How to Run a Successful Poetry Challenge for Four Years Counting

Maybe you’ve thought about hosting a writing challenge. Before you do, read this post to find out some of the ins and outs. If you love poetry, you’ll love learning about this challenge.

Longer Running Than Most Netflix Series

Today I want to introduce my blogging friend Colleen Cheesebro. She’s helped me with many practical blogging tips that I’ve been able to apply instantly. She’s not only a wealth of blogging tips, but a renowned author, and she hosts a long-running poetry challenge. Read on to find out how she does it.

  1. What prompted you to begin to host a writing challenge?

The first challenge I hosted on my blog included another writer, Ronovan from Ronovan Writes.com, which we called Writer’s Quote Wednesday. We took turns and traded off weeks because we were both writing a book. Each week we named a theme, and the participants could write flash fiction, poetry, or pretty much anything if they included a relevant quote. It was a fun meet and greet type of challenge, purely for fun. I met so many wonderful bloggers this way. 

But what I really wanted to do was to write syllabic poetry. Ronovan already hosted a haiku challenge and I didn’t want to copy his idea. Writing haiku for Ronovan’s challenge led me to Tanka Tuesday.

Anyway, I retired Writer’s Quote Wednesday on September 21, 2016, and the following Tuesday, I began the Tanka Tuesday challenge.

The challenge has blossomed into a syllabic poetry community that I am so proud to be a part of. Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry is an uplifting community where poets can learn the basics of writing Japanese and American syllabic poetry by sharing their own poetic inspiration within a weekly poetry challenge called Tanka Tuesday. Participants submit their poetry written in one of the eleven forms: haiku, senryu, haiga, tanka, gogyohka, haibun, tanka prose, cinquain, and its variations, Etheree, nonet, and/or shadorma. Poets receive positive feedback from peers who inspire each other to stretch their creativity. Participants and readers return each week to celebrate the weekly poetry stars and to buy books from the Tanka Tuesday Book Store. 

Colleen Chesebro
  1. How long have you been doing this?

I began the Tanka Tuesday challenge on September 26, 2016. That’s a long time for a poetry challenge to run and I’m grateful each week for the creativity and inspiration from the poets who join in. Here’s the link to the first challenge post: https://colleenchesebro.com/2016/09/27/silvers-weekly-tanka-poetry-prompt-challenge-1-harvest-moon/. I called my blog “Silver Threading,” in the beginning. I’ve come a long way since I began my blog in 2014.

I began the challenge by providing the two prompt words that were required in the tanka poem. Eventually, everyone’s poetry sounded the same. I decided that we should use synonyms for the prompt words. I thought that idea was brilliant! I’m not aware of another poetry challenge that does that.

Colleen Chesebro

Each week, I copy the template post from the editor and create a new post. Easy peasy!

  1. How much time does it take? Is it all-consuming so that you don’t blog about anything else?

This challenge can be all-consuming if you let it rule your life. I’ve figured out a few shortcuts, like making template posts for the challenge posts that I copy and paste into a new post each week. The same goes for the Weekly Poetry Star post I share on Monday, where I list out everyone who joined in. The addition of the Mr. Linky linkup tool has saved so much time and effort.

Colleen Chesebro

I used to spend hours copying all the poet’s blog links into the recap so that people could visit and comment on everyone’s poetry. 

Colleen Chesebro

I do visit everyone’s poetry who participants in the challenge and leave comments. I also share the posts to social media. I love it when I see poetry posts in Twitter and Facebook getting reshared numerous times. 

Colleen Chesebro
  1. How did you determine the genre?

We started out with tanka poetry first. After the first year we added haiku and haibun poetry. After that, we added senryu, haiga, gogyohka, tanka prose, Etheree, nonet, cinquain, and shadorma poetry. I always worry that the challenge will get stale, so I enjoy the variety. I think the poets like to have a choice in the poetry forms, as well. 

Here is a link to the poetry challenge guidelines. This year, I changed it up again. Each week we have a different challenge. Week one is Poet’s Choice. Poets can pick any syllabic poetry form for their poem. 

On the second week, whoever I picked from the previous month’s synonyms only challenge, selects the two synonyms for us all to use. 

The third week is a photo prompt. Whoever I chose from the previous month’s photo prompt challenge, selects the photo for us to use as the inspiration for our poetry. 

The fourth week of the month is a theme prompt. This can be a quote, a named theme, or a piece of poetry that contains a theme. Whoever I chose from the previous month’s theme prompt challenge, selects the theme for us to use as the inspiration for our poetry. 

If we have a fifth week, I select a specific form for us to work with from the eleven forms we use in the challenge. I try to concentrate on the rules of the form so that we can all learn together by writing a poem in that specific form.

Colleen Chesebro
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  1. What steps do you take to get your challenge ready? 

I created five weeks’ worth of template challenge posts in January dedicated to each week’s prompt. 

Each week, I copy the template post from the editor and create a new post. Easy peasy!

Colleen Chesebro
  1. How did you attract people to participate? / How do people usually find out about your challenge? 

I wrote a blog post to announce the challenge and shared the information on Facebook and Twitter. It took off by word of mouth more than anything. 

When I first began this challenge there were not many poetry challenges. Now, we have DVerse-the Poet’s Pub, Frank Tassone’s Haikai challenge, Sue Vincent’s Write Photo which accepts poetry and short stories, Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction which also accepts poetry and flash fiction, Ronovan Writes Decima Poetry challenge, and the Aurora’s & Blossoms Poetry Journal’s new challenge called, Kindku, to name a few. There are many more challenges out there.

Colleen Chesebro
  1. Is your challenge like a club where you put a widget on your website or embed something on your post?

I do have a widget that poets can use but mostly we use the header of each week’s challenge post to keep track of the different challenges. Everyone is welcome to join in my syllabic poetry challenge. 

Colleen Chesebro
  1. Do you have help reading all the entries?

No. I take care of that myself. I want writers to be inspired by poetry and encourage everyone to reach for the stars and try something new. As the host of the challenge, I want to interact with the poets. Their creativity pushes me to learn more about these forms, as well. We all learn from each other.

Colleen Chesebro
  1. What do you do with the entries – like do you ever publish anthologies, award widget certificates?

Last year, I ran a Poet of the Week recognition contest. Each week, I selected my favorite poem from the challenge participant’s poetry and shared it on my blog. At the end of the year, one of the poets, H. R. R. Gorman, helped me to compile a free PDF of all the Poet of the Week poetry from that year. Here is the link: https://colleenchesebro.com/2020/01/09/update-to-the-2019-poet-of-the-week-compilation/. This is a free download on my blog. 

On my blog at colleenchesebro.com I’ve created the Tanka Tuesday Book Store where I list the poetry books for sale written by my challenge participants. Here is the link: Tanka Tuesday Book Store. It’s just another way to help support our poetry community.

This year, I’ve written a book called “Word Craft – Prose & Poetry, the Art of Crafting Syllabic Poetry” which should be ready to publish in the next month or so. I researched how to write the eleven syllabic poetry forms from my challenge. The Japanese forms: haiku, senryu, haiga, tanka, gogyohka, haibun, and tanka prose, along with the American forms: Etheree, nonet, and shadorma with instructions and examples. At the end of each chapter I added poetry examples from the challenge participants with a citation to credit the poet’s work.

This book is written for the beginning poet, or someone who’s never written syllabic poetry before but would like to learn how.  I think it will also be a great reference for poets who are writing poetry and submitting to contests and journals.

Colleen Chesebro

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Biography

Colleen M. Chesebro is an American Novelist & Poet who loves writing paranormal fantasy and magical realism, cross-genre fiction, syllabic poetry, and creative nonfiction. She loves all things magical, which may mean she is experiencing her second childhood—or not. That part of her life hasn’t been decided yet. A few years ago, a mystical experience led her to renew her passion for writing poetry and storytelling. 

Colleen sponsors a Syllabic Poetry Challenge on her blog where participants can learn how to write traditional and current forms of haiku, senryu, haiga, tanka, gogyohka, tanka prose, haibun, cinquain, Etheree, nonet, and shadorma poetry. 

Colleen won the “Little and Laugh” Flash Fiction Contest sponsored by the Carrot Ranch Literary Community in November 2017. In 2018, she won first place for the “Twisted Travel” category. In 2019, she placed second for the Three Act Story category, with her piece called “The Game.” 

Colleen is a Sister of the Fey, where she pursues a pagan path in her writing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and black cat, Freyja. When she is not writing, she is reading. She also loves gardening and crocheting old-fashioned doilies into works of art.

Books by Colleen M. Chesebro:

Fairies, Myths, & Magic: A Summer Celebration: Country Tagged Universal Book Link: Smarturl.it/FairiesMythsMagic

The Heart Stone Chronicles: The Swamp Fairy: Country Tagged Universal Book Link: smarturl.it/HSCSwampFairy

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Blog: colleenchesebro.com Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry