Writing Prompt for Tonight’s Silent Writers’ Retreat

William Faulkner's Underwood Universal Portabl...
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Tonight at 9 EST and PST, the Silent Writers Collective holds its weekly online writing retreat.  All writers are welcome to join in and be quiet.

You can work on your own project or use the writing exercise provided below.  For those participating in the WordPress.com Post A Day challenge, it’s a great time to stockpile a post or two.  For those who aren’t sure what they want to work on, here is an interesting exercise from Poets & Writers’ new series, “The Time is Now.”

This exercise may be more writing than you can fit into one hour, but if you’re inspired to keep writing, that’s the whole idea!

As J-Lo would say, I’m “Waiting for Tonight!”

Resources: Post A Day, Silent Writers Collective, PW.org

Time Machine Visits #FridayFlash Intro

Time machine to late September 2009 …

Spinning Optical IllusionIt’s a quiet Friday afternoon, and I’m trying to learn my way around Twitter.  A steady stream of tweets with the odd looking designation of “#FridayFlash” keeps catching my eye.  Easily distracted and always looking for an excuse to put off my writing, I’m drawn in.

“What could zees be?” I ask out loud.  (My alter ego always has a French accent.)

Curiosity gets the best of me.  I click one of the tweets and enter into a world I never knew existed.  It’s a world of horror and humor, intrigue and romance. Action, adventure, heartbreak and suspense.  I’ve entered the surrealistic wonder world of #FridayFlash.

What is this wonder world, you ask?  According to creator Jon Strother, #FridayFlash is an Internet meme designed to increase your visibility as a fiction writer.   According to me and most of the writers who participate each week, it is so much more than that.

Since entering that world over a year ago, I’ve met some wonderfully supportive and encouraging people, I’ve read some remarkable stories, and my writing has come a long way.  Finding #FridayFlash was like falling through a trapdoor into a hidden fantasy land, and it’s a land open to all; writers and readers, alike.

Icy Sedgwick offers more insight in this Fuel Your Writing interview posted this week:  #FridayFlash — Interview with Jon Strother.

There’s so much more to say about #FridayFlash, but the important information is covered in the interview and in the links I’ve included.  Now I need to hurry and publish this post, because that time-machine-depicting optical illusion up there is freaking me out.  It really is not moving.  Is it?

Resources: Post A Day, Flash Fiction by Olivia Tejeda

Happy Sunshine in a Little Orange Package

This morning after breakfast I was still hungry.  It’s mid-January, I live in Arizona, and there are orange trees in the back yard so loaded with fruit the branches droop low enough for the rabbits to reach them.  The oranges have been tempting me for a while, but the last time I tried one, it was too early.  The flesh was dry and tough, and it was so bitter it took at least 15 minutes before my eye stopped twitching and I could pull my cheeks out of a hard core pucker.

Different story today.  When I got close to the tree, I could smell that they were ready.   I chose an orange near the bottom of the tree; those ripen first, and when I picked it, it nearly fell off the limb into my hand.

It’s orange season, all right.  I was a little hesitant with my first bite, but as soon as my teeth broke through the skin, “Hello, Larry!”  It was exquisitely, perfectly, sweetly ready.  The flavor was fresh and vibrant, and I wanted to stuff the whole orange in my mouth to fill it with the flavor of happy sunshine.  That’s what the orange tasted like … Happy Bright Perfect Sunshine.

There’s is a lot of ugliness going on around Arizona these days.  That orange, grown in Arizona soil, not only satisfied my hunger, it made me feel hopeful.

In honor of my morning orange, I’m happy to share one of my favorite poems:

Peeling an Orange
by Virginia Hamilton Adair

Between you and a bowl of oranges I lie nude
Reading The World’s Illusion through my tears.
You reach across me hungry for global fruit,
Your bare arm hard, furry and warm on my belly.
Your fingers pry the skin of a navel orange
Releasing tiny explosions of spicy oil.
You place peeled disks of gold in a bizarre pattern
On my white body. Rearranging, you bend and bite
The disks to release further their eager scent.
I say “Stop, you’re tickling,” my eyes still on the page.
Aromas of groves arise. Through green leaves
Glow the lofty snows. Through red lips
Your white teeth close on a translucent segment.
Your face over my face eclipses The World’s Illusion.
Pulp and juice pass into my mouth from your mouth.
We laugh against each other’s lips. I hold my book
Behind your head, still reading, still weeping a little.
You say “Read on, I’m just an illusion,” rolling
Over upon me soothingly, gently moving,
Smiling greenly through long lashes. And soon
I say “Don’t stop. Don’t disillusion me.”
Snows melt. The mountain silvers into many a stream.
The oranges are golden worlds in a dark dream.

Resource: The Daily Post, Virginia Hamilton Adair

Nouns Get Verbed and Language Evolves

About a year ago, a co-worker I hadn’t seen in more than a decade friended me on Facebook.  When she first messaged me, her note was a  bit sheepish.  Not because we hadn’t stayed in touch, but because we had worked together as newspaper copy editors, and she wasn’t completely comfortable reintroducing herself by using “friend” as a verb.

“I’m a little embarrassed to get back in touch by verbing you with a noun,” she wrote. “But C’est la Facebook.”

She’s so clever!

I hadn’t realized until reading her note how often I use friend and other nouns as verbs.   Verbing is not a new trend, but it seems more common than ever.  I sometimes find it irritating, but mostly when it’s used in business-speak.  For example, a former manager never said we would talk about something, he said we’d dialogue it. That’s a little irritating, no?

For some interesting insight on verbing, read  YOU’VE BEEN VERBED by Anthony Gardner from More Intelligent Life.

Grammar Watch is an occasional series about grammar peeves, abuses, giggles, and rants.  Email me with any topics you’d like to see included here.

Resources:  Intelligent Life Magazine, Anthony Gardner, Facebook, The Daily Post.

“Suspicious” Quotation Marks: Funny? Mostly!

I’ve never really told anyone this, but I’m kind of a jerk when it comes to grammar and punctuation.  I usually don’t correct grammatical mistakes, I try not to be too critical of people who say “yous” instead of  “you,” and I don’t walk around with a Sharpie correcting improperly placed apostrophes (even though I want to).  Sometimes these mistakes bother me, and sometimes they just make me laugh.

Take suspicious quotation marks, I don’t know where the The Employees Must “Wash Hands” picture originated, but it’s all over the internet, and when I saw it I laughed out loud.  Then I cringed a little bit, hoping the sign wasn’t posted in a “restaurant.” (<–Deliberate misuse.)

Excessive use of quotation marks AND sarcasm.

The first pair of suspicious quote marks  I remember was on an insurance company sign on the street where I grew up.  The sign read:

“Insurance That’s “Affordable”

Even as a kid I used to roll my eyes at that.

Bethany Keeley has built a mini media empire around the offending punctuation.  The “Blog” of Unnecessary Quotation Marks is a collection of pictures submitted by readers, accompanied by Keeley’s hilarious comments.

With a disclaimer like that, no wonder the jar's empty!

She compiled the best of the unnecessary into “The Book of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks,” which publisher Chronicle Books calls, “a smarty-pants guide, “perfect” for desperate grammarians, habitual air quoters, and anyone who appreciates a good laugh.”

If you can’t wait to pick up the book, visit the Facebook group, Quotation Mark Hunters, which is where I found these pictures, and spent far too much time surfing and laughing.

I hope you’ll have a good laugh too, and maybe it will make you think twice before using quotation marks “willy-nilly.”

For clarification on the proper use and single vs. double quotation marks, and just about any other grammar question, visit Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips.

Grammar Watch is an occasional series about grammar peeves, abuses, giggles, and rants.  Email me with any topics you’d like to see included here.

Resources:  The Daily Post.

Monday Motivator: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“Light tomorrow
with today!”

— Elizabeth Barrett Browning

◊ ◊ ◊

On December 10, 1845, Robert Browning wrote a letter Elizabeth Barrett, a well-known poet who had praised the younger writer’s work in print.

The letter opens with Mr. Browning’s gushing praise. “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett — and this is no off-hand complimentary letter that I shall write.”

The gushing continues.  “I do, as I say, love these books with all my heart — and I love you too.”

Cheeky!

Writers today might call security over that last line, but the next day, Miss Barrett, who was bedridden with respiratory illness and six years older than Mr. Browning, wrote to a friend, saying Browning’s letter “threw me into ecstasies.”

That’s how England’s greatest literary love affair began and we are all richer for it.  Although Barrett’s tyrannical father refused to allow any of his 12 children to marry, Elizabeth and Robert carried out their romance in secret and eloped four years later.  Her father refused to see her again.

During their secret courtship, Elizabeth wrote “Sonnets from the Portuguese,” which includes the now practically cliched line, “How do I love thee, let me count the ways.”

If you haven’t had the good fortune to read the most famous love poem of all time, here it is.  Enjoy.

Sonnets from the Portuguese, XLII
How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
— Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Monday Motivator is a weekly quote posted to encourage, inspire, and motivate writers of all skill levels and across genres.  I’d love suggestions if you have a favorite quote to share.  Click here to see past Monday Motivators.

Resources:  The Brownings,Robert Browning’s letter, Sonnets from the Portuguese (free download all e-book formats), PostADay2011

An Aha Moment Ends Reign of Old Excuses

The new NFL logo went into use at the 2008 draft.
Image via Wikipedia

It’s a big football weekend, and we’re in the middle of Day 2 of the NFL being broadcast (loud and clear) across our living room.  I’m not a big sports fan in general, but I do get caught up in the excitement of playoff season, regardless of the sport.   To be completely honest, I get excited over any excuse to make cocktail meatballs and pigs in a blanket, which is what Hon and I are feasting on today.

Speaking of sports, I was overwhelmed by the response to the YouTube link I posted yesterday.   I found Matt Scott’s Nike commercial incredibly inspiring, and I was so happy to learn that many of you did, as well.

Last night when Hon and I were talking about it, he said he thought it would be motivating to have the list of excuses that Matt Scott runs through.  I think that’s a great idea.  It’s a tangible example of the countless reasons we come up with to stop us from doing what we could be doing.  And it ends with a stunning “Aha Moment” that showed me excuses are just that … excuses.

So here is the script, as transcribed by me, of Warhawk Matt Scott in Nike’s No Excuses commercial:

I’m too weak
Too slow
Too big
I ate too much for breakfast
I’ve got a headache
It’s raining
My dog is sick
I can’t right now
I’m not inspired
Makes me smell bad
I’m allergic to stuff
I’m fat
I’m thin
It’s too hot
I’m not right
I’ve got shin splints
A headache
I’m distracted
I’m exerting myself too much
I’d love to really, but I can’t, I just can’t
My favorite show is on
I’ve got a case of the Mondays
… the Tuesdays,
… the Wednesdays
I don’t wanna do this
I wanna do something else
After New Years
Next Week
Might make a mistake
I got homework
I feel bloated
I have gas
I got a hot date
My coach hates me
My mom won’t let me
I bruise easily
It’s too dark
It’s too cold
My blister hurts
This is dangerous
Ugh
Sorry, I don’t have a bike
I didn’t get enough sleep
My tummy hurts
It’s not in my genes
I don’t wanna  look all tired out
I need a better coach
I don’t like getting tackled
I have a stomachache
I’m not the athletic type
I don’t wanna get sweaty
I have better things to do
I don’t want to slow you down
Do I have to do this?
As soon as I get a promotion
I think I’ll sit this one out
And my feet hurt.

I’ve thought of a few of my own excuses, as I’m sure you could too, but now I’ve had that Aha Moment, and that will make it harder to fall back on old excuses.  Thanks, Mike!

Resources: Daily Post

Got Excuses? Get Inspired

When I saw the link for this video yesterday on WordPress.com’s Daily Post, I rolled my eyes and made a snap judgment.  Fabulous, I thought, yet another Nike sponsored, overpaid, over-pampered, over-exposed athlete being held up as a paragon of wisdom telling me how to be great like him.  Thanks, but no thanks.

Well shut my judgmental mouth.  This is wonderful.  Please watch.

Resources: Daily Post, Paralympian Matt Scott

Poets & Writers Say, “The Time Is Now”

Way back on December 31, 2010, (six days ago) I accepted the WordPress.com Post A Day challenge to post on my blog every day for a year.  WordPress helps out by posting a daily prompt on their Post A Day blog to keep participants inspired.  I’m on Day 5.  So far so good.

Now Poets and Writers, has kicked off The Time Is Now, a series of weekly prompts and exercises to inspire writers of poetry and prose to stay committed to their writing all year long.

“The most important and underrated factor in a writer’s success is discipline. Talent and luck always help, but having a consistent writing practice is often the difference
between aspiring writers and published writers.”
— PW.Org

Every Monday PW will post for poetry, and every Thursday for fiction.  The first installment for poetry is posted now.  The fiction prompt goes up tomorrow.  To have the prompts sent directly to your email, you can sign up at The Time is Now Signup.

If you’re a writer and you’re not familiar with PW, I urge you to GET familiar with them.   As the nation’s largest nonprofit literary organization, they are an incredible and reliable resource for information on competitions, workshops, techniques, agents, and publishers.  What I’ve found most through their site and their magazine is a sense of community and encouragement.  In the announcement introducing The Time is Now, PW.org says, “the most important and underrated factor in a writer’s success is discipline.”  That’s certainly true, but the camaraderie I’ve found at PW, goes a long way.

Resources: Poets & Writers, The Daily Post

Introducing “The Monday Motivator”

Like Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats, I don’t like Mondays.  I find it hard to get motivated, and even though I write every day, sometimes I’m just not in the mood on Monday morning and it feels like a drag.

To beat the Monday blues, I’m going to start posting a weekly quote, called The Monday Motivator.  These posts will be part of The Writer’s Devotional series, and have the same objective … to encourage, inspire, and motivate writers of all skill levels and across genres.

Pearl Buck, Pulitzer Prize-winning American author
Image via Wikipedia

We’ll start with a quote from Pearl S. Buck, Pulitzer Prize winning author of “The Good Earth,” and the first American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.  I think it’s a great starting quote and a lesson I need to learn on an almost daily basis.

“I don’t wait for moods.
You accomplish nothing if you do that.
Your mind must know
it has got to get down to work.”

— Pearl S. Buck

Resources: Pearl S. Buck Birthplace, The Daily Post, I Don’t Like Mondays by Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats, The Writer’s Devotional.