Archive for November, 2009

Funniest Book Shelves Ever!

November 29, 2009

Beneath Australian Outback Skies

November 25, 2009

Upon arrival (finally) in Darwin, our first full day we headed out to the track to see the MIT kids and our son with Eleanor, their race car in the World Solar Challenge. They readied their car and drove it in scrutineering trials so the safety engineers could make sure the vehicles passed all of the tests.

Our son has completed this race as a driver of the solar car in a few previous years while he was a student. This year, now as a graduate, he drove the lead car, responsible for communicating with the solar car and the chase vehicle behind it. The drivers of the solar car this time were the small, slender girls of the team. (the lightest of all possible weight!)

I recall watching the slightly cheesy movie about the solar car experience in Australia, RACE TO THE SUN, where they showed the road trains – – those huge trucks barreling down the highway. They’d do a real number on a solar vehicle, and I’d imagine a roo or a misplaced wallabye could get in the way of the race, too. But since we didn’t actually go through the outback with the kids, and instead flew down to Adelaide to meet them at the end, we had to ask them about their journey.

Beginning in Darwin and following the Stuart Highway, through the outback to Adelaide, the group bedded down beneath the starry skies. Without the glare of cars and electric lights below to diminsh their power, the night sky’s stars really illuminated the blackness.
And their sleep “mates?”
“The kangaroos aren’t shy,” says Tofer.
They’d hop or even sit right by their heads as they slept.

Meanwhile, we toured a river via small boat to see the crocs and lovely birds near Darwin before flying to the Adelaide destination. After the cruise (47 degrees centigrade . . . we were told 37 degrees C equals 100 degrees F!) we hiked in the forest, while swatting bugs and viewing Aboriginal rock art.

Writing Exercise: Can you imagine a place you’ve never been by listening to someone else’s story? Reading a book about it? Write a scene in a place you’ve never been or in an unfamiliar time period. Discover details by reading or interviewing someone who HAS lived in this place or time era.

I apologize for the lack of pictures on this site. It is due to my lack of technological expertise!

Book of the future . . .now?

November 24, 2009

Of Wiles in Oz

November 23, 2009

Every geographic area has a language all of its own. Sometimes it’s an accent. Other times it’s a unique slang. Either way, communication may become muddled and amusing. On our first trip to Australia in 2005 for our son’s World Solar Challenge Race, we visited Kangaroo Island by way of ferry. Upon arriving, we met our tour guide and group in a van.
“Did you see any wiles, mate?” asked the guide.
Bob and I scratched our heads. We didn’t have our “wiles” about us at that moment.
“Excuse me?” I asked.
The guide repeated his question.
“Did you see any wiles?”
Again, Bob and I eyed each other. What now? Play charades?
Then it hit us. The guide was asking if we had seen any WHALES while we were on our ferry ride.

This time we noticed signs in Darwin. POKIES. Poker is a big game in Australia. With a British influence, Bob ate bangers (sausages) one day and I had fish and chips for lunch.
We hiked in the bush (Australian’s country’s wildlife area) and saw a willy willy. (dusty wind that spirals upward) Saw a kiwi (person from New Zealand) and ate a dog’s breakfast. (messy!)
Upon entering an early morning tour bus, the guide greeted us and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll stop for a bit of breaky soon.” (breakfast)
I took a picture of a kangaroo and with a “joey” in her pouch and she examined me closely for any signs of food for sharing. Alas, they don’t recommend feeding them, so I couldn’t give her anything at all. But she still did a thorough search.

Writing Exercise: What slang is prominent in your area? Are “your people” known for an accent? When I came from Wisconsin, I was teased here in California not only for my Midwestern drawl, but for my “Milwaukee-ease.” Later, I turned this type of slang into a humor article for a San Francisco newspaper.
1. List as many various slang words from your region as you can recall. You may begin this list today and continue it for awhile. Ask friends to help you! It might consist of phrases as well as words themselves.
2. What about the accent? Try and describe the accent and how it varies from other dialects you here.
3. Work your unique area into a short story, personal experience piece, poem or article. It can be humorous, serious, or a mixture of the two styles. Feel free to share any part of your dialect and slang. We’d love to hear the fun way the world communicates differently!

New Student Essay Contest . . . Win $1000!

November 20, 2009

Essay Edge, a college application essay editing service, has launced its Tell your Story College Admission Essay Contest, which awards a grand prize of $1,000. Must submit entry form by Dec. 1, 2009.

Students should fill out the entry form at and submit essays between 250 – 1,000 words in length. Entrants must be at least 13 years old and residents of the U.S. Prize winner will be selected on or about Dec. 15.

Essays will be judged by EssayEdge editors and will evaluate entries on proper grammar, spelling and usage; topic and organization; word choice, style and eloquence; creativity and originality; and overall effectiveness.

Limit one entry per person or email address, please; all additional entries will be disregarded and not permitted. Submitting an entry constitutes agreeing to the terms of these Official Rules.

One (1) Grand Prize. One (1) Grand Prize winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship in the form of a $1,000 check payable to the winner. Total prize value: $1,000.

Potential prize winner will be selected on or about December 15, 2009 from among all entries received. All essays will be judged by Sponsor.

For entry form or more information visit:

Humor Poetry Contest

November 20, 2009

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

Now in its ninth year. We seek today’s best humor poems. Total cash prizes have been increased to $3,600, with a top prize of $1,500. This contest is free to enter. Click here to read winning entries from the past.

Submission Period
Entries accepted August 15, 2009-April 1, 2010

How to Submit Your Entry
New simplified procedure! Just click here to submit your entry online. There is no fee to submit to the Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest. Poets of all nations may enter. Your poem must be in English (inspired gibberish also accepted). Please submit only one poem per year. Your poem may be of any length. Both published and unpublished work are welcome.

First Prize of $1,500 and publication on
Second Prize of $800 and publication on
Third Prize of $400 and publication on
Twelve honorable mentions will receive $75 each and publication on

The winners and honorable mentions will also all receive official Winning Writers polo shirts.

Announcement of Results
The winner and honorable mentions of the ninth contest will be announced in our free email newsletter and on on August 15, 2010.

For more information:

Student Writing Contest

November 19, 2009

Students! Show off your horror-spooky-writing skills by entering the contest below. Finish a story by R.L. Stine and win prizes for you and your classroom!

(Special thanks to Fatima for finding this one!)

Adult Writing Contest

November 19, 2009

Salem College International Literary Awards:

Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award for a single short story up to 5000 word

Rita Dove Poetry Award for a poem up to 100 lines (up to two poems per submission, any style)

Penelope Niven Creative Nonfiction Award for a single piece of creative nonfiction, including personal essay and memoir, up to 5000 words

The winner in each genre will receive $1200. The two honorable mentions in each genre will receive $150.

Competition Rules and Requirements:

– Competitions are open to both women and men who write in English except Salem Academy and College employees and students.

– All submissions must be unpublished. Postmark dedline: February 1, 2010. Winners will be announced by May 15, 2010.

– The author’s name and address must not appear on the manuscript.

– For each entry, you must include all of the following: Three clean typed copies of your manuscript (double space all prose entries); one cover sheet per entry with your name, address, telephone number, email, the genre you are submitting (fiction, nonfiction or poetry), word count (for nonfiction and fiction) / line count (for poetry), and the title of the work(s); a check / money order for the $15 (in US dollars) reading fee per submission, made out to the Salem College International Literary Awards; and a SASE for notification of winners.

For further information, visit ; email; or contact Amy Knox Brown, Director of the Salem College Center for Women Writers, 601 S. Church Street, Winstron-Salem, NC 27101.

What to do on a Fourteen-Hour Airplane Trip

November 18, 2009

We’re back from Australia, where we traveled to see the World Solar Challenge because our son, Chris (we call him “Tofer”) was on the MIT team. (More about THIS part in a future blog.)

Today I’ll focus on the journey. Although airplanes and airports are usually no one’s favorite part of the travel experience, there are ways to make the plane trip go by more quickly.

The first fourteen hours weren’t so bad, even with a baby who screamed a few rows away.
After the first twenty minutes of solid wailing . . . while we were still on the ground in San Francisco, the young man seated between my husband and me said with a smile and a nod to the child, “Did you buy chance bring a roll of duct tape?”

I looked at my husband. We exchanged glances. We knew immediately this man’s line of work.

“You’re an engineer, aren’t you?” I said to him.

“Yeah, how’d you know?”

I didn’t tell him when Tofer was a kid I left him a roll of duct tape in his Christmas stocking. (Yes, he’s now an engineer.)

A few tips for a long flight:

1. Bring some new pacifiers. Crying baby? Stick one in the baby’s mouth for comfort. You may need one for yourself too. . .

2. Great reading material. While others may dread a long flight such as this, I LOOK FORWARD TO uninterrupted (well, mostly) reading time.

3. Soft, squishy ear plugs. (you know why)

4. A book reading light so you can keep reading while others are snoozing or watching the movie.

5. Post-it notes to mark up the book for places you really like and would like to “model” your own writing.

6. Paper and pen of course! All that reading will spark ideas or help you get unblocked on a previous project.

7. Give yourself freedom to daydream about ideas and projects while you have that pen and paper handy.

8. All of that reading works fine until your eyes burn and begin to ache. Then sleep. However, you may want to give yourself a dream intention. “I will dream of a creative idea to help my writing.” (or change the word “writing” to be something more specific)

9. On the trip home, I actually watched the movie because the movie was good. (Julie and Julia) Movies are a great way to learn and help your own storytelling abilities.

10. What is YOUR secret for surviving a long airplane ride? Feel free to share it here and with others you know when they tell you they will embark on a long trip.

Once we landed in Sydney, we had a few hours to wait and another few hours on a plane to Darwin. Those are the “tired hours.” Daydreaming and sleep are usually the only thing exhausted brains can handle at that point. But with excitement looming, who needs more?

Just like with the writing journey, our projects have a multitude of steps and ways to help get through the process. What works for one, might help another.

Books I read on this journey and in Australia: BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett, DAUGHTER OF FORTUNE by Isabel Allende, THE SHIPPING NEWS by E. ANNIE PROULX, MURDER ON THE EIFFEL TOWER by Claude Izner and TRACKS by Robyn Davidson.

The book I could not put down: BEL CANTO
Book I most looked forward to reading each night: TRACKS

Funny Site – – To “Weed” or Not to “Weed”

November 13, 2009

As a high school and college student, one of my part-time jobs was working in a library. After college graduation, I took jobs behind the check-out counters at local libraries during summers when I wasn’t teaching. So I’ve had a love of libraries and books, old and new, for quite a long time.

Every year, I know there is a painful time when libraries must weed their shelves of books due to lack of space. In my current town, there is a lovely give-away adventure in the parking lot. My shelves are filled with such treasures.

Below is a site of some books that were published and perhaps NEED to be taken off the shelves now . . .

I especially like the book KNITTING WITH DOG HAIR. Since my non-shedding Yorkie’s dog fur is now rolling across the floor at an alarming rate, it occurs to me that I might make use of this in a creative way . . .