Saturday, March 31, 2012

Finding Success in Losing

We all like winning and receiving accolades. Recognition for writing validates why we bother to spend endless hours suffering over a word or a sentence.

nobody sane does it.

Why bother trying when in that vast world of published material your body of work is just a comma? Why bother entering a competition with hundreds of other writers, most of who are wag better than you?
Because we need strangers to tell us our work is worthy. Our friends and family believe we are brilliant. Strangers tell you the truth.
I recently lost a contest. Didn’t even get an honorable mention. Yet this loss proved successful.

I had entered Under the Veil in the Writer's Digest Self Published. Awards in the middle grade/young adult division . Books were judged on four criteria with 5 being the top score. My marks were Plot 4, Grammar. 5, character development, 5, and production quality and cover design, 3.
My two highest scores were for the most important elements: craft and character. Plot is necessary, but it 's the weakest literary element.
but the judge wrote "this is a wonderful book…my favorite….it is perfectly written for the age group intended…it was very beautifully done.”

The only negative comments was the judge wanted to know more about me (There is an author page in the back with a photo. And I do explain my motivation for writing the book on that page. I don’t know how much more I can do there.)

So my design cost me an honorable mention, or even a prize, But I got what is truly important: validation from a total stranger that I am a good writer.
Tomorrow begins National Poetry Month. I plan to write a poem a day. Most of them wil be terrible because it’s hard to write a good poem in a day.

Even so, I will also READ a poem every day.

If you haven’t already, sign up at to write thirty poems in thirty days.

Also here is a blog post from last year rife with exercises:

Happy Writing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Two for One Deal

This poems fulfills two Scintilla prompts. (, to write a list, and 10, to write about heartbreak. I love a 2 for 1 deal.)

Twenty- three Word Romance

1. Pyrotechnics (n.) a brilliant fireworks display, like when we saw each other at that Fourth of July party.
2. Emanate (v.) to send forth, like the vibes emanating between us
3. Convivial (adj.) merry festive. The atmosphere at the fete was convivial. Lots of wine and beer flowed.
4. Vernacular (n.) everyday language spoken. Our dialogue was convivial and rife with vernacular.
5. Swoon (v.) to enter a state of ecstasy, I swooned when you leaned to kiss me.
6. Spangle (v.) to sprinkle or stud with bright, glimmering pieces, like how I felt inside the first time you kissed me.
7. Tangible (adj.) to be able to be touched or held, real, not an apparition or a figment. The heat between us was tangible.
8. Opiate (n.) something that induced relaxation and torpor. Your skin on mine was an opiate.
9. Whimsical (adj.) childlike, fun, like the time we stole a grocery cart from Kroger and you wheeled me home
10. Laugh (v.) something you made me do every day.
11. Ineffable (adj.) an unexplainable feeling spangling inside me at the thought of you, the sound of your voice, the scent of you on the sheets.
12. Love (n.) the feeling which animates a person who is deeply fond of someone. Syn. Affection, attachment, devotion, adoration, allegiance, loyalty, emotion, crush.
13. Sempiternal (adj.) enduring , everlasting, like that sense of infinity, where the snow globe figures hold another snow globe and , or the picture is a picture of a person holding the same picture, on and on. How I imagined we were.
14. Precarious (adj). dangerously lacking in security and stability. You were reckless and spontaneous, and there was always plenty of beer. Exciting, yet unsettling.
15. Unsettling. (adj.) something felt wrong. Call it a sixth sense. On the surface things looked fine (ignore the copious amounts of beers), but something felt off.
16. Discordant (adj.) unpleasant; harsh – a feeling that gnawed at me.
17. Crush (v.) crushing, crushes, crushed. How I felt when I saw you kissing her on our bed. It was such a cliché. I came home early from work.
18. Inconsolable. (adj.) how I felt when you cheated on me with a friend of mine, no less. It had been going on for awhile.
19. implacable (adj. not be pacified or appeased, like your tendency to be unfaithful
20. Ambivalent (adj.) Having mixed feelings about something and not being able to choose.
21 splinter (v.; n.) bitter, committer, critter, embitter, emitter, fitter, flitter, fritter, glitter, gritter, hitter, jitter, knitter, litter, permitter, quitter, remitter, sitter, skitter, slitter, spitter, splitter....
22. Denouement (n.) the final resolution of a dramatic plot.
23. Entropy (n.) • A measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system.• A measure of loss.• The tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity.• Inevitable and steady deterioration.

exercise- find a random word in the dictionary and use it as a springboard for a poem.

Happy Writing.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Time Keeps on Shrieking into the Future

The Scintilla 8 prompt has to do with writing about how you feel about a specific time in your life. This time I chose to write a poem. Maybe my mind is already set for April and National Poetry Month.

Stowing Away the Time

Thirty years ago it was yesterday.
The sun wrinkles time.
Knowledge etches lines on the skin.
Knowing grows grey hair.
Words are thinned by lips.
Aches are heavy with chins.
A body is scattered in broken bones.
The heart is stronger in years,
yet funerals shed more tears
The soundtrack to my life
is now sold at a discount

Laura Moe

The weather has turned and you need to go outside. Using Basho’s quote:”Unless things are seen with fresh eye, nothing is worth writing down”, find a place or object (flower, weeds, the sun), sit, and observe. Take field notes as if you are in a biology class. Use all the senses. What di you see? Smell? Hear? Taste? Feel? Take your notes and connect your subject with a larger theme to create a, Sun and eternity, or a blade of grass and the passage of time.)

Happy Writing.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Best Face Forward

Today’s essay has nothing to do with either of the Scintilla prompts. I’m tossing Friday confetti and writing rogue.

As we approach National Poetry Month, I feel it necessary to pay homage to Billy Collins.

I was watching Billy Collins’ TED talk earlier today,

and his mention of cereal boxes ignited a string of childhood memories at the breakfast table, studying the back of the Grape Nuts or Cheerios boxes (my mom rarely bought us the good stuff like Trix and Sugar Frosted Flakes), sick days watching cartoons and black and white reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show. I also enjoyed watching my mother "Put on her face" each day.

My mother was so adept at applying lipstick she could do it in the dark while riding in a car with no mirror. Mom had an army of lipsticks; some platoons in the red family, others orange. Season dictated her hue. Pinks and peach for summer, red and burgundy shades for fall and winter. The color varied, but the application always went like this: She stretched her lip over her bottom teeth, making her appear as if she was going to sing, and swiped the color across in one stroke. She repeated the motion with the top lip. She pressed a Kleenex between her lips to absorb excess color, applied another coat, and pressed again. If she didn’t like that shade, she would erase it with cold cream and start over.

She applied the rest of makeup with the same painstaking care. Once her face was done, she took a lift comb and inserted it into her hairstyle to round out the teasing in the back of her hair. Her hair was naturally ash blonde, but she dyed it blue black, which created a striking contrast with her pale pink toned skin.

She checked her reflection in the glass, corrected any errors, and always asked, “How do I look?”
Even as a kid, I wondered, why aren’t we good enough without all the paint?

Here is a bonus TED talk by Andrew Satonton on story. Watch it, then write a great story

Happy Writing.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Turn up the Music and Dance

Today's Scintilla story prompt asks to write about when you first saw one of your parents as an individual adult rather than just Mom or Dad.

It was summer and I was six. We lived on the outskirts of Chicago and my mother took me to the beach with her single frind Diane. My parents’ social circle was couples, except for Diane. She belonged to my mother alone. Diane was tall, thin, with dark hair, resembling a young Marlo Thomas. They had met at a local playhouse where my mother performed in plays.

On this occasion I spent the day alone with the women, a girl’s day out: lunch on the beach, dinner out, and the evening spent in Diane’s beach front apartment. I loved her apartment. It was a single woman’s flat with one bedroom and a beaded doorway separating the kitchen from the tiny ding area. In the evening, Diane lit well placed lamps to provide a sophisticated ambiance.

I was young, and hurried off to bed as daylight faded. But I didn’t go to sleep. I heard the women chatting, clinking wine glasses and sharing an ashtray. It was too good of a temptation not to spy on them.

Diane was the same age as my mother, thirty-one, but she seemed younger, more dynamic. She worked every day, wore chic clothing, took trips to Europe and dated handsome men. Around Diane, with me safely stowed away in Diane’s bed (they didn’t realize I crouched at the door and watched them.), my mother replicated her friend’s carefree posture. Diane placed some records on her Hi Fi, and the two women danced. My mother erupted in raucous laughter, easy, casual, adult laughter.

Did my father know this woman? Or was she a mysterious side of my mother only Diane knew? Marriages can’t survive without holding a piece of your identity for yourself, so maybe the free spirited woman dancing in Diane’s living room was my mother’s secret self.

writing prompt: Play a favorite old song and freewrite for twenty minutes. Let the music lead you.
Happy Writing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Matter of Faith

Todays's Scintilla prompt is to write about an experience with faith.

I was ten years old the first time I saw my grandfather stand at the pulpit. This handsome, good-natured man transformed into a scary figure. “Damnation and Hell await those who do not believe!” I was stunned. I already knew I had to mind my Ps and Qs around my mother’s family, who lived their lives at a more conservative pace; they did not smoke, drink, dance or play cards. Visits with my mother’s family were sporadic because lived more than a day’s drive away. When I was small, my brothers and I attended Sunday school while the adults went to the service, but now I was old enough for the sermon. At home we attended the staid Presbyterian church, where I often daydreamed, but I did not nod off with my Grandpa at the pulpit.

His flock was engaged by his ranting and scripture quotes, and many of them eagerly skittered to his pulpit when he called for souls who were ready to be saved.

Saved from what?

I envy the faithful, those individuals who yield control of their souls, who believe in the intangible and freely raise their arms and shout, “Praise Jesus.” I don’t get it.

Yet I also envy those who staunchly commit to not believing. I believe in God. I think we should believe in something (just in case), but my faith is nebulous, undefined. I've tried to be one of the faihful, bu my wolf slaps her tail and the sheepskin falls off.

I feel like a foreigner at family reunions; so many of my relatives place their fates in the Lord’s hands, and let the Lord give them a blueprint for their lives.

Consequently I avoid theology discussions with most of my mother’s family. I attend church services when I visit, and I mumble the prayers and sing the hymns at the appropriate times, but in the back of my mind I wonder how much of Christian ideology is fiction. The Bible is a series of stories through multiple voices translated from archaic texts. It’s the human story whose major themes are the basis of western literature. But is it the absolute truth?

I believe in spirituality, but cannot agree that God condemns all non Christians to one way tickets to Hades. The whole concept does make sense.

In The Crucible, and there is a line by Judge Danforth defining people as “either with us or against us.” The black and white either or ideology limits ys humans. We’re all children of God, whoever He or She is. Each culture finds a way to finding Him.

God exists in the interstices of life, as in the marginalia Medieval monks scribbled on the Illuminated Manuscripts.

To quote Hafiz
“God courts us with the beauty of this world."

Here is an exercise: read a story from a Holy book of your choice. Let that inspire your writing.

Happy Writing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Global Warming melted my brain tonight

We had parent/teacher conferences tonight and after putting in a twelve hour day, I have no brain cells left, so I am recycling a poem that somewhat fits the "Got away with it," Scintilla prompt. This is based on an experience I had while attending AWP in 2000.

Comment Card at the Ramada Inn
In Downtown Albany, New York

by Laura Moe

The value of the room? Honey,
I’ve stayed in Red Roof Inns
that were nicer, for half the price,
and your restaurant leaves
a lot to be desired.
While I’m at it, I’d like
to complain about the guy
in the room across the courtyard.
In the middle of the night, I got
up to close the window because I
was cold. There he stood at his window,
butt naked, lights on. I watched
for a few minutes: He paraded
in front of his open drapes, alone,
and rubbed his arc of a belly like a lucky stone.
He sat on the bed nearest the window
and faced me. He held his penis
in his hand, gazed in my direction.
Looked straight at me,
penetrated the glass;
dared me to keep watching.


Today's prompt from me: Write about something off-kilter that happened to you.

Happy Writing.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Plan A, B and C

The Sunday Scintilla bonus prompt this weekend says to write about an outrageous idea.

It was a perfect plan; I’d buy a horse and ride it to Hollywood and get discovered. (I was oly ten, too young to drive.) I wanted to become a famous Hollywood actress, and with my additional equestrian skills, maybe I could star in a remake of National Velvet.
there were only a couple of problems with this plan:
How and Where would I buy a horse? I’d only ridden once at summer camp under supervision.)

I wasn’t nearly as attractive as Elizabeth taylor. I was pudgy, blonde, and had just gotten blue cat eye glasses.
I had no acting. This fact was later confirmed my Junior year oif high school when I played Joan of Arc’s mother. Every time I said opne of my lines the audience erupted in laughter.

So much for my dreams of getting an Academy Award.

Plan B- write a movie!

I’d written and performed plays for the neighborhood kids. Okay, so I had to bribe them to watch by passing out candy and popcorn.)

The closest I had ever come to writing a movie is again in my junior year I put together a three act play. After getting laughed off stage I still had a burning interest in theatre, so I concentrated on reading and writing plays. The problem with this plan was I didn’t have enough direction in life to enable me to create compelling characters. I’d had plenty of interesting, and even traumatic events happen, but not at sixteen I lacked the perspective to write a serious piece.
That play, along with most of high school scribbling, ended up in the trash. I kind of wish I could see how my mind worked. Maybe I had more talent than I imagined.

You’ve never heard of me, so it’s apparent my plans for stardom and fame fell through. But I still have shelf space reserved for that Oscar. I have written three YA novels,(Under the Veil, Chasing the Dragon, and Parallel Lines) and who knows? Maybe one of them will become the next Hunger Games or The Lightning Thief. I can always dream.

Writing prompt: What was your childhood dream? Write a short narrative on how that dream did or did not get realized.

Happy Writing.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

If I had Any Sense I’d have Scriptophobia

I felt disappointed and adrift without a Scintilla prompt. It’s like crack for writers. Then I saw a twitter feed for a bonus prompt to write about the time you left home. My family moved a lot, so leaving home was not a new experience for me. I looked forward to new adventures, locations and people. I was a fairly easy going kid, and usually made friends quickly with each move.

One summer I flew to London, England to spend a few weeks in England and Kenya with a British family Caroline, a Brit, was in my class at school, and her mother, a college professor, was journeying to Kenya for some anthropological research. Caroline and her brother each invited a friend to go along for summer. Caroline chose me because I’d had overseas travel experience and we were good enough friends to spend long stretches of time together. We’d be staying three weeks in England before jetting off to Nairobi.

This trip occurred only a few months after my mother passed away, and I had not yet exhibited residual effects of this trauma. Within a week of her dying, my brother Paul and I moved across the country to live with our dad, who had just started a new job. My oldest brother stayed behind because he was in college. When kids at my new asked where my mother was, I lied and said my parents were divorced and she stayed on the west coast. I couldn’t say the words, “my mother died.” My brother appeared to adjust well to the move, attending school each day, making new friends. With Mom gone, I cooked diner each night and the rest of us shared in housekeeping. We all kept busy and never talked about my mother.

A few weeks before the England trip, Memorial Day weekend, my father and I went boating on Lake Erie with some friends. I’d enjoyed boating since I was a kid, but as soon as we pulled away from shore I experienced ineffable dread. I clung to the side of the sailboat and did not want to keep my father out of my sight.

A few weeks later I flew over to England with another friend (who was going on to Germany after the rest of us left for Africa.) The three of us bunked together in Caroline’s room, and there were others in the flat; but the first night, after the lights went out and we settled down to sleep, I was engulfed in deep sadness.

I stood at the window, rain pelting on the window, and felt tears on my own face. I had been away from home countless times: summer camp, and sleepovers. By the time I was thirteen I’d been around the world twice. But never this far from my now fractured family before.

I think this is the first time I realized the weight of the past few months. My mother was always eager to hear stories from my adventures. She would not be hearing about this trip.

Teenagers resemble adults physically, but they lack the skill and development to process life changing events without consequences. This trip ignited seeds for phobias I developed in the ensuing years. I didn’t seek therapy because, other than my new fears of flying, boating and riding in a car, I was highly functional. (When I got my driver’s license I was afraid to drive on freeways.) The things that scare normal people like public speaking, snakes and heights have never bothered me.

Oddly enough, I credit Cosmopolitan magazine with helping me a few years later manage my irrational behavior. I read an article about fears and phobias and using behavior modification to get over tem. It took me forever to get to school and work because I refused to drive the freeways, so as a way to cure myself of this, I got in the car and drove to Oregon from Ohio to see my brother. Those first few miles I screamed and cried. By the time I reached Dayton the rhythm of the road calmed me down, and spent the next five days driving alone to Portland, Oregon.

I still have lurches of fear when friends and family go on journeys, either flying or driving. But these days that concern is rational; the world has gotten scarier. And reasons to hate flying go beyond fear.

I don’t like this prompt. It’s hard to “go there.” And remember that freakishly phobic girl. I didn’t HAVE to write this, but real writing comes from those dark corners we don’t want to visit.

So here is your prompt: What are you afraid to revisit? Go back there. Write about it.

Happy Writing.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Songs Are Like Tattoos

Day 3 of The Scintilla Project where the goal is to write a response to a prompt every day for two weeks. Today’s prompts are 1.) Talk about a memory triggered by a particular song, or 2.) what’s the story of your most difficult challenge in a relationship?

Funny how small things spark memories.

The smell of Jergen’s hand lotion floods me with memories of my mother’s hands. She would purposely pour out excess lotion, and say to me, “Oh look, I have too much. Bring me your hands.” She would grasp my fingers and our hands danced off the excess fluid.

I can’t clean the cat box without thinking about George Clooney (who ironically was arrested today). On a talk show Clooney a few years ago described an incident where a former roommate was sloppy about keeping the litter box clean. One day George himself pooped in the cat box. After that the roommate was vigilant about cleaning up after his cat.

Songs trigger permanent memories, too.

I was one of those kids who never wanted to go to bed. I might miss something. My mother had to bribe me with putting music on the Hi-Fi (For those of you under fifty, the Hi-Fi is a precursor to the stereo. It had a turntable for 45s (singles) or 33s (albums) and a solitary, giant speaker. And a closeable lid. It was an attractive piece of blonde wood furniture that could double as a table for a vase in front of a window. At bedtime, Mom would place up to five records at a time and bank on my brothers and I being asleep by the time the last album dropped onto the turntable. Her taste in music was eclectic. The best music to get elementary and junior high kids to sleep, (and most likely invite some romance with my dad if he wasn’t out of town) was jazz. My parents’ collection included greats like John Coltrane, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Gene Ammons, Ella Fitzgerald, Les and Larry Elgart, George Shearing and Thelonuius Monk. If Dad wasn’t home, Mom might select Etta James, B.B. King, or Louis Armstrong. We all liked show tunes, and owned soundtracks for West Side Story, Gypsy, South Pacific and Auntie Mame.

By the time we were teenagers, each of us had or own stereos( and headphones.), and our tastes grew more divergent, and my flavor in music devolved to The Monkees and David Cassidy.

My mother died a month after I turned sixteen, and I couldn’t listen to music that reminded me of her. The somber tones of Tchaikovksy and Sibelius cushioned me, provided a new soundtrack for my life that included years of veiled depression.

It’s too much of a cliché to say writing saved me. Writing was only part of the equation.

I listen to music when I write, paint, clean house, and read. Music plays in my car as I drive. I hate to fly, so in the 80’s and 90’s I carted cassette and CD players on board, and now my ipod serenades me to relax while 30,000 feet above.

I can’t identify a specific song as my favorite. In high school I ritually wallowed in broken-hearted breakups with boys during my Joni Mitchell years. (Her Blue album always sent me further inside my blues.) The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” is a great driving song, and Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” is my karaoke staple.

My first kiss and quasi boyfriend had a song: “In My Life,” by the Beatles. “There are places I remember….some are gone and some remain...In my life I have loved them all.”

Happy Writing.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Who Says I'm a Grown up?

When I was a kid I couldn’t wait to grow up so I could reach cabinets so I could reach cabinets without a boost and make decisions about not having to eat broccoli and other things I deemed gross. I grew to like broccoli, and my five foot seven stature ensures I can reach most of my cabinets. I wanted to stay up late and no longer be relegated to kids’ table. Chronologically, I have been an adult for many years, but am I a grown-up?

I felt grown up when I got a driver’s license and my first credit card, and paid my first rent check, but I still wanted to play in the sand and eat chocolate frosting directly from the can. Perhaps when I stopped liking the taste of canned ravioli and spray cheese and developed a preference for fresh foods I became an adult. Or maybe when I bought my first new car or signed the litany of forms to become a homeowner.

On a visit to my brother’s family, when his daughters were still small and I was close to thirty, I showed the girls how to make castles with their mashed potatoes. In a voice eerily similar to our dad’s, my brother looked at me and barked, “stop playing with your food.” After an awkward moment of silence, we all cracked up laughing.

Recently I visited with a couple of old friends from junior high who I had not seen in forty years. Time did not end our adolescence. We giggled and gossiped the same way we did back then. The difference is we did it over wine this time.

I don’t recall having a singular moment when I thought, “Wow, I’m an adult now.” My mirror reflects this jowly faced woman with silver streaks in her hair, yet sometimes I still feel like a teenager. Maybe spending the last twenty five years working in a high school has prevented me from fully becoming a grown up.

I will be retiring in three years (When did I get old enough to retire?) and I feel
I tell people I am finally graduating from high school because it feels like a second youth of sorts. My options are not as unlimited as my twenties when my body was more facile. But my mind is still flexible, and I get to reboot my life with a clean slate. I can choose to get another job, move across the country, become a beach bum, write full time, design jewelry, or return to school and get a doctorate.

On a rerun tonight of That 70’s Show Eric and Donna try on marriage when Donna’s father goes away for the weekend. She undercooks the chicken, and suggests if Eric doesn’t want to eat it, she says,” You can have Fruity Pebbles instead.”

Eric, who constantly tries to prove to his father he's not an irresponsible kid, says, "Grown ups don’t eat Fruity Pebbles."

Do you know what? Grown-ups can eat whatever we want.

Here is a no fail writing prompt for helping add detail: write about food. Food uses all the senses, and in a scene between characters, food bonds people.

Happy Writing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

There’s a First Time For Everything, Along With a Great Book About It.

Since my graduate school days in Library media, where I spent countless hours in libraries learning about the plethora of reference sources, I first fell in love with Famous First Facts: A Record of First Happenings and Inventions in the United States. The 1964 Third Edition in my high school library (I don’t have the heart to weed it) comprises 1165 pages. Like most resources, there is an online version, but I found the Sixth Edition published in 2006. The book is arranged by 600 pages of alphabetically listed famous firsts, with 400 plus pages of indices by year, days of the month, personal names, and geographical location. The first entry is the “First abdominal operation”, see surgical operation: abdominal operation, which leads one to a description of an ovariotomy for an ovarian tumor in 1809 in Danville, KY, performed without an anesthetic. The patient, Jane Todd Crawford, was 45 years of age and lived to be 78. She may never have been notable for anything, but as a writer, I am intrigued by Jane Crawford. Here was a woman who braved surgery without anesthesia, and lived to be nearly 80 years old at a time when 60 was considered old. She was tough. A further internet search led me to a series of medical articles and books about her, where she is called a ‘pioneer heroine of surgery’. Already a mother oif four, Mrs. Crawford thought she had a late life pregnancy,, but Dr. Ephraim McDowell discovered a tumor, which at the time was fatal. She rode on horseback 60 miles to the physician’s home, where because the surgery was experimental. Given only a small dose of opium, Mrs. Crawford had to be helf down by several attendants. She reportedly sang hymns and repeated psalms. The tumor had been twenty two pounds, and she was fully recovered in less than a month. I don’t know about you, but this story makes a great historical novel or a treatment for a film. Picture Meryl Streep or Julianne Moore cast as Jane, and Dr. McDowell played by Aidan Quinn or Hugh Jackman. One first leads to a chain reaction of firsts. The first boy I spent time considerable time alone with led to my first kiss, and later my first heartbreak. No kiss has ever been so anticipated as that first one, on a balmy summer evening under stars. We were alone in the world that night, and the I am reminded of a Rumi verse translated by Coleman Barks: I would love to kiss you. The price of kissing you is your life. The person you shared that first meaningful kiss is always in your life, even if you never see each other again. Nothing replaces that first synergy between people. First heartbreaks don’t necessarily salve the subsequent romantic calamities, but one learns from the first one, and perhaps learns how not to fall in love with another Mr. Wrong. Or some of us never learn. In the Index by year in Famous First Facts, the first entry, dated 1007, records the first child born on American soil by European parents. Another possible film? And speaking of movies, the first moving picture with a plot was produced by A. C. Abadie. Your assignment is to track down a copy of Famous First Facts at the public or college library. Open a page and find a selection that draws you in. Perhaps the first Railroad Guide or mail-order house. Let that entry be an inspiration for a story or poem. Extend your knowledge by doing further research. If this is your first time using FFF, Congratulations. Hopefully this won’t be your last. Happy Writing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Scintilla Project will make me write every day

Beginning tomorrow, I will be adding a blog post every day for two weeks as, against my lazy nature, I signed up for the Scintilla Project.
For two weeks, write the kind of blog posts that remind you why you started blogging in the first place.

The Scintilla Project gives you a reason to unlock your storytelling voice. We provide a selection of daily prompts and encouragement, and you provide a post that goes beyond the surface into Why. In some you'll be the hero, in some the villain, and in some an innocent bystander. Every day is a new chance to go deeper.

If this sounds like something you would like to do, it's not too late to sign up.

Happy Writing.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bad Poems Are Good for the Blog post

I was at a conference for English teachers Friday and Saturday, and Saturday attended a workshop on writing Bad Poetry. The instructor, author Chris Crowe, a lovely professor of English from Brigham Young University, gave us five minutes to create a Bad poem. The irony is in order to write Bad poems, one must know something about good poetry. For example, a parody of Robert Frost’s “A Road Not Taken” ( The Toad Not Taken) falls flat if the audience has never studied the original.

Chris made the distinction between Bad Poems and drivel, or what he terms Sad poems: verses tend to focus on awkward syntax, unnecessary repetitions, forced rhymes, themes of death, darkness, and heartbreak, and over the top sentimentality, earnestness or anger. The kind of poems I wrote in high school, and no doubt scribbled out when I first began writing. (I’d like to think I have improved somewhat.)

Chris likened the appeal of Bad poems to Bad movies, and cited an NPR story entitled Company Bets Bad Movies are Good For Business.
He also noted the 2004 American Idol contestant William Hung who was so bad yet we fell in love with his infinite charm.
So being Bad can be good for us.

Chris showed examples of his own, like a limerick to lyme disease called Lyme-rick.

In four minutes I wrote this silly ditty entitled
Brushing My Teeth With Harrison Ford

The spicket breathed like Darth Vader
As if it were a tomb raider
That Indiana Jones discovered
And stole as he hovered
To escape the snakes on a plane
Funneling al his energy down the drain.

Horribly fun stuff. Since I had another minute I cranked out this gem:

O my love is a red, red velvet painting of Elvis
bought at a garage sale with the money I stole
from your wallet as you slept
in the back of your rusted pickup.

So here is your assignment.:
Write a Bad poem. Take a good poem you know well, and parody its syntax, rhyme scheme or form. Or take an offbeat point of view, like a Zombie Haiku. Write a Zombie love sonnet in iambic pentameter.
Abuse the language. Have fun with it. Have a contest with fellow poets as to who can write the Worst Bad Poem. Make the Prize something Awful like a Bad book you bought at Goodwill or the ubiquitous fruitcake.

This exercise will {hopefully} help you to get over yourself and free up energy to write real poems.

Happy Writing.