6 Tips to Achieve Literary Success

6 Tips to Achieve Literary Success

1. Write often
Above everything else, the most important tip is to write about what you are passion about. Writing about what moves, inspires and motivates you in either your personal or professional life clearly shows in your work.

2. First impressions
One key writing technique to remember is to start off the story with an intriguing, interesting opening to grab the reader’s attention. This tip is applicable to short stories, novels and even poetry.

3. Don’t over describe
Use descriptive tools and adjectives with caution. While you do want to create a unique, interesting picture for your reader/audience base, you still need to allow a certain level of imagination creation on their end. A good novel or poem creates a relationship where a few descriptive details catalyst a moving picture in the reader’s mind.

4. Use dialogue sparingly
Depending on personal taste, dialogue should be moderately used in the body of work you have been working on. Even though dialogue is strongly encouraged by a plethora of writers, keep in mind that a balance between dialogue and prose is a matter of personal style.

The key to effectively using dialogue is to keep the conversation crisp, engaging, and most of all meaningful to the chapter, scene or overall plot line.

5. Listening to your subconscious

Even if you happen to be writing well for days, there is still a very strong chance that writer’s block will indeed occur a week or a month down the line. Listening to your subconscious is also a great way to filter through any lingering thoughts you have in the back of your mind. Take a few minutes to speak with a fellow friend or even a friend to help you bounce some ideas or potential character developments off of during this process.

6. Character development
To make characters convincing, you have to get right inside their heads and experience the world as they do. Arguably one of the more difficult tasks when writing, pushing yourself to your limits and becoming the character on paper is by far quite time-consuming. Knowing your character in order to better understand how he/she would act in the most extreme or mundane situations is essential as the plot in your novel thickens.

Utilizing the above tips will create a multi-faceted skill set which can help you create the body of work that you have been aspiring to achieve for years. Believing in your capabilities, along with constantly learning to improve your skill set is vital.

The Significance of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival

While it is common for poetry festivals and events across the country to focus on the artistic or melodic aspect of this written form, it is also important to take the time to not only understand, but to appreciate its power to change. Change someone’s perspective on an issue he/she had not thought about too much previously, or perhaps shedding light on a feeling that many people fail to experience in the routine of their day to day lives.

One festival in particular has shaped a new way people gather and come together to experience of the striking insight of poetry. In late April, the Massachusetts Poetry Festival showcased poets and different works of art which emphasized world issues and problems that have gone widely unheard of.

This festival, which lasted for two days in Salem, was a plethora of poetic communications, learning, and most of all social engagement. Specifically, on Friday educators had the option to participate in a workshop focused on teaching poetry, its history, and various writing forms in high school classrooms.

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, moderator and poet Danielle Jones-Pruett says that the entire festival — in fact, all poetry — is a form of activism.

maya angelou

Maya Angelou 

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

– “Still I Rise”, Maya Angelou

Festival Executive Director January Gill O’Neil, is a firm believer that poetry readings are an opportunity for listeners to not only realize they’re not alone, but also relate to others to better understand how feelings can be both shared experiences and personal simultaneously.

As the festival is the catalyst for this shared, personal experience, O’Neill hopes that participants, readers, and poets can benefit and engage in a similar interaction in another sphere of their lives. In other words, this moving experience can transcend the festival setting. “Revolutions start small,” she says.

Unlike other festivals, many attendants believe that this event was special due to its robust, healthy intellectual atmosphere. Thus, Jones-Pruett emphasizes that diversity propels change both within and outside the poetry community. “Rather than nodding our heads we have our ideas challenged,” she says.

Tobi Dress-Germain, one of the festival moderators, delves deeper into the notion that the process of creative writing is still unrestricted. In this sense, this liberating mentality allows for a free flow of ideas across a spectrum of minds. She feels that “writing is one of the few times when we, as human beings, are truly free.”

According to Gill O’Neil, when you’re writing poetry, your objective is not necessarily to change the world immediately or at all. For many, as society becomes more open and accepting, so does poetry as an introspective art form. This is the best time to go see poetry,” she says. “It’s edgy, it’s raw, it goes there.”

Exploring Soulful Poetry with Major Jackson

Born and raised in his native Philadelphia, Major Jackson uses the steady, soulful beats of All-American, wholesome jazz music to allow for infinite poetic inspiration in his verses. When he reads his work, he uses a tone of distant insight and close, almost intimate warmth to entice, captivate and entrance the reader into his spell that can last for minutes at a time.

Jackson also uses his musical tastes from when he was a teen, to his later, more adult years in a perfect combination of street like hip hop flow and the heartfelt sadness of jazz to explore the human experience. When discussing what specific public spaces, artists or memories from his home city inspire his work, he recalls the years of his life wandering throughout the streets of his Philadelphia.

In those streets, he was able to explore the most internal, poetic aspect of himself, which allowed him to call on the love of his city.

As a professor of the university of Vermont, Major Jackson assures everyone that philadelphiaPhiladelphia will always be the creative foundation which initiated his poetic artistry, even in this point in his career. Her firmly believes that poetry, should denote and possess a musical, almost rhythmic quality in which the language, musical inspiration and performance become interconnected as a collective movement for every party involved.

Living by the wise words, once stated by Sharon Olds, a Pulitzer prize winner, Major Jackson makes it his primary mission in his creative field to always “write the poem you would never show anyone.” Drawing on a wide range of deep, often times conflicting personal experience, this poet firmly believes that the power of an insightful poem can therefore create a type of “rife raft” for individuals across cultures, backgrounds or experiences to find solace in a common struggle.

As for inspiring, new wide eyed poets on the scene, Major Jackson has a few words to guide these writers through their journey. Jackson advises these poets to a encompass a vast array of styles, beliefs and convictions, vastly different from what you may believe. This, in turn, will not only expand your worldview, but also allow for a healthy, internal debate within your own mind, producing some of your most profound work.

Interestingly enough, Major Jackson also makes a point to to look within yourself in order to not only imitate your influence, but instead write in a way that allows for a collective, almost symbiotic relationship. “Write organically, through your influences,” he states. “Then there will be the writing organically from the evolved craft of poetry’s essence.”

A firm believer in the power, use and widespread use of language, it is no surprise that Major Jackson has been incredibly successful, holding positions such as the current poetry editor of the Harvard review. His most recent work titled “Roll Deep & Poems,” which underlines issues such as human intimacy in platonic and romantic relationships, along with the multitude of implications and convictions within the sphere of online dating.

An interesting vocal form that guides Jackson throughout the creative process is to read his poetic words aloud as he writes them on paper. The poet states that by reading the language out loud, this actually allows him to find new, more innovative ways to create music through new tones in his words, experimenting with syllabic intonation and writing these somewhat pre-form poems.


Appreciating World Poetry Day

Poetry has had the ability to speak to people of all backgrounds, religions, political affiliations and beliefs for decades, never failing to provide individuals with the strength they need to find light in darkness. Even in the most difficult times in your life, poetic sounds have the power to not only challenge where you are in your current life stage, but to also allow for profound self-reflection.

The rhythm of the tongue brings wordless music in the air, creating a way for us to explore what our purpose is in this life we call our own. As March 21st was World Poetry Day, the below is some of the most awe-inspiring, stunning verses that force us to challenge our routines, what we think is correct or appropriate and most of all, the importance to never stop questioning or moving forward in our lives.

These words continue to possess a very real, intense power which springs from physical paper that transcend into the humming imagination of its readers from every corner on this earth.

“The weight of the world / is love / Under the burden / of solitude, / under the burden / of dissatisfaction / the weight, / the weight we carry / is love”
‘Song’, Allen Ginsberg

A foundational member of the Beat Generation in the 1950’s in addition to counterculture of mainstream American society that soon became the aftermath, Allen Ginsberg’s poetic words continue to evoke honest, raw emotions in readers that yearn for a certain type of directness. In this short portion of his poem titled “Song,” he is able to convey the conflicting emotions of love, which many of us are unable to express.

“You may write me down in history / With your bitter, twisted lies, / You may trod me in the very dirt / But still, like dust, I’ll rise”
‘Still I Rise’, Maya Angelou

Arguably the most powerful words Angelou has ever written, the poet, author and activist exhibits the utmost courage by not only challenging prose within the genre, but also speaking out to challenge the common structure of society. Her words have the ability to deconstruct concepts or notions about her character with the use of a simple metaphor to highlight her strength.

“I love you as certain dark things are to be loved / in secret, between the shadow and the soul.” ‘Sonnet XVII’, Neruda

Deriving his pen name from the Czech poet Jan Neruda, this Chilean poet won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Neruda’ contrast of the shadow and soul vs. lightness/darkness to convey how he perceives love as an entity, rather than simply a fleeting emotion or a passing feeling provides the soul limited satisfaction.


Beginning the Writing Process

As a deeply personal, creative form of expression, the multifaceted functions of writing itself can endlessly describe everything from sentimental memories of a truly deep struggle you have endured to blissful memories that allow you to positively reflect on a previous encounter.

Although it is sometimes fairly difficult to successfully harness this mental workflow in order to accomplish a certain literary task or goal, it is important to remember to engage topics that possess meaning in your life.

If you write about a topic that deeply affects your emotional state, your readers will recognize that in a way that will allow them to transcendentally connect with your work, thus creating a more symbolic relationship between the writer and the reader. Essentially, choosing a topic that is of interest to you can positively affect your growing relationship with your readers, while also opening your eyes to what specifically resonates with your audience base.

The first step is to start successfully writing is to clearly understand the primary goal of what you would like to artistically achieve in that set timeframe. Gaining a solid grasp of what you intend to write about actually clears up a fair amount of mental or emotional frustration that you may have been building up for awhile.

Whether you decide to write notes down on paper or make a list writing a letteron a google doc, filtering out your thoughts is a useful initial step before delving into the process. Another helpful way to address the initial portion of the process is to craft a simple outline, where you can gather your thoughts and execute your writing task in a way that makes sense for your piece.

Going forward in this writing process, it is absolutely essential to maintain a high level of focus as a means to further the creative flow for the maximum time possible. Avoid checking your phone, email or social media profiles because these distractions have a high tendency of breaking creativity once you start to delve deeper into writing extensively.

Managing expectations throughout the early stages of writing is a good tool to better understand your strengths and weaknesses once a written piece completed, allowing you to analyze room for improvement. It is important to keep the writing flow active for as long as possible. Also, bear in mind that you will always have the time to thoroughly evaluate your writing once you let all your creative juices flow for as long as you can.

Effective Writing Tips to Help Creativity

Writer’s block is an unfortunate occurrence that tends to affect all of us one time or another, and it can pose itself as an occasional threat to how productively we write on a day to day basis. Every writer has a different set of skills or habits in regards to when they find it best to produce content which is a skill that we all have the potential of developing overtime.

In relation to creative writing, studies show that it may be actually best to write first thing in the morning as this is the time of today when we possess less self-doubt. One of the root causes of writer’s block is the inability to think past your self-worth or your overall literary capabilities to get those creative juices flowing. Depending on how long the piece you’re currently working on is, this simple habit can allow you to optimally produce a short poem within a few days.

Furthermore, the best way to go about effectively writing week to week is to actually produce content the same time of day, consecutively. This essentially allows your brain to adjust to the schedule which allows you to engage an increased level of productivity across the board. Just like a job or heading to the gym, writing requires a fair amount of self-discipline which can be a huge challenge for individuals that allow themselves to write freely. While writing freely works for many, it’s vital that you try to use different methods or practices to decipher what is most efficient for you.

writing hand

Also, setting a specific goal for yourself in terms of ideas, word count or even plot development is a fundamental way to not only constantly challenge the creative part of your brain, but also help you feel more satisfied with your work. Setting goals or expectations for yourself is negative because after you complete that specific task, this provides a substantial reason for you to reward yourself with the little things in life.

Lastly, after all that is said and done, taking a few minutes to make a plan for tomorrow morning is essential to help with the overall new creative process. By allocating time, setting realistic expectations for yourself and resisting the urge to overwork yourself, you can anticipate an insurgence of innovation through self-discipline.

For more tips about producing creative, quality content click on this link. 


Kendrick Lamar Visits Freshman English Class to Talk About Poetry

Rick Maack

Back in March of this year, an English teacher by the name of Brian Mooney published a blog post about using Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed album To Pimp a Butterfly to help his students analyze Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye. The next month, he posted some of his students conclusions in a follow up. Both ended up going viral. So viral, in fact, that Lamar himself ended up reading about it and setting up a time to meet in person with the high school freshman class.

Lamar arrived at High Tech High School in North Bergen, New Jersey on to spend the day listening to students poetry, freestyling with them, and leading an assembly. He met with Mooney’s poetry club and English class first where one student read a poem about the struggles he faces as a dark-skinned South Asian. Two more students followed with a joint piece called “What the Media Taught Us.” Lamar laughed when they reached the line “You chose the wrong butterfly to pimp” and praised their work. “They got heart, they got intellect, they got punchlines,” he said about the class.

Lamar was thoroughly impressed by Mooney’s initial post. Regarding the post he said, “I was intrigued that somebody other than myself can articulate and break down the concepts of To Pimp a Butterfly almost better than I can. That let me know he’s a true lover of music.”

More surprisingly was that he found himself equally impressed by the students. “I didn’t think I made [To Pimp a Butterfly] for 16-year-olds,” he explained. “I always get, like, my parents or an adult saying, ‘This is great, you have a message, you have themes, you have different genres of music.’ But to get a kid actually telling me this, it’s a different type of feeling, ’cause it lets me know that their thought process is just as advanced as mine, even if I’m 10, 15 years older.”

Lamar enjoyed a few more performances before taking questions from the class about the evolution of his storytelling and his collaborations with jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington. Lamar went in depth about the connections he’s made between different forms of storytelling and discussed his years as the quiet kid that used to sit in the back of the class. He recalls that in elementary school, he surprised his teacher when he used the word “audacity,” which led her to make a prediction that he would someday become a writer.

While Lamar knew it was important to share with the students stories of his own life and work, he also wanted to hear what the students had to say about themselves. “Something for me even bigger than mentoring is really listening,” said Lamar. “When I do that we have a little bit bigger connection than me being Kendrick Lamar and you being the student. It’s almost like we’re friends… I’ve met kids that told me my own flaws, and I had to sit back and check myself and reroute certain ventures that I was heading to.”

Mooney also introduced Lamar to the rest of the student body, where poetry club member Aaleah Oliver read her poem “Out of Many, One” to much applause. From there, a panel which included Lamar; education activist Jamila Lyiscott; hip-hop education advocate and Teachers College, Columbia University professor Christopher Emdin; the school’s assistant principal Allyson Krone; and a recent High Tech alum, held discussions inspired by more student work.

After a few more poems, an essay, and even a dance routine, Lamar and Mooney returned to the stage for a finale where Lamar performed, “Alright,” and the students joined in for the chorus repeating “We gon’ be alright.”

It’s amazing to see students from every genre and background able to connect to and learn from poetry, in all it’s forms. The poems, music, art, and performances that today’s popular artists create can serve as an invaluable means of connecting students with the classics teachers are trying to get them to understand. This example of bridging literature with modern rap music is an incredibly creative, and moving, representation of what teachers everywhere should be striving for.

You can see the original article as it appeared on Rolling Stone here.

A Review of “A Child’s Garden of Verses” by Robert Louis Stevenson’s

A Child’s Garden of Verses is a beloved collection of poems so full of captivating imagery that it really serves as a storybook. It is filled with youthful optimism, innocent curiosity, and naive certainty. The playful, yet subtly philosophical, themes and simple prose of wisdom may be intended to delight children, but readers of all ages feel the influence and importance of these stories echoed throughout their lives for years to come.

Rick Maack

It is difficult to write verse for children that truly captures their perspective. Children think so differently than those of us who have shifted into adulthood. They are able to mix reality with fantasy is unexpected ways, and aren’t bound by the rules, habits, and patterns we’ve had imposed on us as “grown ups.” It can be nearly impossible for a writer to strip away their own life experiences and learned cynicism to truly embody the openness and innocence of a child. Most writers cannot achieve this kind of understanding, but Robert Louis Stevenson does so with a palpable vitality.

Each poem is filled with the magic and possibility of imagination. “I have just to shut my eyes to go sailing through the skies,” says one mousy-haired little girl in a mauve dress, white knickers, and black Start-Rites. As a child, Stevenson recognizes that you can break free of parental rules and everyday routines and escape into a daydream any time you want.

The illustrations found within are often as enchanting as the words themselves. Each story is accompanied by imagery of its own far-off land filled with grandfather clocks, flickering candles, and sleeping children blissfully unaware of the activities of fairies and toy soldiers as they’re dreaming.

In each new moment, Stevenson is able to fills us with hope, fear, curiosity, reflection, and joy. In The Land of Story-Books, a daring boy creeps along the back of a sofa with a gun on his way to shoot lions and tigers in a starlit jungle; his parents sitting by the hearth oblivious to all he sees. In The Unseen Playmate, an imaginary friends comes “out of the wood” when “children are happy and lonely and good,” and though he will play with these children, he will also play with their toys once they go to bed. In The Dumb Soldier, a soldier gets buried in a hole in the garden and is left there as the grass grows over him, only to be recovered at the end of winter after he “has seen the starry hours and the springing of the flowers.”

Rereading these stories, even in adulthood, can transport you back to a time where magic was real and the world was filled with sincerely endless possibilities. You don’t just read a collection like this, you “live within its pages.

Rick Maack Top Five Humans of NY posts!

Top Five Humans of NY post:

Brandon, or “Humans of New York” as he is likely known on the streets, has been taking photos of strangers around New York to share them with the world for 5 years. Along with the photos, Brandon includes quotes or a story from the subject of his photographs. Here  are some interesting posts!



 “We’ve been friends since we were twelve, but he’s always kept me at arm’s length.”

“We’ve had fun.”

“Not the kind of fun I wanted to have.”



“I’ve got a couple friends who are members of the internet. They are complete fiends on that thing. Personally, I have no interest.”



“I’d like to write a novel about the future where the earth isn’t a dystopian wasteland and teens aren’t fighting each other to the death.”



“My mom’s a single mother. She adopted me when she was 40. She always tells me that she had a mid-life crisis, and she got a kid instead of a motorcycle. And I’m forever thankful for that. She’s never been too close to her family, so it’s always just been the two of us.”



“Liquor store opens in two minutes.”