Sunday, April 17, 2005

old friends

I have been remiss in my updates lately. Work has intruded, and with only a little more than a month until summer break, I have to acknowledge and bow to Work's demands. But I want to offer something here, some gesture of good will and the reassurance that I am indeed coming back--eventually.

Lately, I've found myself rereading old, beloved books. This weekend I read one of my favorites from high school--Illusions by Richard Bach. As I read, I felt as though I was reconnecting with old friends. I laughed aloud, teared up, and probably enjoyed the novel even more than I had in high school. Reading it again was a delightful experience.

And now I've begun to reread Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, a wonderful must-read for writers. What amazes me is how much I forget in between my readings, and how much joy I get in rediscovering the beauty and truth these writers have to offer. To me, that's good writing--writing that stands up to multiple readings, that still feels fresh almost 30 years later (like Bach).

What books have you read and reread in your lifetime? Share with us all the books that bring you joy, the books that make you yearn to put words on the page.

Friday, April 08, 2005

love from A to Z

If you've never explored The Alchera Project, I encourage you to surf your way over and take a look. Each month, the site owner provides a number of interesting writing prompts that address a variety of writerly skills--poetry, fiction, freewriting, and even list-making. I've been a lurker on the site for quite some time, but this will be my first foray into actually completing (and posting) one of its projects.

The topic (direct from Alchera):
List/ Option 4: Things You Love....Alphabetized.
I went back in the archives an entire year to see what list projects we've done and, oddly enough, none of them deal specifically with things you love. But making a list of things you love it just too easy, and the point of Alchera is to challenge the creative mind. So, not only are you to make a list of things you love, but you are to do it with the alphabet. That's still too easy in my opinion, so you've also got to come up with at least two things for each letter. 'X' is really going to be tricky. (Example: Aenima & And All That Could Have Been, Blueberry muffins &...this is a lot harder than I though...Bourbon?) This kind of project takes time.
See my effort in the first comment.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

those things you do

I do not feel inspired today. My spring break grading marathon continues and I am hitting a wall at the moment. I should feel encouraged--I'm so close to the end--but instead, I'm beginning to feel a wee bit resentful. So, here's a writing prompt for you that mirrors my current state and comes to you courtesy of

What do you do when you procrastinate? Do you become a couch potato? Do you turn into housekeeper extraordinaire? Do your culinary skills suddenly emerge? Make a list of ten things you do to avoid doing the things you should be doing.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

sneaking up on yourself

In One Continuous Mistake, Gail Sher recommends experimenting with when and where you write by trying out writing at unusual times or in unusual places. A few places I've written (some unusual, some not so much):
  • In the car while I was driving (okay, while I was stopped in traffic)
  • In the shower (you'll just have to trust me on this one)
  • In restaurants
  • In bookstores
  • In coffeeshops
  • In mall food courts (one of my favorites)
  • In the middle of the night (sometimes without turning on the light)
  • While walking in a park
  • On a plane
  • On a bus full of teenagers I was responsible for
You get the idea. Sher contends that sometimes it helps to "sneak up on our minds," to catch ourselves unaware and off guard and discover what such writing yields. Sounds fun, doesn't it? So today, write at a time or a place (or both) that's unusual for you.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Sometimes all we need is a quick jolt to get us, or our story, started. A kick in the pants is just what Lou Willett Stanek, Ph.D., delivers in her Story Starters. The book is geared towards the fiction writer, but any writer could use the ideas she explains and the prompts she provides. Not convinced? I'll give you an example, oh Doubting Thomas.

Try the following prompt from Story Starters:

"Every day your character walked past the place he (she) was forbidden to go. Then one day he opened the door."

So, suppose you're not writing fiction, and you don't have a character. Then what? (I am imagining the voices of my students even now.) Then take the concept of the prompt and use it to jumpstart a creative nonfiction piece or a poem. The concept? What happens when we finally give in to temptation, when we indulge in the forbidden? (Of course, there are always other ways to go when you're talking concept, like why is the forbidden so alluring? or why is it --whatever it is--forbidden in the first place?) Go ahead--open the door.

Monday, April 04, 2005

when love began

I remember being fascinated by words long before I could actually write any. I loved story time more than any other time of the day, and I was that kid who always begged for "just one more" at bedtime. I wanted to write so badly that I sat one day at the age of three or four, pad and pencil in hand, randomly stringing together letters, my tiny bottom firmly planted on the little red stool that was mine alone. I followed every attempt with a plea to my mom, "Is this a word?" Over and over, the answer was no. Finally, I hit the jackpot, with C-A-T. A proud moment.

Bonnie Goldberg, in Room to Write, encourages you to explore one of your own profound writing moments. Write about the first time words had an impact on you, the moment when your love affair with language began. Don't just tell the story--relive it. Use vivid imagery, as much detail as you can remember (or imagine), and take the reader there with you.

Monday, March 28, 2005

100 words

Often my students complain that they cannot possibly write enough to meet my expectations. The mere idea of composing 500, or even worse (gasp!) 1,000 words is more than their little brains can comprehend.

I seem to have the opposite problem. I tend to go on and on (just ask my husband). Frequently I find I've used three words where one would do, or I've repeated myself unintentionally (a hazard of my profession), or I've used a few too many adjectives or adverbs. You get the point. But sometimes limits can foster creativity. The following exercise is for those of you like me, who find yourself in love with words and who sometimes overdo it.

Construct a paragraph--any kind of paragraph, descriptive, narrative, expository--but use only 100 words. No more, no less. Go.