How to Run a Successful Poetry Challenge for Four Years Counting

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
A screenshot of a cell phone

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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

***

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

Social Media Links:

Twitter

Linkedin

Facebook Page

Blog: colleenchesebro.com Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry


59 responses to “How to Run a Successful Poetry Challenge for Four Years Counting”

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  9. lancesheridan Avatar

    Marsha, your support of poetry is tantamount to so many writers success. Writing isn’t just about self- improvement, but helping and encouraging others along the way! Beautifully done. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Thank you so much Lance. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. lancesheridan Avatar

        It’s such a great pleasure, Marsha.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. dgkaye Avatar

    Fantastic feature here today Marsh. So great to see my Fey Sister here in the spotlight with great explanation of the path to her successful poetry challenge series. ❤ Hugs girls xox

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      hugs back, Deb. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  11. -Eugenia Avatar

    Colleen works diligently at hosting her challenges and it shows. She shares her knowledge readily and promotes others. Colleen is an asset to the WordPress blogging community.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      I agree 100% Eugenia. She’s a treasure.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Colleen M. Chesebro Avatar

        Marsha… you’re making me blush. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Marsha Avatar

          And ain’t it fun! You deserve the compliments from everyone – not just me! Should I tell people who agree to interview that I will make them blush???

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Colleen M. Chesebro Avatar

      Franci, you’re making me blush. I love you guys and that poetry challenge is so fun. What a great bunch of folks we hang out with. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Marsha Avatar

        You do have some great friends. I’m enjoying getting to know them, Colleen.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Norah Avatar

    While I haven’t as yet joined in Colleen’s challenges, I read a lot of responses around the blogosphere. They seem to be very popular and a great way to challenge writer’s imaginative thinking.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      I’ve enjoyed them. It is a challenge to my imagination, for sure! Thanks for stopping by. Norah. How’s your day going?

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Colleen M. Chesebro Avatar

      Norah, you’re always welcome. Thanks for your lovely comments and for reading our poetry. That means so much. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Norah Avatar

        Thank you, Colleen. I’ve always enjoyed writing poetry, and love writing poems with children. I appreciate all the different forms you share, many of which were unfamiliar to me. When I have a bit more ‘me’ time, I’ll try to join in.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Marsha Avatar

          No pressure, Norah. I’m trying one type for a while, then I’ll switch. I like the prose and poetry because poetry is so esoteric. I think it is good to augment it with an explanation of sorts.

          Liked by 1 person

  13. Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. Avatar

    Terrific post Marsha and as someone who enjoys Colleen’s challenges each week, a lovely spotlight on all the hard work and creativity that goes into each and every one.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      I loved this post, partly because I already know Colleen and so many of her followers, but also because it gave me a chance to explore her blog and get to know her better. She’s always been a great person for tips. But it’s been fun to try her poetry as well. Your nonet a few weeks ago gave me the courage to try some of the different types. I’ve always loved Haiku and Cinquain, but the rest of them were new to me. So I’ve been on a learning curve. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. Avatar

        Fantastic to hear Marsha.. I only started writing this form of poetry two years ago and have loved the process and versatility… look forward to seeing your poems in the challenge..hugsx

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Marsha Avatar

          Just finished mine. Better get it over to Colleen’s.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. Avatar

            Great Marsha.. mine goes out on Saturday..xx

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Colleen M. Chesebro Avatar

      Sally, thank you. I love our poetry community. We all have learned so much from each other. Think of all the books that were published and sprang up because of this and other challenges. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Marsha Avatar

        That’s how we learn the most – from others, from friendships and collegial relationships, don’t you think?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. Avatar

        Quite Colleen with another one hopefully coming up later in the year.. with your challenge poems and 24 new short stories…I better get on with it lol. ♥

        Liked by 2 people

  14. memadtwo Avatar

    Great interview Colleen. I appreciate all the thought you’ve put into your challenges, and looking forward to the book. (K)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Thank you for commenting, (K). I have learned so much about poetry from Colleen, not to mention blogging tips in general. She’s just super helpful.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. memadtwo Avatar

        She is. The best.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Colleen M. Chesebro Avatar

      Kerfe, it’s you and all the rest of the poets that bring so much creative joy to our world. Thanks so much for always cheering us on. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Liz Gauffreau Avatar

    I really enjoyed this interview with Colleen and a behind the scenes look at Tanka Tuesday!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Thanks, Liz. I did too. She provided a ton of useful information and history on the challenge.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Liz Gauffreau Avatar

        You’re welcome, Marsha.

        Like

    2. Colleen M. Chesebro Avatar

      Thanks so much, Liz. You are a wonderful supporter of this challenge. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Liz Gauffreau Avatar

        You’re welcome, Colleen!

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Annette Rochelle Aben Avatar

    Beautifully explained and inviting. How wonderful we have had you and your enthusiasm for 4 years, here’s to the success that multiplies! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Colleen M. Chesebro Avatar

      Thank you so much, Annette. Where has all the time gone? I guess we’ve had a bunch of fun! ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Marsha Avatar

        Hi Annette, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Colleen did a wonderful job with her explanations. I learned a lot from her, as always. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Marsha Avatar

      I agree 100%. Colleen does a thorough job of explaining the very difficult and making it doable. Her challenge might be daunting to some, but she has taken it over the top. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. merrildsmith Avatar

    Colleen does indeed read and comment on everyone’s entries each week. She’s very generous. It’s nice to see her featured.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Colleen M. Chesebro Avatar

      Thank you, Merril. I love reading all the poetry and how creative you are. I’ve learned so much from you and the other poets. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Marsha Avatar

        Thanks for your comment, Merril and for stopping by. She did a great job with this. She is a wealth of information and expertise, and, I would say, a good friend. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Marsha Avatar

      She is wonderful about responding and encouraging. She has quite a following and it’s nice to see her supported and honored by her community. Thanks again for commenting Meril. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  18. Colleen M. Chesebro Avatar

    Marsha, thank you so much for the opportunity to share my love of writing syllabic poetry and for highlighting the Tanka Tuesday Challenge. You created a beautiful post! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Thank YOU, Colleen. This was so interesting to read. Thank you for responding to everyone and on Tanka Tuesday, too. You are an amazing individual. I look forward to participating in more Tankas and having more guest posts from you in the future.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Colleen M. Chesebro Avatar

        Thanks so much! I appreciate what you do to hightlight everyone in our writing/blogging community. You’re a star. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Marsha Avatar

          Hopefully a rising, not falling one! LOL Thanks Colleen. Doing this series has inspired me and spurred me back into blogging. I feel that this series has a purpose and helps a lot of people. That’s my desire, anyway.

          Liked by 1 person

  19. Stuart Danker Avatar

    I’m totally clueless when it comes to poetry, but I enjoyed reading what goes on behind the scenes in events such as this. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Colleen M. Chesebro Avatar

      Thanks for reading, Stuart. Much appreciated. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Marsha Avatar

      Thanks for the comment, Stuart. What kind of Stuff do you write or are you eclectic? Do you host a challenge? Hope to see you again soon. Marsha

      Like

      1. Stuart Danker Avatar

        I’m more of a sci-fi person when it comes to fiction, so there’s that. Work has required me to write the usual (lifestyle, marketing, business, corporate comms), but I think it’s time I explored the world of writing for real!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Marsha Avatar

          I read a couple of your recent posts. They are brilliant. I can see why you were so successful in the field. Your work produced a broad range of topics and a knowledge base that will enhance whatever kind of writing you tackle. I’m glad you explored here. You would really enjoy Colleen’s types of poetry. She has a great cheat sheet to help with the forms. My favorite so far is the haibun because it includes both poetry and prose. Thanks again for stopping by.

          Liked by 1 person

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