Amanda Reads: Several Short Sentences about Writing

This week, my reading is brought to you by my MFA program’s summer reading list for incoming students. That’s right, I’m going back to school! I couldn’t be happier that this year, the crisp scent of fall will bring with it once again the smell of notebooks, textbooks, and pretending for a litle while that wearing makeup on the regular is a thing I do. Ahh, back to school season.

In some ways, having summer reading feels familiar. In other ways, it does not. For instance, the fact that I read most of Several Short Sentences About Writing either in Pittsburgh or on a Greyhound as states I’d never been to whizzed by outside. Or crept by at a snail’s pace, it sometimes seemed.

Now I am safely tucked away on my friend Nicki’s couch in Idaho (I’ll wait while you make the apparently obligatory potato joke). While she is at work, I am cranking out my first blog post in quite some time. With one summer reading book out of four completed, the rest of my vacation is stacking up nicely to include a lot of reading.

So, about this book. Its author, Veryln Klinkenborg, nicely balances humor with seriousness as he gives advice to writers on how best to revise and improve their work. It is full of exercises and activities to try, many of which seemed very helpful. For the first 50 or so pages, however, I got quickly irritated by just how often Klinkenborg brings our attention back to the sentence. The sentence, the sentence, the sentence. That being said, his advice about said sentence is sound, his desire to bring our attention to it important. Just. Repetitive. A bit.

By the end, I found that I understood entirely why this book was on my syllabus. The advice is short, sweet, and to the point. Occasionally, it is a bit overdramatic about how much our education system has failed us (and it has, in many ways, failed the creative writer inside so many students). I think reading this book has given me a lot of tools to help me be a better writer, help me recognize my own patterns of writing and the repetitiveness in my own constructions. To all who want to be better writers, I recommend it. Just bring your patience with you, because you will read the word “sentence” about a million times. But of course, what else does the title lead us to expect?


Welcome to the 9 to 5 Poetry Project!

Hello hello, internet people! It’s been a bit, I know, but apparently the adjustment from college life to this mythical creature they call “real life” is kind of hard. Who knew? Between finding a “real job” and looking for a “real apartment,” I’ve barely had time to breathe, let alone blog!

I’ve got a lot of exciting things lined up for next year (including the start of my AmeriCorps term and the very exciting move-out-of-parent’s-house moment), but for the summer I’m clocking my 9 to 5 in the same old retail job I’ve had for the last four years.

Starting last week, I’ve been filling in as a full time “coordinator” (person in charge of a particular department), while our usual sportswear coordinator undergoes surgery and recovery (kind thoughts and wishes for her are appreciated). This means more money and more responsibility, but it also means I’ve been spending a lot more time under the glamorous florescent lights and the “broken” air conditioning of a discount retail store.

Needless to say, this has been cutting into the amount of time I’ve spent writing. What can I do to fix this? I wondered, and the answer came to me in the form of one of the Poem a Day emails. This one featured a cashier’s poetry project in which she wrote a poem sparked by the first item she scanned every day. Pretty cool, right? So I thought, Why not try something similar to make being at work a little more interesting?

We all know I’m no poet, but I’ve been meaning to give the thing a go since refining my poetic skills and learning to write under stricter space constraints will definitely benefit my prose writing. To that end, I’ll be starting a poetry project just in time for July, wherein each day I will choose either the first or most memorable task I complete at work during that day and write a poem that is sparked from or centered around that task in some way.

Be gentle, as this is an experiment. I’m not claiming poetic genius here, but merely sharing ideas from my brain. I’ll be posting the poems the day of whatever task inspires them, so I ask that you view them as the first drafts that they are.

Finally, I invite you to share with me in your comments–write a poem about your job (part time or otherwise), share a comment about a particularly weird or irritating day, anything. Constructive criticism and comments about my “poetry” is also welcome, but let’s keep it classy and friendly, okay?

Hello, and welcome to my 9 to 5 Poetry Project! Expect the next post to be Poem #1! I hope you enjoy my work.