From prose to poetry and back again – Jill G. Hall
By Jill G. Hall
After leaving an over twenty-year career in the teaching field I wanted to write. I thought I’d write children’s books or maybe a memoir about my classroom experiences but that’s not what happened. I found a black velvet coat at a yard sale that inspired me on a long journey of creating The Black Velvet Coat, my debut novel which has recently published.♥
A first novel can take many years to write because one is just learning the craft and for me this was certainly true. I attended a weekly drop-in writing group that offered prompts with timed sessions for years where I wrote the kernels of different chapters. Writing in community helped keep my pen to the page and continue going even when I wanted to stop. I then spent over ten years working on it, rewriting many drafts with the guidance of expert novelists who lead read and critique groups. However, when I felt the book was finally finished, I was daunted by the state of the unstable publishing field and by the steps needed to get a novel traditionally published. I just couldn’t face the energy and rejections needed to get my novel out there and I knew I didn’t have the skills to self-publish either.
Over the years I had occasionally taken poetry workshops as a respite from writing prose. On a whim I submitted a poem to a local anthology. When it was accepted I felt quite a high! So I decided to put the novel aside and focus on my poetry. I joined a poetry group led by a master poet and found it fun to fine-tune tiny romantic stories in poem form that could be finished within a far more modest amount of time than a novel. I was also inspired by nature and it felt fulfilling to write in reaction to the beauty and awe of the earth. My teacher would ask – What are you trying to say? Then he’d tell us rewrite it so that it makes sense to everyone. He also told us not to try and be too serious or mushy but true to the characters and scenes, say what you want to say, make every word count, it’s okay to break the rules.
After a year I felt ready to face the novel again with fresh eyes as a poet. Studying poetry has taught me how to be tight with my words and say more with less. It has also shown me how to pay attention and see the beauty in everything and write it down. I also learned more keenly how to make comparisons through using my mind’s eye to create metaphors and similes. For instance in the last draft of the The Black Velvet Coat I added more metaphors. Here are two examples of moon metaphors I used to show the passage of time – “the full moon glowed like an opal” in Chapter 20 and another in Chapter 38 “A half moon shone like a snapped pearl button.” I believe these additions added depth to my writing and more romance in telling the story.
All the while I submitted my poems to anthologies and journals across the country. As my pieces were picked up for publication, my confidence level rose enough to move forward to rewrite The Black Velvet Coat again and get it ready for publication. At the same time a friend recommended She Writes, a partner publishing press, which has been a perfect match for me. They are mission driven to support women authors to be successful and so I’ve learned how to be an “authorpreneur” along the way. I feel ready now to have my book launched with self-confidence, excitement and enthusiasm.
Jill G. Hall, a San Diego native, facilitates creativity workshops for artists of all types. Her poems have appeared in a variety of publications including A Year in Ink, City Works Press, Serving House Journal, The Avocet, and Wild Women, Wild Voices. Her debut novel, The Black Velvet Coat, has recently been published by She Writes Press.