The Mark Blog

Writers’ Reel: Celebrate National Poetry Month with Kwame Dawes!

April is National Poetry Month. What better way to mark the first day than by watching this animated video, courtesy of The Poetry Foundation, illustrating Kwame Dawes’s poem “Tornado Child.” Dawes is the author of over a dozen books. His most recent collection of poems is titled Duppy Conqueror and was released by Copper Canyon Press. Watch the video, then go hug a poet!
I am a tornado child
         born in the whirl of clouds; the center crumbled,
         then I came. My lovers know the blast of my chaotic giving;
         they tremble at the whip of my supple thighs;
         you cross me at your peril, I swallow light
         when the warm of anger lashes me into a spin,
         the pine trees bend to me swept in my gyrations.” – Kwame Dawes 


Bookmark This: 15 New Vocabulary Words You Need to Start Using

The folks at BuzzFeed have done writers a solid by featuring 15 underused words that we can all add to our literary repertoire. The best part of the list is that each word and definition is featured in a hilarious gif. The word meliorism (the belief that the world can be made better by human effort) with a gif of a baby sloth handing you a flower? Yes, please!

Check out the rest of the words here. 

Writers’ Reel: Patti Smith Remembering Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf took her life on March 281941 at the age of 59. She was the author of fifteen books, countless essays and even ran a publishing press Hogarth Press. There’s no question that she left quite the mark on the literary world that can still be felt to this day. In this Open Culture post, musician and poet Patti Smith marks the day of Woolf’s passing by giving her own thoughts as to why she left and by reading a selection from Woolf’s novel The Waves

“For myself, I believe she made this decision consciously. It was what she needed to do as a human being and so I do not think of this as sad. I just think it’s the day that Virginia Woolf decided to say goodbye. We are not celebrating the day, we are simply acknowledging that this is the day. If I had a title to call tonight, I would call it Wave. We are waving to Virginia.” – Patti Smith


Click here to read the full post.


Bookmark This: When Are You Really Done?

In online magazine Lit Central/OC, writer Cynthia Romanowski shares her struggle with being unable to complete the first draft, a fear that both emerging and seasoned authors face again and again. Romanowski cites an essay by author David Ulin that details his own frustration and how he learned to accept the uncertainty of writing that first draft to allow the narrative to develop uncontrolled. The essay is an honest exploration of the difficulty of letting go of control and completing a first draft. 
“I liked (and why not?) the idea of being a writer better than I liked writing, which to this day remains an unsteady process, a balancing act between expectation and an almost willful lack of expectation, between my aspiration and my failure, between what I want and what I cannot do. I’m familiar with this now, this ongoing frustration, but then, it used to drive me crazy, the imperfection that sets in with the first written word.” – David Ulin

Writers’ Reel: 29 Tips To Boost Creativity

No matter where you are in your creative process, you can always use reminders on how to keep motivated and on track. This video by lists the 29 ways to be creative. Incorporate a couple of these to break free from the rut. What do you do to boost your creativity?



Bookmark This: Everybody Has a Heartache by Joy Harjo

Poetry magazine’s March issue is filled with innovative pieces. You’ll find new works by poet Joy Harjo (2013 PEN Center USA Literary Award Winner for Creative Nonfiction) and Franny Choi, who recently read at the Dirty Laundry Lit: TERMINAL, presented PEN Center USA at AWP 2014. You can also find powerful works by Natalie Diaz, Danez Smith, and more. 
Everybody Has a Heartache: A Blues

"In the United terminal in Chicago at five on a Friday afternoon
The sky is breaking with rain and wind and all the flights
Are delayed forever. We will never get to where we are going
And there’s no way back to where we’ve been.
The sun and the moon have disappeared to an island far from 
Everybody has a heartache—“ Joy Harjo

Read the rest of Harjo’s poem and the rest of the issue here. 


Writers' Reel: Terry McMillan On Disliking Third Person Narration

Outspoken author Terry McMillan (Waiting to ExhaleDisappearing Acts, and her latest, Who Asked You?) recently sat down for an interview with the New York Times, in which she discusses her disdain for third person, her techniques for controlling her characters, and what she considers “literary masturbation.”

“You need to learn the rules before you can break them. And you need to read everybody. If you’re black, don’t just read black writers and if you’re white, don’t just read white writers, etc. I read everybody across the board, all ethnicities. I’m curious about mankind. I want to know how everybody lives.” – Terry McMillan

Click to watch the full interview:


Bookmark This: Embrace Your Obsessions

If you're unable to make it to AWP this week, don’t fret. The AWP website has a treasure trove of great literary resources, from podcasts to news articles, all under their Magazine & Media section. We especially enjoyed this essay by short story author Steve Almond (God Bless America: StoriesCandyfreak) on how he let go of his inability to write the next “Big Novel” and turned to his obsession with candy as fuel to keep writing. Almond writes that obsessions are the “deepest forms of human meaning.”
“As an engine of literary creation, obsession has turned out to be a lot more valuable to me than any of my grandiose ambitions. Because in the end writers do their best work when they simply tell the truth about the stuff that matters to them most deeply, whether in fictional disguise or not, whether in prose or verse, whether on-line or in print.” – Steve Almond
Read the rest of the essay here.

Bookmark This: Your Survival Guide to AWP

AWP: A Survival Guide
Starting this Wednesday, over ten thousand writers will land in Seattle, Washington for the annual Association of Writing Programs conference, also known as AWP. If you’ve never been to the conference, the multitude of panels, the large bookfair, and the number of offsite events can seem a bit daunting, but don't panic. We have culled together a superb collection of do’s and don’ts by Carolyn Kellogg from the Los Angeles Times and from author Roxane Gay.
Just consider this your AWP cheat sheet and don't forget to breathe. 
Carolyn Kellogg's Dos and Don’ts:
DO: Drink in the conference hotel bar. Despite the fact that hotel bars are notoriously overpriced, this is where you want to be. The conference hotel bar is where the cooler veterans will gather, the professors and published writers, people who've bumped into each other at this conference in other years and have maybe made a vague plan to do so again.
DO: Pick out two to five panels you can't miss. This will give a shape to your attendance and your days.
DON'T: Worry if you miss some of those panels. Serendipity may put something in your path that is equally important.
DO: Give yourself plenty of time to walk around the conference exhibit floor. Take your time at the lit journal booths: Pick them up, flip through them.
DON'T: Let the prospect of an early-morning panel curb your social activities.
DO: Attend some evening conference events: readings, parties, dinners, celebrations. These are better built for mingling -- or as more business-oriented types might say, networking -- than panels, really.
DON'T: Spend a ton of money running around a city you don't know. Share cabs with strangers. Take the subway.
DON'T: Worry about losing sleep. You have lots to do and see and hear and discuss. It's only four days. You can sleep when you get home. 
Read the entire list here: 
Some Dos and Don’ts from Roxane Gay:
Do drink a lot of water. Go offsite to buy bottled water because the convention center and hotel will charge exorbitant prices.
Don’t thrust your unsolicited manuscript into an editor’s hands. It will be awkward for both of you.
Don’t try to attend everything. It’s not possible. Instead, pick a few panels and offsite readings to attend and leave the rest to possibility.
Do visit the host city for at least an hour or two. There is life beyond the convention center.
Do acquire a good tote, and on Saturday evening, ship home all the books and magazines you buy.
Don’t pretend to have read someone’s book if you haven’t. Don’t be sycophantic or use flattery as social currency. You can and should engage writers in normal conversation. Writers are people, too.
Do have fun and do not take the conference too seriously. Do carve out quality time with your friends when you can—a quiet hour for coffee or a meal far from the hubbub of the conference.
Read the full article here: 

Bookmark This: Hanif Kureishi Thinks You Might Be Asking The Wrong Questions

In this Telegraph essay, British author and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (IntimacyThe BodyThe Last Wordargues that writers, by spending too much time on the safe questions of plot and dialogue, are missing the importance of digging deep into the imagination and the "useful trouble" it may offer.

“If you think of the real thing – of, say, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde, or Wilde’s Dorian Gray, or perhaps Cheever’s great story “The Swimmer”, or Kafka’s Metamorphosis, or any of the work of Carver or Plath – you have to begin to think about the wild implausibility, boldness, and brilliance of the artist’s idea or metaphor rather than the arrangement of paragraphs.”