by Tom Leduc
People often ask, why Zombie Poetry? Well, because they’re easy pick in’s I say. They’re walking metaphors, or should I say stumbling, dragging metaphors. Zombie poetry is so much fun and full of interesting subject matter, I have trouble focusing on where the poems take me.
For instance, you can take anyone from this reality and Zombify him or her. I have one poem that describes what happened to an orchestra conductor after the zombie apocalypse, and have also created several poems that describe a roofer who was trapped on the roof of a church during the dawn of the dead and his fight to survive.
This summer I spent a couple of Saturday afternoons converting children’s nursery rhymes into Zombie rhymes, what fun. You can convert all kinds of famous poetry into Zombie poetry. I have re-imagined Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night”. Now it will be given a whole new life and re-introduced to a new generation of fans.
We can also write poems that challenge the moral or philosophical questions of a Zombie apocalypse. Would you be able to take down a threat? What if your loved one was involved, or your neighbour or even that bully from your childhood? Would you fight until the bitter end or would you give-up? Zombie poetry or story-telling can offer a place to explore these otherwise taboo subjects in a therapeutic way.
One of the most powerful ways to write about Zombies is to describe the way they reflect our own culture. We, as a race, are mindlessly consuming the planet. Our eating habits and our lifestyles are contributing factors to our possible extinction. The constant pressures of advertisers, tax collectors, and the needs of the people around us, in a way, mirror the constant threat of being attacked and eaten by zombies. We spend our days slaving away at our work, most of us lost within a giant corporation never really seeing any results, and in the world of Zombies you can spend day after day beating away at hordes of Zombies never really getting anywhere, they just keep coming. I write about this in my poem “Hordes Of The Dead,” but can be best captured in my poem “Zombie On The Inside.” My wife came home from an extra hard day at work one day and said to me that she “felt dead on the inside, rotting, not really alive anymore, as if [she] was missing out on life.” I replied, “ you feel like a Zombie on the inside” and instantly I understood what she was trying to say. I sat down and started writing, her words are the first two lines to the poem. The poem can be read from different perspectives such as someone feeling the way my wife did that day, such as an elderly person slowly losing themselves, or as someone who has been bitten by a Zombie as is now becoming one. Our culture is full of these kinds of examples, even the fans of Zombies consume everything Zombie, thus becoming the very thing they fear.
This is why I like to write Zombie poetry, because it can have so many layers to it.
If you would like to have some fun and hear some of my Zombie Poetry and see some short films, come out to Little Montreal on Elm St., Tuesday October 28th, 8 to 10 PM. Dress up and bring some non- perishable goods to support the Sudbury Food Bank.
On Sunday October 26th, Sudbury’s Poet Laureate and our very own Writers’ Guild member, Tom Leduc is kicking off an exciting new adventure, The Young Writers’ Guild of Sudbury.
The Young Writers’ Guild is a group of young people, ages 12 to 18, who meet monthly to share their common interest in all aspects of writing.
Imagine entering university with a portfolio of published work and the confidence to reach your goals. We have the tools and connections, we only need you. So come check it out, get involved and help create the kind of writing environment you want for yourself and the city.
Sundays October 26, November 30, January 25 @ 1 PM – Main Library (74 Mackenzie Street, Sudbury)
For more information contact Tom directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 705-673-1155 x4761.
Click here for poster for event: Young Writers Guild of Sudbury – POSTER
by Vera Constantineau
I’m entering a creative phase. I can feel it in the way I want to scribble down my observations. Everything inspires me to pick up a pen: the way someone steps off the sidewalk, the look in a person’s eyes when a car gets too close in the crosswalk, a woman’s hair shaved so close on the sides and flipped in front the way a man in the fifties who used Brylcreem would have done. Every visual is a potential writing gift.
I know I can write about these things and you will understand, because we’re writers. We all have flashes of inspiration, bursts of internal dialogue, the dream that delivers the exact word or phrase or clue we needed to finish a story that’s been nagging at us.
I stopped writing in June, just stopped.
At first I thought there was no reason. I thought that I was tired, mentally snuffed. In hindsight I think the stoppage was a little more specific than that.
I got an e-mail containing a link to a writing call. I often get such e-mails, no surprise there. This time though, when I read the fine print, the gatherers specified that in writing this submission, we, as contributors, should be gut-wrenchingly honest.
The phrase gut wrenchingly honest ran me off the writing track, slammed me hard against the imaginary bales of hay I have placed at my imaginary limits, a writers crash and burn.
I tried to settle on a topic for this essay call, tried to come up with an idea that was fresh and interesting, nothing. Or at least nothing I wanted to write about in detail. Nothing that required producing a dose of gut wrenching that would be considered effective on both the sending end and the receiving end. I stalled for weeks. During the stall I found it increasingly hard to observe in my usual way, even worse, I recognized the lack.
In 2013 I signed up for an online course in Nonfiction Creative Writing offered through the community college online network. I’ve taken more than a dozen courses over the past five years and I have been to many workshops. I am accustomed to tapping into my deep dark places, so imagine my surprise when I tried to complete my first assignment in this course and discovered I had developed a severe aversion to telling, what amounted to me, to be my secrets.
In hindsight I can see that this was gut wrenching honesty, round one.
The course came perilously close to memoir and I have always stepped gingerly around that topic.
This call for (gut wrenching honesty in our) submissions was for personal essays. I guessed I was not ready to spill blood onto a page for the benefit of a phantom reader.
Correction, I wouldn’t spill blood in large quantities. In Haiku and Senryu I have dropped my share of blood-load. Through Haiku I’ve dealt (honestly) with my mother’s death, the curse of my illegitimacy, cancer, and other topics, all of which definitely qualify as gut wrenching. I just couldn’t see myself drawing on the kind of details that would get me published in this particular magazine.
Until last week I remained snuffed big time—a snuffing of monumental proportion.
Then … I received a copy of Wah.
Wah is a Haiku journal from India with the sole purpose of developing a cultural exchange between Indian Haiku poets and poets in the rest of the world. The first of four poems they accepted was there, printed in English on page 41 and facing it on page 42, in Punjabi.
Getting this journal in the mail was exactly what I needed. I read through the list of contributors and found fellow Guild member, Irene Golas, as well as others I admire locally and in the broader world and I stopped feeling tired. I stopped feeling mentally snuffed. And Halleluiah, I returned to my favourite pastime, the observation of my fellow humans.
The writing process is not something everyone understands. I think only those of us who look past the surface and see past the green hair will truly relate to the crushing pain a good snuffing delivers.
If I am ever again called upon to deliver gut wrenching honesty I know exactly what I will say: Writing is hard.
I’m not going to get into the details, other than to say that NaNoWriMo is the shortened form of National Novel Writing Month. If you want to find out more about it, it’s history, what charities it supports (note: not registered in Canada at this time), and all that other writerly goodness, hie thee to NaNoWriMo.org.
I’m the kind of writer that likes to present herself with challenges. What would be more challenging than to write 50,000 words in a month? That’s a functional draft for most genres, and even if you’re writing something like fantasy or science fiction that allows higher word counts, it’s a lot easier to “write up” to length than to implement a scorched Earth policy to edit down.
As WANA founder Kristen Lamb says, life doesn’t reward beginners. It rewards finishers. Since nearly every first draft in existence is crap anyway, why not give yourself permission to get that crappy draft done so you can edit it into the work of art we all know it can be?
What does 50,000 words in a month mean? What does it “look like,” in workplace parlance?
I like to draw on my background as an academic and a corporate trainer for this. As with any exam or paper I had to write, or any project I have to manage, I look at the time I have and divide the work into equal portions, account for planned, and even unexpected events, and set reasonable goals based on that accounting.
I also like to do something called front-loading. I aim for a daily goal slightly higher than what I absolutely have to get done. If you’re ahead of the game, then an unexpected crisis (or utter exhaustion) won’t derail you nearly as much.
There are 30 days in November. 50,000 divided by 30 is 1,667 words per day. If you aim for 2,000 words a day, you give yourself some wiggle room.
Planning is critical.
I’m an unapologetic pantser, that is, I write by the seat of my pants. I don’t plot out my novels, identify my major turning points, etc. I just write. Having said that, my ideas are fairly well thought out ahead of time and I often know what the climax of my novel is.
Even so, I had to give over my pantsing ways for NaNo.
I chose an older idea that I actually had written a chapter outline for. I had even written down some ideas for the opening chapters and inciting incident.
If you have research to do, do that in advance as well, or work out a system whereby you make notes for yourself for future research (e.g. 18th century dress for description of protagonist and love interest; Where was the post office in the original Copper Cliff? Herbal remedies and midwifery in frontier Canada.).
The point is to write. Get your ideas down. Try not to edit as you go. I say try, because I gave into the temptation and redrafted several chapters. Sometimes you have to because an idea or new direction will pop up when you least expect it and require some rework to proceed.
Having said all that, you will probably deviate from your plan for the very reason I just stated. This is true especially for the pantser, for whom all the planning in the world can be only the starting line, or jumping-off point. Prepare for the deviation, for the new idea that will not let you go, and figure out a way to address that serendipity.
Planning is never wasted, though.
I was fortunate last year, because I was on leave until November 17th. Knowing that, and that I had planned a visit to a friend for a few days in early November, I front-loaded big time, sometimes writing more than 3,000 words in a day to make up for the expected shortage of time when I returned to work.
Recruit your family and friends to help. Let them know how important this is to you, and ask them to help out with housework, cooking, shopping, or whatever other tasks you would normally do in the course of a week. Would they mind eating take-out a day or two a week (can you afford it)? Will the grandparents or a favourite auntie and uncle mind watching the kids for a few days? Can you negotiate a regular block of time that will, for all intents and purposes, remain sacrosanct for the month of November? Will you have to relocate for the weekends in the month to ensure your most productive writing days remain just that?
What other routines will have to change to accommodate NaNo? For example, I am going to cut down the frequency of my blogging, and do all of my blogging on the weekends, so I can just send out my posts on their assigned days. I’m getting in the habit of doing it this month, so the adjustment won’t be so big. I will probably be difficult to find on the interwebz for the month of November as well. Every second really does count.
I’ve been writing, pretty much daily, for years now. It was good to have the time off to devote to the daily writing quota NaNo requires, but I can probably manage it working.
No, I’m not taking time off this year to do it.
Yes, I have a workshop I’ve committed to in the month of November. It’s just two days, but still.
Yes. I’m crazy, but in a good way.
I’m addicted to word count. I’m not draconian about it (i.e. no self-flagellation involved), but I’ve been tracking my output using a fantastic spreadsheet Jamie Raintree developed. I’ve learned that by not even trying, I can write anywhere between 12,000 and 18,000 words a month (including my blog posts).
I’m planning and researching this month like a good little do-bee.
Because of work, I’m adjusting my schedule to focus my efforts on the weekends because I know I’ll be lucky to get 1,000 words in on a weeknight. There are five weekends in November. It’s doable. It is.
I’m letting the housework go for the month (except laundry, ‘cause I don’t have that many clothes) and I’m not going to let it bother me. So there.
As I mentioned, I’m going to be less active on the interwebz and prepare my week’s posts on the weekends. If this doesn’t prove effective, I’m prepared to take a blogging/social media vacation. I’ll do it. I swear.
The feeling of accomplishment, of achieving that 50,000 word goal, of knowing that I have the working basis of a novel, can’t be beat. It’s a gamification of writing (the satisfying “ding!” of levelling up). NaNo will even give you a certificate you can print off after you validate your word count on their site.
Plus, you get all sorts of perks for being a winner: a discount on Scrivener software (which I purchased and am going to use for this new project), free or discounted publishing on Lulu and Createspace, and other writerly consumables.
Even if you don’t “win,” and really, your only competition is yourself, you still win. Say everything goes to hell in November and I only manage 20,000 words. That’s 20,000 words I didn’t have before. That’s no reason to be ashamed. It’s pride-making, confidence-building, and craft-validating, in fact.
There will be people who will tell you that NaNo isn’t worth it. It so is. Don’t listen to them. They’re full of shit.
Agents and small publishers will tell you how they are inundated with crappy NaNo drafts in December. Um . . . jump the gun much? The point of NaNo is to get a working draft that you can revise, edit, and polish into a gem. That can take the rest of the year if you focus on the one project, more, if you write and work on several projects at once (as I—remember, I’m crazy—do).
In the immortal words of Larry the Cable Guy, Git ‘er done!
If you choose to accept the NaNoWriMo challenge, I hope you get as much out of it as I did. More even. Moar!
And I sincerely hope that you got some writerly goodness out of my sharing my NaNo experience with you.