Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Power of Starting Something Stupid

I stumbled onto this book by accident and I'm so glad I did.

This is the kind of book that you don't see very often.... something that you get so very excited about and cannot stop reading or talking about.

This book speaks to anyone who has an idea for anything.  Of course I relate it to writing and that is where the fun begins....

As writers we come up with ideas for books.  We ponder them.... we consider the audience and how they would see it and we sometimes take a long time to spit out the words and have enough courage to send the manuscript off for professional people to judge..... but with this book Richie Norton pulls out all the stops.  Chapter after chapter he convinces you that whatever idea you have...it is worth something. No matter what age you are or what season in your life you are living, the time is now to write that story.  You will never regret it.

Consider this:  A guy by the name of Pierre Omidyar wants to sell used stuff on the internet.  He says of the guy he pitched the idea to: "First he told me it was stupid idea....and then he agreed to come on board.  Ebay was born and look at the success...

Here's another one....David Neeleman (CEO of JetBlue Airways--the one who created the electronic airline ticket) says of his new found idea:  When I proposed that idea, people laughed at me, saying no one would go to the airport without a paper ticket.  Now everyone does and it has saved the industry millions of dollars."

Pretty cool I say.  There are so many other examples of companies who were laughed at and then ended up making millions.  But back to authors---did you know the author of The Help, Kathryn Stockett went through 66 rejection notices before someone saw the brilliance of her first novel?  It is amazing that 66 agents/publishers thought the idea wouldn't work.  But she didn't let her dream die...

This book gives everyone hope. Whatever you want to do, says Richie Norton, do it now!!! No time like the present and if it doesn't work out at least you tried.  You are going to get a year older anyway...

 Check out The Power of Starting Something Stupid by Richie Norton.....

Here's what Amazon has to say on the book:

"Richie Norton has written a book about courage. The courage to do work that matters and to do it with your heart and your soul. Go make something happen." — Seth Godin, author of The Icarus Deception

"Perfect book for these uncertain times." — Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media

What if the smartest people in the world understand something that the rest of us don't? (They do.) What if they know that in order to achieve success, they will sometimes have to do things that others may initially perceive as stupid?The fact of the matter is that the smartest people in the world don't run from stupid, they lean into it (in a smart way).

In The Power of Starting Something Stupid, Richie Norton redefines stupid as we know it, demonstrating that life-changing ideas are often tragically mislabeled stupid. What if the key to success, creativity, and fulfillment in your life lies in the potential of those stupid ideas? This deeply inspiring book will teach you:
• How to crush fear, make dreams happen, and live without regret.
• How to overcome obstacles such as lack of time, lack of education, or lack of money.
• The 5 actions of the New Smart to achieve authentic success.
No more excuses. Learn how to start something stupid—the smartest thing you can do. Drawing on years of research, including hundreds of face-to-face interviews and some of the world's greatest success stories past and present, Richie shows you how stupid is the New Smart—the common denominator for success, creativity, and innovation in business and life.

 Click here for the Amazon link to The Power of Starting Something Stupid

Thursday, April 25, 2013

There is No Bandaid

Sometimes Mommy can't make it all better.

Not like the days when my little girl scraped a knee and
Came to me, breath shuddering, face wet,
Wanting only to be held against the breast
She'd suckled from two years before.

Those days I'd scoop her up and rock her
Until she'd calm and let me clean the wound,
Apply a bandaid topped off with a
Whisper and a kiss.

Twenty years later it's not the knee that has been scraped,
But thoughts intruding over and over,
Attacking her shell of self-esteem,
Cracking the enamel of her soul.

What if I fail? What if I'm not ready?
What if no one understands me? What if I can't handle it?

I'm not good enough, I'm not good enough, I'm not good enough.

These are not normal fears and doubts,
They are the more obsessive kind
That haunt her nights, besiege her mind.

I take her in my arms and wait
For breath to calm and tongue to still,
A signal she is safe again and able to
Control her will...for now.

I can whisper,
I can kiss,

But there is no bandaid for this.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

2nd Annual WUFC Writing Contest

The Drive to Thrive is the theme for our 2nd Annual WUFC Writing Contest.  We are accepting entries until midnight on August 15th, 2013.  Everyone over the age of 18 is eligible to enter. Contestants may have been published before, or be a first time writer. Subject matter may be on any topic as long as it follows the theme of the Drive to Thrive. Please do not submit items that have been previously published in other formats. Word Count limit for all category / genres submissions is 4000 words.

Entry Fee is $30.00 per submission. There is no limit to the number of submissions allowed. The funds raised from entry fees and sales of books above the cost of production will be donated to the combined cancer research program at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Arizona State University under the Direction of Robert Waters, PhD.

Categories include:

Fiction - Short Stories or partial novels - all genres middle grade up to adult. (Partial novels must have a resolution within the text submitted.) Mystery, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Steam Punk, Dystopia  Historical, Inspirational, Paranormal, Speculative, Romance, Suspense,  and/or Western.

Non-Fiction - Essay, Inspirational, Motivational Speeches, Self-Help / How To articles, Memoir / auto-biography and Biography.

We are looking for entries that show the drive or will to thrive through and after life challenges - not just survive.

Do Not Submit: Horror, Erotica, Poetry, and Foul or Vulgar language.

The Theme for the
WUFC 2012 Writing Contest
was Courage to Thrive.
Finalists and Winners will be given the opportunity to be published in the 2nd WUFC Writing Contest Anthology if they are willing work with one of our editors – at no charge.

Send submissions to:

Margaret L. Turley, Administrator
1146 N. Mesa Dr. #102-233
writersunitetofightcancer@gmail.com                                 Mesa, AZ  85201
Website: http://writersunitetofightcancer.com
480-586-7902 – cell phone

All published authors are invited to join Writers Unite to Fight Cancer (WUFC).
If authors do not live in an area where we hold our events, (mostly Phoenix and Tucson Arizona) they can still participate by having their books included in our on-line bookstore, and volunteering to judge entries for the writing contest and or edit entries in preparing them to be published in the Writing Contest Anthology.  Please email Margaret Turley at: writersunitetofightcancer@gmail.com for more information.

by Margaret L. Turley

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Where Did it All Go?

I could swear that yesterday I was pushing my third son (and last child) out into the world. It was yesterday. I remember it clearly. It took us nearly eighteen hours longer to name him than to have him. Now look at him! He's standing at my fridge grazing like the whole Devouring Hoard. If I look really hard there might be an ancient ketchup packet left after he's done. (It's a crying shame that he doesn't go ahead and wipe down the inside while he's grazing.)

And that's the baby. There are five others. I can't imagine how that happened since, in my head, I'm only a twiggy twenty-five-year-old college kid. The child units keep accurate track of exactly how old I am, though, so they can correctly inform people who I've been trying to gull into believing my alternate-universe ploy. Thanks kids. There'll be Brussels sprouts for dinner.

How is it possible that all those years of music lessons and thirty-plus concerts a year will soon come to an abrupt end? I'll have to borrow someone else's children to fill up my extra hours. Seems strange that they'll all trundle off to college and there'll be days and days of extra quiet writing time. What will I ever do without my evening hours being full of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Batman cartoons? (We'll still watch Dr. Who, of course.)

How will I ever wake up correctly without needing to stumble out to the car to take them all off to Seminary? There won't be any shrieking about who's still hogging the mirror or who left the towels on their bedroom floor (along with everything else they own). I won't be tripping on text books and smelly tennis shoes and violins and crumb-strewn plates.

The first one already flew the coop and set the precedent, first to college, then a mission to Ecuador, then back to college and now to a life with her own family. A new crop of babies is growing up around her knees, but too far away from here for my liking (although perhaps not for my sanity...:o) Thank Heavens for Skype and phones.

My middle son leaves in just over thirty days for his mission in Russia. He's the funny one who says everything in various accents (including Pinky from Pinky and the Brain and Arnold Schwartzenegger--sometimes together). For two long years he'll be off teaching the gospel (and freezing) while we slog on here at home, mirthless and sad without him. Who will prank phone solicitors or laugh at my attempts?

Almost at the same time, the middle daughter graduates from high school and heads off to college, leaving our home bereft of cello music and Latin phrases and songs belted out at the top of her lungs. 

I can hear the halls echoing already. Can it already be time to start looking around for mission ideas? There's no way I'm that ancient! It was just last month that I was rock climbing with my friends and bumming around Europe, two years before my own graduation. Last week I was spreading my own wings and flying off to Alaska to can salmon. Just a day ago I was trying to get the keys out of the trunk at the temple so I wouldn't be late to my own wedding luncheon. Hours ago I was waddling up to the podium to accept my college graduation certificate, hoping my water wouldn't break on the way. Seems like hours anyway.

Am I standing at the precipice with more than a little trepidation? Maybe. How can the next phase be as full and busy and crazy and annoying and mind-blowing and wonderful as the last one? I'm going to have to get to know that man who sleeps next to me all over again. Maybe we'll even have a date! Woo hoo!
H. Linn Murphy

Monday, April 15, 2013


This is a preview for the fourth short story in my collection The First Year. If you like this preview and want to finish the story, it can be found on my personal blog. You can read the whole story HERE

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself
 Lev. 19:18
          This morning is a blur. I remember Peter getting up for work, but only vaguely. He kissed me good-bye, said “I love you,” and left. At least, I think that’s all that happened. That’s all I remember, anyway.
I glance at the digital clock on my nightstand. Crap. 11:45. I did it again. I close my eyes tightly and try to focus on how I feel: Warm. Comfortable. My head is clear. I hold on to this moment for as long as I can before I think of Mallory. Mallory. She is the bane of my existence.
          Sighing, I reach for my phone. I have no text messages. Go figure. The only people who text me are all at work. They all have jobs because they are all worth something. I think I hear Mallory stirring.
I sit up and look around our tiny bedroom. The walls are white. The bedspread is twisted around my legs. The floor is scattered with clothes. My sweatpants. I reach for these, trying hard not to fall out of bed. This is the only work out my abs ever get.
          Once I retrieve my sweatpants, I swing my legs over the side of the bed. First, I slip the pants over my right leg. Then the left. I shimmy the waistband over my thighs, and finally stand. The waistband feels a little tighter than normal. Mallory is definitely awake in the other room.
          I bend down to grab a shirt. The shirt on top of the pile closest to me is green. I put it on. It’s Peter’s. I look down at the Nike swoosh across my chest. Just do it. Yeah right.
          I reach up for my blonde hair and pull it over my shoulders. It’s a tangled, greasy mess. I try to comb my fingers through it, but then I give up. It’s not like there’s anyone to impress anyway. I pull the rubber band off my wrist, fling my head down, and watch my hair cascade toward the ground. I grab it and throw it up into a messy bun on top of my head. There. Now it’s at least out of the way.
          I walk over to the bedroom door and yank it open. Peter showed me how to fix it, but I haven’t yet. I don’t want to destroy our apartment. Chili, everywhere. Up the side of the refrigerator, all over the linoleum, inside the drawers and cabinets. I shake my head. I can’t do anything right.
          Once the door is open, I look to my right. There she is. Sitting on the couch. Waiting for me. She’s wearing white underwear and a powder-blue shirt that v-necks right to the top of her perfect cleavage. 
“Good morning, Mallory.”
          She sneers, crossing one long, tanned leg over the other. “Shut up, you lazy slob. It’s almost noon. It isn’t morning anymore.”
           I walk over to the kitchen and flip on the light. There are still a few chili beans on the floor. I lean down to pick them up. I have to bend my knees, because I’m not as flexible as I used to be.
          “Don’t bother. The apartment is a pigsty anyway. You might as well leave the mess.”
           I toss the beans into the sink, trying to ignore her.
           “Can I have some Cheerios this morning? Or are you going to make me eat donuts again?” Mallory didn’t like donuts. They were the mortal enemy of her hour-glass figure.
          I look in the cupboards. They are full, but only because Peter works so hard. I hate Cheerios. I push them aside and reach for the box of donuts that I keep hidden behind all the healthy food that Peter buys for me.
          “I knew it. You are so weak.”
          I can’t help it. I don’t like healthy food, and I just can’t force myself to eat it. Who cares if I live a long life?  Bring on the diabetes and the cancer and the high cholesterol. I don’t care. Maybe I’d go on a run later to counteract it. But I know I won’t. My muscles are already so tired, I can barely stand. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Write or Die

I first posted a version of this post on my blog about a year and a half ago. In re-reading it, I find myself so grateful for the paradigm shift it describes--and I wonder if that shift might benefit some of my fellow writers. Here it is.
A couple of months ago, after my initial excitement over my new work-in-progress (WIP) wore off, I suffered a crisis of extreme self-doubt. I have been down this road before. The landmarks are thus:
  • I will never be able do to this story justice.
  • I should just mail the idea to Audrey Niffenegger or Margaret Atwood or A.S. Byatt.
  • This concept is way cooler than my writing will ever be.
  • Why can't I write what I see in my head?
  • Why does everything I write seem boring/derivative/hackneyed/awful?
  • My writing stinks.
  • My life stinks.
  • I stink.
Yes, I know these ugly landmarks because I encounter them with every book. Each and every time, the pattern is the same.  I realize that I'm talking nonsense to myself, and I try to ignore it and muscle my way through this nasty form of Resistance (now that I know what its name is). And I eventually get there. It just takes me a while, and there is a fair amount of agony involved.

In Ann LaMott's Bird by Bird (which I sincerely hope you have all read), her strong and wise advice is to give yourself permission to write a Bad First Draft. ("Bad" is not the modifier she uses, by the way. :) )

Why bother to write a Bad First Draft? Because, she writes, bad first draft is infinitely easier to revise--and thus make good--than a nonexistent first draft. 

That makes sense to me. I have counseled other writers to do this. I have tried many times to take her advice myself, but secretly? I haven't ever gotten very far with it. Here's why. Up until recently, my daily (or not-so-daily) writing process went like this:

1) Conquer Resistance for the day.
2) Re-read what I wrote the day before, tinkering and tweaking slightly as I get into the rhythm of the narrative.
3) Write new words very slowly and carefully, considering each phrase and punctuation mark, ensuring that I don't use the same word too often, watching the frequency of my semi-colons, reading the sentences over to myself to make sure they flow properly--all the while completely enslaved to the stern taskmaster that is my Inner Perfectionist.  Fret that my writing isn't conveying what I want it to convey. Fume that I am not better at this after all these years. Doggedly keep at it. Sometimes find satisfaction in how something has turned out.
4) Quit for the day hours later, somewhat pleased, but mentally exhausted.

I have written three novels (and parts of several others) in this manner. Many successful writers do exactly this.

The upside is that my first drafts read pretty well. Many experienced professionals have characterized my first drafts as "clean" and "well-crafted." In my experience, that's not so common.
But there is significant downside. I find that Resistance takes this form: "You don't have four hours to write today, and you can't get much done in the one hour you DO have. You didn't get enough sleep last night to have the stamina to sit and create lovely (or even decent) prose for 60 or 120 or 240 minutes. You shouldn't even try." Sometimes I get past that Resistance and write, but many times, I do not.

When I started my current exercise routine, it was such a revelation. I had been resigned to the old workout schedule, had made it work. But as I found how well my body responded to an hour of yoga every morning at 5:00 a.m.--as I discovered how much day I had at my disposal when I accomplished exercise and scripture study and laundry very early each morning--I decided to re-think other parts of my life that were giving me fits. Like my writing process.

I prayed to know how I could become a better, more consistent, less Resistance-prone writer. And I got the answer to my prayer in two parts. The first was that I read this post by Seth Godin. (I love it when God answers my prayers through other people's blog posts.) The second was that I found this website.

That's right, Write or Die, authored by none other than the dorkily-named Dr. Wicked.  It's a simple computer program in which the writer a) enters the amount of time she would like to spend writing; b) enters her word count goal for that time period; and c) clicks the Start! button. There are three modes: Gentle, Normal, and Kamikaze--these modes govern how fast you have to write before you start getting warnings. And there are three consequence levels: Forgiving, Strict, and Kamikaze. With Kamikaze, apparently, if you stop typing for too long, your words start unwriting themselves. Yikes.

Write or die. Snort. How unspeakably cheesy, I thought. (And how had I never heard of it before, despite all my dabblings with NaNoWriMo? I now know that it is a staple for NaNo veterans.)

But then I thought about what Anne LaMott had been trying to tell me for years: Bad First Draft. And I added in what Seth Godin had just told me: Write Poorly, Write A Lot. And it occurred to me that if I had to write very fast, as with Write or Die, I wouldn't have time to do anything OTHER than write a Bad First Draft.

So, back in the first week of October, I decided to try it. Talk about a revelation. Ka-BAM.

On my very best writing days in the past--one day per week on which I pay a babysitter a considerable amount of cash so that I can sit by myself for hours on end--I could maybe get in 3,000 words. But those days were rare, indeed. In my very best writing sessions with no babysitter--just a napping toddler--I could get in 1200 or so words.

Using Write or Die for the first time, I wrote 3,716 words in a FRACTION of the time I normally spend writing. It was a babysitting day, so I had tons of time left over to go to a restaurant and read while I ate lunch, and plenty more time to listen to our son's first college radio show. I did all this while recovering from a concussion. But it gets better.

The next day was Friday. I wrote another 1,600 words or so. Saturday was the same. So were Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. (I don't write on Sundays.)

And the day after that? A day I would normally be pouting and throwing up my hands in dramatic despair, since I spent my precious babysat hours taking Tess to a doctor's appointment in  Manhattan instead of writing?

That day I wrote 1200 words before 9am and another 976 after lunch when I got home. Over 2,000 words on a day when I was out of the house for hours on end.

In all my life, I have RARELY had a week in which I have written almost 14,000 words.

I have RARELY had a week in which I wrote every single day except for Sunday.

I have NEVER had such a stress-free experience writing. 
Oh, and if I need to research something, like a name of a new character or a medical procedure or a facet of 19th-century life? I don't stop and do the research right then. Oh, no. I type "***" to remind myself later that I need to look something up, and I KEEP A-GOING. 
As I drove to Manhattan that day with Tess, I was agog. It was 9:00 in the morning. I had already done an hour of yoga; prepared breakfast for my family; studied several chapters of Mosiah; done the breakfast dishes and two loads of laundry; showered, dressed, and done hair and makeup; and written 1200 words. And it was only 9am! And I wasn't even tired!

Do you even get my wonder at this? I had accomplished more in four hours than I have in many, many whole DAYS in the past. With this new routine, I have time to spend with my kids, time to fulfill my church callings, time to try new recipes and read and knit and visit with friends--ALL without the freaking Sword of Damocles that used to be my writing hanging over my head.
And my rates have steadily improved in the weeks since. Most days I write about 2,000 words. Yesterday--a babysitting day--I wrote over 5,000 words and still had time for a leisurely pedicure, lunch out, good reading time, and excellent hang-out sessions with my kids.

Now, I know the words I'm writing are not the quality that I am used to writing. But I am not allowing myself to go back and re-read them, either--I am going to keep that Inner Perfectionist firmly turned OFF until I finish this draft.

HOWEVER, I know that these words are not half bad--even though I'm typing as fast as I can and taking almost no thought as to what is coming out of me. I am feeling the rhythm of my story--partly because it is so fresh in my mind due to an almost total LACK of any interfering RESISTANCE.

I do take a minute to look at my outline before I start writing, just to remind myself what I'm trying to achieve that day. But then I plunge in and GET IT DONE. IT'S SO EASY.

Can you join me in a hearty holler of exuberance and elation? LIFE IS AWESOME right now. I feel bionic.

Sorry for all the capital letters. I'm just. So. Excited.

Will a piper have to be paid once I've finished this draft and I go back and re-read it with editing in mind? Possibly. I'll let you know when I get there. But I am trusting in Anne LaMott. I know I'm an excellent editor, and I will exercise faith that my Bad First Draft will be something with which I can work. I can do this!
And now, the rest of the story, 18 months later: once I went back and revised that first draft, those words I'd gotten out so quickly and efficiently weren't nearly as bad as I had feared they would be. Yes, revision still takes work--but I will NEVER go back to my old way of drafting. I'll be using Write or Die until, well....

Monday, April 8, 2013

By the Numbers

Humans are forgetful. The keys, where the car is parked, that one thing I was supposed to pick up, that ladies' name all seem to fall right out of our heads. More than that it seems that mortals are prone to forgetting essential truth even when we believe it and have been reviewing it for years. 

I was recently reminded by my sister of such a truth. My mortal mind has been caught up for the last year in a never ending parade of studies and statistics regarding adopted children. How the brain develops, what birth and circumstance impart to a child, and the likelihood of success in redirecting a child away from their birth parent's choices have been a source of constant study for me since my children came into my care. The numbers are sad and staggering. The information available is overwhelming. I was buried in a place of repeat patterns, cyclical behaviors and lost potential. I was looking at my two oldest daughters, neither in kindergarten, and seeing only an inevitable road of misery and bad choices. It made discipline, well. . . . hard. I didn't want to pour the energy into loving intervention that I thought would go no where. What's the point of making her go back and do things over if she's just going to meet some idiot, drop out, get pregnant, and die of an overdose?! (No joke, the narrative in my head was that dramatic)

I was lamenting my girls' lost lives and potential to my sister one night. She kept giving the, "What is wrong with you?" look. Finally, after I had waved away notions of how young they are, how cute they are, how smart they really are, my sister just hit me with truth.
"They are eternal beings. They were before the world was and before any of this happened to them, and they will continue to be after all of this. They are different and special and their lives are already different than their birth-mom's, so how can you saddle them with her choices?" And then in her typical whimsy, bad hispanic accent and all, "Their jus' babies. Leave 'em alone." I cried, we hugged, it was a moment. 
But it seriously shook away months of building despair. I had forgotten one of the simplest principles of my faith. I am a child of God. He knows me. He loves me. And he gave me a life so that I can make choices, fall down, rely on my Savior, and stand up again. And if all this is true for me, then it is true for every single man, woman, and child on this planet. 
My girls are special. 
They are not statistics.
 Already the fact that they are adopted and in a home that wants them, and wants to see them to succeed, puts them way outside the mean. 
I took away two practical upshots, 1. It's time to put the stats away. They served a purpose in a time when I had no idea and no directions. Now I know enough to know when I don't know something, and when that happens, I know where to find the answers. 2. It is never enough to say, "I know, I know," with a roll of the eyes and a wave of dismissal when it comes to that which is most true and of most value. I have witnessed miraculous recovery in my youngest daughter. I have witnessed incredible progress in my older girls, who my husband pointed out to me have stopped slobbering on themselves when angry. (It's the little things.)  I have to continue to refresh my own understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Christ, everyday, or the sheer numbers of what is out there will make me forget that the Lord is over all. 
And if that wasn't enough, it seems that President Uktdorf had similar direction on the subject over the weekend. Any thoughts?

Friday, April 5, 2013

It's National Poetry Month

I would love a nickle for every time someone told me that poetry was not their thing.  Personally, I love poetry. I think the reason most people say it is not their thing is because it can be intimidating.  That is the thing about poetry, it is kind of a tiny bundle of pure power.  We do not meet up with poetry much in our culture except maybe in the form of songs or greeting cards- unless we are the lucky ones who get a healthy dose of Mother Goose, Dr. Seuss and Sandra Boynton.  This unfamiliarity  with poetry I think is the root of the problem.  
In High School I remember class mates complaining about how hard it was to read and understand Shakespeare. I will be the first to agree that Shakespeare's language was a different kind of English than that which we speak in America today. I don't believe that is the real problem though. I believe it is a lack of familiarity- because other than what we are assigned in Junior High and High School, we just don't read him and because we are uncomfortable with him, we don't go back and try to get to know him better.  For many, it is the same with Scriptures or any work that hasn't been written in the last ten years.  
This doesn't just apply to reading poetry, but also to writing poetry.  I recently attended the ANWA Writer's Conference in Mesa, AZ.  There was a class taught by Angela Morrison, a YA author and an excellent teacher,  about using free verse poetry to improve prose. What was funny to me was some of the people who had chosen to attend this class were complaining about having to write a poem.  I even heard someone say that they didn't write poetry it "wasn't their thing."  By the end of the class, we had all written a poem and used it to create a powerful scene in prose.  I think everyone left with a new perspective on poetry.  I know for sure there was some powerful writing done in that class and we all have another technique to improve our writing.   
Because it is National Poetry Month, I would like to take the opportunity to hopefully inspire others to give poetry another chance, maybe put more effort into getting to know it better, maybe make at least some of it their thing.  
Lets take a look at poetry.  My 1980's American Heritage Dictionary defines a poem as, "A verbal composition having the suggestive power to engage the feelings and imagination, typically through the highly structured patterning and movement of sound, rhythm and meaning characteristic of verse."  
 Cadence, rhythm, the beating of drums, clapping of hands, meter, symmetry, flow.  Not all poems rhyme but they all have rhythm, they all flow they all have imagery that evokes some emotion in us. I like rhyme.

'Mistress Mary 
Quite contrary
How does your garden grow?'
'With silver bells
And cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.'

'Mary had a little lamb
whose fleece was white as snow
and every where that Mary went 
the lamb was sure to go.'
These two poems are Nursery Rhymes that I was taunted with on the play ground in Elementary school.  The funny thing about them is that I AM quite contrary and always was and I have always loved gardens though I have never been able to make silver bells grow and have no idea what a cockle shell is. I also raised a bum lamb that I fed with a bottle.  These are still two of my favorites.

During this same time in my life, I discovered a poet who understood me on a level no one else did.  His name is Dr. Seuss and his wonderful hero Horton heard a Who and declared for all to hear that "A person's a person no matter how small."  What a relief to my bruised ego and fists.  Being named Mary, being short and contrary is a lot to deal with.  This was the time I wrote my first poem.  
I am a river.
I have fish in me.
The fish dance in me.
Now what does a third grader know about symbolism?  All I really knew was that the teacher told us to imagine being something else and asked what it would be like.  So I didn't know anything about symbolism then, but I do now.  So who is to say that those fish aren't ideas?  Ideas do dance in me like a fish would in a river- sometimes fast and constant, sometimes lazy and slow.

Later when I was beginning to make some important decisions in my life, I met Robert Frost and he taught me about choices.  
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there 
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Another poet taught me about hope at a time when I needed it. Emily Dickinson wrote:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard; 
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet never in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
I have had my children memorize that poem.  Some of them don't understand it because they are too young, but some day, it will be there for them.  
My sixteen year old son asked me if we had any national poems.  I told him that we certainly did, one is now our national anthem- it was originally a poem- perhaps a prayer of gratitude that we had not lost the battle of Ft. McHenry in the War of 1812.  I would also submit that the Gettysburg address is a form of poetry.  If you have never read it, I would suggest that you find a copy and read it.  What do you think- poetry or not? Abraham Lincoln wrote many poems.  A good number of  leaders in history did, King David for one.  Check out the Psalms in the Old Testament.  
Poetry is a great way to express feelings.  How do you feel today- throw down some words on paper, images that come to mind.  Don't worry about order or meter or form, just put them down.  Let the words carry you.  It may not turn into anything earthshatteringly brilliant, then again it might.  I hope I have inspired you to try out some poetry this month- reading and writing.
One last poem, a silly poem because laughter is as good for the soul as poetry.
By Gelett Burgess
The Purple Cow
I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one.      
Till next month!