Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Breast cancer survivor poetry

For some time now, I had been working on a breast cancer ebook that is meant to benefit a charity. And, this week, I thought I was going to finish it up. I was in the process of editing the manuscript and formatting it for submission. However, as I went through the manuscript and put together the table of contents, something struck me.

During the time I was well into the edits and formatting, I went over the contents to make sure everything was as it should be. Then I saw the words "breast cancer survivor poetry" and thought, 'Cool! There's poems in there from breast cancer survivors!' (See? This is how distracted I can get during the editing stage.)

But, actually, there weren't any poems by breast cancer survivors. It was only a short piece on the healing power of poetry and some links to where people can find poems written by breast cancer survivors.

My reaction to this? 'Wow, what a letdown.'

And, if I was the reader and not the author/editor of this ebook, I would track down the author/editor, grab that by the collar and frantically shake them, demanding, "WHERE'S THE POEMS??!!!"

As these emotions swam over me, I sat at the desk and thought about them. I really tuned in to this kind of reaction. Either I was not wording that part of the manuscript correctly or I was shortchanging readers who would have liked to see some poems that were written by breast cancer survivors.

So, the question is, which one is it?

I thought some more about this. Should I include poems written by breast cancer survivors? Poems about their experiences? Poems even in memory of those who lost the battle against breast cancer?

Hmm. It was something to think about. And I couldn't really decide either way.

So, I decided to ask on Facebook. But I didn't get any reply. I asked on Twitter. Nothing.


I guess I will have to decide on this myself. On one hand, I DO like the idea. But on the other ... I am not able to pay anyone for including their poems. Plus, I might have to reject some. and that thought makes me feel pretty bad. (As a writer, I know the sting of rejection.)

Still, it's an idea I am toying around with. I hope that I will find some way to reach a decision about whether or not to include this. I suppose I need time -- but not TOO much time. I am planning to finish up this project before the year is out -- and, here again, that is yet another thing to consider when making my decision: Time.

UPDATE, 11/29: I have decided not to include any poetry in this book. The manuscript is being prepped for a submission tomorrow. That is all.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Remaining goals for the year

Brace yourself! There is exactly 1½ months left of 2011! During the year, we all probably asked ourselves if we have accomplished the goals we set out to achieve for 2011. Perhaps some of us have managed to keep tabs on those goals here or there, but now we are at a very important juncture of the year. Now we have less than two months left to complete our goals for 2011.

Are you able to do it?

Do you even know what these remaining goals are?

That was what I was asking myself the other day. I had to pause and take stock of what remaining goals I want to accomplish for the year. And also what exactly I need to finish up before January 1st gets here. (Just as I like to greet my Mondays with NEW things to do, I like to welcome a new year with completed projects and a plate waiting to be filled with new projects.)

I took stock of what remaining ongoing projects I have on the table, as well as what projects NEED to be done before January gets here. In the end, I had eight items on my list. Some of them are manuscripts I need to finish editing, some of them are first drafts of novelettes to write, and some of them are books I have left to review.


Well, given that there are eight items and, more or less, two months left, I spread these items out over November and December. I decided what I will finish/write this month and what I will finish/write next month.

After that, my list of items looked doable. Yay!

Doing this has helped me create my weekly schedules in a more organized and prioritized fashion. If I stick to the schedule, I’ll be able to get everything done in time for the new year.

What ongoing or incomplete projects do you have left to finish up before the year is out?

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Friday, November 11, 2011

"In Memorium": Who is the best person for the job?

“It seemed, however, everyone loved a good obit....”

When I read those words in a novel I am currently reading, I had to pause. Recently, a cousin died and I wrote a poem honoring his memory. I’d done the same thing when another cousin had died, and I’d done the same thing even for when my dogs have died. (As well as dogs who shared a home with human companions.)

But I have not just written poems about people I knew – and I barely knew that first cousin I mentioned in the previous paragraph. I also wrote poems honoring those who died on 9/11, those who were killed at Columbine, those who were shot at another school massacre as well as Princess Diana and Michael Landon. I did not know any of these people, but I wrote those poems because I felt moved to write something to honor their memory with. I also did the same thing when a friend of a friend died in a bicycle accident.

I did not know them, but something moved me to write those poems. I don’t know what. When I wrote that poem for the cousin, I worried I’d get backlash from those who were closer to him, and who knew him better than I did. The one other cousin I shared this with did not react that way, but I still felt maybe the others were wondering why I was even writing that poem. After all, I don’t even remember even meeting this cousin in person, or hearing stories about him. But I just wrote the poem, anyway.

And those words in that novel affected me, because on that same day, I was struggling with this. I just stopped myself and asked, Who am I to write these poems? I was not there. I didn’t know those people or that person. How could I possibly capture the essence of someone in a poem meant to honor them if I didn’t even know them?

And it’s interesting that it was a sentence about obits that gave me pause about this. At some point in the near future, I am planning to take ALL of those poems and put them into a poetry manuscript, one which I am actually going to title “Obits.” I got the idea for this a long time ago when a friend complained that the obits in a newspaper hardly capture what a person was REALLY like. What kind of person he/she REALLY was. I have read some obits of people I knew where the obits hardly did their memory any justice, and others of people I did not know that were actually very powerful writing. So I thought, what if we did find a way to write about how a person REALLY was? There’s got to be something better to honor their memory with. I thought a poem would do just that.

All the same, I did not set out to write these types of poems with that intention. Basically, I was so moved by someone’s death that I wrote the poem. When I wrote those poems in memory of Princess Diana or Michael Landon, it’s because I was moved to do so. It wasn’t because I thought it was a great way to honor their memory or, gee, this will look good in a poetry book! I just wanted to write those poems. I was compelled to write them.

And I still want to include them all in that book.

When this book comes out and people see these poems, I hope the relatives and friends of the people I wrote about will not think I tried to put myself on their level just to get a poem out of it. I hope they won’t think I was trying to benefit off of someone’s death or tragedy, or that I’m trying to make myself look like I KNEW those people when I didn’t or have the authority to write such words. My words are my own. They are words that came from my heart and soul during a time of sadness and a time of saying goodbye. They are just words that I felt compelled to write.

If people cannot understand that, or appreciate that, I still hope that in some way, at the very least, the poems will bring them comfort, maybe even a bit of peace. It’s never easy to say goodbye to someone and some animal we have loved. It’s so hard to let someone near to our heart go away from us forever. Poems are just one way to help us heal through our grief. And, I hope, they can also be one way to remember someone in a positive and loving light.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Thank you, Girl Scout Troop #2056!

In August, I received an email from a girl named Lilly who is a member of a Girl Scout troop. Her troop was doing a special project as part of trying to win a Silver Award. Their project was dedicating two park benches in a local park as part of the 10th anniversary of September 11th. They were dedicating two park benches and their theme was "Sit and Reflect." They wanted to do something special for this occasion.

Lilly contacted me because she found my 9/11 poem, "They Were Our Neighbors," on the Internet and she and her troop really liked the poem. They asked for permission to put my poem on a bookmark they would hand out to people at the dedication ceremony on September 11, 2011. Of course, I said yes, and as a former Girl Scout myself, I commended her and her troop for their efforts to do something special for their community. I thought their idea was fantastic and let them know I was cheering them on.

Later, I received an update email about their progress. They were having fun creating the bookmarks and attached photos of the occasion. It was so awesome to see their idea coming together for them! And, I felt really honored to be a part of something so special.

I just received the bookmarks in the mail and I was taken aback by how beautiful they turned out. I had tears in my eyes as I read both Lilly's and her mother's letters about the ceremony. The Poet Laureate Mary Louise Cox attended the ceremony and she asked the crowd in attendance if I was among them. (Sadly, I could not make it out there.) Lilly told me that Ms. Cox commented on the poem, saying she liked it. "Ms. Cox said to please tell you that from one poet to another she thinks your poem is beautiful!!"

I was so touched by this experience. Lilly even sent along an online printing of the article that was written about this occasion, along with photos. This has to be probably the biggest focal point in my experiences writing poetry. This is a really big deal for me and I am so grateful that a poem I posted on the Internet in 2003 turned out to be something that touched the hearts and lives of so many.

They sent me some of the bookmarks; they ran out of all of the rest at the ceremony! I hope they will be able to create more because my daughter wants to give some to her teacher and friends.

Thank you, Girl Scout Troop #2056, for doing such a generous and meaningful project for your community. Thank you for using my poem for your bookmarks. And thank you for doing something so special in honor of those who were lost on that day. Congratulations on winning the Silver Award. Many blessings and lots of cheers to you all!!!

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