Inspiration, Invigoration & A Book Giveaway

Are you feeling lucky? The Great Books lists continue, and as an added bonus we've got a book giveaway. (Keep reading. Reward at end!)

To give my sluggy self a much-needed nudge, I'm always game for a self-help book. It's even better if I get a shove in the writing rear. In this spirit, I offer a longish list of my favorite stop-whining-and-get-writing books.

For Writers
Books that inspire, encourage, educate & motivate:

Every Writer Has A Thousand Faces - by David Biespiel

Writing Down the Bones - by Natalie Goldberg

On Writing - by Stephen King

Bird by Bird - by Anne Lamott

Journal of a Solitude - by May Sarton

The Forest for the Trees - by Betsy Lerner

The Practice of Poetry - by Robin Behn & Chase Twichell

Poemcrazy - by Susan G. Wooldridge

Poetry Everywhere - by Jack Collom & Sheryl Noethe

Now that we're pepped up and ready to write, let's press on! I'm giving away two great books. Win one of these and you'll be armed with information, motivation and verve:

How to Make A Living As A Poet
- by Gary Glazner






101 Ways to Make Poems Sell: A Guide to Getting and Staying Published
- by Chris Hamilton-Emery





Winning is simple. Just leave your name in the comment section below. If you like, tell me the book that gets you inspired to write. On Monday, January 16, 2012, I'll choose two names in a random drawing. You could be a winner. It's that easy!

Feeling shy? Zip me a private email — — that says I want to win.  


3 Great Poetry Books (+ 3 more)

It's the end of the year. Let's share our favorites!

3 Great Poetry Books I Read in 2011
Or: Of the many poetry books I enjoyed this year, I returned to these most. 

These collections were recent discoveries for me, but not necessarily published this year.

After the Ark
by Luke Johnson

I don't often read poetry books in one long session but one after the other these poems kept me rapt. In his debut, Johnson, the son of two ministers, deftly blends faith and loss into full-bodied and accomplished poems. And I'm not alone in my praise. The Huffington Post listed the collection as one of the 20 Best Books From Independent Presses.


At This Distance
by Bette Lynch Husted

In poems that explore distance — human and geographical — Husted travels her Oregon landscape, as well as universal roads, lonesome towns and the spacious, shaded and shiny places within each of us. "She writes with deep care and conscience," says Naomi Shihab Nye. "Her poems shun nothing, exploring difficult legacies and the mysterious encroachments of 'what people do' with calm humility and curiosity."   Don't miss: Anything a Box Will Hold

A Brief History of Time
by Shaindel Beers

How does she do it? In her debut collection, Beers offers sometimes longish, prose-like poems that twist and turn and keep me reading and re-reading, asking: Did she say that? Did she mean that? How did she do that? These are grounded, hardworking poems that don't stammer or hedge, and yet they are intimate, epic, crafted — and real. "This young woman writes poems crammed with the beauty, irony, and the sadness of the world: crummy jobs, meanness, illness, loss, and all the perspective they bring," says Penelope Scambly Schott.


And 3 More
In 2011, I turned and returned to these poetry books:

by January Gill O'Neil
O'Neil's debut collection is one of the most visually appealing poetry books I've read. The poetry world is, sadly, cluttered with shoddy production. Thankfully, CavanKerry Press knows the value of good graphic design, quality paper, and a professionally produced product.


by Ce Rosenow

I wasn't a fan of haiku — until I read this book. And now, I read the short form with great appreciation. "These poems are just like waves — some quiet, some stormy," notes Michael Dylan Welch. "Acceptance, ultimately, is a central stance of this book, welcoming what is received, to the point of celebration."


Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room
by Kelli Russell Agodon

In this smart, funny and touching collection, Agodon offers poems both rich and lively. My copy is marked and worn. Favorite poems: Memo to a Busy World, Letter to a Past Life, and Letter to an Absentee Landlord. (Who am I kidding, nearly every page bears a bookmark).


What did I miss? What poetry books did you love this year?

Stay tuned. The lists keep coming. Next up:

- Favorite Writing Resource Books

- Books to Read in 2012

  & a Book Giveaway!



Thankful Thursday: Closing Year

It's Thankful Thursday — the last of the year. Thank you for spending the Thankful Thursdays with me, for keeping me accountable, appreciative and grateful for things big and small. Sharing thankfulness, I've discovered, slows my pace and makes me mindful, and my gratitude grows when shared with you. Thank you.


Bell Song of Thanks

for patience and prayers
    for holding tight
    and letting go

for mothers     
    who cry in the dark
    and pray for light

for fathers
    reticent as rocks
    solid as time
for brothers
    that call

for sisters
    that don’t
for the near miss
    the second place
    the small dent

for speaking up
    and stilling down

for lungs to run
    legs to stand
    a heart to believe

for sickness
    and balm
    fortitude and grit

for newborns
    cradled in hopeful hands

for goodbyes
    that shook
    left us sobbing and stranded

for faith
    and song
    and the reminding chime

for giving up
    and starting over

despite of,
    because of,
    almost always



- Drew Myron


8 Great Novels in 2011

It's the end of the year. Bring on the book lists!


1. Sharing a good book is almost as fun as reading the book.
You stayed up 'til 2am to finish the book you didn't want to end. Of course you want to tell your friends about it.

2. Easy to digest.
I'm in a daze incurred from holiday snacking. Light reading is required until next week's zealous resolutions kick in. Let's call this the incubation & preparation stage.

3. Curiosity is the root of all writing.
I'm nosy. I want to know what stirs you, stops you, makes you race and linger.

In this spirit, and in this last week of the year, let's share our favorite books.

8 Great Novels I Read in 2011
Or: Of the many books I read this year, these gripped me enough that I still remember them.

These novels were not necessarily published this year because, really, who reads only new releases?

The Year We Left Home
by Jean Thompson
Set in the 1970s to present day, this is a sweeping story of family and change. “Few fiction writers working today have more successfully rendered the sensation of solid ground suddenly melting away, pinpointing that instant when the familiar present is swallowed up by an always encroaching past or voided future,” says The New York Times Book Review.


The Crying Tree
by Naseem Rakha
It's ambitious to pack capital punishment, family secrets, and forgiveness into one novel but Naseem Rakha pulls it off — and without arch prose or a  maudlin tone. Published in 2009, the novel has won scores of emerging writer accolades but is still, mysteriously, undersung.



The Adults
by Alison Espach
A sharp-tongued and often funny story of a young woman growing up in a suburban world in which nothing is as it seems. "Coming of age with a quick wit and a sharp eye," says The New York Times, "as idiosyncratic as it is stirring."


The Marriage Plot
by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Middlesex offers another immense and absorbing novel. This one, set in the 1980s with an English major as protagonist, is a footnote-like book of literary references, along with inquiries into mental illness, the existence of God, and other heady topics beautifully rendered. As an English major who attended college in the 1980s, I'm a biased reader; I loved this book.


by Emma Donoghue
Disturbing and creepy best describe this novel, but also strangely engaging and redemptive. Written in a clipped and claustrophobic style, the prose is as gripping as the story. "A truly memorable novel," says The New York Times Book Review. "It presents an utterly unique way to talk about love, all the while giving us a fresh, expansive eye on the world in which we live.”

The Paris Wife
by Paula McLain
A fiction based on fact, The Paris Wife captures the love and marriage between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson. Set in the creative heyday of 1920s Paris, the story mesmerizes with a lively circle of friends that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald.


The Imperfectionists
by Tom Rachman
For his debut, journalist-turned-author Tom Rachman (formerly an editor for the International Herald Tribune) turns out a riveting Rubik's cube of a novel. "Sparkling descriptions not only of newspaper office denizens but of the tricks of their trade, presented in language that is smartly satirical yet brimming with affection," notes The New York Times.


Dreams of Joy
by Lisa See
She reeled me with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and now, several years and books later, she's got me hooked again. Dreams returns to themes of love, family, hardship and secrets — without saccharine or strain, just beautifully complex characters and plot. I'll admit, I was hesitant to pick this one up — does a best-seller really need more attention? I like an underdog author. But this novel, with a million readers or just one, is a winner.


What did I miss? What novels did you love this year?

The lists keep coming. Stay tuned. Next up:

- Great Poetry Books of 2011

- Favorite Writing Resource Books

- Books to Read in 2012

  & a Book Giveaway!




Thankful Thursday: Hope 

The other night I attended a beautiful hour of poems and songs in candlelight.

It was a Taize service and just a handful of us assembled in the small church. The evening felt cavernous, as though we were each orphaned and unknown, gathered on the darkest night to fish for light. Everything hushed and reverent. Every voice low and slow. 

There was no sermon. No preaching. Just prayer and reflection, words and tune. The service centered on the four components of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. For each, a candle was lit, a prayer offered, a song sung, and a poem shared.

There is much joy in this season but it never fails to bring tears, too. Maybe it is simply the season, the short days, the long nights, this time of birth and promise that also carries weight, history, responsibility. Sometimes it is the singing of Silent Night, or the Christmas tree shining with light. Maybe it is the quietude that urges internalization, asks What can I give?

The service this week was quiet and peaceful. Days later I am thinking of the simple prayer that struck me most: Grant us the courage to hope, and the poem that followed:


It hovers in dark corners

before the lights are turned on, 

it shakes sleep from its eyes 

and drops from mushroom gills, 

it explodes in the starry heads 

of dandelions turned sages, 

it sticks to the wings of green angels 

that sail from the tops of maples.    

It sprouts in each occluded eye 

of the many-eyed potato, 

it lives in each earthworm segment 

surviving cruelty, 

it is the motion that runs the tail of a dog, 

it is the mouth that inflates the lungs 

of the child that has just been born.   

It is the singular gift 

we cannot destroy in ourselves, 

the argument that refutes death, 

the genius that invents the future, 

all we know of God.   

It is the serum which makes us swear 

not to betray one another; 

it is in this poem, trying to speak. 

 — Lisel Mueller


On this Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for the quiet hours to still the mind and mine the heart. I am thankful for the courage to hope.

It's Thankful Thursday! Gratitude. Appreciation. Praise. Please join me in a weekly pause to appreciate people, places & things.