Monday, November 30, 2009

2009 November PAD Chapbook Challenge Shelter

Since the server for and its blogs (including Poetic Asides) keeps crashing and wiping out all the Poetic Asides poems and comments, I thought I'd set up this temporary shelter for our poetry and poetic discussion until the storm passes. I'm pretty sure Blogger will hold up.

Today is the final day of the 2009 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, and the prompt asked for poems about something that will stick with you (or someone or something else). Memorable poems.

Here's the one I wrote for the day:

"The world will worry for you"

Forget speaking in code; forget
telling it slant; here is what happened:

I rose to answer the phone, and then,
lost consciousness. As I lay there,

my breathing grew labored before
stopping altogether. My skin turned

crayon blue; my eyes stayed open.
This is how I've always pictured

my Uncle James when he died alone
on his land in the middle of nowhere.

I still remember grandmother crying out,
"No, no, no," on Easter evening

when my grandfather called. I could
have been found this way, but

Tammy breathed in my mouth, spoke
to my unresponding face. She would not

quit even as I turned less and less
alive. Later that night, grandfather

told us how they found James laying
on his porch with his door open:

"He looked horrible. He looked like
he was in pain." And this is what I can

tell you: I did not feel any pain,
any worry, until I came back to life.


Feel free to add your own poems, comments, etc., below. And if you feel like subscribing to yet one more blog, I'd be honored if you subscribed to this one. Keep poeming!

10 Universal Lessons Learned From Parenting

(This post was written last night, but Charter's consistently inconsistent service kept cutting out on me. I was too tired to keep trying to post last night. Some time references may be in relation to last night, not this morning.)

So, I am at the end of my week-long Thanksgiving vacation as I know it (and I feel fine, though I wouldn't complain if I still had an extra day or two left). I went up and grabbed my two boys in Ohio and had them down here in Georgia all week. So, yes, for the first time since school started back up, our house was filled with 4 boys (5 if you count me).

As with our summer periods together as a full family unit, this week was fun, and it wore me out. Plus, I gathered some universal lessons of parenting that can be applied to everything from dating to business (even writing and publishing). Here they are:

  1. Take care of yourself. Before you can help others, you need to be in tip-top shape. So, remember to eat and sleep and give yourself at least a little relaxation time.
  2. Don't make promises unless you really (really really) know you can keep them. A broken promise, whether to a child or an adult, is often on the same level (or just a notch below) an outright lie. Don't make promises or commitments unless you absolutely know you can keep them. And if for some reason you can't, admit to it immediately and apologize sincerely.
  3. Give warnings when things are about to change. For my boys, I always give warnings, whether it's in regards to leaving the playground or getting out of the bathtub. What this does for children (and adults) is give them time to prepare for and accept change. In fact, there are even times when my boys are ready to leave before I am.
  4. Don't play favorites. I have four boys. They all want my attention most of the time; they all want different things; they all want to watch different shows on TV; they all want to be my favorite; they all want to be first; and so on. My job is to make sure that they all feel special without feeling that one of them is more special than all the others. Favoritism leads to resentment and hurt feelings. Avoid it at all costs.
  5. Lead by example. If I just tell my boys to brush their teeth, they're bound to just argue with me, throw fits, etc. But if I grab my toothbrush and say, "It's time to brush our teeth; daddy is brushing his teeth, too," then I almost always get them all brushing without complaint.
  6. Don't overcommit. Many optimists (myself included) have a hard time with this one, which ultimately circles back to not making promises you can't keep. I might want to do eight things tomorrow, but in reality, I only have time to do two or three. If I overcommit, I could end up stressing myself out while disappointing others. It's always best to underpromise and overdeliver.
  7. Say "no" and stick to it. Most people want to please other people, but we also need to draw lines in the sand. If it's before lunchtime, I'm not going to let my boys have candy. No matter how they whine, argue, fight, etc. It's not going to happen. I want my boys to be happy, but they're not getting candy before lunch. (This rule applicable to all relationships, not just the father-son variety.)
  8. Show your appreciation. When my boys follow the rules, I reward them with compliments (not candy or toys). When my boys are polite and say "thank you," "please," and "bless you," I reward them with praise. Sometimes, for no particular reason at all, I say, "I love you." All people want to feel appreciated. Always remember this.
  9. Be consistent. Look at my candy rule in #7. Look at how I always give warnings in #3. People (both children and adults) respond well to consistency. If they know what to expect, they can adapt easier.
  10. Challenge them. Baby Will is walking already (at 11 months). As a result, he falls. A lot. I try not to rush to him whenever he does, because I want to give him the opportunity to pick himself up and start walking again (which he often does). When the older boys ask me a question, I challenge them to give me an answer first. Sometimes, they're right; sometimes, they're not. But people like to feel challenged; and even better are those times when they rise to the challenge.


Holiday first: On Friday (day after Thanksgiving), Tammy, the boys, and I all went to one of those tree farms where you can cut down your own Christmas tree. It was a lot of fun and very easy. Tammy and I kept it a secret until we got to the place, and the boys thought it was super cool.


Recent update: On Saturday morning, I took Ben and Jonah back up to Ohio. Before I dropped them off at their house, we met up with my mom, my new sister-in-law, and both of my brothers at this awesome Dayton pizza chain called Marion's Pizza. I got to sleep around 11-ish and then woke up at 2:45 a.m., flying down I-75 back home to Georgia so that I could make it to the Foster make-up-Thanksgiving jamboree, which was a lot of fun.


Observation #1: Bumper stickers make people targets and are often ridiculous.

For instance, today (on the way back to Georgia), I read the following bumper sticker: KIDS THAT HUNT AND FISH DON'T STEAL AND DEAL. This is ludicrous and completely false. I know at least two people from Ohio who hunt and fish and still manage to find time to steal and deal drugs.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against people who hunt and fish, but this bumper sticker makes it sound like people who carry fishing poles and guns on their shoulders are somehow nobler than the rest of us lost souls (who apparently are out stealing and dealing).

Why couldn't the bumper sticker read "I LOVE HUNTING AND FISHING" or "MY FAMILY LOVES TO HUNT AND FISH"? That would seem a lot less insulting to my intelligence and more supportive of the enterprise of hunting and fishing. Ignorant bumper stickers only divide.


Observation #2: Week-long vacations pass way too fast.


Other random stuff:

  • The November PAD Chapbook Challenge is nearly finished for 2009 at my Poetic Asides blog. It's been a fun, though technologically challenging, month.
  • I wrote up some tips on using Twitter at my WD Community blog. Click here to check those out.
  • Tennessee opened a few more rest areas this month along I-75. May only be of importance to me, but so be it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The future of publishing is a tsunami

The water is drawing away from us as we watch a giant wave on the horizon. It looks small from a distance, but as it approaches we realize something major is on the verge of happening and that the way things used to be will be no more. This is how I feel about the future of publishing.

From the reports and news filing in externally to the conversations I've had internally, the publishing business is about to change rapidly and dramatically. And no, I'm not saying it will be the end of books or good writing. I'm not saying writers will be wiped off the face of the earth like dinosaurs and card catalogs. But things will change and soon.

Here are some predictions:
  1. Content delivery will change. We've already seen this as companies replace print catalogs with newsletters and e-mail blasts. Some magazines have already closed up shop in print to focus on their websites.
  2. Submission methods will change. Most editors already accept submissions via e-mail. More are moving toward online submissions forms. Eventually, writers won't have to worry about the price of postage going up every year (outside of the "old school" practice of mailing cards for holidays and birthdays).
  3. Roles will change. Editors are becoming marketers as much as quality assurance experts; agents are becoming editors as much as career consultants; writers are more and more being asked to build platforms and develop an audience before acceptance.
  4. Titles will change. Writers are turning into content providers. Publishing companies are turning into media companies. Magazines are turning into websites.
  5. Balance of power will change. I'm not sure how, who will be most affected, what the resulting landscape will be, but I do know the time is ripe for some companies/individuals to rise up while others slowly fade away or burn quickly across the publishing mesosphere.

Basically, everything will change.


If you're a writer who wants to take action, here are some recent posts I've made to my blog on the Writer's Digest Community site:

While there, you could also check out Jane Friedman's The Future of Publishing group. She's really got a better handle on the whole future of publishing than anyone I know.


I submitted six poems to RATTLE tonight. It's been a long time since I've made the time to submit my work, but I can only sit on poems with titles like "The Robots" and "Yes, Daddy is like a minivan" for so long.

Also, I've now made it through 10 days of the November PAD Chapbook Challenge at my Poetic Asides blog. I am very, very happy with the poems I've written so far and look forward to what I might create the rest of the month.

Here are the 10 prompts so far:

  1. Write a poem in which you (or something) enters something new.
  2. Write a poem in which you look at something from a different angle.
  3. Write a positive poem or a negative poem (Two for Tuesday prompt).
  4. Take phrase "Maybe (blank)," replace blank with word or phrase, make title of your poem, and write poem.
  5. Write a growth poem.
  6. Write a poem with (or about) someone (or something) covered.
  7. Pick a plant, make that title of your poem, and write poem.
  8. Take the phrase "Should (blank)," replace blank with word or phrase, make title of your poem, and write poem.
  9. Write a slippery poem.
  10. Write a love or anti-love poem (Two for Tuesday prompt).


Outside of an intermittent Internet connection today, I don't have much bothering me at the moment--unlike Baby Will, who now suddenly has four teeth in his mouth. Poor little guy!

Here's hoping things are super cool in your neck of the woods!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Five Things You Don't Need To Know About Me

Number 1: Will's first tooth has broken through on the top front side of his mouth.

Number 2: Will can now walk without holding onto anything, though he does still prefer using walls and chairs for support and balance.

Number 3: Reese's 6th birthday is Saturday. We're going to have a family get together at the park with Reese's favorite pizza: Little Ceasar's.

Number 4: My novel for NaNoWriMo is continuing to make great progress, though I'm still falling behind as far as word count each and every day. Oh well. I can't do everything in November, right?

Number 5: My poem, "Solving the World's Problems," is in OCHO #27. Plus, my mug is even one of the faces featured on the cover of the issue. Click here to check it out.

Bonus: I'm 5 for 5 on the November PAD Chapbook Challenge. With the poems I've been writing lately, I may even try getting a little Poetic Asides chapbook together of my own poetry. I need something to keep me busy in December, eh?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Best Man And His Kryptonite

My brother David married his long-time, special ladyfriend Laura (now known to the boys officially as "Aunt Laura") this past Sunday (11/1/09). I was the Best Man, which meant that I got to hold Laura's ring for David, pose for a ton of wedding pictures, and give a little toast to the happy couple.

I ended up not doing any toast research ahead of time. I've been to quite a few weddings and have heard my share of toasts (my favorite is still the one my brother Simon gave me after my first wedding that went along the lines of "May you have many happy days and even happier nights."). My toast was pretty easy going (like myself), and I even started to choke up and nearly tear up as I gave it. They've been together a long time now and just seem very comfortable with each other. Much happiness to them!


So, I've now been The Best Man twice, which makes me feel kind of like a super hero (especially if both marriages stick). So, as a super hero, I have to have some kind of kryptonite, right? Of course, I do. And I think I know what it is after all these years: Time sheets!

While I'm a salaried employee, I still have to complete time sheets for tax purposes. We're supposed to have them done by the Monday after each completed week, and I can't for the life of me ever get them done on time. I set reminders for myself in Outlook; I add it to my To-Do lists; and I even use Post-It notes. But I always seem to end up prioritizing other tasks over completing my time sheets.

If there are any supervillains lurking out there (and I'm sure there are), I've now made it public knowledge that the best way to weaken my superness is to sling time sheets at me. (Maybe I can get them done on time next week.)


The November PAD (Poem-A-Day) Chapbook Challenge is rumbling along over at my Poetic Asides blog. I love doing the challenges for two reasons:
  1. It's so cool to see everyone create poems based off one of my prompts.
  2. As a participant myself, I love having that motivation (err, peer pressure) to try and write something once a day throughout the month.


I've been Tweeting poems randomly over on Twitter. My handle is @robertleebrewer if you want to follow me. Here are a few of my poetic offerings:

Poem #1: I am a giant whale carried above the ocean by little birds.

Poem #2: I am a robot with a missing hand. Thanks for noticing.

Both poems are inspired by Twitter messages and corresponding graphics. But it is interesting to try and create a poem in less than 140 characters. And I think I prefer the term Poetweets for these 140 or less poetic offerings.


Quote of the day (maybe even week): Test before you change.

A programmer instructed this to me today. And he's right. And I wish all programs and changes were made after being tested. The world would be a much happier place for it.


I'm trying my hand at NaNoWriMo. I'm not officially registered or anything, but I'm quietly (or not so since I'm sharing my progress on this blog and other places) trying to put together more than 50,000 words during the month of November on my novel idea.

I am currently behind pace for 50,000, but the outline is coming together. And I can feel momentum building with each section I write. Here's hoping the momentum just continues to build.


Went trick-or-treating with Ben, Jonah, Baby Will and Tammy in Kettering, Ohio, on Halloween. There was a nearly full moon, leaves scattered across the sidewalks, candy pushers sitting on their front porches and the occasional really cool (really scary) decorated house. Much like a high school football coach, I pushed the boys to keep collecting candy even as their little legs felt rubbery. In the end, I think they were glad I did, because their bags were loaded with things sweet and sour and sugary.