Archive for February, 2009

Involve your surroundings in your writing

February 27, 2009

Happy Birthday John Steinbeck! (1902) One of my personal favorite authors, he’s most known for The Grapes of Wrath. But don’t miss East of Eden, Travels With Charley, or Cannery Row either.

Notice how he involves the setting around him in his writing. How can your surroundings influence your writing?
Exercises 1. Write about a setting throughout your life that has been important to you. Why has it been important or special? Share any good memories you have with this place. 2. Place: A carnival. Mood: Spooky. 3. Place: Dentist Office Character: Dentist just out of dental school, trying to impress a new patient.

Personal Narrative/Essay Tips

February 26, 2009

What Makes a Winning Essay/Personal Narrative?
What is a personal narrative?
A personal narrative is a story about a memory.

What is an essay? An essay IS a personal narrative, or it can be a piece of writing about any topic you choose because you want to find the truth in that experience.

1. Determine if your essay/personal narrative is really nonfiction. Although you may use techniques of fiction, your piece must be your thoughts and experiences. (This is not a “made-up” story. Visit the short story page for more information about fiction.)

Examples of essays are:

Personal narrative—a story that happened to you! How has it changed you in some way?

Opinion Piece—your opinion and why you feel that way.

1. Make sure your essay/personal narrative has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

2. Engage your reader with an intriguing beginning. Introduce your experience with humor, action, or emotion; then take your reader along on a journey of self-discovery.

3. Concentrate on drama. Write scenes. Drop your reader right into what happened! Let your reader experience the event, moment by moment!

4. Use senses (sight, sound, taste, touch) to help readers feel they are in the scene. If you can’t remember the details from the event you’re recreating, imagine what they could have been.

5. Appeal to emotion to influence your readers if you are writing an opinion piece.

6. Use anecdotes to help strengthen your opinion. An anecdote is a short incident that really happened. Use storytelling techniques to make it real.

7. Show a universal truth or an insight you’ve gained from your experience. It doesn’t have to be a major drop-dead event or idea. It can be small but thoughtful. The best essay contains a fresh observation, which often is a surprise or unexpected.

8. Revise your work until you’re satisfied. Pay particular attention to the ending. Does the text build to that conclusion?

9. Write honestly and with passion. If you feel strongly about your topic, chances are so will your readers.

Is there a song you need to write?

February 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Johnny Cash, 1932.

Exercise 1: Have you ever written a poem that felt like it needed to be sung? Try and write a song lyric. It doesn’t have to be a complete song, just a phrase or two. See if you can set it to music. It can even be a familiar tune.
Exercise 2: Take a well-known lyric and change the words slightly, making them funny or different in some way.

Speaking of doughnuts . . .

February 26, 2009

My doughnut memory takes me back to my childhood in Wisconsin. There used to be German bakeries there that made the BEST cruellers! Have you ever seen the movie The Wizard of Oz? There is a scene where Auntie Em offers cruellers I do believe. They are the BEST!
However, if you live in California, as I do now, you can’t find them anywhere! So I literally drool when I think of them. They are crunchy and sugary on the outside, and light and flakey on the inside.

Do any of you have a food memory that brings your senses to life? Try and describe a food with words that will make your reader feel the same way.

Yummy Doughnut Memories

February 26, 2009

This from Mary K regarding Yummy Doughnut Memories:

Mrs. Schimming, who lived across the road from us when we were kids on the farm, made the best doughnuts we ever tasted! They were raised (made with yeast) doughnuts, very light and perfectly done. She put sugar on them or frosted them with brown sugar frosting. I made similar doughnuts when I was young but they were never as good as hers. There used to be a bakery in Milwaukeee named Militzer’s that had sugared doughnuts reminicent of Mrs. Schimming’s.

What’s your impression?

February 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Renoir! (1842) Take a look at this great impressionist, and see if his work inspires any poems, stories, or memories for you. What was a piece of art that you’ve created with a story behind it? Have you created art for someone else?

Exercise: 1. His name was Art. But he hated art. What happens to change his mind? 2. Scene: Art Museum. Characters: thieves planning the greatest heist in history What goes wrong? 3. Renoir time travels and appears at your side today. Write a conversation or scene.

Writer Conferences

February 25, 2009

The above link is a great website for those of you interested in attending any writer conferences. Sometimes there is so much great free stuff on the web it is amazing, isn’t it?

Just like our public libraries. Don’t forget to visit them, too. Do you have your public library bookmarked on your computer? Do you know about the wonderful system of requesting books? Super cool. They also have a service where they recommend books to you. It’s like shopping! Frequently, I use Amazon for research, and then request those book from the library website. Just like Christmas, they appear at the library and I’m notified when to pick them up. Best part – – it’s free! This is the link to the Contra Costa Library system, where I live in the East Bay of California. What is the link to your library system? Google it and find out. Next, have fun requesting your favorite books. Find out your friends favorite books. I keep a wish list on my Amazon site so when I get “low” I know where to go for more great books!

Funny writing from a reader!

February 25, 2009

Thank you, mlcpinky for sending me this great piece you wrote today. I laughed out loud, which is proof it IS funny and it works! Here it is. I’m pasting it here, because for the life of me, I have trouble finding comments afterwards. I’ll just put them in the main post so it’s easier for everyone to read.

“Well… the plan would have worked if that rebel hadn’t spotted us.”

“Excuse me? Are you trying to make me feel better?”

“… I just thought that maybe you might feel comforted–”

“Yeah, right. Look at us! We’re prisoners stuck in the middle of Rebel Fortress, surrounded with no hope of escape, and guaranteed a most painful death. Now how exactly will you make me feel comforted?”

“… Well, if you really want to be that pessimistic… I mean, if you just look outside, you know, it looks kinda nice with the trees and the sunset and the–”

“Prison guards?”

“… That too.”

“I say we need to bust outta here. Whaddya say?”


“Don’t be such a wimp! If we don’t try, we’ll never make it out.”

“Well… okay.”

“That’s the spirit. Come on.”

Clatter. Clank. “Huh–?” Bonk. Guard goes down.

“Now, let’s keep going.”



“They spotted us! Run! Run!”

“They’re catching up to us! I can’t–”

“Keep goin’–”

“… Well… they have pretty good meatballs here, don’t they?”

“Shut up!”



Will you be sweet, suspenseful, or intriguing or all three?

February 24, 2009

In honor of Library Lovers Month, write a scene set in a library. Make it unexpected. Create a sweet romance, a suspenseful mystery, or an intriguing thriller.
How? Why wander through the library and read what you would like to write. Sometimes to start your writing day, all it takes is a chapter or a page or two to begin your own creative journey.

YOU win an Oscar!

February 23, 2009

Did you watch the Oscars last night? Enjoy the fantastic gowns? Spot the botox-laden stars? Enjoy Ben Stiller’s impersonation? I enjoyed it when Kate Winslet mentioned her childhood fantasy of winning an Oscar in front of her bathroom mirror, using a shampoo bottle in place of the Oscar statue.

Exercise: You have just won an Oscar or perhaps a Pulitzer or another major literary award. What is it for? Write your acceptance speech. Write the pitch for whatever you won. Write the bookjacket or p.r. blurb for what won! Send it to me and we’ll post them if you are brave enough! Accept the challenge. It can be fun!