Coffee Shop Poems #1

{New thing? Will be writing posting random thoughts that I write while drinking coffee but cannot use in a poem, so instead, I write mini-poems. Not spoken word, really. Just lyrical poems, and the like.}

Dancing on electrical lines

we risk death by plummeting to unforgiving earth

let loose from the upside gravity we experience

or lurid electrocution from the wired noose

our kites are meant for thunderstorms

the norms of science do not apply here

where gravity appears then vanishes

into a black felt top hat

that flattens under the pressure of the sky

just as we do when finally we die


A Poet By Any Other Name?

Some poets are named BARDS. Some are named POLAR BEAR. That’s right. There’s a British poet named Polar Bear and he’s pretty good. But what’s in a name? My poet-friend’s poet name happens to be Catherine the Great. What do you think of that? I’m a bit scared to throw on any sort of adjective after my own name, especially not one like Great. Her son’s poet name is Josh the Awesome (this kid is ten and already killin’ it. I guess I’ve got serious competition in the young poet department).

So, should I have a poet name and what should it be?

Derek the Dork?

At readings, I generally put down random names. It’s not that I don’t like my name. It’s great as an author name, but there is something cool about having a special poet name. I mean, what if people referred to you as Polar Bear? How FRICKIN’ COOL. At open mics, I would call myself the “Metaphor Magician” or “Derek Calypso Natural Lemonade Berry.” Sometimes, I’d put rude names that were a lot of fun to hear spoken aloud such as Seymour Buttes or Mike Hawksmall.

But I have gotten over these petty pranks and decided to create a real poet name. A stage handle. Why? Because it’s fun! Though, I’m sure not everyone agrees. Hear what poet and rapper George Watsky has to say about it:

So, before the weekend is out, I will announce my all new POET NAME! I’m still trying to decide. Also, I’ve been sending off my poems. Should I place my stage name or real name along with the poems? Just wondering.

If you have any suggestions for a cool name (keep in mind my work), please share!

The Benefits of Nanowrimo

Trying to decide whether or not to do Nanowrimo? Do it.
What? You need a bit more convincing? Fair enough—let’s get down to it. Why would anyone want to crank out 50,000 words in a month.

Check out their website here:

Thirty one days of frenzy, plotting, building characters, worlds. There are a lot of myths floating around about Nanowrimo and here we’ll discuss it all.

1.) You Write a Novel

It’s the American dream to pen a novel that will keep us sitting pretty by maxing out on the bestseller list. That’s what’s great about Nanowrimo. You get to start on that memoir/ fantasy about dragons you’ve always wanted to write. Just keep in mind, 50,000 words is a lot, but is not considered a novel. Devastating, I know. But don’t despair yet. Once you get down those first 50,000 words, you’ll be well on your way to finishing your first draft.

How much more should you write after that? Well, that depends on what genre you’re writing in.
For a Romance novel, 85,000
For a YA, 70,000
For SF and Fantasy, the word count spans from 90,000 to 120,000, but if you keep it lower, it will be easier for the agent to say yes. Unless you’re Ray Bradbury or Stephen Gaimon, turning in a 200,000 word novel to agents will earn you a quick and polite, “No thanks.”
Thrillers, 80,000 to 100,000
Cozy mystery, 60,000 to 85,000
Very few publishers want to invest in a book that’s only 50,000 words, but that is what seems manageable in a single month. If anything, Nanowrimo will get you into gear with your writing habits. I tend to write either very early in the mornings or at night. Otherwise, I’ll work on essays and blog posts. But at 6 in the morn or at midnight, you can find me pounding out fiction. Past maybe 11, my family settles into slumber and I can get an hour or two to work in peace.
This month will help you figure out how to fit writing into your schedule. Now, mind, I don’t generally generate 2,000 words a day as you will need to do to complete the challenge, but it does form a habit for writing every day.

2.) You meet other writers

One of the best things about becoming involved in such a program is that you meet other budding writers and some professional writers. If you’re interested in writing, then to meet new people is essential. These are the people that will encourage you to keep going even when you think what you’re writing is crap.
As a poet, knowing other poets—both amateur and professional—has helped me grow in my craft. Other people push you to write better, because suddenly you’re not just writing for yourself. Your writer friends become the first audience you need to impress. Sure, if you’re only doing this for fun, write for fun. But if you’re interested in publication, relationships with other writers will vastly increase your skill.

3.) Getting Published
Don’t assume that if you crank out those 50,000 words, you’ll get published. Sure, Sara Gruen did it, but do you think she turned in a first draft. Definitely not. She worked and reworked that novel before ever sending her first query. Once you finish, go ahead and celebrate, but the party ain’t over yet.
Generally, when you finish the first draft, you’ll look away from your novel. Then go back. Write it again. That’s right. You shall probably end up writing it again. That’s what December, January, and February are for, though, right? November is the month that will jolt your writer self with ideas and then you’ll pump out those first 50,000 words.
After that? Edit, edit, edit.
But don’t worry about this quite yet. When you finish that first draft, then worry about editing. For now, worry about finger cramps and how strong your coffee is.

Nanowrimo is an adventure that takes a lot of hours, a lot of time. But that’s what it takes. Words, time, and blood. Well, mostly words, but some blood too if you happen to get a paper cut. Good luck!

Can Anyone Be JUST a Writer?

Because I would love to be.

You don’t realize you’re making a mistake, until suddenly you do.

Just like that time you accidentally waited six hours in line to ride Space Mountain at Disney World only to realize you were actually instead in the ticket line for Universal Studios, so long that it stretches across Orlando and through Disney World as well. Standing at the counter, you realize that you’ve wasted a lot of time fighting for something you never wanted.

"This isn't DisneyLand anymore?" "WAIT! We're not in line to buy the new Harry Potter book?"

Maybe that to me is what a law degree is. Or any sort of degree other than one in… English.

No law degree hides in my possession at the age of 17, but the possibility for one does. At 17, everything seems possible. I could still drop this writing gig and became a neurosurgeon. I find me asking myself, why not? Why not a doctor? Or a lawyer? Or a politician? I could make a difference, couldn’t I?

But I don’t want to. At least, not that way.

The only real problem with wanting to be a writer is needing to be a writer. Once you start, it’s not something you can just stop. It’s sort of a very healthy addiction. Maybe not for your wallet, but…

Not many people can make it just as a writer. Especially not at first.

Even armed with creative writing MFA’s and publishing connections, a writer still has to worry about surviving off the money he or she makes. And what can you buy with dough except maybe the flour to make more dough for bread and maybe water, scarcely? Sounds harsh, right?

But besides the hundreds of exceptions you can spill out, think on the thousands, nay, millions of writers making not diddly squat. Unless you write about boy wizards or in-love vampires, you need another career.

Which is something I have always battled with, since I only want to be a writer. Not that everyone really WANTS to do their jobs, only… I figured by now I’d be famous and rich enough not to work another day in my life. And if I am that disappointed by what I haven’t achieved by the age of 17, then maybe I’m shooting too high.

So what now? What am I to do for the rest of my life while pursuing a literary career? Becoming an English professor sounds cool, maybe first a high school English teacher? The country needs more, better teachers, right? I can TOTES do that.

What sort of jobs have literary men held in the past? Well, let us take a peek…

Dickens worked in a blacking factory at the age of eleven. (I think I’ll pass)

Shakespeare worked as a schoolmaster.

Oscar Wilde, before writing much, was a perpetual college student.

Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love, worked as a boxing stringer for the Associated Press.

Chuck Palahniuk worked as an intern at a radio station before writing his first novel at the age of 30.

Many writers don’t start out writers. They don’t grow into adults already established and published. That takes years. So, yes, writers must also have real jobs. I know….. it disappoints me too.

Poems That Are “Whoa!”

Here are some of my favorite poems, spoken word. Listen to them and enjoy some of my greatest influences:

“Stop Signs” by Shane Kocyzan

“Compliment” by Rives

“V for Virgin” by George Watsky

“What Teachers Make” by Taylor Mali

“Bluegrass” by Rives

“When She Doesn’t Sleep at Night, She Turns Manic” by my good poet friend, Catherine the Great. Check her out!

Remember to check out other spoken word poems as well!