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Adapted from dingsi's FONSFAQ posts

FONSFAQ stands for "Frequently (Or Not So Frequently) Asked Questions" (about a particular topic). Someone hosts a topic, preferably one per entry, and then in comments people can ask - i.e. leave prompts - or claim some issue relating to the topic that they have always wanted to explain/write about. The host then collects the links to all essays that people have written in reply to the prompts and everybody has a lot to read and learn! [personal profile] dingsi maintains the master list of FONSFAQs to date.

For the purposes of this FONSFAQ, a 'long' poem is a thousand words or more, and serial poetry involves two or more related poems.

Leave a comment with your inquiry or, if you already have a topic in mind you'd like to write about, mention that. Serious or funny, fannish or non-fandom, broad or specific, things you've always wondered about or wish more people knew...
Go through the prompts and when you think you can claim one, reply to it (i.e. sign up).
To make things easier, please use the words "prompt" or "taken" in the subject line of your comment!

ETA: if you would like to respond to a prompt that has already been claimed, please continue the conversation by responding to the answer(s).

Index of prompts and answers to date )

Last edited 6/30/13 by jjhunter
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Ellen Million wrote about Torn World, a science fantasy shared world.  (For more details, see "Start Here for Readers.") These poems form a triptych, each showing a separate event in the life of the same character.  So they are united by the protagonist, and appear in chronological order, even though they are not immediately adjacent to each other in time.

"First Day on the Trail" introduces a young ranger and her duties taking care of camp and the giant snow-unicorns.  Learning new skills can be challenging, but you just have to keep taking it one step at a time.

"A Wild Wind" describes a violent storm, and not the usual snowstorm that these folks are used to withstanding.  It's a good example of wilderness adventure, and scary for the young ranger.

"Youngest and Oldest" explores shifting social roles on the job.  Suddenly there is an even younger ranger, and our hera has someone looking up to her.  That's life; about the time you figure out what you're doing, something new gets added.

This series has a linear structure.  You can clearly see that, although it has a reasonable stopping point after the third poem, it could also continue along the same trajectory if author and audience so desire.  The poems have a consistent style and voice, although the tone varies from patient to wild to introspective through the set.  It's a good example of narrative and storytelling in serial poetry -- and a reminder that not everything has to be about a plot of earthshaking scope.
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
[personal profile] thesilentpoet wrote two poems linking two fandoms.  The first fandom is for Schrodinger's Heroes,  a science fiction shared world with material by myself and several other people.  The second is her own series 64-squared, which blends aspects of scholarship and adventure.

"Lior's Dream" touches on issues of physics and family.  Sometimes when you find what you want ... it's not what you should have, after all.

"Hal's Nightmare" is about friendship, family, and traveling.  No matter how hard it gets, you keep going.

Together, the two poems cover the same central issue -- separation of two sisters -- from opposite perspectives.  Lior and Hal each have their own reaction to each other's absence, and to the Schrodinger team.  So they aren't in direct contact but are still involved in the same storyline.  The two poems therefore function like the sides of a single coin.  This is useful in serial writing because it allows the coverage of a single event in parallel rather than strictly sequential terms, although in this case, it is clear that Lior met the team first.
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Going in chronological order, I'm going to discuss the series submitted for the serial poetry challenge.

[personal profile] primeideal decided to explore the Schrodinger's Heroes  project, a science fiction shared world with contributions by myself and various other folks.  (For more details, see the SH menu page.)  Each poem crosses over with a different fandom.  This creates a cluster effect, showing how one series changes -- and yet remains recognizably itself -- as it interacts with others.  Most of these I'd heard of, but didn't know in depth, so I did a little extra browsing to learn more about them.

"The Tentacle Monster Chronicles" crosses with Animorphs.  The overlaps here include shapeshifting, interspecies dynamics, and morality.  There is always something alien, and always something familiar, if you look for them.

"Taxicab Geometry" crosses with Numb3rs.  Common ground includes linguistics, mathematics, and the camaraderie of intensely intelligent people.  Who sometimes overlook sort of massive details.

"The Shirt Off Her Back" crosses with Revolution.  Here the overlaps deal with power, technology, and fundamental alterations of reality.  A particularly poingnant part of the poem comes with the triple intersection of the cultural idea of giving someone the shirt off your back as a means of support, the Schrodinger's Heroes  use of t-shirts for characterization (Ash appears in this poem wearing the same power symbol shirt as in this poem), and the Revolution  logo (which uses the power symbol for the second O).  I only caught the logo when it appeared on someone else's television; I hadn't seen it before, and I was utterly thrilled by the precision of the match.  The best crossovers seek out such direct overlaps and capitalize on them.  

"All Politics Is Local" crosses with @MayorEmanuel.  Common themes include cyberspace, parallel dimensions, and technology.  This also follows "The Shirt Off Her Back," tying the two together with a connection within the set within the larger project.

"Who Let the Dogs Out" does not have a single direct crossover, but rather touches on a widespread motif.  Black dogs appear in Harry Potter  and Outernet.  Black dogs also appear in folklore across Europe, variously associated with the Devil, the Wild Hunt, the Fey, and other mystical matters.  Now in Schrodinger's Heroes,  the core example is a not a black dog but a cat.  However, traits can change and shapeshifting happens in the canon, so the poem deals with the weirdness of transmuting a cat to a dog, and how that affects the other characters.  Which is a wonderful comment on wider characterization, because "Schrodinger's Heroes Are Cat People" is a fundamental if subtle aspect of the project.

The tonal variation across the different poems reflects the variation in the project, from the descriptions of the apocryphal episodes to the posted fanfic and poetry.  There are serious bits, haunting and melancholy bits, whimsical bits, all wound through with an appreciation of science, intelligence, and diversity.  It captures the unity of the original by looking at it from widely different directions.  That's another hallmark of good crossover work, when someone makes a linked set of pieces like this.  So as a series, it forms kind of a starburst shape, each poem radiating from the same center.
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
There isn't a great deal of serial poetry readily available, but I've managed to track down a reasonable sampling. Much of the material in this installment is courtesy of my partner Doug. Some of these serials involve work all from the same person, while others combine work by different people. Some of the poems have also been set to music, song lyrics counting as a type of poetry.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Now that we've discussed the nature of serial poetry, some of you folks may want to try your hand at it. Understand that you don't necessarily have to be a poet to do this: crowdfunding and other collaborative practices mean that there are prompt calls where you can get someone else to do the writing for you. Look on my Serial Poetry page and you'll see that a couple of my small series were inspired by a single person: The Clockwork War by LiveJournal user viva_la_topknot and Glimpses of Minoa by LiveJournal user browngirl. Both of those also feature marginalized topics: disabled soldiers and an ancient culture. One person can make a difference. On that note, consider whether you want to make the major decisions alone or with an audience. You could probably have fun going through these steps with a discussion and poll for each stage, if you have lively readers already.

I'll offer some suggestions for designing a good poetic series. You can take them or leave them; the only writing rule I've found essential to success is Thou Shalt Not Bore Thy Reader. As in cooking from a recipe, it is prudent to read through all the steps and make sure you have everything you need before starting. Then work through in order, although there are some places where you can safely skip around. Write down your decisions as you make them. This kind of thoughtful planning makes a series more coherent. You can, of course, just jump in without planning if you prefer to work by the seat of your pants.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
When I agreed to host a week on the theme of serial poetry, [personal profile] jjhunter mentioned that she admires how I deliberately cultivate a dedicated audience for poetry, both mine and other people's, and how other poets may wonder about doing that themselves. So today I'm going to talk about promotion and audience interaction.

First, understand that we're in a lousy environment for poetry. It goes in and out of fashion over the centuries, and right now, the mainstream has a very low opinion of poetry. A large part of this problem is because academics have painted themselves into a corner of the ivory tower by writing poetry that isn't very good on technical grounds and doesn't appeal to many people on aesthetic grounds. Teachers will point to bad poetry and claim that it's good, but the students often decide that either 1) their tastes are somehow wrong because they don't like the canonical poetry, or 2) the teacher and the poetry are stupid. Neither of these gets people excited about the great poetry that really does exist.

Read more... )So that's what we're doing here, when we teach people to read and write poetry, to love it and celebrate it. We're changing the world, because "poetry sucks" is stupid.

So now let's apply this to serial poetry. A series extends over time, so it provides more opportunity for interaction and development than a stand-alone work does. While it's possible to write a whole series and then publish it, many serial writers prefer to publish a piece at a time so they can incorporate audience feedback. The poet starts the ball rolling with some interesting characters, a promising location, and a challenge that is not completely resolved at the end of the first installment. Then the audience gets a turn. They may say, "I want to see more of this person," or "I'd like to see the tone go darker." They may ask questions based on details and hints in the poem. They may request a favorite poetic form. This is a key difference between fiction and poetry in series, because form has a huge influence on poetry but very little on fiction. Thus if you look on my Serial Poetry page, you can see that my Asian-inspired series tend to use forms such as haiku verses, while Fiorenza the Wisewoman uses some Italian forms. The poet takes some of these ideas from the audience and weaves them into the series as it goes along, and the process continues.

What poets can do to make this happen: Write the kind of poetry that you think should exist. It doesn't have to follow anyone else's rules; it just has to express your ideas and intrigue your audience. Experiment with new ideas. Share your poetry in public venues. Encourage people to talk about it and make requests.

What readers can do to make this happen: Search for contemporary poetry. Talk with the poets. Tell them what you like and dislike, and why. Ask for things you aren't seeing that you want to see. Point out problematic elements and explain why they should be avoided. Follow your favorite poets or poetic series. Recommend those to your friends, link to them, and help promote them. If you have spending money, use your folding vote to support the kind of entertainment you like and the people you value, not some faceless megacorporation that keeps jerking with your rights. When you sponsor poems, choose thoughtfully the ones you think most deserve to be put before the public eye.

Now think about our previous discussions of structure in serial poetry. A writer can choose to make all those decisions personally. However, the serial format invites collaboration. The author and audience can share those decisions. This tends to produce less technical, more organic material. It may not be as smooth as something completely planned from the beginning, but is likely to be a closer match for the tastes of the people involved and it can take advantage of unexpected discoveries along the way. If you don't like the way that series usually go, you can go somewhere else. It's kind of like the difference between painting with oil and painting with watercolor. By giving up some control, serendipity comes in to take the series places that nobody could have imagined before starting. Of course, this works best when both the author and the audience understand the nature of poetry, the structure of serial entertainment, and the process of collaboration. Then they can work together effectively.

As in all things, there are advantages and disadvantages to writing poetic series rather than individual poems. When I first started the Poetry Fishbowl project, I wrote stand-alone poetry. I did have some prior experience writing related poems -- check out Queen Choufa and the Rebel Drones on the Serial Poetry page -- but it didn't immediately occur to me to try that. It was my audience who launched the serial work, when people started requesting the return of favorite characters or asking what would happen next after the events in a given poem. This highlights some of the main advantages: a series has more room to explore ideas than a single poem does, and can readily incorporate input from more people, so that fresh things happen. A series can respond to follow people's current needs, without abandoning what has gone before. It can even factor in contemporary events. Monster House has repeatedly drawn on American economic upheavals, starting with "Eviction, Noticed" which dates from the housing collapse of 2008 and continuing through "Dissonance and Consonance" which highlights teacher layoffs. A series fixes one of the main problems in poetry vs. fiction: how to capitalize on an established audience. I had been envying some of the other crowdfunded projects for their continuing support from fans. But the serial poetry made it possible to achieve similar effects. The disadvantages mainly concern organization and coherence. Series stretch over time, so people can forget what's already been established; it's easy to make continuity mistakes, and not all of those can be fixed. A series can also flounder if the primary person(s) motivating it should happen to disappear. With poetry particularly, some people just don't want to read large amounts of it, and will avoid a series for that reason.

Something else I've discovered is the development of series-specific rules. This can happen with fiction too, but I've noticed it most clearly in my serial poetry. Anything is possible -- but individual series make different decisions based on their characters, settings, and themes. For example, most of my series can move around in time; Fiorenza the Wisewoman and The Origami Mage both added prequels earlier than the first written poem. But Path of the Paladins has a very firm rule about not doing that, as expressed in "Stained" -- "We can only look back; we can never go back. We can go only onward." I found that one by running into it when someone prompted for an earlier event; it turns out this series will only allow those as flashbacks. Monster House doesn't name the main characters in the household, and consequently, that places some limits on who can be a viewpoint character. Trying to write from the perspective of the children's mother doesn't work because it's too confusing; the only exception has been the inscription in a Mother's Day card in "Mending Fence." The Adventures of Aldornia and Zenobia has the kind of rule I almost never set, because that just invites trouble; but these are my live, sane lesbians and they are going to stay that way. So if you're writing or reading a series, especially several of them together, watch for the rules to evolve. Those help distinguish each series from others.

Finally, please check out the crowdfunding business model if you're not already familiar with it. Crowdfunding connects creators and audiences directly online. This is an effective way to break the bottleneck in publishing that lets people get away with nonsense like "There is no money in poetry." Sure there is: in the hands of people who are dissatisfied with mainstream material. Offer them something different, better, and more suited to their needs and you will get their money. Repeatedly, if your series themes match their perennial interests. For fans, conversely, this means you get to read and buy whatever you want, not what somebody else thinks you should get to see. If you're interested in something that is rarely portrayed positively, or at all, then writing about it or sponsoring it can make a notable impact in that small field. This applies to all series poetry, because there isn't a whole lot of it yet. Everything in this field that you make, buy, read, comment on -- it all has influence and minimal competition. So make it count.

Are you a poet, a fan, and/or a patron of serial poetry? How do you get involved? What do you think about audience/author interaction in this field?

Further Reading
Communicating with Peers: Artist
Dickens and His Readers
How to Boost Your Audience
How to Make Constructive Comments
How to Recognize BAD Poetry
How to Review a Crowdfunded Project
How to Support Your Favorite Author
The New Slush Pile: How Readers Are Choosing The Next Bestsellers
Non-Cash Support Methods for Crowdfunding
The Power of Patronage
Resources for Editing Poetry
So You Want to Be a Poetry Editor
Telling a Good Poem from a Bad One
Thoughts on Rhyming Poetry
What is contemporary poetry?
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Now that we've covered the underlying structure of a series, let's explore what grows out of that.  These are the smaller parts of structure reaching up toward the surface of what the reader sees.  They include basic literary concepts such as character, setting, and theme.  What distinguishes serial work from stand-alone work is repetition.  A series revisits something.  What it revisits is up to the creator.  Serial literature typically features recurring characters and/or settings. Another thing crucial to series cohesion is tembre -- the distinctive quality of the series as a whole, spanning aspects such as theme, mood, and authorial voice.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Writing good serial literature requires a keen sense of structure. There are many different aspects of structure which are relevant to this practice. Writers and readers are free to choose whatever options suit their skills, interests, or the subject matter at hand. Nobody is locked into doing things only one way; diverse examples exist, and that's a good thing. Let's take a look at some of the established options.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith

This poem came out of the November 1, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from LJ user marina_bonomi, describing the main character and a steampunk background. It was sponsored by marina_bonomi too, and originally posted on LiveJournal. You can read more about The Steamsmith series on the Serial Poetry page.

The interesting thing about this is that it spawned, not just a poetic series, but an entire world. I spent weeks researching Victorian England, but also alchemy, the history of science, elemental systems, and global timelines. Nether-Earth is a place where the process of science still works, but the questions mostly have different answers. So the series is really historic science fiction with a steampunk flavor.

Full steam ahead... )
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Serials used to be popular, particularly in periodicals during the 19th century. They began to fall out of fashion as publishing costs dropped, making it more feasible to publish entire books. The last peak was in the pulps; when those died out in the 1950s, so did the popularity of serials, which became rare. Newspaper and magazine publication has also gone down, especially in the last decade or two. So the old markets for serials have almost vanished.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith

Torn World is a science fantasy shared world about a place that was broken and is slowly mending itself. As the scattered shards of time rejoin, they leave behind dangerous remnants such as time crystals. The people in Torn World learn how to deal with these challenges, but that's a gradual process and it has some casualties along the way. As you read poems from this setting, you can see how the different cultures evolve over time.

This poem came out of the
June 5, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was sponsored by Anthony and Shirley Barrette. The characters belong to the Duurludirj culture, a race of tough seafarers most of whom are dwarf-sized. This poem explores what happens when a time barrier falls early in their history, allowing access to new territory -- and new hazards. You can read the original post on Torn World.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith

The Silk Road Allies tells of a world in which China and Italy became close friends. It started with a prompt that I left in a Poetry for the Masses session by LJ user thesilentpoet. From there it grew to include poetry by myself and LJ user marina_bonomi. Each of us has different relevant experience to add to this project.

This poem came out of the July 3, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was sponsored by Marina Bonomi. It reveals the roots of the alliance. This poem originally appeared on LiveJournal. You can read more about the Roman Empire, Roman legions, the lost legion, and Emperor Nerva online.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
A shared world is a setting created by multiple contributors working together. It may include poetry, fiction, artwork, worldbuilding descriptions, and/or whatever else people feel inspired to make. The Cthulhu Mythos is one famous example, and it includes poetry. While the basic concept has existed for many years, cyberspace makes it much easier to create and share material collectively. So shared worlds are thriving online.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith

This poem began with a prompt from [personal profile] jjhunter  about how, if everyone had wings, there would be people providing professional wing care. That got me thinking about the politics of ethnic hair and discrimination against African braiding in cosmetology. So I extrapolated what might happen with wings, and I looked up bird species (Jardine's Parrot and Red-bellied Parrot) from Africa to go along with this. 

The poem has proven very popular. You can read some feedback under the original post on Dreamwidth (the biggest discussion) or on LiveJournal, or under a signal boost on Poetree. See also the lovely sketch b[personal profile] onewhitecrow . The ideas and discussion points stuck in my mind. They emerged again during the October 2-3 Poetry Fishbowl through a cluster of poems about demons (the month's fishbowl theme), angels, and wings. None of those deal with the same characters or voice, and they haven't been sponsored yet. However, they share common themes and a subtle resonance that, in my mind, places them within the same world and series, now entitled Fledgling Grace. Visit my Serial Poetry page to see a description of the series and a list of the other poems. 

On a wing and a prayer... )
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Some of you folks already know me from previous hosting weeks or other activities on this community. For everyone else, hello, I'm Elizabeth Barrette, wordsmith for hire. I write a great deal of poetry, especially in my monthly Poetry Fishbowl project. I'm also active in the Crowdfunding Creative Jam, the Torn World Muse Fusion, and Schrodinger's Heroes projects -- all of which include some poetry. This week I'm going to talk about serial poetry in particular.

EDIT 1/21/13:  I'm reposting the complete set of these articles on my website under "How to Write Serial Poetry."

Read more... )


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