Archive for July, 2010

10 Top Reasons Why It’s Great to be a Writer

July 31, 2010

1.  You love being in that “special place” where weird characters talk to you and no one in white straight-jackets lock you away.

2.  You have the freedom to set your own work hours.  If your most creative time is 3 a.m., who cares?  Go for it!

3.   Where else can you wear your old blue bathrobe with your fuzzy bedroom slippers?

4.   Your supervisor is an eleven-pound Yorkshire Terrier who encourages snack breaks.

5.  Your supervisor interrupts your work for exercise breaks.

6.  You get a free pass on outdated clothing choices, funky hair styles, and childlike behavior because “your are a writer.”  (And you can wander around the neighborhood in your old blue bathrobe and fuzzy bedroom slippers with your Yorkie . . .)

7.  Your need research  which requires much time spent wandering around in used bookstores and libraries.   (Which writer doesn’t love those?)

8.  There is a possible story waiting everywhere you go, all around you.  There’s never a dull moment as long as your eyes are open to the many stories around you.

9.   Got  teacher meaner than the bad witch of the north?  A friend who sold you out to the mob?  Kill  ’em.  Go ahead.  Do it in your novel!  Or if you don’t want to kill them, at least make them apologize to you. 

10.  Because you can’t not write.  Nothing makes you feel better.  And at the end of the day, you can’t wait to go to work tomorrow.

What’s Your Earliest Memory?

July 28, 2010

“Memory is the diary we carry around with us.” –Oscar Wilde

What’s your earliest memory?

Mine is when I was two years old.  I had bone surgery to correct a concave chest, so it wouldn’t grow too close to my heart.  Afterwards, I wore a cast from my neck to my hips.  I don’t recall anything of this hospital experience other than one moment in time when I tried to get a drink at a hospital water fountain.  (or in what we Southern Wisconsinites call a bubbler)

On my tippy-toes I perched, my mother pressing the handle of the fountain for me. My mouth open, the water streamed in front of me, just out of reach.  My tears flowed as fast as the water.  Mom picked me up, but the bulky cast was in the way.  No matter what angle we tried, it seemed I couldn’t get my mouth any closer.

I’m sure Mom found a cup so I could quench my thirst, but both she and I knew that it wasn’t the point of a bubbler.  Half the fun of bubblers are the uniqueness of the experience. 

And so we approach our writing in unusual ways to provide a unique experience for the reader – – and the writer.  If at first it doesn’t work one way, we try another.  Another voice, another place to begin, another conflict or character quirk. We may get frustrated along our journey, but at some point, we’ll either find the ah-ha moment and rejoice, or move on to another project.  Sometimes it just takes time to wait and find the place within yourself to discover that ah-ha moment.

May you always find the ah-ha moment in your work and if you don’t, at least learn something in each and every journey.  I think the reason I remember the bubbler incident is I learned a lesson that day.   Sometimes you don’t get what you want right away.  After the cast came off, there was the joy of many bubblers for me. 

May you have a joyful bubbler kind of writing day. 

Buzz Words Can Be Funny

July 26, 2010

Several years ago, when our son came home from his brainiac college, we picked him up from the airport and he talked about his life at his school.

His face lit up.  “Mom, it’s the only place where you’ll be at a party and everyone will get in his heated discussion about integers.  Can you believe it?” 

Yes.  My son had found his nitch. 

Then he launched into descriptions of ideas, discussions, and projects he worked on.  I froze.  I swear I saw his mouth move.  Words flew out of it.  But what were they?  I didn’t recognize one of them, save for a preposition or a verb now and then.  But what about the rest of them?

What had happened to my son?  He had come back with a whole new vocabulary.  Nerd-smart-math and science buzz words.  Jargon.   And even real words that I’d never learn unless I took Advanced ThermoDynamics Calculus Applied Mathematics 999.

How could I begin to ask him questions?  I was too far behind in his dialogue now to begin.  So I just smiled and nodded and read his body language.  He was happy and content; that’s all I really cared about. 

Fortunately, my engineer math-minded husband was in the car too, so I could pump him for information once we were alone. 

When the time came, I drew Bob aside.  “So what was Tofer talking about on the way home?”

“You mean that story?”  he asked.

“Yes,” I said.  “Did you understand any of it?”

My husband smiled and shook his head.  “Not a word.”

Writing Prompts:

1.  Create a character with a passion or a specific career.  Research that passion or career.  What specific vocabulary and jargon go with that subject?  Write a scene where your character interacts with others in that field.  Or it could be funny where the character interacts with people NOT in her field, as what happened with my husband and me and my son. ( A fish-out-of-water experience.)

2.  What are the buzz words specific to your field?  How did you learn about them?

3.  Create a story where a character pretends to be someone she or he isn’t.  She/he  has to fake her way through a career or hobby, but doesn’t know the buzz words.  What happens?

Of Yacking Squirrels and Squawking Jays

July 23, 2010

As I read in my easy chair, with Zoie asleep in my lap,  the squirrel I talk to all the time jumped off of our roof, rushed onto the tree that overlaps our deck, and chattered wildly at me, tail twitching and flailing all the while.  

Zoie awoke, jumped off of my lap.  Worry spread over her face; her eyes were full of sadness.  “Get up, Mom!” she seemed to say.

 With a sigh, I obeyed and headed for the kitchen window.  There, on the bird feeder, perched ANOTHER squirrel, chomping away on the bird’s seeds.    

“What do you think you’re doing?” I said to him, running outside and flailing MY arms about.  He lit out and the yacking squirrel in the back yard shut up.   

I came back inside, repositioned myself in my comfy chair, and picked up my book again.  Zoie curled back into my lap for another nap.   As I submersed myself back into the world of fiction, several blue jays flew onto the tree and squawked in tandom.

“What is going on out there with the animals?” asked my husband. 

I said, “Bob they’re telling me that the squirrel is back on their feeder.  Go chase him off.” 

Sure enough.   Bob disciplined the naughty animal, and as soon as  the misbehaving little guy jumped down, the jays zipped their beaks.  

Just gotta recognize the early animal warning system.

Writing Prompts:

1.  When have you interacted with nature?  What happened?  Describe it.  How did you feel?

2.  Create an opportunity to communicate with wildlife.  Write about your experience.

3.  Create a fictional world with animals as the main characters.

4.  Create a short story or poem with an animal as a character or inciting incident for the plot. 

5.  Write about an animal memory from your past.  Recreate details and senses to make your readers feel like they are there.


July 19, 2010

How do you handle the unexpected events in your life?  The surprises, both good and bad?  When was the last time you had a pleasant, lovely surprise?  A not-so-good surprise?  What happened?

Use this quote to inspire a story or poem:  “The dumber people think you are, the more surprised they’re going to be when you kill them.”   William Clayton


“Expect the best, plan for the worst, and plan to be surprised.”  Denis Waitley


Write about a character that receives a wonderful surprise that takes a negative turn.  Or an unpleasant surprise that creates a positive experience.  Sometimes in our own lives our challenges eventually bring us to the place of the most joy and satisfaction.  But of course we don’t see it when we are going through this journey.

Write about a surprising animal in your life or in a work of fiction. 

What about a surprise YOU pulled on someone else?  Did it work?   What happened? 

In writing, when you work deeply, be prepared to be surprised.        An amusing surprise . . .

A Quirky Sign for Your Life?

July 17, 2010

Took a lovely drive with friends yesterday and discovered this sign in Point Reyes.   Only wish the dog with us would have been underneath it, howling away . . .

Ever seen a sign that made you want to smile?  

Writing Prompt:  1.  Write about how this sign came to be in this small town.  Who lives here?  Develop a few quirky characters and throw them together.  See what happens!

2.  How can this sign, or one you have discovered, be a message for your life?  What is the universe trying to tell you?  Create an essay using an anecdote where you may have “barked” at an unappropriate time.  Or perhaps didn’t bark when you should have?

3.  Place a sign in the story you are writing now for your characters. How does it change your story’s plot?  Your character’s direction?

Publisher’s Weekly and the Martinez Library

July 15, 2010

. . . one of the funniest books . . .

July 14, 2010

As writers or artists, when we think of rejection, we don’t think of a laugh a minute.  But in THE REJECTION COLLECTION, edited by Matthew Diffee, this is what you get.  

As the book jacket says, “Each week about fifty New Yorker cartoonists submit ten ideas, yielding five hundred cartoons for no more than twenty spots in the magazine.  Arguably the most brilliant single-panel-gag cartoonists in the world create a bunch of cartoons every week that never see the light of day.”

A selection of these amazing cartoons, along with interview questions answered by the cartoonists themselves make up the book.  Their side-splitting answers and lovable doodles create brief  character profiles that give you a unique glimpse into the minds of these comic geniuses. 

Which brings me to another idea.  The interview questions themselves are pretty unusual, lending to quirky answers.  Diffee asks questions like . . .

I admire . . .   (Cartoonist Leo McCullum’s answer:  Things from a distance. Usually with binoculars.)

I’m not crazy about . . . (Marisa Acocella Marchetto says, “Anyone who takes themselves too serious. I’m serious.”)

Write a question to which you might answer “Absolutely not.”  (Drew Dernavich replied, “Do you know what you’re doing?”)

My advice to __________ would be:  (Michael Crawford’s advice to YOU would be to buy this book.)

What are the things that make you laugh and why?  (P.C. Vey’s response: “Long walks on the beach, fine wine and sunsets.  If I don’t laugh at them who will?”)

Number the following items in order of their importance in your life:  pancakes, dictionary, Band-Aids, tropical fish, coffee, music . . . (and many more)

Writing Prompt:  1.  Answer the above questions in a true and humorous way for yourself.  Come up with other curious questions that show the real you, and respond to them of course!  (Hey.  This could be a fun game for friends too . . .)

2.  Now give these questions to the characters in your latest writing project.  How will your main character answer them?   Let all of your characters chime in with their answers.  They may even get in a dialogue with each other about them.

Garden Art Inspires Writing

July 10, 2010

A trip to a Northern California garden filled with garden art such as the Bird of Peace, the

Cat and Mouse and the Gummy Art.  The flowers and cacti added meditative inspiration. Use the photographs below to inspire your own works of art, poetry, descriptions, fiction and nonfiction writing. 


A Great Site for Teachers, Authors, Writers, Travelers and Readers!

July 9, 2010

Google Lit Trips

Have fun exploring Google Lit Trips, this site that connects authors, literary landmarks, books, and geography all in one!