5 Tips to Write More Throughout the Week

By Ellen Gwin

  1. Carry a Pocket Sized Notebook
    Write while you’re in transportation or other small breaks
    When you randomly get inspiration
    To quickly jot down a phrase or observation to return to later
    Etc.
  2. Seek inspiration in supposedly mundane places
    Routine: hair, driving, work
    Art you see daily
    Uniforms
    Weather
    Photos/videos on social media
  3. Let writing be relaxing
    Heat up a some tea and take the time to write
    Make a snack plate and eat while writing
    Paint your toenails while you write
    Go for a stroll and bring a small notepad
    Etc.
  4. Read in the morning and plan what you’ll write in your head throughout the day
    Read prompts, definitions, about certain symbols, etc.
  5. Set aside 30 minutes just for writing right before an activity
    Before a shower, bed, work, breakfast, etc.
  6. Mostly importantly, allow yourself to breathe
    For some, writing daily is a great habit to get into but if it’s causing stress then it’s not the writing tactic for you! Always make sure your hobbies and passions are enjoyable.

Parisian Escape

by Ellen Gwin

Crouching in the corner of a neglected attic, I listen the sounds of honking cars, of clicking heels, of whispered pardons and marvel at the simplicity of daily encounters. 

The erratic scents rise to the top floor window like dough in the oven and fuming cigarettes mingling with the rancid smell of piss allusive to escape from innocence. 

As I run my fingers over the grooves of splintered floors I find spots left untouched, covered in dust, beckoning my inquiry. Averting my gaze, I return to the haze.

Men sing loudly, and often terribly, with circus-like accordions imploring each passerby to hesitate within their promenade long enough to reach into their pocket and flip an ill-fated coin.

Overcoming Writer’s Block

by Ellen Gwin

Writer’s block is nothing to be embarrassed about. Whether it’s been a day or a year, it happens to everyone! Fear not, cures exist.

  1. Make Pinterest mood boards of photos that inspire you

2. Read philosophy, allegorical literature, or really anything

I like to read some classic Aristotle/Plato/Socrates but also Nietzsche, Descartes, and Kant.

Some allegorical literature includes Faerie Queene, Animal Farm, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and The Little Prince.

3. Listen to music with no lyrics

This can be classical music, jazz, techno, acoustic, etc.

Either try to come up with lyrics to the song or just forget about words completely and vibe out.

4. Engage with the world around you

Go on a walk, hang out with friends, call your mom, get out of your head.

5. Bounce ideas off a friend

Sometimes it helps to get the juices flowing but sometimes it just helps to think out loud.

6. Writing anything and everything that comes to your mind for 10 minutes

Even if it’s “bad.”

Ying Yang

by Ellen Gwin

Purple plums pass my resembling bruised lips,

Kissing strawberries, relishing cherries; my mouth grows tired of unwanted fruits.

Terror within speech, stuttering over seeds planted but not yet sprouted.

Juices spill over my hands in anticipation of reaching my searching tongue.

Sticky hands pick up unwanted debris, am I too dirty or too sweet?

Acid fills my stomach, regurgitation tempts my esophagus.

No more fruits, no more sweet; par consequence, a life of loneliness with no debris.

Together We are Happy, Loving, and Pure

by Ellen Gwin

Give me a tea set that’s incomplete
Let me warm my own water to a bubbling boil
And pour the steaming liquid into cups of my own
Full of Daman Frère’s earl grey bergamot. 

Let the strawberry cream in my silver jug
Act as a buffer between hellish heat
And chipping china plated with gold, 
embroidered with gardenias.

But let me come to you for a sugar bowl and spoon
To remind me that once I lived compartmentalized
But you showed me the sweetness 
of stirring the concoction together

Our Flirtations

by Ellen Gwin

Rouge my cheeks with the incessant sun
Make me blush beneath the heat
Of the unrelenting rays
So that I awaken feeling warm
As I rise for the day.

Make my lips beg stumble over 
These strawberry jam hues
While they tremble with giggles,
Filled with light-hearted longing
To feel the effects
Of your temperament too.

Thaw the marrow in my bones
And turn my head with the
Clement air of your summery beam.
No clouds in the cerulean sky to block
Intent direction— clear as day.

Winter Prompts

#PromptsByElle on instagram

This season’s prompts relate to the ideas of love that February is associated with. These prompts will lend a guiding hand in helping poets incorporate allusions and discuss timeless truths.

These little vignettes of each story are my interpretations but many more valid ones exist. 

1.Psyching Cupid Out

Psyche was a mortal woman who held beauty so captivating that even Venus, goddess of Love became jealous. Her son, Cupid, god of Love, upon setting eyes on Psyche distractedly pricks himself with one of his arrows and falls in love with her. 

In order to wed her in secret, Cupid hid her away in a large mansion where she could hear him but never see him and therefore never know his true identity— there must be trust in order to have Love.

One night, Psyche betrays Cupid by turning the lights on while he is asleep, causing Cupid to flee, hurt by the betrayal. Psyche wondered the earth looking for him for years.

2. Venus Feels Vindictive

In Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, Adonis was a hunter known for extraordinary beauty but he had no interest in love. When Venus comes down from the heavens to entice Adonis, Adonis ignores her, offending the goddess. 

Suddenly, Venus has a vision that Adonis will die if he hunts for boar the next day so she warns him to be careful. He doesn’t listen and Venus finds him dead in the woods. 

In despair Venus cursed love from then on to be mixed with suspicion, fear, and sadness. She then returned to the luxurious heavens to lick her wounds. 

Interesting interpretation:

In Greek Mythos, before the universe was conceived, there was Chaos. Then, the world was organized into four sections: Gaia (earth), Uranus (sky), Pontus (sea), and Tartarus (underworld). “In T.W. Baldwin’s judgment, two platonic ideas– namely, Beaut and Love keep the world from returning to Chaos”– A.C. Hamilton

According to L.E. Pearson, Venus is a destructive agent of sensual love and Adonis is the ideal agent of reason in love. Reason in love prefers love, truth, and beauty over the gluttony of lust and one must conquer the trinity before satiating their lust or else reason works against them. Throughout the poem, Venus is often surrounded by gluttonous imagery. When Adonis is killed due to Venus’ lusty pursuit, so is reason in love, leaving earthly love to Chaos.

3. Ophelia, Baptized in Death

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia is the daughter of a nobleman who is interested in Hamlet, prince of Denmark.

At the beginning the play, Polonius discourages Ophelia from having sex with Hamlet. Towards the middle of the play, Hamlet begins making sexual innuendos towards Ophelia, insinuating they’d had sex. 

At the end of the play Ophelia presents an herb, rue, commonly associated with regret before falling to her death into a rushing river. 

Symbols:

Rue: Regret.
This herb was also believed to cause abortions. Ophelia gave this one to herself
This herb is also known as the “herb of grace”

Daisy: Innocence
Ophelia does not give this flower to anyone as no one in Denmark deserves it

Violets: Faithfulness and fidelity. All the violets in Denmark wither when her father dies.

Columbine: Deceived lovers

Rosemary/pansies: Remembrance

None of these flowers/herbs were considered beautiful or valuable at the time, just humble blossoms that often get discarded– much like Ophelia herself.

4. Lilith Chooses Sex Positivity

According to Jewish text, Lilith was the first wife of Adam, made from the same clay as him– as an equal.

When Lilith decided she would not be subservient to Adam, she left the Garden of Eden.

From there, Lilith was seduced by the archangel Samael and became known as the first femme fatale. “A hot fiery female who first cohabited with man”– Zohar Leviticus

Lilith translates from Hebrew into “night creatures.” This translation is simialar to the turn of phrase “lady of the night,” a cheeky phrase for a prostitute.

Symbols:

Snakes
The moon
Crossroads
Golden hair
Looking in the mirror
Witches, vampires, demons
White roses (sterile passion)

Interesting Interpretation:

While some interpret Lilith as a sinner, it’s 2021! Lilith decided she would take no, one man and that she would instead guide herself with Diana’s helpful moonlight (even though Diana is a known virgin, she helps Lilith because she is not judgmental) and seduce as many men as she felt all the while remaining youthful as the earth grew old.

5. Darcy Battles Demons for Love

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Darcy is a wealthy man living in early 19th century England. He meets a woman named Elizabeth Bennet at a ball and makes condescending remarks towards her which Elizabeth overhears. 

Overtime, Darcy falls in love with Elizabeth and must overcome his flawed feeling of superiority. While he offends Elizabeth in a few more incidents, each time he takes time to reflect and mend the scar in his soul. 

At the end of the novel, Darcy saves Elizabeth’s family from social disgrace by covering up Elizabeth’s sister premarital sex-scandal. He then proposes to Elizabeth and she accepts.

6. Camilla, The Manic Pixie Dream Girl

In a Secret History by Donna Tartt, Camilla is the only girl in the circle of friends learning from Julian. 2/5 of the boys openly flirt with Camilla and make comments that idealize as a person. Richard describes her as being surrounded by some magical light almost every time he sees her.

At the end of the novel, the reader finds out Camilla has been sleeping with her own brother, Charles. All the idealizations around her disappear and she’s finally seen for what she is: dependent and weak.

Both Richard and Francis idealized Camilla without ever spending very much time with her or ever truly getting to know her flaws and accept those. To them, Camilla was a manic pixie dream girl. 

7. Persephone’s Compromise with Hades

Hades took Persephone to the underworld to be his wife with her father’s, Zeus’, permission. However, both Persephone and her mother, Demeter, wanted her returned. 

Hermes went to retrieve Persephone, but Persephone had already eaten some pomegranate seeds: food of the underworld. If one eats food from the underworld they must spend 1/3 of the year there. 

So, Persephone spends each winter with her husband Hades in the underworld and every other season she’s free to roam both heaven and earth. 

Due to this myth she’s become known as the vegetation goddess because when she ascends from the underworld in the spring vegetation springs and when she returns at the end of harvest season, vegetation withdraws. 

8. Anna Karenina: Lasting Love or Passing Passion?

In Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Anna is a woman married to Alexei, a government official and moralist. Although Anna has stability, a child, high social class, and devotion from her husband, she feels unsatisfied.

It’s then that Anna meets a young officer named Vronsky who she begins to lust after. Anna then has to make a decision between the lasting love of her husband or the passing passions of Vronsky. One will keep her life happier in the long run while the other will give her the greatest happiness for only a short period.

Despite her indiscretions, Alexei gives Anna multiple occasions to come clean and be forgiven. In the end, Anna chooses passion over love and winds up committing suicide by jumping in front of a train.

“I have no peace to give, only misery or the greatest happiness.” –Vronsky to Anna

“The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long” –Lao Tzu

3 Tactics for Using Verbs in Poetry

by Ellen Gwin

The three concepts I will introduce go in with the “show, not tell” theory. While a lot of people believe poetry (and other descriptive writing) mainly consists of adjectives, verbs act just as descriptive as adjectives while also bringing the reader into the moment when used properly.

By learning these three concepts one can learn to write in a descriptive and captivating manner.

Keep in mind that one does not need to follow these rules in their writing 100% of the time, I know I do not! However, they do work to make writing more interesting and should be kept in mind when writing.

  1. Strong Verbs VS Weak Verbs

Strong Verbs VS Weak Verbs

Weak verbs loosely state the action while strong verbs act as more of a descriptive action.

For Example:
I told her to slow down
VS
I advised her to slow down

For Example:
He ran around the building
VS
He scampered around the building

For Example:
He held the newspaper in his hand
VS
He clutched the newspaper in his hand

State-of-being Verbs

A type of weak verb which includes “to be” verbs on top of have/had/has, do/does/did, shall/will/should, would/may/might/must, can/could.

In the words of Richard Nordquist, “A state-of-being verb identifies who or what a noun is, was, or will be”

For Example:
I wanted to be on time
VS
I wanted to arrive on time

For Example:
He had to leave early
VS
He needed to depart early

For Example:
She was eating a cake when she began to choke
VS
She took a bite of cake when she began to coke

Verbs accompanied by adverbs

Another area where weak verbs occur is when an adverb accompanies a verb. If you’re having trouble replacing adverbs try replacing the verb instead or vice versa.

For Example:
He ran quickly to the store
VS
He dashed to the store

For Example:
She walked sadly around the house
VS
She moped around the house

2. Active Voice VS Passive Voice

Active Voice

Active voice makes sentences less wordy and the meaning more direct. Active voice also helps remove state-of-being verbs and other weak verbs. Active voice is useful when setting a strong and clear tone for readers.

Passive Voice

Passive voice becomes useful when the writer wants to emphasize the object(s) impacted by the verb. This is helpful when writing about victims of violence, famous works of art, geographical locations, etc.

What does this mean for my writing?

One should steer towards active voice but use passive voice to put relevant information at the forefront.

An example when active voice is better:

Passive:

Merlot was spilled on my white, lace Easter dress.

My lips stained my grandmother’s antique set.

Green tomatoes ripened too quickly to fry.

My copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray has blood on it.

The bushes lost their rose petals too early this spring.

Active:

Spilled Merlot on my white, lace Easter dress.

Red lips stained on grandmothers antique tea set.

Green tomatoes ripened too quickly to fry.

Drops of blood landed on my copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Rose petals fell off their bushes too early in the spring.

An example when passive voice is better:

Active: The policemen killed George Floyd.

Passive: George Floyd was killed by policemen.

Active: I took an airplane to the ocean.

Passive: The ocean can be reached by airplane.

3. Propel Sentences with Verbs Instead of Adjectives

Often when people think of poetry, they think of flowery adjectives (and the wooing of women). However, while adjectives are useful and impactful when used correctly, the poem cannot move forward unless verbs become involved. Verbs also stimulates the readers senses, allowing them to feel more engaged in the work.

In a sense one could say verbs propel writing more than nouns or adjectives. When writing with verbs, the adjectives will come naturally and therefore not come across as overdone.

For Example:

I opened my eyes and saw an array of pastel flowers sitting in golden enameled vases.

VS

When I opened my eyes, I felt the room flower into an array of pastel hues with touches of gold gracing my giddy glances.

The first sentence falls flat while the edited version, with verbs propelling the sentence, the sentence pulls in the reader and allows room for the story to grow. Verbs could be used to discuss what else is in the room, to move to a different room, to bring in a new character etc.

We’re All Scary in Our Own Way

by Ellen Gwin

  Sometimes I feel like Frankenstein’s monster. Steadily observing, learning, and mimicking. Trying to figure out where I went wrong. I read books by some man named Milton trying to decipher heaven from hell and sinners from saints and wondering where the grey area went. If I follow the rules I’m rejected by my creator, if I reign in anarchy he rejects me still. 

   I understand people run when I walk their way but I don’t understand quite why, so I look to Plutarch’s Lives in hopes of learning to act more kind. Maybe I’m not right to feel this way and perhaps there’s a reason I don’t understand, at least there’s Goethe to give me a hand. 

  Perhaps I should curse god and all that he’s created; set fire to innocent cottages and salt fertile land. Bite the hands of those who have fed me in anger for soliciting false hope. Isolate myself from all I’ve ever been curious about. Or perhaps I could trust my own intuition, not seeking validation from majorities, just give into my own volition. Let my heart guide my head and find love by happenstance.

Websites All Poets Should Visit

by Ellen Gwin

1. Publishing Tools:

Poets & Writers: pw.org

“Poets & Writers” posts about different writing contests, Literary Magazines, contains database to research different presses, advice articles on publishing, and guides.

Submittable: submittable.com

Magazines and presses post listings and ask for poets to submit their work for review. The listing usually states a topic, how many pages to submit, and whether or not to include a bio.

Kindle Direct Publishing: kdp.amazon.com

KDP allows writers to self-publish e-books and paperbacks for free. Easily upload a manuscript and an image for the book cover and KDP makes it into a book for sale on amazon. The website is very user friendly and provides templates, guides, and self-publishing tips.

Poetry Foundation: poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/submit

A well-known literary journal, just be sure not to submit anything you’ve posted on instagram.

Kenyon Review: kenyonreview.org/submission/

Another well-known literary journal, again, just be sure not to submit anything you’ve posted on instagram.

2. Promotion Tools

Poets & Writers: pw.org

“Poets & Writers” has a list of different literary events (virtual & in-person) as well as resources for connecting with other poets.

Fivver: Fivver.com

Writers post their own listing on this website and wait for responses. This is usually done with commissioned work. However, writers can also respond to other people’s listings and offer to write for them.

WordPress

Use wordpress to post your poetry, prompts, writing tips, and other content in an organized manner. Just be sure to use hashtags so your work will be seen!

Hellopoetry

Hellopoetry is website you can use to publish your poetry, submit poetry to publishers, and meet other writers.

3. Educational Tools

Poets & Writers: pw.org

“Poets & Writers” holds workshops all around the US. Currently all workshops are held online due to COVID-19. There is a fee and an application.

Poetry Foundation: poetryfoundation.org

“Poetry Foundation” posts articles on improving writing for all age groups and contains a glossary for poetic terms.

Kenyon Review: kenyonreview.org

Holds workshops for different ages and interests.

BBC Poetry

bbc.co.uk/poetryseason/

On BBC Poetry you’ll find poetry guides, readings, interviews, and advice.