastions of
powerthe capitol, the courts, the factories, the docks and the marketplace to
the home and the kitchen. Women became leaders and liberators.
The decline in popularity for UTC, and MDs rise, coincided with the rise of
English as an academic discipline and the professionalization of writing. While
Academic Literacy and the Creative Writer 75

UTC was seen as unsophisticated and nave, direct, emotional, and earnest (all
of which had contributed to the novels widespread popularity, its power, and
its effectiveness as a revolutionary polemic), academic scholars discovered that
MD was philosophical, symbolic, and formal inspired by Shakespeare and Haw-
thorne. Modernist scholars and students had endured the collapse of the ancient
aristocratic empires, the brutality of the unprecedented technologically enabled
destruction of the war, and the failure of traditional moral and religious codes
to limit or restrain hatred and cruelty unleashed by the nationalistic and racist
struggles. For them and the reading public of the mid-twentieth century, MDs
complex, inter-textual structure, its moral ambiguity, its racial and religious plu-
rality, and its brooding sense of doom represented a prophetic warning that had
gone unheeded. As the second war approached, the unimaginable repetition and
escalation of violence was upon them, MD embodied the struggle to confront the
demons of Western, scientic, capitalist, and imperialist hubris. With time, this
sense of profound insight into our societys psychopathology has only grown to
include the environmental devastation as well as racial and religious intolerance.
Today, many scholars and many readers (both domestic and especially foreign)
view Moby Dick as the great American novel.
Our analysis has indicated that the success of a book depends on formal genre
preferences by both popular, scholarly audiences as well as historical, social
trends and concerns. As these change, a works popularity and relevance rises and
falls. The intrinsic qualities of the novel as manifested in plot, character, imagery,
setting, tone, and language are received and interpreted by the reading public ac-
cording to broader issues of social and political relevance and aesthetic resonance.
A great and beautiful work can be rejected by publishers or languish unread by
an audience that is unprepared to accept its methods, values, and style. Novel-
ists, poets, and non-ction writers need to be aware of the dominant discourse of
their eld, the leading scholars who guide judgment and taste, the popular as well
as the elite opinions of exemplary work in their area. They should become and
remain aware of the complexities of our rapidly evolving religious, moral, social,
political, technological, economic, and natural environment, in order to address
the taste and concerns of their audience, and to see where and how signicant
artistic innovation is possible. Perhaps, ultimately all writers write for themselves,
but as we learn more about ourselves, our society and the natural world we often
want to write to a purpose. Academic literacy can help us explore, explain, and
change our world through more persuasive argument and focused attention to our
audience and their demands.

In this brief analysis, I have attempted to illustrate the character of academic

writing and to demonstrate the potential benet literary analysis can offer to cre-
ative writers. I have employed theory and evidence that explore and explain an
important artistic and cultural issue in order to promote greater awareness of the
complex interaction between art, the individual, and society. With this awareness,

I believe all writers can produce more successful, more pleasurable, and more
meaningful work.

Bechdel, A. (2006). Fun home: A family tragicomic. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifin.
Brewton, V. (n.d.). Literary theory. Retrieved from
Eugenides, J. (2011). The marriage plot. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Melville, H. (1988). In Moby-Dick, or, the whale: The writings of Herman Melville (Vol.
6), H. Harrison, H. Parker, & G. Tanselle (Eds.). Chicago IL: Northwestern Uni-
versity Press.
Melville, H., & Tanner, T. (1998). Moby Dick. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Melville, H., & Thomas, T. (1983). Redburn, his first voyage; White-jacket, or, The world
in a man-of-war; Moby Dick, or, The whale. New York, NY: Literary Classics of the
United States.
Novel. (2015). In Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved from
Schmidt, M. (2014). The novel: A biography. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Simic, C. (1994). The unemployed fortune-teller: Essays and memoirs. Ann Arbor, MI:
University of Michigan Press.
Tanselle, G. T. (1988). Editorial appendix. In H. Harrison, H. Parker, & G. Tanselle (Eds.),
Moby-Dick, or, the whale: The writings of Herman Melville (Vol. 6, pp. 763953).
Chicago, IL: Northwestern University Press.
Stowe, H., & Yellin, J. (1998). Uncle Toms cabin. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Winship, M. (2002). The greatest book of its kind: A publishing history of Uncle Toms
cabin. Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society.

Expanding Your Creative Writing
Through Use of the Library
Janet Walsh

Libraries are unique treasure troves that allow creative writers to expand their
literary and professional reach through creativity, community, and entrepreneur-
ship. They offer extreme value through visibility, awareness, location, usage, and
exchange. Long gone are the days when libraries were just buildings for holding
books. Today, libraries remain active hubs for all intellectual, creative, and social
Each city, county, and local government library serves humanity. As the
American Library Association asserts, public libraries are dynamic and versatile
community centers (American Library Association, 2014). Public libraries and
academic libraries received more than 1.5 billion in person visits in 2015, and
over 2.2 billion materials were circulated (American Library Association, 2014).
Libraries that serve the public exist in municipalities and colleges all over the
College and university libraries also serve the academy and surrounding com-
munities. These facilities make enormous resources, past and present, available
to patrons and students and often occupy space conducive to productivity for

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages 7781.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 77

writers. In general, many state-supported institutions make resources available to

residents of that state. With this unlimited access, an author has many options for
supporting academic writing. While most libraries market and promote resources
that are currently available, they often expand exposure to materials beyond the
library, including the works of published authors. With record onsite and virtual
usage of libraries, academic writing has an additional layer of provision and op-
portunity to expand written work through the library.
Library decision-makers are not fully aware that library users are able to read,
gather, and share information from phones, tablets, and automobiles. Libraries
allow discovery through both physical and virtual space. Any series of activi-
ties including journaling, reading, research, and creative brainstorming sessions
may occur in conjunction with normal and structured writing routines. Unique-
ly qualied to partner with a variety of resources and people, libraries promote
scholarship, stewardship, and usership from the academy to the community (Far-
kas, 2013). These same libraries serve as authoritative references of catalog and
collection, content stewardship, content delivery, and public venues. All of these
disparate collections help build the narratives that will support and give weight to
creative works.
Consider the fact that Instagram, boasts of handling 75 million photographs a
day (Mon, 2015). It is also noted by Mon that nearly one billion Facebook users
are writing, sharing, and blogging as online journalists, spectators, and partici-
pants. Google also contributes to information activity considering over 3.5 billion
google searches are done daily (Internet Live Stats, 2015). As we continue to
write above and beyond the information overload that exists, libraries synergize
all components as place, space, and central repository for expanding the writing
The connections between academic writing and creative writing has rarely
fallen far from the reach of authors. Many famous authors have sat, written, and
researched in libraries to formulate the voice of social, cultural, economic, and
creative freedom. Ray Bradbury notes, I spent three days a week for 10 years
educating myself in the public library (Bradbury, n. d.). At the end of 10 years,
Bradbury had read every book in the library and had written a thousand stories
(Steinhauer, 2009). August Wilson was a steady patron at the Carnegie Library of
Pittsburgh. The very space inuenced his expansion and creativity. Lauded for his
efforts, Wilson was awarded the rst degree ever from a library (Public Broad-
casting System (PBS), 2015). Libraries will always augment academic writing
through creativity, community, innovation, and entrepreneurial pursuits.
Enhancing creativity through the use of libraries includes play and expression.
There are several ways that authors can enhance creativity through use of the
libraries and engagement of play to stimulate such creativity. Creative models
in libraries include a balance of work and play. Play consistently energizes, en-
gages, and motivates its participants (Anderson, 1994). Several creative artists
Academic Writing 79

and scientists such as Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart used play to
stimulate cognitive ability and production output (Mainemelis & Ronson, 2006).
Many libraries across the country offer various modes of Play for creative
inspiration. Rutgers University introduced a space of creative inspiration through
the Art Library Lego Playing Station. The Art Library Lego Playing Station was
created to stimulate creativity and innovation within the Rutgers University Li-
braries. Lotts (2015) notes that many of the activities related to the use in aca-
demic and communal share multiple creative languages that use action, building,
thinking, and creating in only a space that the library can provide.
The Chicago Public library promotes creative vigor through the Chicago Pub-
lic Library Maker Lab. This center offers workshops, labs, and demonstrations.
Students may utilize state of the art equipment and tools to create, come together,
learn, and collaborate. The tools, materials, and technologies are at their ngertips
(Edwards et al., 2015). Participants overwhelming showed a mapped outcome of
creativity after participating with the Maker Lab.
Collaborative spaces in the library also offer a creative boost for academic
writing through the connections with the community. Pomerantz and Marchionini
(2007) applaud libraries as one of the few places on the planet that link people to
ideas and each other. In public libraries, decreasing budgets provide opportuni-
ties for the library to serve as conduit for inspiring creativity and inspiration for
patrons. A deluge of traditional social activities that often happened only outside
the library now take place in the library. Academic writers now nd a plethora
of art, literature, and music within community with others. A diverse offering of
programing is now concentrated within the single library universe, and the com-
munity of followers add to the rich experience. The writer must not look far to
uncover several of the goals of library services: libraries as community builders,
libraries as community centers for diverse populations, libraries as centers for the
arts, and libraries as universities (Edwards, Rauseo, & Unger, 2013).
Finally, libraries and librarians expand academic writing through support of
the entrepreneurial pursuits of writers. While most libraries and librarians uti-
lize recommendations from professional journals and magazines, some do not in-
clude small presses or self-published works. Libraries purchase books for adults,
young adults, children, and special readers. They also purchase newspapers and
magazines, reference sources, scholarly journals, electronic resources, and vari-
ous formats including streaming and digital downloads. Libraries offer a space
on shelves, a place for lectures and book talks, and they give free publicity and
promotion of authors work. Librarians generally rely on pre-publication book
reviews or vendor lists, where self-published authors are rarely reviewed or in-
Most libraries, both public and academic, support a number of local authors.
This support is often given by way of book purchases or local-author spotlight.
With the abundance of books being written per year, a library is a great place to
share resources with a librarian. They will often consult with writers regarding

the steps and process for getting books in a library or location. Once established,
they also can suggest a series of author events that have worked really well and
planning materials and support to work efciently. Once a book event is planned,
most libraries have a marketing or promotion department that help get the word
out about published works and upcoming publications via the librarys website,
blog, email list, or social media pages.
Libraries are mystical places, ideal for academic writing and focus. Novice
and advanced writers should consider these ten methods for making the best use
of libraries.

1. Secure a public library card to gain access to print materials available at

the library, national resources via Interlibrary Loan, and electronic data-
bases, e-Books, videos, music, and movies from many sources.
2. Subscribe to the mailing list of your local public and academic library for
ongoing scheduling and updates of free workshops, tutorials, lectures,
and creative play opportunities.
3. Participate in training on library resources to insure that you are compe-
tent with tools and resources before you need them. Many workshops are
offered virtually and monthly at your local libraries.
4. Connect with a librarian. They are often aware of information that might
not be publicized but details that might enhance your academic writing.
5. Host a book event or writing workshop or host a public talk at your local
public or academic library.
6. Browse the literal or virtual shelves. Learn and discover something new
often at the library.
7. Read leisurely in areas of knowledge scarcity and expanding prociency.
8. Utilize space. Most libraries have individual and group spaces that you
can use daily at no charge to write, create, and brainstorm.
9. Utilize personal information shoppers. Schedule time and consultations
with librarians, who offer people capital to aid you in nding informa-
tion, quickly, conveniently, and relevantly.
10. Volunteer at library locations and events to remain visible and in the

American Library Association. (2014). Public libraries. Retrieved from http://www.ala.
Anderson, J. V. (1994). Creativity and play: A systematic approach to managing innova-
tion. Business Horizons 37(2), 8085.
Bradbury, R. (n. d.). Ray Bradbury quotes. Retrieved from
Edwards, J. B., Rauseo, M. S., & Unger, K. R. (2013). Community centered: 23 reasons
why your library is the most important place in town. Public Libraries Chicago
Public Library Association, 50(5), 4247.
Academic Writing 81

Farkas, M. (2013). Open access everything: Libraries are making scholarship accessible
to all. American Libraries, 24. Retrieved from http://americanlibrariesmagazine.
Internet Live Stats. (2015). Google search statisticsInternet live stats. Retrieved from
Lotts, M. (2015). Lego play: Implementing a culture of creativity and making in the aca-
demic Library. ACRL Conference Proceedings (pp. 409418). Portland, Oregon.
Retrieved from:
Mainemelis, C., & Ronson, S. (2006). Ideas are born in elds of play: Towards a theory of
play and creativity in organizational settings. Research in Organizational Behavior,
27(1), 81131.
Mon, L. M. (2015). Social media and library services. San Rafael, CA: Morgan & Clay-
pool Publishers.
Public Broadcasting System (PBS). (2015). August Wilson: The ground on which I stand.
Retrieved from
Pomerantz, J., & Marchionini, G. (2007). The digital library as place. Journal of Documen-
tation, 63(4), 505533.
Steinhauer, J. (2009). A literary legend ghts for a local library. New York Times. Retrieved


Freedom and Authority in an
Era of Independent Publishing
Candy Paull

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated

through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any
other medium and will be lost.
Martha Graham

You do not need a Masters degree or a literary agent or a New York publisher to
give you the authority to write and publish today. With emerging self-publishing
options, writers have more ways to reach audiences than ever. Going through
traditional gatekeepers is no longer the only path to publishing work that comes
from the heart.
But even as we enjoy greater freedom to publish, the inner gatekeepers of our
own doubts and fears often stop us from creating the work we long to do. We hesi-
tate to write, wondering if it is arrogant to imagine we have something worthwhile
to share. Writers still need to give themselves permission to trust their deepest

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages 8593.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 85

instincts and speak their inner truth, whether it is the story that has been set aside
in a drawer or a message that emerges from their own life experiences.
Its a both/and, not an either/or world now. You have the power to explore cre-
ative options, be open to new possibilities, trust the process, and nourish a writing
career that comes from the heart. There are many resources available to help you
make the best choices in todays evolving publishing paradigm. You can embrace
the best of traditional publishing and new innovations in self-publishing to bring
your work to readers. And you can reach people with your message in new ways.
You get what you focus your energies on. So instead of imagining impossibili-
tiesall the reasons you cant be a successful writerimagine the possibilities.
Think about what could be, not just what has been or what isnt. Dare to dream
and then be willing to commit to making that dream come true. As Ralph Waldo
Emerson (n. d.) said,

No matter what your work, let it be your own. No matter what your occupation, let
what you are doing be organic. Let it be in your bones. In this way you will open
the door by which the afuence of heaven and earth shall stream into you. (para. 1)

Every great artist knows that creating something fresh requires an open mind
and a willingness to try something new. In the beginners mind, there are endless
possibilities. In the mind of the expert, there are a limited number of answers.
Instead of basing your decisions on what you know of the past, explore unknown
possibilities. Break out of the box of old limitations and approach life with the at-
titude that you are a beginner and can learn something new. There are no wrong
answers in the creative process. Often, it is the mistakes that lead to a new way
of seeing, a new way of approaching our work.
Each book I have written has a life of its own. I wrote my rst book, The Art of
Abundance, for publication with a traditional publisher in 1997. It was an experi-
mental book in a new format. Though it did well in the marketplace (it went on
to sell over 100,000 hardcover copies in two editions) getting the next deal was
no picnic. Agents came and went. Publishing opportunities made it seem as if I
would nally land with a publisher who would nurture my career. Instead, a book
might come out, but the timing for the market was not right, so the publisher was
not interested in signing another project. One agent would not return my phone
calls. One publisher who signed my book was bought out and another publisher
picked up the project, excited to bring it to market. But a big publisher bankruptcy
in the marketplace disrupted the entire industry, and my publisher got caught in
the wake of that particular Titanic, as it sank and swamped the other smaller boats
around it. My publisher declared bankruptcy less than a month after my book was
released. It took me a year to get my rights back.
More opportunities. More gains and losses. More challenges and setbacks. A
new agent, a new deal with a respected New York publisher, and some sales, but
not enough to create career momentum. More rejections. My agent could not sell
my work in a shrinking market. She was a great agent and put it in my contract
Speaking Your Truth 87

that I would automatically get my rights back if the publisher put published works
out of print. After the nancial crash, my publisher remaindered books and re-
turned my rights. My agent dropped me. I thought my career had ended with a
Little did I know that I would have the ability to take advantage of the new
e-book self-publishing revolution because most of my copyrights were now my
own. I have royalties come in every single month, even if they are small. My free
e-book has been downloaded by over 200,000 readers. A publisher came looking
for me and paid me an advance for a project. I have business backers who believe
in my potential. There are still challenges and setbacks, but there is more hope
and possibility than I could have imagined back when I depended on playing by
the old rules.
Whether you are building a professional career or just concentrating on writ-
ing a current project, there is no predictable plan with guaranteed outcome. Not
for new writers and not for old pros. Though I once wrote with a marketplace in
mind, I now write with more dependence on inner guidance. I follow my instincts
and listen to my heart. I see that the projects I loved doing have become my most
valuable copyrights.
In the process, I drew on a deep inner wisdom that teaches me through the act
of writing. In fact, I am still working on applying the wisdom from pages I wrote
years ago. When I write, I write more wisely than I know at the time I am writing.
As I look back on my work, I see that there is a sure thread of insight weaving
through my work that anticipated my future spiritual growth. Something wants to
be birthed through me. It is up to me to nurture that sense of aliveness that wants
to become a book. In the words of Paul Klee (n. d.), Each should follow where
the pulse of his heart leads (para. 1).
I also remember that when I was writing my early books for publishers, I was
struggling with the limitations of dogma and doctrine, trying to nd my way
through the labyrinth of questions and changes and challenges to old belief sys-
tems. The world I knew then is not the world I know now. The rules I was trying
so hard to follow back then are now broken, discarded, or have morphed into
something less legalistic and more about living from the heart. Even if I wanted
to play by the old rules, the game has changed, and in most cases you get to make
up your own rules as you go along. Might as well follow your heart and create
something you love.
You may be fascinated by a subject or viewpoint that current audiences are not
comfortable hearing about. Trust your fascination, not the reviews of past work or
the limited views of a certain audience. Continue to honor your current audience
by doing good work, but realize that boredom or frustration is a sign that you are
ready to expand your horizons and move into new creative territory.
I spent years writing for clients, and I always gave my best to the work, even
if the project differed from my personal passion. I learned to write on deadline
and to write with excellence. I grew as a writer and as a person because I worked

on projects for other people that covered a variety of subjects that I would have
never otherwise explored. It was a writers boot camp, and I am a better writer for
having done that. But I cannot do that anymore.
What I could say in those old projects was often limited by the prejudices and
preconceptions of the market I was talking to. I was told, You cant use that
word, quote that person, speak that thought. Because I was outgrowing a belief
system that had nurtured me and was the basis of my marketplace, I was afraid
to admit that I no longer agreed with the assumptions of many of my clients and
For a long time, I was cautious about really saying what I meant for fear of
offending someone. I visualized the resistance and criticism that would arise, so I
stayed safe by refusing to risk revealing the real me. I was cautious and conser-
vative and grew angry when that very caution and conservatism seemed to limit
my options. I was unhappy about taking any risks because I was afraid that my
more conservative colleagues would read something I had published and decide
that I was too liberal for their audience.
I did not know it at the time, but I was freer to pursue my passions than I was
allowing myself to be. It was not the clients who were holding me back. It was not
the conservative worldview of longtime friends and colleagues that limited my
personal explorations. It was my own doubts and fears, my own concern about
what others would think, and my own difdence about truly giving myself to new
ideas and experiences. I did not trust my own instincts and gave my power and
authority away to others.
Joseph Chilton Pearce (n. d.) notes, To live a creative life, we must lose our
fear of being wrong (para. 1). Eventually one must grow or die. I began to do
more writing for myself instead of arguing with the inner critics I heard in my
head. I decided to invest more time on my own creative projects and to explore
new markets in places where others were asking the same questions and feeling
the same need for different ideas and fresh insights.
As I began to draw from the new ideas and resources of other faith traditions, I
learned to appreciate the tradition I came from. But I now had a richer understand-
ing and a wider perspective. As I discovered new concepts, my faith grew and so
did my craftsmanship. By being more honest with myself, I became more open
with my readers.
The truth was, I had never really hidden my inner spiritual evolution, I had
only learned to use simpler words and avoided jargon or trigger words that got
in the way of expressing myself clearly. My writing was strengthened because of
the challenges of learning to state my own truthand in becoming the rst person
to take my own thoughts and feelings seriously. Even those who preferred a more
conservative worldview and disagreed with me acknowledged that my writing
had excellence and value. Instead of worrying about being wrong or having to
defend myself, I began to nurture the artist in me who wanted to break out of
conventional thinking and embrace new ways of being.
Speaking Your Truth 89

David Whyte (n. d.) wrote,

The more you discover your true work and give time to it, the more you are unearth-
ing your gift. And as you do that, you will notice that people want it; they want the
aliveness you carry, because that is our true gift to each other and the world: our joy.
What could be more spiritual than the sharing of joy? (para. 11)

I have discovered this: If I follow my deepest intuition in my writing, it will

prove to be true over the long run, and by giving myself permission to stretch and
explore, I am more likely to create something that is lasting, and that speaks to
others on a deeper level. I know this because the books I have written still speak
to me, and surprise me again with insights I didnt even realize what I had known
back then. Every book I write is another chance to explore new ideas, to stretch
and learn.
Each act of creation begins with questions, chaos, and emptiness. You may
have a mental picture of the nished work of art at the beginning, or just a small
spark of an idea that catches your heart and connects you emotionally to the act
of creation. Like any journey, whether meticulously mapped-out or launched on
a whim, the creative journey starts with that rst step into the unknown. Begin
and see where the work leads you.
True courage resides in the trembling heart that is afraid to try but tries any-
way. It takes courage to stand for your convictions when the crowd urges you
to compromise. Believe that your opinions count. Understand that if you have a
deep urge to write, that it is important that you follow that urge. Believe that it
is your calling from a Higher Power. Choose what is most meaningful for you,
whether others agree or disagree. Make choices that honor your own possibilities,
especially in difcult and demanding times. As William Butler Yeats (2015) ex-
claimed, Throw fuel on the re at the center of your being, and the re will take
you where you want to go (para. 1).
Evaluate your career choices in light of what you love. Set a goal that lifts your
heart with anticipation. Focus on something that makes you happy to be who you
are. Evaluate your present goals. Are they consistent with your innate gifts and
talents? Do you see them as fullling your priorities and life purpose?
Give yourself permission to experiment and try out new ideas and creative
projects. Express yourself. Admit that you have a fascination for bugs, that the
tango drives you wild, that the retro mid mod world of the 1950s has deep ap-
peal, and that you long for more color and excitement in your lifeand in your
writing. Be bold and daring. Have fun. Feel free to go over the top. Do not worry
about making mistakes. Let yourself enjoy being playful. Pay attention to what
delights your heart and makes you feel good inside. Take your own dreams se-
riously enough to make them a priority. Yes, take care of business and all the
life stuff but also make time to do creatively satisfying projects that make you
happy. Those are the real gold.

A writing friend who was gaining success with his rst book once marveled at
what could happen when you say yes, even in a small way, to what you love. He
said that he had discovered that the things that were most unique about him, the
things he felt most vulnerable about, were exactly the things that made his writing
and career work. It was when he allowed himself to be who he really was instead
of trying to be what he thought others thought he should be that the whole thing
clicked for him and he found career success. As May (n. d.) contends, If you do
not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you
will have betrayed yourself (para. 1).
Times of chaos and change may be perceived as overwhelming crises or as op-
portunities for self-reinvention. The book-publishing industry is facing the same
challenges as the music industry did a few years ago. Traditional publishing used
to be the only game in town. Now a new paradigm is emerging, offering opportu-
nity in turbulent times.
I have been involved in the publishing industry in one form or another most
of my adult life. Now the form is changing in these transformational times. I
spent over twenty years writing marketing materials and creating special projects
for book publishers, as well as building my career as an author and songwriter/
artist/singer. The bottom fell out of my copywriting business with the crash of
2008. The paradigm shifted in publishing. The nancial meltdown accelerated
the change, but it had been building for a long time. Now undreamed of freedoms
and opportunities are transforming the landscape, and writers are claiming their
creative and career power in new ways.
The traditional publishing paradigm was based on a short-term produce
model: throw a book at the wall and see if it sticks, then let it go out of print to
make way for the next gambling chip in a casino marketplace. Much money was
invested in product creation, but the model only measured immediate results. Au-
thors shared grim jokes about yogurt being on the grocery shelf longer than their
books were available in bookstores. Only a rare few books created the ongoing
backlist, which, up until ten years ago, was the backbone of the publishing indus-
try. Todays book industry, with its constant search for the instant bestseller, offers
more and more throwaway and celebrity titles and less substance.
The digital revolution is changing that. With the unlimited shelf space of the
online world, that model is being turned upside down. Now e-books and print-on-
demand can exist forevergiving plenty of time for building an audience through
branding and relationships, and books are always updatable when new informa-
tion and insight become available. Writers have many choices, and they are con-
stantly evolving. If you are willing to take ownership of your writing career, you
can create what your heart is calling you to write.
You have choices that were never available previously. It is no longer neces-
sary to write to a market pitch to agents or publishers or lock yourself into a tradi-
tional (and often draconian) publishing deal. Neither are you obligated to become
a self-publishing maven or create your own mini-publishing empire. You are free
Speaking Your Truth 91

to follow your own interests, your inner guidance, and the way the process wants
to unfold. For some, a traditional publishing deal might be the way to go. For
others, self-publishing offers the freedom to write what you want, as often as you
want, and publish it in any form that suits your fancy, provided you are willing
to do the work required. The hybrid author follows a both/and career path. You
are the one who chooses. No gatekeeper can stop you from creating projects that
express what is important to you. Your inner critic is the only gatekeeper who will
stop you from daring to do what you love. Remember the words of Ralph Waldo
Emerson (2001), By doing his work he makes the need felt which he can supply,
and creates the taste by which he is enjoyed (para 26).
Every book I write is another chance to explore new ideas, to stretch, and to
learn. I create something of value for myself and for others who are ready to hear
what I have to say. It does not matter how many books I have written. Each book
is like the rst one all over again. I never know what is going to come through, I
just have to start writing and see where it leads. That may mean I will startle my-
self and be uncomfortable with the insight on the page. But I must serve the work
if I wish to create something worthwhile. I must trust that inner instinct and fol-
low where it leads. Ditto with packaging, publishing, and marketing that creative
work. You cannot navigate by the rules any more. You have to do your research
and follow your instincts.
Dare to honor your best self in your creative work and business life. Do not
worry about justifying your choices. Be brave. Just gently trust your deeper in-
stincts, follow the passion of your heart. Honor the boundaries and needs of cli-
ents and colleagues, but also be true to your own beliefs. Challenge yourself cre-
atively. Trust that if something fascinates you, it is a form of guidance leading
you to work that expresses your best self. Let your heart lead the way. And enjoy
writing, publishing, and creating in this exciting new world of publishing. As Judy
Garland (n. d.) advises, Always be a rst-rate version of yourself, instead of a
second-rate version of somebody else (para. 1). Likewise, Pablo Picasso (2009)
notes, Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he
grows up. The words of Carl Jung (1996) support this advice, Whatever you do,
if you do it sincerely, will eventually become a bridge to your wholeness, a good
ship that carries you through the darkness (para. 26), as does the statement of
Sren Kierkegaard (n. d.), who notes, It is very dangerous to go into eternity with
possibilities which one has oneself prevented from becoming realities. A possibil-
ity is a hint from God (para. 1). Finally, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (n. d.) and
Robert Mallet (n. d.) note that The man born with a talent which he is meant to
use nds his greatest happiness in using it, (para. 1) and It is not impossibili-
ties which have lled us with the deepest despair, but possibilities which we have
failed to realize (para. 1).

Here is a list of trustworthy online resources for understanding the new pub-
lishing paradigm. They offer perspective on the evolution of publishing, both
traditional and independent. The better educated you are about the options and
opportunities, the better decisions you will make. I offer more links on Resources
page on my Links, Information, and Resources Website: http://www.candypaull.
com/helpful-information. Here are some suggested resources:

1. Secrets to Publishing Success by Mark Coker. The latest information

on ebook publishing basics from Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords.
The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success reveals the best practices of
the most commercially successful self-published ebook authors. This eb-
ook is a must-read for every writer, author, publisher, and literary agent.
Learn over 25 best practices you can implement today at no cost. These
secrets will help you become a more professional, more successful writer
and publisher.
2. Joanna Penn: Author 2.0 Blueprint. A strong blog for writers who want
to learn how to succeed in the ever-evolving digital book market. Down-
load her free Author 2.0 Blueprint for expert guidance on publishing
your own book.
3. The Passive Voice. I read this blog daily. An intellectual property attor-
ney (aka Passive Guy) collects some of the best online for those inter-
ested in self-publishing and the book industry.
4. Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Go to her business resources for some of the
best and most trustworthy information on the self-publishing revolution.
I recommend reading her publishing industry series for a greater under-
standing of how publishing worked then (5-10 years ago) and how pub-
lishing works now (including publishing without a traditional publisher).
5. Dean Wesley Smith. Married to Kris Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith offers
even more insight on the publishing business and succeeding in this new
paradigm. Check out his series on Think Like a Publisher and Killing the
Sacred Cows of Publishing.

Emerson, R. (n. d.). Ralph Waldo Emerson. Retrieved from
Emerson, R. (2001). Spiritual laws. Retrieved from
Klee, P. (n. d.). Paul Klee on modern art. Retrieved from http://www.paintersandpoets.
Garland, J. (n. d.) Judy Garland quotes. Retrieved from
Speaking Your Truth 93

Garland, J (n. d.). Judy Garland quotes. Retrieved from

Graham, M. (n. d.). Martha Graham quotes. Retrieved from
Jung, C. (1996). Treasury of spiritual wisdom. Retrieved from
Kierkegaard, S. (n.d). A quote by Soren Aabye Kierkegaard. Retrieved from http://blog. 1
Mallet, R. (n. d.). Robert Mallet quotes. Retrieved from
May, R. (n. d.) Rollo May quotes. Retrieved from
Pearce, J. (n. d.). Joseph Chilton Pearce quotes. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.
com/quotes/30290-to-live-a-creative-life-we-must-lose-our-fear 1
Picasso, P. (2009). Pablo Picasso. Retrieved from
Whyte, D. (n. d.). Trust your instincts to help your business evolve. Retrieved from https://
your-business-evolve 11
Yeats, W. (2015). When you are old. Retrieved from


Carissa Barker-Stucky

In the world of self-publishing, authors are nding increasingly simple ways to

present their writing to an audience. If one can market a work correctly, then the
hassles of nding a literary agent or publishing house are nonexistent. However,
even with this rise of independence in writers, one should not forget a very im-
portant step in the quest for publication: an editor. Novel writers are not alone in
this need. Whether your project is a book, a dissertation, or a blog, all forms of
writing deserve a proper professional edit. Allowing an editor to smooth things
over has several benets: it adds a touch of professionalism, a dash of credibility,
and improves overall reader experience.
Mistakes within any form of writing can instantly jar a reader, or downright
confuse her. I remember a time when I was reading a book, and a piece of dia-
logue was attributed to the wrong character. I was so confused that I had to stop
the story and investigate what I had just read. Another example was one of my ed-
iting tasksa dissertation student whose grammar was so terrible that his advisor
refused to pass the draft to the panel until he found someone to edit the work. The
student needed this degree to maintain his current career. Not having an editor,
could have cost him a graduate degree and, in turn, his job.
However, editing is not just about nding errors like the aforementioned cases.
For creative writing, such as novels or ash ction, I also make sure the plot
ows well, the characters make sensebe they round or at, and things are ei-

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages 95100.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 95

ther resolved or purposefully unresolved. When I was going through my Masters

program, I always looked forward to peer critiques. We would give the rest of
the class a copy of our story, and then a week later we would hear what everyone
thought about it. Did this make sense, did that make sense? Why did this happen?
Something felt like it was missing. Why do I care about this character? I couldnt
stop crying over this character. By trusting your work to nine other people, you
discover things that you may not have noticed. They can be simple things, like
name selection (When you said Adam and Steve, I wasnt thinking the story
would be about twins...), or large issues like plot holes (But why was he so con-
cerned about that going missing?). In regards to business and academic writing,
I make sure thought processes are easy to understand and ensure a professional
tone throughout the piece. I adjust tense, smooth sentences, and ensure that the
necessary format and style rules are followed.
Although I only recently made editing my full-time career, I have worked as an
editor on various projects for several years. I have seen many things from round-
about sentences to verbatim repetitionsnot to mention the everyday typo. As a
writer, I have been guilty of several such mistakes in my own work. Seeking an
editor does not signal a lack of grammatical knowledge or a lower intelligenceit
shows that you are wise enough to realize a fresh set of eyes would benet your


Many authors quail at the thought of hiring an editor. Their blood, sweat, tears,
and life have gone into their manuscriptsurely they know what is best for it,
what should remain and what should go? However, this very thought process
proves the opposite. By hiring an editor, the author is bringing in a fresh set of
eyes. For professional writing, the editor should have a basic understanding of the
topicimportant terms and informationto ensure that data lines up correctly.
For a creative piece, the editor should be someone who is not familiar with the
content, who can notice something is missing that the authors mind may auto-
matically ll in, or nd typos that the author subconsciously corrects.
Take as an example my experience editing a novel. There was a scene in which
the protagonist, who worked at a bar, was assisting a drunken customer. To help
the customer, the protagonist got her a basket of friesexcept that in the manu-
script it was a basket of res. Imagine how that would have changed the story!
The author had spent so much time polishing the chapter that her mind automati-
cally supplied fries where res hid in plain sight. Only when she sought an
editor was the typo caught.
Believe me: I understand where youre coming from. As much as I love taking
other peoples stories and cleaning them up, I have a hard time handing off my
own works. I get butteries in my stomach and my hands shake. What if they dont
like it? What if I made a huge mistake? Should I just scrap the story all together?
What if they dont understand this plot device, and Im not as clever as I thought?
In the Eye of the Beholder 97

A portion of that nervousness is validnot everyone will understand the quirks in

your writing. However, most editors are wise enough to understand that there is a
certain amount of artistic license in writing. We will wait to hear you out before
making you adjust something. After all, our job is not to make the author feel
good or bad about himself; our task is to polish the manuscript and help the author
ensure the work is complete.
On the ip side, taking the plunge and handing off your work ensures clarity.
We approach your work from a unique perspective: an equal mix of reader and
teacher. An editor will look at the piece as a whole but also at each individual line.
Nothing escapes us: grammatical or contextual. We can help you spot consistent
errors in your work and assist in their correction; we can also tell you if the plot
works, if a character ts, or if a certain mood comes across. Perhaps you are writ-
ing nonction, attempting to get a point across (say, an article on why editing is
important)an editor can make sure the lesson will be understood. Maybe you
are writing an academic piece and need assistance using the proper tense or voice,
or you know what your writing weakness is (run-on sentences, split innitives,
improper citations, etc.) and just need someone to help adjust your content. Some
of my clients speak English as a second language and just want someone to make
sure their writing makes sense. Whatever your needs may be, editors are there to


Some authors dislike the idea of an editor for reasons besides having to trust their
work to the hands of another. There is an unspoken stigma, a negative connotation
to the job. This person will be a critic, they say to themselves. Somewhere along
the line, Editor became synonymous with Negative Feedback, and that just is
not the case at least, not if you have found an editor who acts in a professional
manner. While an editor does provide feedback, said feedback should be in the
form of constructive criticism. Anytime I nd something that requires attention, I
point it out in a polite manner and help the author through correcting it. In addi-
tion to maintaining a positive look on the issues, I also make a point to comment
on the successes.
An air of professionalism should persist between author and editor. After all, if
you do not feel you can respect the person, then how do you know you can respect
their advice? Hiring an editor requires more than looking at their resume. You
will be working very closely with this person, entrusting your manuscripts to this
person. You will also be paying this person. When searching for an editor, get into
a conversation. You want to get a feel for their turn-around time, their experience,
their qualications, etc. Going with an established editor may not be the right path
for you; it could be she is too expensive or does not have enough one-on-one time
available. Conversely, you may decide that an amateur editor is too much of a
risk. The more specic you are, the sooner you will nd an editor to t your needs.

Questions I like to have answered before I agree to a job include the following:
what type of writing is itarticle, novel, dissertation?; for creative writing, what
is the genre?; for academic writing, what is the topic?; how many pages is it?;
what is it about?; are you going to self-publish or send it somewhere?; what is
your deadline?; and are you working within a budget? All of these questions help
determine whether or not I am a good t for the writers needs. Once a client and I
have worked out the details, we can get started on smoothing out the work.
A smooth-owing manuscript does more than lead the reader from one thought
to the next. Proper grammar, smooth ow, and a clean read also add credibility to
the work. Imagine that you are writing an article with the hopes of publishing in a
high-end research journalif someone is reading the article but she realizes that
every other word is misspelled, do you think she will still print it? Short answer:
no. Long answer: if it is a good topic, she will send it back and recommend you
send it to an editor.
Even in creative writing, multiple typos and mistakes can draw away from the
power of the manuscript. If a reader feels like reading a paragraph is akin to walk-
ing on LEGOs, then he will not continue. You could have written the next Harry
Potter, but no one would nish it to know. No one expects your work to be perfect
(though that would be nice), but every typo, jarring or unbelievable moment, or
strange shift slowly works down the readers fuse. Some readers are more forgiv-
ing then others, but everyone has her limits. How an audience perceives your
work can make or break your career.


A meme has been going around Facebook lately. On the picture is a pair of ip-
ops made out of keyboards with the caption how [author] wrote [book.] The
authors name and the books title change, but the message is the samebe care-
ful how you write, for you risk unleashing the trolls. While the example is ex-
treme, the message is not. A lack of editing can mean far more than a few mistakes
in your nal manuscript. Todays audience has a wide variety of outlets for their
thoughts. The internet is a hive of activity and reviews, and you want to make sure
yours are good ones.
In the past, mistakes passed by more quietly. It may be a reader found an old
novel and decided they did not care for your style, but if you wrote something else
more popular, then it easily gained steam. These days, the Ghosts of Career-Past
are simmering in someones hard drive, just waiting for you to try again.
Instead of vowing to never release your typed children to the public eye, your
best defense is to take every step possible to ensure that your work is a beacon
of excellence. You have written what could be the next-best breakthrough in sci-
ence or the next popular Young Adult seriesnow you just need to make sure it
is ready. A good way to think of it is through imagining the stages of metamor-
phosis. You start with the idea, the egg. It hatches into your rst draft, the larval
stage. Working with an editor is like the pupae stagekeeping the manuscript
In the Eye of the Beholder 99

under wraps, working closely with your editor to bring out the beauty. Finally, you
release the adult-stage work to the world to think of it what they will. While there
is no escaping every trollthe term in itself refers to someone who likes being
antagonisticyou can face them with condence.
In the realms of business and academia, audience reactions take on another
light. Research projects contain more than just the time you spent writing: hours
of work and cartons of data rest between each character typed. You have more to
convey than a storyfacts and results, processes, and recommendations. Your
audience could be peers or faculty. You have something to prove to them, and
you want to do it to your best ability. Hiring an editor to smooth over and clarify
your work will ensure that your audience can focus on the points in your paper.
You not only want your points to come across clearly but also want your data to
be delivered clearly. A single misplaced comma or parenthesis can misconstrue
important information. Similarly, communications for business purposes need to
be concise and error-free. Whether you are delivering a report or completing a set
of instructions, clarity and tone are key aspects. If you run a small business, then
you want to be taken seriously; if you are within a large corporation, then you
want to improve your chances of a positive review.
Regardless of who makes up your audience, a smooth thought process and
clean grammar will improve your chances for making a good impression. You
want to be able to feel condent in your work, knowing you have taken the nec-
essary steps before releasing it. The more easily understood your writing is, the
more likely a reader is to return for more.

Many authors, myself included, are tied heart-and-soul to their work. While some
might take this as an excuse to not trust anyone else with their work, others realize
the truthwe need to do what is best for our manuscript. This includes getting
an editor. If your writing is comparable to your child, then imagine that the editor
is their teacher; while the majority of raising and caring for the project rests with
you, the editor helps to shape it and prepare it for the real world. Even so, there are
more benets to hiring an editor than simply nalizing your project.
By coming to know your editor, you open new doors through the magic of net-
working. In this sense, networking is a business term for surrounding yourself
with opportunity. Perhaps you need to nd an illustrator for a new projectask
your editor if they have any recommendations. Or you may nd that your editor
contacts you to see if you can suggest a good self-publishing format for another
client. I make a point to recommend people I trust when there is a task I cannot
complete for a client. The further my career progresses, the more people I meet
or introduce to others.
Some editors can do more than simply proofread your work. We can help you
work past a block in your writing. Your editor is someone with whom you can
discuss your writing and not have to worry about spoilers. Just like when we are

proong something, we can look at your work objectively and give you an honest
opinion. Your manuscript does not have to be complete for you to seek assistance.
Some projects, like dissertations and capstones, go easier if you send drafts to an
editor. That way each draft is concise and issues do not stack up. I had one client
who sent me drafts of her capstone project over the course of several months in
addition to side projects that were related such as proposals and data sheets to
make sure everything coincided. Each progressive draft was bettershe took my
suggestions to heart, not only improving previous drafts but also progressing in
her own writing ability.
No project is too small or large for an editor. I have tackled projects from a
short comic, to concert notes, to ash ction, to dissertations, to novels, to hun-
dred-page instructional books. Each author had a different reason for seeking as-
sistance. Some were for the sake of grammar, others for feedback, still more for
ESL (English as a Second Language) assistance. Whatever your reason, whatever
your project, and whatever your grammar prociency, an editor can always nd
ways to assist you with enhancing your writing skills.


Why Language Matters
and How to Make It Work for You
Beth Terrell

The rst time it happened, I was at an Irish pub, sitting across a table from a
man who had recently written his rst novel. Im not a writer, he said, with an
unmistakable air of pride. Im a storyteller. Since then, Ive heard this phrase
more times than I care to count, always with the same sense of pride, as if being a
writer is something undesirable. Further questioning usually conrms this ideol-
ogy. Writers, they seem to think, are pretentious, revision and editing unnecessary.
All that matters is a good story.
Lets think about this for a moment. Have you ever actually heard a master
storyteller? He chooses his words carefully. He uses a range of vocal tones, facial
expressions, and gestures to enhance the listeners experience. Hes ever con-
scious of the effects of his wordsand the presentation of those wordson his
When you write a novel or a short story, your audience cannot see your face or
gestures. They cannot hear your rumbling troll voice or your bleating baby goat

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages 103114.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 103

voice. All they have are your words. It is just as important for you to choose those
words carefully as it is for the master storytellermore so, because the words on
the page must convey what the storyteller can portray with his voice, expression,
and body language. The storytellers voice is his medium. Yours are words on the
page. That, my friend, makes you a writer.
Its easy for writers to rationalize that good writing does not matter. After all,
revision and editing can be difcult, confusing, and time consuming. If you have a
good story idea, that should be enough, right? If you are writing only for yourself,
maybe it is, but once you decide to write for an audience, even if it is only an audi-
ence of one other person, everything changes. Now it is not just about whats fun
for you. It is about what will create the best experience for your readers.
Imagine this. You are sitting in a restaurant with a group of friends. You wont
believe the day I had, one says. He proceeds to regale you with a hilarious ac-
count of the mishaps that have characterized his day so far. His voice is strong,
his words carefully chosen and cadenced. You hang on his every word, and before
long, your sides are aching with laughter. Another friend pipes up. Well . . . um
. . . I had a pretty bad day too. It was, like, well, I guess I should start with the
at tire. No, actually, I guess it started at breakfast. Painful. Your second friends
mishapshis storymight be just as interesting as the rsts, but you dont get
the same pleasure from listening to them. Not even close.
The truth is, you are both a writer and a storyteller. Thats a good thing. Un-
like the storyteller who gets one chance to deliver a master performance, you can
revise and polish your story until it shines. No one has to see that messy rst draft.
No one needs to know how long it took to get it right.
We can start with the difference between revision and editing. Revision deals
with story structure and characterdeepening characters and themes; adding,
subtracting, or moving scenes; repairing plot holes, and so on. Editing involves
correcting factual and typographical errors and improving the language. Before
beginning the editing process, make sure your story is structurally sound and your
characters adequately developed. If that is not the case, you should revise your
manuscript and address those issues rst. Otherwise, you may waste time polish-
ing chapters that will ultimately end up needing to be cut. Worse, you will be more
reluctant to cut them, having spent all that extra time making them just right. All
done? With the story itself in place, youre ready to think about editing. Here are
some things to consider, from the most basic to the more complex.


Tense errors are among the most common grammar errors. Linguists say English
has only two tenses, past and present, while many ESL programs say there are
twelve. For our purposes, we will stick with the basics, which means three pri-
Lightning and the Lightning Bug 105

mary tensespast, present, and future. Most stories are told in past tense, though
there are exceptions.

Past Tense: Jared walked to the stables.

Present Tense: Jared walks to the stables.
Present Tense: Jared is walking to the stables.
Future Tense: Jared will walk to the stables.

There is another commonly used variation called past perfect tense, which is
used when the story as a whole is written in past tense, and you have to discuss
events that occurred even further in the past. For example: Jared walked to the
barn. It seemed farther than usual. He had walked this path a thousand times, but
now he could hardly lift his feet. In this example, the rst two sentences are taking
place in the past (Jared walking to the barn and feeling like its farther than usual).
The third sentence refers to events that occurred previously (all those other trips
to the barn he took before this one).
A common mistake is to switch between present and past tenses. A writer will
say: Jane went to the closet. She picks out her favorite blouse and a suit she had
not worn in a long time. She dressed quickly and goes into the kitchen, where
she realized she is out of coffee. The problem with this paragraph is that Jane is
bouncing back and forth between the present and the past as if she is caught in a
malfunctioning time machine. The paragraph should read one of these two ways:
Correct, past tense: Jane went to the closet. She picked out her favorite blouse
and a suit she had not worn in a long time. She dressed quickly and went into the
kitchen, where she realized she was out of coffee. Correct, present tense: Jane
goes to the closet. She picks out her favorite blouse and a suit she has not worn
in a long time. She dresses quickly and goes into the kitchen, where she realizes
shes out of coffee. Keep your characters in the correct tense. Your readers will
thank you.

Those -ing Clauses

When you say something such as Running for the bus, he tripped over a crack
in the sidewalk, or Turning on the oven, she baked a cake, make sure the
two actions you have chosen really can be (and would be) done simultaneously.
While a person might trip while running, she could not bake a cake until after the
oven is turned on. Therefore, Turning on the oven, she baked a cake is incorrect.
You would not say, Falling onto the bed, she dialed the phone. She must fall
rst, then dial. Or dial rst, then fall. It would be virtually impossible to do both
at the same time.

Misplaced Modifiers
In the same vein, watch for misplaced modiers: Mary moved to a little Irish
village with nothing but a suitcase and an extra pair of overshoes. Does the vil-

lage have only a suitcase and overshoes? No, try this instead: With nothing but a
suitcase and an extra pair of overshoes, Mary moved to a little Irish village.

Punctuation errors include missing commas, extra commas, and missing pe-
riods. Incorrect punctuation can completely change the meaning of a sentence.
There is a popular T-shirt among grammar geeks that has two sentences at the top:
Lets eat Grandma! and Lets eat, Grandma! Underneath, it says, Punctua-
tion saves lives. In the sentence Lets eat, Grandma, Grandma is being invited
to share in a meal. In the sentence Lets eat Grandma, the speaker is inviting the
listener to partake to a meal in which Grandma is the main course.

Independent Study
If you do not feel comfortable with grammar and mechanics (or if you did not
understand why the two sentences above have different meanings), you should
spend some time studying them. This need not be painful. There are several ex-
cellent books on grammar and punctuation, including the time-honored The Ele-
ments of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White. This book is affectionately
referred to as Strunk & White.
If you prefer a little humor with your grammar, try The Transitive Vampire: A
Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed by Karen
Elizabeth Gordon or its companion, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate
Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed by the same
author. For online grammar help, it is hard to beat Mignon Fogerty, best known as
Grammar Girl. You can nd her grammar tips at http://www.QuickAndDirtyTips.
com. For an engaging journey through the intricacies of punctuation, try Eats,
Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss.

Syntax is the way we arrange words and phrases to create meaning within sen-
tences. If you live anywhere in the western hemisphere, odds are good that youre
familiar with Yoda. Who hasnt heard this famous mantra: Do or do not. There is
no try. George Lucas used inverted syntax to make Yodas speech patterns seem
alien, yet we can understand the Jedi masters meaning perfectly well when he
says, Powerful you have become or Patience you must have. (Kurtz et al.,
2004). This was purposefully done in order to create a specic type of character.
James Joyce intentionally used bizarre syntax to achieve a particular effect in
Finnegans Wake (Harty, 1991).
You can use slightly altered syntax as well, if it is done purposefully (for ex-
ample, to show a foreign characters way of speaking English or to indicate that
a given character doesnt understand the rules of English). In general, though,
the syntax of your sentences should be correct. Errors in syntax are glaring, and
Lightning and the Lightning Bug 107

readers lose patience with quickly if supposedly everyday characters engage in


One of the ways writers create readable prose is by varying their sentences.
There are several different sentence types: simple, complex, compound, and com-
plex compound. A sentence has both a subject and a verb, and it stands alone.
Simple sentences contain the most basic elements of a sentencea subject and
a verb, along with enough additional words to form a complete thought. These
additional words do not include conjunctions such as if, while, but, because, or
unless, which would make them dependent clauses. Here are some examples of
simple sentences:

He went to the car.

She read a book about dragons.
The girl climbed a tree.
The boy went out to look for the cat.

Complex Sentences use additional phrases to add information and create uency:

After the argument, he went to the car.

Because she felt lonely, she read a book with a dragon on the cover.
Although he was not due home for hours, the girl climbed a tree to watch
for her father.
When his mother was not watching, the boy went out to look for the cat.

Compound sentences are made up of two or more simple sentences (meaning each
part could stand alone):

They argued, and then he went to the car.

She read a book, and she liked it.
The girl climbed a tree, but she could not see her father.
The boy went out to look for the cat, but he could not nd it.

Complex Compound sentences are made up of two or more sentences, at least one
of which is a complex sentence:

After they argued, he went to the car, but since he could not think of any-
where else he wanted to be, he just sat behind the steering wheel feeling
stupid and embarrassed.
She read a book with a dragon on the cover, wishing she could somehow
step into the story, but she knew that was too much to hope for.
Although her father was not due home for hours, the girl climbed the tree
to look for him, but three hours later, he still had not returned.

When his mother was not watching, the boy went out to look for the cat,
but she was nowhere to be found.

Too many short sentences in a row can make your story sound choppy and
amateurish. Too many sentences that begin the same way or which are of similar
length and construction can create monotony. Imagine someone reading the words
aloud. Varying the length and complexity of your sentences can help make your
story ow better. It is more pleasant to the ear. It can also inuence the pacing of
your story. Shorter sentences tend to make events seem to move more quickly,
while longer ones tend to slow them down. An exception is the breathless, run-on
sentence used for effect during, for example, a high-tension action scene. In this
case, the breathlessness of the sentence can ratchet up the pacing.

Clarity is the most important part of word choice. Make sure the words you
choose mean what you think they do. Theres a vast difference between palpate
(to examine a part of the body by touch, especially for medical purposes) and
palpitate (to tremble or shake, or for a heart to beat rapidly or irregularly). If you
use one when you mean the other, you are saying something very different from
you think you are.
A common error is to use eyes when you mean gaze. My gaze might fol-
low you, but my eyes do not. I once read a manuscript that said, His eyes slith-
ered down her body. Not good. Not good at all. Keep your characters eyes in
their heads.
You can do much more with your choice of words than just convey informa-
tion, though. Mark Twain said, The difference between the right word and the
almost right word is like the difference between the lightning and the lightning
bug (Schmidt, 1997). Effective language is vivid and evocative, active rather
than passive, and purposeful. Every word serves a purpose. A good rule of thumb
is, if you can cut it out without detracting from the meaning, the effectiveness, and
the rhythm of the sentence, cut it.
E. L. Doctorow said, Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the
readernot the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon (The
Writers Society, 2015). So, how do you evoke those sensations? One way is to
look for generalities and replace them with specic details. Look for bland nouns
and weak verbs. Replace them with strong, vivid ones. Instead of saying, She
was the nicest woman Id ever met, try, I knew she only had ten dollars to last
until payday, but she pulled a crumpled ve from her pocket and stuffed it into the
blind mans cup. Rather than, a man with a big beard, try a beefy biker who
looked like someone had glued a tumbleweed to his face.
If I say, The car went down the road, what do you see? Ten different people
would see ten different cars, ten different roads. If I say, The red Ferrari zoomed
along the Autobahn, do not you get a much clearer picture? How about, The
rust-pocked jalopy jounced along the rutted road? Those same ten people would
Lightning and the Lightning Bug 109

see a much more similar vision. Vivid language and sensory details can bring your
scenes to life and create depth of emotion in your characters and in your readers.
Do not settle for the almost right word. Go for the lightning, not the lightning bug.


As important as it is to choose the right words, balance and rhythm are sometimes
as important as or more important than the perfect word in the right place. When
we read, most of us hear the words and the rhythm of the language in our minds.
Virginia Woolf said, Style is a very simple matter; it is all rhythm. Once you get
that, you cant use the wrong words.
Read your story out loud, listening to the rhythm of your sentences. Is there a
comfortable ow? Are there parts you stumble over? Do you end your sentences
with the word that has the most weight? Not, There was a star-shaped hole in his
head, and a thin line of blood trickled from it, but A thin line of blood trickled
from the star-shaped hole in his head. Since head is a much stronger, weightier
word than it, the second construction might be a better choice.
Do you have a lot of ller words, like that, just, very, etc.? Cut them out
whenever you can. You do not need, She was very beautiful or The stench was
pretty awful. The very and pretty dilute the beautiful and awful. Do a
global search for these words and eliminate every one that you do not absolutely
need. Along the same lines, we all have favorite words and phrases we like to
use. For example, a popular author whose work I generally admire used the tires
chirped or I pulled away with a chirp of tires at least half a dozen times in one
book. It was an interesting line and sounded original the rst time, but after a
while it just seemed odd. Do tires chirp all that often, really? These unintentional
repetitions can detract from the uency of your writing. Do another search for
those and see if you can replace some of them with other words, phrases, or im-
Occasional, purposeful repetition, on the other hand, can create a powerful
rhythm. Think of Winston Churchills famous speech: we shall ght on the
beaches, we shall ght on the landing grounds, we shall ght in the elds and in
the streets, we shall ght in the hills; we shall never surrender (The Churchill
Centre, 2015). Now, thats powerful stuff.

Read your dialogue aloud. Does it sound natural? Does it sound too natural? Real
language is bogged down by repetitions, ramblings, uhs, ums, and likes. In
literature, we distill conversation down to the essence of speech, leaving out the
boring parts. The dialogue in a novel sounds like real conversation, only better.
In real life, when you call someone on the phone, you engage in several min-
utes of small talk.

Hi, Bob.

Why, hello, Sandra, nice to talk to you.

Nice to talk to you too. How is Jim?
Hes had a little bit of a cold, but other than that, hes pretty good. Hows
Shes well. She just back from a visit with her mother.

And so on, and so on, and so on. In an effort to create realistic dialogue, be-
ginning writers often try to include all of this small talk. The result is deadly dull
dialogue that readers skim over, or worse, skip altogether. There are several other
pitfalls writers stumble over when writing dialogue. Among them are not using
contractions, As You Know, Bob information dumps, Hardy Boy Syndrome,
problems with attributions, or speech tags, and on-the-nose dialogue.

When we talk, we use contractions: Im going to the grocery store. Dont you
want to come with me? Didnt I see you here last week? Well go to the opera
on Tuesday. Some writers, perhaps in an attempt to seem more literate or formal,
write dialogue without contractions: I am going to the grocery store. Do you not
want to come with me? Did I not see you here? We will go to the opera on Tues-
This creates a stilted manner of speaking. While there are some characters,
usually those for whom English is a second language, for whom this appropriate,
most should use contractions.

As You Know, Bob.

As You Know, Bob dialogue is dialogue in which one character tells anoth-
er character things they both already know. This usually occurs when the writer
needs to tell the reader something and isnt sure how to go about it. When this
happens, you end up with something like this:

Why, hello, Bob. I see youre back in the country after your two-week vaca-
tion in Greece.
Yes, as you know, theyre reading Mothers will this afternoon, and my wife,
Leticia, and I want to be there. Im sure you and your wife, Ger-
aldine, and your three grown children, Tom, Renee, and Evelyn,
want to be there too.
Well, of course. This is the rst time either of us has seen our younger brother
Hugh since he eloped with that trapeze artist and broke Moth-
ers heart. I suppose he thinks hes going to inherit something,
but you remember how she said hed never get a penny, not
after bringing that little tramp home, even though she did nurse
Lightning and the Lightning Bug 111

Mother through the worst of her illness, even when she was suf-
fering from dementia and couldnt remember anybodys name.

This is not a natural way to deliver information to the reader. Instead, you can
weave this information in through exposition, interior monologue, and dialogue
with other characters who do not already know the information.
Beware the information dump, especially of the as you know, Bob kind.
Instead, ask yourself when this information would naturally and realistically be
remembered, thought of, or discussed.

Hardy Boy Syndrome

Hardy Boy Syndrome, she quipped. Just dont do it. The name of this
syndrome comes from a popular series of childrens mysteries, The Hardy Boys.
While these books have a great many good qualities, the authors seemed to have
an aversion to using the word said. Characters whispered, mumbled, murmured,
shouted, purred, declared, complained, moaned, groaned, and even ejaculated
their words.
Said is good. Asked is ne. Rule of thumb: only use a descriptive speech
tag if the way a thing is said belies what is being said (I hate you, she said
sweetly.), or if its necessary for characterization or effect. Note: you cannot hiss
anything unless it has a lot of sibilants. It might sometimes be important to tell
us if someone whispered or murmured something. Other words for said might
be effective on rare occasions, but unless theres a compelling reason not to, stick
with asked and said.

I Love You, She Smirked

You cannot smile a word, grin a word, smirk a word, or frown a word. Please
dont put a comma between these actions and any quote that might precede or
follow it.
Not: Theyre beautiful, Jen smiled.
Instead, try: Theyre beautiful. Jen smiled.

On-the-Nose Dialogue
On-the-nose dialogue is dialogue in which every character says exactly what
he or she means. Heres an example:

I cant believe youre late again. It makes me really sad and angry when you
come home late, especially when you dont call. It makes me
feel abandoned and insecure.
Im sorry, darling. I would never intentionally make you feel that way. I guess
Ive just been feeling a little stressed at work, maybe a little bit
trapped. Not that I dont love you. I do. Its just that this whole

marriage thing feels very new to me, and I need to assert my

independence a little. Can you understand that?
It frightens me when you talk that way, because it makes me think you dont re-
ally want to be married. That maybe youd rather be with some-
one else. My friend Sally saw you with Veronica the other day,
and she said you looked like you were really enjoying her com-
pany. Shes so pretty and, okay, lets admit it, a little bit slutty,
that it makes me afraid shes going to lure you away from me.
Oh, darling, that will never happen.

No one talks like this. In real life, we talk around our feelings. The more intense
the emotion and the higher the stakes with the other person, the less likely we are
to come straight out and say what were thinking. Instead, we use subtext. Our
true meaning lies beneath our actual words. When the other person responds, he
or she responds, not to our actual words, but to their interpretation of the subtext.
Theres an old joke that says if you go to a friends house for dinner and say,
Where did you get that steak? a man will say, Kroger. A woman will say,
Why? Whats wrong with it? Shes responding, not to your question, but to the
criticism she hears beneath the question.
Near the beginning of my third novel, River of Glass, homicide detective Frank
Campanella asks private detective Jared McKean to identify the body of an Asian
woman found in Jareds ofce dumpster. The two men are long-time friends, for-
mer partners on the Murder Squad. Jared has recently suffered the loss of a family
member and is still reeling from the experience. When Frank rst approaches
Jared, they have a brief conversation. I will repeat it here, minus the gestures and
interior monologue, and with the subtext in italics. The dialogue in quotes is what
they actually say. The words in italics are the deeper meanings behind the words.
These meanings are not on the page, yet the reader understands them.

How you doing, Cowboy? Im concerned about you.

You didnt come here to ask me how Im doing. I dont really want to talk
about how Im doing.
No, but now that Im here, the question has crossed my mind. I came for
another reason, but now that I see youre here and not at work,
Im worried that youre not moving past your grief.
Im ne. Or was, until you stopped by. I really mean it. Im not going to talk
about it. But I can tell youre here to give me bad news.
Ill try not to take that personally. Okay, that kinda hurt my feelings, but Im
too much of a tough guy to admit it. Were friends, so Im not
going to bust your chops over it, but Im going to call you on it.
Its not personal. You know what they say about shooting the messenger. You
have your bad news face on. Youre right. I was out of line that
Lightning and the Lightning Bug 113

time. Sorry about that. Now lets get back to why youre here.
Might as well get it over with.
I have a bad news face? Now that were getting right down to it, Im not sure
how to start. A little levity before things get heavy?
Its like your regular face, but squintier. Yeah, a little levity. Good idea.
Did you go to the ofce today? I know the answer to this, because if you had,
you would have seen bloody footprints on the sidewalk, but I
cant take that for granted, so I have to ask. And also, I want to
know if youre going to work at all, not just today, because if
youre not, then youre still a walking wound.
What are you, the ofce police? I did a skip trace and a couple of background
checks. Nothing I couldnt do from here. Im feeling defensive
now. I know what youre getting at, but Im okay. Im working.
I just didnt happen to go to the office today, because I could do
what I needed to do from home.
Skip traces. Background checks. Aw, buddy. Youre breaking my heart.
Its honest work. Pays well. Plus, I can do it from my couch. Im still feeling
a little defensive, but lets lighten the tone a little bit, okay?
Youre wasted on it. Jared, what happened to Josh wasnt your fault. Youre
better than skip traces and background checks. Id like to see
you back in the squad room where you can make the most of
your talents. Plus, I miss working with you. How long are you
going to punish yourself for something that wasnt your fault?

While you always want your writing to be clear, you can trust your readers not
to need everything spelled out. Theyre smart. They will get it.


Early drafts are often full of characters grinning, shrugging, smiling, and smirking.
While there is nothing wrong with these and other basic gestures, they can feel ge-
neric and overused. In some contexts, a shrug or a grin is exactly the right gesture,
but in others, these gestures are so meaningless they are virtually invisible. When
you are in the edit and polish stage, try doing a search for these words. Are there
instances where a more telling gesture or detail would be more effective?
If you are not sure what kind of body language your character might use, con-
sider going on a eld trip to a coffee shop, bus station, concert, or any other place
where groups of people gather. Take your notebook and record some of the more
notable gestures you see. What do people do when they are stalling for time?
When they are angry, bored, or nervous? When they are irting?
A woman trying to avoid her lovers gaze might tip her soda can and watch a
bead of cola roll slowly around the rim. A man feeling pressured might tug at the
knot of his tie. A woman who is attracted to a man might move her hand closer to
his. A girl feeling nervous might twirl a strand of hair tightly around her nger.

A woman feeling angry but unwilling to lose control might grip her purse more
tightly while her nostrils are and her lips press into a straight line.
For one character, sorrow might be sobbing into a pillow. For another, it might be
watching raindrops on a window and remembering raindrop races with her father;
they would each choose a raindrop and see whose would reach the sill rst. For
another, it might be going to gym and pounding a punching bag until his knuckles
bleed. The right body language at the right time can reveal a lot about a character.

As a writer and a storyteller, you have other tools at your disposal, such as know-
ing when to show and when to tell, how to handle point of view, and how to
balance dialogue, action, and exposition. However, these are not primarily issues
of language and are therefore beyond the scope of this article. It should be clear,
though, that writing and storytelling are not separate things. If you have a tale to
tell, you are a storyteller. If you tell your story through the written word, then you
are a writer. You can use your medium, words on the page, to tell your story in the
best way possible, to as many readers as you can reach. A writers words can live
forever, so why not make them the best words they can be?

Gordon, K. E. (1984). The transitive vampire: a handbook of grammar for the innocent, the
eager, and the doomed. New York, NY: Times Books.
Gordon, K. E. (1993). The deluxe transitive vampire: The ultimate handbook of grammar
for the innocent, the eager, and the doomed. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.
Harty, J. (1991). James Joyces Finnegans wake: A casebook. New York, NY: Garland
Kurtz, G., (Producer), & Lucas, G. (Director). (2004). Star Wars: Episode V. [Motion Pic-
ture]. United States of America: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
Strunk, W., & White, E. B. (1979). The elements of style (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Mac-
Truss, L. (2003). Eats, shoots & leaves, London, UK: Prole Books.
Schmidt, B. (1997). Twain quotations: Lightening. Retrieved from http://www.twain-
The Churchill Centre. (2015). We shall fight on the beaches. Retrieved from http://www.
The Writers Society. (2015). Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader.
Retrieved from

The Correct Usage of
Metaphors, Similes, and Idioms
Jamie Hughes

There are many concerns for writers when producing a piece of work for public
viewing. The desire for someone to read the work and understand the intended
meaning carries a heavy weight that demands the writer to carefully consider
several aspects of writing. One key to successful writing that can be confusing
is the correct usage of literary devices such as metaphors, similes, and idioms.
They are part of the spoken vernacular that each person learns as they grow
up hearing their native tongue. These gures of speech may be understood as
suchmetaphor (Def. 1): a gure of speech in which a word or phrase liter-
ally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest
a likeness or analogy between them (Metaphor, n. d); simile (Def. 2): a gure
of speech comparing two unlike things that is often introduced by like or as
(Simile, n. d.); idiom (Def. 3): the language peculiar to a people or to a district,
community or class (Idiom, n. d.); dialect. Because these gures of speech are
second nature, the question can arise of when to use or not use them properly
when writing. Just like other parts of language, such as accent, vocabulary, and
tongue, they are subconscious when we begin to communicate with others in

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages 115122.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 115

the world around us but deserve a level of scrutiny when including in writing.
An important consideration for writers is audience. Although authors would
like everyone to read their work, there is always a specic group to which the
writing will appeal and be useful. Another major consideration for writers is
the separation between creative and academic works. Reviewing the usage of
metaphors, similes, and idioms within literature from multiple eras reveals the
correct placement throughout distinct genres both formal and informal.

Writing for the intended audience should be the foremost consideration when re-
garding the usage or limit of gures of speech. When an author has a message to
convey, the reader needs to be able to understand what is being written as well as the
underlying meanings within the literature. Written communication can be relayed in
various forms, but must be understood in each. Consider a time when you have read
something that you did not understand because it was written in an archaic dialect,
foreign language, or confusing style, lled with professional jargon or inundated
with gures of speech that you were not familiar with. The difculty of translating
the piece into a common vernacular probably overshadowed the content and may
have even discouraged you from nishing the piece. In most cases, the desired mes-
sage is lost. Not everyone is going to understand gures of speech so they must be
used carefully and correctly. One of Stephen Coveys (2001) principle ideas is to
begin with the end in mind. His advice goes a long way when considering the target
audience and what information the author desires to convey.
Two forms of writing that address different types of audiences are formal and
informal. Found throughout historical literature, those forms are still relevant to-
day. Formal writing includes genres such as journalism, academic papers, busi-
ness reports, scientic thesis, formal letters, resumes, and other professional ar-
ticles. They are crafted with the purpose of communicating serious, professional
level information intended to be read and understood by a broad audience. This
writing style conforms to the standards of grammar, punctuation, and structure for
the chosen language (English or the target audiences accepted reading language).
Because the intended audience includes a greater range of readers, the paper must
be written in such a way that it can be easily understood by a general audience.
Some writing will be specic to a particular group based on profession such as
those in the scientic or medical community and will include professional termi-
nology. With the need for universal understanding at a professional level, using
gures of speech is discouraged from formal writing. Including metaphors, simi-
les, and idioms within that context is viewed as unprofessional and may discredit
the writer from serious consideration.
Informal writing includes all other genres such as poetry, ction, non-ction nar-
rative, personal letters, and others. Informal literature allows for the expression of
culture, ideas, and creativity in proper context by using gures of speech, even as
the main literary tool in some occasions. The creative nature of this style means the
As Clear as Mud 117

guidelines vary widely. Even with a lax approach to using gures of speech, the
intended audience is still the highest consideration. In informal writing, the point of
view normally represents the author himself or a character on a more personal level.
Therefore, the audience expects to read less formal and often creative dialogue.
However, the intended audience still needs to be able to understand what is written
and/or be able to accept the speech as customary to the character or region repre-
sented in the piece. Considering the audience helps to convey intent.

Throughout history, the use of gures of speech has been a normal and important
part of writing that stretches across multiple genres. Writing types and styles have
changed very little over time. Considerations have been consistent pertaining to the
correct usage of gures of speech such as metaphors, similes, and idioms. They in-
volve much more than just an attempt to use colorful language. Writers want to ex-
press themselves in a way that effectively relays their thoughts, ideas, and emotions
to their audience. Writing is not only about linguistic acrobatics, it is an art form
and tool for expressing ideas in such a way that others can understand and relate to.
Part of making a writers message successful involves carefully crafting their work
in clear and meaningful ways. Figures of speech convey that message throughout a
variety of genres such as ction or nonction narrative, poetry, and theater.
Literary devices often serve to conceal deeper meaning within the work, some-
times on a small scale, referring to a single item that has another meaning. In
The Red Badge of Courage (Crane, 1895), the title itself is a gure of speech that
reects the ironic notion of the main characters pursuit of courage. The wording
refers to a wound received during battle, a visible display of the soldiers cour-
age. There are several examples of metaphors and similes throughout the book
especially those comparing war to animals. War is described as a red animal,
the enemy are like ies, and the army line writhes like a snake stepped upon
(Red Badge of Courage Novel Guide, 2015).

The modern use of metaphor stems from classic literature. According to Robert
Graves (2009), myths served to answer life questions and to explain the origins
of social systems and customs. The overlapping use of metaphor fullled both
of those needs. By telling a story, the deeper meaning could be encased within
the events and characters. One example is the story of Icarus. His story evolved
as part of other memorable myths such as the minotaur, labyrinth, and Minos.
Whether the tale of Icarus was written as mythological narrative or meant to pro-
vide a proverbial lesson is unclear (, 2015). Throughout time, it
has become a metaphor for ignoring warnings and becoming overcondent. King
Minos had imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus in the Labyrinth for leaking
helpful information to an enemy of the king. The secrets shared resulted in the

death of the Minotaur. In order to escape the maze, Daedalus engineered wings
made of feathers and wax. The wings would allow them to y out of the maze to
freedom. He warned Icarus not to y too high, or the sun would melt the wax in
his wings. Icarus became so enthralled by ying that he ignored the advice of his
father and soared higher and higher. Per the warning, the wax melted causing the
wings to fall apart sending Icarus plummeting to his death in the sea below.
Shakespeare, the playwright and poet, invented thousands of words that ex-
panded the English language (Shakespeare, 2015). One of his earliest poems, Ve-
nus and Adonis, drew heavily on Greek mythology that utilized metaphorical tales
to explain earthly conditions or natural phenomenon. His later dramatic pieces
included now historical lines ripe with simile and metaphor. For instance, in Mac-
beth, Macbeth tells of seeing the dead kings body,

Here lay Duncan,

His silver skin laced with his golden blood;
And his gashd stabs lookd like a breach in nature
For ruins wasteful entrance: there, the murderers,
Steepd in the colours of their trade, their daggers
Unmannerly breechd with gore. Who could refrain,
That had a heart to love, and in that heart
Courage to makes love known? (Shakespeare, 2010, Act 2, Scene 3)

The use of the simile like a breach... illustrates the cosmic implications of the
senseless murder. The following metaphor, the colours of their trade, ties the
death red blood color to their actions and intent, to their work, and in essence, to
their very nature. In The Taming of the Shrew a messenger says, ...too much sad-
ness hath congealed your blood, and melancholy is the nurse of frenzy (Shake-, n. d.). Here, the despair of melancholy is compared to a nurse,
indicating that it provides for or even birthed frenzy. An amusing banter between
the main characters compares Katherine to a wasp:

Petruchio: Come, come, you wasp, ifaith you are too angry.
Katherine: If I be waspish, best beware my sting.
Petruchio: My remedy is then to pluck it out.
Katherine: Ay, if the fool could nd where it lies.
Petruchio: Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail.
Katherine: In his tongue.
Petruchio: Whose tongue?
Katherine: Yours, if you talk of tales, and so farewell (Shakespeare, n. d., Act
2, Scene 1).

Shakespeare was moving from the Greek usage of gures of speech being used
as complete stories to explain natural conditions or human events toward using
them to capture the essence of an individual or their actions. One of the great les-
As Clear as Mud 119

sons from the comparison is variety and scope. Understanding the writers overall
intent and purpose allows specic selection of methods used to full that purpose.
Whether describing the individual character or a life lesson, writers can formulate
literature based on tried and true classical models.
A literary device can also encompass an entire work. The concept of a supram-
etaphor involves a single gure of speech that encompasses the theme of an entire
body of work. Some titles are suprametaphors, such as A Raisin in the Sun, the
title of the classic play by Lorraine Hansberry (1959). The suprametaphor refers
to dreams deferred becoming withered and dried out. This theme is displayed in
the lives of the main characters, leading the audience to a deeper examination of
the subject and the impact of unfullled dreams on a persons life.

Similes, when overused, may cause the writer to sound amateurish or prone to
create only supercial comparisons within their work. In similar fashion to meta-
phors, similes are most effective when they evoke a deeper meaning such that the
comparison is powerful enough to transfer the qualities of one object to another.
Hudson, in his piece on metaphors and similes, offers a classic example from
Paradise Lost:

As when the potent rod

Of Amrams son, in Egypts evil day,
Wavd round the coast, up calld a pitchy cloud
Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind,
That oer the realm of impious Pharaoh hung
Like night, and darkend all the land of Nile;
So numberless were those bad angels seen
Hovering on wing under the cope of Hell,
Twixt upper, nether, and surrounding res. (Hudson, 2009, p. 124)

The portion showing the full usage of simile, having drawn out the comparison
with detailed description, similes carefully elaborated through all their parts,
giving the reader a more in-depth understanding and appreciation for the literary
device (Hudson, 2009, p. 146). Homers entire epic is full of simile that mirrors
the ancient Greek writings that his audience would have clearly understood, and
thus incorporating proper regard for audience and solid associations for the genre.
Correct usage of similes (aside from characterizations), should lead the reader
into a deeper analogy. In this way, it becomes more than a comparison, it becomes
a tool for discovery, reection and developing a meaningful connection to another
idea, not just another subject. Similes used by characters in a story can add depth
to the story by revealing additional plot meaning. They can also establish setting
or character background.


Robert Frost said, Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the
thought has found words (Robert Frost: Quotes, 2015). The art form of poetry
uses gures of speech to creatively explain human emotions and life experiences.
No other style of writing masters the beauty of metaphors and similes. All genera-
tions and cultures have used this medium to express themselves and their under-
standing of the world around them. Comparative description is seen from such
poets as David in Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to
my path, and Horace in Odes,

See, in the white of the winter air

The day hangs like a rose.
It droops down to the reaching hand
Take it before it goes. (McEvilley, 2013, para. 3)

While the most basic component of poetry is gurative speech, the depth of
meaning has as many forms as there are poems in the world. There are light and
capricious lines as well as dark, ominous refrains. In the witty poem A Boy Named
Sue by Shel Silverstein, the writer says his father kicked like a mule and bit like
a crocodile (Silverstein, 2015), while in Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet Capulet
pines, Death lies on her like an untimely frost (Shakespeare, n. d., Act 4, Scene
3). While not every poet uses direct simile, metaphor is a powerful method for
expressing imagery throughout the genre. Edgar Allen Poe was a master at using
metaphor, especially to imbue the characteristics of evil and death onto normal
objects. The City in the Sea begins, Lo! Death has reared himself a throne, set-
ting the eerie imagery of the watery grave being the destination of human souls
after death (Poe, 1831, p. 1). The important thing to keep in mind is the use of
metaphors and similes by the great poets were not simply comparisons of two
objects, they were connections to greater ideas. When writing a poem using these
gures of speech, the writer should consider the greater concept with which the
reader will connect. Consider The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams:

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
(Williams, 1923, p. 1)

The reader not only imagines the picture of the scene, but also begins to interpret
the metaphor according to their own life and circumstances. Proper and lasting
As Clear as Mud 121

usage of gures of speech in poetry will have a similar effect. The writer creates
an image that conveys a deeper, possibly universal meaning.

Idioms in writing are used mainly for characterizations or to show distinctive na-
tive or geographical vernacular. They can determine the setting of the story. These
native phrases may have been passed on for several generations. Some idioms that
were used during the time of the Roman Empire are still used today (Idioms in
Classical Literature, 2006). For example, brave as hell, beware of the dog, or
you watch over me, Ill watch over you. An author may use these types of say-
ings when writing a characters dialogue. For a ction writer, the aspects to con-
sider when using idioms would include localization, prole, and audience. The
geographic or historical setting of the story can be reected through proper use of
idioms. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is teeming with examples
of idiomatic phrases. For example, That kind of talk wont wash, honest as the
day is long (p. 35) hes full of the Old Scratch (p. 3), and dad fetch it (Twain,
1884, p. 87). The setting of the story, whether time or place, can be disrupted by
incorrect dialogue or phrases. If an author uses an idiom that is common in the
southeastern United States for a story set in the upper Michigan peninsula, there
will be a disconnect for the reader. A character from the Upper Peninsula would
not likely say, bless their heart as part of their normal vernacular. Location, era,
and culture should be the determining factors when writing idioms into a story.

Writing for an audience demands certain considerations in order for the work to be
understood and to be successful. Planning the writing with the intended reader in
mind is the greatest consideration, especially when using gures of speech. For-
mal and informal writing are distinctively different and should be treated separately
when using gures of speech. Their use in formal writing should be extremely lim-
ited, if used at all. Informal writing can draw from examples found in classic works
and used appropriately across all genres. Metaphors, similes, and idioms have all
been used in literature for centuries and are equally important in todays writings
for expressing ideas, emotions, settings, and characterizations. Used correctly, they
can reveal more than a supercial comparison. The skilled author will use them
to express deeper meanings and thematic elements throughout the story. A supra
metaphor, normally the title, will encompass the theme of the entire work. Both
metaphors and similes are staples for the genre of poetry, allowing the writer to
discuss various issues through comparison. Dialogue between characters is the most
prominent placement for idioms, revealing setting, vernacular and era.

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Idiom [Def. 3]. (n. d.) In Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved June 24, 2015, from http://
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The myth of Icarus (Ikaros) and Daedalus. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.island-
The red badge of courage: Metaphor analysis. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.novel-
Twain, M. (1884). The adventures of Tom Sawyer. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.
Silverstein, S. (2015). A boy named Sue. Retrieved from http:// famouspoetsandpoems.
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Oluwakemi Elufiede, Tina Murray, and Carrie J. Boden-McGill

We would like to thank you for reading the chapters presented in this publication.
We hope that you enjoyed the chapters and that by reading them, you have learned
about the art and craft of enhancing your individual writing skills. If you learned,
then you are not alone. The contributors and editors of this volume, too, are learn-
ing as we go. We, too, are seeking to enhance our writing skills and in the process,
are sharing what we have learned with other writers. Its heartening to learn there
are many contemporary writers who are excited about writing and eager to learn.
The bringing forth of this book and its accompanying writers conference is a
proud rst for The Carnegie Writers, Inc. It has been, for us, a labor of love, not
to mention a great adventure and a noble experiment. Indeed, the writing, com-
piling, and editing of these chapters has been a valuable learning experience. We
know we are not perfect nor is our product. It is in this imperfection and striving
for improvement where growth occurs. We are deeply grateful to the talented and
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ciate their faith in us, as well as in the future of The Carnegie Writers, Inc. We
greatly appreciate the information and expertise they have shared with us. All in
all, the authors who have contributed to Enhancing Writing Skills, have provided
a wealth of information and insight based upon years of experience and study. It is
our hope that you will take with you inspiration from these pages, and a creative
upwelling will come forth. We wish you success in your writing endeavors, and
we welcome stories of your successful writing endeavors.

Enhancing Writing Skills, page 123.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 123

Lisa Aschmann is a prolic professional songwriter, a singer, educator, and au-

thor. She has recorded six CDs of her own and has had hundreds of songs re-
corded by major artists in almost every genre, including bluegrass, jazz, country,
folk, inspirational, pop, and R&B.

Joseph Ballantyne, Ph.D is currently employed at Measurement Inc. on the 2015

TCAP-WA. In 2012, he joined the teaching staff at King Saud University Prepara-
tory Program for incoming freshmen in Riyadh, KSU. Initially, he worked as an
instructor in the EFL program, teaching reading, writing, speaking, and listening
skills with a curriculum designed at Cambridge University. After serving on the
Deans Task Force preparing for the international TOEFL accreditation process,
he joined the research team assisting the Chairman of the English Preparatory
Program. He also teaches at Middle Tennessee State University.

Carissa Barker-Stucky, M.F.A graduated from Lindenwood University with a

Masters of Fine Arts in Writing in December 2012. Since then, she has written
and edited several pieces for fun while working in the animal industry through
both retail and veterinary receptionist positions. Carissa now pursues her dream
job, working as a freelance writer, editor, and graphic designer. She lives in Little

Enhancing Writing Skills, pages 125129.

Copyright 2016 by Information Age Publishing
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. 125

Rock with her husband Christopher and their four four-legged babiesAstro the
mutt, Kevin the short hair kitty, Hoot the long hair kitty, and Felix the dragon.
Carissas creative writing can be found on her blog,

Carrie Boden-McGill, Ph.D. is Professor and former Chair of the Department

of Occupational, Workforce, and Leadership Studies at Texas State University.
Dr. Boden-McGills research is primarily focused in the areas of teaching and
learning strategies, mentoring, transformative learning, and personal epistemo-
logical beliefs. She has presented papers in over 25 states and foreign countries
and published articles in journals such as Adult Learning Quarterly, The Interna-
tional Journal of Learning, and National Teacher Education Journal. Her latest
books are Pathways to Transformation: Learning in Relationship, co-edited with
Dr. Sola Kippers, Conversations about Adult Learning in Our Complex World and
Developing and Sustaining Adult Learners, co-edited with Dr. Kathleen P. King,
and Building Sustainable Futures for Adult Learners co-edited with Jennifer K.
Holtz and Stephen B. Springer. Dr. Boden-McGill serves as a Director on the
AHEA Board and co-chairs the research and theory SIG of the Commission of
Professors of Adult Education.

Mary Buckner is an award-winning author of ve novels, one YA project, and

two memoirs. Her work has been published in ve languages and well received
on three continents. Buckner holds a Masters in Creative Writing from Boston
University. She is co-founder and senior editor of Turn Style Writers, where she
teaches, coaches and edits new writers. Additional publishing credits include cre-
ative nonction, magazine features, blogs, and content for many websites. Her
advertising copy has earned two Diamond Addies, three NAMA awards, includ-
ing Best of Show, numerous Golden Quills and other professional awards.

Oluwakemi Eluede, M.Ed is the founder and President of the Carnegie Writ-
ers, Inc. She is also the founder of two other community-based writing groups
in Savannah, Georgia and Huntsville, Alabama. She has experience working in
the public education, community education, higher education, mental health, and
substance abuse sectors. Her skills include tutoring, teaching, curriculum devel-
opment, program planning, case management, community relations, and editorial
consulting. She has facilitated over 30 community, professional reading, writing,
and author events. She is a talented editor with experience in creative, inspira-
tional, and academic publications and is the editor of ve books. She is currently
working on her next book, The Desire has Expired. She holds degrees in P12
Special Education from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and B.L.S in Psy-
chology and a Master of Adult Education from Armstrong Atlantic State Univer-
sity. She is a Doctoral Candidate in Educational Leadership at Tennessee State
Contributor Biographies 127

Emmanuel Jean Francois, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Comparative and

International Education at Ohio University. He previously served as Assistant
Professor of Human Services Leadership and Director of the Masters program
in Transnational Human Services at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. He
earned a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Adult,
Higher Education, and Human Resources Development from the University of
South Florida (USF). Dr. Francois repertoire of publications includes more than
30 titles in English, French, and Haitian Creole. His most recent books include Fi-
nancial sustainability for nonprofit organizations (2014), Transcultural blended
learning and teaching in postsecondary education (2012), DREAM model to start
a small business (2011), and Global education on trial by U.S. college professors
(2010). He is the current president of the Transnational Education and Learning
Society (TELS). He has presented at various regional, national, and international
conferences about his research on adult and continuing education, non-traditional
college students, global education, transnational education, transcultural issues,
globalization, international development, study abroad, transformative learn-
ing, scholarship of teaching and learning, and community based participatory
research. He is on the Editorial Board of Human Services Today. He served as
peer reviewer for the International Journal of Multicultural Education (IJME),
American Educational Research Journal (AERJ), and the Annual Conferences of
the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE), the As-
sociation for Institutional Research (AIR), and the Comparative and International
Education Society (CIES).

David M. Harris had never lived more than fty miles from New York City.
Since then he has moved to Tennessee, married, acquired a daughter, a classic
MG, and gotten serious about poetry. All these projects seem to be working out
pretty well. His work has appeared in Pirenes Fountain and in First Water, the
Best of Pirenes Fountain anthology, Gargoyle, The Labletter, The Pedestal, and
other places. His rst collection of poetry, The Review Mirror, was published by
Unsolicited Press in September, 2013. On Sunday mornings, at 11 AM Central
time, he talks about poetry on WRFN-LP in Pasquo, TN (www.radiofreenashville.

Jamie Hughes is the founder and facilitator of Writing for Well-Being, a thera-
peutic writing course. He has been journaling and writing poetry for over 20 years.
Most of his creative writing stems from an artistic nature and a love of reading.
His earliest writings were inspired by all of the fantastic comic books he read as a
child. Some of his more personal writing, however, stems from a life-long battle
with depression. His greatest desire is to share hope with people who might only
see darkness or pain in their lives. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology
from Gardner-Webb University, is a certied instructor for journal writing, and
is the author of The Jesus I Know, and The Game plan for Defeating Depression.

Tina Murray, Ph.D., is the author of two novels, A Chance to Say Yes and A Wild
Dream of Love, both published by ArcheBooks Publishing, Inc. A Chance to Say
Yes, her debut novel, received ve stars from the Midwest Review of Books. Prior
to becoming an author, Murray earned two degreesBA in art and MS in educa-
tionfrom the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, and completed the
doctoral program in art education at The Florida State University in Tallahassee,
Florida. Southern by birth, she has lived in various parts of the United States, in-
cluding Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, New York, and Oregon. Her inter-
ests are many and varied, as are her work experiences. Fields of endeavor include
entertainment, real estate, retail, and education. Her academic experience includes
designing and implementing courses as a TA at FSU and as an adjunct instructor
at FAMU. She worked briey as an Assistant Professor at Ball State. Most recent-
ly, Dr. Murray has become vice president of Carnegie Writers, Inc. Currently at
work on her third novel, A Big Fan of Yours, she resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

Candy Paull is an author that offers words of encouragement, inspiration, and

gratitude. She is the author of The Translucent Heart, Finding Serenity in Seasons
of Stress, The Art of Abundance, and other books. She writes the way she lives,
which is inspired. She helps men and women reduce stress, enjoy a more creative,
abundant life, and nurture spiritual growth. She is a hybrid author who has
traditionally published and self-published her rst ebook in 2009. Over 200,000
people have downloaded her free ebook, The Heart of Abundance. Sign up for her
email list and receive a 21day series of FREE Audio Afrmations. 2 minutes of
instant inspiration to brighten your day.

Patricia H. Quinlan lived in Colorado from 1980 to 2013. She spent ve years
with an Oil and Gas company, then twelve years with a mutual fund company as
a desktop publisher, the last several years as a supervisor. She often spoke of the
need for someone to write the history of Mammoth Cave, and after much prod-
ding from friends and family, she decided to take up the challenge. Her career as a
writer was born with her rst novel, Beneath Their Feet, the history of Mammoth
Cave and its people. She learned to enjoy the research involved in creating a story
and went on to write: Amanda; The Story of Peter Looney, his year of living with
the Indians; Growing up in The Free State of Winston, and nally No Way Out,
Surviving the Civil War in Northern Alabama. As a new resident of Nashville, she
is enjoying the mental challenges that come with creating other worlds on paper.

George Spain is a native Tennessean. Author of Our People: Stories of the South,
Lost Cove, Come Sit With Me, and Delightful Suthun Madnesses XIII. Now retired
from his work in mental health, he lives in Nashville.

Beth Terrell is a Shamus Award nalist and the author of three Nashville-based
crime novels. Sheila Deeth of Caf Libre says of A Cup Full of Midnight, A story
Contributor Biographies 129

this powerful is hard to ndthe perfect combination of noir and human hope,
while the San Francisco Book Review says Terrells River of Glass positively
bristles with the darker side of wit. Terrell has been a teacher and trainer for
more than thirty years, rst as a special education teacher and later as a trainer for
an educational assessment company. She currently works as a freelance writer,
workshop leader, and writing coach and consultant. Learn more at http://www.

Janet Walsh, Ed.D has more than 19 years of experience enhancing academic
library services through technology, marketing, administration, and instruction.
Her professional experience includes Sirsi Corporation, Fisk University, HBCU
Library Alliance Leadership Program, American Baptist College, Ingram Library
Services, and Tennessee State University. She has worked with educational and
non-prot organizations that promote literacy and library usage to children and
adults including Southern Word YouthSpeaks and Metropolitan Nashville Public
Schools and the Childrens Defense Fund.

Minat Terkait