Monday, April 19, 2021

Al Kratz : my (small press) writing day


I do most of my active writing here at this desk in my “office” where I also am working the day job in this pandemic remote lifestyle. My routine really depends on what kind of work I have in progress. If I’m generating new material a lot of that happens either in the spiral notebook or the Notes app on the phone. I love it when I’m working on a new story and ideas come fast throughout the day. I always have a Sharpie S-Gel in my pocket and some type of notepad close by. A lot of that generative period happens before and after sleep so a much of that gets done in the Notes app. My weekday writing is usually in the first hour or two after work, so early evening before dinner. My weekend writing is usually in the mornings.

That stack of note cards next to my laptop is one of my prized possessions. Those are gathered quotes from craft books and sometimes pull quotes from fiction that I want to save. They help me remember that learning is gradual and ongoing, and they help me get unstuck occasionally. I can randomly pick out a card and find some type of motivation again.

An ideal session for me would be to have some music going and I’ll start with reading for a half hour or so. I love reading while I’m in the middle of writing. I love listening to music both when reading and writing. I’ll listen to various Pandora stations mostly a mixture of classic rock, 90’s alternative rock, and some harder rock mixed in there. After reading, I might spend an hour working on the laptop. It’s crazy how fast time can go by even with editing and revising. I love being able to open up the windows. We’ve got a ton of birds and squirrels around the house. Late Spring and early Summer is perfect for also taking a book and a notepad outside.

I do a lot of procrastinating. I love having no deadlines, nobody really to answer for these things other than myself. When I’m really in the zone it reminds me of that idle time in the dorms back in college when all of life was in front of us, but there wasn’t really a hurry. That time could be divided up reading a Rolling Stone article, reading a class text, or just sketching something out with pastels for the hell of it. I like what that idle moment is like on the brain. It seems close to meditation, maybe?  Still I love getting a lot of work done too. But the only way to do that really is word by word, sentence by sentence, worrying about the total later, and eventually looking back and being proud of the work done. I feel super lucky to have the space and time to do this and I’m going to try to enjoy that time before it’s gone.



Al Kratz lives in Indianola, Iowa with his wife Kristy and their cat Tom Petty. He is the Managing Editor for New Flash Fiction Review. He’s the author of Off the Resting Sea from above/ground press 2021, and The Tony Bone Stories which was runner up in the 2021 Bath Novella-in-Flash Award and will be published later this year by Ad Hoc Fiction. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Laura Stamps : And So It Goes (My Writing Day)


My writing day begins every morning at breakfast.  I have a hectic fulltime job, so the only time I can work on poems is while I’m eating breakfast, lunch, and a snack before bedtime.  Yes, multitasking is my friend!

All first drafts of my poems are written by hand in little 3 x 5 spiral-bound memo pads I buy at the grocery store.  And I keep everything I’m working on in my poetry notebook.  It’s a zippered, 5.5 x 8.5, Rite in Rain Weatherproof Cordura Fabric Notebook Cover I bought years ago on Amazon for around $26.00. 

It’s perfect for my writing needs.  When you unzip it, there are two big side pockets on each side, as well as slots for 4 pens on the left side, and a smaller pocket for a 3 x 5 memo pad on the right side.  In one of the big side pockets I keep the poem I’m currently working on.  The other big side pocket contains scraps of paper with notes for new poems and poems that need to be revised.

I write the first draft of a poem by hand while I eat.  Later, in my office, I type it up on computer, print it out, and put it back in my poetry notebook to be edited by hand at the next meal.  Then I spend a few days editing by hand at meals and typing up the edits in my office.  As soon as one poem is finished, I begin work on the next poem in my notebook. 

And so it goes…

It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in three 20-minute writing sessions every day.  I’ve published over 60 books and chapbooks with various publishers in the last 33 years using this process.  And after decades of writing so many books and chapbooks, my brain is automatically programmed to think “book.”  Every poem I write is written according to the theme of the book manuscript I’m currently working on.

Once the theme for a new book is established, I think about all the topics I want to discuss in the book and write one or two poems on each topic.  Sometimes the entire first draft of a poem pours out all at once.  That’s definitely a blessing!  But it’s the exception.  Usually, I tuck a topic away in my head and let it simmer for a day or two, while I finish the final edits on the poem I’m currently working on. 

After a day or two in my mind, bits and pieces of the new poem are ready to be birthed and begin to pop out.  This can happen anywhere: the post office, the shower, the car, at the sink while washing dishes, you name it.  That’s why there are scraps of paper in my poetry notebook.  When a poem decides to be birthed, I grab whatever is handy to jot down all of these bits and pieces before they vanish.  As soon as I have enough material to create an outline for the new poem (beginning line, middle, and end line), I arrange these scraps of paper around my plate at my next meal and compose the first draft in a memo pad to be typed up afterwards.

When I’ve covered every topic in a new book and feel I have all the poems I need for that particular book or chapbook, I edit the manuscript a few more times before submitting it to book publishers.  Or I enter it in a contest. 

I rarely take a break after I finish a book.  I just begin working on a new book at my next meal.  By then I’ve already decided on the theme for the book and topics for the poems.  Plus, I have all the notes I need to write the first draft of the first poem. 

And so it goes…

This is my typical writing day and writing process.  Strange as it may seem, it has worked well for me for decades, and it still does. 

No matter how busy your life might be, you probably have time to work on your poetry every day if you’re willing to multitask.  Just find one of your daily activities that will allow you to do that.  If it seems impossible, consider this.  You still have to eat, right?  Just work on your poetry during a meal, maybe on your lunch hour every day. 

You’ll be amazed how much you can accomplish! 



Laura Stamps is a poet and the author of over 60 poetry books, chapbooks, and novels in verse. Her poetry book THE YEAR OF THE CAT was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005.   She is also the recipient of 7 Pushcart Prize nominations.  Her poetry has appeared in over 1000 literary journals and magazines worldwide.  Currently, Laura is working on a new poetry chapbook about PTSD, depression, anxiety, and chronic trauma. You'll find her every day on Twitter at @LauraStamps16.  Blog: