Monday, October 23, 2017

Save Yourself: A #HoldOnToTheLight Post

My life recently has been plagued by instances of mental illness—both my own and exposures to others.

Since my original post for #HoldOnToTheLight, “Life afterFighting, Fighting for Life”, the revelation of how utterly alone I’m not has been at points enlightening, stressful, a few times horrific, and often downright quirky. I don’t think everyone around me is mentally ill, but it’s given me pause to coping behaviors people use to get on, get through, and get past whatever is in front of them.

I’m happy to report that I find more people meeting negativity with positive habits that make far better arguments for working against your demons instead of for them, but there are also a lot of people that are angry—they are angry because of the economy, the president, or this issue, or that issue, or my issues, but every time we complain we all share one thing in common:

We’re all suffering and we don’t want to be, and the vast majority of us don’t want others to suffer either. Some are clearly suffering worse, but on the whole, many of the human beings around the world are not having a great time being a part of it.

During the summer I moved to Colorado after living almost ten years in Charlotte, North Carolina, and like the Queen City, the homeless situation here is AMAZINGLY BAD. Most people living on the streets are former veterans, the elderly, opioid addicts and alcoholics, and those who have fallen through the system.

The vast majority of them are mentally ill.

They harm themselves, scream in the street at 2:00 AM, and cluster together on sidewalks where they suffer openly and alone, trapped in private hells while shuffling through some of the most beautiful neighborhoods I’ve ever lived in. They aren’t bothering you, they don’t have cellphones, and they aren’t burnt-out hippies or college kids begging for change—these people are lost.

Thankfully Denver provides a wonderful network of homeless shelters and public services that make sure these people have places to sleep in the winter, food in their stomachs, and the local community comes together every weekend for fresh blankets and clothes, mobile showers, haircuts, and job drives. For all the bad things that happen in the world, there are real heroes out there doing their best to help—because they show up.

Seeing the struggle of mental illness every day when I go outside has been a fascinating mirror to examine my own coping mechanisms (or lack thereof) in a time when I’m dealing with my own challenges—but I keep in mind that people keeping showing up.

Some background: I was diagnosed with clinical depression as a teenager and that depression was compounded by a series of concussions and bad habits that led to a PTSD-diagnosis, which I’ve thankfully done pretty well getting past by getting better, but it took years of therapy for me to finally figure out the right habits needed for me to get past these things—and thankfully, those skills worked.

Meditation, exercise, a better diet, and having people and professionals to talk to allowed me a solid foundation to better deal with my conditions in a multitude of different ways, which sometimes feels like demolishing a house to rebuild the foundation, but sometimes that is needed. 

Yet the most important thing was that people showed up to save me first. From friends to family to my psychologist, even strangers offered help and advice in times of need.

And yet, even having experienced that, I had no clue I was going to have to deal with anxiety when it finally got around to be named for what it was. In some ways I’ve always been anxious, but it’s always been about process. One of the coping mechanisms I developed for depression—putting my nose to the grindstone and getting the work done so I can be satisfied that I at least put in effort—developed a downside: I would place all the little things that would cause me to be depressed or anxious to the side until they crowded in, and when they crowded in, I didn’t just trip over them as much as I let them drive me into closets and sit in empty hotel restaurants crying while my friends crowed in the bar a hundred feet from me.

So now I have to work more, which is exhausting but worthwhile. Along with my work and my work at Falstaff Books, being a husband, trying to be healthier and happier, there were already challenges along with these blessings. My boss wants me to learn that it is okay to ask for help, something that I struggle with. I deal with bouts of insomnia, but I now make time to sleep when I can instead of “soldiering on,” striving every day to handle both anxiety and depression. Some of it is doing the stuff I was doing before: meditation, healthier eating habits, exercise, and staying active in my own life by being mindful—but now I also have to teach myself to take a step back from anxiety like I step back from the depression and figure out how to work around both, and sometimes those internal processes conflict. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either.

But people are still showing up.

From my wife to my best friend/boss, or my coworkers at Falstaff Books, and even some digital therapy sessions, people have come out of the woodwork to help me learn how to better care for myself. Because of them this is a challenge I can beat.

Now I know I speak of mental illness as a challenge, and I realize that in that challenge I have a sense of privilege. I tackled and beat my depression before, so I know I can beat my anxiety. This is a challenge I relish, but I know so, so many who do not feel or see it that way. Some people after they read this are still going to feel alone, or worthless, or one of the many little lies our illnesses allow us to create for ourselves.

Those people will still be by themselves. Therein lies the root of the problem.

I’ve put in a lot of work to save myself from myself because people first showed up to save me, and for all the back patting I can’t forget that I was once that kid with a chain around his neck who thought no one cared about him. I beat that, but like I said the last time we were here, I know too many stories of those that didn’t get to win their struggle.

The need to save ourselves is paramount, and not so we can pat ourselves on the back, or “grow past” our problems—for many mental illness is a life and death battle to the end, and while the cost of defeat is exacting in its sorrow, the glory of victory is beyond anything a person can win outside of themselves. I need to get better so one day I can say “I beat anxiety and depression and saved myself. And so can you.”

I need to save myself so I can show up for others.

Every victory, yours and mine, saves actual lives.

If you are suffering, say something. There will be people there to love you, take you in, armor you up, and go fight with you until one day you too can say “I beat my mental illness. So can you.”

Donate to local shelters for the poor and underprivileged, help out with food drives, and volunteer. One of the things that I have discovered on my journey is that offering help first is often the key to getting things done. Sometimes s few hours at the library volunteering or simply asking someone “how are you?” makes all the difference in the world.

Speaking for myself, the worst part of about anxiety and depression for me is yjsy loneliness—and having someone simply come to be with me or acknowledge my existence breaks all that.

So go save yourself and show up for someone else. It will mean the world.

About the campaign:

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to and join us on Facebook

Follow me @JayRequard!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Mossed Edges aka "Fangorn" by Jay Requard

A lot of stuff is happening with the blog, which is the reason it hasn't been updated. More on that when there is something to speak of. However, I'm back to writing weird fantasy poetry!


The Moss Edges aka "Fangorn"
By Jay Requard

Fangorn Forest by Isidora

Northern symphonies sink within high-mind joys,
racing the green strip to stars set at sun’s tide,
endless, and endless, and endless…

I slither like the skywalkers, a shivering serpent,
smoky songs low in my throat while shadows shift,
forever the shadows shift on…


Time halts at the edge of a white bank,
the Ent’s hands grinding herbs between his bark.
He looks up from the lump he makes,
wondering how much time he wastes by the stream.

Far off the wanderer presses through the forest,
a bowl burning in his lips,
knowing that stars lie ahead on the other side.

Check out my books.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Life After Fighting, Fighting for Life: a #HoldOntoTheLight post

I will start with a declarative statement:

After 30 years of life on this planet I am still alive.

This statement contains a story within itself, but it is far harder for me not to remember the other stories I've grown up with.

My first cousin committed suicide when I was thirteen. Nobody knew he was depressed, save for a recent breakup, and nobody believed he had those thoughts until it happened.

In sixth grade I was awed by the news that an older boy, an eighth grader, had gone home and hung himself during the day. Another friend's brother shot himself in the head.

Then I got into high school and things got very real. From a significant someone who tried to snort her way to destiny to a very gentle girl that carved the inside of her legs with a needle because she felt awful about herself, unspoken problems involving mental illness ran amok. Her older sister, who had been a very talented writer from what I remember, scratched the inside of her arms with needles too. People were cutting but nobody wanted to talk about it--save for the few brave parents who tackled these things head on and, surprisingly, often caught flack for having the courage to actually do something instead of sweeping it under the rug. Some of those people were and remain as close to me as family.

Mental illness is an epidemic our society refused to even acknowledge for a long time, but for many of the communities I grew up in it was lingering specter above us all, an malefic spirit that always threatened to take another without warning.

Into my junior year of high school I had a friend who was addicted to heroin. His best friend, the dude that started shoving way too many heavy metal CD's into my hands, literally watched out for my-friend-the-junkie day and night. My peer group spent weekends drinking pretty hard and living very fast. It is not out of the way to remember how many people I knew that felt left out of things, how people floated in and out of their self-destructive packs, and how many who were simply lost.

Sure, these are often the stories about growing up, but it was always startling to see how many of those stories were haunted by mental illness.

Some of us (see: Jay) had real anger issues, others tough family situations, and there were a lot of kids and adults I knew that were strung out or pilled up on something. The last of the Gen-Xers, who I looked up to, struggled with their place in the world after college and a few were left behind when it broke them. Drugs were a constant reality. I probably smoked and drank too much myself to mute out the world, but so did a lot of athletes I ran with. From those on the high school wrestling team to the guys I rolled jiu-jitsu with in the strip malls, there were always problems with depression. Start adding concussions into the mix and guys would act very strange. One of my closer friends at the time lost his brother to suicide--a brother who was one of my little sister's closest friends.

College was worse.

Many of my friends were poor and struggling with un-diagnosed bipolar disorders, self-medicating to get through working and going to school full-time--and some of them were raising kids, which while wonderful was a colossal burden within itself. I met a mom who served bar and she was the nearest thing to Wonder Woman I've ever met. And she popped a lot of pills. A lot of people were on some form of a SSRI.

And say what you want: The Bush Years were soul crushing. A lot of people went off to war and died. A lot of families were left with loved ones too damaged to make themselves a "normal" life when they came home. I knew a few soldiers that were taken by PTSD while I was in college. They aren't here to tell their stories now.

Here is the point where I insert myself back into it and admit my own demons: Since the time I was 14 years old I had wanted something all through high school and the beginning of college--a career in mixed martial arts--and through injury and purely bad choices on my part I screwed myself out of that. It took a lot of therapy before that period of my life and lot of therapy and love after that period to come to terms with the reality that I couldn't have what I wanted anymore.

That same reality almost took me twice and, if I'm purely honest, the same depression followed me into my destined career too. I know a good many writers in my community that really struggle with depression and suicide. I was, again, one of them not too long ago.

Yet for my part in this, I still remember the stories of others:

One roommate was so terribly broken by his experiences in the Bosnian-Serbian Conflict that he refused to act outside of a self-proscribed set of behaviors that inevitably led to self-mutilation and becoming one of the first people I know to be addicted to bath salts. The uncle who lost his son to suicide when I was thirteen went through rehab not too long ago. The fight to stay sober, happy, and healthy is a hard one for him that he faces every day.

And there's the point: for people that struggle with mental illness, life is a fight, no matter if you are using your fists or not.

I make the statement "I am still alive" to write stories because I know of how many stories were ended because of cruel circumstance, or addiction, or depression, or something even deeper. The only reason I'm here is because I did something we are sometimes shamed in society for doing: I went and found help. I went to therapist, tried medication, took up meditation, and still work every day to fight the specter of mental illness. My best friends do too.

The best thing we can do to talk about mental illness is to tell these stories and let others know that somehow, somewhere, someone out there cares enough to help them. The more we talk about it the more we help others win their fight to hold on, endure, and find their own victories. It is a far better option than waiting until it is too late and having another tale lost.

About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to and join us on Facebook

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Green Dreams by Jay Requard

As you all know I sometimes post poems here because I know I'm not a poet, but in the tradition of my literary grandfather, J.R.R. Tolkien, though he was a master of the epic poem and his more folkloric ditties about Christmas and all that. I just have these things come to me and this one seemed good enough to share. It is in a free-form style.

Green Dreams by Jay Requard

Morning's first lucid light hearkens,
elderitch memories sparked by the grass,
where emerald scents mingle and fly,
ghosts upon a fresh day's breath.

Oh, how I've faltered,
lost in the ever-shifting, ever-changing,
cycle of Awen, where dreams hold fate
and doubt forges the shadow.

And yet a fresh day's breath,
a moment of illumination,
emeralds burn and become ghosts.
I find the everlasting.

Long lost is the shadow,
sent far to travel and sow
in the lands where green dreams grow
and holies shine in other-light.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Six Things New Writers Can Learn In Six Months

For all the communal aspects publishing fosters, writing is still a solitary profession that requires its adherents to develop themselves as much as they develop their storytelling abilities. This can be difficult, as we are all victims of our own neuroses, hang-ups, and habits. For example: I have a big issue staying focused on one project, which often leaves me having to deal with three different manuscripts, and invariably, I will only focus on two of them. I'm working on this, but the thought came to me that there were six things to share that might help my fellow wordsmiths better commit themselves in a healthy, happy way. I would never dare to say that these are universal; they are just ideas, and like all ideas, they should only be considered if they add to your process.


I first learned meditation from a physician my family patroned, named Dr. Z (I cannot remember nor spell his Russian last name). Like Dr. Z, meditation helped me with a lot of the anxiety that comes with people in a situation where people treat you like you are damaged. Meditation helped me later when I decided to dedicate myself to it in relation to my writing. I like to work fast, and I expect faster results, but unfortunately publishing is a slow, arduous process. Being able to slow down, clear your mind, and stop thinking is a pivotal skill both for writing and for life. We are flooded by our senses every moment we are awake and asleep, and with writing, it is multiplied. We become so ingrained within our characters, our stories, and we sometimes forget to take a step back. For me, meditation is that step back. Anyone can do it, and it only has as much of a spiritual component as you allow it, and you can do it as long as you like. It is an open practice.

There are a lot of resources where you can learn meditation, but here's a simple introduction to the basic technique:

Find a comfortable place to sit where you won't be bothered by noises or distractions. This could be your writing area (which for me is my entire apartment. I'm a bit nomadic.) Sit in comfortable position, using whatever you need to do so. I use a Zafu pillow. Close your eyes, and empty your mind of all thoughts or, if you are very active, picture yourself in a setting. I usually go to a place like this:

Count your breaths. In through your nose, out through your mouth. Nose In, Mouth Out, Nose In, Mouth Out. In the beginning, try to get at least 15 good breaths before you open your eyes. This will calm you down, and in time, help you see the world and your work more objectively, as well as your writing. Which leads us to...


One issue that really plagues me is separating myself from my work, often taking criticism more harshly than I should, and in some ways, delivering it. First, no writer or reader should criticize another for who they are, but it is completely fine to constructively criticize the work, even if it is as simple as "it's not for me." Learning to separate these two things is incredibly important.

Now, this idea is a bit of misnomer. Of course your work is about you--you wrote it, and whatever you write, it is a reflection of how you feel, your experiences, and your beliefs at the time of the writing. Still, it is important to remove "you" from assessing the quality of what you put out. As I have said before, rejections can be a great thing for a writer if they go about assessing why they were rejected in the right way.

Here's an exercise: next time you get a rejection, sit down with the rejected work and read it differently. Act like you are not the person who wrote the piece, but a constructive critic who has never read it. This will open you up to new details you might not have noticed in your previous proofreading, ways to better the story, etc. There is a multitude of wisdoms to gain in doing this.


One would think that this would be a given for new writers, but every day I hear so many writers I come across lament their inability to finish a manuscript. Among the things I am speaking of here, this one might be greater in importance than the second point above, so let me clear:

Finish your stories.

So many people get into the Craft of Writing thinking that it will be a simple enough business to finish their first book, let alone a simple short story. The act of writing is arduous, being a combination of physical, mental, and emotional stress much like a real job. Sitting in a chair hurts me. I don't stop thinking about what I should be writing. I sometimes cry when I am done with a story. Putting in work is putting in work, and finishing a story gets you past a huge hurdle that the majority of writers never even attempt to leap. Finish your stories. It is the only way you can find out what you really need to work on.


This one will take a bit of explanation.

When one decides to become a writer, they often forget to remain a reader. However, things change quickly when one takes up the craft. Speaking for myself, getting involved in the process of writing initially made reading fiction a much more labor-intensive task. I often found myself breaking down the style of the writer I was reading, looking for imperfections I wanted to avoid in my own work. This can take a lot of fun out of the act of reading, but with a few little tricks, it became a joy again.

For all the mistakes you notice, take the time to bask in the moments where you are just reading. When there are no mistakes, the reader simply reads, and though we are writers, we will always be readers first. Mark the places you really enjoyed, and the places you did not. Read deeply for lessons, for theme, constructions, character, everything; reading critically can be a wonderful experience if you go about it the right way. Make it about learning first, criticism last.


Like this one.


It is easy to think that the publishing industry would be a competitive place as a new writer, but if you look beneath the surface, it is anything but. Here's what you need to understand: everyone around you wants everyone else to succeed (unless you make a colossal ass of yourself, which I am sometimes guilty of), and this is because we're working for the most wonderful resource there is in the world: readers. Readers like to read, so they aren't going to buy just YOUR book (if they do in the first place, which is another blogpost for another blog time.) They will keep buying the product we put out, all because readers are so wonderfully voracious.

At the same time, I think it is important for writers to have a bit of an competitive bent. This is just an opinion I hold to myself, but I want to write better than R.A. Salvatore, my literary hero. I want to write better than Jeff Vandermeer, the baddest MFer in Fiction today. I want to write better than K.V. Johansen, one of the most talented writers I have ever seen in Epic Fantasy. I want to write better than any other luminary I can name. I think every writer should look at their inspirations in absolute reverence, but also as bars you need to climb over. Anne McCaffery set bars. Lloyd Alexander set bars. Tolkien, my literary father, set bars. David Gemmell. Michael Moorcock. Robert E. Howard. Try to achieve more than your forefathers and foremothers did. We owe it to them.

These are practices, attitudes, and mindsets you can achieve as a writer in six months. They have been invaluable to my creative process over the years, and if they can add to yours, I hope you produce some of your best work.

So let's get to work.

Thank you for stopping. Please feel free to check out my Publications page and follow me on Twitter @JayRequard if you enjoy the content you find on this blog. In addition, if you really do enjoy the content on this blog, please consider clicking on the G+1 button on the left of the page. It lets me know that the content I am creating is meaningful, and it is at no cost to you.

Stay safe and see you soon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Evaluating Critiques: Do's and Don'ts to Follow

Full disclosure: I am writing this out of reaction to a bad critique session I recently experienced, but instead of sitting and stewing on the negatives, the decision was made to turn that experience into a positive one.

Critiquing fiction, short or long, is often dependant on the critiquers themselves being well-read, experienced in collaborating with an editor (which means they have sold work), and taking the time to go out and get training through workshops, at conventions, and even within the critique groups themselves. Good writers are good critiquers because they put the work into their writing, reading, and editing on a daily basis so they can learn the tricks of producing great fiction. Still, there are pitfalls that can plague any critique group. The list below is a series of four Do's and Don'ts when it comes to giving and receiving a critique.

JAY's List of Four DOs and DON'Ts: Critiquing Fiction

DO read the work more than once

As the current Head Organize of Charlotte Writers and as a regular member of some smaller groups beforehand, I can easily say that since 2011 I have read hundreds, if not thousands of pages of manuscript. Everything from my genre of Fantasy, to Science Fiction, to Romance, to Memoir, and even manuscripts that contain poems have passed in front of me, and one of the first things I learned that I needed to do was read a manuscript more than once. I discovered the need to do this the hard way during one critique session where I had read a Charlotte Writer member's manuscript more than a week before their scheduled critique, where the entire membership would discuss the work while the writer remained silent (which is always wonderful in terms of learning body language), and it couldn't have gone worse for me. I forgot key points to the story's plot, characters, everything you could imagine, and in the end I was unable to offer anything of value to the person who had put so much time and effort into their manuscript.

The solution I came up with was to read the manuscripts twice (we usually critique two during a session): once when they first became available for download, and then again on Friday, at which point I would actually start creating my notes that I would explain during the session itself. This way I was always prepared, was familiar with the work, but at the same time, reading the work twice allowed me to learn new things about the author in terms of their style of writing, what they did right, and what mistakes they made that I want to avoid, etc.

Putting in this kind of time can offer huge dividends; both for yourself and for them!

DON'T critique the author; critique the work!

This is a faux-paus that happens more often than not because it is an easy one to make. Writing, especially fiction writing, is a reflection of the writer's very self, and from reading their work in a critical setting can often leave critiquers open to interpret things about the writer that may or may not be true.

For example: I was once leading a critique of a writer whose work featured the kidnapping and very graphic rape of a young woman, two things in today's publishing industry is looked at with less than favorable views, both by professionals and readers (which I agree with, by the by.) As soon as comments were allowed to be taken, the author was hit with "Your creepy prose..", "Your sick...", etc., and it created an atmosphere where everyone had to tiptoe around what they said about the work because they were making value judgements on the person. When the author of the work was finally allowed to address the comments made, they revealed they had written the creepy character in question because it was told by that character's POV. Once it was explained, it made far more sense, yet the damage was still done--critiquers had made judgements on the person AS WELL as their work, and the author stopped attending our group.

Part of the fault for that was mine, and after that day, I made sure that it was the work being critiqued, not the author! Judge their work for what the work is, not as a measuring stick for who they are. What they are there for is constructive criticism of their writing and NOTHING ELSE. (However, it should be said that we do not allow works at Charlotte Writers that contain bigotry or misogyny as positive affectations of a work.)

DO be clear about your expectations

Often when I host Charlotte Writers critique sessions, we often ask our writers who submit work for critique to be clear as they can be about what they are looking for. Are the characters likeable? Does the pace work with the genre? Is the dialogue engaging? These are all wonderful questions to ask and receive information on, but it is equally important that you as the critiquer are also clear about your own expectations. There are some definite questions you have to answer when you go into a critique:

1. What are you looking for as a reader? Are you looking for clean copy? Grammar issues?  Flow and pacing? Content that speaks to you? You have to answer these questions because not every critiquer is great at everything, nor are they supposed to be. Some of them are better at writing characters than they are writing plot, just like some are stellar at dialogue but really need to learn how to write action scenes. You have to know what you expect from the submission.

2. Is the work publishable for its market? This is one of the bigger concerns I try to bring to Charlotte Writers when we critique submitted work, as the stated goal of the organization is to prepare writers to get their work published in the genre marketplace. This often requires our members to put in time by learning about the industry at conventions, conferences, meet-ups, workshops, etc. You have to know the business you want to be in, and you have to know the current conventions by which the publishing business works. It not only helps you with your own manuscripts, but it also assists in allowing you to look at a manuscript from another author and point out the places that would get them sent to the rejection pile.


Let's be honest: critiquing is hard. 

A lot of factors are involved when it comes to a reader enjoying your work, and sometimes no matter what you write, it won't be right for them--and they may be highly critical of that, but that is what they are there for. I cannot tell you how many times a new writer has come up to me and expressed their fear about getting critiqued, and what I usually tell them is that the first time is always nerve-wracking, but if you can get through it will probably never be nerve-wracking again. It's like pulling off a band-aid.

However, just because you are ready to have your work critiqued doesn't mean *you* are ready for the process. It takes a lot of humility and maturity to sit there and let someone put your "Literary Baby" in a corner, and if you are going through a tumultuous time this can be really trying. There have been instances at critique sessions where prospective authors state that they are ready and then fall apart by the end. I have seen tears, passive aggressive responses, and the always aggravating defense of things everyone else found issues with. If twenty readers in the room find something in error with your manuscript, most likely the problem is there, and the best thing you can do with it is take the time to really look at what was said about the issue. Writing is a process of creation and problem-solving, and denial does nothing to solve problems. The best thing you can do is be ready.

To sum up, critiquing is a wonderful way to grow your skills as a writer, but a lot of thought needs to be put into the process just like every other aspect of your work. Be humble, keep your ears and mind open, and remember that this is about identifying problems and solving them. If you can keep yourself motivated enough to fix those problems, you're well on way to the day you sell a story, a novel, or whatever. Be mindful of your own expectations and knowledgable about what you and others write. In doing so you will grow by leaps and bounds.

Critiques are a powerful tool. If you learn to use this tool correctly, you will become a powerful writer.

Thank you for dropping by. Please check out my Publications, and please consider clicking on the G+1 button on the left side of the screen if you enjoy the content you see here on the blog. Follow me @JayRequard on Twitter, and see you next time! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Poem: By Strands of Hair

I do not take often to writing poetry and presenting it in public, as I often find that reaction to it is so varied. I even once heard a poet say that "nobody could criticize her poetry because it was hers", to which I say "then keep it to yourself." The moment you put something out into the world, it is no longer just yours, but is open to interpretation and criticism by the audience-at-large. That's the cost of trying to live off your creativity, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a fool. But back to poetry...

I wrote this in a free form style (as the only other style I am actually good at Sonnets in the form of Shakespeare, and mine are horrible.) The inspiration came to me one night in a hot bath I had drawn after painting along to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by the Beatles. I used a bath wash that dyed the water a lovely shade of rose which put everything floating within it (including myself) in stark definition. One of my fiance's hair strands came floating along and from that was born this poem. It follows a 4,4,4,5 count by word, which I came up with during the same bath. The last stanza reverses it and follows a 5,4,5,4 count, again by word. Again, forgive me if this is awful.

"By Strands of Hair" by Jay Requard

By strands of hair
love found itself born,
mixed by fiery water,
a spirit of past aeons.

By strands of hair
therein found whole redemption,
the weight washed away,
a spirit laid to rest.

By strands of hair
cities would burn ashen,
blood would flow unhindered,
a spirit of wrath enthroned.

Yet by strands of hair,
the spirit chose otherwise.
By strands of her hair,
the spirit never faltered.

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