Why Poetry is Nonfiction

Earlier this week, I finished formatting 100 Warm Days of Haiku. Ordinarily, this is where I would begin asking friends and fellow writers to look at it for me. Read and critique the poems, be sure the order makes sense. Look at the pictures and tell me if any of them need to be changed at all.

But the more I thought about what this book is, the more I realized that was not something I needed or wanted to do. This book is different. This book is true.

I have always wondered why poetry is classified as nonfiction, but after writing this book, I realize that has always been true. Poetry captures what is going on in the soul of its writer in a way that cannot be denied.

My 100 haiku were written and illustrated over the course of a four month period stretching from April 1 to July 31, 2021. To put it bluntly, this time period involvedogreat deal of change and upheaval for me personally, and that upheaval is reflected in this collection. There is anger, sorrow, beauty, love, loss and loneliness in this book. And there is also hope.

To give you an idea, here’s the description from the back of the book:

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but is it worth seventeen syllables? Poet Michelle Garren Flye explores the ancient form of Japanese poetry during three months of spring and summer. The book follows the author on a journey of change and transformation that she didn’t expect when she undertook the task, using the spare format of the haiku and her colorful illustrations to express emotions and desires that emerge from the chrysalis of her heart.

As I got closer to the end of the book, I tried to figure out how I would end it. I have never yet ended a book on a sour note. I’m not a tragic writer, and in spite of emotional upheaval, I am not a tragic person. I won’t spoil it, but I am so very proud of the final illustration, I thought I might share that with you:

Copyright 2021 Michelle Garren Flye

For more information, you can find 100 Days of Haiku on Amazon.

Adding Color to Writing

I’m so close to being done with 100 Warm Days of Haiku! It will be my longest poetry book yet. And my most unique book of any genre. I’m excited to share it, and I hope you’ll be excited, too. It’s a book meant for looking at as much as reading. Even UnSong didn’t really manage that.

Illustration by Michelle Garren Flye. Copyright 2021.

So I guess the very reasonable question would be why am I publishing a book that’s as much to look at as to read? I’m an author, not an artist, a poet, not a painter.

Short answer? I like to challenge myself. I like to be more. Long answer? This has been a complicated year in which I came to know a lot of interesting things about myself. I mean, none of us has had an easy year, right? Pandemic, home schooling, isolation, mask-wearing…it’s all a bit much. Add any other complications into the mix and you’ve got the makings of a good, old-fashioned nervous breakdown. And who didn’t have other complications?

My answer for the complications in my life was to dig deeper to find more. I found a lot. And 100 Warm Days of Haiku is my way of sharing it with you. So stay tuned for more information.

Coming soon in full color!

UnSong Release!

Today is usually both a relief and a sad day for me because I love National Poetry Month. 🙂 In case you couldn’t tell. I enjoy challenging myself by writing a poem a day. I love reading others’ poetry, and this month I took it a step further and invited local poets to submit recordings of themselves reading one of their poems, which I then posted on my store’s social media.

It’s a been a good month.

If you’ve enjoyed my illustrated haiku, thank you. They’ve been a great deal of fun to come up with. I’m planning to continue through the summer (though not posting them online, sorry) and at the end I hope to have something I can be proud enough of to publish with the title “100 Warm Days of Haiku”. This one will be different since I’m getting more confident with my use of color. It’ll still be pretty cheap as a Kindle book, but the physical book may be a bit more expensive since I’d like to publish it in color this time.

In the meantime, please consider giving my first collection of illustrated poetry, “UnSong”, a try. It’s available online today. I don’t have physical copies in my store yet because I worked on it right up til the deadline to make sure it was something I could be proud of (and I am).

So here it goes. I’m releasing UnSong on the world. I hope it doesn’t hurt too much.

Available today! Check your favorite online retailer.

Happy Birthday to Me! (with another teaser for UnSong)

Today is my birthday, and I’m celebrating by writing, but not just writing. I’m writing whatever I want. I’m also going back and reading some of what I’ve written in the past. If that sounds like self-gratification, keep in mind that I write what I want to read. It’s the main reason I enjoy it so much.

But I wanted to share another little bit from UnSong. I’m still working hard on the illustrations, and I’ve done most of the easy ones (and by that, I mean the ones that lend themselves to illustration more easily—they have a definite image. Poetry being poetry, not all of the poems in my volume do…or the image they have is a bit difficult for a novice artist like me to put on the page.

My point is, I’m getting there. The book is taking definite shape now. And I’m using Scrivener to build it, so I’m kind of proud of that, too.

I guess old dogs can learn new tricks.

Illustration and poem by Michelle Garren Flye copyright 2021

Graphic Novel Update: More Pictures!

It seems I just can’t NOT share my excitement about this ongoing project. I’m up to about eighty pictures now, and I’m still going strong. I’ve been experimenting more with drawing people as well as places and things. I think it’s working out…

“What do you do with a gift?”

Of course, my strength remains in the words, but I have had fun experimenting with drawing things like fire, too.

“Why would you think all the fire in the world is yours?”

I know, of course, that my pictures will not be the works of art I see in other graphic novels. I am not truly an artist. Most of what I’m doing is photographic manipulation. My strength is really in the five poems that are in this book. And the story I’ve woven around the poems and pictures. I am hopeful that they will find a place in the hearts of readers.

Happy May Day!

No poem today.

But do not fret and worry.

Poetry returns.

🙂

Seriously, I’m kind of happy to be done with the poem-a-day challenge. Writing poetry—everyday, anyway—gives you a new respect for Emily Dickinson. Not appreciation. Respect. There is a difference! I’ve always appreciated Dickinson, but the volume of poetry she wrote is something I now respect. It’s hard to write a poem every day.

But on to other things. It’s May Day! Let’s celebrate spring in spite of quarantine. What better way than by anticipating my upcoming new book? This is my new romance novel that takes place, of all places, on a cruise ship. Lol, right? If you can stop laughing long enough, though, take into account that I began writing this novel three years ago after I went on a cruise to Alaska. It was an amazing, truly magical experience, and to me, there is nothing so romantic as the sea. So, if you can clear the tears of laughter from your eyes, here’s the cover and a brief excerpt.

Cover by Farah Evers Designs

“Do you want me to leave?” He turned his hand over in hers so he could curl his fingers around hers.

“I think it would be best. Yes.”

“I will then.” He dropped his hand from hers, but then he leaned forward and kissed her, very quickly and softly, on the lips. “I’ve got plenty to do and you don’t need me here. I won’t see you again before your show tonight, though, so I want you to think about one thing for me.”

She wasn’t sure she could think about anything else but how his lips felt on hers and how much she wanted to repeat that experience. “What?” 

“Have you ever once worried about what would happen if this thing doesn’t work out? Or have you just wondered what will happen if it does?”

His words gave her a jolt as she recognized the truth in them. She hadn’t thought about what it would be like to be stuck working on a ship with a man she’d attempted to date, perhaps to see him start another relationship with someone else. Not even once had that occurred to her. Why wasn’t she worried about that

Because it won’t happen. I feel it. If we let this thing get started between us, it’s not going to stop. And maybe that’s what I’m scared of.

He stepped away from her, his eyes still locked on hers. He nodded. “Neither have I.”

From Magic at Sea by Michelle Garren Flye

So go celebrate May Day with cake, dancing (even if it’s solitary, dance anyway) and singing. If you have a May Pole, decorate it. Smell some flowers. Enjoy life a little. We all deserve it.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

When you don’t want lemonade.

So today I got a second rejection on my romantic fantasy novel, Out of Time. It’s the first book in a planned trilogy. I had hoped to return to the world of traditional publishing for these books, but I’m starting to think it might not happen.

No, that’s not bitterness.

It’s resignation.

So when I’d written my polite note of thanks to the sweet editor who took the time to write my rejection (complete with a compliment on my writing and style), I started thinking about what to do with the lemons I’d been handed.

And I’ve never been much for making lemonade.

image

When life hands you a slightly spotty lemon, create a still life on your bookshelf with it.

Labyrinth II continues…

Sarah woke in the darkness and her very first thought was for Davey. She sat up, an afghan sliding from her shoulders as she did so. Voices in the hall warned her and she lay back quickly. A moment later, the door opened and someone looked in.

“She’s still out.”

“You think she’s okay, though?”

Her husband and her father. She felt guilty about deceiving them, but she couldn’t really help it. She had to get to the Labyrinth. She had to find Toby and force him to return her son. That wouldn’t happen if she couldn’t get out of the house, though.

“She’s fine, son. You were right to call me.” The tone of worry in her father’s voice almost made Sarah flinch, but then the door shut and their voices grew fainter.

She sat up again, looking for her backpack. There it was, on the chair. She slipped out of the bed, found her boots and a light jacket, and tucked everything under her arm, ready to leave.

“You think all the preparations in your world can prepare you for another stint in mine, Sarah?” His voice slid from the mirror in a silvery shard.

She turned slowly, knowing she’d meet those mismatched eyes in the mirror, the ones that saw into her very soul, the only ones that could still see the frightened but determined fourteen-year-old girl she’d once been. The one who’d lost Toby in the first place because she’d been too self-involved and thoughtless to believe her own actions had consequences.

By that token, Davey’s disappearance could be traced directly back to her.

“Jareth.” She took a deep breath. “Tell Toby I’m coming for him. He can’t take my son and get away with it.”

“You once said that about a stuffed bear, if I remember correctly.” He tented his fingers below his chin in the reflection, grinning a lopsided grin at her. “You had second thoughts about that, I think.”

“Well, it won’t happen now.” She turned to the bedroom door.

“You won’t get there that way, Sarah.” He laughed. “But I can help you.”

“Why would you help me?” She gave the mirror a scornful look over her shoulder.

He shrugged. “Maybe because I enjoy the game as much as you.” His grin faded. “Or maybe because your brother has pissed me off and it’s time to teach him a lesson.”

Sarah did a double-take, hearing the sincere irritation in his voice. She turned all the way around and gave him her full attention. “I’m listening.”

What’s in a Cover, or How Writers Judge Books by Them

We writers are very silly people. We show pictures of our covers the way proud parents show pictures of their babies. In most cases, we’re no more responsible for the way the cover looks than the funny expression captured by a snapshot of a baby. But that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t affect our pride in the first concrete proof that our work has paid off.

Congratulations. It’s a book. Island Magic eBookAnd yet. When an author looks at a book cover–whether they designed it themselves or had someone like the fabulous Farah Evers do it for them or got it straight from the Art Department of Harper Collins Publishing–however that cover came into being, when an author looks at it for the first time, it’s going to be one of two things: a huge disappointment or the culmination of every dream the author ever had for her book.

As an independent author (I like “independent” much better than “self-published”), I have a bit more control over things, so I don’t often get one of those huge disappointment things anymore. In fact, as you can see above, my most recent cover falls very definitively into the latter category.

I’ve been working on this story for a while. Ever since Escape Magic, as a matter of fact. Island Magic was a tough story to write. It deals with some more difficult themes than either of the first two books in the series. However, I didn’t want it to lose the magical feel of the first two books, and I wanted my cover to reflect that. With the help of Ms. Evers, the cover did indeed come to life with all the magic and beauty of the first two. And a little indefinable something more, too. This cover is perfect for this book.

So forgive me if I start featuring the cover prominently on my blog so early. The book won’t be published until October 31 (Harry Houdini’s birthday!), but you can pre-order it now for your Kindle.