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Inspiring Theft

I've been reading a lot lately. Not with 100 books in a year kind of goals like some of my friends are, but trying to read more in general to better my own writing. To be honest, I was feeling a bit green that I had been nominated in 2022 for the Pushcart Prize, hadn't won, and then had watched many writers I know get nominated for 2023 while I...did not. So I went around asking people if they happened to have any of the Pushcart works. Some did have pdf copies, and I didn't ask questions on how they got their hands on them, instead I started reading with the oldest one I found: The 2017 Pushcart Winners. 644 pages of people who write better than me, or at least had written one work better than me. I'd like to say it's not a competition, but in a tiny little corner of my mind everything is a competition. Except how many kids someone has; I won't be competing against Octomom or anything, it's just not my bag. I was reading these poems and short stories, all of which are quite horribly (for my ego) impressive, when I came across Shelley Wong's “The Spring Forecast.” You can read it here, or below:

What's your first takeaway of this piece? For me, it was the formatting. We have the mention of the sea in the very first line, and each stanza comes together to give the appearance of waves. After thinking about it a while, I also felt like perhaps this could like petals being blown in the wind, a callback to the 'Spring' in the title and the mention of flowers in the piece. Unable to leave it alone, I wrote my own version, using the format of the stanzas, but changing the subject matter to students loans and other things that I feel closing in around me, attempting to drown me. Was that stealing? I don't think so, not really. Her piece inspired me to try the format, something people do all the time when trying to write a sonnet like Shakespeare or a pastoral piece like Milton. A bit late perhaps, I then did some Googling. I found this blog which attempted to decipher the poem and guess who replied? None other than Shelley Wong! What was really interesting was the she wrote her poem after watching old perfume commercials. Now, I want to go and watch old perfume commercials and see what my brain shakes out. Is that copying? I actually haven't watched them yet because I'm a bit afraid it might be. With that in mind, I've thought about watch old airline commercials instead, especially with all the mess with Boeing happening at the moment. It's something to consider isn't it? As an artist, when does our admiration and wanting to create something great ourselves pass over into the realm of copyright infringement or even just stealing an idea? Honestly, I'm still not quite sure and I still want to watch old perfume commercials. Best, Mea Andrews

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