Linda Kulp Trout

Thursday, January 14, 2010


This week the American Life in Poetry column featured a poem by Lyn Lifshin that I liked so much, I wanted to share it with you.

The Other Fathers

would be coming back
from some war, sending
back stuffed birds or
handkerchiefs in navy
blue with Love painted
on it. Some sent telegrams
for birthdays, the pastel
letters like jewels. The
magazines were full of fathers who
were doing what had
to be done, were serving,

You can read the rest of the poem here.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Writing to Inspire

I love reading articles and books about writing. I have four entire shelves of writers' memoirs and writing how-to books. Maybe I read so many of them because I'm still trying to figure out where I fit in the world of writing.

Lately, I've been reading INSPIRE! WRITING FROM THE SOUL by Linda C. Apple. Linda has written many stories for the CHICKEN SOUP series. I love the CHICKEN SOUP books. I've found inspiration and comfort in the stories, and judging by the popularity of the series, so have many other people.

When I heard that Linda Apple had written a how-to book about writing for the inspirational market, I had to have it. The book is a combination of writing exercises, marketing information, and the author's personal revelations about how she came to write inspirational stories.

One exercise I've been working on asks, "What is your landscape?" (p.23). To find the landscapes of your life, begin by listing the influential people and events in your life. Then make a separate sheet for each item. Each day, choose one (event or person) and list every memory that comes to mind. This excercise is similar to the Nancy Atwell's writing territories exercise I use to help my middle school students find meaningful writing topics, but the questions are a bit more guided.

I was surprised by the things I remembered when I listed my "landscapes." I wrote a poem, "Thrity-Two Cents" about an event I had forgotten for many years. At first, I worried the poem would give a negative impression of my mother and wasn't sure if I should post it on my blog. But, this quote from the book, "We cannot change the pain of the past, but we can give health to the future," reminded me that by telling our stories, we might help someone else, help ourselves understand the experience better, and make peace with the past.

What I like most about INSPIRE! is its encouraging tone, the writing exercises, and the marketing tips. One of my writing goals has always been to write something that would help and inspire others. I don't know if I can do that, but I'd like to try. I need to work on the "landscapes" exercise a bit more to find out if the inspirational market might be right for me.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year, A New Blog

For years, I've written my thoughts, joys, and frustrations about writing in my journal. After looking through some of the entries, I started wondering how other writers handle the ups and downs of the writing life. There's so many questions I wish I could ask them.
Journals are great, but they are usually private so I decided that this year, instead of writing in my journal about my writing experiences, I'll blog about them. I'm hoping other writers will join in to share their thoughts and experiences so we can learn from each other. I named the blog Word-by-Word because this year I'm focusing on taking small steps to accomplish my goals. I hope you'll stop by.
Welcome to Word-by-Word! The beginning of a new year seems like the perfect time to try something new. Writing is mostly a solitary act, and sometimes we feel alone in our experiences. As someone who is still learning about the craft and business of writing, I wanted a place to share random thoughts and connect with other writers. My hope is that the blog will be interactive with an exchange of ideas and support. If you have an aspect of writing you'd like us to discuss, please leave a message in the comments section, and I'll include it in an upcoming post. I hope to hear from you!

Writing and Self-Doubt

Most days when school is in session there's little time to do anything except school work and household chores. This holiday season, thanks to the blizzard, I've had two weeks off from school. The perfect time to get some writing done.

Every morning I told myself that I'd block out some time for writing, but the days passed with very little time spent writing. It seemed like there was always something else that needed my attention. It often happens this way, when I have a lot of time to write, I don't. Now, with only two days before I return to a busy teaching schedule, I'm questioning why I haven't worked on any of my projects.

Is it because I don't really want to write? I don't think that's it. I make time to write in my journal almost every day. I write emails to friends and family. I write poems, stories, and essays to use in my classroom (not great pieces of literature, but they serve the purpose.)

Am I just being a lazy procrastinator? Hmmm, maybe, but anytime I have a deadline to meet (writing or otherwise), I always finish early. I just finished a work-for-hire project where I wrote 30 short poems (4-6 lines each) in about 3 weeks. It was an assignment. I signed a contract. It had to be done, so I got right to work. In fact, I've had a number of poems and essays published, but almost all of those were "assignments" with deadlines.

Am I someone who wants to "have written" instead of actually doing the writing? I don't that that's it either. When I finally get started writing, I'm totally immersed in it and lose all track of time.

So what is keeping me from accomplishing my writing goals? Could it be the fear that I'm really not very good at writing? Every time I start working on one of my "projects" Self Doubt jumps up on the keyboard and growls, "Who do you think you are? Look at the great poems and stories other people are writing. You're wasting your time. No one wants to read your writing, leave it to the professionals!"

Suddenly, my mind is paralyzed just like the day I had a panic attack and couldn't make a left-hand turn on a busy intersection. Car horns blared , a man in a pick-up truck shouted obscenities out of his window, and my two young sons in the back seat begged me to, "Go!" I couldn't think. I couldn't move. Writing feels like that sometimes.

Funny, how it never happens when I write in my journal or emails or poems just for me. No one judges that kind of writing, do they? No worries about looking foolish or embarrassing myself for not using enough imagery or the right words. I just write for the joy of it.

So, here I am on New Year's Day with big dreams of writing poems and stories that inspire and encourage young readers. I've tried to move on to something else and give up my dream, but the writing bug won't let go.

How do I overcome self-doubt and get on with the writing? Would I be happier keeping my writing to myself? Will I ever know if my writing is truly good enough for others to want to read? These are the questions I need to answer for myself.

Have you ever struggled with feelings of self-doubt? If so, I'd love to know what you've done to overcome it.

You can read about how another writer deals with self-doubt here.


A New Year Begins

Like a field of fresh fallen snow
with possibilities

unblemished, unspoiled, unbroken
gone too soon.

Happy New Year!
May all of your hopes and dreams come true!

You can read other poems about beginnings and endings here.