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Monday, July 13, 2015

How To Add Poetry’s Pop to Your Writing by Mary Kennedy Eastham

Join me in welcoming Mary Eastham to Muse Monday.
Hi everyone. Working on my novella The Girl With Sand in Her Hair has been a challenge for me since my first two books were poetry (The Shadow of A Dog I Can’t Forget) and short stories (Squinting Over Water). My favorite genre is the short line, my term for writing poetry. I love the nuanced sound of the words when you can choose only a few, I love how they weave across the page like the splendor in the sky of the starling’s murmeration, the way they separate then come together again like dancing lace puppets sprung in fast magic from the heavens, careful not to leave an imprint. Blink and the starlings are gone. Whether we’re building a stanza or a scene or creating a chapter’s ending, hard for me because as a poet I think too much about what the end of each chapter needs to accomplish and where I need to leave the reader. I sometimes pretend my character has been thrown into an emotional interrogation booth and is being asked by a poetic stranger to ‘Tell me your story quickly and in poetic form.’ Here’s an example of how I used that to end Chapter One from The Girl With Sand In Her Hair from the point of view of my lead character Pippa Arabella Swann:

We keep crossing paths
Billy Blinker and me
each with our own goals 
always something there between us,
maybe even something good.
We just don’t go there…

And then in contrast using the same ’tell me your story quickly’ philosophy, I created Pippa’s fantasy about Billy which is how I end Chapter Two:

Cover me in your wet wash 
passionate waves
edge of the sky wild
tethered to nothing 
in this sunset froth
but your love’s thunder.

Here’s another example from Lyn Lifshin, a poet’s poet who inspires me every day to get better and better still at mastering my craft. My mantra for life and for writing is that we are never done, there’s something out there every day we can grab and use in our life and in our writing. This is the opening from her book Ruffian:

Ruffian…her speed outpaced the cougar. 
Her grace rivaled the Gazelle. In the long history of horse racing, 
she was to be only a moment’s magic.
But she had 'the look of eagles’ which no one could forget.

I read poet’s work often to inspire me when I’m writing the opening and ending paragraphs of my stories. If any of you would like to be inspired in your own work by poetry, here are two sites that feature poet’s work daily: & 

And now here are just a few random tips from my writing craft file:

I got this one from Director/Producer David Fincher (Benjamin Button) at a movie opening party in LA: In the best scenes, everyone is right. I am still trying to figure this one out and how I can use it to my advantage in my writing.

Kelly Ripa talked about learning lines on her show one day and about playing off her fellow actors as a soap opera star. I use her advice when I’m having a hard time with dialogue. Says Kelly, 'I say my line then think b.s. b.s. b.s. b.s. MY LINE, then b.s. b.s. b.s. b.s. MY LINE and then I let it all fall apart if my fellow actor takes our conversation into a whole other direction.’ Kelly teaches us all that dialogue doesn’t have to be perfect from the start. It can surprise us. I love sitting in cafes listening to people’s conversations. The best story dialogue is stolen.

Sorry guys, I don’t remember where I saw this but it really does summarize storytelling. Most stories are about:

…People who go
…People who stay
…People who come back.

Now here’s another one: 

…Set up the world of your story
…Set up an event that happens
…What’s the change and how does that influence what matters to your character?

I heard this one in a radio interview with singer Rihanna:

Leo (Leonardo DiCaprio) told me when I’m writing lyrics to avoid obviousness. That’s what makes you create something that's the excitement, the thrill.

That’s my short list. Thanks for having me! Happy Writing and do try to sneak some fun into every summer afternoon. It goes by so quickly.

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