Thursday, March 1, 2012

Six Questions for Michele Graf, et al. Co-founders, Poetic Muselings

Poetic Muselings is a blog that publishes and discusses poetry. Learn more here.

SQF: Why did you start this blog?

MG:  The short version: Six women from around the US (who’ve never met in person) wrote and critiqued poetry together in cyberspace following the 2008 Muse Online Writers Conference.  We each experienced some very rough water during our collaborative time, both personally and with the process. Our efforts resulted in "Lifelines", a 106-page book of poems published by Inkspotter Publishing in November 2011.

We developed Poetic-Muselings.net as a marketing platform, and realized quickly that our passion for the book and the creative process demanded more of us than simply hawking Lifelines. I believe our blog beautifully demonstrates the best of a supportive environment to nurture this energy. (Our bios are at the end.)

Lifelines did well in the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll for “Best Of 2011” in cover art (#3), best poets (#3), and best anthology (#10).

SQF: You plan to publish guest poems. How will these be chosen?

MG: We want to foster a collaborative spirit, and encourage our readers to participate actively with us. We held our first contest in December, asking readers to answer these questions:

Who is your favorite poet?
What is your favorite poem?
and, most important:
Why did you select this is poem or poet? What  grabs you?

Responses came in from England, Eire, and Nigeria, as well as the US and Canada. Poets named range from Sylvia Plath, Ted Kooshier, Ogden Nash, and C.S. Lewis, to several we had not known about, but were delighted to find and read. The range of poems was equally eclectic.

One person who responded, but was not selected as our winner, was so inspired by her favorite poem, that she wrote one of her own in that style. We loved it and published it as one of our posts.

We would love to bring our readers in as “honorary Poetic Muselings,” publish their poetic response to a post, a form, or simply something that moves them.  We’ve an interesting story behind our book. When we publish a contributor's poem, we want to include some of their “story behind the story”, too.

SQF: Will you publish a poem an author posted on a personal blog?

MG: Yes. We do not require exclusive rights for poems we publish. If they do appear elsewhere, we would like to note that, so readers can follow those links. And, we would appreciate our link added to wherever else the poem is already posted.

We do require permission from others who wish to republish poems or materials we have written and posted on our blog.

SQF: What is different about your blog?

MG: Time frenzy aside, we're having enormous fun stretching, dabbling in areas we would avoid if we worried about being perfect and contained. We've already written about several poetic forms, marketing, collaborative efforts, collaging, creativity, and more - 50 posts since early November. We plan interviews with other creative souls, not limited to poetry.

We’ll have writing workshops, offering our eyes to look at a poem. We started with two versions of one of mine that just never quite worked right. From comments and our experiments with form, I have several options to totally rework this piece, and will post my revisions.

Since I rarely take off my other hat as Poetry Editor for Apollo's Lyre, I plan a series about what I look for in submissions, how I select the blend of poems for an issue, and how to work with an editor to polish a poem.

SQF: What's important to know about collaborative efforts?

MG: We started as an open group of drop-ins. Some were participants in the two poetry workshops that served as our foundation. Others joined to be part of a writing group. We came from different levels of talent, habits, interests, forms, seriousness, and idiosyncrasies. We ended up with about sixteen people at our max.  Most eventually left, and the rest of us worked to form a cohesive unit, searching for a common theme.

Rule number one in our view would be to form your group slowly, choose your members wisely. You want others around you who can help you grow, are astute in observation, thorough, will follow through, be honest yet kind in their critiques, be willing and able to receive criticism, are at similar levels of talent, who listen, and give at least as much as they get in return.

Keep it small enough to be functional and just large enough to maintain balance. Someone must be the project manager, but not wear all the hats. Each member needs to be able to step up and take over duties.

And above all else the group needs to develop trust in each other and confidence in themselves. We will write more about all of this in our blog.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

MG: What is the biggest downside of doing a project like this, and your most frustrating moment?

Ouch. The realization that no matter how hard you try, there are some people who just aren't going to fit; who really need to be part of something else, not your group… and what to do about them.

My husband shook his head at me when I told him some of our stories and frustrations. "Kick them out!"

"I can't do that, this isn't just my group."

"Then you leave."

Our theme of lifelines may explain it, though --  we were extending lifelines, not cutting them. In the end perhaps it worked out as needed. We made it safely to shore, stronger and more successful than we dreamed.

Thank you, Jim, for the opportunity to introduce ourselves. New Readers -- let us know you found out about us at “Six Questions For”!



The Poetic Muselings: Read all about us:
Lifelines is available at (
Michele M. Graf is a writer, editor, and eclectic reader of poetry, fiction, essays, and just about anything with words. She views life in images and vivid colors, with intense emotions and curiosity. She and her hubby spent ten years on a 100,000+ mile RV journey traveling around the US and Canada, doing it at an age when most sensible people are squirrelling their stash for retirement.
Michele is Chief Bossy Person and editor of (and poet in) the Lifelines anthology project; and  Poetry Editor for the award-winning e-zine, Apollo's Lyre. Her other websites, RoadWriter and Gluten-Free Travel, by Graf, are undergoing major updates.

Mary W. Jensen is an introverted poet and writer who escapes into imaginary worlds, where she dances to fairy music no one else can hear. In addition to Lifelines, her poetry has been published in the fantasy webzines Moon Drenched Fables and Abyss & Apex. Visit her at her website and blog

Born and raised in New York City, Margaret Fieland has been around art and music all her life. She is an avid science fiction fan, and selected Robert A. Heinlein's “Farmer in the Sky” for her tenth birthday, now long past. In spite of making her living as a computer software engineer, she turned to one of her sons to format the initial version of her website, a clear illustration of the computer generation gap. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Melusine, Front Range Review, and All Rights Reserved. Her book, "Relocated," a tween sci-fi novel,  will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012.  Her book,  "The Angry Little Boy," will be published by 4RV Publishing in early 2013. You may visit her website.

When not herding cats, Anne Westlund can be found studying, crafting or cooking.  She lives in Western Washington, near the coast, with her family and cat, Betty Boop. Five of her poems and three of her photographs  have been published in the first Restoration Earth Journal published by Ocean Seminary College. Visit her website at

Lin Neiswender knew she was a writer in 4th grade, when she saw her first theme on the bulletin board at Parent’s Night. Her flash fiction and poems have been published in print and online.  "The Haunted Heart", her latest short story, took third place in the Edgar Allan Poe Short Story Contest. She lives in Orlando, Florida, where she is owned by a feisty cat and laid-back dog. The dog's only excitement in life is to try and eat the mailman, go figure. Contact her here: The Poet in Me; Land of Lin; and Lin52.

Kristen Howe has published poems online and in print, as well as some nonfiction articles. She’s a former Jersey Girl, now living in Ohio, and is focusing her attention these days on several novels she’s writing and revising.

Thank you, ladies. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 3/5-Six Questions for Suzanne Vincent, Editor in Chief, Flash Fiction Online

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