Monday, April 15, 2019

CHATTING WITH MAGALY : Why Prose at Poets United?

It occurred to our staff that our members might like to hear about why we thought introducing a prose prompt feature once a month would be a good thing for Poets United: adding new life and energy, and an intriguing new direction, for those who wish to participate. I am handing today’s column over to staff member Magaly Guerrero, to discuss this very thing. Magaly, it is all yours, my friend.

https://magalysblog.blogspot.com/


Thank you for the warm introduction, Sherry. Since a prose prompt brewed out of necessity for me, I will start from the very beginning.


Some time ago, when poetry first landed on my Muse’s tongue, and we realized just how much we loved the taste of poems, I decided to bring poetry into the fiction writing group I belonged to at the time. The result was… an ink-kissed blast. I am not trying to imply that every fiction writer began birthing flawless poetry—that would be a lie—but the majority of the group jumped in. We sprinkled wee bits of poetry into our prose, and watched as the shape of the narrative evolved: voices became richer, imagery brighten plots, stories grew shorter but said more. I was in writer’s paradise.

Then... I got very sick.

My body forced me to stop working on long stories and novels. Part of my treatment was hell on concentration, on energy, on time... So, I had to leave my face-to-face writer’s paradise, and start searching for groups online. It is how I found Poets United and the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads. I fell in love with what these poetry writing communities offered, but my soul continued to hunger for prose.

The yearning for storytelling nudged me (all right, kicked me not-so-gently on the back of the knees) until I approached the Poets United staff and proposed a Pantry of Prose. When I was asked, why do you think a prose prompt once a month might be a very good thing, for you and for Poets United? I had no trouble answering the first part of the question: I’ve been starving for the kind of inspiration-juice I get out of writing and sharing and reading prose in the same manner we do poetry. The second part of the question was more difficult to answer.

So, I thought about it…

…and thought about it…

…until I remembered what poetry did for my storytelling:

Poetry opened new writing doors for my Muse and me. And I believe writing prose can do the same for poets—it could offer new territory to explore, create skill-sharpening challenges, and widen readership. The latter, in particular, is extra important for those of us who want to sell… something. As Rosemary so eloquently put it in a comment in her latest Moonlight Musings, “in general, poetry is that stuff that doesn’t sell. Not well enough to feed [most of] us, anyway.”

I understand that for many of us writing poetry is a hobby (just like breathing), but wouldn’t it be yummy if we could find ways to make our poetry attractive to people who prefer prose? Mixing things up a bit, by adding prose to a poet’s repertoire, might be how some prose only readers give our poetry a real try. And since prose tends to sell a bit better than poetry, finding an efficient (and fun) way to present them side by side might make a pleasant difference.

When I dreamed up Telling Tales with Magaly Guerrero: a Pantry of Prose, I never thought the prompt would be just for telling stories. I hoped the time would come when we could work on synopses, book proposals, creative book reviews… and pretty much anything which might help us share our words (both Prose and Poetry) with a larger audience. And who knows, the slight diversification might even help us sell enough words to pay for a tasty cup of our favorite brew.

I suspect the Pantry of Prose might take some time to stick (change is neither easy nor speedy). But it can be so good, if given a chance.


Sweet Sherry, thanks again for letting me prose my feelings in the open. And thank you, readers and writers who read, for taking the time to digest this post (and for sharing your thoughts on it *cough*).




Thank you, Magaly, for giving me a weekend “off” a month, for injecting life and buoyancy into our site, and for reminding me that I have been neglecting my prose muscles. I am enjoying writing short prose bits very much. Poetry and prose go hand in hand - it is the stringing together of words that is the dance, and our delight, whatever name it is called by.


53 comments:

  1. Thanks, Magaly. Personally, I find the new feature energizing. Your positivity and energetic presence has breathed some new life and energy into our community. I had been neglecting my prose writing in favour of poetry for a long time, so it is fun to give prose a try again. I used to write a lot of prose. I applaud those who havent written prose before and are giving it a try. It all boils down to the same magic, whether prose or poetry - the stringing of words together in a way that conveys what we want to say in the best way we know how. It never gets old, the joy of it.

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    1. The magic of stringing words together in a way that conveys meaning and feeling, and if we’re lucky, brings joy too. I like that... a lot.

      Poetry didn’t happen naturally for me. I had to dance with it for a while, until I was able to see and appreciate it. Now, I love how my poetry and prose writing relate to each other. So much so, that I’ve been revising my pre-poetry prose, in order to incorporate some of what I’ve learned.

      Thank you so much, Sherry, for prosing and poem(ing) with me and for being fantastic. ♥️🖤

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    2. LOL. Well, you make me FEEL fantastic, anyway!

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  2. Thank you, Magaly. I missed the first two prose prompts while spending time with my daughter and grandson so I can't wait for the next one! I also write prose and have had some small success with short stories and flash fiction. But my first love is poetry. 😊

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    1. I used to love prose best. Then I realized that what I truly love is storytelling, so as long as I get to tell tales (or tale bits) with them, I love poetry and prose equally.

      I’m so happy you are excited about the next prompt. Who knows, maybe we’ll be very fortunate, and one of your stories will be about the fun you had with your daughter and grand baby! 😊

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  3. My first love is poetry too. I am looking forward to the next prose prompt too, Kim. I think quite a few of us have written prose as well as poetry. My online work for poetry takes a LOT of my time, and hav been neglecting prose. Happy to be reminded, I love it!

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    1. Sherry, for a while, I only wrote poetry online. The Pantry of Prose is my way of making it up to my Muse. She found my lack of online writing balance disturbing *grins*.

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  4. Broadening our horizons is a wonderful thing, and that is just what you are doing with this wonderful prompt Magaly! I love this closer look into the thoughts and birth of this prompt. Thank you both Sherry and Magaly!

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    1. You know, one of the inspirations behind this posts comes from my purchasing of your Butterflies and Land Mines, right after your chat with Sherry. I love that your book contains both poetry and essays. I've been working on a collection of stories and poems and essays (and probably a few screams, lol) and really like seeing how you did it.

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    2. Awww thank you so much for purchasing it Magaly! You made my day! I would love to read your collection of stories and poems and essays as well!! The screams would be great to read too. LOL :-))

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    3. Oh now that idea intrigues me, poetry and prose in the same book! My daughter suggested I do my memoir that way, interspersong poems with the story and the idea is definitely appealing.

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    4. @Carrie, I'm doing some writing and rewriting right now. If I don't get any more surprises *fingers crossed*, we should have something ready for the end of summer or beginning of fall.

      @Sherry, I think your daughter's idea is brilliant! Although, I might be a tad biased. That is how I'm writing The Cancer Book (which I said I would stop calling The Cancer Book but continue referring to it like that anyway, lol). It started almost by accident. But when I read the notes, they felt so natural. And I'm loving the process.

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  5. Magaly, I like the idea of (as you said) mixing it up a little bit. Adding prose to a poet's repertoire is a good thing, I think. I used to do prose writing, but that skill has languished for a while; so I like this new opportunity to redevelop it once a month. I think it is necessary sometimes to grow a bit out of my comfort zone anyway. Isn't that what life is about?

    I like the word limit, as it forces me to choose my words carefully. In that way, I think, the Pantry of Prose makes us (as poets) use our poetic word choice skills in writing a story or essay. I also like the idea that I get to see the prose writing of people who I had known as poets, seeing people in a different dimension.

    I personally look forward to writing and reading contributions to 'a pantry of prose' once a month. And, I hope as time goes on more poets will 'jump in.' (The water really IS fine! Smiles.)

    Thank you for this feature, both Sherry and Magaly!

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    1. I, too, find the word limit beneficial. My first drafts for the last two prompts have been at least 50 words over the 313 words minute. Elements and techniques I've learned through writing poetry really help me when trimming the extra ink-fat. And from the other side, I find that prose writing (storytelling, in particular) usually helps me shape my poems into wee tales (and I really like that).

      Thank you for reading, Mary, and for letting me bring my coffee mug and typewriter into Poets United.

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    2. We now have chained them to the desk, so you cant sneak away! LOL.

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  6. Hoping one day to jump in and get my prose muscles loosened up again!

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    1. Wonderful! I think I just saw your prose muscles flex in expectation.

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  7. Yay, Donna! Looking forward to it.

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  8. I am so thankful Magaly for you and for your prose prompts here. I have for so long wanted to write prose, prose that someone would want to read. I'm not really there yet, but I am growing.

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    1. Susie, we share a purpose: "prose that someone would want to read." This is what I love about doing prompts--poetry and prose alike--we get to read each other's words, find out what is liked and what doesn't work so well. I love that we can do this together! Thank you so much for taking part.

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  9. It's been a huge breakthrough for me! Most of my life I've been telling myself I'm no good at fiction, nor the more 'creative' kinds of non-fiction. And as poetry is my first love too, it seemed sensible to focus on that. Yet I now recall that as a youngster I liked making up stories in prose too. And just now, when I wondered why I stopped, the memory came of a beloved teacher discouraging me from making public a particular story – kindly, not nastily – suggesting the content was a bit too 'grown-up' and people 'wouldn't understand'. (I was basing it, quite innocently, on adult behaviour I saw around me, which I exaggerated to try and make it funny, as well as adult fiction I was reading ... my reading was precocious.) Somehow his words translated to me as me being wrong and weird – an impression I already got often enough from other kids. (I mean. who believes in fairies after they're old enough to start school? It was just that I really saw them ... but I learned to shut up about it.) So that was illuminating to discover! What if the reason I suck at fiction is that I have been subconsciously holding back and trying to make it 'acceptable'? A thing I'd never do in poetry! And meanwhile, you have already enticed me into one response to your prose prompts, Magaly, and I was tickled pink to have done that. What fun to have new directions opening up! I think the word limit is crucial for me in all this, too. It helps me incorporate my poetic skills, and I think the exercise of them gets me past whatever inhibitions I've had. So I thank you very much for bringing your idea to us and making the resultant prompts so inviting.

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    1. I wonder how many adults have stunted the creativity of a child while trying to be "nice". When I was a teenager, a "helpful" adult told me that I would never be able to be an English writer because I was already too old to ever learned the language properly. In an uncharacteristic sign of pettiness, I sent said adult a copy of my first writing award, with a note that read, "Look (insert name of bastard here), in English!" I was young and silly, don't judge me, lol!

      I love poetry. I love storytelling. And after reading what some writers have been able to do with both, I can't wait to love them together.

      My dearest and wildest, Rosemary, even if no one had chosen to participate in a Pantry of Prose, reading this response to it (after having read your first reaction *cough*) makes my day and probably my week. Heck! it makes my month.

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    2. Rosemary, I would LOVE to read prose pieces about your fairies. Seriously!!!!!!!!

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    3. Magaly, I LOVE that you sent that teacher your book. LOL!

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    4. *Gets on line to request Rosemary's fairy prose*

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    5. *not-so-quietly joins the line*

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  10. While I have yet to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity to contribute to this new feature, I couldn't be more enthusiastic and excited by the prospect of writing prose. (Scheduling snaffu's and a sick grandchild, I'm afraid, managed to turn those two weeks of writing to Magaly's previous prose prompts, on their heads. Let's hope the whirlwind has settled down by the next go-round ~ha~)

    One of the things I'm looking forward to, is the chance to inject my writing with more dialogue. Some stories simply beg for dialogue. They're incomplete without it. And while it is true that poems can contain a few lines of dialogue - it gets very cumbersome and decidedly non-lyrical very fast. Hence, I developed my 'little trick' of writing a piece of flash fiction, ending with a tanka - and Voilà - a tanka prose piece. Joking aside, I have found that the poetry/prose lines (a pun: lol) are becoming more and more fluid. Many poetry journals, are reflecting this, by referring to themselves as 'literary journals' and these include poetry, prose poetry and flash fiction (the difference between prose poetry and flash fiction being, I gather: prose poetry is driven by imagery and flash fiction is driven by narrative).

    As well as dialogue, I'm also excited by the prospect of injecting my work with more humor. Anyone who has followed my blog, for a time, knows that I do love playing around with words and humor. Usually I pen a humorous poem in rhyming metric lines (generally iambic pentameter). But rhyming metered lines are not subtle - and some of the best humor (more cerebral, shall we say) can be very subtle ... sometimes even sneaking up on the reader, several seconds after the line has been read. I suspect prose, is a better vehicle for subtle humor.

    On a personal note, I like the idea that my writing will remain, with my family, after I'm gone. My photographs and poems, reflect many of my experiences, philosophies and reflections - but some things require a precision - a clarity that can (with certain subject matter) be elusive to achieve with poetry. It will be lovely to speak to those topics in the voice of prose.

    Thank you so much, Magaly, for taking this project on, and providing us with the opportunity - and inspiration - to enjoy exploring, the fun to be had, writing prose.

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    1. Wendy, I love the points you've made... especially the part about how certain storytelling techniques don't always work when writing poetry and vice versa.

      And I'm right with you on how some stories can be told more effectively in prose, just like many sentiments seem to have been created for poetry.

      I'm very excited about the stories the future will bring.

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  11. Magaly - totally off topic - I love that picture of you. It tells so much about your fun loving and brave personality.
    On topic - I'm so glad you came up with this idea. I find it liberating. I first wrote prose, then intentionally started writing poetry hoping it would improve my writing. Not sure it has but I do know I enjoy both and both need tweaking. So I am so grateful for the opportunity to write poetry and prose in this wonderful venue. Thank you so much.

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    1. Thank you, Myrna, that's my "playing with my hair" picture. 😁

      Yay! One another soul who enjoys prose and poetry equally. How fantastic is that?

      I don't know if my prose writing has been improved by writing poetry either, but it has certainly been changed.

      Maybe if we start writing both with the same regularity, we will figure it out together.

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  12. I am loving the conversation here. Yay! Thanks for joining in so enthusiastically, fellow writers.

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  13. I am going to be very frank here 😊 when I found out there is going to be "Telling Tales with Magaly Guerrero: a Pantry of Prose," I jumped up and down on the bed and sang Hero by Chad Kroeger on top of my lungs giving my sister an amused laugh 💖 I am very happy about the idea of prose as I love exploring fiction and trying my hand on it.

    I haven't been able to participate due to being busy with NaPoWriMo but yes I am looking forward to writing in May as I have a few poems which I'd love to expand upon .. *wink wink*💖

    Thank you so much for featuring Magaly this week, Sherry 😊 and thank you for the opportunity to share yummy prose, Magaly 💖

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    1. I can imagine your squeals and your sister's amusement. You are not alone--I, too, did a significant amount of celebrating when I realized that I would be enjoying prose with other people.

      Can't wait to see what May will bring! 😉

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  14. I have nothing to add to the conversation. I'm just looking forward to your next prompt and seeing what I can do with the challenge. I enjoyed reading the responses you drew, Magaly!

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    1. I, too, am looking forward to reading the word-babes tomorrow's prompt will birth!

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  15. Magaly, thank you for the wonderful work with a Pantry of Prose.
    i have written a couple of stories but i cannot post because one exceeded the word limit and the other was not in line with the prompt.
    anyway, it is good that this has fired me up to write some prose, and i find it pretty refreshing. To go back to my roots, so to speak, as i started my literary journey writing essays and stories (and drawing comics). so yes, thanks again. :)

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    1. I had to slaughter so many darlings before being able to post the stories I shared on the last two prose prompts. 313 sounds like a lot, but when we are writing... wow! where did all the space go?

      I'm so happy you are considering playing with prose again. I can't wait to delight in your storytelling style. The idea of reading the prose of someone influenced by poetry and the visual power of comics is exciting!

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    2. 313 words is a real challenge for wordy old me. I generally write lengthy stories or memoir pieces. So this is an exercise in paring down, which is a good practice.

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  16. Okay, blame it on my laziness for never having given a thought to writing prose. I tried however. Another fiction prompt in a site there is for 100 word stories which I tried my hands at once or twice. But your prose prompt is irresistible Magaly. So I am loving it here; enjoying & looking forward to the next one. Thank you.

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    1. After reading the magical-realist-surreal-poetic voice of your stories I can't believe you haven't shared more of that yum before. Your prose reads exactly what I thought the prose of a poet would read like.

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  17. Thanks Maga for sharing your thoughts and what inspired the Pantry of Prose. Though I’ve yet to contribute, I certainly welcome the new/prose feature (for my own selfish reasons, of course) as I’m working more on prose than poetry at this point.

    The prompt provides a wonderful opportunity to share prose writings within the PU community as we already do with poetry. For some of us whose aim is to write and sell other works too, I don't doubt it will help us grow as writers and be able to penetrate other writing markets.

    “I hoped the time would come when we could work on synopses, book proposals, creative book reviews… and pretty much anything which might help us share our words (both Prose and Poetry) with a larger audience.” This is my greatest wish too, with such a big and talented community of writers the ways we could support each other’s works are endless.

    Thanks to all poets&writers in our midst, who provide various writing prompts. My writing is much richer for having participated in them than my muse can provide inspiration.

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    1. It seems we are writing in the same ink-waves, Khaya. Yay! for that. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the bit you quoted. I think that if we practice writing everything from blurbs to proposals, we can help each other by sharing what works, what doesn't (and, perhaps, how to improve).

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  18. Speaking as a reader, I'm an unabashed word slut. I love what reading both does to my mind and heart, the subtleties of feeling they tease from me. I can lose myself happily in either one's embrace.

    As a writer I can't just lay back and enjoy the rush. Engaging with each style on its own terms forces my mind to think in different ways. I count this as a wholly good thing, because rigidity in approaching any artistic endeavor will eventually choke the life from it. Why not play around with new things? Why not, as the great sage Miss Frizzle said, take chances, make mistakes, and get messy? Even if one has a preference for a particular form over the other, won't experimenting in a less favored form help you understand new nuances in the way words can combine to create the effects you want?

    Maybe I see it this way because to me words are the most important thing, not the delivery method. Poetry and prose are different paintbrushes I use to get the words onto the canvass. I choose which tool I want with my vision for the final image in mind.

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    1. I've already noticed how you ogle prose and poetry alike. I would be embarrassed by your word-lust if I wasn't affected just the same--poems and stories are just sooo... delicious!

      I love your closing metaphor. I love it and believe it. I just love words that help us grow and feel and recognize ourselves in other people's art, regardless of how said words are presented.

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  19. What a wonderful conversation this is. Rommy, I would love to feature the sage Miss Frizzle. Can you put me in touch? LOL. (Actually, looking in the mirror at my wild frizzy hair, maybe she isnt that far away.)

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  20. I remember writing to the first prose prompt. Then, I wasn't sure how I did with it so, my insecurity made me take it down. Poetry is easier for me I guess. I will try again :)

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    1. Ha, Truedessa, I was sure you had shared something as I saw it on the Sunday night when I was tired & planned to comment in the morning. When I looked in the morning, it wasn't there. I DO hope you will share next time...I like the way you write.

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    2. Truedessa, I share Mary’s thoughts. I really hope you try again. Not just because I love your entry (and selfish moi would love to read my dreamy spirit journal tales), but also because it brings variety to the prompt. Again, I hope you give it a go in May. 🖤♥️

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  21. Magaly, I love this interview! You are an amazing person and an amazing writer! Big Hugs!

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