Archive for January, 2010

Funny Writing Prompt for You

January 28, 2010

From the elementary teacher blog, I read this today.  The teacher received this email from her administrator: 

A pair of orange handled scissors and two black sleeves were found in the boys’ bathroom.  If you’re missing a pair of large scissors, let me know.  They may lead to the person who is doing a wardrobe change in the bathroom.

Exercise:  Write the story behind the story!   Please share a few sentences!

TEENS – Frequent Contests Here!

January 28, 2010

Win free books at the above site by sending in your writing to their contests.  Have fun!

Sad News in the Book World

January 28, 2010

Random Act of Kindness on BART

January 27, 2010

Today I had a date with a writer in San Francisco.  I awoke as I have been doing lately, around four o’clock in the morning.  Why am I not going back to sleep?  I have no idea.  I wish I could, for the next hour or two often give me the best dreams and the best time for my creativity to work. 

(Yes, you can actually be creative during your dream time . . .)

So I got up and took care of housekeeping chores and writer business before it was time to take BART to meet my writing partner.  We had a productive day, and when it was time to head back home, I hopped on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and immediately closed my eyes and thought about all of the creative ideas we had discussed. 

Oops.  My dreamtime kicked in accidentally.   I nearly slept through my stop!  I awoke with a start and searched for my BART ticket.  It was nowhere to be found.  In my sleepy haze, I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere.  I had been holding it.  Did it disappear as I slept?  Jump out of my hands and exit the door before me? 

The man sitting next to me noticed my problem and offered a spare ticket he had.  “It has $6.45 left on it.  Better than nothing,” he said. 

“Thank you so much!” I handed him $7.00.

“No,” he pushed the money back into my hands.  “I insist.  Just take the ticket.”

What a kind man.  I smiled.  He was giving me a random act of kindness! 

I put the money in his hands and looked him in the eyes.  “Thank you SO MUCH.  But I can afford this.  Instead, give it to someone who needs it.” 

He nodded and smiled back. 


1.  It’s your turn.  Have you ever received a random act of kindness from someone?  Write about it in your journal, for an assignment, or share it here. 

2.  Write about a random act of kindness you were able to give to someone else.

3.  Now go out and DO a random act of kindness ON PURPOSE.

P.S.  I found my original BART ticket in the outside pocket of my purse after I really woke up.  Right after I got off one stop too early . . . and had to wait fifteen more minutes for the NEXT train.  Reminder:  do NOT fall asleep on BART.

And this from the San Francisco Chronicle . . .

January 26, 2010

“We find time for things we want and make excuses for everything else.” 

Remember this when you think, “I don’t have time to write.”

Question about Contest Requirements

January 25, 2010

Hi Liz,

My students are wondering about the requirements for submitting poetry. Since they want to make sure everything is done correctly, on one part of the application it says poems do not need to be double spaced, but under guidelines it says everything must be double spaced. They also want to know if they can use a larger font for the title on the top or if everything needs to be in 12 font. Thanks, Joni Whalin

Great question, Joni!   It is fine to single space poems.  If the title is larger than 12 point it’s acceptable.  We only have a problem when students turn in manuscripts that are smaller than 12 point.  (It’s hard on our eyes to read so many manuscripts with anything less than 12 point page after page . . .)

When a student turns in a five page short story with LESS than 12 point font that story isn’t even read by any of the judges.   But a poem is MUCH easier to read.   I can see how it can be confusing.  We read all poems if they are single or double spaced because of the way the guidelines are written.   But since you’ve mentioned it and it can be confusing, we will “re-word” this next year.  Thanks for pointing this out to us!

Deep Thoughts from Charlotte’s Web

January 22, 2010

“Take a deep breath!  Now climb to the highest place you can get to.  Now make an attachment with your spinnerets, hurl yourself into space, and let out a dragline as you go down!”    Charlotte

Charlotte the spider, from Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, may have been talking about spinning a web, but she could have been refering to the “risk-taking” feeling of writing.  It’s scary! 

Every time you write your thoughts, feelings, and stories, pat yourself on the back.  You’re sharing yourself with the world, creating art, and growing as a creative person. 

Charlotte also knew a thing or two about people.  “With men it’s rush, rush, rush every minute,”  she said.

Take time in your life to pause and reflect.  Do you have five minutes you can set aside to daydream?  Five minutes to stare out the window and think about a character, a story, a poem, or a scene from your own life you’d like to put on paper? 

“I don’t know what a magnum opus is,” said Wilbur.

“That’s Latin,” explained Charlotte.  “It means ‘great work.’ This egg sac is my great work –the finest thing I have ever made.”

Work on your own writing so you will create your own magnum opus – – the finest thing you’ll ever make.

Contra Costa Middle School Students – Enter Our Contest! $$

January 18, 2010

It’s a rainy day here in Northern California.  Kids have the day off of school.  What to do?  Take out a sheet of paper or write on your computer.  Try your hand at a poem, a story, or a personal story about YOU.    Then enter it in our Young Writers Contest.  (Guidelines at lower right) 

Let’s talk about the poetry category in today’s blog.  

What should I write about? 

What do you like to do?  How do you like to spend your time?  Do you play an instrument?  Enjoy a sport?  Spend time with friends? Shop till you drop?  Turn your passion into print.  Contrary to popular belief, poems do not have to rhyme.  

Print out the poetry tips, also at the right, to help you when you’re working on the second or third draft of  your poem. 

What are you trying to say about your subject?  Be specific.  If you are writing about how you love your car, make sure we know the car so well we can see it and know how it feels to ride in it.  If it’s about your dog, make sure we know her intimately through your choice of words. 

And speaking of words, Cut any and all unnecessary ones.  After all, a poem isn’t just prose put in poetry form.  Every word in a poem must be there for a reason.  If not, cut it out.  (Each line doesn’t even have to be a complete sentence.)

Read your poem out loud.  Does it sound right?  If your poem has a natural “rhythm,” congratulations!  You did your job!

The Powers of Observation

January 15, 2010

While our son was home over the winter break, the three of us went out to lunch.  As I buttered my bread, I fixated on a family a few tables away.  

“What are you staring at?” asked my husband, Bob. 

Without turning around, my son responded.  “She’s looking at cute little kids.”

“How do you know that?” asked Bob.

“Because of that goofy look on her face.  She always has that look whenever she sees babies or toddlers. She has another one for dogs.”

When Bob turned his body around and saw that Tofer was right, he shook his head in awe of him.

I wasn’t surprised at all.   Tofer’s one of those creative types.  Are you?  Do you notice details that others sometimes over look?  Find yourself picking up on tiny instances, observations, comments, or senses? 

Nurture this ability.  Observe people as though you were watching them as characters in a book or movie.  Listen to their dialogue and find out what is captivating about it?  When does it get boring?  When is it funny?  Don’t be obvious of course, unless in the case of looking at cute little kids or dogs.  (Then you can always tell the parents they have adorable babies or pups.)

Writing Prompts:

1.  Write a scene where details matter to the story/plot.

2.  Write a scene about where you were today. W hat do you remember about it?  Describe it in a slow-down-the-moment way.

Cool Research Site!

January 14, 2010

Library Spot – Check it out!