Archives for posts with tag: Authors

Writer’s Block
by Vince Gotera

I am still waiting
for bubbles to rise
through dark water

I am still waiting
for new sun to glow
peach at the horizon

I am still waiting
for sky to open
for one raindrop

I am still waiting
for breezes to stir
spiral upward

I am still waiting
for angels’ wings
to waft soundless

I am still waiting
my lover’s hand
soft on my cheek

I am still waiting
I am still

PHOTOGRAPH: Drops of Rain by Clarence White (1903).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was writing a poem a day during April. This poem is titled “Writer’s Block” because in fact that was the occasion for the writing. I was having a bit of a hard time coming up with a poem one day, and all I had in mind was the phrase “I am still waiting” from this prompt. So I tried to clear my mind and let things come as they would . . . and this was the result.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vince Gotera teaches at the University of Northern Iowa, where he served as Editor of the North American Review (2000-2016). He is also former Editor of Star*Line, the print journal of the international Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (2017-2020). His poetry collections include Dragonfly, Ghost Wars, Fighting Kite, The Coolest Month, and the upcoming Pacific Crossing. Recent poems appeared in Altered Reality Magazine, Crab Orchard Review, Dreams & Nightmares, The Ekphrastic Review, Philippines Graphic (Philippines), Rosebud, The Wild Word (Germany) and the anthologies Multiverse (UK), Dear America, and Hay(na)ku 15. He blogs at The Man with the Blue Guitar.

How to submit a piece of prose
by Maria Nestorides

Submissions are open.

Great news. This is going to be your best submission yet. You rub your hands in glee and crack your knuckles in anticipation.

Double-check the submission date.

Excellent. You have plenty of time, and all sorts of wonderful ideas swimming around in your head that you’d love to write about. You’ve got this.

Settle on one idea.

Yes, that’s the one. You can hear the words in your head. They flow perfectly, one word connecting with the next in a colourful necklace of thoughts and experiences. Quickly! Get it onto paper before you forget. Start typing, fast.

Surely, that’s not how it went?

Start deleting.

Try again.

No, no, no! That’s not at all what you wanted to say. It just doesn’t seem to flow, and it doesn’t feel right in your bones.

In your mind’s eye, dramatically throw the A4 piece of paper into the bin. (Just delete the bloody word file.)

Proceed to delete everything you write as soon as you write it.

Rub your temples with your fingers, hoping this will help with your inspiration (and ease your throbbing headache).

Abandon all hope—and your computer—and mutter something to yourself about having to let this submission call go by.

Continue to fume at yourself and try not to look at the computer (treacherous machine) for the next few days.

Wake up and realise that today is the last day for submissions.

Will you, or won’t you? Give up, or persevere?

Reluctantly, turn your computer back on.

The title for the submission you had originally started, blinks up at you with puppy dog eyes, pleading for a final chance.

Inspiration finally hits you and your piece is finished in ten minutes flat.


Wonder when the next call for submissions will be.

PAINTING: Untitled by Keith Haring (1982).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maria Nestorides lives in sunny Cyprus. She is married and has two adult children. She has an MA in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University and an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her short stories have appeared in Silver Birch Press, The Sunlight Press, The Story Shack, Inkitt  and she has also contributed a six-word memoir to the book Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak: by Writers Famous and Obscure, by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser (Jan 6, 2009). You can visit her on Facebook and Twitter.

Paul_Kleea_-_The_Barbed_Noose_with_the_Mice_1152x800 copy
Instructions for Writing a Poem
     —First line after Amy Crane Johnson
by Jennifer Finstrom

You start beyond the field in back of my house.
Never mind that this is the city.

Never mind that I don’t live in a house.
Stand still for a moment and listen. The mice

run through the weeds at your feet,
crying in their small, shrill voices.

Their shabby coats don’t keep out
winter. The seeds they hoard do not

protect them. Wind comes, and makes
its own hoard of husks and bones.

Never mind that this field doesn’t end.
Cross it anyway. Carry nothing in your hands.

Previously published in Threshold LIterary Magazine

PAINTING: The Barbed Noose with the Mice by Paul Klee (1923).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem approximately 10 years ago, and reading it again during the pandemic, its absence of people feels even more relevant.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jen Finstrom is both part-time faculty and staff at DePaul University. She was the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine for 13 years, and recent publications include 8 Poems, Eclectica, and Escape into Life. Her work also appears in Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks and several other Silver Birch Press anthologies.. Her work also appears in Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks and several other Silver Birch Press anthologies.

American hero and literary icon Lawrence Ferlinghetti passed away on Monday, February 22, 2021, just a month from his 102nd birthday. Born on March 24, 1919, Ferlinghetti’s life reads like a Dickens novel — orphaned, exiled, and embattled, but visionary, heroic, and inspired. His experiences ranged from service as the Lt. Commander of a submarine during the WWII Normandy Invasion to his career as a publisher, founder of San Francisco’s City Lights Books, defender of free speech, and Beat poet with his million-selling A Coney Island of the Mind. Six years ago, Silver Birch Press featured the series I AM WAITING, an homage to Ferlinghetti’s poem I Am Waiting,” that included 136 authors, and ran from December 1, 2014 to January 31, 2015 (read the series at this link). To celebrate and honor the life and work of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, we will host a new series called I AM STILL WAITING.

PROMPT: We’re all waiting for something. What are you still waiting for? Tell us about it in a poem of any reasonable length. The poem could address something personal, or be crafted as an homage to Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Include the line “I am still waiting” somewhere in your poem. What we like: First-person narrative poems that offer insight into the author’s life, mind, thoughts, feelings. What we don’t like: Didactic poems, sermons, rants, diatribes, and most rhyming poetry (we make exceptions for poetic forms such as villanelles and pantoums). Note: One poem per author, please.

WHAT: Submissions can be original or previously published poems. You retain all rights to your work and give Silver Birch Press permission to publish the piece on social media. We are a nonprofit blog and offer no monetary compensation to contributors—the main benefit to you is that we will publicize your work to our 10,000+ followers. If your poem was previously published, please tell us where/when so we can credit the original publisher.

WHEN: We’ll feature the poems and prose on the Silver Birch Press blog in the I AM STILL WAITING Poetry Series starting in April 2021. We’ll also feature the poetry on Twitter and Facebook.


To help everyone understand our submission requirements, we’ve prepared the following checklist.

1. Send ONE MS Word document TITLED WITH YOUR LAST NAME (e.g. Smith.doc or Jones.docx).

2. In the same MS Word document, include your contact information (name, email address). Also list your home state or country.

3. In the same MS Word document, include a one-paragraph author’s bio, written in the third person. You are encouraged to include links to your books, websites, and social media accounts — we want to help promote you!

4. In the same MS Word document, include a note about your poem/prose or creative process written in the first person (this is optional — but encouraged).

5. Send a photo of yourself as a SEPARATE jpg attachment (not in the MS Word document). Title the photo with your last name (e.g., Jones1.jpg, Jones2.jpg).

6. Email to—and put “STILL WAITING” in the subject line.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Wednesday, March 31, 2021

maksims grigorjevs
How to Revive a Distressed Peace Lily
by Anne Namatsi Lutomia

I was not at a loss when I saw you at Lowe’s
You were at the corner of plant section on the clearance rack
Your price reduced by more than half
You all labeled distressed plants
You all were neglected, unwanted and stressed

Peace lily, you were drooping and lifeless
Peace lily, you were green, yellow and brown
You were broken, withered, bent and listless
I pondered about the causes of your distress
I wondered what had happened to you

Then decided to buy three of you
Wanting to revive you – to give you life
Taking you from this death-row rack
I already had a big dark blue pot for you
I visualized how you were going to grow and thrive

Not the first time was I bringing home distressed plants
I am neither a novice nor first-time plant parent
I brought you home and got to work
I pruned the brown and yellow parts of you
I removed you from your pot where your maze-like roots thrived

I repotted you in the big blue pot
I layered the bottom with stones
Covered the stones with potting soil
Placed the root ball in the pot and added potting soil
You were thirsty, I watched you absorb all the water rapidly

I placed you away from the window to access low light
Watering you moderately once a week
One day later, your leaves were perking up
One week later, your new shiny green leaves were growing
One month later, your white flowers are blooming

I keep your plant care tag in your pot, Peace Lily Spathiphyllum
For light, bright indirect light
For water, keep soil moist
For fertilization, fertilize every two to four months
For temperature, never below fifty degrees Fahrenheit

PHOTO: Peace lily by Maksims Grigorjevs, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I enjoy growing indoor plants. A friend introduced me to distressed plants at Lowe’s some years ago, and now I like buying some of my plants from this rack. It is always inspiring to watch a plant that was almost dead come back to life. This poem was inspired by the increased interest in growing indoor plants by young people in the United States. I hope this poem can be a resource to new “plant parents.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anne Namatsi Lutomia is a budding poet and a member of a Champaign Urbana poetry group. She enjoys reading and writing poems. She has published poems with Silver Birch Press, BUWA and awaazmagazine. She also likes going for long walks, and now lives in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.

How to Make a Walking Stick
by Joe Cottonwood

Find a branch that has fallen from a tree.
Ask the tree if you may use this wood.
Wait for the answer (sometimes trees are slow).
Listen to the call of the crow, the bark of the fox.
If bird or fox speak, they speak for the tree,
and the answer is Yes.
Or if no animal calls, if no wind rustles,
but if the tree does not say No,
thank the tree for providing this solid stake.
Grasp the wood, rough in your palm.
It will warm to your blood.
It will wear smooth at your touch.
It will bear your weight.
Thank the tree once more.
Now, with stick, walk away.

If on the other hand when
you ask the tree may you use this branch,
if the tree says No,
stop right there.
Why would you walk farther?
You have found a talking tree.

First published in MOON magazine November 2017.

IMAGE: Faerie Folk Tree by Arthur Rackham (1914).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: One of my grandsons whittled a walking stick for me as a gift. I never asked where he found the wood. But after some reflection, I supplied this answer.

Cottonwood Joe copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joe Cottonwood is a semi-retired contractor with a lifetime of small jobs. His grandchildren think he is a repair god and he tries not to disillusion them. He lives with his high school sweetheart under redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Joe’s latest book is Random Saints.

woman-with-veil-1895 copy
How to Become Invisible
by Mary McCarthy

Lose your job, your mind, your husband
step over the lines, off the map,
into unmarked alleys

Talk too fast, too much, too loud,
or not at all

Balk at the strangeness
of ordinary things
spot the dark intent behind
their bland disguises

Walk too close to the edge
of every conversation
answer the words behind the words they say

Forget to smile, to wash, to comb your hair
wear your clothes carelessly

Count the rough stitches
where the patchwork world
threatens separation

Carry your ghosts with you
shuffling and mumbling
in a long procession
that follows you down the street

Where no one sees you now
you’ve lost your place
your face your reflection

And even your shadow
fades to nothing
in the unrelenting sun

IMAGE: Woman with Veil, pastel by Odilon Redon (1895).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is a sort of Anti-How-To set of instructions, a guide to the kind of things that too often win you nothing but a place to sleep on the street, where you have become the kind of social refugee citizens successfully ignore. Unfortunately it can be all too easy to end up here, particularly for those with mental illness. This “invisible” affliction continues to carry the burden of a crippling stigma, that makes you as unacceptable as any leper or “untouchable”—worthy only of erasure. This poem comes of my own anger and despair in experiencing that stigma. It has appeared previously on Poetry Circle.

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Mary McCarthy is a retired Registered Nurse who has been a life-long writer and student of the arts. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, most recently in The Plague Papers, edited by Robbi Nester, The Ekphrastic World, edited by Lorette Luzajic, and the most recent issue of Earth’s Daughters.

How to Overcome Inertia
by Betsy Mars

Set an alarm. Don’t hit snooze.
Set more alarms

at fifteen minute intervals.
Let your phone fall beneath the bed

where it can’t easily be silenced.
You have to reach to quiet it.

Doze off while thinking
of ways to overcome your inertia.

Encourage the cat to sleep on your bladder.
Remember you are nothing

if not productive.
Forget the bird beyond the pane

unaware of your watching.
Feel the urgency of days and news

forever passing without observing.
Scroll your mind’s endless listing

awaiting scratching. Check
your time, just existing.

IMAGE: Still Life with Sleeper by Henri Matisse (1940).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I thought about what I have gotten really good at during the pandemic and came up with the obvious answer: inertia! Of course, while practicing inertia so effectively, it was difficult to write. And then how to describe the how-to’s of inertia? Other than a blank page, which wouldn’t be very instructive, I strained to describe my techniques in a way I hoped could be replicated. I hope that you find them helpful!

Mars2021 copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy Mars practices poetry, photography, pet maintenance, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press. Her second anthology, Floored, is now available on Amazon. “Pyriscence” was a winner in Alexandria Quarterly´s first line poetry contest series in 2020, and she was a finalist in both the Jack Grapes and Poetry Super Highway poetry contests. Her work has recently appeared in Verse-Virtual, Sky Island Journal, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, and Sheila-Na-Gig, among others. She is the author of Alinea (Picture Show Press) and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz, coming soon from Arroyo Seco Press. Visit her at and on Facebook and Twitter.

Passing Along Workshop Info
by Barbara Eknoian

The first lines of your poem
that inspire you to write
may just be scaffolding.
Chop it off at the top
you don’t need it anymore
For sure, avoid adverbs
use strong verbs instead
Think twice about adding
those adjectives like
glorious sky, massive rock
gorgeous gown
Sky, rock, gown
should be able to hold
their own in your poem.
Try to include some slant rhyme
it adds to the musicality
Don’t offer so much explanation
After all, poets are discerning
If you can, begin with a preposition
it will place you somewhere
The poem on the page
should look tidy
readers are visual too.
Those uneven lines are unsightly
Eliminate tiny words like “a” and “the”
so it doesn’t sound so prosy
Be certain not to wind up
with an editorial at the end
instead of an image
Try enjambment, runover lines
to create some tension
don’t rest at the end of the line
make the reader think twice about
why you have separated New
from England
You should strive for a metaphor
in place of a ho-hum simile
as: She sings like an angel
Never ever use the term
“first light”
Eyebrows will rise at the workshop
You might even hear a guffaw
When it comes to meter,
if you don’t know a spondee
from a (DUM da DUM),
stick to narrative or fiction

PHOTO: Ladder to the Moon by Georgia O’Keeffe (1958).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: After taking poetry workshop classes for so many years, this poem flowed out of my psyche. Since I’ve listened to so many instructions about do’s and don’t’s in how-to-write poetry, I kind of wrote it tongue-in-cheek. All of the information I’m passing on is as true as I can recall. I figured this would give beginning poets some good writing tips.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Eknoian writes narrative poetry and novels. Her work has appeared in Pearl, Chiron Review, Red Shift, and several of Silver Birch Press’s anthologies: Silver, Green, Summer, and Self-Portrait. Her poetry book, Why I Miss New Jersey, and her latest novel, Hearts on Bergenline Avenue, are available at Amazon.

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How to Write a Villanelle
by Marjorie Maddox

To write a villanelle, think like a bird
that soars and swoops in seven different ways
then sings a song that you’ve already heard,

returning to its favorite branch to perch.
Become a sparrow—light, and quick, and gray—
to write a villanelle.  Think how the bird

salutes you every morning undeterred
from trilling what it always wants to say.
within its favorite song; the one you’ve heard

so many times you suddenly are stirred
to listen closer still, to find the way
to write a villanelle, just like a bird

that flits across your vision in a blur
and leaves the sound of beauty in its trail,
still singing songs that you’ve already heard.

Next time you want to fly away on words,
remember what we talked about this day.
To write a villanelle, think like a bird
that sings a song that you’ve already heard.

SOURCE: “How to Write a Villanelle” appears in Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (Finalist Children’s Educational Category 2020 International Book Awards).

IMAGE: Sparrow on a Flowering Branch, circa 1930s, by Ohara Koson (1877-1945).

EDITOR’S NOTE:villanelle is a 19-line poetic form consisting of five tercets followed by a quatrain. There are two refrains and two repeating rhymes, with the first and third line of the first tercet repeated alternately at the end of each subsequent stanza until the last stanza, which includes both repeated lines.

Marjorie Maddox May 2020 with Inside Out author photo copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); True, False, None of the Above (Illumination Book Award Medalist); Local News from Someplace Else; Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite); four children’s and YA books—including Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (Finalist Children’s Educational Category 2020 International Book Awards),  A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry and I’m Feeling Blue, Too! Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor); Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry (assistant editor); and 600+ stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Forthcoming in 2021 is her book Begin with a Question (Paraclete Press), as well as her ekphrastic collaboration with photographer Karen Elias, Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For (Shanti Arts). For more information, please visit

PHOTO: The author with her book Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (Finalist Children’s Educational Category 2020 International Book Awards).