Thursday, February 28, 2013

Full Name, ALL CAPS: an interview

Greetings Garden Dwellers:

Today’s interview does not showcase a writer.  It will explore the inter-workings of ALL CAPS PUBLISHING, the self-publishing collective started by our very own toad Marian Kent.  While the established publishing industry is busy bending to the whim and needs of the masses, many writers are making the choice to print and “pedal” their own wares.  ALL CAPS is a venture which seeks to unite writers for a common good.   

I welcome you all to a conversation with Marian Kent as she explains the vision of ALL CAPS and speaks to her endeavors in creating and publishing her first book of poems Responsive Pleading.

When did you start ALL CAPS?

I created ALL CAPS PUBLISHING when I published my first collection of poems, Responsive Pleading, in April of last year. I knew that I wanted to create an imprint for myself, to help make my book look extremely professional. It only took a small leap in thinking to decide that I’d create a cool, professional brand, with a website and a clear identity, in the hopes that other terrific writers might join me in a collective, sharing energy and supporting one another in self-publishing our books.

Why the name ALL CAPS?

My “about” page on my blog (runaway sentence.) has long contained as part of my self-description, “I am prone to hyperbole and SHRIEKING IN ALL CAPS.” And that’s because it’s true, I actually AM prone to all-caps rants and exclamations. But more importantly, the ALL CAPS tagline “poetry and fiction emphasized” really resonated for me. And ALL CAPS is just cool. Or at least I think so.

What are you trying to achieve by running your own publishing company...what is the "vision" of ALL CAPS?

Well, I’m not a publisher and we aren’t a publishing company, though I’m pleased that we are so professional that people assume we are. I wanted to bring people together who are self-publishing on the premise that there is strength in numbers. I wanted to align myself with other excellent writers; to stand up my writing next to other strong, well-written tomes. I also love the idea of community, and hope to build one with ALL CAPS, not to replace or compete with anything that already exists (like the Imaginary Garden, for example) but to provide a different, new and supportive space for writing and publishing. The ALL CAPS website has forums that we haven’t utilized a whole lot yet, but that I hope will become more active. The ALL CAPS Facebook page/community has generated some interesting conversations. I want more of that.

Criteria for Normalcy by Yve Chairez is the latest release from ALL CAPS.

With such a collaborative spirit and community minded mission statement, are you looking for a certain similar tone to the books you produce to create a cohesion in writing as well as in author’s intent?

What a great question. I’d say no, there’s no attempt to find similarity in tone or style. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the opposite. The more diverse our group of writers, the more variety in style, tone, subject matter, the better. What is crucial is that no matter the tone or style of our writing, the authors present our work professionally and flawlessly. The focus is on quality writing, not a particular style. You’ll see that the authors whose books have already been published or are in the queue are very different from one another, which makes for really interesting reading.

Do you feel that the self-publishing industry lacks professionalism as it is now?

You know, I wouldn’t go that far and I’m not particularly an expert about publishing or self-publishing. I was motivated from the beginning to self-publish because I’m controlling (or maybe protective is a better word) of my own writing. It’s also because I’m so busy as a working mom that I simply can’t spend my limited time querying and endlessly sending out poems to journals, that kind of thing. I guess I am saying that I want to be the boss of my own writing, and I always want my writing to stand up next to good writing. So I decided to create that kind of community here, and so far, a fair number of people see it the same way and have joined me. It’s exciting!

I really like your angle here, mostly because there is a slight stigma (or there has been a slight stigma) on the self-publishing industry.  Some are of the thinking that if a book is self-published, it is second rate writing.  But...the times they are a changing.  With the death grip bookstores have on the publishing industry, this can be an opportunity to take back the rights of authors.  Do you view ALL CAPS as a grassroots sort of thing?

Yeah, I guess I do. Certainly I understand what you are saying about stigma, and that’s why I’m so controlling about the presentation of my writing. I think no reader would guess that my book is self-published, as it’s attractive and professional, has a cool publisher’s imprint, a gorgeous cover, and so on. It’s just very well done, and that is extremely important to me. Like, when I put my words out into the world, everything has to be perfect. I’m fairly obsessive about my blog’s appearance, too. About the larger issue, though, yes. I am not against publishers or bookstores or anything like that--in fact I spend a lot of time and money in bookstores and buying books--but I figure, it’s possible to do this, there’s a lot of good energy around it, so let’s see what we can make of it. 

The Trees are on Fire is one of two books ALL CAPS published last year. 

Are you the sole captain, or are there others who help shape the collective?

I mean it when I say my vision is of a collective, but it’s also true that, so far anyway, I’m chief cook and bottle-washer. Right now, as we are small and just starting, my ideas and energy are driving it, but that is changing a bit. My dream is that everyone will participate and have a say, both in terms of day-to-day decisions, finding new wonderful writers to join us, and the big picture/vision stuff, too.

Last week, the website for ALL CAPS listed two titles, but now you have three, and "the" Facebook promises BIG things to come this year, can you speak to some of these exciting things in ALL CAPS' future?

Yes! Last year, two books were published via ALL CAPS: a gorgeous full-length book of poems by Ariana Den Bleyker (editor of Emerge Literary Journal) called The Trees Are On Fire, which you should all get your hands on because you’ll love it, and my first collection of poems, Responsive Pleading.

I’m pleased to announce that just this week, our third title was published! Criteria For Normalcy by Las Vegas-based author Yve Chairez is a “bold collection of short stories and poems that flirt with the boundaries of the absurd, whimsical, and sociopolitical.” In other words, fantastic. And soon to come is Gemini/Scorpio/Capricorn, a book of poems by fellow Toads Fireblossom, Mama Zen, and Hedgewitch. Yippee!

Other projects in the pocket for this year include poetry books from our own Head Toad Kerry O’Connor, Steve Schultz, Joy S Grape, and Sarah Whitely; poetry and fiction from fellow Toad Corey Rowley, and fiction from Michael Webb, plus some other projects-in-the-works. And I almost forgot to mention that I have a second poetry collection coming out this spring, too.

ALL CAPS and Real Toads have some exciting plans for Poetry Month, as well, which is coming up in April. We plan a chapbook contest for poets who follow along with daily prompts in the Imaginary Garden. Poets who are members and followers of the Garden who write thirty poems in April will be eligible to submit their 30-in-April chapbook manuscript to ALL CAPS.... details to be announced soon!

Do you find it difficult to be starting a publishing collective in a time when books (poetry and fiction) seem to be on their way out?  How are you adapting to this?  

Actually, I think it’s a great time to be doing something out of the mainstream in publishing. I don’t really feel the trend of people being less interested in books, as I just keep on reading and buying books (paper books and e-books), and people around me do, too. The world of publishing is so much in flux that it seems like self-publishing, especially in a highly professional, collective fashion, is a viable, respectable alternative. I’m really pleased at how my writing is received and the level of interest in ALL CAPS. It’s thrilling. And right now, the energy is there, it’s all positive, and it feels like it’s going to be an interesting and productive year for all of us.

ALL CAPS also published one of your works, Responsive Pleading.  Can you speak to the process of putting together a poetry book:  

The drive to produce a book of poetry on her own terms was the catalyst to starting ALL CAPS.  Above is an image of Marian's book of poetry, Responsive Pleading.

how did you select the theme

Responsive Pleading is the title of a poem in the collection. It’s about flying off with a flock of geese, spending time contemplating, and then going home again. It seemed to represent the general story-arc of the collection. Plus, as a no-longer-practicing lawyer, I like to play around with legalistic words and phrases, and “responsive pleading” is one. I organized the book in four sections, for each of the four seasons, as the poems seem to tell a linear story (in reality they don’t, but I was able to present them that way) chronologically and in connection with the passing of a year.

was it difficult to pick which pieces would go in

It wasn’t, really. Maybe you realize that I have (as do many of us here at RT) an almost-daily writing practice. As the result, I had many, many poems to choose from. The ones that were better and seemed to fit rose to the surface naturally.

how did select the order

Some of the selection process is organic and hard to explain, but once I piled up the poems by sections, it was easier to organize them. For the (new) collection I’m working on right now, I have seven sections/chapters. So each is a smaller group to arrange. Sometimes a few poems go together by theme or subject matter, sometimes by form or appearance, and the rest somehow just fit in.

what has the response been to the book (i know you've done some readings, etc)

You know, I feel like I’m just making all this up as I go, and I don’t have a lot to compare my success to, but I have been blown away by the response to my book. I’ve sold over a hundred paper copies and a handful of e-books, though to be truthful, my measure of success has more to do with the way people talk about it and share it than with sales. I have done a few readings locally, but I could do much more on that front. I have spent no energy on getting my book into local bookstores, which I should do (and swear I will with the next book). I’ve been interviewed a couple times (like this great one with author Eden Baylee) and my YouTube channel has been fun. I’d love to see one of my videos go viral, then I’d be ACTUALLY famous (instead of just in my own mind). My book is in the library in the town where I grew up, in which I spent a ton of time as a child and teenager; I received a note from the librarian thanking me for having it there. That is just amazing. That’s enough.

what were some of the challenges that comes from publishing your poetry that you were not expecting

People are on hard times, and it’s difficult to get people to buy a book. Even a beautiful and wonderful book that will probably affect you deeply and that’s as cheap as your lunch. That can be disheartening. Don’t get me wrong, I have no illusions about making a fortune (or even any money) through poetry, but the part of me that’s super-proud of my gorgeous book thinks EVERYONE should have a copy.

Something that required thinking about when I published my book was the merging of my real identity with my blog identity. I know some Toads will relate to this. I’ve always been myself, always Marian (not a pseudonym), but I never allowed my last name (or my family members’ names) on my blog, for privacy and security reasons. Of course, my book is published in my full name, first and last. I would not have made another choice, but I had to really think it through.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kerry's Wednesday Challenge ~ Open Letters

Poet, Siegfried Sassoon's Open Letter
in which he calls for an end to World War I
in Public Domain

An open letter is a letter that is intended to be read by a wide audience, or a letter intended for an individual, but that is nonetheless widely distributed intentionally.
Open letters usually take the form of a letter addressed to an individual but provided to the public through newspapers and other media, such as a letter to the editor or blog. Especially common are critical open letters addressed to political leaders. Open letters can also be addressed directly to a group rather than any individual.


There are a number of reasons why an individual would choose the form of an open letter, including the following reasons:
·      As a last resort to ask the public to judge the letter's recipient or others involved, often but not always, in a critical light
·      To state the author's position on a particular issue
·      As an attempt to start or end a wider dialogue around an issue
To continue reading this Wikipedia entry, click HERE.


There are many interesting and enlightening open letters available, and it was difficult for me to choose one but I thought, as writers, we would enjoy Harper Lee's open letter to Oprah Winfrey on the value of reading.

It is not the first time we have explored the possibilities of Epistolary poetry on Real Toads. Indeed, I set such a Wednesday Challenge back in 2011. Now I wonder if it is possible to translate the idea of an open letter into poetry and I leave this challenge with you today. Write a poem in the form of an open letter and disseminate it through means of the internet by posting it on your blog and linking it up to Real Toads.
One final note: As this is poetry, the premise of your letter or its recipient may be fictitious, if you so choose.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Open Link Monday

Welcome to the Imaginary Garden...

Flickr Creative Commons

... the habitat of Real Toads.

A warm welcome is once again extended to all on-line poets who would like to share their poetry with the Real Toads community. I like to see this as a forum with the sole function of encouraging creativity of the written word and hope that those who make use of our open link embrace the opportunity to share and participate by reading and commenting on the work of fellow poets.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Sunday Mini-Challenge ~ 14-Liners

© Isadora Gruye

If I were to say: ‘Write a poem in 14 lines’, you would immediately think I want a sonnet for today’s Mini-Challenge. Maybe I do, and maybe I don’t. Maybe I want a poem that is 14 lines long, with no further stipulation regarding meter, rhyme scheme, divisions, volta etc. Instead, I shall leave all decision making entirely up to you, because I want to see some experimentation today.  Do not be restricted by form – let the form work for you.

© Isadora Gruye

 Those who are interested in traditional sonnets may find the Wikipedia entry informative, but I would encourage you all to read the innovative approach to 14-liners by e.e. cummings and take a look at what happens when the love sonnets of Pablo Neruda are translated into English and lose their rhyme scheme. 

© Isadora Gruye

Take a look at Elizabeth Bishop's, Sonnet (1979), or peruse Rainer Maria Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus and the Sonnets of Dark Love by Federico Garcia Lorca.

© Isadora Gruye

The sonnet has remained a popular form of poetry since it first appeared in the 13th Century and the very fact that it has been constantly innovated has kept it alive. I see no reason why poets should stop now.

© Isadora Gruye

Real Toads is featuring the photographic art of our member, Izy Gruye of The Nice Cage Blog.  If you upload an image to your blog please acknowledge the name of the artist.

The Sunday Challenge is posted on Saturday at noon CST to allow extra time for the form challenge.  Please provide a link on your blog back to Real Toads.  We stipulate that only poems written for this challenge may be added to the Mr Linky.  Management reserves the right to remove unrelated links, but invites you to share a poem of your choice on Open Link Monday.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Transforming Friday

Hello Toads!! It’s me, Hannah with your seventh round of exploring the world’s ecoregions, an opportunity to express poetically the point of view of your choice of creature or wildlife in the Desert Region this time!

Sepia scented words from, ““Classics Edition of the World Atlas-Hammond 1967,” states: “One-fifth of all the land is desert, to dry for farming and populated largely by sheep-herding nomads and those who live in the oases and irrigated valleys.”

So, I had to look this up...I didn’t realize “oases,” was plural for “oasis,” hence: “In geography, an oasis (plural: oases) or is an isolated area of vegetation in a desert, typically surrounding a spring or similar water source.” (from wiki)

Wikipedia says this about the desert region:

“A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants.

Deserts take up about one third (33%) of the Earth's land surface.[2] Hot deserts usually have a large diurnal and seasonal temperature range, with high daytime temperatures, and low nighttime temperatures (due to extremely low humidity). In hot deserts the temperature in the daytime can reach 45 °C/113 °F or higher in the summer, and dip to 0 °C/32 °F or lower at nighttime in the winter.

“Many deserts are formed by rain shadows; mountains blocking the path of precipitation to the desert (on the lee side of the mountain). Deserts are often composed of sand and rocky surfaces. Sand dunes called ergs and stony surfaces called hamada surfaces compose a minority of desert surfaces. Exposures of rocky terrain are typical, and reflect minimal soil development and sparseness of vegetation. The soil is rocky because of the low chemical weathering, and the relative absence of a humus fraction.

(Photo via Wiki under Creative Commons Attribution The ten largest deserts (Antarctic not included)

World largest deserts deserts included: Sahara, Arabian, Syrian, Kalahari, Namib, Gobi, Australian West, North American, Patagonian, Atacama

And now friendly Toads...our creatures!!

I found some fun lil’ videos!

This guy looks like he could be our cousin..shovel snouted lizard.

Okay, don’t hate me...I hope there’s no arachnophobes here..the Dancing White Lady Spider or the Wheel Spider...

Here, I will make up for the last two with these cute fuzzy Fennec Foxes!! 

Oh, that was fun!! I could browse creatures all day! ;)

Desert wildlife list here, (check source for Copyright).

If there’s a plant/tree type you’d like to embody please do!

Thank you in advance for transforming this sure to link something new written specifically for this challenge and try not to get too parched as you visit your blogging desert friends!!

Happy writing!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Words Count With Mama Zen

Greetings Toads!

On a recent leisurely amble through our lovely garden, it occurred to me that we're missing something.  We don't have a Toad House!

image via Pinterest

So, today, we're going to build one.

Think of all of the pieces and parts that make up a house.  Rooms and a roof.  Porches and plumbing.  Windows and wheels (what?  Trailers have wheels!).  You get the idea.  Then, pick your project and get to work.  Be as material or metaphorical as you like.  Just keep it to forty-eight words or less.  Toad houses are pretty small, after all.

Happy Building!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Open Link Monday

Welcome to the Imaginary Garden...
Please join our gathering of toads.

I am not one to wish my life away, but I am counting the weeks until the end of February, because it is the hottest month of the year in my part of the world. The temperature soars, humidity is high and thunderstorms are our only hope of relief. However, I am certain that there are many other Real Toadians who have had enough of the Winter and are looking forward to the Spring of 2013. Whatever the weather, all are warmly greeted this Monday in the garden. Please link up a poem of your choice and spend some time reading and relaxing in our poetic environment.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Free Verse: My Love In Her Wild Magnificence

Hello again sweet Toads and Toad friends. Fireblossom here. I know that some of you were convinced that I had gone off my nut and abandoned everything I believe in, yesterday, when I set before you a form challenge. Here is my sinister reason: I knew that, today, I would be talking about My Love, also known as free verse. 

Consider the wolf pack on the hunt. I think they would make fine free verse poets, and here's why. They don't run in strict military formation by any means, but neither do they just dash pell mell in all directions without purpose. They are focused and organized, but they are not show horses bound to a fixed program. They run like hell, working together as if their lives depend upon it, which they do. As I said, they would make fine free verse poets!

Let's start by talking about what free verse is NOT. First of all, free verse is NOT prose. Prose is defined in Webster's dictionary as "ordinary writing; not poetry".
So, therefore, simply breaking ordinary writing down into lines does not make it free verse, or poetry at all. 

I went to the store and 
bought eggs, 
I got on the bus and went home 
where I 
made a cup of tea and 
dozed off.

Looks like a poem, doesn't it? It's not, though. It's ordinary writing. A simple test is to remove the line breaks and look at it like this:

I went to the store and bought eggs, then I got on the bus and went home where I made a cup of tea and dozed off.

It's obvious now, isn't it? NOT poetry. All right, let's try this trick again, but this time we'll turn it around. I'll start with ordinary prose:

As a child, i felt invisible to my family, which left me restless, agitated, and feeling as if I'd like to get up and scream to make them notice me. I never did, though. I stayed quiet.

That's fine as prose, but not as poetry. Now, let's see how this same feeling is conveyed by poet Gregory Corso in this section from his poem "This Was My Meal":

I turned to my father,
and he ate my birthday
I drank my milk and saw trees outrun themselves
valleys outdo themselves
and no mountain stood a chance of not walking

Desert came in the spindly hands of stepmother
I wanted to drop fire-engines from my mouth!
But in ran the moonlight and grabbed the prunes.

Mark Twain said that the difference between the right word and almost the right word, is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. The poetic image and the fresh phrase are two crucial differences between ordinary writing and free verse poetry.

Here's another example. "You're only as old as you feel" and "Do your own thing" are bumper stickers, cliches, greeting card pap. In the hands of Alta, in this excerpt from her poem "i don't know how to play, either", it sounds fresh, like this:

let's frolic, dear friend
tho we're 30 & bitter
& our faces attest to our pain.
let's dance without music
and laugh without reason;
to hell with the circus they gave us."

It can be scary to read something really well done and then wonder, "How can I do that?" One trick is to write down the thought you want to write about, in plain language, first. Then ask yourself, how can I set a match to these words and make them burn brighter? 

Another thing that distinguishes free verse, and any poetry, from ordinary writing, is the use of metaphor. Consider Charles Simic's poem "Fear":

Fear passes from man to man

As one leaf passes its shudder
To another.

All at once the whole tree is trembling
And there is no sign of the wind.

He isn't talking about a tree, or leaves, or wind, not really. And yet, by use of these metaphors, he says more about how fear spreads than he could have with any prose.

Now, let's delve into the free verse toy box, where we will find gadgets and gizmos that lend themselves to free verse better than to any other form. Here is a short piece by Michael Curley, which would seem, at first glance, to be "ordinary writing." It isn't, though. In the space of four lines, he paints a portrait of a type of woman we all know and have encountered, and knocks over the pleasant facade to reveal something more. This is called "Night School Ladies".

Aging housewives pour over a textbook for one course
ruining averages, boring people with their banter,
and pictures of their grown children who are
always doing well.

Brevity, they say, is the soul of wit, and concision can be the soul of fine free verse. Here is another by Michael Curley, entitled "A Teacher's Response To Creativity":


One line, two sentences, and yet it speaks volumes. Free verse also lends itself to the Rant, and can go on for some while without losing its power. A prime example of this is Allen Ginsberg's famous poem "Howl" from which I give you an excerpt here:

Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!

"Howl" runs to some eleven pages, and far from tiring the reader, it gathers force throughout, slamming aside the complacency of the 1950s in a mighty steamroller of outrage. Got something you feel passionate about? Let it rip. Free verse can accommodate this kind of fury and emotion.

Free verse can be written in lines which are dense or spare, gentle or manic, and can take almost any form in terms of stanzas, punctuation, or premise. The thing to remember is, never let it be ordinary. Never write poetry in dull language. Keep writing and changing and experimenting and challenging yourself until you have something with the power and surprising newness of the best free verse.

I'll leave you with a section from Judy Grahn's "A Woman Is Talking To Death." I love how she packs this with so much of what really matters, and twists what we expect into something more:

4. A Mock Interrogation

Have you ever held hands with a woman?

Yes, many times--women about to deliver,women about to have breasts removed, miscarriages, women having epileptic fits, having asthsma, cancer, women having breast bone marrow sucked out of them by nervous or indifferent interns, women with heart condition, who were vomiting, overdosed, depressed, drunk, lonely to the point of extinction; women who had been run over, beaten up. deserted. starved. women who had been bitten by rats; and women who were happy, who were celebrating, who were dancing with me in large circles or alone, women who were climbing mountains or up and down walls, or trucks or roofs and needed a boost up, or I did; women who simply wanted to hold my hand because they liked me, some women who wanted to hold my hand because they liked me better than anyone.

Thanks for letting me talk about free verse! I will include a linky in case anyone would like to link their free verse poem. Today, it does not have to be a new poem, though it would be cool if it were; it simply has to be free verse, and to incorporate some of what has been discussed here in this article. I look forward to reading.