Monday, December 12, 2011

"It is a delicious thing to write..."

It is the birthday of Gustave Flaubert who said of his craft: "It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress, I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, and I was also the horses, the leaves, the wind, the words my people uttered, even the red sun that made them almost close their love-drowned eyes."

His most famous book, Madame Bovary (1856), tells the story of Emma, a stuffy doctor's passionate wife, who is dissatisfied with her life and filled with the notion that much more awaits her...somewhere. She has two ill fated long-term affairs, becomes plagued by debt, and, finding no way out, takes her own life with arsenic. It was banned by the French government as being offensive to the religious and public morality of the day. France....?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Great Men Are Also Humble

A fellow writer and much published poet, Terresa Haskew, loaned me "Conversations with Ernest Hemingway," which is a compilation of interviews edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli. There is, of course, very good advice and awareness about the writing process in these views of the man and his thoughts, but it is his philosophy and way of being that has provoked my deep admiration.

One quote on politics mentioned that whenever he got near politics, which he didn't like to talk about, he felt like he was drinking from a spittoon. (With his great love of drink, that means so much more...;).)

One obsevation of love: “Love has its limits, but when it is given, it is given for keeps though awful things may happen to it.”

Here's another direct quote, 1954, on receiving the Nobel Prize: "As a Nobel Prize winner I cannot but regret that the award was never given to Mark Twain, nor to Henry James, speaking only of my countrymen. Greater writers than these also did not receive the prize.I would have been happy -- happier -- today if the prize had gone to that beautiful writer Isak Dinesen, or to Bernard Berenson, who has devoted a lifetime to the most lucid and best writing on painting that has been produced, and I would have been most happy to know that the prize had been awarded to Carl Sandburg."

Years later he would only refer to it as 'that Swedish thing.' Clearly, he wrote because he had to, not for the recognition and awards of the world.

I wish I could share his whole acceptance speech, which was read for him by the then U.S. Ambassador to Sweden...but instead, I will just tell you it is on the last page. If you love Hemingway's writing or just have an interest in finding out who he really was, beyond the myths, I do recommend this book!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Bronte Sisters revealed...

The woman pictured here is Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre and the subject of a wonderful novel, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte (wish I could see how to insert the dots over the 'e'). Author Syrie James was given access to never before seen letters, diaries and other information. She chose to write her book as if it is Charlotte herself and reads much like a Bronte novel. It is a great success in my opinion. I feel like I know Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne and have a wonderful insight into the time period (early to mid 1800's, small town England).

This might be an idealized portrait, but Charlotte is hardly the 'plain, ugly spinster' that she imagined she was. Her love story with curate Arthur Nicholls is as compelling as anything she wrote.

I'm told James also has a book on Jane Austen (who preceded Charlotte in time frame) and I will be getting that as soon as possible. If you loved Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights (Emily's classic), you will love this book.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

D.H.Lawrence was born today...

Did you know this writer was so popular with the ladies that his wife had to have his ashes scattered in a concrete memorial to avoid them being stolen?? He rests in beautiful Taos, NM, near the Ring of Enchantment...where you can see this monument for yourself.

As an English major at NYU, reading his works changed the way I looked at life. Had I pursued my PhD, no doubt I would have been teaching a course on him somewhere today...

"It's the birthday of novelist and poet D.H. Lawrence, born in Eastwood, England (1885). His father was a coal miner. He wrote: "The great crime which the moneyed classes and promoters of industry committed in the palmy Victorian days was the condemning of the workers to ugliness, ugliness, ugliness: meanness and formless and ugly surroundings, ugly ideals, ugly religion, ugly hope, ugly love, ugly clothes, ugly furniture, ugly houses, ugly relationship between workers and employers. The human soul needs actual beauty more than bread." Lawrence called Nottinghamshire "the country of my heart," and he set almost all of his novels in the green hills and woods of that country.

He is the author of Sons and Lovers (1913), The Rainbow (1915), Women in Love (1920), and Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928). He wrote: "My great religion is a belief in the blood, the flesh, as being wiser than the intellect. We can go wrong in our minds. But what our blood feels and believes and says, is always true. The intellect is only a bit and a bridle. What do I care about knowledge. All I want is to answer to my blood, direct, without fribbling intervention of mind, or moral, or what-not." The Writer's Almanac

He also wrote a novel of Mexico called "The Plumed Serpent" -- this man was both innovative and courageous in his day. Not many like him...then, or now.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sandburg Poem...for Lois P. Jones

Lois, I found a shorter one that is very lovely and probably written later in life...seems also like it would have been written in NC, but if you know differently, please, do tell...this is clearly not one of the political poems and has a much softer appearance but still, the depth of feeling.

Under the Harvest Moon
by Carl Sandburg

Under the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Drips shimmering
Over the garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Who remembers.

Under the summer roses
When the flagrant crimson
Lurks in the dusk
Of the wild red leaves,
Love, with little hands,
Comes and touches you
With a thousand memories,
And asks you
Beautiful, unanswerable questions.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I Fell in Love with Carl Sandburg

Last night, I fell in love with Carl Sandburg. A little late, I know, and he did have the perfect helpmate with his wonderful wife. But still... I couldn't help it. Those eyes, that mind, that mission!

I saw the wonderful documentary, "The Day Carl Sandburg Died" at the Flatrock Cinema in Flatrock NC, just a few miles from Sandburg's mountain home. is where you can find out more and see events. It is not in wide distribution, but at this time in our country's history, it should be.

As a poet, I felt remiss in never having read his poems. I loved one of his own comments about how modern poetry was being written with the brain but with no blood. Passion and vision, both are in his poetry and no one could ever doubt his great love for 'the people'.

I'll be taking a notepad and heading to his Appalachian home, Connemara Farms, to see if his Spirit still walks the beautiful grounds and will inspire my pen.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Poet and Politics

Last night at Poetry Group, Roxanne shared a segment from an article that appeared in the New York Times Magazine on August 14. In it, the author suggests Congress might do well to read a little (or even write a little) poetry. Here are some highlights:
"I'm not suggesting that poetry will guide our legislators to wisdom any more than prayer has. Just that it might make them a little more human."
"The poet Shelley, in a rather highfalutin defense of poetry nearly two centuries ago, wrote, "A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own." Shelley concludes that essay by calling poets "the unacknowledged legislators of the world," because they bring imagination to the realm of "reasoners and mechanists."
"The relevance of poetry was declared more succinctly in five lines from the love poem "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower," by William Carlos Williams:
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.

A response to the author from David Orr, poetry columnist for the NYT book review, on prescribing poems that if closely read and considered might be of value to our ossified Congress:
"If our respresentatives have spent the last few months huffily asserting, our poets have spent the past century hesitantly questioning -- and the latter approach seems far more useful to the country at the moment."
Several poems David Orr offered can be found at

Here is my own political 'Haiku' series:

Political Haiku (or, a contradiction in terms)

Election Day nears
Handsome candidates spinning
Myopic daydreams

TV timeshares climb
Force campaign funding higher
Backing their 'yes' man

Wake up world and know
In spending our dollars lies
The true power vote

I hope you'll write some political poems of your own...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


It's been a long time since I posted here. One of the things that has happened is I was guest blogger for Karen S. Elliott, a writer, editor, proofreader, who wanted a piece on poetic forms. Here's what I posted on
Exploring Poetry Groups...the poetic form

One of the unexpected benefits of moving from Florida to Greenville, SC, 6 years ago was meeting a published English professor who had formed an ongoing poetry group. After hearing me read my work at a local coffee house, he invited me to join them. Five years later, the group of 10 is going strong and many of us are published on our own and also as a collective with “Fruit of the Banyan Tree”(Orchard Park Press, 2009).

A great feature of being in a dedicated poetry group such as this one is the supportive feedback given to each member. Each month, we study a poet and get to read what we’ve come up with. Engaging in this way spurs the creative juices to flow faster and with more confidence. And you are always exposed to new resources and inspiring ideas.

Despite having been an English literature major at NYU and very familiar with writing in sonnet form, one of the poetry group members introduced me to many other interesting poetic forms. That this group member is an Engineer makes her interest in this type of writing stand to reason both literally and metaphorically. She brings the information to the table and challenges us to produce one of our own.

Many of these forms go back to old European styles. They each require a certain number of lines, some rhyming, some repeating, in a fixed sequence. is a good online resource for poetry forms and ‘how to’ write them.
The first one she suggested is called the Triolet. Seven lines, some repeat, a certain rhyme pattern. My own attempt missed the exact formula but I was very satisfied with the effect nonetheless. I felt the inspiration of the form caused the following poem to be born:

To Hafiz
A waiting hole in the god’s flute
Seeks thick lidded Krishna’s blue kiss.
He’s paused…wooden instrument mute.
She tastes the ripe offering fruit,
Will his music ever begin?
A waiting hole in the god’s flute
Seeks thick lidded Krishna’s blue kiss.

Another form I tried was the Tritina. This one does not ask for rhymes at all but a choice of three words that will end three stanzas of three lines in a certain order and be used in the final, sum it up, sentence. With a true form poem it is typical to announce the form before the title as:


The Birth of Drama

Had detachment attended the show that began
as a fevered fantasy, staged within his head,
the reviews might have shortened the actor’s reach,

the dialogue’s delivery not been heard to reach
levels that rose and swelled while memory began
increasing his spotlight’s focus beyond range of a cool head.

Nothing entered from stage right to stop the bullet to her head
that propelled her life story’s potential to reach
a conclusion far sooner than imagined when it began.

When his plot began to reach for revenge, drama came hurtling out, head first.

Poetry forms like the Elizabethan sonnet and the Japanese haiku are more commonly known. Regarding Haiku there are several variations and the requirement is number of syllables per line, not word count or rhyme. The standard haiku format is three lines containing five, seven, and five syllables per respective line. The meaning should paint an evocative picture. Haiku has no title and usually no punctuation.
Here’s one of mine:

Thundering rainstorms
My garden singing life songs
In the key of green

In my own experience, working with forms is a two way street. A poem that wants to be born will frequently choose its own structure but there are times that the form itself, as with my attempt at Triolet, may call forth specific poetic imagery.
Learning more about poetry and getting feedback are definitely huge benefits of belonging to a poetry group. But I can’t ignore another important aspect for me; getting to know and share with people who have a deep common interest and who expand my own vision as they express in their own voice and unique point of view.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Some news

If you know anyone in Palm Beach County, Florida, please let them know I will be in the area and doing a public reading/signing event at Changing Times on Thursday, May 5th from 6 to 7 pm. I'll have "Journey to the Meaning of Love" on hand for purchase. The owner, David Cronin, loves the book and is very excited to have the event...he is a dear to host this when it isn't a 'money maker' for him. And...I don't know him that is a great validation for me. For those unfamiliar with the area, Changing Times is located on Village Blvd., slightly north of Palm Beach Lakes Blvd (if you are taking I-95, head west at the exit). Also...some of you might have seen my 'fairy tale for all ages', which has been waiting for an illustrator to appear. Well...I believe that has just occurred. In what could be an amazing tale of its own, I found someone who is as enthused about the idea as I am. It seems just before I got the idea and began writing, his wife of 35 years (who passed away suddenly in late 2005) had the idea of a 'fantastical, magical tale with an environmental theme' and hoped he would illustrate it (he's an accomplished artist, but that's not his 'day job' which is working with children as a psychiatrist). So when he heard my idea (and I wrote the story in 2006) he lit up with delight and thinks his wife sent me to him. Could be true! So, soon I will post a short excerpt from "The Fairy Who Hated Fall", the first of what will be at least two stories in this adventure series about the Appalachian fairies Melarose and Runawind...on Look for it!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Historical Fiction

I just finished a novel by the author of the immensely popular "The Other Boleyn Girl" and I found it lacking in many ways. This novel, "The White Queen", set in the time of the War of the Roses is told by a character whose fate is known. I personally prefer the historical novel to have an unknown or relatively unknown protagonist tell the tale. There can be little suspense otherwise. This also gives the author more freedom in personal opinion and interpretation, as with the Poe book mentioned in the last blog post. It could just be me and my current state of mind, but I could not form any loyalty or sympathy for this Elizabeth since all the plotting, intrigue and casting of spells done against her and her family was no more or less than what she and her own family were up eat dog on the royal level. I love historical fiction for the insights into life in those times. And one of the things this novel brings up is life for women and how it all hinges on marrying the right man and how his fortunes progress. Our own time saw a change after the feminists brought women the ability to work and support themselves but this 'golden age' may be endangered by the economy of this decade. In a few hundred years, the historical fiction of the period from 1970 to 2010 may seem like a dream to those depending on others once again. What do you think??

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More on Poe

In an earlier post, below, I mention that I had written a poem about the death of Edgar Allan Poe, an unsolved mystery ironically involving the inventor of mystery/detective literature. One of my poet friends, Tammy Houtz (who also inspires me to write in different poetry forms I never knew existed!) has leant me a novel that is about a young lawyer in Baltimore who is obsessed with Poe's death (he had correspondence with Poe) and desperately tries to unravel the mystery so he can clear Poe's name of the negative images that came up during the days and years after the event.
The writing is very good...the book is called "The Poe Shadow". It's by Matthew Pearl. What I really love about good fiction is that it has the ability to offer us information about our own society without the direct finger pointing that we find in political rhetoric. Apart from an fascinating exploration of the life of Poe and the 'climate' of Baltimore in the mid 1800's, we get a wealth of information on how media operates and the lengths many diverse individuals and groups are willing to go to promote and protect their own special interests.
Even if you're not a big Poe fan (and I admit that I am not an avid reader myself) this book will be fascinating and thought provoking reading.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Musing on What's Hot and What's Not

I was thinking today that, to be truly radical now in the writing world you need to go back to writing in forms, rhyming (without trying to...poets, you know the difference. One is a flow and one is a greeting card!) and tackling sacred cows like: 'don't write poems about poetry'.
And since that is really 'the way' to break with the mainstream now (oh, Slammers will be angry and so will the unconstructed, but hey, there's just so many of you out there are no longer different!) I realized I had a truly radical and groundbreaking poem in "Fruit of the Banyan Tree" (a collection by the Ruminators, published in 2009). It is called "Somewhere the Goddess" and commits the two sins of writing in rhyming sonnet form and writing about writing poetry!! And then, it's also kind of Dorothy Parker in places. Here it is:

Somewhere the Goddess
If he compared her to a summer's day
In the current age of global warming,
While turning bright red in intense sun rays
She would not think it sounded so charming.
If he said his love would stay as strong
As the moment he first eyed her eye,
When passionate ties don't last that long,
She would surely think, "He lies."
But though sonnetteers must all move along
Dip their pens in the ink of the latest fad
Fill their cups from the latest hip-hop song
Learn to write post modern verse and be glad
Somewhere the Goddess of Romance still lurks
Feeding on small, sweet sentimental quirks.
Tell me that ain't so! And guys, don't forget to bring flowers...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thanks to my new followers...I appreciate you! Please don't be shy and share if you have something to add to whatever I post as long as we are on the topic of writing.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Poems posted on


I was asked to post a poem I wrote last October about Edgar Allen it is on the website now, on the page you find if you click Read More under Writing Previews on the homepage.
Another poem from my volume, Journey to the Meaning of Love is also posted. Hope you enjoy them! My book is available for purchase through my website...or you can find it on

Good news...a different poem from my book, Morgaina's Lament, was just published in the first issue of Poetica Victorian.

I'm now reading an interesting book, set in rural Georgia in the early 1930's. The reminisence of a young girl, this feels a lot like Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird) and racism is clearly a theme, but definitely not the only one in "The Cailiff's of Baghdad, Georgia". This is a more complex journey and a very good example of the regional novel. Check it out! Author, Mary Helen Stefaniak.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Welcome to Shellie Writes!

Please feel free to comment on anything I post and to post information about favorite books, events or any tips about publishing and all aspects of the written word. The only ground rules are that we maintain a high level of language and a respectful communication space here. Opinions may differ. Agreement is not necessary; argument is not encouraged.

I'd like to share a Cinquain I recently wrote. The Cinquain is a distinctly American poetic form which you can read about here: I chose the syllable form for a poem about our recent winter storm here in South Carolina.

My week
Icebound longing
Birds in feeding frenzy
Reveal the pecking order rules
Home school
Here's another...the form is 2,4,6,8,2...
Worship mountains
Covered in hard packed snow
Offering sport, to others dread
Stay home
Try one!!