Lambert – Wildest Word of the Day

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Photo by Michael Kearns

According to The Phrontistery (The Thinking Place) and their list of unusual words, lambert is a unit of brightness and light.

It was also the maiden name of my maternal grandmother (pictured above) who died recently after breaking her tailbone and having a heart attack as a result. She was 90 years old. Her oldest daughter, my mother, died at 42. My grandmother never quite recovered from losing her daughter so young and so the past 25 years have been hard on her.

I would like to celebrate the laughter and light I remember as a child visiting my grandmother by sharing this word of the day.

62 Days of Lunchbox Sketches in Under 3 Minutes

As working parents, our 4-year-old was in two different schools for daycare this year.

One of them provided lunch but for the other I had to pack him a lunch two days a week.

No matter how tired I was as I stuffed celery and juice boxes and bagels inside the Elmo lunchbox, I always included a quick Sharpie sketch on a Post-it note to let him know we were thinking about him during the day.

Sometimes the sketches were random things to make him laugh and sometimes they had something to do with what happened the day before. When I picked him up from daycare we would talk about that day’s sketch. It was a nice ritual and a fun way to let him know we care.

I saved the sketches and made this short video so he could remember them. I had to rescue them from the soggy lunchbox each day after school and some of them ended up more wrinkled and damp than I intended.

Shown together, the images tell a silly story of what happened to us and how much we laughed this year. Any images of commercial characters are parodies and not meant to infringe on any copyright.

Thanks for watching!

The music is Disco con Tutti, royalty-free music from http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free.

Eleanor Roosevelt – Writing Quote Wednesday

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Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny using Flickr photo by Jeff Kubina

I live close to our longest-serving First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s modest house, Vall-Kill. She said of her beloved cottage, “Vall-Kill is where I used to find myself and grow.”

During all this growth, I wonder how often she was humiliated by telling the truth?

According to Wikipedia.com Eleanor Roosevelt held over 348 press conferences during her husband’s twelve-year presidency. She also published a monthly column in Woman’s Home Companion and once wrote such a strongly worded editorial in a newspaper that her husband, Franklin, had to publish a reply.

The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project states that she left volumes of writing and never used a ghost writer. According to the site, she wrote 27 books, more than 8,000 columns and 555 articles. She also gave more than 75 speeches a year.

When was the last time you told a truth in fiction that you couldn’t tell IRL? Leave me a comment and let me know.

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Watch Frank Sinatra speaking to Eleanor Roosevelt on YouTube.com

Flickr photo by Jeff Kubina (CC License)

Writing Prompt 06: Can a Story Change the World? Writing Stories for Peace

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Flickr photo by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

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Flickr photo by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

Conflicts are raging in the world as I write this post.

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright appeared on CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’ yesterday and summed up the state of the world right now by saying, “there are an awful lot of things that are going on that need understanding [and] an explanation.” According to the Kansas City Star she also said, “To put it mildly, the world is a mess.”

My Huffington Post news feed certainly reads like the end of civilization:

What small thing can we do to bring peace to those who hate and rage? How can we comfort those who are facing horrors as an everyday fact of life? Is it possible to make a difference with just one small voice?

Stories are the Wildest Things because they can change the world. Sometimes stories can make change that lasts for generations and sometimes our stories are here for the briefest of moments and then gone. But even if it’s just for a few moments of solace in the midst of chaos, stories can help us see the world from a different point of view. Can we tell powerful enough stories to stop the escalating chaos in the world?

I don’t know if that is possible, but I do know that as we write and share our writing with the world, those who read our stories are opened up to new possibilities, new ways of thinking, new ideas about how the world works and what our place is in this world.

I challenge you today to write a story for peace.

It doesn’t have to be about how to achieve peace or about peace and what it means. It doesn’t even have to be a peaceful story.

Create something beautiful out of this chaos. Write a story that will live on as a reminder to those who come after us that hate and rage does not have to define us. Be creative. Move us. Make us feel something. Do it in 1500 words or less. Then share it with others. Invite others to take part. Starting a dialogue through story can be a powerful thing. Let’s change the world by writing stories for peace.

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. How many anniversaries like this will we have on our calendars by the time my four-year-old grows up? Will he grow up and know a time when we have not been at war?

Have a peaceful day.

4 Steps to Get More Writing Done by Sowing your Wild Oats

Flickr photo "Sea Oats" by James Lee

Don’t feel like sitting down at the computer to write? Then don’t.

Not yet anyway.

Sometimes, you can get more writing done by sowing your wild OATS.

The phrase “sowing your wild oats” is an idiom meaning to “do wild and foolish things in one’s youth” according to The Free Dictionary.

Now, when I say this, I don’t mean you should go out and do a bunch of wild and foolish things and then come home and write about them. I want to share a technique I sometimes use to get more writing done. I’m using the acronym O.A.T.S. to explain the technique, so I had to find an idiom that matched the acronym. “Sowing your wild oats” is what I came up with.

Like Grammar Girl, I’m crazy about English idioms. I also love learning about idioms in other languages, too. They really show off the power of metaphorical language to express ourselves. They can also show us how crazy and wild our language can seem to other people.

I chose “sowing your wild oats” as an acronym for this exercise because I was looking for a way to get more writing done by doing something “wild and foolish” instead of forcing myself to sit at the computer banging my head against the keyboard to come up with writing ideas.

If you follow each step of the “sowing your wild OATS” process, you’ll have a finished piece of writing that you gets out there into the world instead of languishing on your hard drive.

Leave me a comment with a link to anything you create using this method and I’ll check it out. Any other thoughts or comments are also greatly appreciated!

How to Sow Your Wild Oats

1. Observe

As you know from my post 10 Ways to Know You’re a Writer, I love the app Evernote. I make sure I have a copy on whatever device I carry with me so that I can make quick notes and keep them organized. I keep a folder called “Observations” in the app where I’ll jot down things I notice throughout the day that might come in handy for my writing later.

I’m currently doing some work on a feature film. The main part of the action takes place in a high school on Long Island. Instead of sitting around waiting and chatting (there is a LOT of sitting around and waiting and chatting on a film set), I decided to “sow my wild oats” and get a little writing done without actually sitting down at the computer.

I pulled out my device, opened up Evernote and made some observations. Since my work in progress (#WIP) is set in a middle school in Tarrytown, NY, I wanted to use this opportunity to get some authentic detail about schools today.

Here are some of my notes:

Boy’s bathrooms – voices echo off tile, rust spots on the walls near urinals (eww), gray tiles with ugly peach paint above, no locks on stalls

Hall lockers have a THICK coat of blue paint from years of repainting and abuse. They really are wide enough for Lance (my main character) to be stuffed into. Should I ask my son if I can stuff him inside one? (I didn’t.)

Most of the trophies in the trophy case were for tennis. Must be a school of wealthy students. Maybe a tennis pro is a coach?

Really confusing layout of hallways. Freshmen must get lost all the time.

There were a lot more observations, but I’ll stop there.

Now I could’ve just closed the app and said, “I did my writing for the day. Ah!” But just observing and taking notes doesn’t really get any writing done. Those notes are like a warm-up. If I stop there, they’ll just sit there collecting electronic dust in my Evernote app unless I do something with them.

If you have tons of files, notes, scribbles, and jottings lying around, e-dust them off by taking the next step.

2. Analyze

Before deciding what to do with your casual observations, analyze them. I don’t mean going through and judging them, “This one is terrible! This one is awesome! This one is meh.” (I often do that, though. Sigh.)

I mean thinking about them differently. Try finding the connections, figuring out what the observations are trying to say and what they mean. Sometimes I see patterns and meanings that I hadn’t noticed when I was just writing down the original thoughts.

For this set of observations at the high school, one or two or possibly all of them will make their way into my middle grade paranormal adventure novel. My main character, Lancelot Greengrass, is kind of small and occasionally gets pushed around because of his size. The kids who do this call him “Grass-stains” because of his weird last name and because he always has grass stains on his knees from falling down when he gets pushed.

As I analyze the observations I made, some them are getting me excited to add those details into my story. I can’t wait to get to the computer and write. Excitement is always a clue that those ideas are the ones to pursue when you take the next step.

3. Transform

The bare facts are rarely enough when writing for an audience. Even news tells a story from the point of view of the person observing it.

What we call “voice” can be thought of as the transformation of “what happened” into “this is how I saw it, processed it, understood it. I hope you will, too.”

This is the part of the process that usually happens in the shower or while you’re doing the dishes. Your inner critic is distracted by the mundane activity and your creative brain makes connections you didn’t think would happen. Suddenly, you have a great idea! The original observations suddenly transform into another way of using them.

The blue paint on the lockers might become an activity for the janitor to be doing in the hallway.

The gym teacher might become a washed up tennis pro after seeing those tennis trophies in the display case.

Lance might get lost all the time because he’s new at Washington Irving Middle School.

And, lastly, the observations I made might make the transformation from details to be used in my novel into details I can use for a blog post like this one. (See how I did that?)

4. Send

This last step is the most important. It’s what Austin Kleon talks about in his excellent book, Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (and in this GREAT VIDEO).

We all write because we love it and it’s how we express ourselves creatively. Some of us keep our writing to ourselves and some of us have a world-wide audience. No matter what size audience you have or form your writing takes: a blog, short story, play, screenplay, novel, article, poem, textbook, a letter to the editor or a love note, you need to send those words out into the world in order for them to make a difference and to learn something about what your writing is all about and what you have to say.

As Mr. Kleon says, “The only way to find your voice is to use it.”

This final step to getting more writing done is called Send but it could just as easily be called Sowing. Like a farmer sowing seeds on a plowed field, we need to do the same with our writing. When you cast your words out there like seeds, you’ll be amazed at what grows. So go make some Observations, Analyze them for content and connections, Transform them into something creative and amazing and then Send those words out into the world.

Now go forth and sow your wild OATS!

Writing Prompt 05: World’s 10 Most Mysterious Photographs

For this prompt choose one of the 10 photographs from this fascinating video by Hybrid Librarian and write a story that relates to the actual photograph or the circumstances surrounding or suggested by the photograph. I’m particularly drawn to the photograph of STS088-724-66, the Black Knight satellite.

An alternative would be to write a story about an album of mysterious photographs that someone finds or is given.

  • Why are the photographs in the album?
  • What do they depict?
  • What does the protagonist need to do to solve the mystery of the photographs?

When you write a story using this prompt, please send me a link. If you have any other ideas based on this prompt, leave a comment. Thanks for sharing!

Stories are the Wildest Things.

Philip Pullman – Writing Quote Wednesday

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Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny with Flickr photo by Joseph Voves

I like to say we human beings live in story like fish live in water. Take fish out of water and they can’t live, they flop around gasping for breath wondering, “What happened?”

The same is true for us. We ask the same question, over and over again, every day of our lives.

“What happened?”

When we don’t answer that question we feel just like those poor fish.

When we experience anything, major or minor, we tell a story to relate it to those we care about (or to anyone who will listen). We want to share our experience with others and let them know, “This is how it is for me.”

I’m grateful that I get to do that every day as part of my human being-ness. I chose Mr. Pullman’s quote today because it puts the importance of story right up there with shelter, nourishment and companionship.

Please leave a comment about something that happened to you recently that made a big difference in your life. I’d love to hear about it.

Stories are the Wildest Things.

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Watch Philip Pullman doing an Open University lecture about his writing on YouTube.com

Flickr photo by Joseph Voves (CC License)

Writing Prompt 04: Write a Character who is the Opposite of You

Flickr photo "Opposites" by Karen Cox

Flickr photo “Opposites” by Karen Cox

What is the opposite of “you”?

When you think about who “you” are, what are the list of qualities you identify with yourself?

Are you loving, honest and polite?

Are you helpful and always there for your friends?

Make a list of qualities that you identify with and then make a list of everything that is the opposite.

Instead of loving, honest and polite, make the character hateful, lying and rude.

Helpful and always there becomes spiteful and withdrawn.

Write a story whose protagonist is the opposite of you. Try to avoid clichés and really show us how this person functions in the world. Let us see what they want and why they want it. Then throw in some obstacles that get in their way. Post a link to the story in the comments section.

Have a great writing day!

Nadine Gordimer – Writing Quote Wednesday

Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny with Flickr photo “Sunset Joy” by Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny with Flickr photo “Kali Sweats it Out” by flowcomm

Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny with Flickr photo “Sunset Joy” by flowcomm

 

Click HERE for an excellent article about Nadine Gordimer’s life by Helen T. Vorongos of the New York Times. The Nobel Prize winner’s novels were banned, but made a huge impact as she explored “the hot, crowded cinder-block neighborhoods and tiny shebeens of the black townships to the poolside barbecues, hunting parties and sundowner cocktails of the white society.”

I’ve spent time, however briefly, in the midst of South African culture (mostly in black townships) and I can see why Ms. Gordimer has said, “The fact that my books were perceived as being so political was because I lived my life in this society that was so much changed by conflict, by political conflict, which of course in practical terms is human conflict.”

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Listen to Nadine Gordimer read some of her short stories at the 92nd Street Y on YouTube.com

Flickr photo by flowcomm (CC License)