Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem- kill the critic October 29, 2013

Kill the critic:

let him drown in the

flow of your words.

Kill the critic:

let him sear in the

molten eruption

from the core of you.

Kill the critic:

let him smother

gasping against the tide

of your creativity,

.grasping at the emptiness

that was your insecurities.

Kill the critic:

be free.



NB: I do not advocate murder of anything but the inner voice that tells you that you’re inadequate.  Your inner critic has no business in your writing head-space.   You can’t edit a blank page.


help guys! I need some male vocab! August 4, 2012

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 5:38 pm
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I was once told, “Guys don’t say ‘cute.'”  That’s a problem, because I’m editing Grace Awakening Myth, and Ben thinks ‘cute’ and ‘adorable’ rather frequently.  If I need to kill the word cute, but somehow get the same idea across, what words should I use?

What do you say when the girl you adore is so uncoordinated around you she can barely walk?  When she blushes whenever she sees you?

When I was that girl, I remember a lot of knowing grins, and I’ve got that, but what word would be in his head to describe his affectionate amusement?

Help!  Please leave your suggestion in the comments below!  Thanks!


more on the editing stuff May 20, 2012

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 8:26 pm
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Gail Anderson-Dargatz is a formerly local writer.  She graduated from the high school where I teach, and until last summer, she lived over the hill and wrote about our region.  At the moment she’s living all the way across the country on an island in Lake Huron.  Gail also teaches at UBC in the Creative Writing Masters program.  In addition, she has a blog.  On her blog she has a guest author visit from Vincent Lam, and(here is the point of this post at last!) Vincent Lam has a fun post about editing.  Enjoy!


editing May 16, 2012

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:27 am
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I mentioned the other day that I enjoy the editing process.  Apparently I am not alone!

On his blog David Antropus recently wrote, “editing is an integral part of the creative process and isn’t really qualitatively different from writing. What we tend to call “writing” is in fact “initial drafting” and what we often think of as “editing” is just a deeper form of “writing”. Every bit as creative, and potentially just as satisfying. At its best, it’s the layers of paint over the pencil sketch.”

He goes on to demonstrate, showing the process.  Check out the indiesunlimited piece by clicking here.  He has some valuable links in the comment section. Read through it all.  Great stuff!



editing fun April 28, 2012

Filed under: Grace Awakening,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 7:00 pm
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I enjoy the editing process.  I love considering the questions that force me to think.  Figuring out alternatives or motivations (therefore to bring a new truth) or tossing something that isn’t supported is very empowering. I see the process of these discussions as literary improv.   Off the top of my head I have to be able to come up with a plausible reason for whatever question has been asked.  Sometimes the answer has been in the story, but sometimes it’s back story stuff, but it needs to be consistent with character.  I can be very creative.  Sometimes my convoluted solutions are approved, but sometimes a set of lowered brows indicates I need to use my delete key, and kill my babies.

My editor, Vikki, peppers the manuscript with comments.  Lots of times it’s just grammar corrections (Vikki is a grammar nazi),  some moments earn exclamations, often she poses an intriguing question, and sometimes, when she’s been at it far too long and is plainly getting overtired, it can simply be entertaining.

My two favorite comments from the final edits of Grace Awakening Power:

“You use mad every time you mean angry. I know you are being colloquial, but it would be okay to use the correct word sometimes, again, as a model for young readers. And to add variety.”

I think of “mad dogs and Englishmen” in her context.  🙂  I always use ‘mad’ for ‘angry’ rather than to mean ‘crazy.’  Some days ‘shift F7’ is used more often than others!

Here’s my favorite comment:

“This event is an opportunity for Grace to accidentally bump up the energy, with people leaping from their wheelchairs and bursting into song, or something slightly more subdued. Grace and Ben together should be contagious, not just Grace for Ben.”

HA!  “or something slightly more subdued!”  HA HA!  Vikki cracks me up.

Like the joke a friend sent me on Facebook today:   “The past, present, and future walked into a bar.  It was tense.”   Bwaa ha haa!!  I told it to my husband, cackling gleefully after the punch line and he stood straight faced looking at me, then shook his head and remarked, “Yeah.  That sounds like an English teacher joke.”  😀

PS>  I was VERY excited that Grace Awakening Dreams and Power, the trade paperback omnibus of the two e-books, is now available for sale to the public!  There’s a link to purchase in the bar above.  I know some have already sold, and I wonder if other folks will be reading it before  my own case of books makes it through customs.


Arg! April 11, 2012

Filed under: Poetry,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 1:25 am
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Your priorities are

not my priorities.

Your time is

not my time.

Your hopes are

not my hopes.

Your deadlines

are not my deadlines.

But all

of mine,


on yours.


slow December 24, 2011

What I’ve learned about the publishing industry:

It’s slow.

Everything about it moves like a comatose tortoise. True, like the tortoise, sure and steady gets there eventually, but it can be ridiculously frustrating watching from the sidelines.

If an agent or publisher says they’ll get back to you in a week, s/he means a month. If they say it’ll be a month, expect to hear around four months later. Four seems to be the number to multiply by.

Ironically, I was also told that from completion of novel to publication the average book takes 4.5 years. Coincidence?

Is patience a virtue?

Perhaps. Electronic publishing speeds up many aspects of the process, but the most important one, the editing and proof-reading will still take just as long as ever.

I’m counting the days until Grace Awakening Power gets back from the editor, I can make the required changes, and it can be released by Lintusen to the world!  I was expecting it initially in November, four months after it went to the editor.  If my multiplication scenario holds, I will see it in 16 months, or perhaps 4 months after November, which puts arrival in March.


The watch-word for the author waiting for a book.

It’s a slow process.


Amateur free verse November 8, 2010

Filed under: Commentary,Poetry,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 7:39 am
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Putting on the English teacher hat…

(Free verse: poetry without rhyme scheme or rhythm.  The following poem is a tirade against bad free verse.  It is not written in free verse.)


When crafting lines of poetry
Please choose your words most carefully.
If you must vomit onto the page
Clean up all the boring beige
Only the best words should be saved
Everything else, please deftly raze.
Leave your message in a poignant turn
Not lost amid the dross and worms.
In poetry, now please don’t pout,
the best is left,  when you toss out!


Do you think a poem about it will make my students more inclined to do it?

No.  Probably not. 

I hate rambling, self-gratifying, free verse poetry.  I wrote a lot of it as a teen, and it was very cathartic.  Not everything we write is  worthy to be shared.  (In the effort to avoid hypocrisy, let me take this opportunity to apologize to the young men who were forced to endure those horrendous, cathartic poems:  I was young.  I was stupid.  Please forgive me).  Let us remember that even free verse should be edited for the most beautiful, evocative, powerful language we can create!  There is power in brevity!

I think I may make a poster that summarizes this idea even further:

Use the best, the perfect words

Don’t bury them beneath the turds


Write this and that, but skip the crap! October 27, 2010

Filed under: Commentary,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 12:44 am
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Yahoo Canada News reports on a 19 page manuscript for an unfinished work by Theodore Geisl aka Dr. Seuss going up for auction. 

An included letter from Dr. Seuss to his assistant makes for interesting reading. Seuss was displeased with the work, and especially the main character, Pete. In the letter, he explains why ne never seriously pursued its publication. “What, in my opinion, is wrong with this story is that…despite the greatness of Pete as a stellar athlete hero…the negative image of him flubbing and unable to catch any ball at all will make him schnook… And I think the reader’s reaction will be, ‘What’s the matter with this dope?'”

The L.A. Times points out that it may have been this bit of self-editing on the part of Seuss that set him apart. Clearly, he was good enough to know that not everything he wrote was worthy of his name

And that is the mark of a quality writer, isn’t it?  Not everything is worth disseminating to the world!  The ability to filter and to edit is crucial to ensure excellence.  For the beginning writer, each word is like gold.  It is so much work to get them on the page that you become attached to them.  To be asked to edit, that is, to re-think, to re-vision, to re-word, to re-phrase, or to just cut something right out– well, it is like cutting off a piece of your body.  (A piece you like and want, not something like a gangrenous foot, but something like your nose).  In time however, we may see that the thing we like IS eating away at our manuscript, making it less than it should be, and like gangrene or a cancer, it must be cut out.

On the other hand, sometimes pain is good for us.  It may cause us a sense of loss to see our perfect prose slashed through with blue pencil, but a re-read a safe distance away in time, and the improvements are undeniable.  Sometimes we must let go to find the stronger writer within us. 

Meg Tilley told me once during a blue pencil session that she saves the words by putting them at the back of the manuscript.  She finds it comforting to know they’re still around until she’s completely secure that it’s right to let them go.  I don’t do that.  I have complete copies of the manuscript saved, so a session of cutting and  slicing doesn’t bother me.  After a rest to let the words lose their holy status, I approach the edit with verve.  When I’m sure it’s time for the words to go, I am free slice them off with impunity.  I find it cathartic, actually.  I like the 10% per edit rule, and it works.  Subsequent readings move more and more smoothly.

But before there are the fine word by word edits, there are the concept edits.  There are those stories that seem like good ideas at the time.  We get started, have a few hundred pages invested and then it is obvious that this just isn’t going to be what it needs to be.   Like Seuss did with Pete the Athlete, sometimes we have to bid farewell to characters that don’t have what it takes to bring readers to care about their problem, if indeed they have one.  Every story needs a conflict or there is no point in reading.   Jocks like Pete  are only legends in their own minds.  Good call Dr.  Sorry Pete.


editing September 1, 2010

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 7:11 am
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I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve edited the work I’m gathering in my  MFA application portfolio. It is quite amazing how many times one can read something and still find things to adjust. You think it’s perfect, and then you read again and find another typo, another sentence to re-phrase, another word to tighten up meaning.

It makes me laugh when I ask my students to edit something they’ve written and they refuse, because they are sure it’s perfect as it is. First draft perfection. The Mozart Effect perhaps?  Do you remember the scene in the movie when Salieri realized that the perfect music score he’s looking at is a first draft- that Mozart took entire scores out of his head and just put them on paper without a single erasure?  It was traumatizing for him that the irritating, immature Mozart had such a glorious genius to craft heavenly music apparently without effort.

While my students are amazing, I don’t teach that many geniuses.  Trust me, even the geniuses have no excuse not to edit.

There is a strange power in understanding that while perfection may be an impossible goal, the process of editing is a journey toward finding the best in our ideas.  Getting the ideas out initially is one process, but trimming those ideas to bring them to a polished brevity that catches the reader with its brilliance is something else.  Editing never ends.  Improvement is always possible.  Perfection is a journey to understanding.

Edits of this post: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


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