I’ve picked up an interesting tradition? habit? madness? (You pick)
Every few days I have a fortune cookie. And I either shrug off the fortune inside or spend the next few days pondering it. Yesterday I got a fortune that read “A person who wants to sing will find a song.” (Or something to that effect. I think I lost the fortune…)
That one has stuck with me. Because it’s true, and I have spent far too much time living my life for wishes to think it isn’t. Because I can make as many wishes as I want, but there’s no wish fairy out there fulfilling them. Wishing is, quite simply, a way to focus my intent on something I want.
I want success, so I’m finding ways to make it happen.
I want happiness, so I’m learning to concentrate on the things I have in my life that make me happy. (And deal with the things that don’t without letting them upset my apple cart.)
I want a cherry red Ferrari for free— Okay, maybe not. (Adam Sandler fans will get that one.)
I’m still looking for the song I want to sing. I will have to write it myself, and I know that it won’t be easy, it won’t look exactly like I once pictured, and it won’t be the only thing in my life.
Nobody’s life is filled with one thing. It’s mixed up with the good and the bad, but if I want the good, I can choose it. If I want to be happy, I’ll find that happy in the middle of everything else. I can succeed if I’m willing to put in the work. And for this knowledge, among all the other good things in my life, I am grateful.
A villanelle from Learning Curve. Illustration and poem copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye.
I just sent my latest poetry book, Learning Curve, to the printer. This is the third poetry book in my Poietry Diaries series, my sixth poetry book overall. I think. If I counted them right…
Anyway, it’s done. I started this one in July. Now in mid November, almost exactly four months later, it’s done. And I’m proud of it. The poems are well written, edited and illustrated. The format of the book makes sense. I’ll be proud to have it on the shelf at my store. It’s a good addition to my repertoire.
Here’s the blurb for it:
Learning Curve is a contemporary collection of poetry written in the style of villanelle, originally a rustic Italian song, later developed into a French form of short poetry and then into a format with a rigid and demanding rhyme scheme and format. Award-winning poet Michelle Garren-Flye takes on this form in the latest volume of her Poetry Diaries, taking the reader along on not only an emotional journey but also one that promises to introduce the reader to a beautiful form of song-like poetry that will delight and enchant any poetry lover.
Let the reader beware, however. As the poet acknowledges, poetry is the most true of any form of literature. If the truth is anywhere, it’s definitely in these pages.
And finally, it took me a while to decide on how to format this book. It’s a little different from my others. For one thing, I went with black and white again. I was going to go with all simple line drawings, which is more my forte anyway, but I wound up adding shades of grey (lol) to many of them. Here’s one I particularly like that I thought I’d share with you. If you like it, stay tuned. Release date will be announced soon!
Poem and illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye
This Sunday, November 20, I get to do something I don’t often get to do anymore. I’ll be just an author selling her books.
I’m not totally certain I remember how to do that…
Running a bookstore was a dream of mine for a long time. I used to haunt the two little bookstores in my hometown. The Book Nook was my favorite because it was used books that I could actually afford. (I did buy my first new hardback book there, though. Black Beauty and Other Horse Stories. It cost $15 and I still own it.) Highland Books was where I went to dream. I didn’t have enough money usually to buy the books, but the owners were tolerant and didn’t say anything if I curled up in a corner with a brand new science fiction novel they knew I couldn’t buy. I wonder how many people bought books there that I had already read?
But I digress. I dreamed of owning my own bookstore for a long time but I didn’t realize that when I got one, I couldn’t just be an author anymore. Yes, I write in my bookstore. And sometimes I sell one of my own books. I’m on the bestseller table here, so I do sell some here and there, and it’s definitely exciting when I do. But I’m mostly here to sell other people’s books.
On Sunday, however, I will be at the New Bern Farmer’s Market from 1-4 p.m. with a slew of other authors, all selling our own books! I’m planning to take all the books I have here at the store (well, maybe leave one copy of each on the shelf) and hope to sell them and maybe get some people reading my poetry.
And still I won’t be able to resist asking what kind of book people like to read. And I know enough of the other authors there so I’ll know if their books are a better fit than mine. And I won’t hesitate to send them that way…so it might not be that different from being in my little bookstore at all. 🙂
It’s been a bit since I last updated. I’m busy busy getting Learning Curve finished up. Sometimes it amazes me how synchronous bookbuilding can be. I set out to write fifty villanelles. Actually, I set out to master the art of the villanelle, which is an accomplishment in itself. During the course of writing villanelles, it occurred to me that I could make a book out of them. It also occurred to me that two of my previous poetry books were actually the beginning of a series that Learning Curve could continue.
And now I’m putting together Learning Curve, and synchronicity seems to be more a factor than ever. I didn’t write the villanelles with any sort of organization or sections/chapters in mind. And yet, they seem to be dividing themselves up perfectly in groups of ten. Almost perfectly, anyway.
For me, this part of bookbuilding takes some time. I have been drawing all along while writing villanelles, and many of those illustrations are finding their way into my book. But I’m also drawing special illustrations for some of my poems. I’m putting together each page separately, just as I’ve done for past books, but I think I’ve gotten better at it.
Plus, it’s been very synchronous.
One of the illustrations from Learning Curve. Copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye
Well, not quite. I’m a bookmaker, not just a writer. Now I am entering the phase of putting the book together. In some ways it’s more fun. In others, I miss the constant search for rhyme, the debate about rhythm, thinking in verse.
I’m trying something different with the illustrations this time. I’ll still have them. This is going to be a black and white book, though, so it will be less expensive. And I sort of felt like the color in my other books sort of interfered with the poetry. Maybe not quite as much with 100 Days as Hypercreativity, but some. And villanelle, man. Villanelle needs to be admired for what it is.
I had never heard of villanelle before July 16 of last year. I had just written Far & wee, my book of 20 sonnets. I felt fairly confident I had a good grasp of sonnet writing and I wanted to try something new. I asked on Facebook what kind of poetry I should try next and a friend suggested villanelle.
The more I researched villanelle and tried to write it, the more it became obvious that I’d have to write much more than twenty to come close to mastering the form. There’s so much to think about. Not only rhyme, but placement of the rhyme. And finding new rhymes. I mean, you could write ten to twenty villanelles with rhymes ending in -ay and -ate but it would get old. (Trust me.)
So this book is going to be a bit different, even, than the other two in my poetry diaries series. It documents what was going on in my life somewhat, but it’s also a literary journey for me. I’m learning how to write something new and hopefully you’ll be able to see that I get better.
I know some of my favorite poetry that I’ve written thus far is in this book. I won’t tell you which ones they are. I’m also kind of fond of some of the illustrations, even though I don’t imagine I’ve improved that much in that respect. (That is not false modesty. I have improved, but only so far.)
So, I’m off to make a book. Hopefully I can have it done soon. Maybe even in a week or so.
The other day I wrote that I had completed my fortieth villanelle. This project has taken much longer than my last one (Far & wee). I’ve been writing villanelle since July. I still haven’t perfected it, but the forty I’ve kept are decently passable. Some are even quite good. I think there’s at least one that’s among my favorite poems I’ve ever written.
I’m trying to write fifty total for the book. And I haven’t yet figured how I’ll illustrate them, although I’ve also been drawing at the same time. I have an idea or two. We will see what works out.
At any rate, although I can see the finish line, I’m so far away still! So even after a busy day, I take my computer up to my room with me and before I sleep I try to write a little. Yesterday was one of those days. Busy from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. I collapsed and ate a bagel and watched a bit of television with my daughter. And then I went to bed and wrote.
A line and a half.
It took me thirty minutes.
And still when I closed the computer, I was happier than I would have been if I hadn’t written anything. Because I knew today I would finish that poem. I haven’t done that yet. But I did finish the first verse. And I like where it’s going.
I have sold literally dozens of a certain book recently. Great news, right? (Keep in mind I don’t sell dozens of books usually.)
Except I don’t actually like this particular book…
It’s not a badly written book. I don’t write bad. It’s even got a more complex plot than some of my simpler romances. It’s just that I tried an experiment with this one and I don’t think it worked. At the time I wrote it I’d been writing romances with the typical sweet, likable, strong female protagonists who had faced down challenges in their lives and come out the better for it. (huh) So I decided to write a less likable female protagonist for this one. She’s supposed to be brittle on the outside with a soft core. She’s a bit bitchy, to be honest. And while she was sort of fun to write, I never really connected with her.
I recently heard a word that I relate to. A friend posted it on Facebook. The word is meraki. It is Greek for leaving something of yourself in everything you do. Every artist strives to do this, I think. It’s a risk, though. When you leave something of yourself in your work and it’s rejected, that’s a part of you that suffers. Maybe at the time I chose to write a romance with less of me in it than usual without thinking I’d be less likely to connect to it? Maybe that’s why I am loving poetry so much now. Because it’s easier to leave me in my poetry because if I’m writing it right, I’m lost in it anyway.
Whatever the reason I wrote that way then and this way now, every time I see the numbers tick up on this particular book, I think, No, not that one! Because there’s no meraki to it. There’s not enough me.
Everyone who knows me as a poet knows my feelings about poetry being nonfiction. Poetry is a much more personal form of writing (to me) than novels or short stories. I can write about anything in a novel or short story. I once wrote a flash fiction about a woman who’d lost both legs in an accident. I used to write horror. And yes, romance. All fiction.
Poetry, on the other hand, is almost never fiction to me. I can’t really put myself in someone else’s shoes when I write poetry. The few times I have, it’s because I’m able to empathize for one reason or another. And I almost never think those poems are as good as my others.
So poetry is very personal. It’s my thoughts and feelings. And when I put together a poetry book, it’s almost like a diary. I tend to share a bit about what and why I wrote different poems. Like a diary.
I noticed this trend in my work after Hypercreativity. Both Hypercreativity and 100 Warm Days of Haiku fit this concept I had for poetry diaries. So I decided to make them part of a series. The Poetry Diaries was born. The third in this series is coming soon. Well, hopefully. I’m hoping it will be fifty villanelle, but I haven’t even hit forty yet and may stop there, honestly. I’ve discovered a new type of poetry I really want to try. In the meantime, however, I did design the cover to the next poetry diary. And it’s pretty good!
Every single damn time I write a poem, I tell myself, don’t share it. You can’t do anything with it once you do. Except self-publish it. But all my villanelles will eventually be in a book anyway. A self-published one because we’ve already established I don’t have the patience required for traditional publishing.
So, I guess, enjoy. Because I also like to share when I think I’ve written something good. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you’re probably not alone.)
By Michelle Garren-Flye
I love the rain, need the sun…
Can’t help the weather though.
Oh, I really just want a bit of fun.
Come with me, light one.
Make time with you pass slow;
let’s love the rain, need the sun.
All that’s left for me is a crumb
A bit of life—dare I to hope?
I really just want a bit of fun.
Incredibly, I once was young
and took time to watch things grow…
when I loved the rain, needed the sun.
In time I know I will have won
And life will return to its glow.
Right now, I just want a bit of fun.
When all is said and done
I cannot wait to watch it all go.
I love the rain, but I need the sun,
And really, I just want a bit of fun.