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Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino February 2023

Welcome to the Saddle Up Saloon where we feature interactive characters, real-life authors & poets, the occasional Carrot Ranch announcement, and a Cowsino story game every first Friday of the month. You can learn about the craft of creative writing, introduce your own characters to the Kid & Pal crew, discuss the writer’s journey, and be part of making literary art accessible to anyone.

“Hey Pal.”

“Kid, how’s it goin here at the Saddle Up?”

“Purty good so far. As ya kin see, Frankie an Burt are gittin their second wind afore continuin with their mail deliveries. Couple a women I ain’t seen b’fore showed up. Mebbe they’re from back east. A little one with big hair an a big one with little hair. They went inta the Cowsino.”

“Thet’s right! First Friday of a new month, thet means a new prompt from the ol story spine slot machine. Well, I hope they have fun playin. Reckon they kin read the directions down below fer themsefs.”

 🥕🥕🥕

“Cowsino? Hey, look, Marge, there’s an old-style slot machine! I told you this saloon would be a fun change for us.”

“Seems a bit gimmicky to me Ilene. Really? There’s a pig and a horse at the bar! When I said something about it that woman with the mail bag gave me a funny look. And those two in the hats? They’re just funny looking.”

“Be nice Marge. Come on let’s try this slot machine. Oh, interesting. It’s a writing game… using the three pictures in any order… okay, I’ll try…

Once upon a time that pesky little Cupid kept buzzing around like a deerfly until finally it bit the reluctant one-legged cowgirl princess.

Every day her cowboy cooed and wooed, brought her roses and stuff like that until they finally shacked up together.

Because of that he got complacent. There was no wooing and less cooing and he didn’t help with the dishes. She noticed the last rose forgotten in the vase, all thorny stem, its bloom blackened and brittle. She noticed that Cupid’s sting was beginning to fester and itch.

Finally, she pulled on her boot and walked.

“What do you think Marge? It’s 99 words exactly! The title is, ‘This Boot Is made For Walking’.”

“I think you should keep your day job Ilene.”

“That was fun. Now you try it.”

“Only if you go to the bar and get me another beer. Okay, let’s see…

One time a highly successful and skillful fisherwoman found herself in Florida, of all places. Every day she wanted to go fishing but what passed for creeks looked like ditches and were lined with alligators and snakes, not to mention snarly, snaggly brambles. Fishing was challenging until she switched her rod and reel for a small bow and arrow. Because of that alligators stopped chasing her bait and it was easier to maneuver. Her tall boots protected her from snakes and thorns. Finally, she’d found a way to put fish in the dish, but couldn’t wait to go home.

“Just in time with my beer, Ilene. Tada! Also 99 words, though I notice that is not a requirement for this writing game.”

“Really, Marge, you saw fishing from those pictures, not romance?”

“It was romantic, or at least Ernest thought it would be, a trip south.”

“Did you go to the beach?”

“Yes, we surf casted. I got snook and redfish. Ernest caught a jeep and gave up. Then he caught a sunburn which brought an end to some of the romance.”

“Maybe you should bring him to this place. Try a little ranch romance.”

“Do you think he’d mind that there’s a pig and a horse in the bar?”

“Probably not. He puts up with your friends, and they’re asses.”

“He doesn’t mind Nard or Nick— because they’re my asses.”

“He is sweet, your Ernest. Don’t let that one go, Marge.”

🥕🥕🥕

“Well folks, as you kin see, all are welcome in the Saddle Up an anyone kin try their hand at the story spine slot machine, as many times as they like. Come by ta write, read, or jist socialize.”

“Yep, this prompt is up all month an we’re open 24/7.”

Rules of Play

  1. Use the three pictures that spin to a stop as inspiration or subjects (use in any order).
  2. Write seven sentences following the Story Spine (you don’t have to use the phrases of each step):
    • Once upon a time…
    • Every day…
    • Until…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Finally…
  3. Share your story here at the Saloon (post on the story/comment board below).
  4. No links to other places. Play the slots as much as you like (you can write more than one story).
  5. Say howdy to those playing with you! Be friendly and have fun!

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and built the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino January 2023

Welcome to the Saddle Up Saloon where we feature interactive characters, real-life authors & poets, the occasional Carrot Ranch announcement, and a Cowsino story game every first Friday of the month. You can learn about the craft of creative writing, introduce your own characters to the Kid & Pal crew, discuss the writer’s journey, and be part of making literary art accessible to anyone.

“Yeehaw! The Cowsino’s done rolled over inta the new year! Write on, Pal!”

“Yep, we’re carryin on, openin up the back room a the saloon ta folks thet wanna take a gamble on this story prompt. The slot machine’s handle’s been pulled an the images has been rolled over too.”

“Well, move over, Pal, I gotta see what turned up this time. Oh. My. What the heck?”

“Step aside, Kid, they’s folks’ll know what ta do with them images. Member they’re jist an inspiration an they kin be rearranged in the story.”

“Yep, we’re pretty easy goin, it’s all jist ta git people ta writin an mebbe steppin outta their comfort zone.”

“Thinkin this could be a purty comfterble prompt, Kid. With thet story spine format there’s a structure ta follow, ya know, beginnin, middle, end, with clear cause an effect to steer the story.”

“Yep, a one thing leads ta anuther sort a story, but I notice some folks don’t always use the sentence starters, they find other wordin.”

“Thet’s okay too. An remember, we don’t count words fer this prompt.”

“So what’re we waitin fer? Step right up folks. The images have rolled ta a stop, the rules are posted below. Have fun, an play as often as ya like.”

“Yep. Ya’ve got till the first Friday a next month ta try yer hand with this prompt. Then we’ll do it agin!”

Rules of Play

  1. Use the three pictures that spin to a stop as inspiration or subjects (use in any order).
  2. Write seven sentences following the Story Spine (you don’t have to use the phrases of each step):
    • Once upon a time…
    • Every day…
    • Until…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Finally…
  3. Share your story here at the Saloon (post on the story/comment board below).
  4. No links to other places. Play the slots as much as you like (you can write more than one story).
  5. Say howdy to those playing with you! Be friendly and have fun!

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and built the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon: Snowed In

Welcome to the Saddle Up Saloon where we feature interactive characters, real-life authors & poets, the occasional Carrot Ranch announcement, and a Cowsino story game every first Friday of the month. You can learn about the craft of creative writing, introduce your own characters to the Kid & Pal crew, discuss the writer’s journey, and be part of making literary art accessible to anyone.

“Shut the front door Kid! The snow’s driftin in.”

“Yep, it’s really comin down out there Pal. Even a virtual ranch ain’t ‘scapin this weather. But whut’re we doin? Thought Carrot Ranch was stuck in the ditch with tech troubles.”

“Shorty’ll dig the Ranch outta thet mess, Kid. In the mean time all the ranchers is takin a break, mebbe tendin ta themselves an families, mebbe stoppin by the campfire ta chat. Mebbe, if they’re lookin fer a prompt they’ll pop inta the Cowsino. It’s still open.”

“Well, if everone’s on a break, whut’re we doin here?”

“Really, Kid? Where would we go? We live here. Asides, there’s always sumthin needs tendin, ‘tween the Ranch an the Saloon.”

“Yep. I been busy gittin ready fer this snowstorm.”

“Ya fed the hosses an cattle?”

“Yep. An I drove way up inta the far reaches a the ranch ta leave off some feed fer the unicorns.”

“Thought ya didn’t believe in thet.”

“Well, jist in case. Cain’t have em goin hungry. Left em some hay, some magic beans from Pepe an Logatha, an a course a bunch a carrots, carrots a all colors, all shapes an sizes.”

“Ya done good Kid.”

“Thanks, Pal. I also was out there building snowfolks.”

“Ya been playin in this storm?”

“Not zactly playin. Figgered rollin the snow up inta snowballs is a way ta contain it, keep it from pilin up quite so deep. But it’s comin down so fast, I had ta stack the snowfolks one on top a the other. Looks like jist a few out there but there’s more, they’s standin on each other’s shoulders.”  

“They soun like real supportive snowfolks, Kid, the sort we’d ‘spect at Carrot Ranch.”

“Pal? I hate ta put more problems on Shorty’s plate, but I’m gittin worried.”

“Bout whut?”

“Tween feedin the unicorns an givin all them snowfolks a nose, I’m worried the Ranch might run outta carrots!”

“Ya never need ta worry bout thet, Kid. Theys carrots aplenny, year round, thicker’n stardust. So brush thet snow off an you take a break too.”

“What’s all this, Pal? A celebration?”

“Let’s leave thet up ta people’s ‘maginations. Jist know thet the Saloon is warm an cozy with lights an all the Ranch Yarn characters are here, sharin food an drink an stories ‘mongst themselves till the Ranch is up an runnin again. Real folks is welcome ta join in too, or kin send their characters by. We’ll look fer ya in the comments.”

“It’s real nice Pal. Bet them lights shine roun the world!”

“Yep. They do. Annii. May the light of peace an goodwill shine for all.”

“Annii.”

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and built the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Conversation at Carrot Ranch

You might call this a bit of a holiday break.

I had fully intended to take a year-end break to learn from the past year and further the vision for the next. Visioning is an important part of my process and I take my year-end vision work both seriously and playfully. Due to the difficulties at the present moment, I thought this would be a good time to break.

Hugh and Colleen were correct. After multiple exchanges with the Happiness Engineers, they determined that the edit feature I used was indeed theme-related and that theme is now retired. Ugh. Poor timing because I wasn’t yet ready for the transfer of the website to its new format. I can’t figure it out during these last two weeks of school. My students need my focus. I need to stay the course and grade 54 final papers.

I’m not sure how or when I can round up the last two Collections, but I can’t keep collecting without a reasonable way to do it. The mere thought of “getting behind” creates a sense of anxiety for me. So, I’m pausing the Challenges and Collections to regroup and accelerate some of my 2023 plans. The Challenges are going to go on hiatus until January 1, 2023.

However, this is going to be a campfire break. Time to sit around the warm flames with a favorite beverage and converse. Each week, I’m going to prompt a conversation in a similar way to what I do in my classroom. Like I tell my students, the way to cultivate original ideas is to share your thoughts with others. There are no wrong answers and different answers demonstrate original thinking. And that’s a good thing!

Let’s get a fire started. Gather round and ponder this — what role does conversation have in your writing? Do you use conversation to process your story ideas? Do you let your characters talk to tell you the story? Do you stay silent, preferring not to talk about your writing or works in process?

Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino December 2022

Welcome to the Saddle Up Saloon where we feature interactive characters, real-life authors & poets, the occasional Carrot Ranch announcement, and a Cowsino story game every first Friday of the month. You can learn about the craft of creative writing, introduce your own characters to the Kid & Pal crew, discuss the writer’s journey, and be part of making literary art accessible to anyone.

“Kid! Bout time ya showed up. Ya know I like ta be on time fer special events.”

“The Cowsino’s a special event? But it’s ever first Friday of ever month, Pal. What’s so special bout it?”

“Sometimes ya jist flabbergast me Kid. By havin the Cowsino at the Saddle Up Saloon we pervide folks with another place ta play with words.”

“Seems like a fun place ta play with one anuther too, Pal. Ya know, commentin an discussin with one anuther.”

“Zactly Kid. It ain’t zactly like the prompt fer the 99-word challenges though.”

“No, there ain’t Shorty’s purty prose to set ya up. Jist the roll a the images in the slot machine.” “Yep, luck a the draw.”

“Think ya mean luck a the spin, Pal. An what ya git is what ya git, but ya kin switch the order a the images.”

“An no word count. But folks are incouraged ta follow the story spine format, as outlined in the ‘Rules of Play’ below.”

“Why’s that Pal? What’s the value in that?”

“Anythin thet gits a writer writin is a win, Kid.”

“Seems kinda like a recipe er somethin.”

“Yep. A classic recipe. Ya gotta follow a recipe afore ya go changin it. But dispite folks followin the recipe an usin the same three pictures, everone thet’s played has cooked up unique an savory stories, no two alike.”

“Reckon it’s a nice change a pace fer the writers an mebbe a good exercise in layin down a story quickly.”

“Yep. Thinkin the structure’s nough ta git em up an goin at a good clip, without ramblin too far afield.”

“Kin always go back ta yer story spine story an put more meat on the bones.”

“Yep. That’s jackpot!”

“Okay then folks, try yer hand at the slot machine. Give some backbone ta them three images an leave yer story for us in the comments section.”

“Ya kin leave multiple stories! Ya gotta play ta win.”

Rules of Play

  1. Use the three pictures that spin to a stop as inspiration or subjects (use in any order).
  2. Write seven sentences following the Story Spine (you don’t have to use the phrases of each step):
    • Once upon a time…
    • Every day…
    • Until…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Finally…
  3. Share your story here at the Saloon (post on the story/comment board below).
  4. No links to other places. Play the slots as much as you like (you can write more than one story).
  5. Say howdy to those playing with you! Be friendly and have fun!

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and built the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Technical Difficulties

Aanii, Carrot Ranchers!

I’m looking for the light within the technical tunnel that is Word Press. After system-wide updates, I can no longer access your stories in a formatted form. Think, 99-word run-ons! Oh, my!

I contacted the Happiness Engineers, who are light workers, indeed. However, they are puzzled because they didn’t know this edit feature existed, let alone that I rely upon it to gather stories from the hopper. I assured them the edit feature has existed since 2014.

Right now, the Oh, My Collection is incomplete because the change happened midway through. I will likely have to figure out a new system unless Word Press offers a fix. I do know of a workaround but I deleted emails before I realized I would need them. Please be patient with me as I sort it out. I’m aiming for Saturday to post but it depends on the follow-up the Happiness Engineers promised me tomorrow.

Wherever you are in the world right now, be a light. We all need kindness and grace to get through. Stay centered in your integrity. Uplift others and take care of yourselves.

And be sure to play the slots at the Cowsino, tomorrow! It’s a great writing game to play with the story spine concept. D. Avery is a good buckaroo and makes the Saloon a fun and engaging place. Let your characters come out and play.

Peace & Happiness!

Charli, a buckaroo in search of a stone or a story

Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino November 2022

Welcome to the Saddle Up Saloon where we feature interactive characters, real-life authors & poets, the occasional Carrot Ranch announcement, and a Cowsino story game every first Friday of the month. You can learn about the craft of creative writing, introduce your own characters to the Kid & Pal crew, discuss the writer’s journey, and be part of making literary art accessible to anyone.

“Hey Pal. Yeehaw! Another Cowsino Night at the ol Saddle Up Saloon!”

“Glad ya could make it Kid. Whut took ya so long?”

“Had ta git ma Cowsino git-up on. Got ma green visor, ma arm gaiters.”

“It’s quite a git-up Kid, but ya do realize we ain’t dealin cards, right? An, despite the most recent prompt, there ain’t no roulette wheel. Not sure ya need thet fer the slot machine. Speakin a which, let’s git on back there an see what the one-armed bandit has fer us this time.”

“You ain’t done that yet?”

“I ain’t the one whut pulls the lever. Shorty does thet.”

“Oh. All this time I figgered you done it Pal. Yer usually here ahead a me an I jist assumed.”

“Nope. Shorty.”

“So Pal, what zactly do we do?”

“Thet’s a tough one Kid. The rules a play is already posted… Folks jist come by an play and socialize… hmm. Reckon we don’t do much Kid.”

“Well, leastways one of us looks good not doin much a anythin.”

“Hmmf. Let’s go Kid, it’s time.”

“Write on Pal!”

Rules of Play

  1. Use the three pictures that spin to a stop as inspiration or subjects (use in any order).
  2. Write seven sentences following the Story Spine (you don’t have to use the phrases of each step):
    • Once upon a time…
    • Every day…
    • Until…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Finally…
  3. Share your story here at the Saloon (post on the story/comment board below).
  4. No links to other places. Play the slots as much as you like (you can write more than one story).
  5. Say howdy to those playing with you! Be friendly and have fun!

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and built the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino October 2022

Welcome to the Saddle Up Saloon where we feature interactive characters, real-life authors & poets, the occasional Carrot Ranch announcement, and a Cowsino story game every first Friday of the month. You can learn about the craft of creative writing, introduce your own characters to the Kid & Pal crew, discuss the writer’s journey, and be part of making literary art accessible to anyone.

“Welcome back ta the Cowsino, ever’one. It’s the spot where ya git anuther chance ta practice yer writin chops without leavin the comfort an safety a the Carrot Ranch Literary Community.”

“Thet’s right, Kid. The famous story spine slot machine is in the Cowsino, at the Saddle Up Saloon, jist over the line from Carrot Ranch.”

“Atchally, Pal, I think it’s me an you that’s over the line. The Saddle Up is a part a the ranch, a waterin hole an restin place fer all our ranch hands an even their characters. But what ‘xactly is this story spine?”

“I first heard a story spine back in January 2020, in one a the challenge posts. In thet post lead buckaroo, Charli Mills, says the story spine kin be anuther draftin an problem solvin tool fer writers.”

“Reckon I’ll click HERE ta re-read that post an find out more.”

“Reckon thet’s a good idea. An in thet post is THIS LINK ta Aerogramme Writers’ Studio where teacher, author, and the Artistic Director of Synergy Theater Kenn Adams tells bout Story Spine, which he created in 1991.”

“But it’s basically jist a structure ta contain yer story?”

“Yeah, Kid, jist a way ta plot yer rersponse ta the three pictures thet come up on the slot machine. Ya kin switch the order a the pictures an the story ain’t gotta be zactly 99 words, not at the Cowsino.”

“An folks play as much as they like? Post their stories there in the comments; read an comment on other’s?”

“Yep, it’s a lot a low stakes fun. The rules a play’s listed below.”

“Well, then folks, look’t them pictures an play yer hand. We’ll catch ya in the comments.”

Rules of Play

  1. Use the three pictures that spin to a stop as inspiration or subjects (use in any order).
  2. Write seven sentences following the Story Spine (you don’t have to use the phrases of each step):
    • Once upon a time…
    • Every day…
    • Until…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Finally…
  3. Share your story here at the Saloon (post on the story/comment board below).
  4. No links to other places. Play the slots as much as you like (you can write more then one story).
  5. Say howdy to those playing with you! Be friendly and have fun!

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and built the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino September 2022

Welcome to the Saddle Up Saloon where we feature interactive characters, real-life authors & poets, the occasional Carrot Ranch announcement, and a Cowsino story game every first Friday of the month. You can learn about the craft of creative writing, introduce your own characters to the Kid & Pal crew, discuss the writer’s journey, and be part of making literary art accessible to anyone.

“Well, yer a week late Kid. Jist hope ya ain’t a dollar short.”

“Don’t need a dollar. The Cowsino’s part a the Saddle Up Saloon, an the Saddle Up Saloon’s a part a Carrot Ranch. No need ta pay, Pal.”

“Thet’s right Kid. Folks kin play thet slot machine fer free an as many times as they like.”

“It’s a guaranteed winner!”

“Still, ya must a lost track a time or somethin Kid. Why’d ya miss pullin the arm a thet slot machine last Friday?”

“Jist did, is all.”

“Did ya go somewhere’s?”

“I dunno, it’s hard sayin.”

“Try.”

“Okay…

Once upon a time…

“Last week?”

“Yeah, last week. Every day led ta anuther. Until our writer ended up stayin over ta housesit an take care a the puppies an chickens. Because a that she was all discombobulated, knew it was the weekend an all but missed that it were a new month. Because a bein outta place an outta sorts, she ended up readin a fair amount, got lost in books. Because of that, she weren’t jist outta place, she was outta time an that long weekend went by quickly.

“Then what happened?”

Finally ever’one ended up in their own homes an that’s when our writer finally recollected that we don’t exactly write ourselves. She needs ta least push the buttons.”

“Sometimes you push my buttons Kid, but I reckon it’s okay. Better late then never.

“Alright folks, have a look at what’s rolled aroun fer this month’s Cowsino story spine prompt. Share yer stories in the comments below an be sure ta read an comment on others’ stories.”

“Have fun!”

Rules of Play

  1. Use the three pictures that spin to a stop as inspiration or subjects (use in any order).
  2. Write seven sentences following the Story Spine (you don’t have to use the phrases of each step):
    • Once upon a time…
    • Every day…
    • Until…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Finally…
  3. Share your story here at the Saloon (post on the story/comment board below).
  4. No links to other places. Play the slots as much as you like (you can write more then one story).
  5. Say howdy to those playing with you! Be friendly and have fun!

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and built the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

A Study in Brevity: Crafting Flash Fiction & Syllabic Poetry

There is one thing that flash fiction and syllabic poetry have in common and that’s the brevity of words. Because we’re limited by the number of words (or syllables in syllabic poetry) we must choose concise words to convey our meaning.

I call these words figurative language. I use the same literary devices when writing flash fiction as I do when writing syllabic poetry.

Figurative Language

Figurative language should enhance the meaning of your prose and poetry by making connections that allow the reader to infer their own meaning. Here are a few literary devices that will strengthen your writing:

Analogy: This is when you compare similar attributes shared by separate things or ideas. You do this by using a simile or metaphor.

EX: A coyote running across the arid desert after its prey; the base runner dashed for home plate, kicking up dust in his haste.

A simile is when you compare things that are different. Usually the words, like or as, are used.

EX: A happy memory is like an old friend who welcomes you home when you need it most.

A metaphor implies a comparison between two different things. You don’t use the words like or as, in this case.

EX: He stinks of infidelity. This doesn’t mean there’s an odor. Instead, the sentence implies the guy is a cheater. This creates a visual image in your mind of a person who is disloyal.

Irony: Choosing words to hint at the opposite of their usual meaning. The difference between appearance and reality.

EX: The whipped butter felt as soft as a block of ice. Clearly, in this case, looks can be deceiving.

Personification: Assigning a human trait to something not human. EX: The wind whispered through the dry grasses. The wind can’t whisper because that is a human trait. Yet, the description gives the reader a sensory image they won’t forget.

Assonance: The repetition of vowel sounds, such as when two or more words close in proximity, repeat the same vowel sound, without repeating consonants; sometimes called vowel rhyme.

EX: Sally sells seashells beside the seashore (repetition of the short e and long e sounds).

Alliteration: Words that start with the same sound (not just the same letter) used in repetition in a series of words within a phrase or verse line. Usually, the sound is a consonant, and the words are not next to each other. Alliteration does not depend on letters but on sounds—think tongue twisters!

EX: Kim came home to clean the chaos in her closet. (Kim came, is dependent on the same sound, not the consonant letter it begins with).

(From: Chesebro, Colleen M., Word Craft: Prose & Poetry: The Art of Crafting Syllabic Poetry (pp. 15-16). Kindle Edition).

So let’s apply those literary devices to writing syllabic poetry. Are you new to crafting syllabic poetry and don’t know how to start? Let me show you two syllabic poetry forms to get you started on your poetry writing journey.

Let’s start with an American form, the cinquain. The cinquain is a five-line, non-rhyming poem featuring a syllable structure of 2-4-6-8-2. Choose words that create drama that builds into the fourth line. The turn occurs on line five, the most important line. This is where you change your focus away from the drama in some interesting way. Cinquain poems need a title.

Use a syllable counter as you compose your poetry. I use the Syllable Counter at https://www.traveldailylife.com/syllables/. See my cinquain example below:

Day Dawns

pink blush—
fairy makeup
smudges morning’s gray clouds
dew sparkles against the grasses
thunder

© Colleen M. Chesebro

In the cinquain above, I described a morning sunrise. True to the form, I pivoted in line five. My last two-syllables are where I turned away from the beauty of the scene and added the word “thunder.” This gives a hint that not everything is as it seems in the idyllic scene I described.

“Pink blush—fairy makeup” is personification. I’ve assigned human traits to the color of the morning sky.

If Japanese poetry intrigues you, start with the haiku. Haiku consists of three lines following the short-long-short, 3-5-3, 2-3-2, (5-7-5 traditional) syllable count. Usually your haiku should contain approximately twelve syllables. We write haiku about nature, the seasons, a beautiful moment in nature, an emotional experience while in nature, or change. Haiku are untitled, and this form requires a Kigo (season word). Haiku does not rhyme. Do not use metaphors or similes in haiku.

(When you’re first learning how to write haiku, feel free to use the 5-7-5 syllable structure until you’re ready to embrace the shorter formats.)

When we write haiku, we’re sharing an encounter between nature and ourselves as a human. We describe our experience at that exact moment. These are the moments that stand out and grab our attention in unexpected ways. Remember, haiku are untitled.

clouds stitched together
against the blue cloth of sky
solstice heat rises

© Colleen M. Chesebro

In the haiku above, I describe the clouds, and how they look against a blue sky. That’s personification! Notice my choice of words. I also used a kigo or season word, solstice heat which we know occurs in summer. Blue cloth of sky wasn’t enough to define a season because we could describe the sky in those terms any season of the year.

Break your haiku into two separate word images:

lines one and two: clouds stitched together against the blue cloth of sky

lines two and three: against the blue cloth of sky, solstice heat rises

This is a great way to check your haiku when you’ve finished writing. Combine the first and second line of your haiku. Does a mental image appear? In this example, you can see the clouds contrast the color of the blue sky. Remember the brevity of words.

However, when you take the second and third line and combine them, you receive another mental image. Now you see the solstice heat shimmers against the blue sky. The summer solstice occurs in June.

The idea in crafting haiku is to write about two contrasting or somehow similar images, and to connect them in unusual ways. Haiku are all about images. How does the haiku make you feel? Have you created emotion without telling your reader how to feel?

That’s it! You’re ready to craft syllabic poetry! Join me for #TankaTuesday on wordcraftpoetry.com.

Copyright © 2022 Colleen M. Chesebro – All rights reserved.

Colleen M. Chesebro lives in East Lansing, Michigan in the United States.

Colleen grew up in a large city in the Midwest. Keen on making her own way in the world, she joined the United States Air Force after graduation to tour the world and find herself. To this day, that search continues.

Today, she’s a Michigan Poet who loves crafting syllabic poetry, flash fiction, and creative fiction and nonfiction. Colleen sponsors a weekly poetry challenge, called #TankaTuesday, on wordcraftpoetry.com, where poets learn how to create traditional and modern forms of syllabic poetry.

Colleen created Word Craft Poetry as an uplifting community where poets can learn the basics of writing Japanese and American syllabic poetry by sharing their own poetic inspiration on their blogs through the challenge written in one of the following forms: haiku, senryu, haiga, tanka, gogyohka, haibun, tanka prose, renga, solo renga, cinquain, and its variations, Etheree, nonet, shadorma, Badger’s Hexastich, and Abhanga. Poets receive positive feedback from their peers, who inspire each other to stretch their creativity.

When she’s not writing poetry or crafting short stories, you’ll find Colleen digging in her garden, or playing with her two unicorn cats, Chloe & Sophie, or spending time with her husband and friends. Most days you can find her writing poetry on wordcraftpoetry.com, or preparing books for publication at Unicorn Cats Publishing Services.

You can follow Colleen’s blog at Word Craft Poetry and follow her on Twitter at @ColleenChesebro.