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Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Writing Group


“You need to find a writing group.” 

This was the repeated answer to my question: “How can I obtain feedback on my writing, so I can write better poetry?”

Finding a writing group meant searching for a collection of writers and poets who would read their work, and listen to mine, then share comments with one another, share critiques, suggestions, challenges and advice.

For example:  This line works.  This image doesn’t, because….  This isn’t poetry; this is prose.   What are you trying to say?  This has no emotional impact.  This word really pulls this together. This gives an impression of beauty, but so what?  That is a fresh metaphor.  Wow, that’s great.  I’m not sure what you’re trying to say.  You need to take another look at this.  That’s a slippery ending.  Is there something more you want to say here?

To be in a writing group, I had to learn to be open to what others said about my work, without comment, without argument, without feeling offended.  Learning to be a better writer, a better poet required tight listening, willingness to change and  to explore different ways of expressing myself.    Like learning any skill, I had to try and try again, to figure out what worked, what didn’t, why a change was needed and how to adjust what I was doing. 

I am still learning and will continue to do so.  It feels like learning to swim.  I can float but want to be able to do more than a dog paddle.

A little over a year ago, a writing group invited me to join them.   I am so grateful for these writers and poets.  They have been kind and honest, wise and funny, and always supportive.   They have pushed my growing edges and kicked me into the deep end of the pool.  Every so often, I write a poem with which I am pleased.  And without swallowing too much water, I can now keep my head above the waterline and am learning to write better poetry.

Thank you to Elizabeth Blanchard, Allan Cooper, Beth Janzen, Kerry-Lee Powell, Lee Thompson and Andre Touchburn.   I appreciate each of you, your differing gifts, your shared talents and wisdom.  Thank you for welcoming me and for the opportunity to be in this writing group with all of you.

Winning a Poetry Award


Thank you to the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick for continuing to hold the annual writing competition, now in its 29th year. 
Congratulations to all of the winners and to those who received Honorable Mention in 2014.   I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the competition, and am delighted to have won an award this year.

My poem “The Late Season” won in the Individual Poem category.  The independent judge had this to say:
Carol Steel’s “The Late Season” has an Impressionist quality to it.  Her simple and direct language is judiciously chosen, without literary effect getting in the way.  Here is a good example of straightforward language used to maximum effectiveness.  The painting of rural scene offers a picture of the edge of a field “bending” toward the remaining years.  The delicate juxtaposition of “goldenrod and / yellowed grasses” with “the chickadee flits” is Impressionist pigment in words.

Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick
Winner in Individual Poem Category 2014
Judge Sean Wiebe, Prince Edward Island

 I wrote this poem in the late autumn last year, at a time when life seemed fragile.  It took three months of fiddling with it, to pare down to the fifty-five words it became.  I won’t post the poem here or on Facebook, as that is considered publishing and would preclude submitting it for real publication.  I have avoided placing any of my poems on the internet for over a year because of this restriction.  Those poems which do exist on my blog are early work or rough drafts.

Writing is often a lonely activity.  I hunker down after the initial burst of ideas and words, to re-write, again and again, searching for the best words to say what I’m struggling to express.  I belong to a writing group which listens and supports and asks hard questions.  I re-write, sometimes putting the work away for months to return to it with fresh eyes.  But most of this writing is done alone, which is why it is encouraging to receive positive feedback.

Thank you to the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick for the award. 

 I am delighted and grateful.

Apology:  When I transferred this blog entry from Word to the blog site, the line spacing became confused and I am unable to sort it back.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Time of Sorrow

I wanted to share some good news. 

And I waited until today, out of respect for all of the bad news, the tragedy in Moncton, New Brunswick during the past week.

The funeral services for the three Moncton RCMP officers, who were killed in the line of duty, are over.  But the grief and shock are not anywhere close to finished.  The eerie feeling, the palpable distress that hangs over the city will take time, perhaps a long time, to dissipate and to heal.

I've listened to friends speak of a loss of innocence, a loss of feeling safe and secure.  Perhaps "safe" and "secure" were always just a self-delusion, a necessary suspension of reality that allowed us to hope that our city is a good place, a sheltered haven.

After last week, I can now imagine what it is like to live where gunshots, murder, injury are all around me and where hiding in one's home is necessary to avoid harm.

There are many worldwide who face this reality every day, and for all of their lives.  My heart aches for them, as it does for those in Moncton who have lost colleagues, friends, husbands and fathers this week.

Our world may yet be a place of goodness and of hope, but for now it is a place of terrible loss and unbearable sorrow.

Because of that, I will wait another day to share good news.  It still feels out-of-sync.

My sympathies reach out to those who have been affected by this tragedy. 

I am so sorry for your loss and your pain.

This photo is not mine.  It posted on Facebook as RCMP officers marched to the Moncton Coliseum for the funeral services yesterday.