a year of writing life


I've had the pleasure of mentoring Tom Bohn on his song crafting on numerous occasions. He has asked me to outline a course of study for him over the next year. He has agreed to share his journey with us here. Thank you, Tom! We will all be better for it.


Nashville, TN. Jan. 2011
Tom, in response to your request for a course of study over the next year, I offer these initial suggestions. More to come!


-Read Poetry everyday
-Memorize a poem a week (for longer ones- two weeks)
-Practice guitar (learn someone else's songs)
-Write out (other's) lyrics by hand
-Walk
-Read what writer's write about writing
-Exposition/Composition
-Write/Co-Write
-Networking goals (the Biz)
-Keep a journal of your progress

A Partial List Of Recommended Poets:

1. Robert Frost- for vision
2. William Wordsworth- for music
3. Ted Kooser- for metaphor
4. William Butler Yeats- for passion
4. Oxford Book of American Poetry/ edited by David Leyman- for your choices

Recommended Poems For Memorization:

Frost:

The Pasture
A Late Walk
The Tuft Of Flowers
The Road Not Taken
A Patch Of Old Snow
The Cow In Apple Time
Range-Finding
Out, Out-
Fire And Ice
Dust Of Snow
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
Bereft
Acquainted With The Night
Desert Places
Neither Out Far Nor In Deep
Design
The Most Of It

Wordsworth:

Lines Written In Early Spring
Expostulation And Reply
The Tables Turned
She Dwelt Among The Untrodden Ways
My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold
The World Is Too Much With Us..
It Is A Beauteous Evening, Calm And Free
I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

3. Ted Kooser: anything from "Delights and Shadows"
A Year In The Life of a Songwriter
by Tom Bohn

I am proud and excited to be studying song writing with Steve Leslie for a year! I have the opportunity to take off a year from my job and be a writer full time. I have never met anyone who has been able to so quickly get inside my songs and point out weaknesses and make suggestions for improvement in them. He is not only an excellent teacher, but a currently successful songwriter as well. After a couple of lessons with Steve, I realized the dedication and discipline he's put forth to get to his level of writing, and to gain the knowledge and understanding of the craft he imparts.
Steve is an encouraging, no-nonsense, committed teacher. He really is more of a mentor than a teacher and his approach to song writing and life- a philosophy!


Steve did not ask me to write this BTW....but this is the whole reason I've decided to make this commitment to study with him.

- My path is to have a lesson every two weeks either in person when I'm in Nashville or via Skype when I'm in Atlanta.
- The basic list of daily (or close to it) Monday - Friday work/ discipline is as follows:

-Keep a journal of my progress.
-Read poetry every day and memorize a poem each week.
-Write out by hand-lyrics to great songs and songs I love.
-Learn the chords to these songs by ear and write them out.
-Read what others have said about their craft.
-Listen critically to other songs.
-My own writing
-Cultivate leisure and a space for creativity.
-Walk
-Exercise
-Tom's journal began on Sunday, January 9th. 2011. I've included the most recent entries here. We are planning to write a book together tracking his journey over the entire year.
Monday- 8-1-2011
-God First
-Write out words to The Box sung by Randy Travis and written by Buck Moore/ Randy Travis
-Walk
-Write 2 hours
-Read Ted Kooser?s The China Painters
-Walk

Tuesday- 8-2-2011
-God First
-Listen to NSAI interview with Larry Weiss
-Walk
-Write 2 hours
-Read Memory by Ted Kooser
-Write 1 hour

Wednesday- 8-3-2011
-God First
-Write out lyrics to Ellsworth sung by Rascal Flatts and written by Wendell Mobley/Neil Thrasher/Michael Dulaney
-Walk
-Ted Kooser?s Ice Cave
-Write 2 hours

Thursday- 8-4-2011
-God First
-Listen to last class with Steve
-Write 1 hour
-Walk
-Write 2 hours
-Ted Kooser?s Mother (Fantastic!)

Friday- 8-5-2011
-God First
-Listen to NSAI interview with Tom Douglas
-Read from Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg
-Walk
-Write 2 hours

Saturday- 8-6-2011/ Sunday- 8-7-2011
-Music Off Days

Monday- 8-8-2011
-God First
-Writing Down The Bones
-Read(savor!) A Jar Of Buttons by Ted Kooser (I noticed his use of @ 10 words associated with water/sea in this poem- kind of like writing to the hook in songwriting?
-Walk
-Write 1 hour
Write out lyrics to What Was I Thinkin? sung by Dierks Bentley and written by Dierks Bentley/ Brett Beavers/ Deric Ruttan
-Write 1 hour

Tuesday- 8-9-2011
-God First
-Walk
-Write 1 hour
-Watch NSAI interview with Tom Shapiro
-Listen to class with Steve
-Write 1 hour

Wednesday- 8-10-2011
-God First
-Ted Kooser?s Dishwater
-Write 1 hour
-Writing Down The Bones
-Walk
-Write 1 hour
-SKYPE session with Steve 12-1 (Work on my song God Use Me and made great progress in the rewriting!

Thursday- 8-11-2011
-God First
-Walk
-Write out lyrics to Tailights Blue sung by Allan Jackson and written by Jay Knowles/Adam Wright
-Write 2 hours
-Walk
-Write 1 hour

Friday- 8-12-2011
-God First
-Ted Kooser?s Depression Glass
-Listen to Steve?s class
-Walk
-Writing Down The Bones
-Write 1 hour
-Walk
-Write 1 hour

Saturday- 8-13-2011/ Sunday- 8-14-2011
-Music Off Days

Monday- 8-15-2011
-God First
-Ted Kooser?s Zenith
-Extra journal and log work
-Walk
-Write 1 hour
-Write out lyric to Put A Girl In It sung by Brooks and Dunn and written by Ben Hayslip/Rhett Akins/D. Davidson
-Write 1 hour

Tuesday- 8-16-2011
-God First
-Listen to class with Steve
-Writing Down The Bones
-Walk
-Write 1 hour
-Walk
-Write 1 hour

Wednesday- 8-17-2011
-God First
-Bought the book Fishing The Hat by Steven Sondheim
-Read 2 hours
-Walk
-Write 1 hour
-Ted Kooser?s Necktie
-Write 1 hour

Thursday- 8-18-2011
-God First
-Walk
-Write 2 hours
-Writing Down The Bones
-Listen to class with Steve
-Walk
-Co-writing session 3 hours

Friday- 8-19-2011
-God First
-Write 3 hours
-Walk
-Read 1 hour
-Ted Kooser?s Applesauce (remarkable)
-Listen to Class with Steve
-Write out lyric to We Really Shouldn?t Be Doing This sung by George Strait and written by Jim Lauderdale

Saturday- 8-20-2011/ Sunday- 8-21-2011
-Music Off Days-

Monday- 8-22-2011
-God First
-Write 1 hour
-Ted Kooser?s Creamed Corn
-Walk
-Write 2-1/2 hours
-Write out lyric to The Big One sung by George Strait and written by Devon O?Day and Gerry House
-Walk

Tuesday-8-23-2011
-God First
-Listen to class with Steve
-Writing Down The Bones
-Walk
-Write 1 hour
-Write out lyric to She?ll Leave You With A Smile sung by George Strait and written by Jay Knowles/Oddie Blackmon
-Walk

Wednesday- 8-24-2011
-God First
-Write 1 hour
-Walk
-Read Flow Blue China by Ted Kooser
-Write out lyric to Blue Clear Sky sung by George Strait and written by Bob DiPiero/John Jarrard/Mark D. Sandres
-Write 1 hour

Thursday- 8-25-2011
-God First
-Extra work on journal and log
-Write 1 hour
-Walk
-Write out lyric to Run sung by George Strait and written by Tony Lane/Anthony Smith
-Write 1 hour

Friday- 8-26-2011
-God First
-Write 1 hour
-Walk
-Write 2 hours
-Read Father by Ted Kooser
-Listen to class with Steve
-Walk

Saturday- 8-27-2011/ Sunday- 8-28-2011
-Music Off Days-

Monday- 8-29-2011
-God First
-Walk
-Listen to Steve?s class again
-Writing Down The Bones
-Write 2 hours
-Walk

Tuesday- 8-30-2011
-God First
-Walk
-Prepare for Skype session
-Played a new song today I feel really great about! Great comments from Steve- great melody, feel, title and first verse. As usual for me, the story needs to develop! The best thing I like about my classes with Steve is the honesty? I don?t need to be falsely encouraged. I want the truth!! And I trust him on that!
-Walk
-Listen right away to class again
-Write 1-1/2 hours

Wednesday- 8-31-2011
-God First
-Write 2 hours
-Walk
-Write 1 hour
-Walk
-Journal and log work
-Write out lyric to I Can Still Make Cheyenne sung by George Strait and written by Aaron Barker/ Erv Woolsey

Thursday- 9-1-2011
-God First
-Walk
-Write 1 hour
-Walk
-Write 2 hours
-Writing Down The Bones
-Write out lyric to You Look So Good In Love sung by George Strait and written by Rory Bourke/Glen Ballard/Kerry Chater

Friday- 9-2-2011
-God First
-Walk
-Write 2 hours
-Walk
-Write 2 hours
-Listen to class with Steve

Saturday- 9-3-2011/ Sunday- 9-4-2011
-Music Off Days-

Monday- 9-5-2011
-God First!
-Read from Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg
-Walk
-Ted Kooser?s Pearl (I sure love this!)
-Write 2 hours
-Walk
-Write 1 hour

Tuesday- 9-6-2011
-God First!
-Listen to Steve?s class again
-Writing Down The Bones
-Walk
-Write 1 hour
-Walk
-Write 2 hours

Wednesday- 9-7-2011
-God First
-Prepare for class with Steve
-Skype session with Steve- Re-writing song from last week, and another new song. Another great class on developing the plot/ story line. Eye opening!
-Listen to class immediately
-Write 2 hours
-Walk

Thursday- 9-8-2011
-God First
-Listen again to yesterday?s class
-Journal and log work
-Walk
-Ted Kooser?s Old Cemetery
-Write out lyric to I Hate Everything sung by George Strait and written by Keith Stegall/Garry Harrison
-Walk

Friday- 9-9-2011
-God First
-Writing Down The Bones
-Walk
-A Winter?s Morning by Ted Kooser
-Write poetry- Waiting?
-Write 2 hours
-Walk
-Write 1 hour

Saturday- 9-10-2011/ Sunday- 9-11-2011
-Music Off Days-

Monday- 9-12-2011
-God First
-Walk
-Write 4 hours with a few breaks- (It is a rare thing for the writing to come for this long with this kind of concentration)
-Listen to class
-Write out lyric to The Chair sung by George Strait and written by Hank Cochran/Dean Dillon
-Walk

Tuesday- 9-13-2011
-God First
-Watch NSAI interview with Tom Shapiro again
-Extra work on journal and log
-Walk
-Write 2 hours
-Walk
-Ted Kooser?s Bank Fishing For Bluegills

Wednesday- 9-14-2011
-God First
-Write 1 hour
-Prepare for class with Steve
-Skype session- continued re-writes on 2 songs. Very happy with progress spurred on my Steve?s comments!
-Walk
-Listen immediately to class and make changes
-Write 1 hour

Thursday- 9-15-2011
-God First
-Write 2 hours
-Walk
-Write 2 hours
-Writing Down The Bones
-Write 1 hour more
-Ted Kooser?s Sharpshooter

Friday- 9-16-2011
-God First
-Write 2 hours
-Walk
-Write 1 hour
-Listen to class again
-Write out lyrics to Rough and Ready sung by Trace Atkins and written by Craig Wiseman/Brian White/Blair Mackichan

Saturday- 9-17-2011/ Sunday- 9-18-2011
-Music Off Days-

Monday- 9-19-2011
-God First
-Listen to class with Steve
-Walk
-Log work
-Writing Down The Bones
-Write 2 hours

Tuesday- 9-20-2011
-God First
-Write 1 hour
-Prepare for class
-Skype session with Steve- extremely happy with the development of these song. One of them, I believe is the best song I?ve written! I haven?t felt that way in a while.
-Walk
-Write 2 hours

Wednesday- 9-21-2011
-God First
-Writing Down The Bones
-Walk
-Ted Kooser?s The Bright Side
-Write poetry
-Write 1 hour
-Walk
-Write 1 more hour

Thursday- 9-22-2011
-God First
-Walk
-Write 1 hour
-Write out lyrics to You Look Good In My Shirt sung by Keith Urban and written by Tony Martin/Mark Nesler/Tom Shapiro
-Walk
-Write 1 hour

Friday- 9-23-2011
-God First
-Writing Down The Bones
-Ted Kooser?s Prisoners From The Front
-Listen to class with Steve
-Write 1 hour
-Walk
-Write 1 hour

Saturday- 9-24-2011/ Sunday- 9-25-2011
-Music Off Days-

Monday- 9-26-2011
-God First
-Writing Down The Bones
-Listen again to class with Steve
-Walk
-Write 2 hours
-Ted Kooser?s The Veteran In A New Field

Tuesday- 9-27-2011
-God First
-Write out lyrics to In Color sung by Jamey Johnson and written by Jamey Johnson/James Otto/Lee Miller (A great song for sure!)
-Ted Kooser?s Turkey Vultures
-Walk
-Write 2 hours

Wednesday- 9-28-2011
-God First
-Write 1 hour
-Prepare for class/ rehearse
-Skype session with Steve- I?ve got a song that?s good enough to continue to labor over every line and rhyme and phrase and it keeps getting better. I?m learning a lot from this one!
-Walk
-Writing Down The Bones
-Write 1 hour

Thursday- 9-29-2011
-God First
-Walk
-Write 1 hour
-Walk
-Write 2 hours
-Ted Kooser?s Pegboard

Friday- 9-30-2011
-God First
-Writing Down The Bones
-Ted Kooser?s At The County Museum
-Walk
-Write 1 hour
-Write 1 more hour

Saturday- 10-1-2011/ Sunday- 10-2-2011
-Music Off Days-