Permanence–dVerse Meeting the Bar

It’s my pleasure to be hosting today at dVerse Meeting the Bar where I’ve offered some thoughts and a prompt about writing OBJECTS. I would love to see you there. The pub opens 3:00 EST

Here’s mine:


He sits, unmoving,
front and center:
elderly, rough-hewn, used.

Dark striae traverse his visage
like ripples of a lake
kissed by wind.

Crumbs of food settle within
the crevices of his face.
Glassy eyes reflect candle-glow.

A crumpled sports page rests
on his lap beside the TV remote.
Scratches mar his skin.

He bears the weight of years,
unnoticed most of the time,
rarely caressed by loving hands.

He’s watched our lives unfold.
Strong, like us,
Our coffee table endures.

Photo: D. Slotto

Photo: D. Slotto

As you most likely know, I will be cutting down a bit on blogging in the effort to complete a couple of projects that have been waiting for attention. I am taking a break from hosting at dVerse but will continue to blog…just in a more limited manner for a while!

Like a Good Neighbor



Like a good neighbor, Barney was there.
Kept his mouth shut, didn’t dare interfere.

Like a good neighbor, Barney stood by,
covered his ears when he heard Kari cry.

Like a good neighbor, Barney ignored
signs of abuse from the couple next door.

Like a good neighbor, when the coroner came,
he told the cops nothing, had no one to blame.

When night came upon him, no sleep to be had,
Just like his neighbor, Barney went mad.


Written for Brian Miller’s prompt over at dVerse Poetics where the challenge is to write something based on a slogan. I chose State Farm Insurance’s jingle: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” That’s how the rather sing-songy couplets happened. Thankfully, this is fictional.

A Season for Growing–Monday Meanderings

Even though the calendar tells me it’s still spring, our weather doesn’t seem to have received the message. The temperatures are in the high 80’s and 90’s and the garden is coming alive with new growth. True, the irises are fading, the roses are behind time because I pruned them too late, most weeds have been tamed but the leaves on our trees are fully unfurled, there are green cherries taking in the sun, and the tomatoes my husband started from seed while we were in the desert are already giving us little green globes of promise. Oh, and then there’s the birds! The orioles and hummingbirds have now arrived home in full force.

Photo Credit: V. Slotto

Photo Credit: V. Slotto

Just so, I’m hoping to cultivate some new growth on my blog. When I first began blogging, it was my intention to include some inspirational essays–a desire, no doubt, related to my own introspective aging process. In addition, for a year or two, maybe longer, I enjoyed offering writing prompts–for both fiction and poetry. As I became (happily) more involved in poetry communities, especially as a monthly contributor to dVerse Poets’ Pub, I slipped into the languid waters of poetry and allowed other interests to wash away for a while.

Photo Credit: D. Slotto

Photo Credit: D. Slotto

Now I feel it’s time to reclaim those two original ideals. It is my hope to be able to add a Monday feature that will offer a reflection, a writing prompt, perhaps an occasional interview or even book review…whatever happens. When there is a prompt or an invitation to discuss, I will include a Mr. Linky and respond to comments and/or return visits.

I chose Monday with the thought that those who drop in to read my dVerse poems for Open Link Night might scroll on down for another shot of inspiration. I would love to see you there and welcome your thoughts today, in comments.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:



Photo Credit: Unknown Source

They talk about me like I’m not here just because the words inside my brain have lost their way to my lips. Don’t they know I feel the softness of her cheek against mine and smell the scent of peaches in her hair, reminding me of the taste of summer?

She doesn’t shun me, doesn’t recoil from the pungent smell of aging or the roughness of my wrinkled cheeks and beard. I know she knows I hear the words she whispers: I love you, Grandpa.

When I reach for her they grab her by the hand and jerk the child away, leaving me, once again, alone—a prisoner in this body.

Posted in response to the prompt: “Lost” hosted by Lillie McFerrin at Five Sentence Flash Fiction. Stop on by with a story of your own, but hurry up because I’m joining late to the party, as usual.


Write2Day–Setting and Description


Image via Wikipedia

As writers of fiction and poetry, I believe part of our responsibility to readers is to allow them to travel places they have never been or to revisit places that are familiar, thus evoking memories or heightening awareness.

Long descriptive paragraphs of setting often disenchant today’s readers who are used to momentary flashes of multiple images across a screen within a few seconds (Does this relate to the high incidence of attention deficit disorder in our culture?) but the fact remains that setting and the use of sensory description enriches the reader’s experience. One way to use this technique without losing our audience is employ it as a device to break up dialogue. Here’s a very brief example from my recently-published novel, “Winter is Past”

“I wonder how Michael’s handling it. Do you think I should I call him?” Josh asked me.

“Will it help?” Based on Kathryn’s assessment, I had my doubts.

Josh shook his head and fixed his eyes on a quail eating seeds he’d planted in the flower garden. “Maybe not, but I can try; I’ll call after we eat…”

Even more valuable, in my opinion, is the writer’s ability to convey emotion through setting. Consider this brief passage from the same novel as a means of eliciting fear, sadness and powerlessness:

I trotted after Kathryn who jogged along the brick path beside our house. My eye caught sight of a tiny wren, cowering in the dense foliage of a rambling juniper shrub. Overhead, a majestic red-tailed hawk circled, squawking a message of certain doom at the tiny bird. I felt tears well up in my eyes then turned my attention back to Kathryn who now disappeared through the redwood gate.

In previous posts, I’ve described a practice I use off and on. In your writing journal, at the end of each day, describe 5-10 things you have noticed throughout the day. Return to these lists for ideas to supplement your own writing then return to a scene you have written in which you have “told” rather than “shown” an emotion. Try rewriting it using a bit of scenery or a background activity to elicit that same feeling. This is helpful to keep in mind when you are rewriting/revising your work as well.

So, for today’s prompt, write a poem or a piece of short fiction that features setting and/or description. You may want to post a bit of dialogue that you’ve broken up using the above-mentioned technique.

How to participate? Simply post your submission on your blog, then access Mr. Linky at the bottom of this page. Add your name and the direct URL of your post, and voila–you’re in. Kindly take the time to visit and comment on other participants.

I will be on the road for a couple of days, so I may not be able to visit your posts right away. Thank you for participating and have fun writing.

Wordsmith Wednesday–A Potpourri of Thoughts about Poetry

Quill etc

While Wordsmith Wednesday tends to focus on fiction writing, from time-to-time I find it compelling to write an article about poetry. This is because many of the people who visit my blog are from the poetry communities I participate in, but even more so because poetry is the handmaiden of superb writing, whatever the genre.

For today’s post, I would like to reflect on a few reminders that can serve poets as well as fiction, or for that matter, non-fiction writers.

  • Don’t shy away from poetic forms. The discipline of adhering to prescribed forms such as those that define rhyme, meter and syllable count can serve as an aid when you run up against a brick wall. I turn to a haiku, an etheree, a quatrain, tercet or any number of “recipes” for writing when it seems as though my muse has gone into hibernation. This has never failed to help me jump-start my writing. There are a number of Internet references to teach you about form. Try Luke Prater’s Word Salad at
  • Write quickly but revise with care. Poetry deserves the same careful attention as prose. Often, words and ideas rush in at you and it pays to jot them down as they come. First drafts of poems will often pour out in mere minutes. I’ve dragged myself out of bed in the middle of the night and jotted down almost-illegible epics that I don’t recognize in the morning. But then the work begins. I once read about a poet who excused himself from a writing conference because he had to revise a poem. He returned hours later and when asked how it had gone told his colleagues that he spent a few hours before deleting a comma and then, a few hours later, added it back in. I hope my days will be a bit more productive than that, but you get the point. I belong to an online poetry critique group and the advice I receive is invaluable. But, as with fiction, remember that you have the final say.
  • Sensory details make your writing come alive. Many beginning poets use their craft to probe emotion, to champion causes, and to express their opinions. Indeed, these are functions of poetry. But to be more effective, it behooves you to pepper your writing with devices such as metaphors or similes that employ those delicious sensory observations that you have picked up in the course of a day. I strongly suggest that you keep your senses, all of them, on high alert and then in the evening, take a few moments to jot down a dozen or so things you remember in your writing journal. You will be amazed at the inspiration you can cull from this exercise–for poetry or fiction.
  • Don’t quit your day job. Most likely you will not get rich selling poetry. You will not find an agent to represent your tome or make the NYT’s best seller list. You will find joy in the writing process. You’ll find that your prose takes on a literary quality whatever genre you dabble in and you can build up a platform for marketing your work if you engage in Internet poetry communities. There are a myriad of these that invite both seasoned and budding poets to post their work. A few of my favorites include Poetry Potluck:; One Stop Poetry: and Poetic Asides:  All of these sites offer prompts and a forum to post or link your work. I also post a writing prompt on Monday morning which invites both poetry and short fiction.

Monday Morning Writing Prompt–Get Inside the Artist

Hemingway posing for a dust jacket photo by Ll...

Image via Wikipedia

I just finished reading a novel about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife–Hadley–entitled The Paris Wife. A part of the experience was that it allowed me to creep inside the author’s disturbed psyche and feel something of what he must have felt.

For this week’s writing prompt, I challenge you to select a well-known artist or literary figure and try to assume their persona. Read up a bit on their personal life and world view, if you need to, then write a poem or short fiction from their point of view and/or in their voice.

Take Hemingway, for example. You could write something that sounds like what he would write OR you could articulate an emotion that you might ascribe to him–perhaps his insecurity at the beginning of his career, the guilt he felt when he was unfaithful, the deep depression that preceded his suicide.

Choose someone you think you can understand or with whom you can identify. Or an author/artist whose work is familiar to you.

Hope this one is fun for you.

Wordsmith Wednesday–12 Sources of Poetic Inspiration

Illustration from the cover of Christina Rosse...

Image via Wikipedia

Today I’ve been considering the sources we poets turn to for poetic inspiration–so today’s Wordsmith Wednesday is for poets although I’m sure that it can be useful to prose writers as well. I’m going to short-list some of the sources I turn to to be inspired in my writing. I’m hoping that you will add to it in the comments section.

  • Nature–look for details, metaphors, lessons that are present all around us. When stuck, it often helps me to take a walk. I’m blessed to live in a place that is replete with nature’s offerings.
  • Reading–read other poets. Their work often tickles my creative muse. I’ve mentioned some of my favorites in my list of recommended reading.
  • News sources–look for the seeds of story-poems hidden in the newspaper, on the Internet or on TV news broadcast.
  • Poetic Forms–do an Internet search and check out poetic forms. For me, the discipline of a form can jump-start and idea.
  • Spirituality–look to metaphysical/religious ideas and writings such as the Bible or holy books of other spiritual traditions. Look within at your own spiritual experience.
  • Relationships–these evoke emotional reactions that are often begging to be expressed.
  • History–check out historical events as well as your own history. There are stories to tell.
  • Mythology–although this is not an area of expertise for me, I’ve read much poetry that draws on the classical myths, stories that transcend time.
  • Science–a wonderful well-spring of poetic inspiration.
  • Art–Use painting, sculpture, photography and translate your experience into words.
  • Writing Prompts–those of us who participate in writing communities have a wealth of material tossed out at us on a daily or weekly basis. Check out some of the sites on my blogroll. I’d love to see you link up to my own Monday Morning Writing Prompt.
  • Political issues–need I say more? My personal viewpoint is to stay away from personal attacks and stick to the issues.

I hope these will be helpful to you, especially if you are feeling stuck right now. There are more–help me expand the list if you will!

Monday Morning Writing Prompt–Write Light!

Photo: V. Ceretto-Slotto

For our Monday Morning Writing Prompt, I suggest that you play with the theme of light and darkness. Around the world, people of different religious and cultural backgrounds are celebrating festivals concerned with bringing light into the darkness of winter.  Consider just a few of these: Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Winter Solstice…and so many more. If you like, please share your poem, short story or essay by adding a link in comments. Here’s mine (a rough draft):

Darkness is Only a Degree of Light

When the year is at its nadir
and darkness overtakes
the light, someone,
lights a

The flame eases into your
consciousness and
you understand
that we were
to see.

Join with all the children of
Earth. Revel in your need
to join in celebration.
Now’s the moment
to set the world
on fire.

I’m adding a link to a couple of websites that discuss many different celebrations of light:

Showing Up and Writing

I just shared this short poem on Facebook:

Meditation is like
You have to show up
or nothing happens.

In a recent post about avoidance of writing, I outlined some of my well-practiced excuses and they’re all myths. Every day that I carve out time to write is a good day…most of the time I’m able to craft something I can use somewhere.

Easing into writing can be a challenge. My preferred path when it comes to poetry is to go out into nature and allow her to gift me with inspiration.

If I’m working on my novel, I usually jump-start my session by reviewing and editing my work of the previous day. This practice gets me in that space, into the heads of my characters.

Today in the desert it’s raining off and on–it’s the kind of day that leads to introspection and inspiration. It’s the kind of day to show up.