Friday, April 11, 2014


It’s time to gather that stack of books, build the blanket fort, and stockpile the snack foods…

Tomorrow is Drop Everything And Read Day!

This special day actually made its debut in a work of fiction. Author Beverly Cleary wrote about D.E.A.R. in her 1982 Newbery Honor book Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Since then, “Drop Everything And Read” programs have become a nonfictional reality all over the globe.

Of course, every day is Drop Everything And Read Day here at The Elbow.

After all…

“I cannot live without books.”
— Thomas Jefferson

“If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.”
— Sherman Alexie

“I owe everything I am and everything I will ever be to books.”
— Gary Paulsen


“We read to know that we are not alone.”
— C.S. Lewis

I’m certainly never alone when I've got a jumble of books strewn about me... Yes, I've written before about my “ferocious” reading habit.

Here’s my current list of books-in-progress:

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Macbeth by William Shakespeare (the current read-aloud with the family)
The Writing Life by Ellen Gilchrist
Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck

So, what will you be reading tomorrow?

Well, you’d better have something.

After all, some of us side with the Lemony man…

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”
— Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler)

“Be awesome! Be a book nut!”
— Dr. Seuss

You know what to do.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bovines and the Bards

Serious poetic potential here — and that’s no bull.

Like everybody else, writers eat up a lot of life experiences — both the sweet clover kind and the nasty weedy ones.

But after all of that experiencing, writers become a lot less like people and a lot more like cows.

Writers love to take their life stuff, wander off to quiet meadows (the places most other folks call offices), and get down to the business of chewing cud. In fact, I'm convinced that the vast majority of writers are introverts simply because no one really wants to chew on regurgitated, partially-digested life experiences in public…

Well, it’s a theory.

Anyway, the awesome result of all this cud chewing is often a product totally unlike the field fodder. And sometimes, if we’re lucky — it can be so wonderfully rich and full of butterfat that it’s basically Häagen-Dazs on the page.

Yep, cows get my vote as the official mascots for Team Writer.

In fact, just hanging around a herd of them can compel even the most unlikely folks to pick up the pen. How else do you explain the entire genre of cowboy poetry?

Clearly those boys are inspired by the moos.

And while we’re celebrating National Poetry Month, you can, too!

So, get on some giddy-up and write yourself a posse of poems about life on the range — even if the only range you've ever known is made by GE.

For a peck of inspiration, ride off to the nearest ranch, or take the city slicker route with this link to Cowboy Bob’s Dictionary.

After you've done the above, here’s a simple test to check whether you’re really ready to pick up the cowpoke pen:

Question: What’s a metaphor?

Answer: Why, fer grazin’ yer cattle, ya greenhorn!

Today as yer a-spinnin’
‘round this big ol’ ball o’ mud -
Save yerself a piece o’ time,
Just fer chewin’ up yer cud.

Okay, okay, I’m no poet lariat, but you know what to do.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Do you dread that first page in the morning?

Is its cold white stare creeping you out a bit, or worse —

giving you a certifiable case of tabula-rasa-phobia?

Well, suffer no more, Elbow-Benders!

Start your writing day the blackout way instead.

This method was developed by writer/artist Austin Kleon back when he was struggling with a pretty severe case of writer’s block.

At the time, one thought kept haunting him —

I don’t have any words.

But then he looked into his recycling bin and saw a big pile of newspapers.
Suddenly, a second thought popped into his head —

Right over there are millions of them!

So, Austin picked up a newspaper and pulled out one of his drawing markers. Then he began deleting words while leaving others to just float there on the page. He likens the process to those word search puzzles many of us enjoyed as kids.

So did it cure Austin’s writer’s block?

Let’s see…

Austin Kleon is now a New York Times bestselling author with three illustrated books in print: Newspaper Blackout, Steal Like An Artist, and Show Your Work!


I think he’s cured.

Step 1: Get yourself a newspaper — you know, one of those quaint periodicals that lets you read yesterday’s news on actual paper.
Step 2: Arm yourself with a black permanent marker.
Step 3: Cross out everything on the page that's not a poem.
Step 4: Submit your poem to and share it with the world! (The site publishes blackout poems from readers all over the planet and has over 125,000 visitors daily!)

Delete on!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Random Acts of Poetry

Dinosaurs, road kill, grumpy basilisk,
Wontons, cherry pie, itchy kitchen whisk,
Orange pants, hula hoops, purple-backed sphinx,
Hopscotch, Frankenstein, bumpy roller rinks.

Cranky Sue, pitch forks, fabulously green,
Fruit cake, super glue, captivated spleen,
Dragon eye, night crawler, sticky candle wax,
Bubble gum, firefly, broken income tax.

Ain't it funny, ain't it cute, ridiculously true 
The whole world finds a way to live inside of you!

Yep, we're continuing our celebration of National Poetry Month with a whole heap of serious foolishness!

I hope that you've been getting your poetry game on each and every day.

But alas, I hear that some folks out there are trapped within the box, cage, and compound of highfalutin poetry.

Is this you?

Well, Cupcake, I am here to set you free!

Any poetry will do  whether it’s a rhymer, no rhymer, sometimes rhymer, or two-timer. Just throw words together and aim for the heart.

And remember 

There's no such thing as bad poetry…

Just bad people

who think

poems stink.

PROMPT: Boy howdy, it's random poetry day! So, dig around in your cupboards, peek under beds, and clean out the kitchen sink (that’s where I found my basilisk)  no doubt, you’ll find words in these places that have all the makings of a good poem. Sure, you can look to the speckled heavens, chuckling brooks, and barefoot meadows, too. It’s up to you. Simply smack some phrases on your pages  just for the JOY of it!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Poetry Perks

As we launch into week 2 of National Poetry Month, you may be asking what poetry can do for you…

Besides save you from a miserable death, of course.

Well, poetry just so happens to be a terrific cure for writer’s block (I know, I know, a fate far worse than a miserable death for some).

The fabulous J.R.R. Tolkien often used poetry as a block breaker. Whenever he was stuck in the process of creating a story, he’d simply start writing out his thoughts in verse.

Tolkien wrote, “The first version of the song of Strider concerning Luthien originally appeared in the Leeds University magazine, but the whole tale, as sketched by Aragorn, was written in a poem of great length” (from The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter).

Given this technique, it’s not surprising that Tolkien’s prose often reads with such a delicious cadence.

Research also shows that reading and writing poetry can make you more creative.

Poet, writer, and serious business dude Dana Gioia couldn’t agree more. He reports that when he worked in the business world… “I felt I had an enormous advantage over my colleagues because I had a background in imagination, language, and literature.”

And how did this advantage pan out?

Gioia happens to be credited with reversing a long-running decline in gelatin dessert sales when he and his team created the super-sensational…

Jell-O Jiggler.

Clearly, additional proof of the power of poetry is unnecessary…

But I’ll give you another bit anyway.

On the clinical side of things, poetry has actually been found to be a terrific weapon for fighting depression

A study in Great Britain found that 7% of depressed and stressed out patients were able to wean themselves off of medication through the simple daily practice of penning poetry.

So, if you want to beat the block, become a mover and shaker (literally) in the business world, or get a great big bunch of happy, now is the time to…

Rhyme on!

PROMPT: Use the Tolkien technique of putting your project in verse first. Try it with your current manuscript or as a way to jump-start your next one. Then shake things up a bit — I’m thinking an ode to the Jell-O Jiggler will do the trick.