Thursday, April 30, 2009

Meet Versatile Author Carolyn Howard-Johnson

My guest author this month in the VBT group is an exceptionally talented and versatile author. I’d like you to meet Carolyn Howard-Johnson. To get to know Carolyn better, first her bio:


Carolyn Howard-Johnson's first novel, "This Is the Place", won eight awards. Her second book, "Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered", creative nonfiction, won three. Her chapbook of poetry, "Tracings", was named to the Compulsive Reader's Ten Best Reads list and was given the Military Writers' Society of America's Silver Award of Excellence. She just released "She Wore Emerald Then, A Reflections on Motherhood", coauthored with Magdalena Ball and self-published in the time-honored tradition of poets everywhere.

An instructor for UCLA Extension's world-renown Writers' Program, her book "The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't" is recommended reading for her classes and was named USA Book News' "Best Professional Book 2004." It is also an Irwin Award winner. Her second book in the How To Do It Frugally series is "The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success" is also a USA Book News award-winner, as well as the winner of the Reader View's Literary Award in the publishing category. She is the recipient of both the California Legislature's Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award and the Glendale American Business Women's Association's Woman of the Year award. Her community's Character and Ethics Committee honored her for promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly's list of 14 "San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen." She is a popular speaker and actor.

"Cherished Pulse" is available as an e-chapbook at:

"Tracings" is available at:

"She Wore Emerald Then: Reflections on Motherhood" is available at:

Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s website is:

Come tweet with Carolyn at:

This month, since I am a poet primarily, I thought we’d focus on Carolyn’s poetry achievements and interests. Carolyn has been good enough to provide us with some of her tips to help beginning poets.

Perfecting Poetry: 10 Tips for the Beginner

1. Try free verse (no intentional rhyming).

2. Write dense, poetic prose, then divide it into lines—or not. If you don't, you'll have a prose poem.

3. Break lines after important words. If you scan down the last words in each line of a poem, you should have a good sense of what the poem is about.

4. Eliminate as many adjectives and adverbs as you can and strengthen your verbs. You poem will be more powerful.

5. Eliminate as many of the clutter words as you can. Articles, conjunctions, even some prepositions.

6. Try making different pictures on the page with the words. Your poem can be in triplets, couplets, indented unusually, even be set up in shapes. Try to make the design fit with the subject of your poem.

7. Avoid long, Latinate words.

8. Use images rather than explaining.

9. Know metaphors, similes, assonance and alliteration. Play with them. Don't strain.

10. If you want to rhyme, try to use uncommon ones. No moons and Junes.

11. One extra tip because one should always give a reader a little more than they expect: Try reading and/or writing poetry even if you don't think you want to. You may be surprised at how much you like it. It’s changed a lot since your high school English Lit days.

Here is an example of Carolyn’s poetry:

This is an example of what can be done with simple, everyday subjects that you experience or imagine. I imagined this while riding the wheel on the Santa Monica pier recently with my husband:

Death by Ferris Wheel ©

A woman who might be me, watches
roller bladers with supple bones and toddlers

with careless balloons from her seat in the
gondola. Far, far down on the pier. She opens the doors

--mini saloon doors of purple-- or
she crawls over acrylic barriers. Either way

she hesitates a moment. The lurch
of the wheel as it stops at the top finishes

the job. No scream. Even the plane floating
a campaign trail of plastic behind it, silent. Soundless

waves, too, that far up. She floats as if posing
for her close-up, delicate fingers, poised toes,

her red sunhat a Frisbee against
sky of pulled taffy clouds on blue.

Sea like scallops of Alençon lace below,
sand stretched away toward the Palisades,

the smell of sugary churros her last sensation.

by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, originally published in Pear Noir

To learn more about publishing, writing, promotion, and editing, check out Carolyn's classes at UCLA Extension's Writer's Program: www, or (310) 825-9415. Her next class is August 1, Public Policy Building, UCLA Campus.

Check back in a couple of days to learn about a poetry book that would be a perfect gift for Mother’s Day.




Joyce Anthony said...

Wonderful post-I really like the fact you included one of Carolyn's poems--I enjoyed reading it!

Nancy Famolari said...

Great post. I enjoyed the ideas for poetry. I'm not a poet, but I enjoy reading other people's work. I didn't realize Carolyn was such a talented poet.

Gayle said...

Carolyn has a lot of insights to offer writers! Great post.

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...

Great post. Carolyn's Frugal books are wonderful. I can't seem to find The Frugal Editor - hoping it's not lost - I didn't finish it yet.

Those are great tips for those wanting to start dabbling in poetry.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Harry, thank you so much for this. It's a lovely blog. How could one ask for more??? (-:

Nancy, it's hard being The Frugal Book Promoter AND a poet. LOL. Glad you now know I'm a poet, too. (-:

Karen, if you can't find The Frugal Editor, let me know. We'll work something out.

Love to you all!

madcapmaggie said...

Thanks for the really nice post
the thing that I favored the most --
advice to young poets
all poets should know it.
The post really kept me engrossed.

Margaret Fieland

Donna M. McDine said...

I enjoyed learning more about Carolyn through her poetry. Absolutely terrific.

Best wishes,

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Harrry, I just posted this great blog on Twitter and Facebook. Hope more come by to see what fun poetry can be--even for those who consider themselves nonpoets. (-:

BTW, join me on Twitter at @frugalbookpromo

Harry Gilleland said...

I am back! I was away all day yesterday from 8 am until after midnight. Hence, I could not respond promptly to comments. Now I'll catch up!

First, to Carolyn: I am pleased that you liked the post. Thanks for posting about it on Twitter and facebook.

Many thanks to all who posted a comment. I appreciate your stopping in and leaving your opinion at my blog. Be sure to come back and read more about Carolyn's book in the next post!



Liana said...

Great post Harry! Your posts are so good, I am looking forward to the next one.
I've enjoyed reading about Carolyn!

Vivian Zabel said...

Just returned from a writing conference, so I'm running late.

Good post and comments. Carolyn is an interesting woman, as well as talented one.

Harry Gilleland said...

Hi, Vivian, what were you teaching at the writers' conference? (As good a writer, poet, editor, publisher, publicist, and all around experienced author as you surely could teach more than you could possibly learn from attending a writers' conference. :-) )