30 September 2012

get ready ... get set ...

The upcoming months are set to be pretty busy ... particularly when it comes to fun writing challenges! As such, the Our Lost Jungle site will be focusing on challenge-related posts through the months of October and November! Get ready for more resources, genre- and challenge-focused tips, and more! Here's a look at what the upcoming months will hold!

Join Our Lost Jungle in celebrating the Writing Challenge Season

Submission-focused tips including:
  • Manuscript preparation tips
  • Writing a cover letter
  • Writerly cautions regarding contest scams
and more!

The A-Z Presses series will continue with journals, publishers, and other presses seeking submissions!

More personal updates with a focus on:
  • The challenges of submitting
  • Facing rejection
  • Multitasking: taking on multiple responsibilities in the midst of the writing life
and more!
Throughout October, Thursday posts will focus on online resources for both managing and staying sane while taking on the writing life!

Say goodbye to Fri-Write Friday posts for now ... But don't worry: They'll be back!


In honor of National Novel Writing Month, Craft Tip Monday posts will focus on topics like:
  • Motivating your main characters
  • Creating novel "soundtracks"
  • Getting to know your characters inside and out
and more!

The A-Z Presses series

More personal updates with a focus on fiction, including:
  • Handling character rebellions ... and revolutions
  • The urge to abandon a plot
  • Staying motivated
and more!
In honor of NaNoWriMo, Thursday's online finds will focus on both online and offline resources for novel writing including:
  • Books and resources with tips for starting, plotting, and crafting a novel draft
  • Web and computer-based tools for novel writing
  • NaNoWriMo calendars (one of my favorite parts of NaNoWriMo!)
and more!
Fri-Write Fridays returns with snippets of my NaNoWriMo Work-in-Progress!

Throughout all these challenges, posts, updates, and more, I continue to encourage you to look at this site as a place to share your ideas, tips, questions, and more! And, as always ... Happy Writing!


Want to stay connected? I invite you to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please also sign up for the free email updates from Our Lost Jungle!


To join in October's Submit-O-Rama fun, check out the 5 Challenges!

27 September 2012

a review of natasha trethewey’s thrall

Thrall, poems by Natasha Trethewey
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)
Poetry by Natasha Trethewey
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
, August/September 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-57160-7
Hardcover: 96 pages; $23.00

It seems like it would be pretty hard to accomplish more by age 46 than Natasha Trethewey. With a Pulitzer Prize already to her name, for her third book, Native Guard, and her recent appointment as the United States Poet Laureate, Trethewey doesn’t have to do much to impress both the poetic world and … well … anybody else.

Yet with her fourth and most recent collection, Thrall, Trethewey manages to do just that.

In this slender collection of poems, Trethewey takes us backward and forward in time, establishing Thrall as a collection as much about past as it is about present---or rather, how the two are inextricably linked through history, through identity, and in discovering truth and self and meaning. The collection’s first poem, “Elegy,” reflects the poet’s longing---a sometimes ruthless longing---to make sense of and (re)discover the world.

As the child of a black woman and white man, Trethewey boldly confronts issues of racial identity, cultural and racial attitudes, stereotypes, and the shifts in the landscape of racial understanding through history. Trethewey wrote in a previous poem that history, or the ghost of history, “lies down beside me, rolls over, pins me beneath a heavy arm”; in Thrall, she seems to give in to that embrace, take on that ghost, and give it a new face. In “Taxonomy,” a series of poems based on 18th-century casta paintings by Juan Rodriguez Juarez, Trethewey pairs an examination of mixed race---which Trethewey terms in one instance “an equation of blood”---with mixed tongues, pairing English and Spanish to blend her form to content. Through a written representation of the Enlightenment era’s fascination with taxonomy---which included racial and ethnographic categorizations and distinctions, and the perceived exotica of mixed-blood couplings---Trethewey allows us to witness an historical fascination with what were perceived as at once exotic and colonized blacks. Trethewey captures both this fascination and the somewhat hostile undertones---the heavy “weight of blood,” a mother contorting in paired watchfulness of her mixed-race child and perhaps wariness of the “transient” and “myopic” father—in a “catalog / of mixed blood.” Through a careful and raw examination of both a cultural and deeply personal history, she shows both the beauty and horrors of race, classifications, and (particularly mixed) heritage.

History haunts in this collection, as mixed blood becomes a “phantom ache” in poems like “Miracle of the Black Leg.” In this poem, mixed blood takes on a multitude of meanings. It is at once lineage, heritage, races mixing in society, and more. What becomes apparent, both in this poem and throughout the collection, is that Trethewey is creating a dazzling array of gazes, all honing in on the complicated subject of identity. The work she does to rewrite history---slaves become “Adam and Eve / in the New World” in the poem “On Captivity,” just as the mixing of black and white blood becomes a “miracle transplant” in the “Miracle” poem---shows us that all history, and all attempts at defining identity, is in the eye of the beholder. History, legacy, race, and identity become a series of lines cast into a void, impossible to distinguish, and always reeling back something new, so that, as Trethewey notes in one of the collection’s poems:

You kept casting
your line, and when it did not come back

empty, it was tangled with mine …

Thrall is a beautiful collection that captures both a personal narrative and a unique look at the connections between personal identity, history, heritage, and race. In it, Trethewey deftly issues a challenge to her readers to both reexamine and encourage the discourse regarding race and its historical legacy, one that is at one profoundly painful and intensely beautiful. 


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Check out these related posts on Our Lost Jungle:

25 September 2012

opportunities for writers 9/25

a-z presses

This week’s “A to Z” series post focuses on three “G” presses seeking your submissions. Enjoy this week’s Opportunities for Writers!

Start prepping your pencils for these great opportunities for writers
(Image: "pencils" by Borbas Krisztian)
Grateful for 'G's


About: According to the journal’s website, “Ginosko” is a phrase that means “to perceive, understand, realize, come to know; knowledge that has an inception, a progress, an attainment. The recognition of truth by experience.” As such, Ginosko is currently accepting short fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, interviews, social justice concerns, and spiritual insights. The description of what they’re looking for may be vague, but they provide plenty of downloadable content on their site to get a better idea.

Submission Process: Ginosko prefers email submissions sent as attachments in RTF, Word, or Works format. They’ll also accept postal submissions. They don’t list an email address for submissions, but provide a “Contact” link that links directly to the creation of an email; their physical address can be found on the Guidelines page.

Reading Period: Ginosko reads year-round, with an editorial lead time of 1-2 months

Website: Check out past editions of Ginosko to get the feel of this unique press by visiting them online at www.ginoskoliteraryjournal.com

the greensilk journal

About: Greensilk is a literary ezine with a mission to “help as many unpublished writers as we can.” With the upcoming Submit-O-Rama, it’s nice to see a press that is looking to be the “first real vote of confidence” for writers!

Submission Process: To submit, writers should send their “well-groomed pieces” in the body of an email (no attachments—no exceptions!) to hazekd@peoplepc.com. The author should indicate, in the email’s subject line, what kind of work (story, poetry, essay, etc.) is being submitted. Greensilk notes that while there are generally “no length requirements … if your piece is over 4000 words, it had better be good.” Greensilk encourages submitters to “use [their] own judgment --- but be tasteful. Be artful.” Submissions should also include a brief bio. A final note from the publisher: “To save time, include a brief, informal statement claiming copyright ownership, and indicate, please, your piece has not been previously published.” For more on Greensilk’s guidelines, visit their Submissions page.

Reading Period: The deadline for the Fall 2012 edition is September 30th, so get your submissions together soon!

Website: For more on Greensilk, and to check out their archives, visit them online at www.thegsj.com


About: Guernica is “an award-winning online magazine of ideas, art, poetry, and fiction published twice monthly. At the same time as they note the acclaimed authors they have published---including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Mark Dowie, Richard Howard, and Shelley Jackson---the magazine also notes that they have “launched brand new voices too,” which I think is the nicest way of saying, “Don’t be afraid to submit here!” With an international appeal, Guernica is open to translations and looks for words (particularly noted for fiction) that has “an international outlook.”

Submission Process: The submission guidelines for Guernica are some of the most detailed I’ve come across. They aren’t difficult, just detailed! The basics are that submitted pieces should be previously unpublished anywhere … which includes you blog or personal website! Fiction pieces should be no fewer than 1,200 words and no more than 3,500 words; poets should send no more than five poems of any length. Guernica prefers email submissions (while they list snail mail addresses, they explicitly state that they only accept electronic submissions via email sent to the proper email addresses, listed on their website), and asks that writers submit their work as a Microsoft Word file attachment; they also list details on how documents should be formatted (i.e. a single space between sentences instead of the old standard two spaces). You’ll want to read their full submission details by visiting their Contact page before submitting!

Reading Period: Guernica does not list a reading period, which makes it fairly safe to assume they have a rolling reading period (you may want to contact the journal to be sure, and safe); they ask that writers allow at least eight weeks for a response.

Website: To learn more about Guernica, and check out their blog (updated daily) and previous publications, visit them online at www.guernicamag.com

Happy Writing!


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Check out these previous A-Z Presses series posts on Our Lost Jungle:

24 September 2012

craft tip monday 9/24: oo's and aah's

oo's and aah's: engaging in sonic play
There is magic all around you. A graceful manipulation of the world coursing through your veins, filling your world with wonder. There is a song sung softly in every breathy exclamation, an enchantment, a spell you weave with every word.

It is the allure of sound.

the sound of [sonics]

Whenever you speak, and whenever you commit words to the page, you are engaging in sonic play. It’s in the way you ask a question or tell a joke. It’s something that perhaps only seems so wonderful because it comes so natural. Think about it … as writers, we already know that we’re looking for the right words to express the ideas or stories that run across our minds straight for the finish line of the page. That thrill of the perfect line of dialogue, or the perfect poetic phrase, comes from somewhere. It’s that discovery of the right words, in the right order, that makes us so elated as writers. And when it comes to poetry in particular, sometimes what it comes down to is the discovery of the perfect sounds in those words.

I remember in undergrad having a professor focus on Emily Dickinson’s poem known as “I like to see it lap the Miles.” We spent what seemed like forever examining the effect of the lines “I like to see it lap the Miles --- / And lick the Valleys up --- / And stop to feed itself at Tanks,” because of the lilting effect of the “L” sound. We studied these lines in conjunction with Juliet’s lines in Romeo & Juliet, when the yet-to-become-a-woman Juliet, to please her parents, declares, “I’ll look to like if looking liking move.” The sonic movement in both these selections is one of childlike innocence. To this day I can’t hear Elmo singing, “La-la, la-la, la-la, la-la, Elmo’s World!” without thinking of both Dickinson and Shakespeare. There’s something inside us that knows what sounds are capable of. It’s the same something that hears all those soft, hushing “s” sounds in the lyrics, “Hello darkness, my old friend / I’ve come to talk with you again / Because a vision softly creeping / left its seeds while I was sleeping,” and senses that subtle hush is, indeed, the “sound of silence.”

sonic sport

Try this activity: Select a sound—the crash of waves, a child’s laughter, the rustle of your sheets as you lounge lazily in the morning. Think of the sonic quality that best captures that sound: for waves it might be w’s and sh’s, while a child’s laughter might be soft b’s and l’s. Make a list of words incorporating those sounds (for waves I might include: wave, crash, hush, whoosh, wild, shushing, lush, child, etc.), not worrying about how they relate to each other. Aim for a list of 25-30 words.

Once your list is complete, write a passage in which you focus on those sonic qualities. Work with the words you’ve written to capture the sound you selected. See how those words shape a vision of the sound, and bring the sonic quality you selected to life.

This tends to be a productive poetry activity---writing a poem about sleep, for example, it’s easy to create a pool of words with soft s’s, m’s, and l’s to capture that restful sensation---but also works rather nicely for fiction. In Raymond Carver’s short story “A Small, Good Thing,” for instance, Carver repeatedly refers to “the child” and “the birthday boy,” to the point that the phrases become haunting. But even before readers reach the narrative’s surprise revelation, they are greeted with a vocabulary of s’s (Saturday, shopping, space ship, sprinkling, stars) and c’s (cakes, chocolate, child, chose) that both punctuate the child’s name (Scotty) and add a softness to the introduction that somehow feels sad, before we even have a full suggestion that anything sad might happen. So whether you are a fiction or poetry writer, play with language, and see what sensory effects you can create simply by focusing on word and sound choices!

Feel free to share your writing attempts here, or share links to your own site where you experiment with sonic word play! How much do you pay attention to, beyond word choice, the sonic qualities of the words you use? Do you hear the magic in your language, or is it something you have to really focus in on?


Want to stay connected? I invite you to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And sign up for free email updates from this blog in the top right corner of the page.


Check out these previous Craft Tip Monday posts on Our Lost Jungle:

21 September 2012

fri-write friday 9/21: "roses are red..."

This past Christmas, my dad gifted my brother and I a DVD of old family movies collected over years of our childhood. It's been a fun family tradition to watch these films on VHS over the years, laughing at the silliness of two kids slowly figuring out the world, our parents unbelievable patience, the songs, the toys, and everything in between. How perfect, in the midst of all this memory, to have been fervently pursuing my writerly dreams of publication ... and to watch, once again, one of my first "public poetry readings."

So here's the story. It was a 90's Christmas, and as usual my big brother and I were reminded---and more than happy to show off our own memory---of the story of Jesus and the true meaning of the holiday. My dad asked us both questions about where Jesus was born, and who was there, and all the soft ball questions parents can ask that kids feel brilliant knowing the answers to. Finally, my dad gave my brother the opportunity to recite a poem he'd learned about a poor shepherd boy pondering what to give the baby Jesus. My brother did his duty proudly ... and I suppose I wanted the opportunity to make our parents proud, too, because there and then in the video I'm edging my way into the shot to announce that I was to recite a poem. And here is what I presented as my Christmas poem (brace yourselves):

Roses are red,
violets are blue
If I was a clown ...
I would bring you a balloon!

It's not my proudest moment as a poet---and it still provides much hilarity as we listen to my dad behind the camera, year after year, pointing out that I clearly made that up on the spot---but it's the one I'm sharing with you this week. Enjoy the laugh.


Want to stay connected? I invite you to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And sign up for free email updates from this blog in the top right corner of the page.


Check out previous Fri-Write Friday posts on Our Lost Jungle:

20 September 2012

online finds 9/20: 5 submission trackers for writers

In case you haven’t heard, Our Lost Jungle will be hosting a Submit-O-Rama Challenge in October! This five-tier challenge was built to encourage writers in all genres to buckle down and get their hands dirty submitting as much of their work as they can in a month. Today, in preparation for the upcoming submission marathon, let’s focus on some great submission tracking tools for you to help you keep up with your written babies as you send them sprinting out into the world!

five great submission trackers for writers

18 September 2012

opportunities for writers 9/18

a-z presses

Welcome to this week’s Opportunities for Writers! Continuing the “A to Z” series, which presents you with three literary journals and presses seeking your writing, we’ll focus this week on the letter “F”. Enjoy!

Start prepping your pencils for these great opportunities for writers
(Image: "pencils" by Borbas Krisztian)
Fantastic 'F's

17 September 2012

craft tip monday 9/17: writing in reverse

Apologies for the delay with this post. With a mixture of student workshops, edits to my poetry manuscript, preparations for an upcoming “submit-o-rama” (more details on that coming soon!), and more … the day got a little bit away from me! Thanks for your patience, and I hope you enjoy this Monday’s “Craft Tip.”

inversion: finding new meaning in old poems

13 September 2012

online finds 9/13: twitter hashtags for writers

Join in the writer conversation on Twitter!
Before I get started today, I'd like to welcome a new sponsor to the Our Lost Jungle site. You might have noticed the "Coupons by Answers.com" search box to the right of the screen. Send them your own "welcome" by using the widget to search for great deals available to you! And thanks, to Answers.com, for the support!
Way back in May, the Our Lost Jungle Opportunities for Writers featured several Twitter chats for writers. This week, I’d like to return to the topic of Twitter. This time around, I’m sharing a list of some of the top twitter hashtags for writers.

In case you’re not up on the Twitter lingo, a “hashtag” is just a word or phrase preceded by a pound sign. Hashtags are used to in essence “tag” tweets with certain topics. By using a hashtag, you can filter your Twitter stream down to a select conversation without the distraction of all the other conversations going on at the same time. They’re also a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of the most popular topics at any given time. For example, during the recent summer Olympics, you might have seen that topics like #Olympics and #teamusa began trending—that is, taking over the conversation, or becoming the most popular tags, on Twitter—pretty quickly.

11 September 2012

opportunities for writers 9/11

a--z presses

Welcome to this week’s Opportunities for Writers! Join in as we continue our focus on an “A to Z” series of literary journals and presses. Each week features three presses with open calls for submission seeking your writing! Enjoy!

Start prepping your pencils for these great opportunities for writers
(Image: "pencils" by Borbas Krisztian)
Everything 'E'

10 September 2012

craft tip monday 9/10: naming it---word creation

 aota: a neologism based on the abbreviation for “all of the above”; ex: “Which of these is your favorite color: red, green, or blue?” “Aota! They all are ... I could never pick just one!”

word creation: defining the undefinable
If you’re a fan of Shakespeare, you probably know at least a little bit about neologisms. Shakespeare was something of a master when it came to the creation of new words and phrases. Now familiar terms like “auspicious,” “barefaced,” and “dwindle” have all been attributed to the Bard, as well as phrases like “break the ice” and “It’s Greek to me.” Who knows what led old Will to create so many new phrases? Maybe the words that were already around simply weren’t enough for what he wanted to express. We all, as writers, know what that feels like.

And this is probably a good indication that we all also have the potential to be wordsmiths ourselves.

“what’s in a name?”

“A rose,” Shakespeare famously penned, “by any other name would smell as sweet.” And maybe that’s true. But there’s something about the word “rose” that calls forth so many emotions and associations: it’s love, or friendship, a memorial service, a tango. But let’s say the word “rose” isn’t enough for the fullness of the passion you’re feeling. Maybe no word is enough. Why not, then, create your own?

Word creation is a way of defining the undefinable, just like the act of writing itself. It's fun---just like the creation of the word "aota," a word I created in elementary school with some friends, for no other reason than to have created something new and all our own. It’s a way for us to create something out of tiny bits of what we want to express. And the act of creating, and defining, our own words for things can itself be the inspiration for a piece of writing.


It’s funny, but until I started thinking about all the potential there is in creating words, I didn’t even make the connection to last Monday’s post with the poetic form I created, the settennet. As I was inventing the form, I was trying to come up with what to call it, and didn’t want to base the name on my name. I remember browsing the internet, looking for different language’s words for “seven”, and thinking about the origin of the poem itself. The combination of “seven” and “sonnet” led me to settennet. And there seems to be, for me, so much more power in the name, and the form, from the naming of it. That’s a power you, too, can have, as you create your own words for things.

So why not give it a shot? Come up with a concept, or an emotion, or an experience that seems to defy words, and create a word for it. Then, in a piece of writing, provide the definition of the word. It might be a paragraph or page of prose, or a poem … simply try to capture as much of the concept in your new word, and your definition of it, as you can.

Here’s my attempt at it:


In Middle English we had words
for things, too—we knew what to call
them, even without knowing where
this knowing came from. Having words
for love  has never made it easy to define.
We call love everything but undefinable
even hunger—to try to wrap it up in a loaf
of bread and swallow it down.

In Middle English the word
for bread was breed, and now
we bind that, too, to love: that longing,
that hunger, that inescapable
swallowing down that can never satisfy.

So I create my own name for you
and how you leave me. I name you
love deeper than hunger,
and I swallow you, like all
good breeding, whole.


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Check out these related posts on Our Lost Jungle:

07 September 2012

fri-write friday 9/7: book covers

I know I've mentioned in the past that I love creating covers as I start a book and/or writing project. This Fri-Write Friday, I decided to share the cover I created for my latest novel project, a pseudo-study into the relationship between the Transatlantic Slave Trade and modern zombiism in the Americas ...

Yeah, you read that right.

06 September 2012

online finds 9/6: an interview with poet doris davenport

Welcome back to the Online Finds series with Our Lost Jungle. This week, I'm happy to share an interview with poet doris davenport. doris has been patiently working with me for a while now on this interview, for which I am so grateful. I'm more grateful, on top of this, for her wonderful responses that I think any writer will find greatly inspirational. Enjoy! (A note: doris's answers are current as of July. doris also noted that her use of the lower case "i" and lower cases in her name is deliberate, and asked that this be honored in her interview, a request I am all too happy to abide by!)

doris davenport
doris davenport is a writer, educator,  literary & performance poet who grew up in the Appalachian foothills of Habersham County (Cornelia) Georgia.  She is the oldest of seven siblings and the first member of her family to attend and finish college. And she kept attending colleges: she has a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. Her dissertation is "Four Contemporary Black Women Poets (A Stylistic Study): Lucille Clifton, June Jordan, Audre Lorde & Sherley Anne Williams."  She has an M.A. (English, State University of New York, Buffalo) and a B.A. (English) from Paine College, Augusta, GA.  Presently (or, at the time of this writing) davenport is an Associate Professor of English at Stillman College, a historically Black college in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

05 September 2012

"a-b-c, easy as 1-2-3 ..." : on teaching (part i)

I have to say there's not much I love more than teaching. I mean, apart from writing. So the fact that I get to teach writing is quite a thrill.

But here's the thing about teaching ... When I'm teaching about writing, I'm not actually doing the writing---and the same goes for my students, that when they are listening to me talk about writing, they're not actually doing it, just thinking about it, and maybe (hopefully) envisioning the process of doing it.

04 September 2012

opportunities for writers 9/4

a-z presses

Welcome back to the Opportunities for Writers' focus on an "A to Z" of literary journal and presses. Each week of this feature presents three presses with open calls for submissions seeking your writing. We left off, in June, with the "C"s ... Get ready to jump right back into the series with the "D"s this week! Enjoy!

Start prepping your pencils for these great opportunities for writers
(Image: "pencils" by Borbas Krisztian)

03 September 2012

craft tip monday 9/3: the settennet

Happy Monday, all! Today, since we’re riding out the wave of the OLJ Poetry Form Challenge, I’d like to share a new poetry form of my own. This form plays with some of the same elements we worked with during the Challenge. I call it the Settennet, and hope you enjoy it!

02 September 2012

The Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge: Final Steps!

This has been a fantastic summer. Though full of frustrating lulls in writing and other areas of life, and ripe with transitions, it was also blessed with the OLJ Poetry Form Challenge! I speak of that blessing, of course, not as the one who ran it but as a poet who was blessed with the opportunity to engage with several fantastic poets and read dozens of new, phenomenal poems generated by each of you who participated.

But of course, we're not done yet. Because, as you may remember, there's one last step to this challenge. And it comes with a prize.

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Sankofa: The Power of Known History

I recently took on two challenges in the sphere of political and cultural advocacy: understanding the roots of our democracy and national l...