What Edgar Allan Poe Can Teach Us About Writing

Editor’s Note: If you ever stepped foot into my classroom when I was a high school English teacher then you know I love Edgar Allan Poe. Every October I would have my students dive into his poetry and prose and even complete a creative project inspired by his works. Thanks to that project, my classroom was filled with paintings, collages, board games and more that were all about Poe. So, when Tess Patalano of Reedsy contacted me about writing a guest post for the See Jane Write blog on the writing lessons we can learn from Poe, of course, I said yes. So, today, on October 7, the anniversary of Poe’s mysterious and untimely death, we present “What Edgar Allan Poe Can Teach Us About Writing.”

Guest Post by Tess Patalano of Reedsy,

Edgar Allan Poe was an enigmatic writer and personality: a master of the macabre and a noted originator of both the detective and horror genres with many anthologies even crediting him as the founder of the short story. His work spanned themes of death, love, hope, and despair, to name a few. But what can his writings teach us about the process of writing itself? Hidden within his poems and stories are kernels of wisdom that any writer can benefit from. Here are a few.


On Designing the Writing Life You Desire

An African-American woman (me!) sitting at a table typing at arose gold laptop. A pink journal, cell phone, pen, and cup of coffee are on the table, too.

Last week I attended SPARK Writing Festival at the University of Alabama at Birmingham with one goal: get the information and inspiration I need to finish my manuscript. 

I have a book I’ve been working on for nearly three years and even though I’ve written the book, had it reviewed by beta readers, and had it edited, I have yet to pitch the book to agents or even make plans to self publish. Why? I’m not happy with the book — at all. It lacks focus. It lacks depth. And if you were to ask me what the book is about I couldn’t even tell you. 

I signed up for SPARK hoping the workshops would show me how to rewrite my book; instead SPARK showed me how to rewrite my life.


How to Create Your Writing S.P.A.C.E.

There was a time when my writing space was a Pinterest-worthy home office that dazzled my guests. The white color scheme with pink accents and trendy art prints that cover the wall came together perfectly to create a room that was my pride and joy.

But for the past two months, my home office has been a complete mess. Two months ago I left my job as a high school English teacher to write and run See Jane Write full time, which means I had to pack up and move out of a classroom I’d been in for 10 years. And this means I have a decade’s worth of junk stuffed in boxes, bags, and bins that are now stacked in my home office.

The good news is this clutter hasn’t kept me from writing. Sometimes, like right now, I sit in my office and just ignore the mess and get to work. Also, I’ve been working on freelance stories, pitches, blog posts, and email newsletters from my sofa, my bed, my kitchen, and my favorite coffee shops. I trained myself long ago to be able to write anytime, anyplace.

Nonetheless, the messiness of my home office distracts and haunts me. I even keep the door closed most of the time so I won’t have to look at it. This is showing me just how important it is to have a writing space, but recently I got to thinking about how we women writers must work to find writing space not only in our home but also in our schedules and even our mindsets.

Then I started thinking about this A LOT and came up with a “Writing S.P.A.C.E.” acronym!


How to Be a Writer in Birmingham

In 2009 — after living in Berkeley, California; Seattle, Washington; and Louisville, Kentucky — I returned to my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama to teach. Despite the fact that I’d left a job as a newspaper reporter to start a career in education, I knew I wanted to continue to write.

This would be my first time in Birmingham as a working, writing adult. I knew how to be a teenager in Birmingham writing angst-ridden poetry and prose in my journal, sitting in my bedroom with The Cranberries or Mariah Carey playing on the radio.

I knew how to be a writer on the West Coast and in the Midwest. But I had to learn how to be a writer in Birmingham.


How to Make the Most of Writing and Blogging Conferences

Are you feeling burned out on writing and blogging conferences?

I’m not! And here’s why — this past weekend I had the opportunity to speak at and attend the Southern Christian Writers Conference for the first time and it was amazing! I left with a notebook full of useful information and feeling incredibly inspired. I made new friends, too!

But let’s be honest — sometimes attending writing and blogging conferences can be a waste of money and time. And if you’ve had this experience it may be because the conference was poorly planned and highly disorganized, or perhaps it featured subpar presenters.

However, here’s a hard truth — most of the time when we don’t get anything out of writing or blogging conferences it’s our own fault. Most of the time we were the ones who failed to plan and get organized.

My friend Randi Pink, author of the young adult novel Into White and the forthcoming novel Girls Like Us, calls herself a “conference-a-holic” and with good reason. She proudly proclaims that it’s because of the conferences held by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators that she is published today. (SCBWI’s 48th Annual Summer Conference will be held in Los Angeles, August 9-12. Learn more here.)

I’ve been attending writing and blogging conferences for years and I’ve learned that how much I get out of a conference has more to do with me than the conference itself. To make the most of writing and blogging conferences you must ask yourself important questions before you even step foot in the venue.