New at DIY MFA: Identifying Literary Themes in Our Poems

When my previous DIY MFA post went live, I might have mentioned it was the first of two posts I’d write about literary themes and poetry. 😉 So today’s post is the unofficial part two! It’s about identifying themes in the poetry you write using the original source of the poem’s inspiration (or, rather, what the poem’s about), your reasons for writing it in the first place, and the emotions you were feeling that influenced the poem’s tone. I also share examples from my own poetry to explain this process, then end the post with a thoughtful question: Why is it important for a poet to know the themes they cover in their work?

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New at DIY MFA: Identifying Literary Themes in the Poetry We Read

How have I not written a poetry-focused article for my DIY MFA column before?? Because like novels, short stories, and other longer forms of literature, poetry is chock-full of literary themes. So that’s what my latest Theme: A Story’s Soul post – or, rather, the first of two posts – is about. We’ll go over four questions that can help us identify themes in the poetry we read, then practice them with an in-text exercise using one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems. We’ll also touch on how we can recognize themes (either on our own or with the help of the four questions) across a book of poetry by a single poet.

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New DIY MFA Post on Writing Exercises for the Theme of Family (Plus, a Quick Note About Iceland)

So far in our recap of the theme of family at DIY MFA, we’ve covered why this theme matters to readers and shared recommendations for books about family. Today, we conclude our recap with a “how-to” post – specifically, how to explore the theme of family in your writing. This post is filled to the brim with writing prompts and brainstorming activities to help you with different angles of approaching this theme, from demonstrating family relationships through dialogue and interaction to using major life events to heighten conflict. So, grab some paper and a pen – or open a new document on your computer – and let’s begin!

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New at DIY MFA: Additional Reading on the Theme of Family

In my previous DIY MFA post, we returned to the theme of family (which we first covered in this case study) and offered five reasons why this theme matters to readers. Today, we continue our deep dive with a wonderfully bookish post. Yes, it’s time for reading recommendations! I share five books that explore the theme of family and briefly explain how they do so (without giving away too many spoilers, of course!). As you read about each one, you might be surprised by not just the variety of genres and kinds of stories represented, but also the different paths each one takes to examine the same theme.

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New DIY MFA Post and a Quick Holiday Message

In my DIY MFA posts, we spend a lot of time discussing how to explore literary themes. But we’ve yet to cover why any one theme should matter to readers. So this week, I return to the theme of family (which we first examined in this case study) and share five reasons why it’s so important. From the different types of families to historical and cultural perspectives on family, these whys show how complex and powerful this theme is and how a story can act as a window into the dynamics of a family that’s different than yours or as a mirror of your own.

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Two New Posts at DIY MFA

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Yes. I’ve been busy on the DIY MFA front lately. 😉

First, in my latest regular article at DIY MFA, I take a break from literary themes to talk about something that many (if not all) writers deal with: perfectionism. By that, I don’t mean the warped belief that everything you write will be perfect. This post goes much deeper, pointing out other beliefs and habits associated with perfectionism and how they harm your writing more than help it. Most importantly, I share how my most recent struggle with perfectionism prompted me to re-read parts of Gabriela Pereira’s DIY MFA book – and what I discovered that inspired me to write this article.

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New at DIY MFA: #5onFri on Rocking Your Next Open Mic Reading

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I’m so excited to have a new #5onFri post for DIY MFA! It’s been a while since the last time I did one, and these are always fun to write. 🙂

In this #5onFri post, which went live last week, I share five tips for writers on “performing” at an open mic night or public reading. So if you’re unsure of how to prepare for the event or feeling nervous right before going onstage, these suggestions will help you feel calmer and more confident regardless of whether you’re planning to read poetry, flash fiction, or a short essay.

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New Post at DIY MFA on Revising (or Avoiding) Preachy Themes in Your Story

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What does it mean when someone describes a story as “preachy”? It doesn’t mean the story is religious. Rather, it means the story’s themes are presented in a forceful or one-sided manner – an approach that often turns readers off. So, in today’s edition of Theme: A Story’s Soul at DIY MFA, I share three writing mistakes that can lead to preachy themes in a story, as well as solutions for each that can bring more subtlety, balance, and realism to how those themes are portrayed. Continue reading

New Post at DIY MFA: Recognizing Themes at Each Stage of the Writing Process

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Here’s a question for any writers who are reading this: At what point in the writing process do you start paying attention to your story’s themes? Does theme even cross your mind as you’re brainstorming, drafting, or revising a story? If you answered “no” – don’t worry, your story probably still contains themes . However, it always helps to have a strong awareness of themes. So in my latest DIY MFA article, we explore ways in which you can develop that awareness at each stage of the process, and how that awareness can improve more than just the story.

Also, a fun fact for you: The conversation I mention during the article’s introduction eventually inspired me to pitch the Theme: A Story’s Soul column to DIY MFA. 😉

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New DIY MFA Post on Revenge as a Literary Theme (Plus, Looking for Your Help with This Year’s Blogoversary)

OK, confession time: I’ve been looking forward to covering this theme for a while. 😉 And while revenge is typically considered a literary masterplot, such stories can highlight intriguing insights into what happens when someone seeks vengeance for a perceived wrong. So, with the help of a classic revenge novel (Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights) and a recent spin on superheroes (V.E. Schwab’s Vicious), I explored the theme in my latest post at DIY MFA. Which storytelling elements do these stories use to shed light on this dark, complex theme? You’ll have to read on to find out!

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