Wednesday, September 14, 2011

GUEST BLOGGER DINA SLEIMAN: Strategy for Beauty (and giveaway!!)

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

-- Plato/Margaret Wolfe Hungerford

You betcha, and that's exactly why I am thrilled to have guest blogger Dina Sleiman here today in Seekerville.

Julie, here, and let's face it, every woman wants to be "beautiful," right? Or, YIKES ... am the only one??? Well, every author should want to be "beautiful" too ... in his/her writing. And today's guest, Dina Sleiman, has a ton of great tips to show you how, plus a giveaway to boot.

Trust me, Dina KNOWS beautiful writing because she writes it too! You see, I had the privilege of endorsing Dina Sleiman's debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion, which I LOVED, by the way, and here's a peek at my endorsement:

A magical medieval tale of whim and whimsy, the "Dance of the Dandelion" is one woman's journey to both true love and the truth, spinning a spell that will hold you captive from the first page to the last. Strongly recommended for mature audiences, this is a noveland an authornot to be missed, and an emotional and spiritual journey that will leave you breathless.

So ... without further ado, I give you debut novelist and poet, Dina Sleiman:

Long before I became a novelist, I was a published poet. I love creating art with words, molding them like a sculptor shapes clay to form a work of beauty that stirs the soul. So when I sat down to pen my first novel, painting pretty pictures with words and creating melodious sounds came easy. As one fellow author, Christine Lindsay put it, “It was like reading light rippling across water.”

Of course in the first version of Dance of the Dandelion, my descriptions were way too long, my plot was paced all wrong, and my dialogue read like a radio script. I had a lot to learn about crafting a novel before my book reached publication.

Over time I’ve come to understand that crafting a story is like creating a framework. It’s the carpentry of the book. Imagine a couch with a wooden skeleton. Without the proper structure, the couch…or novel will quickly fall apart. Artistry is merely the decorative touch.

But oh—what a difference that decorative touch can make!

How many of us purchase couches based on the sturdiness of a frame we can’t even see? No, we choose based on the colors, shapes, patterns, and textures. The appeal to our senses. Do we want novels that are merely functional or novels that are pure bliss? Artistry in writing can make the difference between a book people read once and enjoy, and a book people remember for a lifetime.

Even more importantly, artistry is a significant way that we as Christians can reach out to today’s postmodern world. Our current generation raised on television and video games craves imagery and beauty. Ever wonder why passing out tracts has been replaced with flash mob praise dances? People today need to see the beauty of God, and through that beauty find relationship with him.

So today I’d like to share some poetic secrets to help you heighten the level of beauty in your novels. Poetry gives careful attention to each word’s sounds, connotations, and multiple meanings. It calls for exquisite crafting of every line to find the ultimate potential hidden within the words. These are great skills for any writer to possess, and they go a long way in strengthening that elusive quality called voice.

1) Imagery – All writers know that it’s important to appeal to the senses in our novels.

However, what if we take this one step further? Just like it’s important in life to stop from our busy schedules and enjoy a drop of rain on a pink, silken rose petal or the fluttering journey of a butterfly dancing on the breeze, take time in your writing to explore the beauty of the setting. Give thought to those special moments when you can pause from the busyness of your story and allow your characters to explore the wonder of the world around them.

In an action-packed thriller novel, a panoramic sunset can instill hope and create a memorable moment. In a science fiction story, the alien landscape might provide a sensory feast. In a work of speculative fiction, a bizarre occurrence can create a sense of beauty through the perception of the point of view character as they draw insight from often overlooked details.

2) Symbol – Symbol is an extension of imagery. When an image becomes larger than itself and begins to take on universal significance, you might have a symbol. As Christians we should be well-accustomed to symbols. The Bible is full of them. The cross, the dove, the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit. The river of life, the lion, the lamb, the lily of the valley. Since symbols should be organic and not tacked on, look for opportunities in your fiction to develop symbols through images already in place.

For example, I noticed that bees showed up several times in my novel. With a few observations in the internal monologue, the bee took on greater significance and became a symbol for how the character viewed her circumstances. Animals, flowers, trees, colors, mementos, gifts, jewels, clothing, and homes are just some of the objects that make for great symbols in addition to action oriented symbols like sports and the arts.

3) Metaphor and Simile – I’ve heard writers say that metaphor and simile are “against the rules” of good novel writing, but I don’t buy it. Metaphor and simile are simply quick versions of symbolism. While it’s all too easy to use trite or cliché metaphors and similes, these can also provide a powerful way to evoke images in your writing through comparison. When they are unique and creative, they amplify the power of your writing. I heard a great example on the radio a few minutes ago. “You’re gonna catch a cold from the ice down in your soul.” Now instead of merely knowing the guy is “cold-hearted,” I can actually feel the cold and the pain it will cause through the power of metaphor.

4) Sound – True poetry does not focus on rhyming like Dr. Seuss, but rather on the beauty of sound. Rhyming means matching sounds. There are many ways to do this. You can match beginning sounds (alliteration), middle sounds (consonance, assonance), or ending sounds. You can match perfectly or you can slant your rhyme. You can hide matching sounds in the middle of sentences to create a lovely feel without being obvious. Try choosing your sounds based on the tone or mood you wish to create. Here’s an example. “Ocean breezes speak to me with whispering words of love.” See how the repeated “s” sounds and soft consonants create a breeze like effect. Hard, sharp words create an intense staccato sound. Experiment with sound. Read your writing out loud and see what you can create.

5) Rhythm – Another important element of sound is rhythm. I love to play with rhythm in my writing. In my historical novel, I use iambic rhythms, which bring to mind Shakespeare and King James. The rich, rocking meter creates a classical feel. Often, I lull you into a rhythm and snap you out of it to bring attention to a specific detail. In my contemporary novel, I use crisper rhythms and shorter sentences. I have the most fun with rhythm in my narrative nonfiction. I can use rhythm in my own voice to create emotion and give you a sense of rambling or chatting. Then switch to a feel of smacking you. Quick, hard hitting points. Fun, fun, fun.

If you recall your high school English classes, you might remember that there are iambs and trochees, dactyls and anapests, all in various metered feet. And most of you are probably experiencing traumatic flashbacks right about now. Don’t worry about all of that. My favorite rhythms are the natural ones used by poets like Langston Hughes to create the sounds of music. Let the words guide you. Follow the flow and let it lead the way.

I hope you enjoyed this brief foray into the world of poetry, and I hope it has given you some new ideas about how to instill beauty in your writing. But as the famous poet John Keats once wrote, Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all.” So above all else, be true to your own style, your own voice, and the unique calling God has placed upon your heart. Let his truth and beauty shine through your words, and you can never go wrong.

How do you instill beauty in your writing? Can you share a favorite line of poetry with us? Maybe a beautiful passage from your own writing or a book you love? Whose writing do you think embodies beauty? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of my novel, Dance of the Dandelion.

Dina's Bio: Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her first novel, Dance of the Dandelion, will release with Whitefire Publishing in 2011. Dina is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at Dina Sleiman's website


KC Frantzen said...

Hey Dina,

Artistry in writing can make the difference between a book people read once and enjoy, and a book people remember for a lifetime.

Even more importantly, artistry is a significant way that we as Christians can reach out to today’s postmodern world.

AMEN!!!!!! and Amen. Splendid post. Thank you.

Well - I HAD a "lovely piece of prose" as my writing coach said, but for my audience (middle grade) it had to go. Sigh.

I'm still enjoying the breeze you wrote. :)

Plugging in the coffee. And starting the hot water for tea!

may at maythek9spy dot com

Carla Olson Gade said...

There is so much to think about here. Thank you for the excellent tips of how to instill beauty into our writing!

Virginia said...

I love poetry, modern all the way back to Dante... But I couldn't write a poem to save my life! Poets are definitely born, not made. I hope that I've learned to write as if I at least appreciate poetry, even if I could never come with it all on my own.
Poets I love are Gerard Manley Hopkins, Edna St. Vincent Millay, William Blake, Charles Lamb, e.e. cummings and Emily Bronte.
Let's go for some Hopkins, he's lovely to read out loud! But he's not Seuss, made for speed.

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light's delay.


Julie Lessman said...


KC ... Thanks for plugging in the coffee and tea, my friend!! And along with it, we have a BEAUTIFUL breakfast torte with potatoes, onion, cheese and ham that I actually make and is wonderful, a fruit bowl, mini peach, cheese or blueberry danish, cinnamon crumb coffee cake and maple-cured bacon. As always, hazelnut coffee is on the sideboard with Southern pecan and an assortment of teas. Dig in!


Julie Lessman said...

CARLA are SO right ... this is one of the posts that needs to applied like a beauty mask to our writing till it firms it up and gives it a beautiful glow!


Julie Lessman said...

VIRGINIA ... THANK YOU for the peek at Hopkins!!! We can always use the culture!! I was an e.e. cummings gal myself and HUGE on poetry of my own, which, I truly believe has been a help to me in my writing. It's taught me rhythm and flow to a degree that I love to incorporate into my novels.

Good luck in the contest, my friend!


Helen W said...

Thanks Dina so much for tips and expertise :) You've given me a lot to consider in my writing. I've never been one to even think of writing beautifully, let alone do it.

The sky was was an unending blue - perfect and unblemished. Not a cloud in sight invaded the exclusive playground of the radiant and imposing summer sun. Only crisp white cockatoos dared to paint the sky as they sailed overhead, their yellow crests reflecting the brilliance of their illuminator.

Well, I'm not sure that paints a beautiful picture. I'm glad you can't see my face, it's pink with embarrassment. Imagery is not my strong point!

"Dance of the Dandelion" sounds like a wonderful read, and if the cover is anything to go by - sounds beautiful too!


Debra E. Marvin said...

A quick visit before I run off to work. Sigh. Dance of the Dandelions is a literary delight unlike any style or genre I read. I've also read Dina's nonfiction

Dina taught an adult Ed writing course last year and shared a lot of the lessons on her website. Correct me Dina, but that is a great resource for Seeker readers who want to dive in deeper.

Enjoy your day Hugs to Julie and Dina

Dina Sleiman said...

Wow! I knew your Seekerville ladies were hard core, but I'm waking up to 8 comments at 6:20 am EST. Looks like I have an exciting and busy day ahead of me. LOL.

Dina Sleiman said...

KC, I actually wrote that breeze line in a poem back in college like (cough, cough) about twenty years ago. I don't even know if I have the poem anymore, but that sentence has always stuck with me. I remember the poem was comparing the ocean to a lover.

I'll grab some coffee in a few minutes here too. Need to see my highschoolers safely out the door.

Dina Sleiman said...

Thank you, Carla. Glad you enjoyed it.

Jessica Nelson said...

Your title and cover are gorgous. I love them!
Thank you for this post. I've had a creative writing class and my teacher was a poet, so we focused on those craft things and it really helped my writing, I think. It at least helped strengthen my perspective on how to describe things. I hope I get a chance to read your book. :-)

Dina Sleiman said...

Virginia, sigh, so beautiful. Thanks for sharing those lovely lines with us.

I had an e.e. cummings poem read at my wedding.

Poets are born, not made? Hmm. Maybe. Some of those skills, especially rhythm, seem to be instinctual, but I've a good bit of success in teaching students to love poetry and to grow much better at writing it.

And also, funny story, when I was reading Paradise Lost in college, I started dreaming in iambic pentameter. Which makes me pretty certain that immersing yourself in poetry will help you be able to write it.

I can literally write in iambic pentameter in my sleep now. LOL

Dina Sleiman said...

OMG, Julie!!! Are you trying to make sure I'm fat before the conference next week? I have a cocktail dress to fit into you know ;) I realize these are cybercalories, but just thinking about all that food...

Love the thought of a beauty mask. And that reminds me, I actually do a full "beauty" edit on my manuscripts. One read through where that's all a pay attention to.

Dina Sleiman said...

As I mentioned, I love e.e. cummings too. Not so much his bizarre poems. But he has the most beautiful natural rhythms to his writing.

Dina Sleiman said...

Helen, that was truly gorgeous.

Tip: for some reason, rhythm or tone probably, I think you should remove the word "exclusive." The whole thing flows better without it.

Now the cockatoos painting the sky...sigh...beautiful.

Dina Sleiman said...

Oh, so true. Thanks for the reminder, Deb. I have a link on my website called "Writing Course." It's called "The Inspiration and the Perspiration," and it teaches you the whole writing process from receiving inspiration from the Holy Spirit through all the steps of writing, revising, editing, and even preparing for publication. It's wonderful for beginners and helpful for intermediate writers to spot the holes in their writing process.

I actually go in more detail here about beauty, though.

Dina Sleiman said...

Jessica, the cover model is actually my daughter :) That was one of the really neat things about publishing with a small company. I hope you get a chance to read my book too. And thanks for supporting my theory of poetic technique strengthening our writing.

Glynna Kaye said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Dina! I love a poetic turn of a phrase in a book. Something that vividly paints a picture for a reader and evokes emotion. Thank you for the reminder that we can weave those in to our prose without bringing our story to a grinding halt.

Latayne C Scott said...

Dina, your cover alone makes me want to read your book. Thank you, too, for the plug for poetry. As "the stepchild of the arts," it needs all the good press it can get!

Dina Sleiman said...

Glynna, yes the secret is to just pepper them in at the right times. For example, dialogue is not the time to wax poetic. Or an intense action scene.

In my first version of my novel, I wrote the prologue completely like a prose poem. Pages and page of the drivel. Great poetry, horrible fiction. LOL.

Internal monologue and description are great places to instill those beautiful passages.

Dina Sleiman said...

Latayne, thanks for hopping over to say hi. Latayne has some beautiful poetry posted on Novel Matters today, by the way ladies. Coincidence???

"Stepchild of the arts." So sad. It wasn't always that way. I've joined Donn Taylor's mission to revive poetry in our culture. I was so excited that Julie picked this topic from the list I gave her.

Five years ago when I decided to get serious about writing, I started by picking back up a collection of poetry I'd written. God clearly said, no. Use your fiction to open doors for your poetry. I now weave poetry into all my novels.

And I used that collection of poems as a springboard for an Anne Lamott/Donal Miller style poetic memoir. That one might be published next year some time.

Latayne C Scott said...

Dina, don't give up hope of integrating poetry into CBA books, even non-fiction. Some years ago Zondervan published my NF about crisis and allowed me to put poems in it. It was later re-published by Howard Publishing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Welcome to Seekerville Dina, What a wonderful and poetic post. I love poetry. I always write a poem for my book before I start. I guess it gets the creative part going. smile

Like LaTayne, I love your cover. How exciting that it is your daughter. I have photos of family in my children's books and it is soooooo special. You will always treasure that. Very beautiful and poetic.

Julie, the breakfast is yummy.

Dina Sleiman said...

Latayne, yes, I think publishers are open to including poetry, just not to doing a book that's exclusively poems. I've enjoyed weaving poetry into other genres and hope it will open doors for poetry in CBA.

Dina Sleiman said...

Thanks, Sandra. I start all my books with poems so far. Have you ever included your poems in the actual book?

Missy Tippens said...

Dina, welcome!! And thanks for such a beautiful post. It's inspired me to sit down and look at my words, to see if I can make them more beautiful.

Congrats on your new release!!

Dina Sleiman said...

Thanks, Missy. Happy to have inspired you :)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Yes, the mainstream novels I published in the eighties all have poems at the beginning. Like a prologue. I was really fortunate that the publisher (Warner) let me do that. The smaller contemporaries aren't interested. sigh.

Missy Tippens said...

I also meant to say that Julie Lessman books make me think of poetry!

Kirsten Arnold said...


I loved this post. It was a great example of beautiful writing in itself. I hate to sound like a complete heretic here today, but poetry was never something I enjoyed until in college I read PARADISE LOST. My professor was someone who was able to shine the proverbial light from heaven on the lines and I could understand its beauty. By the end of the semester he asked if I’d consider a double major in English Literature. Now, I can’t say the first thing I turn to is a book of poetry, but the ebb and flow of words had more meaning and depth after that course.

After I started writing fiction the importance of serving a feast instead of appetizers really came to life.

I look forward to reading DANCE OF THE DANDELION.


Ruth and Lacey said...

Dina, welcome to Seekerville! Lovely website, and congrats on your debut novel. We love first sale stories here in Seekerville!

Lyrical prose...

A tricky ridgepole to navigate in today's quick-paced world. Sometimes the touch of old-world grace is a welcome refuge.

Best of luck with this, and I hope we see you in St. Louis! Can't wait... Four days of coffee... Seekers... Seekervillagers... chocolate....

I really need to get my priorities in line, obviously! ;)

See you there, young lady!

Dina Sleiman said...

Sandra--very cool about your mainstream novels including the poems.

WhiteFire included all my poetry in Dance of the Dandelion, including a poem to open the book. And the sequel also has a good many poems. My narrative nonfiction is based on poems, so those won't be going anywhere. I also have a contemporary series a few CBA houses are looking at right now. So, it's yet to be seen if I'll get to keep the poems in those books.

Dina Sleiman said...

Missy, Julie's writing is indeed lovely.

Dina Sleiman said...

I asked whose writing we found beautiful. My top picks:

Lisa Samson
Julie Klassen
Tosca Lee (espeically Havah, sigh)
Steven James (his nonfiction, although he manages to sneak some surprisingly beautiful moments into his gory thriller novels)

Dina Sleiman said...

Kirsten, thanks for picking up on the beauty in the post itself ;) I actually worked at that.

As for reading poetry, the secret is to slow down. You don't just plow through poetry like you plow through fiction. You read one poem at a time and read it through several times to pick up on meaning in various levels of the poem: the sounds, the images, the look on the page, and the word choices.

Dina Sleiman said...

Ruth, I took me a while, but I did finally figure out that the secret to writing lyrical prose is to let it enrich the book without taking it over. Story and readability must come first.

susiefinkbeiner said...

Great and thoughtful post, Dina! I've always admired poets. I love that I can incorporate poetry into my stories and novels. It's exciting when the grungy ugliness can be turned into something that is beautiful. Much the same as what God does for us!


Dina Sleiman said...

"Grungy ugliness being turned into something beautiful." That's perfect, Susie, and perfectly fits the story you posted on your blog today. There was something very Flannery O'Connor about it.

Julie Lessman said...

DINA SAID: "I started dreaming in iambic pentameter."

My first laugh of the morning, sweetie -- THANK YOU!!

You are too cute!!


Julie Lessman said...

Aw, MISSY, thank you for that sweet comment!! I don't do the "poetic" thing a lot in my books, but periodically a paragraph will pop out that sounds like a poem to me, whether several of the lines rhyme or the flow is beautiful or whatever. Wish I did it more ...


Dina Sleiman said...

Julie, I'm totally serious about the iambic pentameter thing. The providential thing was that I was taking a graduate poetry writing class at the same time. I woke up in the middle of the night and realize I was dreaming in iambic pentameter and rushed to the office to write it down.

To this day, it's super easy for me to write in iambs. I have a poem on my blog, Alight in the Dance, that's written in iambic pentameter. It's a villanelle. That poem has a funny story too, involving the superbowl and a near concussion.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Ooohhh, great advice! I can see why you're a poet :-)

Good luck & God's blessings.

PatriciaW said...

Medieval tales aren't what I usually reach for, but I've heard such good things about this book. Thanks for a thought-provoking post. I love when I read a book of beautiful words.

Jan Drexler said...

What a wonderful reminder to make our writing beautiful!

I started out in poetry - long ago in college I even won a couple contests - but prose has been the medium that captures my imagination. The challenge is always to get the poetic feeling into my prose, and this post has inspired me!

Since I'm still learning (I think I'll be saying that twenty years from now), I'm caught up in getting the skeleton of my couch the way I want it. I just hope others see the decorative touch I envision!

I keep reminding myself that it's like learning how to drive (something we're going through with our younger sons right now). At first there are so many details to remember that style is non-existent. But as the mechanics become automatic, then the motion becomes fluid and the beauty can shine through.

Thanks for breakfast, Julie! It looks scrumptious!

Dina Sleiman said...

Aww, thanks Pam.

Dina Sleiman said...

Patricia, it's really a coming of age story. Dandelion faces so many issues that we still deal with today. The main themes of the book are the true meaning of love, how to find intimacy with Christ, and how to find freedom and healing in that intimacy. I don't think you have to like medievals to enjoy my book. There's something for everyone.

Dina Sleiman said...

Jan, I agree. Writing a novel is such a balancing act. We have to keep so many plates spinning. No wonder it takes so long to get published. At this point I definitely work on plot and story first. Some of the beauty stuff sneaks in their on its own out of habit. Later I go back and strengthen those parts.

Mary Connealy said...

When you talk about rhythm, what comes to mind is that there is a rhythm to comedy. And it's an important rhythm, the set up, the jokes, the back and forth. And it takes a lot of work to get a true comic scene right and I never ever feel like I've done it as well as I should, but I keep trying.

Roseanna White said...

Beautiful post. I love to use these techniques too (though I rarely stop to think about the names for them, LOL). Hence why Dina and I have a mutual admiration society, I suppose. ;-)

And Gerard Manley Hopkins = awesomest poet in my book! Reading them aloud is just a feast. =)

Naomi Rawlings said...

I hear iambic pentameter, and I want to RUN. However, I totally get what Mary says about there being a rhythm to comedy.

Thanks for the tips, Dina. :-)

CaraG said...

Artistry in words--what a lovely concept to hold close and carry into one's work.

Along with Langston Hughes, I also enjoy the vivid pictures created by poet William Carlos Williams. E. B. White is another master of words whose essays I reread with joy.

Thank you for the poet's take on crafting a novel.

Congratualations, too, on your successes.

Please enter my name in the giveaway drawing.


I'd also like to be entered in the drawing for the first five pages critique.

Dina Sleiman said...

Mary, that is so true. There is a real art to comedy writing as well. Timing is everything. And I don't think comic writing and artistic writing needs to be an either/or situation. Some of the best writers are great at both.

I still need to read one of your books, but I've heard again and again how hysterical they are. So you must be doing something right.

Dina Sleiman said...

Hi, Roseanna! She's my publisher and critique partner if you all didn't know that. Yes, we're quite a pitiful little mutual admiration society when it comes to critiquing, but she fixes my commas, and I make her slow down when she's rushing to finish.

All of our WhiteFire novelists, Roseanna, Christine Lindsay, and now Sandi Rog, are amazingly beautiful writers. I hope that's something we will come to be known for.

Dina Sleiman said...

Ha ha, Naomi. It's really just about how it sounds when you read it out loud. Some writers don't think of rhythm at all, but because they vary their sentence structure and pay attention to word choice, they still end up with lovely sounds. Your ear will tell you if it's right or wrong.

Dina Sleiman said...

Thanks, Cara. I love those writers as well. I don't read as much poetry as I should, but I always enjoy it when it comes along.

Myra Johnson said...

Dina, what a thoughtful and inspiring post! So glad you could join us in Seekerville today!

I certainly don't know all the technical terms (English class was a looooooong time ago!), so any rhythm and artistry that comes through in my writing is instinctual. I can usually sense when a word or phrase feels right, and when it doesn't.

The most important thing to me is that artistry in writing is not obvious. If it causes the reader to jump out of the story and think, "Wow! That was a really good turn of phrase!", then it's overdone.

But if the language, symbolism, etc., draws you deeper into the scene, making everything seem even more real and alive, then the author has succeeded.

Dina Sleiman said...

Excellent point, Myra. Thanks for adding that. In the early days I definitely went too far with the artistry. Hopefully I have the right balance now. You all will just have to read my book and let me know ;)

Mary Connealy said...

Has anyone read Dean Coontz? I think his writing rises to the level of poetry at times. He's truly a beautiful writer.

HOWEVER! Do NOT read Velocity.
Write that down. Too scary.
I'm not kidding.
I'm no wimp and that book gave me NIGHTMARES. Horrible terrifying graphic violence, in between the poetry of course.

Unless you like that kind of thing of course. But if you want to see his lyrical style go for Odd Thomas. Also scary but not nightmare scary.

Mary Connealy said...

Dean Koontz. Duh, I can at least spell his name right while I'm dissing the poor man.

Christine Lindsay said...

Wonderful article, Dina. But then I know your writing from before we were first published with WhiteFire. Great debut novel.

Dina Sleiman said...

Mary, thanks for the recommendation. And the warning. LOL. Of course I've heard of him, but now I'll definitely check him out.

Dina Sleiman said...

Christine, I feel like having you as a critique partner has strengthened my writing so much. I'm very grateful that I found you.

Virginia said...

Where is Vince? We need some Vince poetry!

Dina Sleiman said...

I take it Vince is a poet who hangs out with the Seekers?

Casey said...

What a great post!

It's funny, because I actually do not like poetry and yet I have had contest judges say my writing reads like poetry. Hmmm. ;-) I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but definately something to keep in mind! :)

I'm with you Dina on the metaphor and simile. I LOVE those, but my crit partners do warn me I do too many of them. They are right. ;-)

Thanks for the awesome post!

Dina Sleiman said...

Casey, I think the word "musical" fits as well as "poetic" to great writing. And everyone loves music. Very true, though, you don't want to get too heavy handed with the metaphors and similes. Sprinkle them lightly and when they are truly effective.

Kimberli Buffaloe said...

Dina, it was a pleasure to meet you during an appointment at the Blue Ridge conference. If I'd known you write so beautifully, I would have asked you for a writing sample instead of showing you mine. Thank you for your direction then, and for sharing this. I look forward to reading your novel.

Totally off topic...if you knew Mary Proctor personally, her service was sweet and uplifting. I'm saddened that she and her words are lost to us now, but she's in the presence of the Word of Life.

Dina Sleiman said...

Thanks, Kimberli.

I didn't know Mary personally, but we both critiqued for Roseanna White, so I corresponded with her a few times. She seemed like such a wise lady. Thanks for sharing about her service.

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

What beautiful imagery your post brought to mind, Dina!I love the ocean poem!
One of my favorite writers is L.M. Montgomery, best known for Anne of Green Gables. All of her novels capture her love of Prince Edward Island, and what poetry I've read of hers is so lyrical and expressive. While she's often relegated to children's literature, I read her novels again and again, just to experience the beauty of her prose. I highly recommend Anne of the Island, which has one of my favorite closing lines:
"Then they walked home together in the dusk, crowned king and queen in the bridal realm of love, along winding paths fringed with the sweetest flowers that ever bloomed, and over haunted meadows where winds of hope and memory blew."
Your book sounds wonderful and I'd love the chance to read it.


Dina Sleiman said...

By the way, for everyone, the ebook version of my novel is super cheap. Only $3 - $4. And the print version is available for pre-order for its release in a few weeks. It's 32% off at I decided Barnes and Noble is running a "we didn't bother to add your cover image" special. Don't know how long it will last. Amazon also Dance of the Dandelion, but for full price. And it will be ready in time for the bookstore at the ACFW Conference.

Dina Sleiman said...

Oh, Stephanie, thanks for that gorgeous passage. I've been doing a lot of sighing today.

Missy Tippens said...

Julie, it's not something you do intentionally. It's just the flow of your words. Feels poetic to me. And rich.

Dina, I look forward to reading your book! I'm sure I'll love it.

Dina Sleiman said...

Awesome, Missy. Of course I think everyone will love it, but I might be a tab biased. LOL. I will say that when I wrote it I was hoping to appeal to both romance readers and a more literary audience at the same time. So there's lots of action and excitement in there too.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ah, meters. Beats. Rhythm. I don't get how music is made. I've tried to learn it, but that's how I feel about good writing. It should dance like music. That if the rhythm is wrong, you need to fix. Tweak. Polish. Shine.

Slice. Dice. Parse.

But I like to combine it with conversational English so that it's not too lyrical. For today's reader, too much lyricism might get the book tossed across the room. Not enough makes 'em wonder who on the face of God's green Earth contracted the book. So, balance.

Emily Dickinson... Robert Frost... Yes, Langston Hughes, such a great story right there, amazing.

I love a cadence done right. And Mary, yes, comedic timing has to be right or it sounds stilted and pretend and unfunny. Have I mentioned today how much I love Out of Control?

I'm dropping off Snickerdoodles... Some are almond crusted. Some frosted with sprinkles... some are just traditional dusted with cinnamon and sugar. Perfect with tea or coffee.

Dina Sleiman said...

Well, there goes that hour long bike ride I snuck in between answering comments. This blog is decidedly not good for my waistline. But thanks for sharing all your awesome thoughts on this subject, Ruth. I'll remember, "Slice. Dice. Parse."

Kimberli Buffaloe said...

Thanks, Dina. I just popped over to Amazon and purchased Dance for $3.03 (I keep wondering how they settled on the three cents.) So feel free to remove my name from the drawing.

Dina Sleiman said...

Aww, thanks Kimberli. It's almost pathetic how happy it makes me when I know people buy my book. I really do hope you love it, and it's well worth all 303 cents ;)

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Dina! Your post inspired me to dig deeper to write beautiful words. Thank you!

Congratulations on your debut! I love the title and cover of Dance of the Dandelion! I have added it to my TBR list.

Will you be at ACFW?


Barbara Early said...

Hopping over to say, Hi Dina! And a beautiful post it is.

Here's where my engineer brain is going to hamper me. I get the structure of poetry, but am far from reaching the artistry and imagery of poetry. Most of my poems have been either humorous or utilitarian.

But having read Dina's book, I can testify that it does add a literary quality to her fiction.

Dina Sleiman said...

I will, Janet. I look forward to meeting many of you ladies there.

And since I mentioned this about a bazillion comments ago, the young woman dancing on the cover of my novel is my daughter. I was so happy that WhiteFire let me use her for the book. It makes it extra special for me.

Dina Sleiman said...

Barbara, I'm sure that for your cozy mysteries comedic timing is the most important concern. Mary Connealy brought out that aspect. I look forward to reading your debut novella.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Dina, loved the post.

Can't wait to read Dance of the Dandelions. :)

Anita Mae.

Carrie Fancett Pagels said...

Dina, so great to see you here! I saw the link on HisWriters and followed it over. I loved reading your book and am so glad to see how God is bringing all things together for your good in your writing process! Blessings!

Julie Lessman said...

DINA!!! WOW, great job fielding comments, my friend -- wish all guest bloggers were as diligent as you!!

And do believe I would like to hear the story of the Super Bowl and a concussion ... :)


Dina Sleiman said...

Well, whatcha waitin' for Anita ;) Just kidding. Roseanna got the first print copy yesterday, so I'm sure the influencer copies will be mailed out soon.

Julie Lessman said...

MISSY ... you are honestly gonna make me cry, sweetie, with your sweet comments -- THANK YOU!!

I actually feel the same way about your prose as well ... was thinking that when I was reading A Family for Faith recently, how much I loved the flow of your words -- NO JOKE!!!


Dina Sleiman said...

Julie, here's a link to the poem and the story

It's been a busy, busy day. Don't know how you Seekerville ladies get any writing done. LOL.

Kimberli Buffaloe said...

It's almost pathetic how happy it makes me when I know people buy my book.

That's okay. I feel really pathetic gushing on like this (we're talking serious goober, so please forgive me) but this post is playing my favorite song. I'm sure I'll love the book, and after soaking in the story, I'll likely dissect it to expand on today's lesson.

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

After reading your post Dina It makes me want to read your book and see your expertise in action!
Congratulations on your debut!

Eva Maria Hamilton at gmail dot com

Michelle Sutton said...

Your writing is beautiful and so are you! Thanks for sharing this!

Dina Sleiman said...

Kimberli, sounds awesome. We can be pathetic together. LOL. I also have a free writing course on my website that you might enjoy. Feel free to contact me if you want to chat more.

Faye said...

That is so cool. I love it when a book has a touch of poetic flare to it :) The tips were great I liked the one about the beauty of the sound.

crazi.swans at gmail dot com

Dina Sleiman said...

Thanks, Eva Marie. I sure hope it lives up to your expectations :)

Dina Sleiman said...

Hi, Michelle. You definitely get my most faithful fan award. I think Michelle is responsible for selling more of my books than I have. I really appreciate you. Hugs.

Dina Sleiman said...

Thanks, Faye. I know not everyone notices sound in novels, but I like to think they subconsciously pick up on it anyway. When editing this novel, I had a lot of fun reading it out loud to myself with a British accent.

Missy Tippens said...

Well, let me tell y'all to just skip downloading the sample of Dina's story. You'll be going back a half hour later and buying the whole thing. So save yourself a step. LOL

I'm loving the book, Dina! Can't stop reading. :)

Dina Sleiman said...

Yay!!! Thanks, Missy. Yes, I should mention that there's a free sample on amazon that's like 5 chapters long. Great chance to see my writing in action.

Susanne Dietze said...

Gorgeous post, Dina. I'm inspired to look for beauty around me today (and to infuse more into my writing). Thanks! And thanks to Seekerville for hosting Dina!

Dina Sleiman said...

Your writing always has a lovely quality to it Susanne. Thanks for stopping by.

Suzie Johnson said...

Dian, this is lovely, as is your writing. You're really inspired me today. It will be fun to see if I can apply this to my WIP.

Dina Sleiman said...

Go for it, Suzie!

Patty Wysong said...

Some books I've enjoyed the author's way with words far more than the actual storyline. Some sentences I'd reread simply to savor them. =]

Thanks for the pointers.

Dina Sleiman said...

So true, Patty. I always feel that way when I read Lisa Samson. Of course her books have very powerful messages too. And there's a secular author, Sheri Reynolds, that I sometimes pull out just to be inspired by the beauty of a little passage here or there.

Debra E. Marvin said...

Yikes. Dina. What a day! I hope this means many new readers for Dandelion!

Any snickerdoodles left? Tonight might be the night I finish Dandelion. Can you believe I read part of it on my lunch hour yesterday? The Sea Captain part. I hope my face wasn't giving anything away...
(I love kindle for Mac, but reading on an IPOD is not the most pleasant experience. My thumb gets tired of scrolling and scrolling...)

Pepper said...

Oh Dina,
SO GLAD to see you here.
what a wonderful post, beautifully written and conveyed.

Btw, for those of you who do not know her, Dina is an excellent teacher and encourager. We met (what was it Dina) 3 years ago at BRMCWC and just in our first visit I not only learned of her passion and creative thinking, but her certainty about writing what she loved.

I'm thrilled to see all the fabulous reviews for Dance of the Dandelions.

I think Laura Frantz is a poetic writer - she weaves descriptives, sound, and senses with the artistry of a string quartet

Thanks so much for sharing, Dina

Pepper said...

My poetic nature runs from iambic to Suessical.

Better check to make sure I've chosen the right style for the appropriate fiction. ;-)

Dina Sleiman said...

Seriously, Deb, it's been an awesome day. And I saved some snickerdoodles just for you :) sexy Italian sea captain. Temptation personified. Did I mention this book is on the edgy side for Christian fiction? Dandelion goes through a series of relationships, each representing different definitions of love. Lucio Bartello represents passion and desire. Nuff said.

Dina Sleiman said...

Laura Frantz is a great one!!! Also Siri Mitchell and Ginger Garret in addition to my earlier list.

Pepper, since I'm guessing your books have a lot of humor, Seues should work just fine :)

Will you be at ACFW next week? I love hanging out with you, although I'm not sure we behave that well. LOL.

Pepper said...

Behave? Oh dear, is that a prerequisite to going??!! ;-)

I plan to be there with a BIG smile and hug for you, Dina.

Will Dance of the Dandelion be in the bookstore?

Dina Sleiman said...

Yes, Dance of the Dandelion will be in the bookstore. But only four copies (what on earth are they thinking ;)

However, my publisher just got the proof today and there was an error in the layout on one page. They're going to go ahead and print just a handful like that for conference. There aren't any words missing, just isn't perfect yet. It will be all polished and ready for the official October 1st release.

Jackie S. said...

Great interview....enjoyed it. I would love to be entered for Dina's book.....sounds fantastic.

Dina Sleiman said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Jackie.

Cara Lynn James said...

A belated welcome to Seekerville, Dina! I love artistry in writing, but I'm afraid my writing is less poetic than concrete. I guess we have to improve our own style, even if it's not the way we'd really wish to write!

Keli Gwyn said...

A wonderful post, Dina. I love when I discover an author who uses words masterfully and evokes images and feelings out of the ordinary. One of my newest agency mates, Wendy Miller, does this. Her outside-the-envelope style of writing, which is evident on her blog, Thoughts That Move, amazes me all the time. What a gift and an inspiration to those like me, who aren't as poetic by nature.

Dina Sleiman said...

I haven't had the pleasure of reading one of your books, Cara, but as I said at the end, we each need to be true to our own voice and our own calling. That's the most important thing.

Dina Sleiman said...

I'll have to keep an eye out for Wendy. Thanks for mentioning her, Keli.

Audra Harders said...

Dina, you even have a poetic style when talking craft.

I love the concept of pausing our characters so they can experience the world we've created for them. Much as we should ourselves enjoy the world God created for us.

Your examples of rhyme and rhythm are extraordinary. I'm so thankful Julie invited you to Seekerville today, Dina. This post is a keeper supreme!

Niki Turner said...

I love the analogy about the couch! It's so EASY for me to add the cushions and the upholstery, but the framework? I constantly second guess myself!

Debby Giusti said...

Dina, I'm arriving late! Loved your post! Thanks so much for sharing your info with Seekerville.

If Missy says your book is a Must Read, I listen. Cover is beautiful. Your writing is as well.

See you at ACFW!

Dina Sleiman said...

Aww, thanks, Audra. I really did try to toss in a dash of poetry into the post itself, so I'm glad you noticed and enjoyed it.

Helen W said...

Thanks for the feedback Dina, you're so right about "exclusive". I can see that now. I guess I should get in the habit of reading things back outloud.

Dina Sleiman said...

Niki, at some point the couch analogy is how I started thinking about writing. Probably had something to do with Angela Hunt's plot skeleton. Anyway, it hit me at some point that I was too focused on decorating. The good thing about that is that it's much easier to learn the craft side of writing. And now, I think I'm actually stronger at plot than some writers who just do it naturally because I really had to dissect it and figure it out.

Dina Sleiman said...

Thanks, Debbie. And yes, I think everyone should heed Missy's fine advice ;)

Dina Sleiman said...

Glad to help, Helen.

Natalie Monk said...

I love your cover, Dina!

I'm sorry to say, I've never been great at writing poetry and symbolism. It's something I need to work at.

A couple of poems that pleasantly remain in my memory are The Lady of the Lake and Lochinvar. Love those medieval stories. Yours looks like it will be every bit as good!

Cindy W. said...

I needed your post. Quite enlightening. Thank you.

I too write poetry. A lot of Haiku. The first poem I ever remember writing has stayed with me through the's part of me.

When all is gone, and nothings left,
I'll hold right here deep in my breast,
A special place I call my own,
Where ancient seeds of Love were sown.

It took me years to understand that the ancient seeds of Love was referring to God's love.

A bright crimson rose
Reaches up towards the sun
Then withers and dies.

Have a blessed day!
Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.


Dina Sleiman said...

Natalie, speaking of medieval poems, my very, very favorite poetry is by the medieval saints like Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi, Hildegard von Bingen, and Catherine of Sienna. I modeled most of the poems in my book after those. They are very personal love poems to God with no real rhyme of rhythm, just exquisite images and emotion. There are also similar poems by Muslim writers of that time, and so I have one poem coming back from the crusades as well. It's really the beauty of this poetry that draws my main character to a personal relationship with God.

Dina Sleiman said...

Gorgeous poetry, Cindy. Thank you for sharing them. Ladies, she uses meter in both of these. Iambic tetrameter in the first and syllabics in the second. Take note of the different tones these create.

For Cindy and those who write poetry, just remember the big caveat for the day: poetic moments should be sprinkled lightly and not stop the flow of your story. The more literary your genre, the more you can get away with.

But I've seen writers like Laurie Alice Eakes, Ruth Axtell Morren, and Louise M. Gouge incorporate some beautiful writing even into category romance.

Dina Sleiman said...

Looks like we're winding down. I just want to say thanks for having me and invite everyone to friend me on facebook, goodreads, and Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers. I'm pretty active on all those sites. You can also email me if you'd like to be on my mailing list. dina sleiman at gmail dot ocm.

Dina Sleiman said...

Yeah, obviously that's .com not .ocm. dina sleiman at gmail dot com :)

Janet Kerr said...

I would like to share the beautiful opening of the book "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand." by Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew was still upset about the phone call from his brother's wife and so he answered the doorbell without thinking. On the damp bricks of the path stood Mrs. Ali from the village shop. She gave only the faintest of starts, the merest arch of an eyebrow. A quick rush of embarrassment flooded to the Major's cheeks and he smoothed helplessly at the lap of his crimson, clematis-covered housecoat with hands that felt like spades.


Dina Sleiman said...

Nice, thank you, Janet.