Writing Tip: Random Words

Here’s an exercise that is designed to shake you out of your word ruts. Go get a book. Any book. Open it to any page. Without looking at the page, put your finger down somewhere on the page. Whatever word your finger lands on, write this word down. Then go to another page and repeat this. Keep doing this until you have 10 words. List these words at the top of a blank piece of paper, or at the top of your blank screen.

Now write a one or two paragraphs on any subject, and use all 10 of those random words somewhere in those paragraphs. This will make your mind jump around and might cause you to describe things in new ways. Go ahead, it’s fun.

Here are the 10 words I chose last time I did this exercise: crying, heights, ridicule, enclosed, falling, yells, guns, elevator, carwash, snakes; and the paragraph I wrote:

I love my herb garden. Because of my arthritic knees, for the last few years it’s been hard for me to work there, because I’d be open to ridicule for sitting in the dirt weeding, when most people kneel to thin their peppermint. A herb garden is spacious and open to the wind and rain and bugs and yes, even snakes. Nothing is enclosed, and this is good because I am claustrophobic and even an elevator or a carwash makes me sweat. I don’t like heights either, and an herb garden by its very nature is close to the ground, unless you build it on a rooftop, which would be stupid because you’d be vulnerable to falling that way. Herb gardens are safe too; criminals don’t hang out there. No one would bring guns into a herb garden – who would want to shoot marjoram? No one yells in my herb garden either, it is a quiet place; the loudest sound is the comforting hum of bees. If I’m sad you might find me crying in my herb garden; sometimes I cry with happiness when the sweet dusty smell of lavender hits my nose, or at the sight of the first leaves of sage erupting from dry brown stalks after a long winter.

Technorati Tags: Writing tip random words ruts book page finger list paper screen blank paragraphs subject mind crying heights ridicule enclosed falling yells guns elevator carwash snakes

Compost – Dinner!

Whenever I don’t know what to write about, I write about food. Writing about food is sometimes more fun than eating it – well, not often, but sometimes.

Last night I made a stir-fry. First I sautéed thinly sliced onions and garlic in olive oil, in my special sauté pan that cost $30 at the specialty kitchen store and made me feel hopelessly extravagant when I bought it. It has non-stick coating on the cooking surface and a forest green enamel exterior, and a wooden handle that fits my hand perfectly. While the onions and garlic sizzled and popped softly in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil which Rachael Ray calls EVOO, I chose a red pepper with a convoluted folded tip and sliced it in long thin curving strips, not too thick but thick enough to hold their shape. They too went into the sauté pan. I chopped a tomato into small pieces, adding it to the pan after the peppers had been mixing it up for a while. Then I had an inspiration. On impulse, I cut up some heavy-on-the-spices Gypsy Salami into strips and threw them into the sauté pan with the tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers. I took a handful of my own dried oregano, that I’d grown myself, harvested myself, and dried myself. I held the leaves in my left palm and with my right forefinger I pulverized them into dust in my hand. Oregano scent filled the room; my hands still smell of it. I chopped a zucchini into chunks, and threw the chunks along with some whole button mushrooms into the pan. Lastly I poured about half of cup of Merlot into the sauté pan and let the concoction simmer until I couldn’t stand it any longer, and I ate it. Right out of the sauté pan.

I dare you to read this out loud and not drool.

Technorati Tags: Compost writing food fun eating stir-fry sautéed onions garlic olive oil Rachael Ray EVOO red pepper tomato inspiration impulse Salami oregano zucchini mushrooms Merlot

Haiku Friday: Autumn

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Autumn:

Shadows of autumn
cedar green and oakbark brown
stories in the dark

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Technorati Tags: Haiku writing syllable topic shadows autumn green brown cedar oakbark stories dark

Sharing History: Heroes

I’ve been blogging about heroes lately, so I’ll write about one of my own. When the Beatles became popular, I was a pre-teen but I had a full-blown teenager attitude. All the girls were silly over the Beatles; the graffiti in the girls’ restroom conveyed deathless messages such as “I Luv Paul” or “Paul + Marcia Forever”. I considered myself above all that stuff, way too mature to swoon and scream like an idiotic rodent. I reacted to the Beatles’ arrival in the US with an icy disdain.

Of course my disdain was as much a pose as any screaming or swooning, especially as I was secretly enamored of John Lennon. When he said, “We’re more popular than Jesus” and the media went berserk, I was absolutely delighted that he had the courage to say such an outrageous thing. I felt that Paul McCartney was not a proper partner for John; Paul with his cute baby face and innocent eyes and pudgy smile looked silly to me next to John’s sharp cheekbones and long thin nose.

When The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show I watched with a sneer on my face, the sneer directed at all the screaming girls – but I watched the entire show and dreamed about John Lennon for nights thereafter.

It wasn’t until the Beatles had outgrown their mop top teeny bopper period, and I had outgrown my phony superiority, that I admitted to my admiration for John Lennon, an admiration that grew steadily and was based not on his cheekbones but his art, and that still thrives today.

Technorati Tags: History writing heroes Beatles teenager graffiti messages mature swoon cream idiot John Lennon Jesus Paul McCartney Ed Sullivan admiration cheekbones art

Goody Beagle Says …Please Groom The Cat

My human groomed The Cat, ha ha! The Cat hates to be groomed. She yowled and squirmed and hissed, but my human held her down and combed out all her mats and tangles. I’ve gotta say she does look better, although notice I did not say she looks good, because cats never look good. They look like rabbits who’ve had their ears cut off, I think. And you know what I think of rabbits!

Now that The Cat has been groomed, she feels better and had the effrontery to come over and try to rub her purr on me. Yuck and double yuck. I had to go outside and yak up a hairball.

I wish my human would groom The Cat every day, although I suppose it’s too much to hope for that The Cat will ever run away.

Technorati Tags: Goody Beagle groom cat human yowled squirmed hissed mats tangles rabbits purr

Haiku Friday: Stretching

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Stretching:

Be gumby woman
stretch past what you think you want
reach into the mists

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Technorati Tags: Haiku writing syllable topic gumby woman past stretch think want mists

Writing Tip: Are you Cool?

Last week I wrote about how we don’t think of ourselves as heroes, because we don’t want to look like a braggart or an egotist. Yet all of us have had moments of heroism, and sharing those moments can inspire others.

Still, writing about “Me The Hero” is difficult. Here’s a tip that might make it less so: think about yourself from the viewpoint of another – and then write AS that other person ABOUT you. Who was, or is, your champion, the one who always thought well of you, encouraged you, was a positive force in your life? Your grandmother, your second-grade teacher, your baseball coach, your Aunt Rosie, your boss? Or do you have an imaginary champion, like Superman, who thinks you are cool? What does he say about you?

If all else fails, write about yourself in the voice of your dog. This one always works!

Technorati Tags: Writing tip heroes braggart egotist heroism inspire viewpoint champion encourage grandmother teacher coach aunt superman

Storytelling: Storytelling Fun

My new book includes original folk tales – original because I wrote them, not those “folks” from folktales, although I write them in the folk tale genre.

Have you ever heard of the Round Robin storytelling game? That’s when someone starts a story, tells for a while, then stops at a critical juncture. Then another person who has been listening, takes up the story until they too stop at a critical juncture. This continues until someone brings the story to a close.

A blog is a good way to play Round Robin Storytelling. I’ll start a story and I’ll leave off in a critical point. If you want to play, go ahead and pick up the story and write (in the comments) what happens next – just a paragraph or two, no more. Then stop. Then either I or another reader of this blog will add their piece of the story, and stop. Then another person, or I, will continue. At least I hope so, I’ve never done Round Robin in a blog before. But I have nothing to lose, have I?

Now, this story is actually one I’ve already written all the way through, but that doesn’t mean this story must be this way. Other ways are possible, maybe even desirable. Want to play? Here is the beginning of a story called “The Mole’s Spectacles.”

Long ago, or maybe only yesterday, there was a Mole. He lived beneath the earth, where it is dark. The Mole people can smell the earth, they can touch the earth, taste the earth, hear the earth. But they cannot see the earth.

One day the Mole grew tired of being blind, so he went to the eye doctor. The eye doctor examined him and said he could see if he wore spectacles. So he bought some spectacles and went home, under the earth. He was the only Mole who could see the earth, as well as smell it and feel it and taste it and hear it.

The Mole saw such wonderful things! The earth’s color is a rich dark brown, with golden streaks. The rocks beneath the earth are bright black and soft grey, ivory white and butter yellow. The worms are a warm red-orange color. The eggs and larvae of many insects shine silver. Oh, the dirt is so glorious!

But one day Mole noticed that the earth was turning a bad color. Instead of being rich dark brown, it was a greenish color. A slimy limy shadow tinged every particle of earth. The rocks were covered in slimy limy crust, the worms were coated with slimy limy mucus, and the eggs and larvae didn’t shine at all.

The Mole told his brother about the bad color of the earth. “What shall we do?” he asked him. But his brother didn’t care. “The earth is the same as it ever was,” he said. “Smells the same, feels the same, sounds the same. Go away, I’m busy.” And he went on digging his tunnels. Mole told his mother about the bad color of the earth. “Those spectacles are making you crazy,” she said. “Take them off and you’ll be happy again.”

Everywhere he went it was the same. No Mole person would believe him about the bad color of the earth. Finally he told his little daughter, even though she was too young to do anything about it.

“Well,” she said, “if no one will help you, then YOU must do something.”

“But what?” he said in despair. “I am just one Mole.”

Now what happens? Does the Mole find anyone to help him? Does he give up and take off his spectacles? Is it dangerous for the Mole to see what no one else sees? Leave a comment below and tell us the next part of the story …

Technorati Tags: Storytelling book folk tales genre round robin game blog reader paragraph mole spectacles comment

Haiku Friday: Storytelling

Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of Storytelling:

Beat drums, shake rattles
thump the staff and ring the bells
here comes a story

It’s Haiku Friday again. For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose. I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog. Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those). That’s it.

Technorati Tags: Haiku writing syllable topic drums rattles staff bells story

Sharing History: Are You a Hero?

In this time of epic terrorism and disaster, with news media around the world blaring stories of violence and greed, heroic stories give us hope. They remind us that people can not only cope with disaster, but turn it into triumph. That folks just like us have depths of courage, compassion and creativity. When we hear their stories, we can believe in the possibility of our own heroism. They prove it is possible. Heroes destroy apathy, despair and cynicism.

Most of do not think of ourselves as heroes. But we do not give ourselves enough credit. What we often fail to realize is that all of us have done brave deeds, followed our passions, achieved our goals – at least sometimes, and most of us more often than we think. We pooh-pooh some of our most meaningful acts, as if they didn’t matter. They do matter. All of us have moments of heroism. Each of us is a hero to someone.

When were you at your best? When did you pursue your passion with all that was within you? What was your proudest moment? When did you slog through, day after day, with no hope of reward, only because you knew it was right? When did you have a great burst of creative fire and the guts to carry it through? When did you stand up for yourself, or someone else? When did you speak the truth even though it wasn’t easy? When did your kind words comfort another? Find the hero within yourself, and give her voice.

Heroism need not be accompanied by blaring bugles and red flags blowing in the wind. Some of the most effective heroism is the quiet kind. It will endure just as long as the kind that wins medals.

Share your stories of bravery, devotion, selflessness, kindness, love, creativity, strength – and you can literally change the course of another person’s life. Yes, stories are that powerful.

Technorati Tags:History sharing terrorism disaster media stories violence greed heroes deeds passion hope reward truth comfort kind heroism bugles flags wind medals bravery devotion selflessness kindness love creativity strength