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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poetry Fishbowl Open!
Starting now, the Poetry Fishbowl is open!  Today's theme is "Urban Fantasy" as selected by the audience in a poll.  I will be checking this page periodically throughout the day. When people make suggestions, I'll pick some and weave them together into a poem ... and then another ... and so on. I'm hoping to get a lot of ideas and a lot of poems.

Something new: Batched poems.  Previously I've written some poems that use the same characters or setting to explore different aspects of the same idea, most of them at random.  I'm open to doing that on purpose, if it doesn't create an overload.  So for instance, you might ask for a pair of poems showing two people's divergent viewpoints, or ask for a sequel to a poem you liked.

What Is a Poetry Fishbowl?

Writing is usually considered a solitary pursuit. One exception to this is a fascinating exercise called a "fishbowl." This has various forms, but all of them basically involve some kind of writing in public, usually with interaction between author and audience. A famous example is Harlan Ellison's series of "stories under glass" in which he sits in a bookstore window and writes a new story based on an idea that someone gives him. Writing classes sometimes include a version where students watch each other write, often with students calling out suggestions which are chalked up on the blackboard for those writing to use as inspiration.

In this online version of a Poetry Fishbowl, I begin by setting a theme; today's theme is "Urban Fantasy." I invite people to suggest characters, settings, and other things relating to that theme. Then I use those prompts as inspiration for writing poems.

Cyberfunded Creativity

I'm practicing cyberfunded creativity. If you enjoy what I'm doing and want to see more of it, please feed the Bard. The following options are currently available:

1) Sponsor the Fishbowl -- Here is a PayPal button for donations. There is no specific requirement, but $1 is the minimum recommended size for PayPal transactions since they take a cut from every one. You can also donate via check or money order sent by postal mail. If you make a donation and tell me about it, I promise to use one of your prompts. Anonymous donations are perfectly welcome, just won't get that perk. General donations will be tallied, and at the end of the fishbowl I’ll post a list of eligible poems based on the total funding; then the audience can vote on which they want to see posted.

2) Buy It Now! -- Gakked from various e-auction sites, this feature allows you to sponsor a specific poem. If you don't want to wait for some editor to buy and publish my poem so you can read it, well, now you don't have to. Sponsoring a poem means that I will immediately post it on my blog for everyone to see, with the name of the sponsor (or another dedicate) if you wish; plus you get a nonexclusive publication right, so you can post it on your own blog or elsewhere as long as you keep the credits intact. You'll need to tell me the title of the poem you want to sponsor. I'm basing the prices on length, and they're comparable to what I typically make selling poetry to magazines (semi-pro rates according to Duotrope's Digest).

0-10 lines: $5
11-25 lines: $10
26-40 lines: $15
41-60 lines: $20
Poems over 60 lines, or with very intricate structure, fall into custom pricing.

3) Commission a scrapbook page. I can render a chosen poem in hardcopy format, on colorful paper, using archival materials for background and any embellishments. This will be suitable for framing or for adding to a scrapbook. Commission details are here.  See new photos of sample scrapbooked poems: "Infinitesimal Angels and others"

4) Spread the word. Echo or link to this post on your LiveJournal, other blog, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, StumbleUpon, or any other social network.  The Twitter hashtag is #poetryfishbowl.  Encourage people to come here and participate in the fishbowl.  If you have room for it, including your own prompt will give your readers an idea of what the prompts should look like; ideally, update later to include the thumbnail of the poem I write, and a link to the poem if it gets published.  If there is at least one new prompter or donor, I will post an extra freebie poem.

Additional Notes

1) I customarily post replies to prompt posts telling people which of their prompts I'm using, with a brief description of the resulting poem(s). If you want to know what's available, watch for those "thumbnails."

2) You don't have to pay me to see a poem based on a prompt that you gave me. I try to send copies of poems to people, mostly using the LJ message function.  (Anonymous prompters will miss this perk unless you give me your eddress.)  These are for-your-eyes-only, though, not for sharing.

3) Sponsors of the Poetry Fishbowl in general, or of specific poems, will gain access to an extra post in appreciation of their generosity.  While you're on the Donors list, you can view all of the custom-locked posts in that category.  Click the "donors" tag to read the archive of those.  I've also posted a list of other donor perks there.  I customarily leave donor names on the list for two months, so you'll get to see the perk-post from this month and next.

4) After the Poetry Fishbowl concludes, I will post a list of unsold poems and their prices, to make it easier for folks to see what they might want to sponsor.

Feed the Fish!
Now's your chance to participate in the creative process by posting ideas for me to write about. Today's theme is "Urban Fantasy."  (You can read more about urban fantasy online.  It does not have to be contemporary; past or future city prompts are welcome.  While most urban fantasy entails slight revisions of Earth, I'm also open to prompts about cities in other fantasy settings of mine.)  I'll be soliciting ideas for urbanites, non-urbanite fish-out-of-water characters, city-dwelling monsters, urban plants and animals, objects commonly found in cities, rural objects that might be amusing to chuck into a city, urban fantasy cliches you'd like to warp, classic or neo urban fantasy plots, events that happen in cities, urban legends, urban places fun to include in a fantasy story, individual cities you'd like to visit, unusual locations within a city, hazards or benefits particular to cities, and poetic forms in particular.  But anything is welcome, really. If you manage to recommend a form that I don't recognize, I will probably pounce on it and ask you for its rules. I do have the first edition of Lewis Turco's The Book of Forms which covers most common and many obscure forms.

I'll post at least one of the fishbowl poems here so you-all can enjoy it. (Remember, you get an extra freebie poem if someone new posts a prompt or makes a donation.) The rest will go into my archive for magazine submission.

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72 comments or Leave a comment
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marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: January 4th, 2011 06:44 pm (UTC) (Link)


...With a few prompt to get you warmed up. :-)

The city god takes an holiday.

In Chinese traditional religion, each city and town has a its own patron god (sometimes more than one, in Taipei, for instance, there are quarters'gods as well), chaged with keeping things going in an orderly, proper fashion. What happens if a city god takes an holiday? Does he (all those I know are male)nominate a deputy? Who can try to infiltrate a town if its god isn't there? And if the god it's a new and really inexperienced one (there are quite a few stories about recently deceased humans appointed as city gods)

When Fiorenza went to the fair...
What can happen to the young wise-woman of 'Can she bake a scary pie' when she goes to the 'big town' for the annual fair? Is everything as it seems?

The driad in Hyde Park

How did she came to be there? Is her tree a remnant of an ancient forest? What other ancient creatures are there?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 5th, 2011 04:07 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Here!

From your prompt about Fiorenza, I got "Fair Maiden Meets Fierce Villain," a terza rima about her trip to Fermo Fair. You know how annoying it is when the silly heroine misses the signs of danger? Soooo not happening here!

35 lines, Buy It Now = $15
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 4th, 2011 06:47 pm (UTC) (Link)


the_vulture left backchannel prompts, expecting to be offline today. From these I got the refrain "China is here" which appears throughout the poem "The Presence of China," connecting the past with the present and the prosaic with the magical.

23 lines, Buy It Now = $10
ellenmillion From: ellenmillion Date: January 4th, 2011 06:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Traffic Lights
A fire engine werewolf (as opposed to the usual dalmatian)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 4th, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)


From the "fire engine werewolf" prompt, I got the free-verse poem "The Mascot of Engine 18." It tells how a werewolf got involved with a fire department in Detroit.

62 lines, Buy It Now = $31
pingback_bot From: pingback_bot Date: January 4th, 2011 06:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Poetry Fishbowl

User marina_bonomi referenced to your post from Poetry Fishbowl saying: [...] just opend her first Poetry Fishbowl for this year, the theme is urban fantasy. The Fishbowl post [...]
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 4th, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC) (Link)


I borrowed bits of a discussion over on Cybermind as prompts, dealing with Chinese cities. The result is "A City's Breath," musing about the myths and histories that shape modern life. The cities mentioned are Shanghai and Beijing.

29 lines, Buy It Now = $15
ladyqkat From: ladyqkat Date: January 4th, 2011 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
An on-line acquaintance/friend of mine, ladysprite, (of many years duration), put herself through vet school to learn a vocation she loves. She is quite talented in many other areas, one of which is writing little snippets about her job.

Of course, her interests being what they are, she sometimes puts a bit of a spin on those stories and I have saved them in my memories.

I would love to present her with a poem that honors her less-well-known vocation as a veternarian to The Fae and the problems of healing magical creatures who live in the city.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: January 4th, 2011 07:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, what a brilliant idea!
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: January 4th, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Suburban, or sub-urban, fantasy (either the burbs, which are much neglected except in built-the-burb-on-the-graveyard, or subterranean(*) urban fantasy)

(*) which wants to be sub-terrarium, which makes me think of the locker creatures in Men in Black II, and a universe in the bottom of a terrarium.

The results of the divinations in Tumble the Nuts

My favorite sort of urban shaman uses painted designs, on skin and as graffiti.

Urban werewolves, yes, technodawgz.

High-rise fantasy, not just down-on-the-street grit but up-in-the-corporate-office magic: what if the fortune-500 CEO is a shaman?


Pittsburgh. This city was so full of stone churches stained black by soot (we almost died, too, but that was the con).

Atlanta, where the hobos all had NYC accents.

Rochester, my hometown, haunted by the ghost of George Eastman, who founded Kodak and invented disposable cameras, where Billy the Kid and Susan B. Anthony are buried one hill away from each other (Fredrick Douglass gets front-row seating by the main street) http://www.fomh.org/ It's a rust-belt city where they say you can develop film in our river and the WPA-era library literally sits atop said river.

The streets, and I'm babbling, because I miss my hometown, are laid out on old cowpaths. If you look at an old map of the city, you could easily believe that it's laid on occult symbols, the way they say DC was.

And, of course, the Erie Canal http://www.eriecanal.org/ runs through it, and, a few miles away, the old locks (from the original route) are still visible, little stone arches over fetid puddles of water.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 4th, 2011 10:06 pm (UTC) (Link)


I liked the idea of urban shamans and painted designs. "Urban Shamans" is a free-verse poem that visits some representatives from four different cities and how their various cultural backgrounds blend into modern life. They work their magic in plain sight, filling the ancient role of go-between.

40 lines, Buy It Now = $15
pingback_bot From: pingback_bot Date: January 4th, 2011 07:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Fishbowl Time

User aldersprig referenced to your post from Fishbowl Time saying: [...] is having her fishbowl today! [...]
whuffle From: whuffle Date: January 4th, 2011 07:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
What about a poem based around the merging of the following two concepts:

"People who live in glass houses (or cities) shouldn't throw stones...."

That infamous "Glass Ceiling" that women run into in the workplace when they try to advance their careers past a certain level.

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 4th, 2011 08:53 pm (UTC) (Link)


From the "glass ceiling/glass houses" prompt I got the poem "Feminists Under Glass." It looks at how women's experiences and tactics have changed over time.

32 lines, Buy It Now = $15

Edited at 2011-01-05 01:41 am (UTC)
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: January 4th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
If evolution works on them, what happens to humans when the fae develop an immunity to cold iron?

Occasionally there are news stories about wild animals (bears, in my region) wandering into the city. What if they're not just plain old ordinary hungry bears (etc.), but advance scouts?

The Detroit feral buildings and/or farmland reclamation in the city.

There aren't very many shoe-repair / cobbler's shops left. Are the ones that remain owned and staffed by humans -- or something else?

You've written about the monsters losing their home to foreclosure, and a follow-on about them finding a new place (if I recall correctly). How are they settling in?

Something post-apocalyptic, where the fae and related creatures have come out to help the displaced humans and related creatures.

Wandering sod and how it affects urban travel.

Sinkholes, and what if they're not just a result of limestone and water and poor civil engineering?

Come to think of it, what about UNcivil engineering, the kind that seems to destroy neighborhoods and make life in the city less pleasant. Are the engineers perhaps disgruntled fae?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 4th, 2011 09:44 pm (UTC) (Link)


From the prompt about the monsters settling in, I got the free-verse poem "Sticky Fingers." Just as the family is really starting to come together, there is an unwelcome intrusion...

This poem is a sequel to "Eviction, Noticed" and "Home Shriek Home."

50 lines, Buy It Now = $20
From: minor_architect Date: January 4th, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm afraid I don't have any prompts for this month's theme, being run over by beginning-of-semester preparations at my college. If that changes, I'll let you know...but I wanted to poke my head in at the very least and send the good vibes your way! I'll also hop over to Twitter in a few minutes and promote the Fishbowl as I usually do. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 5th, 2011 01:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

Good luck at college. Check out the poems appearing; I think you'll enjoy them.
bodlon From: bodlon Date: January 4th, 2011 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Things left behind. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 5th, 2011 02:13 am (UTC) (Link)


I put "things left behind" with what janetmiles said about feral buildings. The result is "The Houses of Haunted Dolls," a free-verse poem describing what happens when diverse mythologies are left to their own devices in inner-city Detroit. When we forget that we are responsible for the things we build, the results can get scary...

33 lines, Buy It Now = $15
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: January 4th, 2011 08:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh! Ooh! What would a city built for the fae and the weres look like?

Cities inside cities, faerie doors (again)

Fae as "differently abeled."
pingback_bot From: pingback_bot Date: January 4th, 2011 09:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

The Wordsmith's Forge - Poetry Fishbowl Open!

(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 5th, 2011 06:25 am (UTC) (Link)


From your prompt about other creatures powering public transit, I got "Beneath Suspicion," a free-verse poem about an unexpected power source for the subway's third rail.

5 lines, Buy It Now = $5
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