sharing a poetic LIFELINE with the world

Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Meet Carla Girtman

Carla lives in Central Florida with her family and three cats (who claim they write better than she does). She has been writing since sixth grade (and
image00still has most of her handwritten work in a box somewhere), but didn’t really have anything formally published until 1996 when her story “Me? I’m No Writer” was published in the Phoenix (Valencia Community College) magazine. She received her BA in English in 2000 and her MA in Technical Writing in 2005.

When she isn’t working undercover at an international airport or teaching online, she manages to write speculative flash fiction and especially enjoys writing microflash. Her flash stories have been published in Clockwise Cat, Flashshot, Demonic Tome, Flashes in the Dark, Short Humor Site, Blink Ink, 101 Fiction, and her work has appeared in two print anthologies, The Zombie Cookbook and Vicious Verses and Reanimated Rhymes. Carla is spearheading the anthology: Midnight Tarot: A Fool’s Journey; Mermaids, Zombies, and Vampires – O My! A collection of published and new fiction; and Fits and Starts: 102 Prompts For Story Inspiration. Carla has participated in the  National Novel Writing Month four successful times. Her first Nano novel When Elves Return has actually sold copies she didn’t buy herself.

She doesn’t really consider herself a poet and generally writes when the Muse stabs her with a pen.  Her poem, “When God Awakens,” appeared in The Corner Club Press and the poem “The Ring” found a home in Dark and Dreary Magazine. Her friend Linda, got her involved with the Muse Poetry Workshop which she helped develop the participant’s workbook. Carla mostly lurked in the Muse Conference due to restraints of grading 15 thousand-word rough drafts for her online composition class. Her favorite part of the Muse Conference was working with the Poetic Muselings and creating the workbook! She also enjoyed creating an aragman poem which did get into the workshop, and of course, it was about cats.

What kind of advice would she give to writers and poets? Set aside a regular time to devote to writing. (She’s also not very good at taking her own advice!) Don’t be afraid of rejection or be discouraged by it. A word written today is one less written tomorrow.

She enjoys reading, watching movies, and collecting antique books and the McDonald’s Madame Alexander miniature dolls.

Below are some poems that I have written.

Alarm! Tracing
the cat who hides
Alarm! Crating
The cat who snarls and yowls.
Alarm! Carting
The cat to the vet.

Alarm! Cat grin!

Aragman for the Muse Conference Poetry Workshop

Break Up

Upon the tin roof
Rain drums its tantrum.
Silver pillows of clouds
mound the sky.

Flashes of lightning
Flit like knives of firelightning
Following the trail
To where my love lies.

Charting the storm
Which roils my heart,
I weep from loss
And wait for dawn.

(Photo is from Microsoft word’s clip art file.)
Poem was inspired by specific words for an anthology and was eventually withdrawn.

To the Young Mummy Recently Found

Atop an ancient volcano
Buried hundreds of years agoAtop
In a sanctuary shrouded in ice
a girl child was found below.
What thoughts went through your head
When to the altar led
To become the sacrifice?

Photograph by Maria Stenzel/NGS

Were you proud or full of dread?
You were ten, maybe twelve years old
Too young to shed your innocent blood.
The priests had hoped it would suffice
And appease their angry god.

You were frozen and preservedyou were frozen
Your body to the god reserved.
Only once again to become a sacrifice
On the altar of science to be observed
And solve the riddle that would show
Why was a young novice
Buried hundreds of years ago
Atop an ancient volcano.

Photograph by Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Written for UCF poetry class inspired by a news story. Glose form.

Pictures found on

Shadow of Demons

With shadows of dread
In stillness dark, I alone
wrestle the demons.

Haiku – poetry group challenge

Ocean Song Ocean Song
Under the window, near the sea
Trembling lip sings sad stories
By mermaids who pluck strings
Of harps against a bare shoulder.
I sit by the window, bow against fiddle
Harmonize with the mermaid’s harp
Joining songs. Seductive dreams
Invade my sleep until morning’s rays
Chase the splash of a fish tail
Beneath the ocean’s wave.

Photograph by Carla Girtman

Published in issue one “use these words” 2008. Specific words were required.

Why A Cat StaysWhy a cat stays

Languid, fluid, aloof
Basking in sunshine
Nothing is required
From a cat.

Limp, boneless
A puddle of fur
Lying in the shaft of light
Streaming from a window.

Nothing is required
From a cat.
Not even affection.

Which can be doled out
At the cat’s whim.
It may come – or not  when called
When called.

Regal, royal, proud
A hunter with quiet steps
To pounce on a prey

Nothing is required
From a cat.
Nor does it ask for

So why does the cat stay?
It knows a good thing
When it sees it.image07

Inspired by a poetry group challenge. Included in an altered book submitted in art contest which won first place. 

Photographs by Carla Girtman


Devon Ellington and the Muse Online Writers Conference


Meet Magdalena Ball, author of Black Cow

We’re excited to host Magdalena Ball — poet, fiction writer, mentor, friend we’ve not had the pleasure of meeting in person (yet) — as she travels cyberspace to share her latest book Black Cow. Most stops on her schedule focus on the novel and writing fiction. Here, she’s at home in poetry, and gave us permission to post the poem that started the story.

Poetic Muselings:  Maggie, welcome to the Poetic Muselings blog! You are to blame, you know, for what we as a group have accomplished.

Maggie Ball:  I enjoyed writing writing that blog post, and was so proud of what you’ve accomplished with Lifelines. But blame? Perhaps your readers should take a look at the post:  Am I Really to Blame?

PM: Is there anything you’d LIKE to talk about that doesn’t come up in on your book tour?

MB:  Would love to talk poetry.  I know that seems odd in the context of a fiction book tour, but for me I always start with poetry – the impression, the irritation, the itch.

I even began Black Cow as a poem many years ago (it’s published in my poetry book Repulsion Thrust) as I always do with fiction, getting the general overall feeling and theme I want clarified in poetic form before I begin to work on the formal structuring, characterisation and plotting.

So, since I know no one else will ask me if there’s anything I’d like to talk about (thank you!), I thought I’d provide the whole poem in its entirety.  When you read the book, and for anyone visiting who has read the book, I’d be interested in how close to my original conception I came.

PM: We love exclusives! Thank you. We have your poem at the end of this interview.

PM: As I began reading Black Cow, I was struck by your startling poetic images to describe the mundane. Freya, your “Mom” character scratched out a tiny bit of time for herself to workout, in an early scene. She isn’t doing it to feel better, but because it’s another thing that’s expected of her. I loved the language about grabbing a bite to eat:

“Talk about insect morphology. She felt like an arthropod right now, her mandibulate mouthparts working quickly to munch down a late lunch in the car on the way to the office.”

This is Kafka meets American Beauty! Can you share something about your process?

MB:  Well I must say I like “Kafka meets American Beauty”  (better than the “Dilbert meets The Good Life” riff I’ve been bandying about!). You know, aside from being a long time fan of Kafka’s (and Gregor Samsa was definitely on my mind when I wrote James’ character), I’m also a fan of American Beauty, and the idea of a stressed out real estate agent has been on my mind since seeing (several times) Annette Bening’s “I will sell this house today” scene followed by that amazing scream  So you’ve really nailed it, and maybe even nailed my process as well in a very tasty soundbite. 

A character or image will lodge itself in my head and won’t go away until it’s driving me crazy enough to want to write about it.  The idea of our modern obsession with ‘success’ and the way in which we’re driven harder by financial trouble rather than reorienting is something that I also couldn’t shake.  My first novel, Sleep Before Evening, was very much about youth and art as my female Portrait of the Artist.   

For Black Cow I really wanted to play around with middle-aged creativity and the work-life balance in the context of recession, financial crisis, and consumerism of the sort that is rampant in American Beauty.  So these were the motivating principles.  I always begin with a poem or two, then a story, and then I usually begin mapping out the scenes and structure and characters of the novel, getting the nitty gritty in place before I can then go and write more scenes.

PM: Do you have a favorite scene in Black Cow? If so, what makes it so?

MBI quite like the scene where the family arrives at Cradle Lake in Tasmania for their first holiday.  Mainly because it’s so beautiful there, I was able to just give in to the utter pleasure of the scene and describe it, but also because it’s a real epiphany for them all – a kind of turning point when they’re so stunned by the natural beauty of the place –the magic of reality to use Dawkins’ phrase, that it wakes them up, just a bit, becoming a catalyst for everything that happens afterwards.

PM: What else can you tell us about the poetry of Black Cow?

MBI wasn’t quite so free and easy in quoting other people’s poems as I was in Sleep Before Evening, but Wordsworth does get a look in, as does The Prose Eddas, a fairly important collection of Icelandic mythology generally thought to have been written by Snorri Sturluson in the year 1220.  This work is a combination of prose and poetry but has a rhythm, and many references to poetry and Norse mythology which also picks up on Freya’s name and background.

PM: Any other questions you wish you’d be asked as you wander around the universe?

MBI suspect that people will want to know where to pick up a copy (and will want one straightaway!), so they could just hive off right now to Amazon’s Kindle shop and be reading the book within seconds.  Apple has it too, as does Nook. It’s also available in print on AmazonBook Depository (free worldwide shipping!), BeWrite Books (my publisher) and other good bookstores (you could just ask for it in your local shop).  For anyone who wants to check out an excerpt, they can visit: this page.  Or can check out the Black Cow Book Trailer

I’m more than happy to send out custom autographed bookplates, so people should just drop me a line if they’ve got a hard copy and I’ll happily post off a bookplate, bookmark and a few other goodies.

PM: I know you’ll never be far from your vivid imagery, no matter what you write, Maggie. Thank you so much for allowing us to present the genesis of your book here.

Maggie’s Farm

when the good life calls
simplicity for loose change
pressure drop freedom
you answer

like Voltaire
lock the door
walk ten miles in fancy shoes
remove dreams from your pockets
a dozen crumpled receipts
and kiss the ground

the dirt tastes like shit
bodysore and boneache you fall asleep
each night
dead tired
no time to toss and tease
sleep matters now

it isn’t heaven
no candy floss choirs
fanning your every sweat
each serve on your battered table
reflects a cut or bruise
muscle knit tendon job
unlike anything you ever imagined
in those tower block days
glassed in tight

a pretty prison

Magdalena Ball

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