Creative Writing

Politics and Poetry: John Milton

John Milton lived during the Restoration period (1600-1798), also known as the Age of Enlightenment which occurred just after the Renaissance (1485-1660), in England and was one of the most celebrated poets of the era.

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Is it weird that I really dig John Milton’s hair?

It was Milton’s goal to not just be a poet, but to be a great poet. He achieved this by hiring tutors to continue his education after his schooling had finished. In addition to studying hard to be a poet, Milton wrote and he wrote a lot. John Milton was a prolific poet, creating an extensive body of work from sonnets to a twelve book-spanning epic poem.

What Milton is probably most recognized for is that twelve book epic poem, better known as Paradise Lost. This epic poem recounts the fall of man from the Christian bible from the perspective of none other than Satan himself.

The Martian v. The Martian

The Martian novel, written by Andy Weir, is a self-publishing success. In 2011, he self-published the book and it got enough attention to garner him a contract with Crown Books. In 2014, The Martian was re-released with the help of Crown and became one of the top selling books on Amazon.Com. And then it became a movie.

I started reading The Martian last year and, between applying to graduate programs, moving (twice!), picking up a few side jobs (on top of my main jobs), and all the rest of life stuff that gets in the way of fun stuff, it took me a while to finish the book. Mind you, I really enjoyed the book as I was reading it and I even got students of mine to read it as well.

Now that I’ve finally finished reading and watching The Martian, I can compare and contrast the two different media used to tell Andy Weir’s story of an astronaut left behind on Mars for your (and more likely my) amusement and declare one better than the other (because all things must be ranked!).

If you haven’t read the book or watched the movie, this post contains spoilers. Though, if you’ve clicked on this blog because of the title, I’m assuming you kind of already knew that, but I thought I’d be nice and post a warning anyway.

NaNoWriMoNoShaveNo

Mashups are a popular thing, right?

Only if you watch this show.

Wait, let me try that again.

Has this ever happened to you?

You: Hey, I want to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but I also want to participate in No Shave November for cancer awareness. I can’t do both at once, can I?

Me: Wait! You can! You CAN do two things at once.

You:

Why yes, in this scenario, you are Bender from Futurama.

Busy? Break Your Writing Projects Into Small Chunks

I have a confession: this blog has been going strong for 3+ years and lately, because the other editor (Mel) and I have been really, really busy, we haven’t been posting nearly as often as we used to.

That’s because writing takes time, and with her new gig as a publisher (everyone say CONGRATULATIONS to her, by the way) and my 5-6 academic jobs (and I’m not exaggerating there!), we’re fairly low on time between the two of us.

Time slips though my fingers like sand falls from the hourglass and - wait, I don't have time to write poetry!
Time slips though my fingers like sand falls from the hourglass and – wait, I don’t have time to write poetry!

Today I was helping a student plot out a large paper assignment and the advice I gave him is the advice I need to follow myself and that I recommend anyone without a lot of time and a penchant for writing follow: break down your writing assignment into small, digestible chunks you can finish in about a half-hour every night.

I know that sounds pretty easy, but being able to judge your own ability to get a task done isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Here are a few tips that’ll help make the process easier.

1. Planning should be sessions 1-3, at the least. Planning takes time, and sometimes people feel that if they aren’t at a keyboard typing, they aren’t getting any work done and that simply isn’t true. You’re going to need to start planning before you can really start doing anything else.

The Two Book Rule

My friend is much wiser than me. He, you see, brings at least two books with him every place he goes.

I sometimes bring a book, or my kindle, but sometimes I forget and I’ll just leave the house with myself, my keys, my wallet, and my cellphone.

Sometimes I get really, really bored.

He, on the other hand, always has two books with him to read, so he’s generally always got something to do if conversation slows down or if there’s a wait somewhere or something of the like.

The other day I asked him, out of curiosity, “friend, why do you always have two books with you? Why not just bring one?”

He gave the simplest, most elegant answer I could imagine, “Well, what would I do if I finished the first book and didn’t have the second book? Not read?”

So now, personally, I’m implementing a new rule that I’d like to share. I call it the two book rule. The rule is as follows:

WWII: Not an Original Setting Anymore

I’m part of a book club at work. We enjoy getting together and discussing a book every two weeks over lunch. But, for some reason, more than half the books we read are set in WWII. All of the villains are, generally, Nazis.

This is the current book I’m working on for book club. It’s not bad, but I’m tired of WWII. Maybe if I hadn’t of read 6 other WWII related books for book club before, I’d be more into this one.

I was wondering if this was just related to the tastes of my book club – maybe they all are WWII enthusiasts or like, really hate Nazis.

But then I realized, maybe, just maybe, the reason we read so many WWII fiction books is because there are so damn many of them on the market.

When I do a search in Amazon, for example, for WWII under books, I get 20,203 results. If I narrow it down to non-history books, I still get about 5,000 books from literature, fantasy, mystery, thriller, suspense, romance, teen, etc.

I hate to say it, but guys, WWII is an unoriginal theme. Don’t make it your setting. Don’t make your bad-guys stereotypical Nazis. It’s been done. It’s been done so many times. How many times? 20,203 overall, or, if you just want to go into the fiction realm, at least over 5,000 recently.

10 Male Authors who Bring Sexy to the Paperback

Authors are known for a lot of things–being eccentric, loving cats, even, well, being dicks–but being sexy isn’t usually one of them. For that reason, we at The Poetics Project have decided to shed a little light on all of the sexy male writers out there.

 

1. Rupert Brooke

(Credit: Public Domain)
(Credit: Public Domain)

 
Rupert Brooke was born in 1887. Brooke wrote for most his life; he was known for being quite dashing and befriended people like Winston Churchill and Virginia Woolf, which helped him get his work published and read. When World War I reached England, Brooke enlisted, and in 1915, on an expedition with the Navy, Brooke died of blood poisoning brought on by a mosquito bite. Brooke, the charming, beautiful, young poet became a symbol of the tragic loss of youth brought on by the war.
 

From Amora to Zatanna: Convention Round-Up #1

From-Amora-To-Zatanna

Guess what comic junkies? I was fortunate enough to attend the San Diego Comicon for a couple of days (thanks Neo!) and, man, was that an experience!
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I was in the same vicinity as some of my favorite entertainers and creators… and spent entirely too much money. But hey! My bad money-spending habit is your reward; here are some titles I picked up while walking the ever seductive floor of vendors:

Invictus by Antonio Ramirez with art by Neil Dmonte & Jason Walton:

This is a comic from a smaller publishing house and I was fortunate enough to meet the writer at this booth. This 3 part series follows the adventures of Alex Archer, otherwise known as the shadow-bender Invictus. Shadow-benders have the ability to blend in with and manipulate the darkness of the shadows, which leads Alex to wonder “should my powers be used for good… or bad?” With the impending apocalypse, he better make his decision. And quick!

Templar by Jon Simon & Paul Mendoza with art by Neil Dmonte & Paul Mendoza:

“Evil Thrives When Good Men Do Nothing.” This comic, which I believe is independently published, comes from another writer I was fortunate enough to meet at the same booth as Antonio. A historical fiction, Jon was motivated to write this comic as a result of his love for history. This love developed from the close bond he shares with his father, who was a history teacher. Taking the most interesting factoids from history and fusing them with magical and mythical elements, Jon manages to create an entertaining story of knightly obstacles and triumphs.

Clan of the Vein by Neo Edmund & Neil Dmonte with art also by Neil Dmonte & Jason Walton:

Neil was the last person I met at this booth of talented people and was the artist for all the previous comics I listed. While Neo was not at the booth during this time, he is a close friend of mine and the reason I was able to check out Comicon this year (again, thank you!). Together they tackle the vampiric folklore through Ian MacBane, which they describe on their Facebook as “– a legendary vampire killer. MacBane finds himself in a remote mountain resort under siege by a clan of vicious vampires who have taken the guests hostages. He learns that the vamps are seeking the hidden location of the blood of the last vampire queen, but he has no idea that the secret is locked away in his own lost memories — and his enemies will stop at nothing to force him to remember.” You might also recognize some of this artwork on the walls of Stile’s bedroom in MTV’s Teen Wolf.

Womanthology by an assortment of women writers and artists at IDW:

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This is a truly unique comic of separate, yet thematic, vignettes completely written and illustrated by women in the comic business. Believe it or not, the comic community still has its reservations (and trolly rants) about women writers and artists, which makes the market for someone like myself a difficult place to enter into. But things are getting better, as the existence of this comic illustrates. Slowly but surely, more and more people want to read stories and see art by women!

Bringing Readers Inside the Bedroom

Writing about sex is hard (no pun intended). While there are plenty of writers who have found their niche writing romance novels filled to the brim with sensual scenes, the majority of us do anything to avoid a sex scene. As my book editing professor has mentioned on more than one occasion, readers don’t need to be taken into the bedroom. In other words, describe your lovers ripping each other’s clothes off and passionately kissing, but let the reader’s imaginations fill in the rest.

But what if you don’t want to stop at the bedroom door? How do you write about sex without causing your reader to roll their eyes, skip ahead, or feel completely awkward (mostly for you). For one, understand that metaphors and sex work–up until a certain point, at which you lose readers. In Slate.com’s recent article “The Worst Sex Writing of the Year Features Statisticians, Superheroes, and Brie Cheese,” Amanda Hess gives readers one example of what she deems a “delusional” metaphor from Manil Suri’s The City of Devi:

We streak like superheroes past suns and solar systems, we dive through shoals of quarks and atomic nuclei. In celebration of our breakthrough fourth star, statisticians the world over rejoice.

I have absolutely no idea what’s going on here, but Hess’ astute observation, “Congratulations–you fucked,” pretty much sums it up. When metaphors are too complex, they seem unrealistic. For most of us, sex doesn’t equate to feeling like a superhero diving through atomic nuclei and causing statisticians to rejoice. Hess also offers other examples of “bad” sex writing.

Story Shots: Equality

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Thanks to the Supreme Court, we now have one form of equality on the books: marriage equality. But the battle for equality doesn’t stop there. While marriage is a great start, there are many battles left to fight such as racial equality, income equality, and, of course, gender equality. With that in mind, we present our creative nonfiction stories around the theme of equality.


“Amanda! You aren’t going to be happy about this.” Lorraine cried as she stood in front of my car.

“What?” I quickly opened my door to join her.

“You got a super flat tire.”

“Oh, crap. There’s like no air in that at all. How the hell did that happen?”

We were in Costa Mesa, California, 30 miles from my friend’s house, and about 50 miles from my house. We were heading to a wine tasting. After we got off of the 55 freeway, my car drove fine. We stopped at the light on 19th street and as soon as the light changed, my car started to make an awkward thumping sound.

My tire went from fine to flat in the span of a red light.

“I have AAA.” I quickly dug through my bag to find my AAA card as I sat on the curb where my friend had located herself.

While we waited, I pulled out my spare tire. I lacked a jack and a jack stand, so I couldn’t actually change my tire myself, but I could make the job easier for the roadside assistance person. I took auto shop in high school; I at least knew the basics of how to change a tire, a headlight, a taillight, windshield wipers, and, last but not least, my own oil.

In a half-hour, a guy, no older than 20, came to change my tire.

He pulled out his massive jack and a lug wrench and started to change my tire. He stopped after testing my lug nuts.

“I can’t change your tire.” He said, nervously.

“Oh, okay. Why?” I asked.

“I can call the tow truck in and have it taken to a shop for you. You need new lug nuts.” That’s all the explanation I got. “Don’t worry ladies; I’ll take care of this for you.”

The tow truck came and the first auto shop the AAA roadside assistant sent us to said they couldn’t do the work that day. I asked what work, and they simply replied that they didn’t have the parts.

The tow truck driver then took us to a tire shop, which was the first place to explain what was wrong with my car.

“It’s not your lug nuts dude; it’s the lug nut studs. The lug nuts are stripped, and that means,” he paused and I picked up his line of thought.

“That means they’ll break and I’ll have to get new ones.” I finished.

“Yeah. And we’re not an auto shop,” the tire guy continued, “so I can’t replace those parts. I don’t have the tools. I just do tires.”

It started to rain as my car was pushed towards the new tow truck. I ran out to help.

“No ma’am,” the new tow truck driver commanded, “you don’t push. I don’t want you to get wet in the rain; not in your dress.”

I didn’t listen and I continued to push my car. The rain was mild and it was, after all, my car. I wanted to get things done as soon as possible.

I was tired of polite sexism. I don’t like being told I couldn’t do something because I was a woman, or when people assumed I didn’t know something because I have tits and a vagina. I was tired of these men not telling me what was going on because I was wearing a dress. I was just tired, period.

I know the excuse is that these men were just being polite and doing their jobs, but no one should spend five hours and three tow truck rides trying to fix a flat tire, especially when no one will actually say what’s wrong with the tire, other than being flat.

I could push my car in the rain. I could push my car in the rain in a dress. If I had high heels on, I’d push my car in the rain in high heels. What I wore was not limiting; what was limiting was the way I was treated, talked down to, and ignored by men who felt I was in need of rescue.

– Amanda Riggle


So we have all heard of this fake geek girl thing, right? A girl enters a comic shop or attends a Star Wars convention or plays D&D, and immediately gets challenged by those “gatekeepers of geekdom.” The question always starts, “do you even?” I’ve been lucky enough (or perhaps intimidating enough) that I haven’t been challenged often about my geek cred. But I have run into other problems.