Archive for August, 2012

Why did the turkey cross the road?

August 30, 2012

On our morning walks my neighbor and I have rescued dogs, cats and even a pet ret.  But the other day we had to lead wild turkeys across a busy road during morning commuter traffic. 

“Come on, darlings,” cooed Hilde, as she encouraged the group of birds to the other side.  

“Gobble gobble,” they replied.

I played the roll of Officer Michael from the book Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.  Holding up my hands in the universal signal for stop, I stood in the center of the busy intersection until the first batch made it. Cars, school buses, and trucks obeyed.  Several turkeys scurried back, unwilling to brave the long trek.  Nodding, I mouthed, thank you to the drivers and moved aside.  Drivers smiled and waved at us in return. 

“Gobble gobble, gobble gobble,” said the lead turkey, waiting to cross; turning her head first left, then right,  looking to see if the road was clear. 

“Contrary to popular belief, these birds aren’t stupid,” I said. 

“Smarter than humans,” said Hilde.

When we saw the turkey was ready to cross, we walked back into the middle of the street so the traffic could see us.  One by one, the turkeys followed each other in a line.  Everyone in the cars looked amused except one woman with two children in the backseat.    When one turkey paused midpoint, trying to decide what to do, the woman in the car pounded the steering wheel.

Next, the woman, bashed her head against the steering wheel.   Finally, the turkey made up its mind to go back where it came from.  Now the woman threw her hands in the air.  I can imagine her dialogue inside the vehicle.  Would it be appropriate for children’s ears?

When the traffic cleared, we led the third group forward, this time without any turkeys changing their minds. 

Whew.  This was more exhausting than a vigorous hike.  Now I knew what it felt like to be a mama turkey.  

No.  Don’t say it. 

Now.  On to America’s political conventions . . .

Writing Prompts:

1.  When the unexpected occurs in your story, remember to write about the reactions of characters.  Check your latest work.  Do you have characters react to others actions?   Write about an action that causes several people to react.

2.  Write about an event that causes one person to react with humor and another to react with tension.

3.  When has something caused you to be late?  Miss an important event?  Write about this in a “missed opportunity” way and then write it in a humorous vein.

August 24, 2012

This morning I learned a young acquaintance of ours ended his life this week.  Stunned, I stood in silence, images of the man and our dealings with him reeling through my thoughts like a movie.

Cheerful.  Giving.  Resourceful.   Three descriptions that come to mind when I think of him. 

As my neighbor  and I walked our morning trail, she said, “Don’t people realize the blues pass?”

“But depression isn’t just feeling down,” I said.  “It’s more all-encompassing.  I know because my uncle suffered it all of his life.”

Memories of his battle  floated to the present.  I knew he took pills which gave him side effects that weren’t pleasant.  So he got off the pills and would be all right for a while until he slid into the depths of misery again.

“And what about his mother?  Didn’t he think of her?  She had to find him,” said my neighbor of the young man’s suicide.

I nodded.  “But he wasn’t thinking about her, he was so inside his own pain and grief.” 

It’s another one of those what if stories.  What if you could have stopped him in time?  What if you hadn’t left? 

Modern medicine has come so far . . .  and yet it hasn’t. 

Writing Prompts:

1.  Writing can be cathartic.  Is there a memory you have been suppressing?  Writing about an emotional pain may bring relief.  Try it and see if it can help you.

2.  Write a poem, song, essay or story in honor of someone you know who has faced a battle – – either emotional or physical.  What do you admire about this person?  Why?

3.  Create a piece of art expressing a mood you are in right now.  You choose the form and style.

College Students Get Published!

August 19, 2012

Discover a literary magazine which publishes work by college students!

First Inkling

August 17, 2012

This morning was a sleep-in day.  Hallelujah!  While dozing past our usual bounce-out-of-bed time, we heard a clunk from above. 

“What was that?” asked my husband.

Later, when we stood outside our car ready to run errands, a Pacific Gas and Electric worker approached us from his truck parked in front of our house. 

“A problem?” I asked.

“You had a meter leak.  I fixed it,” he said. 

I thanked him.  He nodded. 

“It was small,” he added, before hopping into his truck and driving away through the neighborhood. 

My husband said, “Wow.  I worked over there in the yard just yesterday and I never smelled a gas leak at all.”

“Bob,” I reminded him.  “You couldn’t smell a fire if it raged next door.  How could you smell gas?” 

“Maybe,” he admitted. 

“Face it,” I said.  “Your sniffer is off.”

“Humph,” he said in mock dismay.

As we pulled out of our driveway, we noticed the PG&E worker stopping at another house. 

“I think they’re being very careful after the accident,” said Bob, referring to the horrendous gas explosion in San Bruno last fall, which caused many deaths  and destroyed a complete neighborhood. 

“They SHOULD be,” I said.

Unfortunately, it took a high cost to become preventive now. 

Writing Prompts:

1.  Rewrite your history. What if . . . is a game we all play in life and in writing.  What if a turn of events DIDN’T happen?  What if a turn of events DID?  In world history, there is always a WHAT IF.  Which WHAT IF do you WISH had occurred?  What WHAT IF do you wish hadn’t?  Write scenes as though they had and hadn’t occurred. 

2.  Show a preventive scene in your writing project that foreshadows an upcoming disaster.  It doesn’t have to be a physical disaster – – it can be an emotional one.  (Example: a break-up could be foreshadowed by a small rude or annoying behavior, or a tell-tale sign of infidelity)

3.  Write the climatic scene of the break-up or the disaster in your book or story. 

4.  Write a poem of an image or scene in your life you would have liked to have had preventive knowledge. 


Poets and Writers Contest

Publisher’s Weekly Article: The Children’s Industry

August 10, 2012

If you weren’t able to make the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s Summer Conference, read this article to get some of the highlights:

Calling All Teen Writers in Contra Costa County, CA

August 9, 2012

Break out your pens again! We’re having another teen writing group, and we would love for you to join us.

Writing can be a solitary pursuit… but it doesn’t have to be! Want to meet other enthusiastic teen writers?

Come to a teen writing group at the Lafayette Library! We’ll chat, share ideas and experiences about our writing, and — of course — write alongside each other with prompts. We aim to create a fun, welcoming teen community of writers that encourages and supports its members.

This is an open and free group (8th-12th grade preferred). Just bring paper, your favorite writing tool, and enthusiasm!

Saturday, August 18th
1:30-3:00 PM
In the Willow Room 
(behind the information desk )
Lafayette Library 
3491 Mount Diablo Boulevard
Lafayette, CA 94549

Please reply to if you can make our next meeting. We hope you can join us. If you have any teen writer friends who may be interested in our group, please forward them this announcement. We’re always looking to expand our group!

Writing Beginnings and Character

August 8, 2012

On Beginnings

A question from a writer:  I know the basic premise of my story, but am uncertain exactly how to begin the story.  (She writes the specifics to me.)  What do I do now?

Writers often think there is a magic formula to writing.  There isn’t.  No one can prescribe an elixir for your story.  It’s TERRIFIC when you already know your premise!  This writer is ahead of the game.  Now the fun begins!  She knows her conflict, so all she has to do is throw her two characters together into a scene and let them talk, act, and REACT to each other.   Keep on writing and sooner or later,  the writer will instinctively know where to begin.

What if you don’t know?   Read what you have written aloud.  By hearing your own voice, you will feel the rhythm of your pacing and feel what should come next.  Do you have too much dialogue chunked together?  Or too much narration and not enough action? 

Revision is your best friend.  Play with your words.  Have fun with it! 

Sleep on it.  Time is another savior.  Go back to your story and you will discover hidden insights later. 

Talk with other writers.  Sometimes our community can help one another in our progress.


On Character

Do you want to know your character better?  Besides throwing her into scenes, daydreaming about her, and basically spending lots of time with your protagonist, make sure you know her inside and out.  Discover the quirky tidbits about what makes her tick.    You can answer these questions about yourself and later write an anecdote or personal narrative about a memory that may be inspired by them, and also use them for your characters. 

Favorite quote: 

(Mine:  “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”  Groucho Marx       and

  “All who wander are not lost.”  J. R. R. Tolkien . . . oh, and one more . . . “In every struggle, there is a hidden

blessing.”  Joan Chittister )

Current photo on desk or dresser:  

(Mine: a 1940s picture of my mother)

A movie to watch over and over again:

(Me:  Ruthless People, Born Yesterday)

Quirky collection:

(Mine: water bottle labels – – I don’t drink, so when I travel, I collect “interesting” labels to tease the wine snobs in my life . . .)

Favorite book:

(Mine: Charlotte’s Web, Diary of Anne Frank, To Kill a Mockingbird, and 1000 more)

What to save out of a burning house:

(Mine: my dog, Zoie, and old photos)

How earned money as a child:

(Mine:  babysitting)

First jobs:

(Mine: worked in a library, a factory, a liquor corporation, in a school)

Quirky jobs?

(Mine: Easter Bunny!)

Writing Prompts:

1.  Write an anecdote, story, personal narrative or poem inspired by any of the questions above pertaining to YOUR life. 

2.  Write a scene inspired by any of the questions above pertaining to your character’s life. 

3.  Come up with other questions and answers for your character – – and you – – to answer.