Archive for December, 2010

Your 2010 Year in Review

December 28, 2010

Can you believe it’s the end of the year already?  The holidays have wooshed by and New Year’s Eve is days away.   (Do YOU ever make up words like I do?  Wooshed is only one of many of my typical words.  Maybe I should create a dictionary?)

What are your best memories of the past year?  What have been the incredible books you’ve read?  The memorable movies you’ve seen?  The most delicious meals you’ve eaten?  An interesting person you’ve met?  An animal that made an impression upon  you? A funny moment that may have made you smile?  A touching scene that brought you a sigh?

Writing Prompt: 

1.  Write for ten or twenty minutes quickly about one or any or all of the above.   Next, review what has popped into your head.  Now take time and choose the most vivid scene or anecdote of the year to recreate.  Use your emotions and senses to write a story, essay or poem. 

2.  Share your writing with a friend.  Share your other thoughts and ideas of the past year with your friend or a group of people.  Other writing projects may occur to you as words fly by.

Ten Great Books I’ve Read this Year

December 20, 2010
The following books are a mixture of books intended for adults, young adults and children.    I have marked the adult books.
In Franklin’s House by Beverly Lauderdale,  Oak Tree Press, 2010. 
(Marketed for adults)
Two stories interweave deftly; one at the turn of the century and one in present day with an intriguing and handsome ghostWhen the main character, Kate, discovers a 1906 diary and a lovely necklace, she accidentally stumbles into a portal of another world.  Romance, suspense and history plus a story evocative of the time and place. 
The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak, Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.   
Death narrates this book set in World War II Germany, when nine-year-old Liesel Meminger steals her first book, The Gravediggers Handbook
Charles and Emma  by  Deborah Heilgman , Henry Holt & Co., 2009.
An amazing nonfiction book that reads like a novel, we learn about the life and work of Charles Darwin and that of his wife, Emma. 
 Marcelo in the Real World  by Francisco X. Stork, Arthur A. Levine, 2009.
I was all set to dislike this book, because problem-novels “aren’t my thing.”  Surely a book on Asperger’s syndrome wouldn’t be something I’d delve into with excitement?  I’m pleased to announce I was very wrong.  With a powerful voice, strong characters and high tension, you’ll be swept into this story right through until the end.
One Crazy Summer  by Rita Williams-Garcia, Amistad, 2010.
Eleven-year-old Delphine and her two sisters fly from Oakland, California to stay with their poet mother, Cecile in 1968.  Cecile isn’t going to win the World’s Best Mother Award, so Delphine has to hold everything together.  Cecile’s mysterious work, the girls’ involvement in the Black Panther-run community center, and her relationship with her mother all grows into an unforgettable read. 
Clean, Well-Lighted Sentences  by Janis Bell, W.W. Norton and Co., 2009.
(Marketed for adults but should be used in schools too!)
Humorous and clearly written, the author shows the grammar and punctuation problems people need to learn.  Fun quizzes are at the back of each of the seven chapters.
 The Year of Living Biblically by  A.J. Jacobs, Simon & Schuster, 2008.
(Marketed for adults.)
Hysterical!   Written by an agnostic, although Jewish by birth, Jacobs will teach you more about yourself, the Bible, and make you question your own spirituality and religion than you ever thought possible.  He lives the Bible literally each day for one year. 
Growing Up by Russell Baker , Signet, 1992.
(Marketed for adults but I’m sure it’s used in high schools and middle schools.)
Pulitzer-winning Baker’s memoir about growing up between the two world wars is a “you-have-to-read-this-book” before you ever attempt to write your own memoir. 
The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers  
(Marketed for adults and young adults.)
Twelve-year-old Frankie Adams grows up in the American South.  Character, emotions, and adolescence written richly and with grace.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Putnam, 2009.
(Marketed for adults) 
Although everyone I know has read this already, and a movie is on the way, I can’t help mentioning it.  Set in 1962 in Mississippi, I probably don’t need to say any more. 

Speaking of Music . . .

December 18, 2010

Cool IPAD Music . . .


Music May Enhance Your Writing

December 17, 2010

My friend, Susan Taylor Brown, told me of the free music site on Facebook.

You can request the kind of music you like and they’ll select that type of music for you as your own personal radio station.  

Soon piano music filled my room.  I had forgotten how much music takes me to places far beyond the stretches of my ordinary world. 

I used to listen to classical music as I worked.  Amy Tan listens to the same piece of classical music over and over, so her mind is trained.  As soon as she hears it, she’ll become immersed into her creative world immediately.

Years ago when I had insomnia, I listened to a tape of ocean waves so I’d fall asleep.  One day we took our son to the beach in Monterey.  You can probably guess what happened.  As he played in the sand, I sat on a rock and could hardly keep my eyes open. 

But the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me with regard to music was one day when I played a difficult piece on the piano.  I hadn’t played it since I was a teen, and in fact, as an adult, could barely read the notes any more.  But my fingers seemed to know instinctively what to do.  They raced up and down the keyboard as though they were not a part of the rest of me. 

And my mind?  I was miles off in the middle of the life of a main character I had been writing that day. 

Let music inspire your art. 

Creative prompts:

1.  As your choice of music plays, write or create art and see how the music affects you.  Does it help your creativity?  You may need to get used to it if silence is a regular part of your life. 

2.  Do you have a clarinet stashed away in a closet somewhere?   Play it a little every day.  You never know how another form of art may help your writing.   If you don’t have an instrument, consider taking lessons or singing in the shower.

3.  Speaking of Susan Taylor Brown, as a writer, she began taking art classes and now has some amazing collages that are informing her poetry.  Try a form of art you normally might not attempt and see where it takes you!  Go out of your box and it will lead you on a journey of creative discovery that will give your writing a new depth.

Writing Contests for Kids in Contra Costa County, CA

December 15, 2010

Each year, in addition to the California Writers Contest Mt. Diablo Branch’s Young Writers Contest for middle school students in Contra Costa County, there is the Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center’s annual Art and Writing Challenge for middle and high school students. 

Theirs will kick off in January 2011.  The topicOften we create divisions between ourselves and others because of race, religion, politics, sexual orientation or even minor things such as dress or mannerisms.  Have you or someone you know ever been subject to verbal abuse or bullying as a result of these or any other differences?  How did you/they handle the situation?  What steps can we take to create an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance of all people? 

In January, they should have their website updated to reflect the 2011 contest.


December 13, 2010

On Friday, a friend took me to lunch and out shopping in Berkeley for a belated birthday outing.  It all felt so scrumptious . . . sneaking off during the week to play.  Abandoning our work, our chores and our to-do-lists, we got a chance to talk about the minutiae of our daily lives, our art, our dogs, and solve the problems of the world.  Well, maybe not quite all of that, but it did seem like anything was possible on that glorious day of freedom. 

Our lunch at Bette’s Diner, a crowded little enclave filled with scents of corned beef,  pancakes and good coffee,  was eclipsed by their bakery next door.  I brought home a piece of the best lemon cake my husband and I have ever eaten and a brownie to swoon over.   What a lovely way to celebrate my birthday. 

Some people my age don’t care for birthdays, as they see it a sign of getting older and getting farther away from youth.  Perhaps closer to death?  I enjoy this little ritual, maybe because I love rituals.  And maybe because I love cake!

Much later that evening, I logged on to my e-mail to discover a note from my friend. When she entered her house after taking me home, she found her eight-year-old beloved furry dog, Yogi, nearly comatose.  Later at the vet’s, the diagnosis was grim.  A cancerous tumor pressed on his spleen.  Yogi in shock, was unable to make eye contact with her.   He was completely out of it. 

“I couldn’t even say goodbye,” she said.   “It happened so fast.”

Yes, Yogi passed away that night. 

So we will enjoy the rituals of our life.  And we will honor the passing of one life to the next with loving rituals as well.

Writing Prompts:

1.  Write a tribute to someone you have lost.

2.  Write about how you value a person now in  your life and give it to them.

3.  Create a piece of art work to help your grief over any loss you may have.

4.  Journal your feelings if you have lost someone close to you.  The holidays can be a difficult time and this may help.

Create a Model for a Children’s Book

December 13, 2010

Look at this fabulous contest where kids used potatoes and created their favorite characters from children’s books!   If you are a teacher or librarian you could try it too.

Things you wish you would have said

December 8, 2010

You know the times when people say the darndest things to you and you want to reply but you:   1.  are shocked out of your socks 2.  struggling with yourself so you won’t be  incarcerated  for murder 3. couldn’t remember your middle name right now much less a witty retort.

Writing Prompt:

1. Here’s your chance to make it right.  Go back into your memory.  Replay that scene on paper.  Write exactly what happened.  Next, REWRITE the scene and say what you could have said to put them in their place. 

2.  Rewrite the scene and instead, write what you could say to create peace between the two of you.  How can you strengthen the bond instead of destroying it?  Be the better person.

3.  Write a fictional scene with two characters who are in conflict over something humorous. 

4.  Write a fictional scene with two characters who are in conflict over something serious but they come to a mutual understanding.

5. Read the original replies below.  Can you come up with any of your own?

The exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor:   She said, “If you were my husband I’d give you poison.” He said, “If you were my wife, I’d drink it.”

A member of Parliament to Disraeli: “Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.” “That depends, Sir,” said Disraeli, “whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.”

“He had delusions of adequacy.”  Walter Kerr

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” Winston Churchill

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”  William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.”  Moses Hadas

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”  Mark Twain

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” Oscar Wilde

“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend…. if you have one.” George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

“Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second…. if there is one.”  Winston Churchill, in response.

“I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.” Stephen Bishop

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” John Bright

“I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.”  Irvin S. Cobb

“He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.”  Samuel Johnson

“He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.”  Paul Keating

“In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.” Charles, Count Talleyrand

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.”  Forrest Tucker

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?” Mark Twain

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.” Mae West

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.” Oscar Wilde

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts . . . for support rather than illumination.”  Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

“He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” Billy Wilder

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.” Groucho Marx