The Last (Soundbite) Supper

Guest post by Randi Ocena


First of all, do you like how I worked that pre-Easter reference in the title there?  Second of all, did you know that several well-known scholars believe The Last Supper actually occurred on April 1st? And did you also know that some lesser known scholars believe April Fool’s Day originated as a lighthearted attempt to cheer up that otherwise sad and somber occasion? (That last bit may not be true, so best not go repeating it to your friends and colleagues.)

Anyhow, here is the final installment of podcast recommendations, suitable for writers of all ages, genders, and religious affiliations.

Creative Writing Career  

This one is all business, but in that casual Friday sort of way.  Each episode typically features one guest writer, plus a notable hosting panel of writers from all across the board (books, screen, videogames). Topics are highly specific for each episode but wide-ranging across the series and include things like not screwing up your great novel with a crappy query letter, keeping the attention of young children for more than two seconds, and choosing the right tags in descriptions of your book for the online market.

Writing Class Radio

Sometimes writers like to overshare. Sometimes we don’t share enough.This podcast is all about the oversharing. One episode that stands out is perhaps “I Fart, You Fart, We All Fart and Most Of Us Deny It.” Also “How To Tell Your Inappropriate Story” which includes the phrase “he grazed my uh, anatomy” and some background cat noise & guitar music with whispering.  Fiction, non-fiction, laughing, crying. It’s all here, sometimes all at once.  It took a couple of episodes, buy I’m a fan.

Story Makers Show

Before I try to sell you on this last podcast, I’d like to get two minor gripes out of the way that nearly stopped me listening to it beyond the first 11 seconds:  1) Whether the title refers to a show belonging to two story makers or whether it refers to a show intended for all story makers in general, I’d like to see some possessive noun punctuation in there . In short, I find the absence of an apostrophe in the title distracting, as evidenced by the fact that I am mentioning it at all. But then, I am also disturbed by the use of mismatching hangers on my side of the closet, so whatever. 2) There are 11 seconds of electronic noise (music?) at the beginning of the show which shouldn’t bother me, but I feel strongly compelled to mute it.

All that aside, this is a good show featuring the usual writerly podcast fare: Interviews, Q & A, advice, readings. So why mention this one when there are so many others like it?  Partly, I like that it adds some academic depth & heart to the usual craft discussion without being pretentious or mushy.  But mostly, I like that it is a show dominated by scores of sharp, witty, diverse and talented women. Seriously, just try finding a straight white male writer on this show. I haven’t yet.  (And straight white guy readers, please don’t get offended. Some of my best friends are straight white guys, really.)

And lastly, for dessert, I leave you with this.

This” is a hyperlink to a  whole list of more writerly podcasts, a list written by someone other than me.  Some of it will be familiar to you by now, but I don’t have enough ears or hours to listen to every last one of them.  I hesitated to include it here without the proper vetting first.  But just like the time I failed at marriage by hiding cookies in the furthest reaches of the pantry to protect Sam from potential poisoning by untested cookies, I cannot win at blogging by trying to protect you from potentially crappy or harmful podcasts through extreme vetting or religious popquizzes (comedic callback & political elbow nudge in one go…Ta-da).

So with that I say, listen with discretion and I hope you’ll find something to like. Or as my mother says, be safe and have fun, in that order.

So until next year, friends–Happy  listening, happy writing, happy marching. And many other happy things too.



‘Earth Magic’ Magic: More Inspiration from the Divine

As I did with Bibliophilia, for today’s post, I sought inspiration from the cards, one for each genre.  This time, I went to an actual oracle deck, Earth Magic:

Earth Magic Cover

These cards are accompanied by a guidebook, so I excerpted some of the card’s advice as well.  Use the cards and/or their messages as encouragement, advice, writing prompts, or whatever else seems to fit.

Okay, here we go!
Continue reading

Bibliophilia Stichomancy: Inspiration from the Literary Divine

Perhaps the favorite thing Randi and I brought back from AWP (other than the memories, of course!) was a box of “literary postcards” called Bibliophilia:


The postcards come in a box of 100*.  They are beautiful images, each with a different quote from a famous writer.   Randi found them at one of the booths, and she showed me the find with a guilty pleasure, pulling them from her tote bag in the middle of the bustling AWP Bookfair.  “Look!” she said, and we opened them immediately, our hands reaching outwards, not to flip through the cards as you might expect, but to each draw one at random, our eyes closed, left hands extended, seeking our inspiration for the day.

Okay, so maybe this was not the purpose of the postcards.  I doubt they were meant to be a form of writer’s stichomancy, a grasping at words the way people used to grasp at random Bible passages for insight or divine guidance.  But Randi and I do this often, with EVERYTHING, from board game characters to fortune cookies to boxes full of rocks…  Either way, the cards’ messages were profound.   Continue reading

Five Weird Ways to Get Writing Done

IMG_0059Towards the end of any month-long writing challenge, the average writer finds herself grabbing at straws for inspiration to keep writing. All the great ideas that had been incubating up until the beginning of the journey are exhausted and she’s left with either a lengthy, cumbersome tome or yet another blank page of reticence representing the next poem or short story. All of the conventional approaches to consistent writing   adamantly advocated by leading writer’s magazines, websites, and blogs are likewise worn thin and their effectiveness called into question under the scrutinizing gaze of the inner wild-child — who simply wishes to create with abandon.

If your wild child has grown bored with the carefully arranged, safety-approved environment of adequately structured playground equipment designed to stimulate just the right amount of brain activity and instead is testing the parameters of the playground itself, here are a few ideas to consider:

Honor the Block: Like all other demons of the psyche, writers and artists fear the dreaded Block; but fear only gives it more power. If you feel a block on your path, acknowledge it and invite it to your table. You may discover that it has something of crucial importance to impart, and it is your job to make way for its message. What questions would you like answered? Entertain a discussion and welcome the inevitable discovery of self that opens access into the deepest reservoir of your creativity. There are answers there. Some grave, some simple. Your Block’s presence may indicate major changes are in order, or it may simply mean that it is time to rest, or time to move.

Clean Something: Ever notice how cleaning off the kitchen table somehow leads to doing your taxes, a chore you’d been putting off for months? Just as our intentions are triggered and honed by unrelated activities, so can writing arise from non-writerly pursuits. And just as intent to write brings household chores to mind, so do household chores bring writing projects to mind.  And obviously, writing, for most of us, is much more appealing.

Work Backwards: In a culture that advocates putting difficult chores first, days and weeks can fly past before we get around to doing what we really want. In writing, the difficult parts include, well, writing. Take time today to imagine the day you read from your published and wildly popular work. Imagine what you are wearing, where you are reading, and even the occupied seats of the venue. Design the cover of your book or get an author photo taken. Practice your signature and what you will write when fans ask you to sign their copy of your book.

Catalog Your Work: On days when I feel overwhelmed with things to do, I make a list of things I have accomplished. It immediately puts things in perspective and takes the pressure off. Instead of worrying about all the work that stands before the present moment and the moment when you can say you’re finished with your project, take a look through the work you’ve accomplished so far. I don’t just mean in the month of March, either, but through all the days of your writing life. This includes the comic strip you wrote in Jr. High, the love letters you penned in college, and the Journals you wrote as an undergrad. It should be obvious that everything you wrote for your college classes belongs in this survey as well. Impressed? You should be. Now to really bring to light just how much you’ve written over the years, index your journals, create a spread sheet of your papers, or stack everything you have in hard copy smack dab the middle of the floor and walk around it for a week. As a penultimate exercise in self-appreciation, check your Submittable account and wallow in the success of having actually sent your work out into the world. Some people never make it that far!

Go Where You’re Unknown: At the extreme end of this spectrum is moving to a differentIMG_0075 state or leaving the country. Culture shock will send you running to your Journal, your only true friend in the world, to normalize your experience, as a plethora of raw material pours forth. But even if you are a lifelong member of your community with no plans for ever uprooting, just going to an unfamiliar coffee shop or opting for a different branch of the library — ones your friends do not frequent, whose “regulars” are new to you, and whose location is in an outlying area — can trigger the kind compulsory focus needed for productive writing.

Remember, challenges like the Writers’ March are meant to work for you, not the other way around. If you find that any approach leads you down an ill-fitting path, simply turn around. You can always return to your comfort zone any time you like.

Good luck, good work, and happy writing.

Lisa Hase-Jackson

Day 22: Action Poetry a la Billy Collins

If you’ve followed the blog long enough, you’ve probably noticed my love for TED Talks.  Since I haven’t given you a TED in awhile, I searched for another inspirational talk on the creative process only to find that I’ve already shared my three favorites (Elizabeth Gilbert, Amy Tan, and Young-ha Kim).  A more broadened search lead me to a lecture given by former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins.

I really like Billy Collins.  I feel like I’m always running into people who don’t care for his work, and I can’t really understand why.  I find his poems funny, profound, accessible (maybe its the accessibility that people dislike?).  His TED Talk only confirmed this for me.  I guess you could describe it as a poetry reading with a twist: rather than simply reading the work off the page, Collins presents five animated versions of his poems.  If you’d like to view the talk, it’s quite fun.  For this post, however, I thought I’d go straight to the work.

And so, here are four animated Billy Collins poems for your fourth Writer’s March Friday (in no particular order).  I always find that poetry inspires my own work.  I hope it does the same for you.



Some Days

The Best Cigarette

Retired smokers beware…  It might have you aching for another cigarette..

To see more animated poetry, visit the Billy Collin’s Action Poetry Website.