Archive for May, 2010

Today’s Writing Idea

May 31, 2010

Open up a book of quotations to any page.  What’s the first quote you see?  How can it inspire a piece of writing? 

If you don’t have a quote book, you can borrow mine.  I opened up The Quotable Mark Twain edited by R. Kent Rasmussen and discovered this by Twain: 

“The porpoise is the kitten of the sea; he never has a serious thought, he cares for nothing but fun and play.”

1. Write a children’s story about a porpoise. 

2. Write a story about a character with the traits of a porpoise. 

3. Create a poem with either of these ideas in mind.  

4.  Take a day off and become the porpoise!  What will you do?  After your day of fun, create a piece of art that reflects your feelings and sense of fun.

5.  Read stories by Twain and let his style influence your writing.

Use your dreams in your daily life

May 28, 2010

In my dream a few nights ago, I see my mother in heaven.   She has long, flowing black hair.  Her hair was never this long when she was alive. 

“Hi Mom!” I say.  She greets me too, but she is busy pushing my aunt in a wheelchair so she keeps walking.

“Wait!” I say.  “I don’t seem to communicate very well with you any more here in heaven.  It’s not like it used to be.  What am I doing wrong?”

She pauses and looks me in my eyes.  “Stop trying so hard.”


This is good advice.  Not only for me connecting with her in my dream, but for anyone with their writing.  When we try too hard to create art, the art is forced and is anything but creative and natural. 

We must relax and let it flow!   How do we do this?  Daydream!  While you are letting ideas, words, and images float by you, write them down casually.  Know you are brainstorming. 

Sit in an easy chair, or lie in the sun.  Where are YOU most relaxed?

When the words feel stilted or you are in a funk, remember my mother’s words.  Go to the place in your head where you are able to relax the best.  Go to the physical place you are able to be restful. 

And create.

Dogs and their Squirrels: Relationships 101

May 26, 2010

As I wrote on the computer in my office, a squirrel on the deck rail outside my window chattered, squealed, hopped up and down, and made a scooping motion with his paw underneath the railing.  What was going on below?  I stood up for a better view. 

Beneath the squirrel on the deck floor lay Zoie, my thirteen-year-old Yorkshire Terrier.  Sunning herself, apparently unaware of the squirrel and his antics above, Zoie’s eyelids were halfway closed, in peaceful relaxation. 

 Oh, poor Zoie.  She was more deaf and blind that we had realized.  She was taking no notice whatsoever of the commotion above her. 

 Later, I told my husband of what happened and he sympathized with our dog. 

However, the next day Zoie’s actions clued me in to her unique relationship with this squirrel.  

 Again, I noticed the squirrel back at his post, ranting as though a predator was stealing his nest.  Again, I stood up.  But this time, Zoie faced him, a few feet away.  She didn’t move a whisker.  She stared nearly at him – – but averted her eyes just enough to make him aware he wasn’t her focus. 

 And she was smiling.

 Good girl.  Very good girl. 

Writing Prompt:  Animals are smarter than we think they are. 

1.  Write about an animal and his/her relationship with another animal.  Show through their actions their feelings. 

2.  Write about an animal you have known and what you’ve learned from this relationship. 

3.  Use an animal relationship to inspire art, poetry, or a story that features animal communication.


Your Brush with Fame and History

May 24, 2010

Have you ever had known or met a famous person who made her mark in history?   Met a president, an inventor, an explorer or other notable?  Had a discussion, grew up with a person that became famous or infamous?

Known a celebrity?

Share your experience in a personal narrative.  How did this experience change you?  Does the person the world knows differ from the person you met?  Or are they the same?  If it’s a person in history, you may sell this piece to the History Alive column in History Magazine.  Or there are many back pages in magazines that accept first person pieces.

Or you may take this idea another way.  Did YOU almost arrive at fame?  How? 

Remember to put specific details and an anecdote in either piece to make the reader feel like they know you and the other person.

Gas Mask. Bank Robbery. And Me.

May 21, 2010

It started like any other day.   But instead of writing, I had to run a few errands first.  The grocery store was number one.  Grabbing my purse, I noticed a stack of small checks on top of the checkbook.  The bank was right next to Safeway.  My hand froze in midair over the bank book.

“No.  Don’t go.”  The words echoed in my mind from who knows where. I felt a darkness wash over me. 

Ridiculous.  Must be because I was anxious about getting all of my work done before the writer contest banquet.

I grabbed the checks.  My body shuddered.  What was this feeling?  I tried to identify it.  Something bad was going to happen.  I didn’t have this feeling often, but when I did, I tried to heed it. 

But then again, this was silly.  However, I let myself be silly.  After all, I could hold off and do the banking on the weekend.  I left the checkbook there. 

Later, after grabbing the milk and vegies and hopping into the car, I saw a police car whip into the parking lot, with lights flashing, sirens off.  My heart thumped.  I knew why he was there.  The bank was being robbed at that very moment. 

The next day, the newspaper confirmed it.  Later that week when I did visit the bank, I asked the teller how she was.  It was her turn to shudder. 

“He was mean,” she said.  “He was all dressed in black.  And big.  Very big.  He wore a gas mask and flashed his gun around.  We knew he would use it.  One of the customers was so upset she had to go to her priest afterwards.”

The bank robber got away, unfortunately.  He is suspected of other bank robberies in the area too. 

I’m glad that I paid attention to my intuition that Monday morning.  I saved myself some emotional trauma. 

Writing Prompt:  Have you ever experienced a moment of intuition?  Did you listen to it?  Or wished you had?  Choose one or more of these experiences to inspire an essay, short story, or poem.

California Young Writers Contest Banquet

May 19, 2010

This past Saturday we honored all of the first, second and third place winners of the California Writers Club Mt. Diablo Branch’s Young Writers Contest at a banquet in Pleasant Hill.   A one-time award of Best of the Best was given to Gabriel Ostler for his short story, The Thin Line.

Meeting all of these talented kids and their families and teachers was exciting and inspiring!  After I read portions of all of their writing aloud, many members of our writing club approached me later to express their amazement at the high quality of writing. 

“Wow!  These students are so sophisticated!” said one author.  “I never wrote like that as a child.”

“Can you imagine how good they will be as adults?” said another.

I echo their sentiments.  As they grow older, if they keep writing and honing their craft and read everything they can, the new generation of California writers will be even more amazing.  We will be entertained and educated by these gems.  We look forward to your future publications. 

Congratulations winners!

Animal Writing Prompt/Idea

May 17, 2010

Use this video to inspire a piece of writing.  You choose the form.  It may be a poem, an essay, a short story or another genre.

California Writers Club Young Writers Contest Banquet

May 17, 2010

Pop Quiz

1.  Where were there 155 people gathered together to celebrate young writers?

2.  Which young writer won the BEST OF THE BEST award, which was a secret until it was announced?

3.  Which story did Chronicle Books Editor Melissa Manlove share with the group?

4.  How many kids won prizes for the quiz based on the students’ winning work?

5.   What secret tip did Liz reveal about three entries of the contest that were postmarked April 12th?


1.  Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant in Pleasant Hill

2.  Gabriel Ostler won for his short story, The Thin Line.

3.   WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak

4.  Three students all one first place in the quiz. 

5.   Three entries were delivered to the California Writers Club Young Writers Contest weeks after the April 12th deadline.  The contest had already been judged by this time.  Each entry was stamped April 12th by the post office.  Moral of the story?  Next year, make sure and send in your entries WEEKS EARLY!

Scholastic Novel Contest for High School Students

May 16, 2010
    Now’s the time to enter the PUSH Novel Contest for 2010. You submission must contain at least three and no more than five chapters from an original novel (excerpt minimum 15 pages, maximum 50 pages), as well as an outline/summary of the rest of the book, not to exceed two pages in length. The award is given in conjunction with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and all rules and regulations can be found on contest is only open to students in grades 7 through 12. Submissions cannot be emailed, and will not be returned. The gold medal winner will win a Scholastic Art & Writing Award, and the manuscript will be worked on with PUSH editorial staff, with the hope of eventual publication in PUSH.

All entries must be postmarked by March 12, 2010.

For entry form, please click here (PDF).

Summer Writing Classes for Kids – – Lafayette, CA

May 14, 2010

Summer Writing Classes at the Storyteller!

Junior Editor Program
Join a lively group of opinionated readers to discuss and review upcoming books.  Culminating newsletter includes reviews from every participant!

Thursday Evenings: June 24, July 15, July 29, August 12

Emerging Editors: grades 3-5
5:00-6:30pm (only a few spots left!)

Junior Editors:  middle school and above

$105 new members /$95 returning members

Wordplay Creative Writing Camp
Come write stories and poems — and get published in our literary magazine!

August 2-6 

$105 new members / $95 returning members

Notebook included.