Coming Second (after W.B. Yeats)

Turning and turning in a plastic gyre

The Garbage Patch grows silently.

Things fall apart, degrading into plastic pills and

Floating Barbie heads are loosed upon the world.

The plastic-dimmed tide concentrates in filter feeders.

The innocence of tossing bone over shoulder

Should have died with the Neanderthals.

The best want more stuff, while the worst

Slave hopelessly, for the same petroleum dreams.

Surely this thing should make the papers?

It’s bigger than the Second Coming!

But the Second Coming is fodder for series novels,

Televangelists, and lame excuses.

When I close my eyes to sleep, the ocean pours in and

My head fills with bleached coral, flotsam, and decay.

Headless, eyeless and without pity for seabirds,

Trash vortexes are here to stay.

The darkness should be my refuge but,

Hundreds of years of industry

Have born this nightmare, hid from us

By Commerce, who puts Nature second,

That rough beast performing miracles

Daily, of air and water and sustenance.

Who could sustain the guilt we should feel?

Who, but the Greens, gives a flying dodo?

When in hot water, Flat Screen Man will ‘reset,’

Invoking some planetary cheat code

Like easy-peasy carbon sequestration.

We play with Earth as if any day,

A new one could be born.

By Maaja Wentz

I wrote this poem years ago for my critique group buddies but when I saw it fit the latest of Chuck Wendig’s weekly writing challenges, I couldn’t resist posting it here.

Live Reading of Second Coming plus speculative fiction stories and poems

If you would like to see me read this and other poems and stories on video, watch this clip of my reading at Can-Con, one of my favorite annual events.  Beware, may contain horror, and Dionysus.

Can-Con is the Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature, a literary and scientifically-minded science fiction and fantasy convention in Ottawa held annually by The Society for Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature.

Can-Con Conference and World Fantasy 2016

Can-Con Conference, Ottawa, Sept 9-11, 2016
Meet me at Can-Con Conference, Ottawa, Sept. 9-11, 2016

Appearing at Can-Con Conference and World Fantasy Convention

I love meeting and speaking to readers, writers, and editors. That’s why I’m so excited about my upcoming participation at Can-Con Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature. I am equally looking forward to participating in the World Fantasy Convention at the end of October. This year’s theme is “Flights of Fantasy.”

One of the best things about reading and writing science fiction and fantasy is the chance to meet like-minded people. The creativity, thoughtfulness, and intellect of writers in these areas never ceases to impress me. When I get a chance to read my work or speak on panels at these events, it makes me feel like the luckiest little fish in a great big pond of wonder.

 

Can-Con Conference, Sept. 9-11, 2016

 

Can-Con, The Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature takes place September 9 to 11, 2016 at the Novotel Hotel, Ottawa, Canada. I am very pleased that both my time slots at Can-Con this year are on Saturday afternoon since I will be arriving late Friday night. Here is the link to the tentative schedule. My appearances are below.

 

Readings at Can-Con Conference:

On Saturday I will be reading from Feeding Frenzy at the Guildhall Con Suite, 3rd floor with a couple of other fantasy authors. Here are the times:

13:00 – Metamorphosis by Jennifer Carole Lewis

13:20 – Ungloved by Rebecca Simkin, who is also on Wattpad

13:40 – Feeding Frenzy by Maaja Wentz

 

Writers’ Groups Panel Discussion:

At 4:00 p.m. I will be speaking on a panel of interest to writers. Here’s the blurb:

Want to Dominate the World, but Don’t Have a Writers’ Group? Want to make one? Come hear how these other successful minionless writers formed their own critiquing groups so you can found your own! Totally not a pyramid scheme. You may have to sign up for a time-share though…  Maaja Wentz, Su Sokol, Mike Rimar, James K Moran, Ryan McFadden.

 

World Fantasy Convention, 2016
Meet me at World Fantasy, Oct. 27-30,  2016

 

World Fantasy Convention, Oct. 27-30, 2016

World Fantasy Convention takes place just before Halloween. I am told I will participate in at least one panel but details are to be confirmed. I am definitely taking part in the open mic poetry reading for fun. I have a couple of poems suited to Fantasy readers. “When Johnny Mars Turns Five,” “Fallow God,” “Twilight Romance,” and of course, my poetry slam-winning spoken word piece “Flimflam.” This piece sees our lives through the history of advertising. It was inspired partly by Under the Influence, Terry O’Reilly’s wonderful advertising podcast, but also by the brash new world of content marketers selling non-fiction ebooks. It’s a world I sometimes find repellent for artistic reasons, and yet self-publishing is strangely appealing to my geeky side. Audiences at World Fantasy are laaaaarge, so getting in front of a really big room will be a good stretch for me, terrifying but exciting.

 

Would you benefit from attending a Conference like Can-Con?

Can’t make it in person? Deciding whether to attend your first convention? The bios of the panelists for both conventions make interesting reading, and contain a trove of suggestions for new books to read. Start at the home page for each event and don’t forget to read up on the panelists and the guests of honour. Click on the links below for more info about programming. As for the parties, to experience those you will have to attend. Hope to see you there!

Can-Con

World Fantasy

 

Readings and Events

Reading at the Amprosia book launch.

Upcoming Appearances:

  • Friday, September 26, the Writers’ Community of Durham Region is celebrating Culture Days with live readings and a video contest. Bill Humber, master of ceremonies, will introduce talented local authors, poets, and singer-songwriters. This free event starts at 6:30 at The Bear, 1294 Kingston Road, Pickering, Ontario. (I will be reading some poems)
  • Reading at Can-Con. October 4, Ottawa, Ontario. This event is free for convention attendees. I will read prose and poetry about death, murder and love. There will also be chocolate. My talented co-reader is S.M. Carriere, author of The Winter Wolf.
  • Wattpad panel at Can-Con, October 4, Ottawa. I will moderate a discussion with authors Linda Poitevin and Mark Leslie-Lefebvre about reading and writing on Wattpad. Wattpad hosts 40 million stories in 50 languages. With 25 million members, Wattpad bills itself as the largest reading and writing community in the world.

Ideamancy – Ideas for Back-To-School Magic

A running start to Fall.
A running start to Fall.

The first week of school is over. Routines are starting to gel, kids are on their best behaviour and starting to make friends. Teachers are breathing a sigh of relief. It’s the honeymoon period for elementary teachers. This glistening doorway of opportunity, lit by September magic, will not stay open long.

Invite all the kids in, before that dull ‘day-to-day feeling’ arrives. Hook them with creativity. Kids love to be stimulated and challenged to imagine. They want your teaching to take them places they could never go on their own. Surprise them and help them stretch their minds, and they will know you are on their side when things get harder.

With this goal in mind, here are a few book suggestions for September:

Steal Like an Artist. Long books on creativity can be counterproductive. This short book by Austen Kleon is full of art, poetry ideas and inspiration for teacher-artists, or anyone who wants to live more creatively. I recently reread it and find it excellent for visual, material, dramatic and literary artists.

Kleon suggests that you take whatever artistic thing you do to procrastinate and do more of it. He gives practical advice for artists like ‘learn about money,’ and describes ethical ways to draw inspiration from the work of others. One of his big projects is Newspaper Blackout, a website which begat a bestselling poetry book.

You could have a lot of fun doing newspaper blackout poetry with your students. How? Students take fat markers and strike out words on a newspaper page, until the remaining words form a poem. The result might be a simple message like “Eat your vegetables!” More sophisticated students could juxtapose the title of the original article against their ‘secret’ message. For example, they could take an article about war and block out words to reveal “give peace a chance,” or “support our troops.”

 

Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends appeals to boys and girls. It’s not new material but his poem, “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out,” is a guaranteed giggle. I introduce it by telling kids how my Dad used to recite it to me when I was little. “Sylvia Stout,” is a good model for student ‘chore’ poems or poems about garbage. With Green Philosophy paramount in modern schools, it’s time for young Silversteins-in-the-making to write recycling poems. If you like his style, there are videos of many of his poems and songs available on YouTube. “I’m Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor,” is fun to sing with young children. Just be careful, not all Silverstein material is safe for school. Ever heard “Never Bite a Married Woman on the Thigh?”

 

Make your own crazy character mix and match flip book. Have you ever played this game? Fold over a small stack of paper and staple to make a booklet. Make two scissor cuts to divide the book in three, top-to-bottom. Students draw the head of a character or creature in the top box, the body in the middle and the feet at the bottom. Students open the booklet to the next page and pass it to the next student. This student continues by drawing another monster, athlete, animal or character, aligning the head, body and legs in the correct box. This process continues until all pages are filled and the books are returned for sharing, flipping and discussing. This little art and creativity project can be a jumping off point for writing “What if” stories or just a fun get-to-know you activity. Enjoy!

 

‘What if’ story starters:

  • What if you woke up with the legs of an Olympic runner?
  • What if you had the chest of a fish and could breathe under water?
  • What if you had the body of a bird and could fly?
  • What if your head was an octopus, legs and all?
  • What if you woke up with a hairy gorilla body?
  • What if you woke up with the pitching arm of a pro baseball player?

 

Here are some examples of different flip books:

http://www.firstpalette.com/Craft_themes/People/Body_Flip_Book/Body_Flipbook.html

http://sketchbookchallenge.blogspot.ca/2011/11/flip-book-animals.html

 

This one is just for writers. As a writing book junkie, I procrastinate by reading about writing. What better way to goof off and still feel productive? In my home office, I have a bookshelf of reference and writing advice books. Other titles I’ve purchased as ebooks or borrowed from the library. I’m not proud of my addiction, but it puts this next statement in context.

Elizabeth Lyon’s Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore, is the best book on fiction editing I have ever read. Reading it feels like having an editor at my side, pointing out potential flaws and providing techniques for reworking and deepening the second draft of my novel-in-progress. The chapters on polish and proofreading are short compared to those on style, craft and characterization. This is no grammar book for beginners.

If you want to do more substantive editing before you submit your work to a professional, this book is an excellent reference to read, and reread. The checklists at the end of each chapter help diagnose weak points and prioritize the complex processes of rewriting: adding, subtracting and re-imagining to enrich voice, style and emotion.

Creative Teaching Newsletter – Poetry Slam

The very first Creative Teacher Librarian newsletter has been sent. Subscribers will receive a mini unit introducing spoken word or ‘slam’ poetry. Tips, instructions, useful links and a Spoken Word Rules page are included. Lessons can be adapted for a wide range of ages from grade school to high school.

 

Back-To-School with Feeling: Poetry in September

Poetry gets a bad rap ;-). Quick, when you think of poetry, what comes to mind? Spring? Acrostics? Singsong rhymes? Archaic language?

Students tire of poetry if they associate it with sappy greeting cards or bygone eras or a cookbook approach that emphasizes rigid form over self-expression.

Don’t miss out because of old stereotypes. In September, poetry makes an excellent get-to-know-you and formative assessment tool. In a two or three week poetry unit, students will produce many short poems on different topics and in different forms, affording the teacher multiple chances to assess written and spoken language. The trick is to make it fresh and relevant for young people.

— from the September Newsletter

 

 

My first Slam! Poetry as experience art, delivered as performance art

Over morning coffee recently, I started thinking about the Beat Poets and cut-up poetry and choose-your-own-adventure books and hyperlinked fiction. There had to be a way to turn Internet surfing into a kind of ‘experience art.’ I was thinking about what I could create if I had the technical know-how, when I started writing a poem about it.

Soon after I received a reminder from the WCDR about their upcoming poetry slam competition. My piece felt like spoken word so I fired off an email stating my intention to perform. I should explain that I have my son’s teen French exchange buddy living with us so we’re extra busy. I had three days to rehearse, including two at my parent’s cottage. I also have a longtime fear of forgetting lines in public. It’s the reason I love improvisation but have never tried any serious acting. Let’s say I spent a lot of the car trip desperately saying my lines in my head while the boys slept in the backseat.

I was delighted to get through my piece Monday July 7th but even happier to make the finals.

The finals Saturday were exciting but daunting when I realized there would be a camera as well as the live audience. My poem was well-rehearsed this time but I didn’t expect to win. Who expects to win with their first effort? I performed, enjoyed the applause and basked in positive feedback, including from guest slammer Cathy Petch who performed as the votes were tallied.

I’ve deliberately written non-fiction and stories and I have several novels in various stages of editing. It’s poetry I write the least and never deliberately. That’s why it surprises me that I’ve had recognition for “When Johnny Mars Turns Five,” publication of “Fallow God,” in the Urban Green Man Anthology and made the finals with my slam, “Found Poetry Finds You.” Perhaps the poetic muse exists after all. Perhaps there’s something in the coffee.

Now if I could just figure out how to automate cut-up poetry…

Happy writing,

Maaja

Writing Contests & Writing Boot Camp

This year I’ve decided to concentrate on writing short as well as long. I’ve been writing a crazy number of new stories, not all of which will see a polished draft. Many of them are the usual 2000 word length but I’ve been writing some very short ones as well.

If you are interested in short short stories, I recommend Holly Lisle’s method to get the creative juices flowing. Hers is not the only way, but if you like to plan out your stories, this may work for you: How to Write Short Fiction That Doesn’t Suck.

So far I’ve entered four contests in the past two months.


I’ve included the links for your information.

For poets and poetry fans, I’ve also posted a couple of my poems recently on Wattpad which you can read here. 

The titles are:

(Short listed by the Science Fiction Poetry Association Contest)

(About plastic and the marine garbage patch)

Happy reading, and writing.

Maaja

Urban Green Man Online Book Launch, Can-Con Readings and NaNoWriMo Panel

I will be reading a published story “Wild Caving” and my poem “Fallow God” from the Urban Green Man Anthology at Can-Con (Spec Fic Convention) in Ottawa, Canada on Oct 5-6. If you plan to attend, I will also be involved in the NaNoWriMo panel. I hope to see you there!

 EDGE is holding an online book launch for the Urban Green Man Anthology starting October 2 at noon (CST). Go to www.bittenbybooks.com Oct. 2-3 and interact with the authors online. I’m going to try to log in around 3 pm CST each day. What time is that in your city? Here is a link to a time and date converter

This should be great fun for readers who can interact with authors from all over. If you have always wanted to try an online book launch, I think it would be interesting to drop in and see how it’s done. 

Take care and happy reading,

Maaja