Honorable Mention

I am very pleased to announce that one of my poems has won an Honorable Mention from the North Carolina Poetry Society‘s annual poetry contest. The contest is open to members and the public at large. They always offer several categories, some by theme, and some in honor of a person. This year there were 11 categories, and I submitted a poem to  six of them.

It was my poem Husbandry in the Katherine Kennedy McIntyre Light Verse category that won. Click here to see the complete list of categories and winners. All of the winning poems will be published in the NCPS annual anthology, Pinesong, and I get to read it at their May meeting.

The poem is a first person (fictitious) account, of my many husbands. I have no idea where the idea came from but I’m very much indebted to the Living Poetry Critique Group for their valuable assistance in helping me get it just right.

In other news: Bio-logy 2

This year’s Heron Clan anthology, number seven in the series, is almost ready to go to print. We’re still waiting for six tardy poets to submit bios. They’ve been given a firm go/no go deadline. Oh sure, they’ll still see their poem(s) in the book, but no one will know who they are.

In previous years, poets had 100 words to talk about themselves and that was included in the Call for Submission. However,  the response was so big that we accepted more poets than in any other edition, 131 to be exact. We realized that 100 words for each would not be feasible, so we set a new limit of  50 words per poet (or as close as possible). About 40 percent came in already at an acceptable length. That meant that I had to email the other 60 percent.

The experienced poets with extensive publication credits came right back with short bios. Poets who had no or few publishing credits needed the most help. Can you guess that’s what sparked my last post? That said, here’s one more tip for writing a bio that I didn’t know I needed to tell people:  Put your name in your bio.  In other words, don’t assume the bio is going to be underneath your poem. It may be at the back of book, coughHC7cough.

My favorite bio of all them was the one line bio from an older gentlemen who included “being a grandfather” in his list of skills. Now that’s gold!

I believe the books will be available in mid to late April, in case anyone is waiting for it!


At the beginning of the month, I led a workshop for members of Living Poetry on how to submit poetry to journals. I felt that as a poet who submits my work, and as a poetry reviewer/editor on the other side of the desk for the Heron Clan anthologies, I had something to offer.

It was a very small group, but it’s been years since I’ve done this, so it was good practice. According to my friend, associate and provisional sidekick, Bartholomew Barker, L.P. Head Wrangler, I probably talked too much, so if we do this again next year, I’ll change it up a bit. But even with all that talking, I never got to the subject of Author/Poet bios, so let’s talk about it here.

Author bios serves several purposes. The first is to connect with readers and share a little of your personality. It’s also a marketing tool for selling books or highlighting causes you work for. Most journals have requirements for bios. Follow their directions. Typical guidelines are: 100 words, 50 words, or “2-3 sentences.”

Shorter is better. Even if they give you 100 words, don’t feel compelled to fill it. Write tight. Long bios are boring and can come off as pretentious. You can write as much as you want about yourself on your personal blog, or in your memoir, or annual Christmas card. Here are a few more tips:

  • If you’ve been published more than three times, or received more than two awards, pick the two or three journals or awards that are the most prestigious or well-known. More than that is boring, and readers don’t care.  
  • Put your name first and write in third person. Not only is it the preferred style, but it will help you be objective about yourself. 
  • Gentle humor is good. Sarcasm, while fun, is not appropriate for this venue.
  • Write multiple versions of your bio. And review it periodically for changes.

Do you like your bio? Does it need work?

Here’s the 40-word bio I use most frequently. Note, I include my blog address with no preamble. There’s no need to write “Follow her at …” as it’s understood. 

JeanMarie Olivieri, of Hillsborough, NC, a former corporate writer, now applies her knowledge of words and grammar to freelancing and poetry. She believes poetry can change the world. She has been published in several anthologies and online poetry journals. https://jeanmarieolivieri.wordpress.com/.

A couple of years ago, Button Poetry had a poetry contest for Tweet-sized poetic bios. 240 characters. I didn’t win but I like what I wrote, and since we’re talking about me, I mean, bios, finally, someone to read it!  

I haven’t forgotten my old life
but what came before
my mid-life reinvention
is a blur.
I quit my cushy corporate job
and moved 1650 miles to start over.
But it wasn’t until I got to the steamy south
which overflows with creativity
did I find my people and become a poet.


In personal news, the streak of bad luck (see last post) has continued. This month the problems have all been in my head — well, specifically my mouth. After several attempts to save a molar it ultimately had to be pulled which left me with an infection. All tears and pain aside the incident brings to mind the first poem I wrote for someone. In this case, it was my stepdad who had just gotten dentures.

Dentures, dentures everywhere
Mix ‘em. Match ‘em. Make a pair.

He was not amused.

The Submission Call

Have you been called — tempted or teased — to submit your work for possible publication? Have you done it  —  or are you ignoring the voice because of fear? I’m not going to lie to you. It takes work. It’s scary. But there are rewards! You can win or lose (a contest); you can get accepted or rejected. But when you put yourself and your work out to the world, you declare powerfully: I believe in my work. I believe in myself.

Hippo cheerleader supports you!

Hey,  you know that anthology of poetry I told you about, The Heron Clan? We’re accepting submissions of poetry for volume 7 through the end of November.  How about submitting some of your poems?

Yes, I am on the selection committee, but don’t worry. We read the poems blind. We’ve already received over 200 poems so make sure you’re submitting your best work. How do you know it’s your best work? Aside from checking and rechecking spelling, spacing, and sparkle (!) try looking at it with the eyes of an outsider. Here’s a link to the poetry critique checklist I use in workshops. It might help.

If you have any questions, drop them in the comments, or email me at jmowrites@gmail.com. Good luck.

Heron Clan Call for Submission Guidelines

  • Submit 1-3 poems as an email attachment. Include all poems in one document, separated with a page break. Please use a standard 12-point font. Title the document with your name but do not include any biographical information in the document itself.
  • There is no restriction on theme or style.
  • Include poem titles and 100-word bio in email cover letter.
  • There is no fee to submit.
  • Poems must be in English.
  • Contributors receive one copy of the anthology, and the opportunity to buy additional copies at cost.
  • Please indicate in the cover letter which poems have been previously published, along with the appropriate acknowledgment (publication name and date). By submitting previously published work, you assert that you have the necessary rights and permissions for the work to be republished.
  • Submission deadline is November 30, 2019.
  • Email submission to Doug Stuber, editor, katherinejamesbooks@gmail.com

Poet Laureates, Writer’s Block, Joy

Congratulations Joy Harjo! A month ago (I’ve had writer’s block), Ms. Harjo, poet, writer and musician was named the 23rd poet laureate of the United States. Harjo is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, which gives her the additional distinction of becoming the first Native American to hold the position.  Click here to read her poem, Once the World was Perfect

The term laureate means to be wreathed with laurels as a mark of honor. Like most people, I’ve seen pictures and movies of Greeks and historical figures wearing a crown of laurel wreaths, but I didn’t know until this year when Jaki Shelton Green became the Poet Laureate of North Carolina, that the honor comes with an actual wreath of laurels. Click her name to see the photo! The talented Ms. Green also has the distinction of being the third woman and the first African American to be appointed to the role.  When I went searching for a picture of a laurel wreath to accompany this blog, all I found were men, or blond women, hence the mannequin.

So what exactly is a poet laureate? The national official title is the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.  There are a few official duties, but basically the job is “to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.” For more details, visit: http://loc.gov/poetry/about_laureate.html.

You too can be a poet laureate! I encourage you to appoint yourself  poet laureate of  your place of work, your school, your book club, or just your own home. If you are not a poet, then be an advocate for any and all expressions of creativity.

I’ve been planning on writing this post for over a month, but “writer’s block.” The very phrase is synonymous with “excuse” and it’s not really accurate. I’ve had ideas, but I haven’t been able to quiet my mind, set aside the issues and concerns of “real life” and do the work of creating.  Fast forward to last night. I went to dinner to celebrate the birthday of my friend and writing mentor Judy Martel who passed away in July, 2017. A wonderful woman with a wide network of connection, her birthday has become an opportunity for friends and family to gather and remember her.  I remember the lessons  Judy. I’m here.

Now, as the Poet Laureate of my one-bedroom apartment, I am going to promote some poetry, and hopefully some joy.

Just two days ago, I came across the 2019 Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest while browsing a list of Calls for Submission. Ms. Ramseyer was the mother of a writer and poet by the name of Bram Seyer. He writes this about her on his blog:  “In the last year of her life my mother, Joan Ramseyer, turned to verse to express the heat of ideas percolating in her mind, like bubbles in a teapot escaping into steam.”  The memorial contest is a way for him to honor her life and celebrate the homey poetry she wrote. The theme this year is JOY! Read the full guidelines here and consider writing and submitting a poem about joy! https://bramseyer.wordpress.com/joan-ramseyer-memorial-poetry-contest/?

Heron Clan VI Launches!

This week I attended the book launch party for the Heron Clan VI poetry anthology. I am very happy to have three poems included in this book. And yet, I am even more proud of the fact that I was able to contribute in another significant way to the book as an editor. (Squee!)

Last year I was honored to have two poems in Heron Clan V, (which was great, even with the typo.) A month or so after the book release I buttonholed Doug Stuber, owner and primary editor of the Heron Clan series, and peppered him with questions about the editorial process. Maybe he needed another editor; maybe he just wanted to shut me up; but he invited me to join the editor’s committee. (Squee!)  I’ve copy-edited many books, and formatted many documents, but I knew this would be the largest project I’ve ever done, and I jumped at the chance to be part of it.

The whole experience was even more satisfying and rewarding than seeing my poetry in the book. Everything was educational as well as fun, especially sitting with the other editors in selection meetings. I’ve submitted my work to quite a few poetry journals, and, of course, received far more rejections than acceptances.  Now that I see what it’s like on the other side of the process, I am much more relaxed about submitting. Poetry may be art, but publishing is still business. Don’t take it personally! After the selections were finalized and the poets notified, Doug and I got down to business on putting the book together. Lots of opportunity for personal growth!  

I had met some of the contributors before this, and I’m getting to meet more. The HC anthology series showcases a great diversity of voice. In addition to local poets, there are poets from out of state, former poet laureates, a founding member of the Beat Poetry movement, poets from South America, and young poets just starting their careers.

If you are interested in getting your own copy, please email me or leave a note in the comments. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with one of mine that is included.


I want to build a wall
thicker than my skin
but thinner than stone.

The one I have is not working.
Organic and overgrown,
I want to replace this briar.

I want a wall I can see through
so I’ll know what’s coming.
Chain link is ok. Barb wire is not.

Don’t send a knight
with a shining silver sword.
There are no dragons here.

Give me a gardener
with callused hands in worn leather gloves
and a machete to cut down these weeds.

Poetry in Plain Sight

The quest to become a published author can be difficult and arduous, and generally there is more disappointment then success. However, don’t let that stop you. The journey can be weird; there will be highs and lows. Do it anyway! Today’s post is one of those high/low publication stories, in which I appear as both the hero and the village idiot. Enjoy!

The picture accompanying today’s post is me, holding a poster of my poem, “Talk to Me!” (Full poem below.) The poster is from the Poetry in Plain Sight project which is a North Carolina initiative, launched in 2013, to bring NC poets and their poetry into NC public spaces. I’m honored that they selected my work. There are a lot of writers and poets in this state. You can’t throw a rock without hitting one. But don’t throw rocks. Especially if you’re in downtown Winston-Salem, NC. You might hit a window with a poem on it.

PIPS is run by the Winston-Salem Writers’ program in collaboration with the North Carolina Poetry Society and Press 53. Four poems are chosen monthly and displayed on posters in street-visible locations throughout arts districts and downtown areas in Winston-Salem. This year they expanded to Waynesville NC in the west and New Bern NC in the east.

I submitted in December 2017 and was notified by email in February 2018 that I would be in the March 2018 – March 2019 Poetry in Plain Sight program. I was told that my month was January 2019. The email also stated:

Details about upcoming Poetry in Plain Sight, Live! events are forthcoming. One complimentary poster copy will be given to each poet at the Live! event, or mailed after the event if you are unable to attend. There will be an opportunity to purchase additional copies.

So, I waited. And waited. And life goes goes on. Fast forward one year and I have a vague memory that I never heard from the PIPS folks. In the back of my mind I felt that I needed to do something but then the thought went away. Fortunately, after many years of being a member of the local poetic community, I finally joined the North Carolina Poetry Society. (Pro tip: Don’t wait to take advantage of resources like this organization in your local writing community.) In the NCPS February newsletter was a list of the poets appearing in W-S in February for Poetry in Plain Sight. Wait. What? Did I miss it? Yes! I missed the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to W-S (about 2 hours from where I live) to see my poem taped to a store window.

Disappointment lay upon me like the lead apron at the dentist’s office. I was also angry with myself and annoyed with the program. After a thorough search of my email I confirmed that I had never received notice of a live event, nor notice of where exactly my poem would appear. W-S is the fifth largest city in the state. Was I supposed to just drive around randomly? I will spare you the details of the email exchanges to focus on the bright and shiny end result. The poster arrived in the mail this week!

They spelled my name wrong.

I’m still going to frame it. In the meantime, here is the poem on said poster. Enjoy!

Talk to Me
Can we talk?
It’s not important
except that it is.
I want to talk to you
with speech, using sound,
and facial expression.
I want to punctuate my words
with hand gestures
instead of emojis.
Call me, anytime.
Stop by, or or we can meet.
I’m looking for conversation,
unplugged and acoustic,
live and in person.
Otherwise, the words pile up
like old paper backs
on over-flowing bookshelves.


The Business of Love


Today is February 14, Valentine’s Day. Fifty one percent of American consumers plan to celebrate this year, which is down from years past. However, those that do celebrate are spending more than they have in the past: $162 on average which is 13% up from last year. These statistics come from an annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics; and were reported on the National Retail Federation website.

What does that have to do with you? Nothing, unless you happen to be an artist of some sort, and you want your art to be enjoyed, and hopefully purchased. Love, all human emotion, is what makes great art (literature, poetry, music and more). Get good at expressing love and you will find an audience.

My writing focus for the last several years has been poetry, and I believe that no one can call themselves a poet if they have not written a dozen or so love poems. It’s just part of the job. Will they all be good? Of course not! It would be great hubris to think every phrase that falls from one’s fingers is quality. But keep writing anyway! Sooner or later, something something will work.

I am not celebrating Valentine’s today, but I am celebrating the publication of my poem, Where is Love? in a brand new poetry anthology! The graphic for this post is from the cover of the book: Epiphanies and Late Realizations of Love, edited by Claudine Nash, published by Transcendent Zero Press, available for sale on Amazon as of yesterday!

Whatever you are doing, or not doing today, I hope you find a little love and tenderness, and poetry, in unexpected places.