First Book Talk for Antioch Writers’ Workshop

On July 16, 2015, I had the honor of giving a First Book Talk presentation at the best creative writing conference around, the Antioch Writers’ Workshop (AWW).

I attended AWW in 2007, 2012, and 2013, and it’s the reason I’m now a published novelist. I can’t thank enough the staff (especially Sharon Short), the faculty, and the volunteers at this amazing event for all that they do each year to support the development of the writing craft.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.


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Words Are Not Bricks

IMG_0023-2webLast week, I had the opportunity to visit some students at the Dayton Regional STEM School’s STEMmersion program and ramble a bit about writing (that’s me rambling in the picture above). These students are spending a couple weeks with STEM faculty to explore nature through meditation, outdoor activities, and journaling.

I was so impressed with the enthusiasm and creativity of these young writers! We used one of my favorite writing prompts, Seed Poems/Seed Stories (which I explain here), only this time we used upcycled pages from my favorite wilderness conservation organization, the Arc of Appalachia. Using the Arc’s profound words as a launch pad, we first crafted haikus and then lines of dialogue.

The big point that I wanted to make with the Seed Poems, and what I want to impress upon you here, is that word are not bricks.

A lot of potential writers get turned away from the craft because they see words as rigid structures that must be stacked precisely to build these imposing walls of text.

Um, a world of hell no.

Words are not bricks. Words are softer than that, more organic. Words are clay. Words are paint. Words do require precision and effort, sure, but they can also be messy and fun. They can also be broken down and recycled into new structures, like with the Seed Poems we created.

So, as you sit down to type out your words, see them as clay. And whatever you do, don’t let them harden.

I’d like to close this post with a big shout-out to STEM student Callie Hester, who was kind enough to share with me (and all of you) a couple Seed Poems she crafted using sentences from the first chapter of my debut novel, That Risen Snow.

Check out the awesome:

Her hair black as night
Eyes, blue as the sky
Usually she dances
Sky with her
Blue, skies
Are now gray
Now, she won’t return the same
Black night becomes morning light
Pupils darken as the days go by
Floating like a cloud
In the sky
Twin orbs of horror
Pools of tears running down her face
Of what dreams may come?
Blood pouring out her mouth, no she won’t return the same

Her skin as cold as ice
Lips red from blood
Twist and turns from her worries
In a deep sleep like a coma
A sleep that she will never awaken from
Sneering as she runs away forever

Thanks so much, Callie!

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Zombie Snow White Photo Shoot!

Rob and Zombie SnowSo, I spent this Memorial Day doing a photo shoot with Zombie Snow White, as portrayed by Wright State University theatre student Haylee Dobkins. We ventured out to the Rockafield Family Cemetery in the Wright State campus woods with photographer Leighanna Hornick, a Wright State motion pictures student.

Leighanna took the picture above and the one at the very bottom. The rest are ones I took with my iPhone.

Zombie Snow outside cemeteryWe started at the cemetery and got some great pics of me and Zombie Snow. It had been a rainy morning, but thankfully the clouds showed us about an hour and a half of mercy.

snow1We then ventured down a trail into the woods for a few more pictures:


Pay attention, kids. This is why you don’t accept apples from strangers in the woods.

snow5Thankfully, Haylee has a gymnastics background, and was able to safely perch on the tree pictured above and strike some truly horrific poses! We took hundreds of pictures, but this one below (courtesy of Leighanna Hornick) is probably my favorite . . .

IMG_2345copyA big THANK YOU to Haylee and Leighanna for making this shoot such a positive experience. It was a lot of fun working with two such energetic, enthusiastic, and creative talents!

Haylee will be reprising her role next week at THAT WICKED APPLE ZOMBIE BOOK LAUNCH PARTY, to be held Thursday, June 4th from 6:00 to 9:00 at Eudora Brewing Co in Kettering, Ohio. Don’t you dare miss it!

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Infuse Your Writing Practice with Poetry

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“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”
—T. S. Eliot

This’ll be short and sweet. If you want to write better fiction, you would do well to read and write more poetry.

Okay, it won’t be that short, but basically that’s the point of this post. Poetry may not have characters and plot and even necessarily tension, but something it does have is amazing imagery—the kind of heart-smacking, gut-punching imagery that’ll rock your dear readers out of their socks.

So, if you’re weak on description, start reading more poetry. You may be surprised how many poetic techniques can be applied to fiction. A good place to start is a college bookstore. Look for whatever poetry anthologies are being used in the poetry classes, and pick one of those bad boys up!

On the topic of poetry . . . a long time ago at some writing events, I heard two poetry-related bits of advice that I’ll pass along here.

1) Start your writing day with a poem.

Whether you’re at a desk or, like me, a kitchen table, when you sit down to make your pages darker, preface those blissful moments by reading a poem. You can have books of poetry on hand, or you can do what I do: subscribe to The Writer’s Almanac daily email newsletter. They’ll send you a brand new poem early in the wee hours, so that it’ll be waiting for you when you wake up.

Reading a poem before writing feels a bit to me like stretching out before practicing tae kwon doe. You’re waking up your writer self. You’re putting your head in that special creative place. You’re preparing to kick some (literary) ass!

2) Write a metaphor each day.

Every day, make a point of observing something in a poetic way. Maybe it’s the fact that little navel oranges look like shrunken baby heads. Or maybe it’s how this headache feels like chisel scraping the inside of my skull right above my eyes. Doesn’t matter.

Write one of these observations down every single day—either on your smart phone or in a notepad. I used to have a running email to/from myself that I’d respond to each day. You could also do this with a writing partner, bouncing back and forth a never-ending chain of metaphorical awesomeness.

The added bonus of this is that it makes you more aware. You start looking for poetry everywhere. It gives you the taste for it. In turn, the descriptions of your stories’ settings and characters will become infused with poetic wickedness. You’ll see metaphors and descriptions all around you—where before you might’ve zoned out and seen only the surface of things.

And isn’t that part of the point of great writing—be it poetry or fiction? To get beneath the surface of things?

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Flores Factor Interview Bonus Questions on Writing and More

Darker PagesFor those of you who might’ve missed it, the super-witty Richard Flores IV interviewed me last week on his website, the Flores Factor. Here’s the link to the original interview:

Richard is the author of the science fiction novels, Dissolution of Peace, Volition Agent, and Broken Trust, as well as Editor-in-Chief of Plasma Frequency. He offered me an array of totally compelling questions, but because I tend to ramble on and on and on (and on (and on)), a few of my answers were cut from the final interview. So, I’m happy to present for you here the rest of the interview.

And if you’re not following Richard on Twitter (@Richard_Flores4), you’re really missing out on some insightful and fun tweets. Check him out!

And without further blathering . . .

Richard Flores IV: When did you start writing and what made you start?

Rob E. Boley: I first started writing during high school. My sophomore year, our English teacher, Julie Johnson, gave us a homework assignment in which we had to craft metaphors for various objects, places, or concepts. The next day, she called on us randomly to read some of ours. She liked mine so much that she asked me to read most of them to the class. That’s when I really knew I had a knack for this. For many years, I mostly wrote poetry. After my daughter was born in 2005, it was like a switch was flipped somewhere in my warped little brain. Suddenly, I had stories to tell. I’ve been writing fiction ever since.

RF: Did you learn anything about yourself or your writing while working on this book?

REB: THAT RISEN SNOW went through at least three or four major revisions, so it’s fair to say I learned a whole lot about writing along the way. I’d say the two biggest lessons I learned were: 1) to start the story when the action commences, and let the backstory come later; and 2) that the protagonist’s inner conflict is every bit as important as his outer conflict.

RF: If you had to pick one trait that makes you a better writer, what would it be?

REB: Easy. That’d be my anxiousness. I tend to carry around a mild bit of anxiety every day, so I’m always seeing the worst possibility in most situations. This sucks for everyday living, but it’s great for writing, because no matter how tense a scene is, I’m always able to come up with something to make it even worse for my poor characters. And actually, fiction writing becomes somewhat therapeutic, because when I’m working on a story, my mind is occupied with terrible things happening to my characters, as opposed to awful things that could be happening to me. So, everyone wins! Except for my characters. They’re screwed.

RF: When you are not writing, what are you doing?

REB: Well, by day I work at my alma mater, Wright State University, in the fundraising department doing data analytics and research. It’s a great job and I’m fortunate to work with a fun team of people. And best of all, while my job requires creativity, it apparently uses a completely different part of my brain than my writing. On the evenings or weekends, I spend a lot of time with my daughter. We like to play card games, dice games, and board games. We wrestle. Sometimes we go exploring in nature. We’ve been watching a lot of Regular Show lately. I do a lot of the same stuff with my adult friends, but with more swearing and drinking (and less wrestling).

RF: What is your favorite quote?

REB: “If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.”—Douglas Adams. Some people are do-ers, and some are thinkers. I’m totally a do-er. I’d rather play with the cat than take it apart.

RF: What secrets would you share with aspiring authors?

REB: I think the most important thing new writers need to know is this: You write in solitude but you publish in solidarity. So, if you want to see your stories in print, you need to befriend other writers. Go to writing conferences. Don’t go to “network,” because that’s irritating, but be sociable. Make friends. These are people who can be your beta readers, write blurbs for you, open doors for you, listen to you while you vent, and celebrate your successes. In turn, you should be prepared to do all those same things for them.

Again, a big THANK YOU to Richard Flores IV for the interview! Once more, he can be found at:

Write on!

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