Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween for Writers

Theme in Yellow

I spot the hills
with yellow balls in cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o'-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.  

-Carl Sandburg

Halloween decorates neighborhoods and malls. Ghosts, witches,
and goblins abound at every corner. Skeletons shake in the breeze.
Pumpkin designers become more creative each season.

Write a fable or poem about a Halloween happening.

Choose a costume to describe yourself.

Imagine a cat in a artichoke costume.

Transform a carved pumpkin into a story of flight.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What's in Your Refrigerator?

"Begin an essay on the most boring subject you can think of, for instance: 'I went to sleep,' or 'I went to the store,' or 'I cleaned the house.' The sheer boredom of it may force your mind out of narrative mode sideways, into associations." - Patrick Madden

Start cleaning the refrigerator. Will you begin with the top shelf?  

Do you remove apples, a catsup bottle, something in a plastic box, or just clean around objects?

What do you store, like a secret, in the refrigerator?

Is something strange about items there?

What else is living in your refrigerator?

What would your favorite writer examine to put into words?
Think from Shakespeare to Stephen King.

Add sounds, a song, and mingle scents.  

Take a taste.

Play with words and notice how far you write from the notion of refrigerator.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Writing Memoir

With autobiographies, which stories intrigue the most? The Hero who solves it all? Probably not. 

Notice the individual who combines heroic facets with loser traits. Or, applaud for the loser who finds winning qualities? The texture of fragility and results intrigues.

When you write aspects of your life story, consider details and ways to mold the great and the gooney. Add habits you'd like to alter as well as your strengths. Show the failures and their potential for choices.

Avoid sharing a one-dimensional approach. Choose to describe your tragic nature, a sensitivity, your passivity, your loyalty, and duplicitous nature. Write about the poor choices and lack of communication skills. Add the anger and frustration you feel to show how struggles evolve.

Reveal your life by showing events and behavior rather than telling the reader what to expect. Encourage your writing to unfold like a camera's view.

Ask someone to make realistic comments about your personality. Embroider them into your presentation.

Add mentors and individuals who challenge your process.

Explain how you master your life through its negativity and opportunity.  

Let the lowlights shine through to accent the positive.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why Write?

Why do you write?

Sandra Cisneros wrote in THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET:

I like to tell stories, I tell them inside my head. I tell them after the mailman says, Here's your mail. Here's your mail he said.

I make a story for my life, for each step my brown shoe takes. I say, "And so she trudged up the wooden stairs, her sad brown shoes taking her to the house she never liked."

I like to tell stories. I am going to tell you a story about a girl who didn't want to belong.

We didn't always live on Mango Street. Before that we lived on Loomis on the third floor, and before that we lived on Keeler. Before Keeler it was Paulina, but what I remember most is Mango Street, sad red house, the house I belong but do not belong to.

I put it down on paper and then the ghost does not ache so much. I write it down and Mango says goodbye sometimes. She does not hold me with both arms. She sets me free. 

Write about why you write.

Do you like to tell stories? Do you write so "the ghost does not ache so much"?

Do you write your freedom? 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Write into Black and White

By moonlight, we see in black and white. We cannot see colors. There is something fascinating and valuable about seeing the world that way. We see only what is essential. We see form emerging from a sea of blackness. . . . We can look at the world so familiar by daylight and see it anew in the black and white of moonlight.  – Ming-Dao Deng, from The Lunar Tao: Meditations in Harmony with the Seasons

Take several photographs and turn them into black and white.

Write into the darkness of shapes and shadows.

Search for new meaning in the areas of light.

Let emotions arise.

What do you find in the black and white of moonlight?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What Will You Create?

I believe that creativity is contagious and when we share our ideas and dreams we awaken our muses. When I share my paintings my hope is to ignite the imagination of the viewer and inspire daydreams.-  Shanna Trumbly

Oregon artist, Shanna Trumbly, explores the playfulness of wakeful dreaming and honors the creative.

What will you create from daydreams? 

Use these images and discover ways to play.

Ignite your imagination with words.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dive into the Darkness

Creative work is never easy.  It becomes  unpredictable with its own surpises. It teaches us what we did not know and pushes our unfolding.

Once having traversed the threshold, the artist moves in a dream landscape of curiosity, where fluid, ambiguous forms arise. He or she must survive a succession of trials.

Joseph Campbell described the artist as a hero. He meant the person of myth who embarks on a journey of discovery — including self-discovery. A hero is the mythological figure who risks in the pursuit of a full life.

Campbell wrote:

You enter the forest

at the darkest point,

where there is no path.

Where there is a way or path,

it is someone else's path.

You are not on your own path.

If you follow someone else's way,

you are not going to realize

your potential.

- from A Joseph Campbell Companion

Dive into the darkness of an interior world and find the courage to reveal the discoveries.

Visit the darkness, channels, and textures of the unexplored mind.  

Avoid trails previously taken. 

Move within discomfort to seek something entirely new and refreshing. 

Sparkle and revel in the unknown. 

Write with curiosity and courage.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Sentence Variety

A sentence creates a bridge from writer to reader. Every word moves the ideas and action. Add texture by naming the sparrow, hibiscus or magnolia tree. Stress key points by adding details of color and sensory imagery.

If you break long sentences into short ones you will attract the reader's attention. Create a breathing stop. To achieve emphasis, reverse the usual word order. Read your sentences aloud to gain rhythm and impact. 

Word choice provides clarity. Active verbs intrigue and intensify sentences.  Avoid the use of passive voice and the "to be" verb. The subject needs its verb near the front rather than separated by a clause and stuck at the end of the sentence.

Ask yourself what does an adjective or adverb add to the sentence? Often they creep in like bandits and hitchhikers to rob your sentences of power. Make verbs your heroes to defeat them.

Select a paragraph from your current work. Circle the adjectives and adverbs first. Use a green marker  to color your nouns and verbs. 

Re-arrange the sentences to add texture and movement. It helps to read your sentences aloud.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Write with Wonder

Use WONDER to advance writing.

Weed adjectives and adverbs
   Overwhelm with verbs
       Nourish with nouns
          Design with metaphors
             Excite with sentence variety
                     Rally the senses

What else do you need?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Dinner Table Conflict

" . . . a bead of illumination glimpsed from a poet's oblique angle. . . ."  
                                                - Peter Matthiessen

Anita Shreve develops characters using body language. She employs movements, gestures and glances to reveal mood and emotion to show the reader a story from a variety of angles.

"Life for the Edwardses, Sydney has come to understand, centers around the dinner table. It is where triumphs are praises, politics aired, lies told and truth occasionally released," Shreve writes in Body Surfing.

Here are few lines from Shreve that illustrate character:

Jeff's fork pauses on the way to his mouth.

Mr. Edwards shuts one eye. A child making a wish.

Mrs. Edward's mouth is a straight line that barely moves. She makes a quick frown with her eyebrows.

"Think." Mr. Edwards puts a hand over his wife's wrist at the table.

But who can tell what Ben notices or doesn't.

Create a dinner table sequence where body language promotes the situation. Develop a scene with a conflict or two. Let dialogue become secondary. Raise the temperature in the room by using gestures, sounds and aromas to add to the drama.

Approach the table from oblique angles.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Beyond Divine Dissatisfaction

“The process of revision is, then, at one with the deepest processes of nature, and so a nature writer, laboring late at night over a particularly stubborn closing paragraph should take come consolation in the fact that he or she is partaking in an activity as ancient as life on the planet.  It is the force, revision, that drives evolution, that makes possible the hand that writes the words.” - John A. Murray

Ellen Burstyn remarked that when an artist completes a work, such as a cup, a sense of 'divine dissatisfaction' results.  How nice that cup looks. How it turns and sparkles.  

Something else happens here. Oh, how we want to undo that cup. Creative people never feel satisfied. We must relent to the current stage of writing projects.

Before your final "peek and tweek" on a piece, spend time away from your work. Take a long walk in a natural setting. Appreciate your “divine dissatisfaction.”  

Then approach your work from another perspective. Should you start with the middle and end with the beginning?

Check the Basics:

Check for content, organization and grammar. Read your text backwards, sentence by sentence. Read out loud to yourself or others. Listen to someone else read your text.  

Add new information or vocabulary, cut unnecessary detail, and replace weak or awkward words with more precise language. 

Ask these questions:
l.   Does my first paragraph grab the reader?
2.  Is my point of view or argument convincing?
3.  Are my transitions smooth?
4.  Have I developed all points fully?
5.  Have I explained any quotations either in context or through citation?
6.  Are verb tenses mixed?
7.  Does the ending satisfy?

Get beyond divine dissatisfaction. Take a piece you've put aside. Run it through the questions and bring it back to life.

Monday, October 20, 2014


"A wallet shows a person's personality and life style. Just like a cell phone, it is at the center forming the nucleus of the owner's secrets, everything he carries on him." - from The Thief by Fuminari Nakamura

How would you approach a story about the mind of a magician or con artist?

David Copperfield, an American magician, used sleight of hand to fool a mugger into thinking he had nothing in his pockets. He had a cell phone, passport and wallet. He used timing and movement.

Nakamura writes, "When I'm making my way invisibly through a crowd, it's a special feeling. You know how time has different textures?  The tension when you're gambling or pulling off some investment sham is the same . . . time becomes saturated. It's ecstasy. Intense moments like those demand to a recreated, taking on a personality of their own."

Prestidigitate with words and explore imagery, timing, and movement.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Antidote to Angry

Did you know that five-year-olds laugh 400-500 times a day? Grown-ups laugh only 15 times a day on average, says Leigh Anne Jasheway who believes laughter is the best medicine.

Jasheway is concerned that people are, "peppered daily by angry talk radio and news media reminding us to feel angry or to panic." She claims, "levity is the opposite of gravity."  We need to express ourselves in laughter.

Studies reveal that laughter produces basic mammalian benefits of reducing tension snd fear.  
Check out rats laughing:

Create a humor antidote to your frustrations. Laugh about the weather.  Giggle when you make a mistake and try again. Enjoy a few ha ha ha moments when you're at a low ebb. You will discover how the funny bone takes over to energize the mind and spirit.

Take a negative situation and turn it into a laughter solution.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Change the World into Words

 “The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.” 
~ William H. Gass

The bridge from idea to imagery to result arrives in details. Sounds of a creek bed release in a rush of croaks and twitters.

Fairy hats add flair.

Texture teems in tangerine.

Angles and shapes surge  nature's joy.

Feelings arrive in tastes of green.

Dew dapples a rose's scent.

Imagine a squirrel's point of view.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Write About Alive!

There is for everyone some one scene, some one adventure, some one picture that is the image of his secret life," - Irish poet William Butler Years.

Identify that scene or adventure. Paint a word picture that reveals a secret presence.

Celebrate and cultivate it. Give it attention. Pay tribute to it.

Ask it questions. 

Recognize the importance of your secret life.

Make it come alive!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Avoid the use of Beautiful!

Writers learn to become observant omnivores. We take in stimuli with a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, scents, tastes and textures. Words arise from taste buds and fingertips that Braille the edges of life. Colors abound. In this way, ideas percolate and incubate awaiting a time to slip into the next word brew.

Avoid the use of adjectives to describe anything. If you wish to gain the reader's attention, show beautiful. Why and how is something beautiful? Reveal it in detail like a photographer or painter.

See into a rose for beautiful and express its qualities. Search for metaphors and similes. Do the ridges appear like fans or curtains and then what? Where is the scent? Does the sound of dew hitting the rose ping or pop or snuggle amidst the petals?

Sense of focus and specificity intrigue. Express the opposite of beauty also to enrich the experience. Create an image that reveals a judgment. Would you include weeds that blossom and stretch themselves beyond the concrete?

Notice where metaphorical thinking connects to a secret inside not yet explored.

Trace the ridges and boundaries. Go into the center.

Unfold, release, relent to your imagination.

Delve into your concept of beauty and communicate it to the reader.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Calligraphy of Wings

"Machines (referring to a typewriter) have no grace.  It cannot make a flourish, vary the thickness of a line, or tantalize the reader with a lapse into an in decipherable but lovely style.  A good penman can make rivers that race to the sea, rivers as wild and dizzy as a flume in the Alps, as choppy as the Isarco, as wide and smooth as the Tiber at Ostia, or as deep as the Po where it rolls into the Adriatic."                                   - from A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin.

During my life, this functional art form has helped my writing bloom.  Each artful loop, whirl, tie and tail I learned from a father patient with a perfectionist's eye. I observed the writing of teachers and friends to adapt my style.  It continues to blossom.

For writers, cursive writing inspires both a meditative state and a way to access both sides of the brain for productive results.  The hand moves to stimulate the brain's logical side. Letters form words in artful flow from the right side's intuitive cells. Integration of both sides occurs as a result.

Writers need to feel the elegance of writing with a fountain pen and see its splash of color.

Since childhood, I've considered fountain pens my ponies. My mind has ridden bareback. Without use of a bridle or saddle, a variety of pens behave with finger pressure. Turquoise, emerald, magenta and sunshine flow from my thoroughbreds, Morgans, quarters and an Arabian or trail pony. The mustangs and stallions often buck the surface for new ideas. Lippizan stallions dance their air ballet.

These fountain pony pens combine with textured paper to push a progression of ideas. Ink on both rough and slick surfaces increases in speed for creativity capture. It slows to corral emotions and thoughts to ponder. Movement to cross a T or dot an i stays fluid without breaking the spell of rhythm and progress.

Cursive writing adds a magical quality to the writing process. 

Recall how you first learned cursive writing.  If you hand write in a journal or prepare initial drafts by handwriting first, consider in what ways it differs from composing on a keyboard. Have you transitioned from creating in handwriting to keyboard creating?  Do you go back and forth?

Hand write a favorite passage or poem with a roller ball or fountain pen. Take time to form the letters, find a rhythm and feel the flow. 

Does this process add nuances to your writing?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Saga of the Single Shoe

Single shoes appear on sidewalks, streets, in gutters and bushes. Why have they lost their other half? How does one lose and leave a shoe? Do they search for the lost one?  

Is the single shoe in remorse waiting for his friend to return? Who left them lonely on the byways?

I have pondered these questions for years. When I became part of the single shoe saga, the situation of sole in solitude revealed itself.

While stretching a leg on a high railing near a pond by the Willamette river, gravity grabbed my right flip flop. I watched the shoe disappear into the brush which prompted my immediate action. I searched and located a branch. Up my shoe came until another branch knocked it away. Really?

Approaching me from the side and not containing his laughter, my husband advised we needed to go home and get, "the right tool for the right project.”  

I agreed but worried about the single shoes I'd seen in the past. Would a pond monster eat my shoe before our return? Maybe a turtle would use it to skim the lily pads?

Into the garage we went where Michael rigged a wire device any fly fisherman would love. After our return to the pond, he gave a warning to hook the end on my finger so I wouldn't lose it. I wound it around my hand

When I dangled it down toward my shoe, the wire did not feel stiff enough. I hooked the thong and began to reel it in. Oh so close until branches grabbed it. Now my shoe and the device nestled under poison oak. 

"Right tool . . . ha."

"Grrrr!" By now I was driven. Searching for a heftier branch, my shouts turned the heads of passersby, “I can do this.”  I angled the branch and the thong hooked securely. Again the struggled an Up for me and a Devilish down for gravity. This seesaw continued until gravity won and the shoe vanished far into the under brush.

My "I cans" shifted into four-letter cries of frustration!

Suddenly, out of the mist, came a fellow dressed in Levis who looked like Johnny Depp. He slipped over the railing and presented me with my shoe along with the wire device.

"Is this all you need?" His face beamed China blue eyes up at me. I thanked him and asked what I could do for him? He just smiled and shook his head as he leaped onto the path and back into the mist.  

Michael came around the corner after photographing a blue heron. He was shaking his head, "You told me not to go into the poison oak because I had shorts on. That fellow wore long pants." 

And thereby hangs a tale - a saga of the single shoe reunited with its sole mate.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Ah-ha Moment

The purpose of life is to live it to taste experience to the utmost to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences —Eleanor Roosevelt

An "A-ha" moment sprouts something new or different. It arrives after preparation and time for incubation. Ideas, beliefs, and question begin to grow.

Most of the time, one cannot predict how it springs.

The "A-ha" moment does not always produce a solution. It reveals errors. What does not work promotes a move into possibilities. Insight provides ways to study situations not considered before.

Curiosity launches creativity. A sense of wonder excites question upon question. They move into the wildness of blue sky thinking beyond the obvious.

Risk-taking invites a search for quirky. Connections and flavors abound. Sounds ask for texture and touch. A taste of lively amuses.

Consider a situation, poem, or story you have abandoned.

Take a break and move into another venue.

During a morning walk, notice connections that nature offers.
Collate the details.

When you return from discoveries, let play and nature initiate a variety of responses.

It might feel like time to abandon the current project or dig into it with ways to turn it around.

Look into the recesses. Use intuition and notice where it guides.

Try a new stream of writing and permit it to meander.

The A-ha may not always lead to an obvious destination.
Let the journey amaze.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Write about You!

Show how you jump hurdles.  Sport your medals. 
Twirl in Life's mysteries.  
Give your best attributes away.  Stretch for change.  
Celebrate You.

Indulge in YOU today.  Write about your challenges and your highest achievements.  List passions and thrills.

Revel in changes accomplished.

Reveal how you might give your strengths away to benefit someone less fortunate.  Show how to help others adapt and grow.

End with a one line proclamation of YOU!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Conjure Words

I want to witness the thirst inside the syllables:
I want to touch the fire within the sound:
I want to feel the darkness of the shout
I want words rough as virgin stones
   -  from "Verb" by Pablo Neruda

Write the ways you play with words.

How do they assist you to balance life?

Do you discover a thirst inside the syllables?  Show your fire with sounds.

In what ways do you conjure words when you write about movement or consider uses of sorrow?

Imagine your life inside the Fun House mirror.

Did anyone ever give you a disaster that turned into a gift?

Write into new areas of darkness and light today.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Write a Call to Action

Take your practiced powers and stretch them out until they span the chasm between two contradictions. For the god wants to know himself in you.      -Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke worked as a secretary in the Paris 
studio of sculptor Auguste Rodin. Rilke watched Rodin at work to develop muscularity in poetry in addition to a penchant for writing his own inner moods. 

Rilke's poem, "Archaic Torso of Apollo" sends out a call to action.

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Apollo, god of the sun, music, and poetry also represented order, rationality and harmony. 

Rilke references the visual of the Apollo statue with "fabled eyes" and "curved breast" but does not mention Apollo's story. It does not matter if the reader has that knowledge. A sensuous apprehension develops.

A sculptor pays attention to the dimensions of form in the materials he uses. He cannot work from subjective feelings alone. They project through the design

Poetry reaches from Apollo's "gleam" inside him that ignites a fire in the reader. The sculpture focuses on the viewer. The line, For here there is no place that does not see you brings responsibility back to the observer. In the last line the gauntlet is thrown: You must change your life.

Rilke intrudes and challenges the reader to live life and not resort to the comfortable complacency of a statue.

Wherever the reader exists in life, Rilke's poem demands a pause, an evaluation, and an action. 

Where would you take the last line as a way to begin another story? You may need to read the poem several times.

Use the poem to challenge a writing day with pause, evaluation, and action. Produce nine lines.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Write Silly!

When we take ourselves too seriously, we shut off the playground of the mind where ideas move and laughter produces energy.   

Childhood philosophy means while we play we have FUN.

Make FUN the bridge to Wisdom.

Tonic for the day:

l.  Wake up with a giggle.

2.  Make someone laugh till they cry. 

3.  Chase a cloud with your toes.

4.  Whistle a laugh in a public place.

5.  Fall asleep with a smile.

Become a Mirth Maniac. Write silly and chuckle with the flow.