Saturday, February 25, 2017

Traditional, Small Press, and Self-Publishing

When I conduct poetry workshops, participants often ask about self-publishing and its relative merits and credibility.

Some poets want to create a book for a specific purpose or a limited market (family, friends, local buyers) and aren’t concerned with finding a major publishing house to print and promote their work. The traditional publishing route and the inability to secure a publisher may frustrate others. One plus for traditional publishing is that traditional publishers pay royalties for the right to publish books, they promote the books they publish, and they back their books with the “stamp” of their imprint.

Traditional publishing takes time, it’s usually a slow process of many months (sometimes years) between the acceptance of a book manuscript and the book's appearance in print. Self-publishing, especially with today’s technologies in place, is much faster. Self-publishing offers complete creative control, but it also means not having an editor and professional team to work with you.

Many major traditional publishers prefer to work with authors who have agents representing them and will normally ask you to sign a contract. Once you sign such a contract, your book essentially belongs to the publisher. It’s important to understand a contract’s copyright terms and what those terms will mean to you. If you self-publish, that isn’t something you need to worry about. And nowadays, there’s the additional self-publishing option of the e-book.

Traditional publishing almost always provides significant marketing assistance. If you self-publish, you will need to market your book on your own. With self-publishing, all monetary profits from the book are yours. Traditional publishers generally offer authors a profit percentage. That percentage is usually net, so discounts, returns, marketing costs, and overheads are taken off the total before your percentage is calculated. Royalty rates for traditional publishing normally range between 7% and 25%.

Some writers become so frustrated by dealings with publishing houses, that they consider a form of publishing known as "vanity publishing." This kind of publishing carries with it a giant caveat. In vanity publishing, authors pay a fee to have their books published. These publishers typically assume no financial risk at all and often offer little by way of book promotion—thus, they reverse the process of traditional publishing. You pay them to publish your book, and that's all they do. Their credibility ranking is low.

There’s another option: a wide range of small press or independent publishers who will publish poetry collections without charging a fee (unlike vanity publishers). These small press publishers often produce beautifully designed and elegant books that don’t cost the authors a cent (other than an initial, usually nominal, reading fee). Most often, small press publishers have high standards and publish good poets. These presses work with contracts—authors may agree to purchase a certain number of copies, or they may waive rights to royalties, but rights to the poems often remain with the authors. Small press publishers make it possible for relatively unknown poets to become known. Most of my own books have been published by small presses, and I love each one. No, I haven’t gotten rich on them, far from it, but the books are beautifully designed, I've had a fair amount of "say" in the design process, and I've even gotten some royalties. Importantly, the people behind the small presses have been wonderful to work with.

There is still another route, and that route is self-publishing. Self-publishing is exactly what the term suggests: an author publishes himself or herself at his or her own expense. However, the author also maintains total creative control and does not have to answer to anyone. There was a time when self-publishing meant working with a printer and spending a lot of non-writing time in manuscript preparation. Today, though, a range of computer programs enable authors to prepare their own manuscripts for publication electronically. This, paired with print-on-demand (POD) technologies and e-books, make book publishing much less expensive than it used to be.

It’s thought in some literary circles that self-publishing means an author couldn’t find a traditional publisher (including the prestige and validation that come with traditional publishing) to produce their work. This, of course, may be true. The general consensus seems to be that pursuing traditional publishing and small presses first is a good way to go. If neither of those work out, then investigating the pros and cons of self-publishing is definitely a choice open to poets. Vanity publishing should be avoided.

So … what does all of this mean to the typical “local” poet who has completed a book manuscript and would like to see the book published? Essentially, it means that you have options. You can try the larger publishing houses (especially if a “name” publisher is important to you); you can look for small press publishers who will work with you in producing and marketing your book; or, you can self-publish.

Is there a stigma attached to self-publishing? In some people’s estimation there is, but your book and its entry into the world depend largely upon your own definition of success, your personal situation, and your expectations.

I’m not an advocate of self-publishing, but I’m not against it either. Of course, it’s nice to have a big-name publisher who produces and promotes your book for you (but how many poets are that lucky?). For the most part, people look at a book’s cover design, the title, the author’s name, and possibly the “blurbs” on the back cover. Literary snobbishness aside, I don’t know many people who buy poetry books based on their publishers. (How many people walk into a bookstore and ask, “Do you have any poetry books published by Random House?”)

For most poets, working with small press publishers is a viable and very satisfying way to go, and self-publishing is an option that remains open. The conclusion is this: it’s your work, and it’s up to you to choose the publication path that works best for you. Weigh the alternatives, try a few submissions here and there and, if you don’t find a publisher for your book, you can always publish it yourself.

Time-honored Poets Who Self-Published

Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744) had already gained fame for his work published in Tonson’s Poetical Miscellanies when he self-published a collection.

Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967) self-published poems and essays in 1904 with the financial assistance of his college professor.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822) paid for the publication of his first book.

E.E. Cummings (1894 – 1962) self-published a volume of poetry (financed by his mother) in 1935. On the half-title page, he listed thirteen publishers who had rejected the book, which ultimately became one of his classics.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) self-published collections that were financial and critical failures. In 1827, he paid printer Calvin F. S. Thomas to publish 50 copies of Tamerlane and Other Poems, a 40-page pamphlet-sized collection. The book didn't carry Poe's name; authorship was, “By A Bostonian.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861) self-published at age 14 when her father paid for publication of her epic narrative poem “The Battle of Marathon” as a gift for her 14th birthday.

Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) self-published his first collection, Three Stories and Ten Poems, during his first visit as a journalist in Paris (1923).

Ezra Pound (1885 – 1972) began self-publishing his poetry in Venice in 1908.

Louis L'Amour (1908 – 1988) self-published a book of poetry many years before he gained fame for his westerns.

Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900) self-published a book of poetry in 1881.

T.S. Eliot (1888 – 1965) self-published his first collection of poems.

Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892) self-published 795 copies of his first collection Leaves of Grass.

Others Authors Who Have Self-Published:

Deepak Chopra
Gertrude Stein
Zane Grey
Upton Sinclair
Mark Twain
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Stephen Crane
Bernard Shaw
Anais Nin
Thomas Paine
Virginia Wolff
Rudyard Kipling
Henry David Thoreau
Benjamin Franklin
Alexandre Dumas
Beatrix Potter

Small Presses That Publish Poetry
Here are seven small presses that you might want to visit online (click on the press names). There are many others—I hope you’ll do some research and find out about them.

The Aldrich Press is an imprint company of Kelsay Books. We accept unsolicited manuscripts from accomplished poets year round. Authors are expected to be widely published in magazines and journals. (See Kelsay Books)

“Black Lawrence Press is an independent publisher of contemporary poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. We also publish the occasional translation from German. Founded in 2004, Black Lawrence became an imprint of Dzanc Books in 2008. In January 2014, we spread our wings and became an independent company in the state of New York. Our books are distributed nationally through Small Press Distribution to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and various brick and mortar retailers. We also make our titles available through our website and at various conferences and book fairs. Through our annual contests and open reading periods, we seek innovative, electrifying, and thoroughly intoxicating manuscripts that ensnare themselves in our hearts and minds and won’t let go.”

In 1968, C. W. “Bill” Truesdale founded New Rivers Press as an independent publishing house to provide a voice for new authors. Today, New Rivers Press honors Truesdale’s tradition with a dual mission: to connect the best new and emerging writers and storytellers from across Minnesota and the world with eager audiences and to provide hands-on learning opportunities for students interested in entering the publishing world after graduation.

“Red Hen Press, one of the few literary presses in the Los Angeles area, was founded in 1994 by Kate Gale and Mark E. Cull with the intention of keeping creative literature alive. Our focus as a literary press is to publish poetry, literary fiction, and nonfiction. Red Hen Press is committed to publishing work of literary excellence, supporting diversity, and promoting literacy in our local schools. We seek a community of readers and writers who are actively engaged in the essential human practice known as literature.”

Terrapin Books is a new small press, owned and operated by poet Diane Lockward, that specializes in poetry books. “Our intention is to publish books by individual authors, an occasional anthology, and a small number of craft books. We pay a generous royalty fee and provide each poet with 15 complimentary copies of his or her book. Our authors are able to purchase additional copies at a substantial discount. Our books are 6x9, paperback, color cover, and perfect bound with printed spine.”

Milkweed Editions

Just as the common milkweed plant is the site of metamorphosis for monarch butterflies, Milkweed Editions seeks to be a site of metamorphosis in the literary ecosystem. We take risks on debut and experimental writers, we invest significant time and care in the editorial process, and we enable dynamic engagement between authors and readers. We operate as a nonprofit to pursue these ends without overbearing financial pressure. And yet, though profits aren’t our primary focus, helping our authors succeed certainly is. Just so, since our founding in 1980, we’ve published over 350 books of literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry and now have over four million copies in circulation. We believe that literature has the potential to change the way we see the world, and that bringing new voices to essential conversations is the clearest path to ensuring a vibrant, diverse, and empowered future.

Kelsay Books

“Kelsay Books is an independent literary press run by Karen Kelsay, an award winning poet, whose primary focus is to publish beautiful books in a timely manner. Four imprint companies have been established to accommodate a variety of published poets. We accept unsolicited chapbooks and full-length manuscripts year-round.”

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Prompt #274 – Where the Painting Stops and the Poem Begins

Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog 
By Caspar David Friedrich (c. 1818)

Every now and then, I like to revisit ekphrasis (using other art forms as inspiration for poems)—we’ve done it before on the blog, and I thought it might be a nice time of year to relax and to write an ekphrastic poem.

Derived from the ancient Greeks, Ekphrastic poetry began when students learned to write poetry by focusing on the architecture and art in museums or grand public places. The form has interested poets of the past and has made a comeback in the last decade. Right now, it seems to be especially popular.

Ekphrasis usually includes, but is not limited to, the use of enargia. This term comes from classical rhetoric. It means to make an object appear lively before the reader’s eye. This usually happens through careful recreation of the visual artifact through verbal means, such as detailed description, use of sensory information, imagery, etc. In other words, ekphrasis normally attempts to visually reproduce the art object (i.e. painting) for the reader so the reader can experience the same effect or reaction as the poet. This is sometimes called “painterly” poetry.

Importantly, Ekphrastic poetry is more than mere textual description or verbal interpretation of visual art. Making an object (painting or other work of art) lively before the reader’s eye involves, in the best Ekphrastic poems, an emotional and perhaps even spiritual response to the work of art—achieved through written language.

Through the centuries of literary history, such poets as John Keats, in his poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (ceramic art rather than painting, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”), have experimented with Ekphrastic poetry. Robert Browning, in his poems “Fra Lippo Lippi” and “Andrea del Sarto,” created dramatic monologues in which painters muse to themselves about their paintings. Other poets who have worked with Ekphrastic poetry include:

William Carlos Williams – “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”
Maria Rainer Rilke – “Archaic Torso of Apollo”
Frank O’Hara – “Why I Am Not a Painter” 


1. Use the image above (click on it to see a larger view) or choose a work of art on your own (painting, sculpture, musical composition, photograph, etc.) and write a poem based on it.

2. Be sure to acknowledge the artwork somewhere in your poem (I like to do this at the beginning of the poem, just under the title).


1. Don’t just describe the artwork you’ve chosen; let the artwork be your guide and see where it leads you.  Relate the artwork to something else (a memory, a person, an experience, a place).

2. Some ways to approach your poem:
  • Speak directly to the artwork; that is, address the subject (or subjects) of the art
  • Write from the perspective of the artwork, or adopt the persona of the artwork itself (i.e., write as if you are the Mona Lisa.  
  • Write in the voice of the artist who created the artwork.
3. Work with strong images and, if you tell a story, be sure not to overtell it.

4. Think about including some caesuras (pauses) for emphasis, and leave some things unsaid—give your readers space to fill in some blanks.

5. Pose an unanswered question or go for an element of surprise. Let your poem take an interesting or unexpected turn based on something triggered by the artwork.

6. Look at the “movement” of the artwork you’ve chosen and try to represent that movement in your line and stanza breaks. For example, if a painting “moves” across the canvas, find a way to suggest similar movement in the way you indent and create line breaks.


Here’s an example from my book A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All:

Just Perhaps

(After Ophelia by John Everett Millais)

Buoyed by her dress, she barely breaks the water’s surface—arms outstretched, palms upturned. Pansies float above her skirt. There are daisies on the glassy stream, and, there (to the left, above her head), a bird on the pollard from which she jumped or fell. Broken willow, broken bough.

And just perhaps, as Hamlet’s mother said, she’s still alive and singing—see, her mouth is open, and her eyes; and just perhaps, she doesn’t know how close to death she is—or why this painting makes me think of you. Your death was not offstage the way Ophelia’s was (the ladder placed, the rope around your neck); nor was the way you parted from yourself, the silent swinging—only air beneath your feet.

Copyright © 2016 by Adele Kenny. All rights reserved. 
From A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All, Welcome Rain Publishers

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Prompt #273 – Building Bridges: The Puente

I've never been a very enthusiastic fan of most "form" poems, but I recently came across a form of poetry that really appeals to me. I thought I’d share it with you this week and hope that you like it as much as I do. It seems easy at first blush, but it’s really quite sophisticated and wonderfully challenging.

Called the “Puente,” this is a 3-stanza form created by James Rasmusson. The first and third stanzas have an equal number of lines, and the middle stanza has only one line, which acts as a bridge (puente in Spanish) between the first and third stanzas. The single-line stanza in the middle serves as the ending or closure for the last line of the first stanza and as the beginning for the first line of the third stanza. The first and third stanzas are related (they share a topical or thematic thread), but there can be a shift in content and emotion from the first to the third stanzas. There are no rhyme or line length requirements.

In the examples I found online written by James Rasmussen, the third line begins and ends with a tilde (~), but you may prefer to use either an en dash (–) or a longer em dash (—). Remember that with en and em dashes, there should be no space either before or after them.

Keep in mind that your first and third stanzas may have any number of lines as long as the number of lines in each is the same. There will always be a single line stanza (a "bridge") between them.


1. After you have some idea of topic and possible content, free write for a while. Jot down images and phrases as they occur to you.

2. Then, look over what you’ve written and begin to write a poem.

3. Because stanzas are integral to this form, work on creating two stanzas (1st and 3rd) that have the same number of lines.

4. Now, here’s the fun part: write a  second stanza in a single line that will serve as the closure line for your first stanza as well as the “opener” for the third stanza. Think in terms of how the one-line stanza relates to the 1st and 3rd stanzas and connects them in some way. This may be a bit tricky, and you may want to try several lines before deciding upon the one that you will include in your poem.

5. Capitalize and punctuate as you would in prose throughout your poem. Don’t use a capital to begin your middle line, and don’t end with a comma, semi-colon, colon, or terminal punctuation mark. (Please see the examples below.)


1. Remember that each of your two stanzas may have as many lines as you like as long as the line number is equal in both. Make sure your second stanza (one-line stanza) is powerful, evocative, and meaningful.

2. Show, don’t tell—through striking imagery, a strong emotional center, and an integrated whole of language, form, and meaning.

3. Challenge the ordinary, connect, reveal, surprise! And … remember that a poem should mean more than the words it contains.

4. Understand that overstatement and the obvious are deadly when it comes to writing poetry. Don’t ramble on, and don’t try to explain everything. Your stanzas don’t have to contain a lot of lines. Often in poetry, less is more.

5. Bring your poem to closure with a dazzling dismount. (Be careful not to undercut your poem’s “authority” by ending with trivia or a “so what” line that doesn’t make your readers gasp.)


Following is an example from the form’s originator, James Rasmussen, and then four samples from my own work. Take special note of the way the second stanza (middle, single-line stanza) creates a "bridge" (puente) between the first and third stanzas.


To Find a Better Life
By James Rasmussen

“I can’t read or write
but experience taught me
wrong from right”
were grandpa’s final words as Roberto
began his journey on the migrant trail

~to find a better life~

he’d suffer hunger, thirst
and blistered feet to
leave the Mixteca world
of the Zapotec to become
a stranger in a strange land.

Copyright © 2008 by James Rasmusson. All rights reserved.


By Adele Kenny

I have seen it in the small hills of a sleeping child's eyes,
in the pond after rain when water filled the edges with
something like light. I have felt it in the yellow petal
of a daffodil that touched my face like a tender palm;

—I have heard it in a sighing somewhere, gentle—

like my mother's breath in my ear before I was born.
And sometimes, when spring comes easy, I hear it in
something high, in a soft soprano, in the weeping
and warbling of something with wings.

Copyright © 2017 by Adele Kenny All rights reserved.


Seeley Road
By Adele Kenny

More rust on the iron gates, but here on the hill
things are mostly the same. A milk snake still
twists through the weeds; the thorn apple scratches
a side of the sky. As a child I came here often.
Once, I lay with a tombstone at my head and tried
to feel what death is like,

—my shadow lengthens across these stones—

and I think how shadows hold us, sober us,
tease memory with what refuses to be forgotten,
and bring us back to places we started from or
slept through. I think how shadows are cut from
another side of light like a string of paper dolls,
each one unfolding another.

Copyright © 2017 by Adele Kenny All rights reserved.

Tonight the Wind
By Adele Kenny

Tonight the wind huddles, murmuring
through pines that deepen and fringe
the sides of the valley. On the distant
hillside, a stand of poplars lifts the
tree line into stars. The creek's last
rush takes the maple grove, whirling,
flinging pieces of brighter seasons over
the falls. There is a faint or perhaps
remembered scent of wild mint.

 —a lingering sadness for what has gone—

It’s like this with change: none, innocent
or calculated, quick or slow, is easy.
Something is always left behind or washed
away; something lost remembered. But from
the great and gathering dark of every winter
there comes an unwary light that nothing will stop.
And I smile, not minding this cold rain that by
morning will thicken into snow, covering the earth
with a white and shameless expectancy.

Copyright © 2017 by Adele Kenny All rights reserved.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Timing Is Everything

I'm sure you've heard the old saying "timing is everything." Do you have a more-or-less specific time of day or night that you find most conducive to your writing? According to Agatha Christie, “The best time for planning a book is when you're doing the dishes.”

Circadian rhythms aside, I thinks it’s safe to say that our life situations, our responsibilities, and the constraints of our daily schedules dictate when (and where) we’re going to write. Motivation and inspiration also figure strongly in our individual creative processes.

I can’t say that I get many ideas while washing the dishes, but spurts of inspiration do seem to come more readily during certain times of the day. My muse is fickle (big sigh here). She takes three-martini lunches and vacations in the south of France for long periods of time. When she does show up, I know her visit will be brief. A poem, for me, almost always beings with a single image (idea, line, phrase). I try to write that down as soon as I can before my wayward muse takes off again. Working that initial impulse into a poem is usually a long process during which morning is my best time for developing and refining ideas. (However, when I do have a poem in process, I sometimes go back to it again and again over a period of many days, nights, and various hours in between).

Science seems to point toward morning as the “best” time to write.

“Bouts of creative writing might be easier to come by just after waking as this is the time of day when the prefrontal cortex is most active.  A scientific study of brain circuits confirmed that this creative activity is highest during and immediately after sleep, while the analytical parts of the brain (the editing and proofreading parts) become more active as the day goes on. The study looked at morning and evening MRI scans and observed that mornings showed more connections in the brain.”


In Claire Tomlinson’s biography of Charles Dickens, I read that Dickens (at his peak output) worked on his writing for approximately five hours each day, beginning roughly at 9 AM and continuing until about 2 PM. He sometimes returned to what he’d written earlier during the evening, but those five hours were his most productive. 

I think it’s safe to say that we’re all different as poets and writers. Are you a lark (up and writing with the birds) or a night owl (writing into the wee hours)? Following are some thoughts on the subject from ten of my poet friends, all of whom wear many hats (journal editors and publishers, teachers, professors, award winners, fiction and nonfiction writers, poetry series directors, bloggers, husbands, wives, moms, dads, and pet owners). For all of them—and I’m sure this is true for you too—finding time to write poetry isn’t always easy.

The dark before dawn is my favorite time to work. There are no interruptions, few distractions, and nothing says possible like the sun coming up. 

Cat Doty


My time of day has varied over the years. As a young poet I wrote almost always at night, at a kitchen table, when no one else was up. Sometimes I'd write from 10 at night until dawn. I'd love that tired but elated feeling I'd get, the ink on my hands and face (I wrote long hand then and sweated a lot) the static electricity that made the hairs stand up on my arms. I'd take a long walk and treat myself to a sweet roll or a kaiser with butter and a coffee light and sweet. Sometimes I was the first one at the candy store up my block, just as the owner was pulling up its coat of mail, so I'd help him put together his daily papers, and then get a free roll and coffee. Now, having forsaken divine afflatus (which seems to be always on the night shift), or having been abandoned by same, I write in the early morning or the late afternoon. I often write when I'm supposed to be doing something else, or just before I have to rush out. I love saying, "Wait a minute, I'm almost done!" to my wife, just as I once said to my parents, "Wait a minute, the games almost over." Of course it was never over. I write every day, but certainly not always poems, and I give myself permission to neglect many things for the sake of writing (except my wife and children). Still a writer must practice constructive neglect or the world will always find 100 things else he or she should be doing. Should be will kill you either way—should be writing or should be doing the dishes are both killers. Just write.

Joe Weil


When I was working full-time, I realized that generating new material worked best for me in the early morning. The closer I was to sleep, the closer I was to subconscious material.  And even if I just got fragments, I could tease them into fuller material later.  Music can also have the same effect. My favorite part of writing is revision, if it's not self-torture. Regardless of the time of day or night, I can become obsessed revising, and I consider this essential part of the writing process too. It's not about fixing a poem.  It's about the journey to the poem's essence, to liberate the poem to tell me its shape, its sound, its heart. Sometimes silence is key. I hear the music in the language against silence.  That's why I love winter days when I'm snowed in to revise. Something about the stunned stillness of the landscape where I can hear my own breath helps me hear the poem.  Any false note or syllable shows itself. Letting go of the poem is the hardest. Deadlines help or I'll revise for months, even years. But I’m okay with that. Less is more for me though I envy those of you who are prolific with your gifts.

Priscilla Orr


I don't have a particular time of day when I write poetry. I never have; and now that I'm retired from my "regular" job, I haven't found a "routine" time to write. My daily routine is a work in progress. I'm curious what others will say. Maybe I can learn from the other comments you receive. It seems I'm thinking/doing four or five things at a time. It's pretty special when I grab a pen and paper to write down something. I don't plan to write, unless it's a press release or some other prose project that has a deadline.

Tom Plante


I like to write at night after everyone has gone to bed, when it seems the world has fallen asleep and I am the only one listening for what needs to be said to that world before it wakes in the morning. But, I’m a father of 2 with a corporate job, so between waking and sleeping there is very little time to write. Instead, I write when life allows and that is typically on my lunch breaks at 1pm every day. They are my only regular, private time and I’ve accommodated my writing to that time of convenience. I’m on such a lunch break right now, writing these thoughts.

Michael T. Young

Most of my poems start at semi-unexpected times, such as sitting in a parking lot before an appointment or when I’m out walking or biking.  Later, I go through a stack of “starts” and hope that one strikes a chord or seems worth pushing toward being a poem. That usually is in the morning, when I have the emotional energy to wrestle. 

John McDermott


I wake up very early. Usually around 4:30 or 5. I make a pot of coffee & attempt to write. If nothing comes, I read (and try not to peek at FB).

During the day, if an idea, or line, or interesting word comes to me, I make a note of it to look at the next day. 

I almost never write in the evening. By then, my energy's been spent. 

Deborah LaVeglia


When I write, I need time and space alone. This is not oft, as I have two young children that need ample attention much of the time, and numerous domestic responsibilities, as well as teaching responsibilities outside of the home. In that respect, the time of day that I can accomplish some real writing varies, according to whether my kids are at school, quietly entertaining themselves, or taking a nap, and my husband is preoccupied or at work. I can say that this time usually happens in the late afternoon, on Tuesdays or Thursdays, or when I have an office to myself during my teaching hours. Being a mother and wife with a demanding schedule, I am ever grateful for that gloaming hour when I can espouse myself to that sacred solitude.

Emily Vogel


I'm primarily a morning writer. On an ideal day, I wake early, meditate and exercise, and proceed directly to Go at the current writing project on the computer. There are dangerous distractions along the way -- email, Facebook, coffee, playing with my dog. I am most productive if I forego those distractions and begin to write. Early morning time, when others may be sleeping, feels like it offers a quiet sanctuary where I won't be disturbed. It's best if it's before the regular 9-5 workday starts, too, because I won't feel guilty that I'm not working on Tiferet or other projects. The main challenge is not starting other work thinking I'll have time to do my creative writing later in the day. I really do like to feel, even if it's an illusion, that my to-do list has generally disappeared. That's why early morning, before the tasks of the day begin, works best for my psyche. It also works best if I make it a habit. Once I get out of the habit, it can be hard to dive back into it, like diving into a very cold water pool. Whereas if it's a habit, it's less intimidating. I even have Write for at least 1 hour on my habit-building app on my phone.

Donna Baier Stein


At this point in my life I write most often in the early morning. This is a change for me because when I was still teaching I usually wrote late in the evening after I had graded papers and prepared my classes for the next day. Now in retirement and my late 60's, I have the most energy and attention in the first hours of the day, usually between 6 am and 9 am with my first cup of coffee. I may sometimes return to a poem later in the day that I had begun that morning but most of my new work now happens right after I get up. When the muse is kind and I can get some words flowing a new poem is a wonderful way to start the day.

Edwin Romond

My sincerest thanks to all the poets who shared their “writing times” with us!

I hope you'll click on the links below the poets' names and visit them online.

As, always, dear blog readers, you’re invited to share your ideas as comments.