Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rant: Pay Attention to the Subtext

Teach Your Children Well

We are funny beings we humans. We want what is best for our kids, but we can be terribly myopic when it comes to getting it. For example, I am currently couch-surfing with a couple that have an amazing 9yr old daughter. They carefully control what she eats, wears and consumes in an effort to help her grow up healthy and happy. This is good, but where does the myopia come in?

It is in the subtext. What they don't seen to get (what many of us don't seem to get) is that the surface story is only part of the message. The subtext is critical, and studies have shown that subtext actually communicates more to our children than text. If it didn't we would never have invented the phrase 'Do as I say, not as I do!'

When it comes to choosing the TV, films and books your kid is allowed to consume, are you considering the subtext? The strammash last summer over the violence in YA was a case of an adult looking only at the text, and patently ignoring the true message delivered by the subtext. Yes, the Hunger Games is violent, but it is a paean to non-violence. Yes, Cut involves cutting, but the underlying message is self worth. Basic compare and contrast.

So, what got my panties in a bunch this morning? Disney! The haven of G rated shows, the channel you let you kid watch when you are afraid they will be titillated by teenage sex in Glee, or damaged by the violence in Rango, or warped by the language of Roller Skates. The Disney channel is safe, right? It won't warp kids inappropriately. Hah!

Let's examine the subtext in an episode of Disney's Clubhouse I watched this morning next to the aforementioned 9yr old:

This episode, ostensibly about Minnie opening a 'Bow-Tique' contained two stark instances of damaging subtext - there were probably more, but I couldn't decode them while my stomach was churning so violently.

1) Daisy Duck is a blank, a cypher, a foil. Her only purpose is to react to Donald. How that was proven: Daisy dons a 'Mood Bow' that will show her moods by changing color. On the shelf the bow is a transparent grey. On Daisy's head the bow is a transparent grey. In order to get a mood, Daisy must ask Donald to make her angry, sad, happy. As soon as Donald does, the bow changes color. As soon as he stops, the bow goes transparent. At no point in the episode does Daisy's bow change color again. Here is the lesson little girls: you are nothing without a man, and all your moods are subject to his actions. Appalling!

2) When you have a really big problem, use someone. How this was proven: There is this thing, I don't remember what they call it, that stores tools for the characters to use; three tools are revealed and one is a big mystery. The show builds to its contrived climax, and all tools have been used except the mystery tool. The bows are all stuck in a tree, we need a tool that will help us get them down. What is it children, can you guess? Is it a ladder? No! Is it a hook? No! It is a monkey! That's right, a living being, reduced to being a tool. Oh, and it is a monkey - hmmm... what was the derogatory image for a black man in the slave era - that's right a monkey. So get up in that tree little monkey boy and be the tool you are. Here is the lesson kids: Slaves are just tools and we should all use them.

THIS is the subtext that latches into a 9yr old's brain. My young friend's take-away - "I wish I had a monkey to do all my chores." Oh please GOD can we just have some cussing? Or sex talk? These things I can teach - we can talk about appropriateness, time and place, ethics and morals. But the subconscious desire for a slave? How do we as parents combat that?

PARENTS: Please, for the love of GOD, pay attention to the sub-text. Trust me, the work F#@K will not mess up your kids. THIS kind of crap will!

WRITERS: What is your subtext? Maybe the writers of this episode didn't draw the correlation I did with the monkey and past racism, but there is NO EXCUSE for the direct reference to a living being as a tool. Pay attention to what you are saying - that is equally as important as how you say it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I'm Baaaaack! Because there is a contest...

... I just had to tell you all about!

Brave New Words is giving away not 1, not 2, but MONTHLY 25 page manuscripts critiques!

Go. Now. Get in on this!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

To Klout or not to Clout

That is the question in this week's blog post at EddieLouise.Com

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Growing Up, or I have a Real Website Now!

The time has come for me to bid this Blog a fond farewell. I will be continuing to write occasional opinion pieces, writing news and personal updates on my new website.

Thanks to all my followers and I hope you will follow me on the next stage of my journey!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Chasing Amy: a Viking's Lament

The news today is full of tragedy - one which was courted, invited in and danced with, the other which sprung out of the neverland of inexplicable hatred and madness. Both remind me of why a lack of imagination is the scariest monster we face and why we humans need story. Imagination is the key to seeing a place different than it is, to envisioning a better future, and to understanding our fellow travelers. Imagination is the fuel that will lift you out of the narrowness of self-focus and introduce you to the amazing world of possibility.

JK Rowling said it better than I ever could: 

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places. Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.What is more, those who choose not to empathise enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

The best method I have for fighting back against the tragedy that sees taking a life, either your own or that of a group of innocent children, as a solution to a problem is to exercise my imagination and encourage others to do the same. 

I will write stories that help to tell people there is more to this world than our own narrow thoughts. That life is precious. That answers come from unexpected places. That living in the skin of others for those few brief hours of turning pages can help us to know and love ourselves and others more.

Friday, July 15, 2011

What's the Story Anyway?

Many times in my reading and learning about the art of writing I stumble across people who define story as conterminous with plot. I feel this can be a limiting view of story and in the end is harmful to the 'long view' for our writing.

1.Also called storyline. the plan, scheme, or main story of a literary or dramatic work, as a play, novel, or short story.

1.the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.

1.a narration of a chain of events told or written in prose or verse.
If you stick to these narrow definitions, Plot=Story; but we are missing one critical element here. All fiction is a narration from the lips of a storyteller - you the writer. An interesting thing happens to our idea of story when we consider the root meanings and origins of narration:

early 15c., from O.Fr. narration  "a relating, recounting, narrating," from L. narrationem  (nom. narratio ), from narrare  "to tell, relate, recount, explain," lit. "to make acquainted with,"

It is this last idea that is critical to how we view story. I find it helpful to think of if this way: I am a storyteller standing on a stage - I must let my audience know not only what happened, but also how, why, and to whom. Everything we write is an effort to make our readers acquainted with our characters, our themes, our ideas, our fictional events - in short, our stories. By keeping the whole tapestry of Story in our minds we will allow our readers to become acquainted with the entirety of our fictional world.

How do you view story?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How Much Sex is Too Much?

First, read this: Sex in YA Fiction.

I have a comment on that post where I say this:

Ok - not to get too personal - but are we doing a disservice to YA readers?

I remember my first 'truly intense' sexual act with vivid clarity - and though the lead up to the act was all emotion - once the physical sensations started it was ALL about the physical. In fact, if someone had interrupted and asked my name I would have been unable to tell them. The physical was THAT powerful.

I think we sometimes color what we write or what we read with an adult sense of prudery. As older humans, we have weighed and balanced the sexual experience - we know the pluses and minuses - we understand the give and take. This was the number one problem with Twilight's "I'm waiting" philosophy - there was FAR too much consideration going on.

Currently YA sex IS less graphic - but in a way, wouldn't it be more honest if it was MORE graphic - or at least more focused on those crazy explosive physical feelings?

I realize this is a sensitive subject, so I have spent the day pondering and this is what I have come up with:

I think YA writers should try and remember the sensations of 'first love' in the physical. For example, I remember the first time someone kissed me on the neck. I felt it on my neck, but I also remember the feelings shooting down my arm; I remember the marked tingling of my fingers and a delicious tickle in the small of my back where his fingers rested. It made me giggle, and squirm and desire to be kissed there again. It created a hunger unlike anything I had previously experienced. This is the type of physical detail that can be added to YA sex, without upping the 'erotic' quotient of the writing.

I wonder at the tendency to self-censor our writing. If it was not inappropriate for me to feel those tingles at age 16, then why should it be inappropriate to write about it? And if we think it is inappropriate but we are writing about it anyway, isn't it coy to measure the language?

In the end run, I say this: If you are writing sex into your YA novel - be honest. Describe the physical sensations as well as the emotional ones. Remember what it felt like the first time you touched someone, and the first time you were touched. Do not view the scene through adult eyes, but through the eyes of your teen-aged characters.  If you do this, your 'sex scene' will come off as natural and not gratuitous.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Colorblind Writing

Every now and then a character decides to blindside me with a piece of the truth that I was oblivious to. I am not a big one for endless character description - I generally give a few sparse details and rely on the imagination of the reader to create the visual.

Partially, this is because I find too much description tedious to read, but mostly because I don't look at people as a collection of physical characteristics, but rather, as a dynamic bundle of changing expressions and moods. My kids used to accuse my husband of becoming Jaffar when he got mad, and it is true, he does turn red and grow VERY large when he is angry. It is this alchemy of the human appearance that interests me, and that cannot be captured by a simple catalog of physical attributes.

Occasionally, I am caught out by this lack of focus on specific appearance. For example, in my WIP, The Arc Riders, Trouble with Mexicans, I describe a secondary character as having black hair and eyes and very smooth skin. I had it in my head that he came from a troubled background, but as he only occupies half a dozen pages and most of those are action scenes, his background and specific lineage/history were not all that important.

Until today: I have decided to write a short story about this character for an anthology my writing group is putting together and in the process of beginning that story I discovered that he is black. Of course my subconscious brain said, "Well, DUH!" and promptly supplied the complete visual. I felt like an idiot. If anyone had asked me exactly what this character looked like, I would have told them he was 6'1", black, with close-cropped hair, sporting razored knot-work lines at the nape, full-lips and dramatically high cheekbones. He comes from South-Central LA and was in foster-care and suffered terrible abuse in his childhood. All of that information was there, just waiting for me to bring it to the surface. No one asked, and worse - I hadn't asked myself.

On the one hand, I am pleased that a black character didn't stand out to me as remarkable - I would love to live in a world where the color of someone's skin didn't matter. On the other hand, I might need to learn to put just a bit more information into the physical descriptions of my characters so that my readers don't feel blindsided. He's black?!?! What do you meant, he's black?!

What do you think? Is colorblindness as an author a good thing, or a bad thing?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Kid with her Foot in Mouth

I have been called blunt, abrupt, candid, outspoken, rude, forthright, tactless, frank, and matter-of-fact. I have spoken out when it would have been wiser to hold my tongue. I have blurted thoughts as they formed and asked the question 'but, why?' repeatedly.

Tact is not my strong suit. I have no personal boundaries. I say what I mean and mean what I say. Which means, I am often the one in the corner with her foot in her mouth.

Society is not very fond of bluntness - until it becomes irascibility, and then they dedicate books of quotations to you (W.C. Fields or Dorthy Parker, anyone?)  This is why I so often channel my words into story - in a story that you are making up, you can say anything and get away with it.

In the meantime, in case I am never published, I am on a personal quest to convert my mere bluntness into full-scale irascibility. If nothing else, I will be assured that my utterings will grace untold numbers of Toastmaster speeches and commencement addresses. One way or the other, my words will live on after I am nothing but dirt!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The Fog Before the Dream

When I was a young girl (around 11 years old I think) I began having a series of dreams that all started and ended exactly the same way:

Dense fog blankets the landscape and obscures landmarks - a dense white space where all senses are deadened and any sense of direction lost. Through the billowing fog, a hoof-beat drumming, coming from no direction and all directions at once, surrounds my small pajama clad form. Out of the mist steps a large bay destrier, ridden by a battered knight. The horse has a proudly arched neck, and each hoof is as large as my head. The rider, on his seat towering above my head, carries a white shield with a black barbed cross on it. He gazes down at me through piercing blue eyes bearing an expression equal parts patience and exasperation. The corner of his mouth under a heavy mustache quirks with the ghost of a smile as he leans over to stretch out a heavily muscled and scared forearm. Not knowing what else to do, I reach up and clasp my arm to his; he swings me up behind the cantle with ease. I reach forward trying to wrap my arms around his waist as the great horse leaps into a run. For a time, the only reality is the rhythm of the horse and the pulse of his hoof-beats. Gradually the fog clears and I am set down in the landscape of my dream. The dreams changed nightly, and were, for me, normal dreams. When the night's dreaming has run its course I would look up to see my knight there and once again I would be swept into the saddle to take the run in reverse, ending in the fog.

Every single night for nearly four years this battle-weary knight came to ride me to and from my dreams. Over time I learned his name 'Sinclair', and we would have short (3 to 4 sentence) conversations about my life or about my dreams. The year I turned sixteen, Sinclair ceased to come. One night he was there as normal, and the next, he was not.

I was 38 the year I went to Scotland and 'found' Sinclair. I had always assumed he had told me his given name, after all, that is how he always referred to me. From the beginning of our acquaintance, I was Eddie, or Eddie Louise, none of the bogus 'My Lady' titles that other girls aspired to. Even in my dreams I was not a Princess or a Lady; I was an adventurer. While in Scotland, I toured Roslyn Chapel and discovered the Sinclairs, a Scottish family that bears the coat-of-arms I had dreamed of. I have no explanation for how a cowboy's daughter in rural Wyoming managed to dream specifically of a 600 year old knight down to his coat of arms. I blame it on the fog.

PS: My personal life is in a fog just now - between books, between jobs, between phases of life and possibly even between homes. I could sure use Sinclair to help guide me out of the fog!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Weighing In on YA Saves

This article in the Wall Street Journal caused a firestorm in the YA world. A Twitter hashtag (#YAsaves) was quickly established to counter it and the blogosphere went crazy with responses. One of the most cogent was Sherman Alexie's which was also printed in the WSJ. Now the Huffington Post joins in, on the side of the original author with the emotional reasoning that parents have a right and responsibility to protect their kids.

I find this reasoning disingenuous for the most basic of reasons - no matter how you shelter them, teenagers are not children! Teens are transitioning into adulthood and should be helped along the road to maturity and independence. This means we must expose them to the world, help them understand the world, and give them the tools to make the judgments necessary for a healthy and mentally stable life. I can think of no better way to do this than by using literature.

The world is is a mixture of good and bad, light and dark, engrossing and banal, meaningful and pointless. The books our teens read should contain a similar mixture. Denying the dark because you find it disturbing is denying a part of the world that exists outside of our front doors. It is the parental equivalent of pulling the blankets over your head to make the scary thing go away.

Here is the hardest thing for a parent to admit (although denying it will not make it untrue) EVERY teen lies to their parents at some point. Many of them lie about really dark and horrible things. In my own case it was rape at age 14 that I lied about. I was raped by a boyfriend, the son of dear family friends, and I felt the consequences of telling were too great, so I never told my parents (or anyone for that matter until I met my future husband). At age 14, I could have really used a book that dealt honestly with the topic of date rape. I could have used the guidance and hope that such a book would have offered. My parents would not have wanted me to read such a book. They would have judged it too dark. They would have been wrong. As Sherman Alexie said, well meaning adults continually try to protect their children from the darkness that has already infected their lives.

Parents: if you REALLY want to do right by your teens, then let them choose the books they want to read and you read them too. Use the stories to start a dialogue with your kids. Discuss the conflicts raised by the stories. Examine the choices presented. LISTEN. This is how you can 'protect' your children from the big bad world - you can show them how to face it, deal with it and get over it! YA literature is one of your best resources for doing just that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Eddie Louise, Writer, Bollocks Artiste

My work explores the relationship between the body and emotional memories.

With influences as diverse as Wittgenstein and Frida Kahlo, new combinations are crafted from both simple and complex layers.

Ever since I was a teenager I have been fascinated by the theoretical limits of the human condition. What starts out as hope soon becomes debased into a hegemony of temptation, leaving only a sense of what could have been and the prospect of a new understanding.

As shifting phenomena become frozen through diligent and diverse practice, the viewer is left with an impression of the possibilities of our world.
My Artist Statement as Written by the Gurus at:

Monday, June 20, 2011

No Guts, No Glory!

Writing is one of the most individual pursuits you can undertake. You can join a writing group, participate in online communities, go to conferences, hang out in coffee shops and bookstores - but in the end the battle is a lonely one - you against the blank page.

Some days, the blank white screen seems to fill with words as if by magic. Others make you feel as if each word drains a bit more blood from your body, sapping your will to carry on. Writing is a constant challenge - and like Sysiphus, it matters not how well we did the day before, because each morning we are met anew with a blank page, and we must shoulder that rock and start pushing.

Yesterday, I had a scene that needed reworking. I had been avoiding it because I had already rewritten it twice and it just wasn't working. I went to my regular weekly writing group and did my damnedest to avoid that scene. I succeeded for nearly two hours - dragging my fellow writers into my own petty procrastination with witty conversation and distracting game playing. Finally, through subtle hints and kindly pressure, my fellow writers made it clear that they were done entertaining my insecurities and I had to face the scene.

Of course, to my mortification, the scene came easy.

It spooled out of my fingers like a fine silk scarf pours from the bureau drawer. I felt like a real ass for having avoided it so long. It was like I had finally worked up the courage to charge over the trench into the skirmish to discover that my buddies who had all gone over before me had ended the battle and there was no-one left to fight.

That is the last time I am the last man out of the foxhole!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Overshare - how to Avoid Being a Weiner

Here is a simple rule to avoid making an ass out of yourself over things you have sent/said/participated in on the internet:

ALWAYS REMEMBER: The internet is a giant Bulletin Board. Never post anything that you don't want a lot of people to see.

It is that easy. Yes, I know it is a bulletin board that is stuffed to overflowing like a flyposting board at the Edinburgh Fringe, but seriously, there are people who will grab a ladder and peel back the layers looking for stuff. So if you don't want it seen, keep it in your pants.

'Nuff said!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

36 Hour Editing Marathon - Call us the INSANE Hatters!

My writing group, (the Mad Hatters') decided to use this first weekend in June for a 36 hour editing marathon. The goal for each of us is to get our manuscripts whipped into shape for the deadline to receive a free proof copy that is part of the NaNoWriMo prize package.

 The proof copy is a bound and finished book - tangible proof for those, 'Yes, I did write a book, why do you ask?' moments. Like most of the Hatters' , I am under no delusions that the proof copy will be the 'finished' version. What I would like is for it to be the best I can make it at this time. Then, I will have a 'real' book in my hands that I can eventually (by end of July) read as I would read any novel. At that point, my plot holes, glaring mistakes and typos will leap out at me and allow me that one last chance to revise before I start the long road to querying agents.

So - 34 hours into the marathon I can report (with a self-satisfied grin) that I have done really well. I am now confident that I will be able to meet the June 30th deadline with a book that I am not totally embarrassed about. If I never succeed in getting published, at least I will have this one solid proof of the effort it takes to write a book. If I become a successful author, it will serve as the tangible proof that the journey started here. No matter what happens, I have a lot to be proud of!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

When Not Writing is Actually a Good Thing

A man I am very close to has this amazing way of controlling his dreams. When something happens that he doesn't like, or that isn't 'real', or that is just implausible his mental voice over-rides the dream and says 'Stop! That isn't how it goes.' His dreams then rewind and play out in the approved manner.

I sometimes envy this ability to 'will' things into behaving. I wish I had it, I wish I could use it in my writing; but I don't and I can't. My dreams and my stories are independently minded. They go where they want, say what they want, and ignore my feeble attempts to reign in their unruliness.

Sometimes this means I dream of being lost in the woods. Sometimes this means I get bogged down in the muck of editing and lose my way. Sometimes this means I need to wake up, to take a break, to change my focus.

I took a 4 day holiday over the long weekend, and didn't think of my book once! Well, OK, I thought about it - but I didn't write, I didn't edit, I didn't worry. I feel much better now. The woods of editing are still dark and tangled and filled with bogs and rhododendron hells; but now, I know the direction I am going and can see the path that leads out of the gloom into the light of a finished story.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Da Boss says GET BACK TO WORK!!!

After 4 days living the live of a penitent in Migraine Land, I woke this morning clear-headed and anxious to get back to work.

So I started up my instant boss and set him for eight 30 minute sessions. Who or what is my instant boss you ask?

  • He came from here:
  • He is a slightly more sophisticated version of an egg timer, and he keeps me on the straight and narrow.
  • He is a physical manifestation of my sub-conscious desire to keep working.
  • He also reminds me to get up every 30 minutes and walk around - something it is very easy for writers to forget!

Peyton will be happy I am back in the saddle - he has tried to be patient with me during the synaptic revolution, but the fact that the students have left the barricades and we can get back to work is a relief!

The Boss is clearing his throat; I've got to go!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Demons Live in my Head

There are very few things that can stop the stories in my head.

Once, for a period of years, I stopped writing or telling them. I dammed up my mouth, clouded my eyes, and stoppered my ears. The stories trickled out through the cracks in ever increasing volume until a great flood of pent up creativity nearly drowned me.

Today, I have a migraine. The only force in nature that can stop my creativity at the source.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Unemployed is Just Another Word for Full Time Writer

I've lost another job, and when I was summarily handed my walking papers on Monday without notice, a little part of me jumped up and said Squeee!!!

I have the worst luck when it comes to jobs. This last one, for instance, was the perfect job - I had all the right skills, it paid well, there was opportunity for advancement, it was only part time work for the first year, with an anticipated rise to full time over the summer - in short, it would pay the bills, give me something interesting to do and allow me to finish my novel all at once.

What I didn't anticipate was a boss (who hired me to take over) unwilling to allow another person to take over. Yep, it was classic internal conflict played out in uncomfortable office politics. It seems the boss had imagined handing the organization off to a clone of himself, and when I didn't fit the mold things became dicey. So, a few 'missteps' in funding applications, a few 'crossed wires' with sponsors and suddenly there is no money to pay me, so vwla la - I am done for.

I should be sad. I should be concerned for the future. All I can think is: Woot! I can write all day every day until I find another job!

My work life is in shambles, but my personal life is rock solid and the Novel is on-track for being hard-edited and ready to submit by July - earlier if I don't find work right away.

One benefit to not being able to afford food - dieting is easy!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

You Change Your Dress, You Change Your Shoes...

...The one thing you can't change is you.

My name is Eddie and I am a procrastinator. Is there a Procrastinator's Anonymous? I need one. I need a butt kicking sponsor who won't believe my bulls#!t. I need a concerned party who will not stop believing in me while they are locking the doors to the Google cabinet. I need recipes for distraction free living. I need to finish my book.

For me, the editing process is not nearly as worry free as the composition stage. When I am writing I am generally functioning in pure adrenaline mode. The story flows from my fingers, shiny and fun. I am consumed. I dream about my characters, my setting, my plot. At this stage, everything I write is brilliant - funny - emotionally true. It is a euphoric feeling. When in the first blush of writing I will often corner unsuspecting friends and family member to read a paragraph, a page, a perfect sentence - smugly confident in my own brilliance.

Editing sheds the harsh light of reality on my scribblings. Disjointed sentences are trumped by poorly illuminated ideas. What was screamingly funny in the writing process is now hopelessly banal. What was sharp wit turns into bog-laden description. Editing forces me to face the truth - writing is hard work. a book is a sculpture, a painting, a mosaic. It is NOT a digital photo taken with auto-focus and perfect natural light.

So, procrastination be damned! I will finish this book, because I must. Even if I don't like it very much right now.

Friday, April 08, 2011

In a Funk... and Not Feeling Like Dancing.

Sometimes life is a good analogy (bowl of cherries, sailing along, a breeze, a lark), and sometimes it is bad reality (In the doldrums, hard times, the pits, it sucks). I can accept these ups and downs as a regular part of life. In fact, I kind of enjoy the roller-coaster nature of my life in general.

This year, however, I am dealing with a new kind of challenge. My life is alright. Not good, not bad, just alright. I don't cope well without crises, without excitement. I find myself waking up to... meh.

I think it might be time to stir things up a bit.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Of Summer Days and Snow - Spring in the Rockies

Spring in the Rocky Mountains can be unpredictable to say the least. In the last two days alone we have seen 81 degree weather followed by 4 inches of snow. Residents here have the wearing of layers down to a science.

Monday, March 28, 2011

And This Little Piggy Went Wii, Wii, Wii

The problem with writing is it is a sedentary occupation and if you are not a starving writer, then you can be cursed with a waistline that expands in time with your word-count.

I know some writers who can dictate their stories and with the advent of speech recognition software, are no longer tied to their desks. A friend of mine calls it walk and talk. Problem I have is that the rhythm of a story told out-loud is different for me than one that is written and I can't seem to 'tell' my stories in novel form - I have to either write or type my novels.

Others have taken a more mechanical approach:

I like this solution, basically you walk at 1 or 2 miles per hour while you type. If you write for 20 hours a week, you can easily burn 100,000 extra calories a year just by making this simple change to your writing desk. That is a whopping 385 calories a day, burned while you get your words on paper - all without breaking a sweat! Hopefully my lack of coordination would not be too much of a problem at 1mpg. Unfortunately, treadmills cost upwards of $5,000 and take up a great deal of space. Until I sell a few books and move to a bigger house or apartment, this one just isn't happening!

Recently, my GrandBoys got a Wii, and we have such fun playing tennis, golf, boxing and baseball with them that we decided to get one for our home as well. We also decided to invest in the Wii Fit as part of a special offer. I must say, I am pretty impressed.

My husband and I are each doing a 30 minute workout every morning, and in just a few days I have already noticed an improvement in my balance. The balance factor wasn't even one I considered, but as I have a slight curvature of the spine which makes me very clumsy - learning to correct my balance and control the muscles involved is hugely beneficial. That was unexpected. Whether the Wii will actually help control my middle aged spread is yet to be determined.

I am hoping to get to the point that I can complete a 1 hour workout each morning as a spur to weight loss and a motivating factor to get my writing done! I notice that I am less likely to dither about on the internet after exercise. One last fun point - even though I think my balance is horrible, the good posture that my mother drilled into me as a child hasn't deserted me, and the Wii Fit places my real age at 37. I'll take that!

Friday, March 18, 2011




Still waiting....

One of the worst things about being an author is the delay between effort and response. None of the creative art-forms I have been involved with in the past have this kind of delayed gratification.

Music? You practice, practice, practice until one day, a few minutes after practice - you perform.
Drama? The same.
Floral Design? One day from raw stems to completed and displayed sculptures.

But writing? Months of work followed by a dead space as people absorb what you've sent.

Will they like it?
Does it suck?
Is it worth continuing with?

Oh, God! What if they love it? How will the next bunch of chapters live up to these?


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fever Dreams and Other States of Being

Do you dream?
Do the images come to you as fragments or as part of a contiguous story?
In color or black and white?
Can you taste? Smell? Feel in your dreams?

My dreams are vivid, movie-like and tangible. I often wake with a taste on my tongue or the echo of a tune in my ear. Much of the inspiration for my writing comes through dreams. I fall to sleep willing, even eager for the embrace of my dreams. I am a child begging for a story and my dreams rarely disappoint.

Except when I am sick. Cultural expectations are that fever dreams are more vivid, more visceral. for me, it is the exact opposite. When I am sick my dreams retreat to mere flickerings, incoherent and jumbled. Colors are muted, the senses muffled. It is one of the primary reasons I hate being sick - the feeling of being cut off from my creative center.

This is the first time in my memory that I have been sick while in the middle of a successful creative period. My writing is going well, the first five chapters have been massaged and edited, and the entire book is taking shape in a manner I have never experienced before. So this time, the fever dreams came and I pushed back. I demanded clarity. I don't have time for this shit!

I was left with vivid flashes - the sight of a stranger's face, the fading sound of the last note of a concerto, the whisper of silk on my skin - but nothing is connected, I can't grasp the story.

Is this how you dream?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Prescience is a Curse

Fie on foreknowledge, oh cursed villain! 

Knowing the future is not just a gift, it is also a curse; especially for a writer. When you know the future it can be difficult to control the past - to tell events as they 'really happened'. The knowledge of what is to come is bound to color the perception of the present. In my case, it is the circumstances surrounding a certain character whom I plan on developing into the villain of the Arc Rider series.

I need him to be viewed as a hero in the early part of the series (Book 1, 2 and half of 3) with his dastardly nature only gradually coming to light. I need to leave hints, but only hints. This is not a Snape type character who is basically unlikable. This guy is supposed to be everybody's friend, a true inspiration to my characters. I want his betrayal to hurt - to cause readers to throw the book across the room and then rush over to pick it up again just to see how I get the ba$!@$d. I need to embed hints and foreshadowing in the books, but must play it close to the vest. After all, betrayal at the hands of our closest friends is the kind that hurts the most.

Problem is - I don't like the guy - and it shows, all over the place in my first draft. I thought he was being helpful, but a re-read proves he is condescending. I tried to make him smart, he is a know-it-all. I wanted him to be caring, he is patronizing. SIGH.

In order to conquer this, I am taking a slight detour from the rest of the novel, to re-write a scene or two from this character's perspective. To get inside his head. To find out who he is before he goes bad. I am having to learn to like him.

Of course, I already know what this means. I too will feel the betrayal when he turns. I will be unable to insulate myself from the pain, because I will like the guy. Sheesh! Prescience is a curse.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I Love/Hate Moving - But its Done!

I am practically a professional mover. I have moved 20 times in my 48 years. That is one move on the average of every 2 and 1/3 years. As you might imagine, this means that I have become quite efficient at the procedures one must go through for a successful move - the inventories, the packing, the organizing.

My daughter and I have developed a system of packing boxes by room, numbering and labeling the boxes and inventorying the contents as we work so that we can keep track of things as we go. As far as the logistics of moving we have it pegged. The mechanics of moving can't really be changed - pack, lift, carry, plant, unpack. It is exhausting but essentially unchanging.

This month, I moved again. Not across town, or across the world as before, but simply across the hall. Before we started the process, I assumed that this would be my easiest move of all. No packing. No boxes. No truck. Just a move accomplished one cupboard at a time. I was wrong -moving this way is not easy. You don't have to pack, it is true, but the normal move which is spread over a series of weeks, is compacted into the mechanics phase. No time for logistics - just move. And walk back and forth. And back and forth, and back and forth.

On the plus side, the new house gets settled immediately! I am exhausted but my new apartment is well organized and clean. Now back to the really important work of writing!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Reality vs Real Life

I find, in my daily life, a constant tug-of-war over my time and mental efforts.

One the one hand - the reality of my stories, the constant imaginings and sculpting of concept that are calling to me night and day.

"Write me. Ignore the dishes. The vacuuming can wait. Politics do not matter. Write me."

On the other hand is real life; the need to work, to cook and clean, to commune with family. To try and keep abreast of politics and the need for citizen action in a free society.

The challenge I personally run into is not really centered around domestic chores or family demands - I am blessed with a family that encourages and supports my writing - a family that will take on extra chores to give me those few moments of extra writing time.

My particular obstacle is centered more around politics and my feeling that I need to remain informed and active as a citizen. Unlike doing dishes, it is almost impossible to keep thinking about my writing when I am protesting a bad law, or encouraging a good candidate. In this case, Real Life seems to suck away the Reality of my stories, and to leave me feeling vaguely dirty and wholly depleted. Or worse, the cynicism engendered by the modern all-consuming political age enters my stories, coloring my words and warping the story I set out to tell.

The only solution I have worked out is to try and remain aware of this and stop myself from being too consumed by politics. I will stop watching the Daily show, I will stop reading political BLOGS and reports, I will discontinue my email subscriptions until I have it back under control.

I want to be aware. I want to be informed. I want to be a citizen activist, but not at the expense of my reality.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Something Personal This Way Comes

Talk About Mixed Messages!
The national assault on women's bodies by people who don't understand the mechanics of abortion in our culture has begun again. I try not to be political on this BLOG, but on this issue I find it difficult to refrain - after all, for me those factors that lead many women to choose abortion are part of my personal experience. Thankfully, I didn't get pregnant, but I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I did.

The latest salvo in the war is a push to codify rape in the government's approach to health care. Currently, if you are enrolled in Medicare and get raped, Medicare will cover an abortion. So - the anti-abortion warriors are on the quest to change the definition of Rape to Forcible Rape. this would disqualify victims of Date Rape, Coercive Rape and Spousal Rape. 

I wrote the following in response:

When I was 14 I was raped by a trusted boyfriend. I was a virgin, had never had a sex-ed class, I didn't know the mechanics of sex, I didn't understand my own body, let alone a boy's body and I was in love.

I was stupid.

He asked if I wanted to see the church belfry.
I said yes.
When we were up in the belfry, looking over the town, he asked if he could kiss me.
I said yes,(we had after-all kissed before - a lot).
He asked if he could touch my breasts. I said no.
So he kissed me some more and then touched me anyway.
I slapped his hand, he acted contrite.
This went on, with his advances becoming more and more daring.
Any girl who had been educated (as Planned Parenthood currently does for millions) would have seen the danger signs - his lack of respect, his playful insistence, his alternating compliments and curses were all classic abusive behaviors.
I hadn't been educated.
I didn't see the signs.
When I finally got angry and tried to leave, he grabbed me, threw me to the floor, ripped my dress apart and raped me.
If you ask that man today what happened, he will say I was asking for it.
That my mouth said no, but my eyes said yes.
That he could tell I wanted it.
That is, of course, bullshit.
My mouth said no, my eyes said no, my body said no.
Confusion is not yes, it is confusion.
I had never even seen a penis, and to have one used as a club on and in my body was horrifying.

In 1976 in Wyoming, it was not considered rape, what this man did to me.
Going willingly to the belfry sealed my fate.
By agreeing to go with him (so said society of the time) I had also ceded all control over my own body.

We cannot go back to a time like that.
No means no, no matter when it is said.

As for abortion - I am a person (and I believe there are millions just like me) who is both pro-choice and anti-abortion. I was lucky to not get pregnant by a rapist. I was lucky to not have to make that choice. I cannot say what I would have done if I had gotten pregnant. I know I would have wanted the choice. And had I decided to abort, no law would have stopped me. I would have tried a desperate, stupid thing. I was, after all, only fourteen years old.

If we, as a society, truly want to stop abortions, we must stop the causes - we must stop Rape, we must stop teenage stupidity, we must stop the man who threatens to beat his wife if she becomes pregnant, we must stop a church from making the cumulative daily sin of birth control more consequential than the single sin of abortion, we must stop incest, and child molestation and poverty and subjugation of women..

And most of all, we must educate our girls, our daughters, our nieces, our friends. It is your body, and nobody - not your husband, not your boyfriend, not the neighbor, not the priest, not the government has a right to it. And we must educate our boys about responsibility, and sexual pressure, and consent and birth control. To truly stop abortion we don't need to make it illegal, we need to make it unnecessary.

You have control.
Don't be stupid.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

This Dog’s Life

Note: I am posting bits of my random writings for the Mad Hatters - my writing/critique group. Of course anyone is welcome to read and comment!

My life didn’t turn out quite the way I’d expected it to. Sometimes you play the hand you’re dealt, sometimes Lady Luck has other ideas.  I was originally assigned to be a cow dog on the Grant Ranch, a large property in Southeastern Wyoming.  It was a pretty cherry assignment, and any dog worth his salt would have been delighted with it.

The Grant's run a heard of just over 1000, Black Angus and Charolais mostly, on 30,000 acres of prime High Plains land.  The Grant’s have a solid reputation in the West; they pay the cow-hands a fair wage and treat their dogs well. At the Grant Ranch I could expect fresh beef for breakfast and supper, fulfilling work of a day and a nice comfy bed by the wood stove in the bunkhouse at night. It would have been a good life.  I'd been at my post for just a day when Robert Grant loaded me in the truck and took me over to the Graves place to show me off. What happened there changed my life.

Ol’ Bob was bragging about me to the humans on this other ranch, and I was might proud to be described as a prize-winning cow dog, and worth my weight in gold - I knew that I would do all in my power to live up to such high praise.  About the time my head had got plumb swollen from all the compliments that were being heaped upon me, someone stepped in the bed of the truck.  She was a mere wisp of a human girl child with white blonde hair braided into twin tracks curving back from her forehead around graceful pink ears, and twisting like ropes all down her back. She smelled of chickens, fresh hay, horse, and sticky sweet maple syrup.  She was pale, but her skin had been kissed by wind and sun and she glowed with health. Her clothing was a typical Wyoming blend of homemade and hand-me-down utility, except for her fire-engine red cowboy boots. They were brand, shiny new and she had thrust her jeans into them proudly displaying the gaudy color and daring anyone to make comment. It was the defiance of this gesture combined with the light in her eyes that attracted me.  I soon learned that it was her birthday and the child had pestered her father until he relented and bought her the impractical footwear.  Other than those boots, she was a rather unremarkable girl, similar to hundreds of rancher's daughters across the West, sturdy, smart, hard working.

A couple of things caught my attention right away - first was that tantalizing medley of smells – it spoke to me of the numerous places this child had been that morning, breakfast table, chicken house, barn and stables.   She smelled like someone who liked to cover territory, an explorer, and adventurer, my type of kid.  Her scent was just a snare though; it was her eyes that were the bear trap.  An intense teal greenish blue, with an amazing golden corona around the pupil, her eyes expressed a sense of curiosity that was larger than the landscape of the Great Plains.  It was like looking into the ocean those eyes – an unexpected sight in Wyoming.  When that child rubbed my ears and gazed into my own humble brown peepers I swear she looked in my very soul.

The girl respectfully asked Bob if she could take me out of the truck bed to play and Bob told her he would be staying through till supper, so as long as she had me back in the truck by then I was free.  We spent the whole day together; exploring the forest floor of the mile-long wind-break, climbing to the hay-loft in the barn and sliding down the sweet smelling, sneeze inducing pile of hay, testing the ice on the creek, hiding out in the root-cellar and generally getting to know each other. I learned the child's name was Eddie Louise and that she was the 4th child of 5 - the second girl. I learned all about her family, the 19 cousins, the Uncles and Aunts, the Grandparents. I learned that the only life she'd known was here on the Ranch.  She was filled with that particularly Western sense of her place in the scheme of things.

I didn't have a name yet - Mrs. Grant hadn't gotten around to choosing it, and Eddie wasn't satisfied with that so she named me Festus in honor of her favorite character from the TV show Gunsmoke. “I’ll call you Festus,” she said, “because he is good-hearted, and always willing to help, and funny. Festus because I love him, and I love you.”

I’m sure you are aware of the powerful magic that exists in the naming of things. Not just in the slapping on of labels, but in the actual naming of a thing's essence - the identifying of the soul. By naming me, Eddie created a bond between the two of us; but that alone would not have been enough to encourage me to desert my ordained duties. No, it was the truths she revealed after she named me.

We were out in the North Meadow by that time, wending our way through snow banks heading for the copse of cottonwood trees on the far side. There was a hidden gulch behind the trees that contained a small cave, one of Eddie's favorite 'thinking places'. When we had wriggled our way past the sagebrush blocking the cave entrance and settled ourselves into comfortable positions she told me how her siblings and cousins all teased and made fun of her for various things – for telling too many stories; for always repeating the jokes she'd heard on the television; for still sucking her thumb even though she was 5 years old; but mostly because she was afraid of an invisible bear.

For as long as Eddie could remember, there had been a bear in her basement. Her room was in the far back corner, and when she needed to get upstairs she had to walk down a long hallway, turn left through the laundry room and climb the wide back stairs up to the kitchen. During the day it was alright, but at night there was a terrible bear in hiding there that would lunge up behind her as she stepped out of her room, roar horribly, and attempt to bite her on the ass. Eddie would have to run as fast as she could down the hall, through the laundry room and up the stairs into the safety of the kitchen lights, always a mere hair's breadth from being bitten. She was teased mercilessly about her bear, but she explained to me that it didn't matter because nobody understood. The flight from her room was exhilarating - her heart pounded, her senses screamed, she was truly alive! Every night that bear reminded her of how precious the blood in her veins was, of how well her strong young body could respond to the demands placed upon it, of the fact that just because you can't see something don’t mean it ain't there.

In the Native American tribes of the Great Plains a precocious imagination is recognized as a gift, and the elders encourage exploration. Spirit Guides appear to usher the child into adulthood without losing their sense of wonder. It was rare, but not unheard of for a Paleface to have a Spirit Guide, but Eddie's guide, as powerful as the bear spirit is, was confined somehow to her basement. The thought that this child might someday 'put away childish things' and grow out of her sense of wonder was heartbreaking.

I felt a great sense of honor to be trusted with her secrets and so, I made my decision. When Eddie took me out to Bob Grant's truck after supper I refused to get in; scrabbling and whining, willing Bob to understand. Eddie had tears cascading down her face, but she kept pushing me into the truck.  The harder I struggled, the harder that stubborn little girl fought to do the right thing. Bob had a funny look on his face as he watched the struggle, and as I was still no more than a pup he could have easily just grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and tossed me into the bed of the truck – but he didn’t.  Eddie was saying, "You've got to go Festus, I promised." 

I think, in the end, it was the name that did it. "What did you call him?" Bob asked. "Festus," Eddie said, "but that’s just what I named him for today. You don't have to call him that. He's your dog." "No, actually little Miss," Bob said, "I think all the evidence is pointing to the fact that this is your dog. Happy Birthday." And with that Robert Grant released me from his service.

From that moment on I was Eddie’s constant shadow.  I slept at the foot of her bed, accompanied her on chores, played and worked by her side.  That ol’ bear in the basement now chased two of us up the stairs.  When the yellow school bus came into the yard to take her away I walked her to the drive, and watched until she was out of sight.  I would try and make myself useful to Mama or Daddy, but come 3:15, when that bus was due, I’d take up my post at the drive to greet Eddie’s return.

Like all ranchers’ kids, Eddie had chores to do. That meant getting out of bed at 5 am each day.  Being’s as she was only five years old the chore she was doing when I first joined the family was egg collecting.  Each morning she’d take a bucket down the trail to the chicken house, reach gently beneath each of the broody hens and gather the warm egg under each of them.  By the time Eddie had turned six we had figured out how I could do her egg-collecting for her.  She introduced me to the laying hens gradually, first by having me sit outside the chicken-house door, then inside, then follow her on rounds, and finally by direct contact.  The hens grew used to my presence and I became skilled at extracting the eggs from beneath them with no disruption at all.  I would deposit each egg carefully in the bucket at Eddie’s feet. I liked the feel of the warm silky shells on my tongue and was oh so careful never to break a single one.   While I collected eggs Eddie sat reading aloud under the heat lamp for the baby chicks.  She read to me of little engines climbing hills, of cats in hats and little red tugboats.  Chore time was fun!  Of course, when Mama found out what we were up to she changed our chore duty.  She yelled at Eddie about ‘egg-sucking dogs’ and irresponsible little girls, but neither Eddie nor I could quite figure out what had her so upset – we never broke a single egg!

It was all ok though, because our next chore was a lot more fun!  We were put on milk cow duty.  Twice a day – 5 am and 5 pm – we had to hike the front pasture, find the milk cows and bring them back to the barn to be milked.  We’d walk together out past the windbreak and Eddie would find a nice comfy place to snuggle up with her book and flashlight while I went out into the pasture to retrieve the cows.  Those old Bossy’s were none to happy to have me nipping at their heels, but they came along smart enough with the right kind of encouragement!  We had that job for about a year, until Eddie’s older sister Lynn complained that the cows were coming in winded and the milk, when it did let down, was practically curdled.  “It is no good have the cows riled up like that.” Mama grumbled, “Whatever were you thinking child to send a dog after milk cows?”

As Eddie got older she took on more responsibility and chores at the ranch.  We spent many hours each day horseback, ranging for miles across the property – checking fence-lines, making stock counts, setting salt blocks and scratching posts, and moving stock from one pasture to the next to protect the grazing land.  We spent those years exploring the wilds of her family’s 20,000 acres on foot, by horseback and occasionally by bike.  We camped out, climbed mountains and trees, swam in lakes and rivers and raced everywhere, the thrill of the wind in our hair and the scent of freedom in our noses.

Everywhere we went Eddie’s books accompanied us.  When we weren’t reading we were playacting - we were Red Injuns, Desperados, Highwaymen and Pirates.  We traveled the universe in a broken down ol’ tub of a space ship and had tea with the Queen.  We followed our friends through a wardrobe and fell down a rabbit hole; we lived in a Little House on the Prairie, and triumphed at the battle of Little Big Horn.  We shivered under the gaze of Long John Silver and hee-hawed right along with Bottom.  As Eddie grew older, that bear in the basement still chased her, but now it was an old friend, no longer threatening, just exhilarating.  Over the years I watched Eddie embrace her imagination, and now the teasing of her cousins had become nothing more than a spur urging her onto greater flights of fancy.  There was no limit to where imagination could take us until I ran into that damned snake.

Eddie was about 12 years old and we were racing our bike with her brothers and cousins up and around the ½ mile track of the circular drive.  Hearts were racing; blood was pounding, when out of nowhere reared up this 4 foot long monster of a rattler that had thought to sun itself upon the warm gravel of the drive.  That snake was darn angry about havin’ it’s siesta interrupted by a bunch of howlin’ kids on bikes and it struck with deadly intent aiming for Eddie’s older brother Charlie who was oblivious in the heat of the race. 

Luckily, I’d seen the monster and without pausin’ to think I threw myself between it and Charlie’s pumping thigh.  The bite on my eyebrow did not really hurt, but the dust that was flung in my eye was irritating, and the weight of that snake latched on to me made me angry!  I shook my head furiously trying to dislodge the devil, throwing it back and forth across my face like some kind of demented pendulum - finally the damned thing let go.  I pounced on it immediately and with two quick bites I killed the sombitch.  Eddie had leapt from her bike and was at my side immediately, which was good, ‘cuz I was feelin a little woozy.  There was a great deal of shouting and noise and I heard Eddie’s Daddy say “Holy Lord, there are 14 buttons on that rattle!”

I don’t remember much after that.  At some point I overheard the Doc saying that he wouldn’t be able to save me, the poison had gone straight to my brain – the best he could do was make me comfortable.  He also told the folks that they had been darn lucky the dog had been there because as much poison as there was it would have killed Charlie for sure had it got him. Eddie took me home, and trying to hide her tear-stained face from me she pulled me up into bed with her.  Some time later I was awakened by the smell of fresh meadow clover; I knew it was my time.  I inched my way up the bed to lick my girl’s face one more time.  She turned to me, wrapped me in her arms and said “Oh Festus, you are such a hero.  I love you.” And with that I gave up the ghost. No dog has ever died happier.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Singing Out Loud

When I was a little kid I liked to make up songs.

I could sing about my chores:
Collecting eggs  is fun
Chickens are so weird

I could sing about my family:
Too many boys.
There are just too many boys. 

I could sing about the heartbreaks:
Festus, you were the best dog in the world.
Festus, you were the best friend to this girl.
I hate snakes.
I hate snakes.
I hate rattlesnakes.

I sang a lot. I got teased a lot. I was chased, indian burned, wedgied and ridiculed by my brothers and cousins. The adults in my life were baffled, bemused and bothered. No one ever said "Wow! What a great imagination you have!" Instead they said "That girl has too much imagination." this was accompanied by eye-rolling, elbow nudging and entirely too much condescension. I learned to put my head down, to sing quieter.  Not because I didn't want to sing, but because nobody else wanted to hear it. I learned to sing only for myself.

Too many times in my life have I sung or told stories only for myself. Yet now I notice that as I have gotten older, I have grown less and less concerned about the scorn of others. The songs inside of me have called out louder and louder for release. Now, at the mid-point in my life I am learning to sing out again.

What a scary/glorious feeling that is!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Really Fun Contest

I follow a number of writerly BLOGS, and one of my favorites is Writer Unboxed. They have great contributors, insightful commenters, and a general attitude about writing that I find both refreshing and invigorating.

In honor of their 5th anniversary, they are having an Original Analogy Contest. they have some great examples on the post, and a host of eager wordsmiths supplying new analogies in the comments.

Here are a few of mine:

Sam had a sinking feeling, like the trapped and quivering seeds inside a rainstick slowly trickling down to fill his shoes with the dregs of possibility.

Ben shuffled off the mortal coil with the careless grace of a two dollar stripper removing her bra.

Finding the right place was easier than picking the tanning booth abuser out of a lineup of albino stooges.

Go on! Go get to know Writer Unboxed and contribute a few of your own analogies to the mix!

The Mad Hatters' are the Coolest Writing Group Ever!

So, I am part of a permanent writing group once again and that makes me very happy. While we were in Edinburgh I had a marvelous group of scribbler types to meet with, share passions with and generally enjoy a good whinge  every now and again. It kept me writing. It kept me focussed. It kept me sane. Then, we encountered the whole 'recession panic, British jobs for British people, go home crazy foreigners' debacle and I ended up in Denver without a circle of support.

Luckily, I have now found a local group with whom I can commiserate, inspire, cajole and generally badger into regular meetings and cheer sessions in the service of literature. Yay! One of the best things about his group is the sheer enthusiasm for writing. We have an official binder created by members of the group that contains writing prompts, a place to list special events, note accomplishments, and a lovely chart of little tidbits for the day.

I had to share today's info: January is National Book Blitz Month, National Thank You Month and International Change Your Stars Month. This week is Hunt for Happiness Week and National Fresh Squeezed Juice Week. Today is Answer Your Cat's Questions Day and AFRMA Fancy Rat & Mouse Day.

In honor of that, today's writing prompt is:
In 250 words or less, write from the point of view of a ball of yarn being chased by a kitty:

The Mental Dialog of a Ball of Yarn at Work

Rest. Prepare. Sneak, sneak. Ah ha! Gotcha!

Turn, spin, drop, trail an end. Flip, slip, scoot; use the chair. Hide. Breathe. Breathe. Get ready, here she comes again. Jump, tumble, roll. Ooh, not too fast, she'll lose you. Leave a train of yarn. Right, she's got you again. Reel it in, reel it in, tangle, loop, contract. Wait for it, wait for it. Now! Leap, bounce, slide. Roll, roll, roll some more. Tease, tempt. Evade!

Play dead. Play dead. Don't react. Ignore the claws. Good. Oh yes! She is going crazy. Twist, slither, pop. Yeah, you've got her now. Concentrate. You've got her. Explode! Did you see her eyes? That was great! Whew.

Rest. C'mon human, wind me tightly again. Prepare. Wait for kitty to finish her nap. Ooh. I saw an ear twitch. Sneak, sneak. Get ready. Pounce!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Writing Prompt January 19th

The writing prompt is: In 300 words or less, write about your first toy:

(Today is Tin Can Day - I couldn't resist!)

Being born poor and black in the South teaches you things. Things like you don’t get what you don’t got and you should count yourself lucky if you got shoes. It teaches that if you want a toy to play with you best be making that shit up yourself.

Making toys ain’t hard. A bunch of rags can be tied into a ball, an old inner-tube becomes a makeshift trampoline, a pair of empty tin cans and a length of string serve as a telephone.

I made myself one of those tin-can telephones when I was six. Me and those rusty cans went everywhere together - ringing up friends in the schoolyard, talkin’ to nice old Mister Russell in front of the Save A Penny store, even a stranger lady who came to town in a big green car and said she was from Social Services and did my parents know where I was. I politely tol her that she had the wrong number and hung up right quick.

Bein on the telephone makes people brave. Folk’ll tell you things. Things like "Little Jeny Tucker, yo' mama know you is runnin' round town talkin up strangers like a 2 nickel whore?" and "When I was a little boy, I had one of these and whoo boy, Huey and I used to talk on it all the time about girl parts - you know, the little honey purse you've got between yur legs?"   

My telephone taught me things. Like no-one wants a girl that talks too much. Like nice ladies in green sedans go stickin their noses in ever’bodie’s business. Like stay clear of Tommy and Huey Marsh. Like, waitin on someone to give you toys is a waste of time; you got to make your own in this ol’ world!