Poetry. A poem.

When I read good poetry
I want to write good poetry
But my feeble affectations
And wanton masturbations
Pale to insignificance
When compared to
Browning, Whitman, Yeats

I yearn to write good poetry
The way I yearn to read good poetry
But such poetic vastness
Just becomes loquaciousness
Flowing perspicaciously
Away into a vast, uncaring
And unconcerned wilderness

I write a lot of poems, some from my head, some from my heart. Many don’t appear on this website. For more of my poetry, check out The All or the Nothing, my first e-book, available at most online book sellers.

Click here to find out how to get your copy.

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Dawn. A poem.

Dawn peeks in through the blinds, seeking the one behind
Laying here in bed, yet to face sun and sky
Yet to feel the warmth and to stretch arms wide
Yet to start the day, nothing changed by the night
No miraculous cures or incredible saves
Nothing more than pleasures we indelibly crave
When your feet hit the floor, sunlight leads the way
Every morning follows night
Every night follows day

The Diff. A short tale.

Here’s another short piece I recently wrote for uni. The exercise was to create some realistic dialogue. Hope you like it.

“So, you’ve finally met a girl?” Josh grinned.
Matt lowered his eyes. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“About time. I thought after your divorce you’d never get out there again. Tell me all about her. Is she a good sort?”
Matt smiled. “Yeah, she’s very attractive. She likes all the things I like. We can talk for hours about books, movies, art, comics, you name it. It’s like she was made for me.”
Josh rolled his eyes. “Nerds. So, what’s wrong?”
“There’s a bit of an age difference.”
“How much?”
“About fifteen years.”
“You old cradle snatcher, you. How old is she, eighteen or something?”
“Twenty-five.”
“Twenty-five? How old are you, anyway?” Josh did a quick calculation on his fingers. “Like, forty or something? You don’t look that old.”
“I’m scared to ask her out,” said Matt.
“You’re scared of rejection? Geez, mate, get over it and ask her. Then you won’t have to do the old ‘unrequited love depression session’ every time we chat. You can just be regular depressed like the rest of us.”

Rain. A Poem.

I felt the rain more deeply than ever before
It flowed like chaotic capillaries down my face
It mingled with tears, a salty, alchemical mix  
It touched my tongue, combined saliva and cotton mouth
It washed me clean of tragic irony and bittersweet regret
And when it stopped I stood there dripping, alone as always
Contemplating when it would fall on me again
Would I accept its cold, cleansing embrace
Or would I shrink away to a warmer, dryer place

 

This poem is another experiment for me. I’ve been trying out different free verse structures and meters, and this one is more prose-like.

I think it worked out okay. Tell me what you think.

Be The Hero Contest (Gotham Writers Workshop)

Following is an email from Steph Spector, director of contests and conferences at Gotham Writers Workshop. If you’re a new writer and would like to enter this competition, click on the link below.

Hi Steve! 

Gotham Writers Workshop (is a) creative writing school based in New York City and online.

I’m on Steve Still Standing because I was searching for writing blogs on WordPress, and yours came up. I was reading some of your poetry—it seems like you’re passionate about the craft of storytelling, and I thought you might be interested in sharing Gotham’s newest creative writing contest with your followers. 

Gotham is hosting the Be the Hero contest, where we invite people to write a story of a hero in 50 words or fewer. The winner gets a free class with us, and we will send the winning story to each of the 100 members of the US Senate and the 435 members of the House of Representatives, along with an entreaty to fight for the right actions. 

People can enter for free at http://gothamwriters.com/contest/be-a-hero.

Thanks for helping us find some heroes!

 

Please note this is not an endorsement of Gotham Writers Workshop. I am not affiliated with them, nor have I been provided with any incentives to promote this on my blog.

Date Night. A short tale.

The mirror image was unflattering.

She had been trying on dresses for the last hour. They always looked better on the rack and in the fitting rooms before she bought them. She knew there was something about the mirrors in stores. Like the ones at carnivals, but warping everything to look better (maybe she should get one installed…).

It looked like jeans and a blouse were a better option. Three changes later and she was satisfied. Black skinny jeans (almost a miracle needed to get them on; not quite the parting of the Red Sea, but almost) and a billowy white shirt, untucked (why did her ass and thighs look so big? Where was that carnival mirror…) over a black tank top (she was sure it was bigger, before. Had her boobs grown? Maybe the top shrunk in the wash. That’s okay, it emphasised her cleavage more, now. She would just leave a few extra buttons open to show ’em off. Face palm: that was so slutty.)

All this crap for a blind date. And what if he looked worse than she did? What if he was some loser, no job, aimless? She shook her head. Her best friend wouldn’t match her like that. All her fears and insecurities were rising to the surface. Best push them down, keep them buried, like they usually were. “Yeah, real healthy,” she said to the empty room (hmm. It was pretty empty. Maybe she needed to get a cat? Hold on a minute – that way lay long term spinster-dom and more cats…)

Makeup applied, not overdone, but not sparingly (less whorish, more Watergate cover up. Big sigh). Her phone alarm beeped. Time to face the music, she thought. She pouted to the mirror, mouthing silently “it’s so nice to meet you”. Tilted her head. Silent pretend laugh.

She rolled her eyes and headed for the door. One last glance back. Maybe she would get a cat…

 

What is this flash fiction stuff? I only started it recently (and maybe my short tales are a bit too long to be called flash fiction. I don’t know). This one is a bit clichéd, but that’s okay – nobody’s perfect.

Not even with the benefit of carnival mirrors.  

 

Awake. A short tale.

(I exit my room. The sun is shining through my open window, bright beams illuminating me from behind as I stretch and face the world. I imagine a choir announcing my return, like a second coming, of sorts.

“So, where have you been?” says Alpha Girl, sprawled on the lounge and not looking up from her magazine. My choir slurs and stops, like a wind up record player reaching its end.

“Yeah,” says Beta Max, not taking his eyes off the TV as he plays Xbox.

Scratching my unruly head, I yawn, waddle sleepily to the kitchen and pour cereal into a bowl. “I’ve been working on my blog,” I say. “And sleeping.”

“We haven’t seen you for a week,” says Alpha Girl. “Thought you’d moved out. Or died. A good outcome, either way.”

I stick out my tongue, but she doesn’t see it. “Did either of you think to knock on my door?” I say. “I suffer from depression, you know.”

Beta Max moans as his onscreen self is killed again. He looks over at me and grins. “If you died, we would have smelt it by now, dude.”

“It’s nice to know I’m surrounded by such caring, sharing people,” I respond, smiling and flipping him the bird.

Alpha Girl, still engrossed in her magazine, flicks her hair. “You told me you made a commitment to your family not to commit suicide,” she says. “And I know how responsible you are.” For the first time, she looks up and smirks. “Besides, whenever you isolate yourself like that, you put yourself through hell. And I love it when you torment yourself.” I can almost hear the sinister orchestration in the background. Thunder booms. Lightning flashes. A glint of predatory canines as she sneers.

Beta Max throws down the controller as he dies again. “I hate this game,” he says. Loping over to the fridge, he drinks orange juice straight from the bottle. Alpha Girl gives him a death stare. Suitably rebutted, he pours a glass of juice and meekly places the bottle back. “Dude, you know we’re always here for you,” he says.

I laugh. “I’ll remember that the next time I update my will,” I say.)

The Day. A poem.

The day has come when the one becomes two
The decree overrides a match made by fools
There is no need to cry, no need to berate
When you’re left on your own, to one single fate
 
So, do you just start again, or do you stand still?
Do you butt your head on a wall, or just take a pill?
Do you pray in your church, or go out on the town,
Do you walk with a smile, or shuffle with a frown
 
The day has come and the decision is in
Two old lives are over and two new ones begin

 

Divorce is a major upheaval for anyone going through it. A gamut of emotions, some good, some bad. In the end, it’s often the best thing. To move on. To have a fresh start.

It’s not always that easy to see at the time, though.

Writing. Some basics. Use ‘em or lose ‘em.

I’ve been writing for a short while. Obviously, I am now an expert and need to share my accrued wisdom with the world. Yes, that was a joke.

Like anyone who enjoys to read, I like particular authors for their creativity, their characterisation, dialogue and the worlds their characters inhabit – all part of a writer’s style. When I read, I apply the things I’ve learned when critiquing another’s work. This is not always a good thing, as it can distract from the pleasure of reading.

Nevertheless, here are some writing “rules”, by the great writer, Elmore Leonard. He was a huge fan of Ernest Hemingway, an author whose ‘lean’ and ‘muscular’ approach was a major influence on modern writing:

Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue. For example, “he berated”, or “she rebuked”. There are good reasons for this. Strong, well-written dialogue is the basis of character. Using verbs other than “said” or “replied” is the writer getting in the way, an indication that they may feel uncomfortable using “said” too many times. And their dialogue isn’t strong enough without the use of additional verbs. When someone reads dialogue, the amateur writer’s verb gets in the way.

Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”. As Mr Leonard says: “To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange.” Putting “she said slyly” or “he replied earnestly” is similar to the last point – the dialogue should be able to stand on its own. The reader is intelligent enough to work out what the character is saying and feeling, if the dialogue is well written.

Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. Readers like to form their own impression about a character’s looks, often at the behest of the author’s actual description. Let the reader use their imagination. A few details are okay, but don’t make them so detailed that the reader has no ‘wiggle room’.

Don’t go into great detail describing places and things. Once again, let the reader’s imagination do this. You can add as much description as you like, but it will slow your story down, and your reader will either picture it to their liking, or skip the cumbersome text.

Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Many readers (not all, but many) skip large sections of text because they are keen to get to the meat of the novel, and often that’s the dialogue. I bet you’ve done this once or twice. I love J.R.R Tolkien’s overflowing descriptions, but now I’ve read Lord of the Rings a few times, I skip them when re-reading. Sacrilege, I know, but we’ve all been there. And I bet in the case of average books you’re tempted to do the same.

If it sounds like writing, re-write it. You know what I’m talking about. Some writers like to show off, adding lots of unnecessary similes and metaphors, and lovingly described scenes, overflowing with adjectives. I am so guilty of this. Is it necessary? Depends on the story and style you’re writing in. But most of the time, no.

The full text of Mr Leonard’s wonderful 10 Rules of Writing includes these insights (but written far better), and can be viewed at http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/16/arts/writers-writing-easy-adverbs-exclamation-points-especially-hooptedoodle.html.

Next time you read a book, or start to write one, keep them in mind.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

You can find out more about the late Elmore Leonard, by visiting his website at http://www.elmoreleonard.com/index.php.

Ernest Hemingway? Who’s that? Only one of the most important writers of the 20th Century. He won the Nobel Prize for literature, for Pete’s sake. Find out more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Hemingway

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