2015 April PAD Challenge: Tips

We’re about to start the 8th annual April Poem-A-Day (PAD) Challenge, and I hope everyone’s as excited as I am. I’m sure we’ll have many who’ve completed the challenge multiple times before, as well as those who’ve started and come up short. And I’ve already heard from many who are going to give it a go for their first time ever. All are welcome and encouraged to jump in, whether it’s for only one day or all 30!

Regardless of experience level, I thought I’d share a few tips on completing this challenge that I’ve picked up over the years. After all, I’ve learned (more than) a bit while creating the prompts and poeming along with everyone too.

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Recreating_Poetry_Revise_PoemsRe-create your poetry!

Do you find it difficult to revise your poems after you’ve written them? Is it hard to figure out how to make your poems better? Well then, you may just be looking at the whole process the wrong way. Instead of revising your poetry, you should be re-creating your poetry!

Learn how with Robert Lee Brewer’s 3 important rules of revision, 7 revision filters, and so much more.

Click to continue.

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Here are my 2015 April PAD Challenge Tips:

  1. Take it one day at a time. Don’t think about this challenge as writing 30 poems; that can feel overwhelming. Instead, come at each day as having to write one poem. Also, if you happen to miss a day, don’t worry about “catching up” until after you’ve written the current day’s poem.
  2. Don’t worry about competing. Some folks are “in it to win it,” I know. But last year, there were days when more than 1,000 comments were attached to a single prompt. The odds of “winning” in such a scenario are less than one-tenth of one percent, and that’s with a lot of other great poets writing. So focus on the writing, and if you win, celebrate like there’s no tomorrow. Related to that…
  3. Have fun. This challenge offers some serious rewards and seriously great guest judges, but hey, it’s also free and intended to be a fun environment. Take chances with your writing. Allow yourself to have fun playing with words.
  4. Read (and comment on) other poems. Of course, if we have 1,000+ comment days, you won’t be able to read everything–let alone try to comment. Instead, read a little, and if you like something, let the poet know in the comments. Many poets over the years have built great online groups through these challenges by interacting with each other. Related to that…
  5. Avoid being mean or critical when commenting. Seriously, I’ve had to boot folks off here in the past, and I’ll do it again. But I’d prefer everyone be an adult and respect each other. Everyone has a different background, different views on issues, and so on. Let’s use this space to express that without resorting to personal attacks. We managed it last year, so let’s keep the streak going.
  6. Focus on writing first drafts. If you have the time to revise during the day, great. But don’t fall behind on daily prompts because you’re trying to make things perfect; you can and should revise after the month is over. Many poets have written large sections of their published poetry collections using the April PAD Challenge, and I’m sure most–if not all–revised after April.
  7. Consider using a theme. I’ve done this before and plan to do it again this month. By choosing a loose theme for the challenge, I can automatically view each day’s prompt through a more specific lens that will help give me focus when I’m attacking a prompt. Some poets have come into the month with the goal of writing each poem as a haiku, others have used historical characters, and one year a person had everything relate to Batman and Gotham City. And if you’re theme’s not working on a specific day, you can always switch to something else.
  8. Use the prompt as a starting place. The main goal of this challenge is to write a new poem each day–so each day’s prompt is just a starting place. Feel free to bend and even break the prompt to help you get to that poem each day. Sometimes, I just follow my first thoughts and write without worrying about meaning; other times, I sit and think a bit; and I’ve occasionally broken out the dictionary and Wikipedia to look up words and/or associations related to the prompt. Whatever works for you.

The first prompt is less than 24 hours away from being posted. When it is, please paste your poem along with your preferred byline in the comments associated with that day’s prompt. It is the only way to be considered.

Also, I’d suggest not typing your poem directly into the comments. Type and save your work in a word file on your computer before pasting in the comments. There have been times in the past when poems and comments have gone missing (including my own) for various tech reasons–so play, but play it safe by saving a copy before posting.

I know a lot of seasoned pros are out there. So if you have specific tips you’d like to share with those just getting started, please comment on this post–as I’m sure your wisdom and personal experiences would be helpful.

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roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits books, writes a poetry column for the magazine, blogs, leads online education, speaks around the country, and manages a lot of e-mail.

When he first started the April PAD Challenge in 2008, he wasn’t sure if anyone would even participate, so it’s been a joy for him to see how it’s grown and helped poets through the years.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

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60 thoughts on “2015 April PAD Challenge: Tips

  1. Arash

    Robert, I’m not sure if you’re still responding to posts here, but if you are:
    -I’m still unclear on revising poems. You mentioned that people should not focus on revising, and can do so “after the month is over.” What does that mean? If I wrote a poem for today’s prompt, I should post it today, right? You’re not suggesting that I could post my poem for, say, April 10 prompt on May 4th? If so, how long will the comment section remain open for each prompt?

    So far what I’ve done is post my poem on the same day as the prompt. This gave me limited time but I had thought that’s the point of it, to write a poem per day, for that day. But now I’m not so sure. And given that I can’t edit any of my poems once posted (well, I can make a second post and point out errors…), this makes a difference.

    I appreciate if you can clear that up for me.

    p.s. thank you for organizing this, I have enjoyed contributing and reading some very good poetry, as I did last year (but much more limited), it’s a little intense with poems everyday but I think it also makes the experience that much more unique.

    1. Arash

      I guess not.

      Might as well use this post to try out some of the formatting things that have been causing me trouble:
      testing
      testing

      testing1

      testing1

      testing1

      testing1

      testing2
       
      testing2
        
      testing2
        

  2. Keith Welch

    300 Million Monkeys

    Will you dare to see the truth?
    Will you dare to hear the truth?
    will you dare to speak the truth?
    Or are you like the three monkeys,
    a useless piece of plaster ape
    Sitting on a mantle of ignorance?
    Our ‘betters’ like you that way
    mere decoration for their houses
    blind, deaf, and mute to their crimes
    not even witness to things done in your name

  3. Keith Welch

    In my opinion, this message board needs two things:

    1. editable comments
    2. email notification of comments made to your posts

    this first is obvious, the second is so I don’t have to go searching for my posts to see if any nice person has left a comment. If there’s already a way to do this, please let me know.

    Thanks,
    Keith

  4. Sbrttn

    This is a poem about resisting obstacles that block my dreams to travel freely.

    Thoughts of Traveling

    I took a journey in my mind

    The sights were grand to see

    Saw wonders of a different kind

    That filled my heart with glee

    Can hardly wait to start the trip

    Will give me a chance to have fun

    Allowing me to get a grip

    Of relaxing, playing in the sun.

    © Shirley Brittenum

  5. tresab

    My secret is I’m not who you think I am, who you ask?
    I wear a mask
    I wear the scars of my ancestors’ pain
    The tears of their suffering hidden by the rain
    I wear the mask that many can’t see, hidden from myself dying to break free
    Broken and beaten, distressed yet whole
    I wear the mask to hide my inadequacies, fear and things unspoken
    I wear the mask of a queen and the highly esteem
    I wear the mask of the competent chasing a dream
    I wear the mask of the college grad, mother and friend
    I wear the mask of who I pretend to be, not the one God made for me
    I wear the mask of the five year old that banged her head, the troubled teenager who wished she was dead
    I wear the mask of the failed suicide attempt, Mary Magdalene, Black Power and Afro Sheen
    I wear the mask seen and unseen
    I wear the mask of the victim, addict, fast talker and ex-boyfriend stalker
    I wear the mask of the forgotten; the named and unnamed who longs to be whole
    I wear the mask to conceal the emptiness buried deep down in my soul
    I wear the mask of what should have been, could’ve been, or just might be
    I wear the mask of who I pretend to be, not the one God chose for me.
    I wear the mask.

    1. misspamyla

      Power

      There can only be
      Power
      If resistance
      Exists
      There can only be
      Change
      If static is
      Realized
      There can only be
      Light
      If darkness is
      Acknowledged
      The Power
      And the Change
      And the Light
      Fuels
      Everything
      All things
      Great and small
      Good and bad
      Grand and minute
      Thankfully
      Resistance and
      Static and
      Darkness
      Can be
      Redefined
      With Power
      And Change
      And Light.

      1. SymannthaRenn

        You might mention this in your next post, I forgot too! I know you wrote it someone else, but this is where I had to find it. 🙂

        I am loving this challenge by the way. I wish I had participated last year.

  6. tonijoell

    I participated the year before last and it was incredible. Unfortunately, life got in the way last year. This year I won’t let it. Amped up!

  7. Susan Budig

    I’ve mixed feelings about needing to post my poem to the comments for consideration in the PAD challenge. Once I post to the comments, I lose control over my work, that is, I can’t delete it. So what if I write something that I want to submit to a journal? Outta luck, I guess.

    1. Robert Lee Brewer Post author

      Yeah, I know. I’ve written literally more than 700 poems on this blog that no amount of revision will ever make available for publication in literary journals. But I don’t regret writing a single one of them.

  8. AC Leming

    A k! Lost my first attempt. Can’t wait to start on year 8! Vow to not weenie out on the posting mid-month, like last April & actually finish (unlike last Nov). I want to shake off this past year. & immerse myself in verse!

    Come on April Fool’s Day! I wanna start poeming again.

    This year, I’m writing in honor of Taylor Reece, one of my critique buddies of Mayland Writer’s Group in Spruce Pine, NC who died Saturday. He helped beat the passive voice outta me. I’m gonna miss him. RIP

  9. AC Leming

    Hey, back for year 8 & can’t wait! Hopefully I’ll post everyday this year and not weenie out &/or get overwhelmed as I did last year!

    Come on April Fool’s Day! Want to poem again!

  10. angielee

    Thank you, Patricia Hawkenson and Robert for the tips and all of your organizing skills ~ I was referred here by a fellow MOOC How Writer’s Write Poetry participant and love the idea. I really want to put the “poetic pressure” on myself and this is perfect! I’m hoping a common theme will evolve, but who knows? And I look forward to reading everyone’s work> Write on!

    Angielee/Angela McIntyre

  11. tunesmiff

    Once again, thanks for all the prep going into this year’s event~ I think this’ll make my sixth (not counting the November Chapbook PAD Challenge.
    My goal is to use the prompts to generated new song lyrics, bit I won’t limit myself if some other format presents itself.
    Intend to turn the prompts over during the day while piddling through work, but sometimes something jumps up before the first pot of coffee’s ready.
    Obviously psyched~
    g

  12. jasonlmartin

    This will be my 4th year in the April PAD challenge. This year, I’m going to attempt to stay on one or two themes, both to keep things extra focused and interesting for me. A little hesitant to box myself in like that, because I enjoyed the open terrain of each day of the challenge, but I’m just up for something different this year. See you all in April!

    1. elishevasmom

      sometimes, tough it may seem counter-intuitive, tightening your focus can actually let you stretch creatively. Having said that, I guess I should follow my own advice!:D

  13. Michele AKA Twig

    Hiya, this sounds like fun!
    I used to write poetry all the time but haven’t in quite a while. Should be interesting to see how well I can get back into the habit.

  14. Daniel Paicopulos

    Over the past few years, while waiting for a new day’s prompt, I have used the time to check out poems from the previous day – ones which were posted later at night…or early in the morning – depending on where in the world the poets reside…some fantastic work has been discovered in this way

  15. thayesca

    I have been encouraged to give PAD a try by a very poetic friend. So– nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    Looking forward to some fun starting tomorrow!! — Tom Hayes, Carlsbad CA

  16. MaryVaan

    30 poems in April
    preparation is fierce
    many gifts to the muse
    many bribes many fears

    30 poems in April
    the coffee pot steaming
    up til the wee hours
    syntactical dreaming

    30 poems in April
    & out comes the poet
    we relish the challenge
    & you judges should know it
    ;-}
    @MaryVaan

    1. tunesmiff

      Ditto~ and I’m already dreading the day 30 prompt when things wrap up~

      You know they say, do something every day for 30 days and it becomes a habit…

      🙂

  17. catprincess16

    Looking forward to this. I am guilty of looking back for comments and feeling deflated when there aren’t any. 🙂 The reality is that every poem won’t speak to everybody or anybody, but that does not mean that it is not worthy. It is. So write! Create! And have fun. 🙂

  18. Funkomatic

    This will be my 5th go around. Looking forward to it! I’ve found that starting out if I have a particular form in mind, that keeps me on track. Last year I wrote all kyrielles for the first week and as I found my legs, I branched out. The year before I tried to write 3 couplets for each poem or the first week.

    Good luck everyone!

  19. Patricia A. Hawkenson

    Looking forward to another year on The Street! Go Poets! 🙂
    Tip: It is natural for beginners to keep coming back hoping someone has posted a comment on their poem, and they can feel like there work isn’t measuring up when they don’t have any comments. So, regulars and newbies alike, comment when you can! Also, remember that many of the comments come from years of poets who have become online friends on the site, and they tend to connect with and seek out those poems. Best way to get in the game, comment and get your own name out there until it becomes recognizable. Happy April poeming, ALL!

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