Archive for August, 2011

Today’s Writer’s Tip: Are You a Poet?

Stream of sunset through white pines


What Kind of Poet Are You?

I’m sure if you’ve dabbled in any kind of poetry writing, you probably started with silly little rhyming patterns like I did. But after awhile, you might have gotten brave enough to try something different like Free Verse, Blank Verse, or Haiku. I’ve tried my hand at all of them, but I still like the simple iambic pentameter style of rhyme.

Let’s take a look at the most popular styles of poetry. In today’s blog, we’ll look at Free Verse.

Definition of Free Verse

Free Verse is a form of poetry composed of either rhymed or unrhymed lines that have no set fixed metrical pattern. The early 20th-century poets were the first to write what they called “Free Verse,” which allowed them to break from the formula and rigidity of traditional poetry. The poetry of Walt Whitman (1819-1892) provides many illustrations of Free Verse, including his poem “Song of Myself.” Here’s a stanza from that well-known poem:

“Song of Myself”
Walt Whitman

 “I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loaf and invite my soul,
I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.”

This poem is pages and pages long and quite impressive. To check the entire poem, go to:


One of my favorite stanzas is this one about a horse:

A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my caresses,
Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears,
Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,
Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving.

His nostrils dilate as my heels embrace him,
His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure as we race around and return.

I but use you a minute, then I resign you, stallion,
Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them?
Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you.


I remember reading this poem, or parts of it, in high school, and I’ve always remembered this beautiful ode to the animal that I love so much. Years, later, I wrote my own poem about a horse and had the free verse published in a small poetry booklet, “Time of Singing” (Volume 27, Fall 2000; editor: Lora Zill)


“Sorrel Majesty”


When I saw his majestic muscular beauty

And delicate sleekness,

My eager heart stood still.

He pranced with such royal dignity

That my soul bowed,

A peasant before the king.

With proud neck arched

And tail obedient to the wind,

The snorting engine nodded.

His keen ears searched.

His fiery spirit traced my slightest breath.

My trembling fingers reached

Toward a trembling velvet nose.

And we both knew …

He was mine.


So, you see, if you have a passion about any topic, you could write “poetry.” Try your hand at it; I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And send me via email a sample of your work.

Next time, we’ll take a look at Blank Verse.

Happy writing!


P.S. It’s still not too late to register for the 8th Susquehanna Valley Writers Workshop. For details and a registration form, go to:


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Today’s Writers’ Tip: Writing Fiction Plots Outside the Box


 (Enjoy some of my photography with each new writers’ tips post

 every other Monday!)

Evening Rays in White Pines

 View this photo on the Birds and Blooms website: http://www.birdsandblooms.com/

(Forgive me for posting this blog two days late. It was due on Monday, August 8th, but my Internet was down and had to have a tech support person from Wild Blue come to my house and “fix” the connection. Water from heavy rains had zapped a part of the satellite dish. The tech guy just left.)

A week ago last Friday, I returned from teaching a beginners’ basic course on writing at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference inMontrose,PA.This conference is a wonderful experience for any writer at any level in his/her career to attend. Every year there are workshops and classes presented by a faculty of at least 12 published authors, agents, or editors representing various genres and subgenres.

In my continuing morning class, we discussed anything and everything from query letters and proposals to marketing yourself and your work. I also presented a detailed Power Point on the good elements of fiction, including how to write “outside the box.” I thought I’d share a few of those pointers with you in this post.

First, we need to define the term “outside the box.” What in heaven’s name does that mean? “Write outside the box.”

Well, in plain language, it means to write a plot that doesn’t have a normal humdrum boring story line.

As a short exercise in my presentation, I always cite some average boring story lines and ask my class to change the plot so that it’s outside the box. One example I cite is the following:

“A little girl finds a nest of baby bunnies in her back yard.”

Now, of course, everyone is immediately drawn to the “outside the box” famous children’s story, Alice in Wonderland, where Alice finds a whole new world, not a nest of baby bunnies.

Several years ago, I presented this workshop to a group of writers and asked how to change the story line. One fellow in the back of the room raised his hand and said, “How about if a big rabbit finds a nest of little girls in his back yard?”

I said to him, “Sir, you are DEFINITELY thinking outside the box. Go for it.”

Just for the fun of it, I’m going to list about 10 different story lines. Analyze each one. If you can change the plot to move it outside the box, do so. But some of the story lines are already outside the box and are, in fact, famous stories or books written by best-selling published authors. See if you can identify those that are already great plots.

So, which of these would you like to continue to read?

  1. A little girl saves enough money to buy a horse at auction.
  2. A bitter sea captain of a sailing ship hunts for a white sperm whale to kill him.
  3. A newly married couple tours Paris,France, and enjoys all the sites.
  4. A boy is shipwrecked on an island with only a wild stallion that won’t let him get near him.
  5. A middle-aged woman works at Wal-Mart, saving enough money to take a trip toHawaii.
  6. A young pioneer woman is left alone on the prairie in her covered wagon when her husband falls from his horse and is killed.
  7. The neighbor’s cat has a litter of six kittens underneath a little boy’s porch.
  8. A collie dog, sold and taken away from the boy he loves, travels a long distance through life-threatening dangers to return to his boy.
  9. A young unmarried girl decides to marry her childhood sweetheart.
  10. An unmarried woman on a plantation in a southern state faces the harsh reality of post Civil War life and the loss of all she held dear.

Well, how did you do? Did you analyze the boring plots and decide what you could do to make them better? (Numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9)

And did you identify the best-selling books/movies in numbers 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10?






When you analyze what makes these million dollar story lines what they are, you’ll be on your way to writing, possibly, the next great American novel. And all the while you’re writing, keep on reading. Read tons of books, especially in the subgenre in which you are writing, and learn how the masters did it. Maybe some day, your name will be on a best-seller list with the rest of them!

Next time, we’ll discuss different types of poetry: free verse, blank verse, and rhyming verse.


Attention! It’s not too late to sign up for our Susquehanna Valley Writers Workshop in Lewisburg, PA, on October 7th and 8th.  Go to www.susquehannavalleywritersworkshop.wordpress.com  for the details or contact me for a brochure at marshahubler@wildblue.net

 Happy writing!



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