Sunday, January 19, 2014

Solving the World's Problems and a Poem or Critique

With Groundhog Day on the horizon (a personal favorite of Tammy and me), I thought I'd offer a special deal on orders of Solving the World's Problems. Everyone who orders a copy of Solving the World's Problems directly from me for $20 (shipping included) between today (January 19) and Groundhog Day (February 2) will receive a copy of the book and one of these special gifts:
  1. Personalized poem based off a few questions I send your way. (Thanks, Aaron Belz, for the idea!) Or, if that's not up your alley...
  2. Personalized critique of a poem you've written (up to 32 lines). You send the poem, and I'll send you personalized feedback.
Choose one or the other, and get a book in the process that's received nothing but glowing reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and poetry sites. For instance, Savvy Verse & Wit made Solving the World's Problems a "Best of 2013" book selection.

To order your copy and poem or critique, send me an e-mail at with the subject line: STWP Order.

Let me know if you'd prefer to pay by check or PayPal, and also give me your preference of a personalized poem or critique.

Don't Forget the Remix Challenge!
Once you have a copy of the book, enjoy the poems, but don't forget the Remixing the World's Problems Challenge! The basic idea is that I'm challenging readers to devise clever remixes of the poems in Solving the World's Problems and enter them (no entry fee) for a chance to win $500!

Here are guidelines for that.

But first, order your copy today!

Monday, December 16, 2013

My 5 Best Books of 2013!

One of the fun things I've been doing over on my Poetic Asides blog is to have poets list out their five favorite poetry collections (read a few here, here, and here). Anyway, I started playing around with the idea myself and realized that I could make a list of my five best books of 2013!

And by "my five best books of 2013," I want to put the emphasis on "my," because I actually wrote and/or edited five books in 2013! So below is my list. It's not really in any particular order, because I can't judge between my babies.

Solving the World's Problems (Press 53)
Okay, I'll start with this book, because it's my debut collection of poetry. After nearly 20 years of practicing the craft of poetry, I have a book. Hopefully, it won't take another couple decades for the next collection.

Why get it: First, it's a great read. I could cite the blurbs on the back cover, but here's a review on Pirene's Fountain that gets the book pretty well, and here's another on Savvy Verse & Wit that captures part of what I was aiming to accomplish.

Second, you can use the book to win a $500 remix challenge. That's right! I'm challenging poets (and non-poets) to take the poems in Solving the World's Problems and remix them in a free challenge. The remix that I like the best will get $500. Click here for the guidelines.

2014 Guide to Self-Publishing (Writer's Digest Books)
This book did not exist a year ago, and I pretty much put it together from scratch--using sources that were already available along with a lot of new material. In the end, I think it's a pretty great inaugural edition of an annual book that will only get better over time.

Why get it: Like other titles in the Market Books series, Guide to Self-Publishing contains market listings for various companies of interest. In this case, those listings are for self-publishing companies, editorial services, freelance designers, independent publicists, conferences, and professional organizations. That's useful information.

But even more useful are the nearly 200 pages of articles in the front of the book that cover a variety of self-publishing topics, including how to handle design and layout, three tools for producing great covers, why and how to hire a freelance editor, making the most of the money you earn, how to handle sales tax, whether to make your business an LLC, a 30-day platform challenge, blogging basics, advanced platform tips, and so much more.

2014 Writer's Market (Writer's Digest Books)
In it's 93rd annual edition, this book really doesn't need an introduction, but I'll give it one anyway--just in case. It's a big book of publishing opportunities with more thousands of listings for literary agents, book publishers, consumer magazines, trade journals, and contests and awards.

Why get it: For one, it's the best print resource for writers who want to learn more about the freelance writing business and start earning money as a freelance writer. In addition to all the market listings mentioned above, the 2014 Writer's Market includes articles on how to write the perfect pitch, how to land a six-figure book deal, how to find success in the magazine world, earning a full-time income from blogging, ghostwriting, how to use social media appropriately, and a whole lot more.

Every year, I set out to make the book better, and while they're never perfect, I do feel like they improve every year. This makes for my 14th edition as an editor on the book. That's a lot of improving, right?

2014 Writer's Market Deluxe Edition (Writer's Digest Books)
While the cover of this book looks different than the Writer's Market proper, the interior pages of the book are the same. So all that great stuff I said about the 2014 Writer's Market applies to this book as well. Except this book has a higher sticker price, and here's why...

Why get it: This book includes an insert with an activation code good for a one-year subscription to the website, which lists everything in the book and thousands more publishing opportunities. Plus, those listings are updated throughout the year, which means the website is more up-to-date than the book can possibly be--once it's in print, it's in print (until the next edition).

One more reason is that it includes little extras like a submission tracker and Market Watch, which is comprised of "near" daily updates for writers on changes and happenings in the publishing and media universe.

2014 Poet's Market (Writer's Digest Books)
So now I've brought us full circle to poetry. This marks my fifth edition as the editor of Poet's Market, and yes, I feel it's the latest and greatest edition of this book yet. And it's pretty cool that I can now claim to be an author of my own poetry collection (kind of like that old hair club for men commercial; "I'm not only an editor, I'm also a client").

Why get it: So you can have a poetry collection published like me, of course. Or find publications and journals to publish poems. Or find poetry contests. This book contains hundreds of poetry publishing opportunities--and a one-year subscription to the "poetry slice" of That's a lot of great stuff, but wait... (wait for it) ...there's more!

For instance, articles on the business and promotion of poetry, as well as articles on the craft of poetry, including a long piece on various poetic forms. Plus, this edition contains all-new interviews with contemporary poets and more than a dozen previously unpublished contemporary poems.

In other words, it's some kind of wonderful.


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer's Digest Writing Community and a busy guy. Not only does he have a full plate as far as writing and editing books, he also maintains blogs, a newsletter, a column in Writer's Digest magazine, speaks nationally on publishing and poetry-related topics, and more. Plus, he has five kids, an amazing wife, and a never ending supply of laundry to fold. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


Check out more great Not Bob content here:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Taking the Power Back: My Journey Starts Today

For a while now, I've felt it: out of control, out of shape, overweight, overwhelmed, and reactionary. For a while now, I've had false starts and well-meaning attempts to "do something about it." But even as I went through the motions, I knew I was just "going through the motions," because I knew I had to "do something."

Well, enough with the quotations marks: Today, I'm taking the power back on my time, my health, and my life.

How do I know this time is different?
Because I'm starting today--on a Friday. In the past, I would wait for a Monday. In the past, I would wait for the first day of the month. In the past, I would wait for January. No more waiting: This starts now.

But why today?
There's nothing particularly special about today, but I found myself driving into the Cincinnati office thinking about things I needed to accomplish. Some of them were simple tasks I've been putting off for far too long. I found myself making excuses to imaginary complaints--making excuses to myself--about why it's taken so long.

I'm an overachiever, but that's only because I overload myself. One result is that I often feel like I'm strapped for time and underperforming for my super high goals. Another result is that I feel like I'm reacting to situations, instead of being as proactive as I'd like to be. But it's not just about time management...

Three years ago, I started to let my health slide. I've had some ups and downs since, though mostly downs (which means my health has gone down and my weight has gone up). Three Octobers ago, I weighed 190 pounds; this morning, I weighed 250--for the first time ever.

If I continue down this path, I'm surely looking at diabetes, heart problems, and possibly death. I mean, after nearly dying in May of 2009, I should know better right. And technically I have "known" better, but I have "felt it"--not until today.

What am I going to do?
Whenever I teach others to do anything, I usually have two main pieces of advice (in addition to the more specific tips):
  1. Start slow and build over time.
  2. Start now.
So I'm going to start now. In fact, I've already started.

First step, I'm going through the process of identifying what's wrong, acknowledging it's wrong, and then taking proactive steps to improve the situation. I've identified problems above. I'm making a list of everything (from paying bills to leading den meetings and playing fantasy football) that occupies my time. Then, I'm going to go through that list and consider how I can do it better--or maybe eliminate it from my list.

Second step, I'm replacing soda pop (and all flavored drinks) with water. For me, soda pop is like coffee, alcohol, or cigarettes. It's my crutch when times are tough or complicated. I feel a physical and psychological dependence. I'm breaking that dependence starting today.

Third step, I'm going to make time for exercising each day. Even if it's just a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood, I'm going to exercise, and I'm going to do it every day.

Fourth step, I'm going to document my progress here. Since I'm getting started on a Friday, I guess I'll shoot to have a new post up every Friday.

Why share?
I'm usually so good about sharing the good side of my life: my poetry, my editing, my blogging, etc. But I don't usually share my bad times and struggles. That is one more thing I'm going to change starting now. Not that I'm going to be all negative or focused on the bad.

Rather, I'm going to start sharing from the low point, the point at which I feel like I can't take it anymore, and I'm going to share what I hope is a positive transforming experience. Hopefully, it will be inspirational for everybody involved: for people who read it and for me.

And I'm not going to judge anyone who's struggling, because I'm here at the crossroads of where I don't want to be and making a positive change. I know full well that it's not something someone else can make me do; in fact, I've often used people's comments about my health as an excuse to plunge deeper into the abyss. So no judging.

Also, no time tables, no weight goals, no pass/fail benchmarks. I want to improve my life by taking the power back. And I'm starting today.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Remixing the World's Problems Challenge (for a chance to win $500)

[[BREAKING NEWS!! I've updated two very important things for this challenge. First, I've upped the top remix gift to $500. Second, I've extended the deadline a couple months to May 15, 2014. So click here to get a copy of the book- then, read it and get remixing.]]

Yesterday was the official release date for my debut poetry collection, Solving the World's Problems (Press 53). It's been exciting, but I'm even more excited about the next projects. This post is about one of those next projects: the Remixing the World's Problems Challenge.

The basic concept is that I want poets (and non-poets) to try their hands at remixing the poems in my Solving the World's Problems collection. The inspiration comes from pop and dance music, which routinely offers remixed versions of the original songs. Some sound similar to the original; others are grand departures.

For me, this challenge is a great opportunity to collaborate. I hope that's an intrinsic benefit for you as well, but one lucky person will receive the extrinsic benefit of $500. Basically, it'll be a gift (a rather generous one) from me to whoever writes the remix I love the most.

Need some ideas for remixing poems? Here are a few:
  • Fit a poem to a traditional form (haiku, triolet, sestina, etc.)
  • Use bits and pieces of a poem (or poems) with your own words
  • Write a call and response poem
  • Mash up multiple poems in the collection (or one of mine with one of yours)
  • Reorganize a poem (or poems) in the collection
  • Redact in an interesting fashion that changes the meaning of the poem
  • Or go the popular "megamix" route
Really, there's any number of ways to go about remixing the poems, and the more "out there" the better.

That said, here are a few rules:
  • You must use my poems from Solving the World's Problems as a starting point. In fact, you must indicate which poem (or poems) you're re-mixing in your submission.
  • Any words that are not mine must be yours. No mixing my poems with Walt Whitman or Anne Sexton or any other poet (living or dead) who is not you--as cool as that may be.
  • Include your name, the title of the poem (or poems) you're remixing, and the title of the new piece--along with your contact information.
  • Send an e-mail to with the subject line: Remixing the World's Problems. If you don't use the correct subject line, I may not open your message. So it's important that you follow this guideline.
  • I'd prefer no attachments, but I understand if certain remixes require them. Just make sure you follow all the other rules, so that I know you're not sending me a virus.
  • Challenge is open from September 2, 2013 to May 15, 2014. I want to give everyone plenty of time to read the poems and work on remixes.
  • The best remixes will be shared on my blog and may even end up in an anthology if there are enough cool submissions.
  • As mentioned above, the author of my favorite remix will receive a $500 gift from me.
  • Enter as often as you wish, but I'm guessing the best remixes will be as thoughtfully crafted as the originals.
  • Challenge is free. No purchase necessary.
But wait, you may say, don't I have to buy your book?
Not necessarily. You could:
  • Borrow a friend's copy (suggest the book to your rich friend)
  • Check it out at your library (request your library purchase the book--it's on Amazon)
  • Find it in a bookstore (have your local independent bookstore get copies from Press 53)
If you don't want to go those routes, then you probably would need to buy a copy, I suppose. But you might want to grab a copy anyway after reading the nice reviews on Amazon or the good reviews on Goodreads.

Also, folks can order a signed copy directly from me for $20 (includes shipping). Just send me an e-mail at

No matter how you get to the poems, I hope you're able to take part in this fun challenge. Who knows? Maybe you'll see something in a poem I didn't. In fact, I'm hoping you do.


Robert Lee Brewer
Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor for the Writer's Digest Writing Community and author of the new poetry collection, Solving the World's Problems (Press 53). He edits books, creates blog posts, writes a column for Writer's Digest magazine, changes diapers, curates the insta-poetry series for Virginia Quarterly Review, manages a fantasy football team, dances around with his daughter, makes books with his boys, enjoys watching movies with his wife, and loves eating potatoes (whether they're fried, boiled, mashed, or baked). Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


Check out a few other posts related to this collection:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Solving the World's Problems | Live Book Tour | 2013-2014

Here are the official and confirmed dates for my Solving the World's Problems "live" (or "in person") book tour. This list is subject to change and update over time. If you would like to set up an event in your neck of the woods, just send me an e-mail at

Dates for my "virtual" book tour are coming soon.

One of the most exciting and terrifying things I do as a poet is read at live events. They always end up being great experiences, but I always go into them expecting the audience to launch rotten tomatoes my way mid-reading.

By the way, click here to order your copy of Solving the World's Problems

2013 Dates


7 - Hayesville NC - Writers Circle (Workshop) 2 p.m. To register, send an e-mail to Glenda Beall at glendabeall [at] It'll be a 3-hour workshop covering poetry creation and re-creation. I promise it'll be fun.

11- Atlanta GA - Callanwolde Fine Arts Center 8 p.m. I'll be reading with Tom Lombardo, who just released his debut collection of poetry, What Bends Us Blue.

26 - Rome GA - Georgia Poetry Nights 7 p.m. This event includes pizza and poetry. I've never been, but I hear it rocks! (Unfortunately, I'm not able to get out for this one. Last minute car issues, but I'm sure it'll still be fun with poetry and pizza still on the menu.)

[If you live on the West Coast, you may be interested in the Writer's Digest West Conference. It's in Los Angeles September 27-29. I won't be there, but a lot of other great folks will be. Click here to learn more.]


5 - Cleveland OH - Words Dance Poetry Festival 6 p.m. Speaking of rocks, I can't wait to participate in this poetry festival in the land of the rock 'n' roll HOF. We'll be reading at a bowling alley, which I can't wait to experience.


16 - Frankfort, KY - Kentucky Book Fair. I still don't have all the details on this event, but Solving the World's Problems will be featured, and I'll be doing something. Stay tuned.


2014 Dates



11 - Hickory NC - Poetry Hickory (Reading/Workshop)



Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Help Me Solve the World's Problems (By August 1, 2013)

(Special Promotion: If you pre-order a signed copy, whether through me or my publisher, by the August 1 deadline, I'll enter you into a raffle for an extra bonus. What's the bonus? A signed hard copy proof--in addition to your signed book--with an extra handwritten poem that doesn't appear in this collection.)

In September, my first full-length collection of poetry, Solving the World's Problems, will be released by Press 53. I am very excited!

And I've bought a bunch of new pens know...umm...sign books and stuff. Would you like a personally signed book by me?

The best way to get an autographed copy hot off the presses is to pre-order a copy from me now, so that I can pre-order copies from my publisher. When I receive that first shipment, I'll sign 'em and mail 'em immediately. (I need all pre-orders by August 1.)

Order a copy by sending me an e-mail with the subject line: I Want Solving the World's Problems.

Who knows? I might even slip a surprise thank you or two in there as well, though I hope the value of this collection is intrinsic, not extrinsic.

Here's what former New Hampshire Poet Laureate Patricia Fargnoli, author of Duties of the Spirit and Then, Something had to say about the collection (an advance proof): "The 'World' in Robert Lee Brewer's Solving the World's Problems is a slippery world ... where chaos always hovers near, where we are (and should be) 'splashing around in dark puddles.' And one feels a bit dizzy reading these poems because (while always clear, always full of meaning) they come at reality slantwise so that nothing is quite the same and the reader comes away with a new way of looking at the ordinary objects and events of life. The poems are brim-full of surprises and delights, twists in the language, double-meanings of words, leaps of thought and imagination, interesting line-breaks. There are love and relationship poems, dream poems, poems of life in the modern world. And always the sense (as he writes) of 'pulling the world closer to me/leaves falling to the ground/birds flying south.' I read these once, twice with great enjoyment. I will go back to them often."

Still not convinced? Wow! You're a tough customer. Good thing I've planned some hypothetical non-softball-questions ahead of time with totally-unplanned-off-the-cuff answers at the ready.

Why would I lay down my hard-earned money for your book?
Because you love poetry, and this book is filled with poems. (Click here to read a few.)

Or if you need another reason: Because you want to be a part of history, since this is the first full-length collection of poems from the Robert Lee Brewer. You can say you were there in the beginning, and that'll make you really cool in a "I was there in the beginning" kind of way.

Or if you need another reason: Because I begged and pleaded with you, and it's better than dropping the same amount of money on whatever it is that you spend money on that you usually regret later as a bad purchase. I ain't too proud to beg.

Is this book really going to solve the world's problems?
Hmm... Good question. You're pretty sharp. Sharp like a knife. Or sharp like the teeth of a shark. You know I think you'll find the answer you want to find by purchasing a copy of the book and reading it yourself.

But now that it's out there, I'm pretty sure of one thing: It will drive you crazy not knowing. So spare yourself the sleepless nights and read the book. You can thank me later.

I know Patricia Fargnoli said nice things about Solving the World's Problems, but does anyone else have anything nice to say about the collection? I mean, besides your mom.
Well, I do have a really nice quote from my mom, but I'll save that for another blog post, I guess. Since I can't use her endorsement, I'll use this one from one of my favorite contemporary poets Sandra Beasley, author of I Was the Jukebox and Theories of Falling: "Rather than solving the world's problems, this collection turns them to the sun like a prism--casting bright and spare images of humanity in flux. 'We spill ourselves all over ourselves,' one poem observes, 'our excess light / our forgiving natures.' Compassionate, challenging, and filled with slinky swerves of phrase, these poems refresh how we look at our daily lives."

Any other non-mom niceties coming your way?
Yes, this is what Scott Owens, author of Something Knows the Moment, had to say: "These poems illustrate the vitality of poetry in our daily lives. Diverse, refreshing, even at times startling, these poems make bold claims for poetry."

Okay, okay. How do I purchase this amazing book?
That's the easy part. Just send me an e-mail at with the subject line: I want Solving the World's Problems. Then, we'll work together to get the book in your hands.

It costs $15 (shipping included), and I can accept check, money order, or PayPal. And you'll get a signed and dated copy to prove you were there in the beginning. Plus, I think the poems are pretty darn good.

Click here to read a few sample poems.


By the way, if you'd rather go through my publisher, that's a great option too. As with getting copies from me, the pre-order event is only valid through August 1. Click here to learn more.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Solving the World's Problems - Sample Poems

My debut full-length collection of poetry Solving the World's Problems is due from Press 53 on September 1, 2013. It's been an exciting highlight to the year for me, and I can't wait to hold a copy in my hands. If you're interested in getting your hands on a signed copy, send me an e-mail at to get the wheels in motion--or order a copy here.

The poems in this collection represent what I consider my best up to now, and many of them have gone through a major transformation since the collection was accepted for publication. I have my wonderful editor Tom Lombardo to thank for helping guide this collection in a new (and I think better) direction.

Solving the World's Problems

Anyway, this post shares a few sample poems from Solving the World's Problems.

solving the world's problems, by Robert Lee Brewer

i began as eyelashes blocking the sun
and my father was a digital clock
in a dark cave  my father counted

out the minutes as i kept myself
from myself   in this way  i learned to kiss
years later  when i became a horse

i ran the hot blood out of my body
father turned into a dream filled
with fire and a horrible laugh   i

burned into a cloud of smoke
father became a phone call and then
silence   i worried what i might

transform into next   i worried
what i might already be   then
i forgave father


you origami me, by Robert Lee Brewer

fold me into animal shapes
                         and hold me like paper
          you don't want to tear

i've been here before
                         i've waited like money
          and spent myself evenly

across your accounts of love
                         the time has come for our withdrawal
          into the pleasures of night

these simple transfers and deposits
                         these points of interest
          fold me as you will

and hold me longer still
                         i'm not a wolf  save when
          that's the only way you'll bend me


10:15 in a kroger parking lot, by Robert Lee Brewer

he sits with the engine off staring straight ahead
through wells fargo  through the next strip mall and the new
half-developed subdivision with prices that

start in the low five-hundreds  through mcdonald's and
chick-fil-a  through burger king and dairy queen  through
thick and thin  cats and dogs  teenagers in public

parks  radio waves and satellite images
carried to you  the possibility of you
a number on a graph  some outlier who reads

poetry as if reading might even matter
to the man with this weight on his shoulders staring
without any thoughts because his brain's finally

filled past the point of pure saturation and he's
sitting in his car oblivious to the world
outside  the store stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables

and diapers and frozen pizza and toothpaste and
deodorant and trash bags and prescription drugs
and his eyes are wet but he is not crying  blank

as he feels and overwhelmed as choreographed
cars park and people enter the kroger and leave
the kroger to drive away somewhere without him


As we run up to the release date for the collection, I'll be sharing more information, including various events--both online and in person. If you're interested in either having me read at your venue or doing some kind of interview or review, just send me an e-mail at

To get a signed copy, send me an e-mail as well, or click here to order a copy directly from Press 53.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


Check out some other related posts: