Applauding Rich Hanson’s Feral Cats poetry

????????????????????????????????????A gift of self.

That’s the greatest creation a writer can offer. My friend, poet Rich Hanson, has done just that.

His chapbook Feral Cats and Other Poems is an 80-page literary smorgasbord. Rich’s narrative verse has unique qualities unseen by far too many poets. The differences?

1. He is personal. Whether commenting on cartoon characters, the Civil War legends he’s researched or his own aging father, Rich offers a direct perspective, a sense of voice.

2. He connects the dots. Even while embracing humor, in works like Beatification of the Stooges or Popeye Gets His Ass Chewed by a Personnel Director, Rich makes clear comparisons. A patchwork quilt of ideas come together via Rich’s pen.

3. Less is more. The jewel I savored most was the nine-line poem Remember Me Then. A moment captured and felt by so many animal lovers.

Feral Cats and Other Poems is $14 (check or money order) to the poet:
Rich Hanson, 616 East Clinton Avenue, Monmouth, IL 61463

Make the telemarketer your writing partner

“I’m sorry. I have the wrong number. CLICK!”

— My reply to a pushy telemarketer interrupting my lunch, telling me, “This call is important. Please, do not hang up.”

In a writing funk? Try making the old new.

Do It Better! author does book promotion better

DoItBetterBookLearn from the best.

Toward that goal, I joined the Pat Flynn’s Kindle Publishing Facebook group. My wife Diana Star Helmer just published Maybe Baby, a futuristic suspense novel. How can she get more reviews on I hoped for a brief tip or bit of advice.

Instead, one author stepped forward. James H. Mayfield reviews OTHER BOOKS on his website. He volunteered.

The Maybe Baby book review floored us both. Honest, thoughtful, detailed!

The appreciation for this indie author’s efforts grows, when considering that he’s taking time and attention away from his own projects to assist the people some might call his rivals. His own Do It Better! book launched only Feb. 1.

In the ME-ME-ME world of self-hyping self-publishers, why would any author point the spotlight at other people’s books? Here’s his enlightening e-mail reply:

“I feel that the best way to help yourself, is to help others. It’s a strange concept that can’t quite be defined by black and white definitions like selfishness or selflessness. What I do, I don’t simply do for myself, but I’m not also doing it completely for altruistic reasons either.

I want to be successful, because I believe in what I have to offer to the world. Through my books, through my blogs, through my business ideas and so forth. But I’m a realist that also understands that It is very hard to become successful in a vacuum. I need the help of others to succeed myself.

And the beauty of that concept is the realization that it also applies to everyone else. Other people need guys like me to help them, so that they can can become successful and then help me in return.

This is how we can make the world a better place. How we can all become successful. By helping others, we help ourselves, which gives us even more resources to help others.

I’m not sure if any of that made sense, but basically, I’m being selfish in a selfless fashion, so that I can become even more selfless in the future for selfish reasons.

It’s a mess of a concept. But there you go.”

Some authors tell you about themselves. Here’s one who SHOWS you, putting his creative courage in action. Kindness as a marketing plan? If anyone can “do it better,” it’s James H. Mayfield.

Edit with your ears…or a mirror

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the long-windedest writer of all?  By The Conmunity – Pop Culture Geek from Los Angeles, CA, USA (D23 Expo 2011 – mirror, mirror on the wall…) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

That’s a tough way to hold a pencil.

Seriously. Read aloud what you’re writing.

Could you pronounce all the words? Are you gasping for air? Do you look as confused as you sounded?

Be the reader. Feel their pain.

Then, try a few more shorter sentences. Everybody wins.

Upbeat writing advice from one downbeat author: remembering author Robert ‘The Chocolate War’ Cormier

CormierBookYes, THAT author. The one famous for his serious (even shocking) novels for young adults.

At a writing conference, my wife and I shared a banquet table with this happy man. A man who seemed NOTHING like any of his plots.

What inspired him to be a published children’s author?

“I worked (as a reporter) at a newspaper,” he answered. “The guys would go out for a beer after work. I wasn’t the best storyteller. Far from it.”


Cormier smiled and lowered his voice. “But they just kept telling stories. They never did anything with them. I went home and wrote mine. And I never stopped.”

What is, versus what can be. Comparing yourself to others, or being yourself.

Write your own story.

Writers, follow the all-you-can-eat buffet rule

By Rusty Clark from merritt usland FLA (Pintu's Indian Palace - West Springfield MA) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Rusty Clark from merritt usland FLA (Pintu’s Indian Palace – West Springfield MA) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been amazed at how hard writers find simplicity.

A mile-long sentence is so hard to divide, they claim. Don’t edit me, dude!

They want all those ideas piled high in one sentence. One mushy mess of words.

What kind of buffet eaters would these writers be? Would they have a foot-high, some-of-everything pile smashed on their plate?

Let’s hope not.

One buffet trip through the line needs one plate. Pace yourself. Small servings. Return to what you like.

There are plenty of plates, and sentences, to enjoy everything. Take your time. Taste every word.


Author in The Schools gets unexpected student feedback (or FOOD back!)

Great windows in those Sheldon schools!

Great windows in those Sheldon schools!

Sheldon. This was my Waterloo. The place where I got my comeuppance as a writer.

Years ago, I was doing “author in the schools” work there to share many of the children’s books I’d written.

After lunch, I was assigned to the middle school library. I hoped to hold these tables of 6th, 7th and 8th graders spellbound.

I urged them on. Write from your heart. Don’t let other students or doubting teachers deter you.

I paced between tables. Read. Write. Try every day!

I was getting through! I saw eyes grow wide. Student jaws hung.

I gave the teacher a smug grin and nod. My ego inflated. Then, the explosion hit.


For years, I’ve tried to remember the sobering, shocking sound of that boy vomiting up what must have been a semester’s worth of school lunches.

The students weren’t enchanted by my writing advice. They were fascinated with the idea of seeing a guest speaker getting broadsided by a puke-storm.

I remember being so relieved that the windows opened. A talented classmate had fetched a wastebasket for the barfing boy. Lastly, I recall being flattered that the librarian praised my ability to finish my talk. I was the boxer who stayed on his feet for all 15 rounds.

Believe in your words. Just remember that your stories alone may not move people in the right way. When adversity spews, open the window and start again.