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Well, I’m doing it again for the eighth year.  I think just about everyone that drops by here knows what NaNoWriMo is by now so I won’t repeat.  I’m also doing NaBloPoMo this month…that’s a lesser known Nano…it’s National Blog Posting Month in which bloggers commit to posting every day of the month.  I’ve done them concurrently in previous years but haven’t for awhile so we’ll see how it goes.

Stumbling Blocks.  There are always those and this year is no different, or perhaps it’s different in the type of stumbling blocks.  This year I found myself with laptop problems and took it to my daughter’s boyfriend to take a look at it as he knows computers.  It really wasn’t bad.  It was just horribly slow and there is a lot of memory left on it, over two thirds of the 500 GB hard drive, so that isn’t the problem.  I found that a lot of icons didn’t show up, either, especially on WordPress.  I should have waited because now, a week later, the month has begun and he hasn’t looked at it yet.   So I thought I would be writing on my tablet, using a bluetooth keyboard but that is horribly uncomfortable for me at the moment so I went in search of something else.  I found an old netbook that I haven’t used in three years.  There’s nothing wrong with it.  I just stopped using it, when it was almost new, because I got my laptop and I like that so much better.  So I turned it on and I’m using that.  However, before I can do just about anything on it, I have to update it because there are about 233 updates needed and it keeps bugging me to update it so I gave in and started the update process.  It has been three hours now and I finally finished the updates.  Whew!  Then I had to remember passwords for the different sites I use and in most cases I ended up having to reset passwords because there was no way I could remember the password.  So I did that and now I know that as soon as I get my laptop back I’ll have to go through and update the passwords on that.  And now I also have to do it on my phone and tablet.  What at mess.  Then there is the fact that I really don’t like this netbook.  It has a strange keyboard.  It’s a standard one, and almost full size so that’s not the issue.  The problem is that the keys are completely flat and right next to each other, touching each other.  That means that when I type, I end up hitting the key next to the one I am trying to hit, or above or below.  So I end up having to make a lot of corrections which is time consuming and frustrating.

Well, I guess this too shall pass.  I know I’ll conquer/deal with the technology problems eventually so I will keep trying and keep writing.  You may see a lot of NaNoWriMo related posts this month.  It’s one way to fulfill the NaBloPoMo commitment and also tag my posts with NaNoWriMo so that other participants can maybe find some help and/or tips.  I’m toying with the idea of creating a NaNoWriMo page for this blog and putting all my prompts and tips and some samples there.  I might but we’ll see.  Not committing to that one yet.

Happy November.  May you succeed in fulfilling any of your commitments, NaNo, NaBlo, or otherwise.

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And Again

It has been over a year since I have posted here.  I got out of the habit.  It took a while to build the habit and I was posting several times a week at my best.  Then I allowed life to get in the way of one of the best things in my life and just like that, the blogging habit was gone, as were the blogging friends.

I know our lives get busy and I keep wanting to get back in to the habit but it just hasn’t happened.  I’ve allowed things to keep me from it.  That needs to stop.  For me, writing and blogging keep me going.  Especially the blogging because it keeps me in touch with people and that’s something I really need….to stay in touch.  I live alone in a place that is fairly new to me and I don’t get out.  I don’t know anyone here.  Actually, I know about five people here, including my daughter and my grandsons.  And there is the other thing…the one that keeps me from writing…the grandkids.  But I’m really not all that busy, yet I allow myself to be kept “on call” by my daughter, ready to run to the rescue when needed.  I’m her mom and it’s good for me to help her and be there for her but I cannot let myself put  everything on hold to wait for her to call me.  That’s what I do.  That’s not good.

So I’ve joined this Blogging 101 and Writing 101 “class”  or “challenge” here on WordPress.  Hopefully, the assignments and exercises that they give us will lead to the start of a whole new blogging habit for me…and just in time for the quickly approaching NaNoWriMo in November.  I plan on participating in it once again!

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Inner Debate

November is approaching very quickly which means that so is Nanowrimo.  I have participated since 2005 and November has become synonymous with Nanowrimo to me.  But I haven’t been writing this year.  In fact, I haven’t written anything longer than maybe 500 words since last year’s Nanowrimo.  No blogging to speak of.  Not even emails to friends.  I seem to have gotten some kind of block.  When I think of writing I really want to do it but then when I sit down to do it, it doesn’t happen.  This is a strange thing for me.  It used to be that as soon as I sat down to write, it would overtake me and I would have to fight with my Writer Self to stop writing when I had to do something else.

So now I am wondering if I should even undertake Nanowrimo.  If I begin it and am not able to stick to writing, will I be worse off than I am now.  Will it be a big hit to my Writer Self?  Will it keep me from even trying to write anything?   I could start it and even if I don’t make it to the 50,000 words, I think I would be happy if I could get to write 1,000 words a day.  That would be so much better than I have been doing this year.

I don’t want to set myself up to fail.  I don’t want to fail by not even trying.  I don’t know.  I have a week and a half to figure it out.

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On the Day That You Were Born

A post over at Red Ravine asked readers to write about the circumstances of their birth.  It got me thinking about an assignment that I used to give my students.  I had 39 sixth graders.  They were mostly from families where both parents worked and I got the feeling that the kids didn’t communicate with their parents very much.  I wanted to change that.  I’ve long loved writing memoir and one of the most fascinating subjects is something along the lines of “on the night that I was born”.  I decided I was going to introduce some topics for the kids to write about that would require them to talk to their parents and “interview” them.

I found a couple of books to read to the kids.  One of the books was Jamie Lee Curtis’ Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born (tells about an adopted child and how her parents got the call that she was about to be born).  The other is called Knots On A Counting Rope by Bill Martin Jr., et. al., in which a little Native American boy asks his grandfather to tell him about when he was born.  We read them and discussed them and I brought up the way the kids asked the parents questions and the way the parents enjoyed talking to the kids about the subject.  Then I gave them the assignment to interview their parents about the night/day they were born.  The instructions allowed for the kids to ask a grandparent or other family member if their parents absolutely were not available.  They had about two weeks to come in with a sheet of facts about when they were born.  They worked on a first draft and then got feedback in small groups.  Several more drafts were part of the assignment and finally, when they thought it was perfect, they turned in their final draft.  The stories were wonderful and the kids truly enjoyed the assignment.  Parents also enjoyed it, judging from the feedback I got from them.

That assignment was followed by two others, also designed at getting families to talk.  One was “How My Family Came To This Country” and the other was about “How My Parents Met”.  In the end, these writing assignments were put into book form by the kids and illustrated and became a part of our Open House display.  The comments from everyone that came through the room were very positive and in the end, the kids and the parents had spent a lot of time (over several months) talking and discussing their families and customs, etc.  All in all, it was a very positive experience.

If you haven’t done it, I recommend that you write about the night/day you were born.

My own piece of writing surrounding this subject is a story I post at Christmas every year (my birthday is on Christmas Day) and I will be posting it on Wednesday, December 16th.

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The other night I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while.  Her mother just passed away and she has been having some problems processing her death and grieving.  Before I met up with her, I made a journal jar for her.  I am one who has always thought that journaling is a way to work through grief and difficult times in our lives and I felt she might benefit from the journal jar.  When I gave it to her, she thought it was such a thoughtful gift that it made me think of how easy it is to make one and how others might want to make their own journal jar or one for a friend.

A journal jar is a jar that contains strips of paper which each have a writing/journaling prompt.  The jar should have a wide mouth and a lid.  The wide mouth to accommodate ease in getting a prompt out of the jar and the lid to keep the slips of paper in there.  The container doesn’t have to be a jar.  It can be a box or a basket or other container.

For the jars I fill, I like to choose something like a Ball jar, preferably with a wire clamp lid.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or new.  The one I used for my friend’s jar was from a thrift shop.  It was probably meant to be used for storing coffee with the tight seal.  I think I paid 99 cents for it so nothing fancy, just functional.  Then I used swagbucks (my preferred search engine) to search for “journal jar prompts” and found tons of them.  I copied and pasted them to a new document then went through and deleted anything that was a duplicate or just kind of dumb.  I reworded a lot of them so they didn’t say anything like: “Write about something you learned from your mother.”  Instead mine said things like: “Once my mom and I…”, “My favorite thing about my mother is…”, “I will never forget…”, etc.  I wrote a lot of my own prompts so that they were aimed at working through her grief.  Then I formatted them so that each one took just one line of typing straight across the 9×11 page of typing paper (you might have to play with the font size and the margins).  I triple spaced mine so they would have lots of room on top and beneath.  After printing them (I used different colors of computer paper for each page of prompts) I cut them into individual strips and folded them twice.  Then you simply fill the jar with the strips of paper and close the jar.

I stuck my journal jar in a little shopping bag along with a Mead Composition Book (which I got on clearance after back to school last year for about a quarter.  So the entire project cost me $1.24 plus five sheets of typing paper and about two hours of my time.

When I give a journal jar, I let the person know that it’s best to grab a prompt at random and write about that one prompt.  They shouldn’t put it back and grab another if they don’t like the first one.  They should try to stick with the first one and write about that.  Also, in this type of journal jar where someone is working through grief, it’s not a bad idea to ask them to save the prompts they’ve already written about and put them back in the jar periodically because they will most likely feel differently when they pull that same prompt a few months later.  It’s important that they be pulled out at random which is another reason to have them inside of a jar where it’s less convenient for them to go through them to “choose” the one they want to write about.

You can gear the prompts at any age, any topic, or any purpose.  If you save them on your computer, the next time you want to give a jar to a friend, you’ll already have the prompts.  Also, you can add to the prompts at a later date if you know what you already gave them as prompts.

Below is a partial list of some prompts you might want to use.  Keep in mind that these were written for the purpose of my friend working through her grief.

In words, draw a picture of your mother.

In words, draw a picture of your father.

Tell about a special moment in your life that you shared with your mother.

The most important lesson I have learned is …

My father and I used to…

My mother and I used to…

Tell a courtship story about your parents. How did they meet?

Shopping with your mother?   Any particular stories?   What was your favorite store?

On the day that I was born…

When I was a child, my favorite toy was …

When I was growing up, my family used to go to …

Describe a sound from your childhood.  What does it bring to mind?

Write a want ad that describes your mother.

Write a want ad that describes your father.

Right now I feel …

My mother always …

My mother never …

My mother loved …

My mother hated …

I remember when my mom and I …

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The other day I posted a prompt/challenge.  I have been working on the story but somehow it has become a much longer project than I had meant for it to be.  I think this is what I will be working on for Nanowrimo this year…or at least something with the character I’ve created for the Wedding Dress prompt.

I don’t usually pick out a story this far in advance.  I usually wait until a month or so before November first then I sort of decide what I will write about.  This time though, I think I’ve got my main character.  I’m not sure where she’ll take me but I see some possibilities.  As for my challenge, I think I may end up writing something new to complete the challenge and keep the character I created this week for November.

And speaking of Nanowrimo, if anyone knows any “Young Writers” that are participating in Nanowrimo this year, there is a download page where you (or they) can download, for free, a Nanowrimo novel writing workbook with some neat exercises to help create character, plot, and other elements.  In fact, some of you adults may find it helpful, too.  The workbook is available for elementary, middle, and high school levels.  There are also a lot of fun and helpful things on the Young Writers site (accessible through the main nanowrimo.org page).

Happy Writing!

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That’s Where I’m From

Some years ago, while a participant in the UCLA Writing Project’s Summer Invitational, I learned to teach writing by having the students respond to other writing and/or to use published writing as a “form” to follow for their own writing, substituting their own words and phrases and ideas.

One poem we used was by George Ella Lyon, called Where I’m From.  In class we had to write our own response and share it with the other adult teachers.  I wrote several versions and was persuaded to use one upbeat one for our published anthology.  Tonight, while going through some old files, I came across another version, written at home, probably during a particularly low point.  I was stunned.  I reworked it a bit and am sharing it with you now.

That’s Where I’m From

I was born from passion and lust
into a world of hunger and thirst

I am from the feelings kept
inside of me, always voiceless
that’s where I’m from

From pain and broken promises
from betrayal and from anguish
that’s where I’m from

From lies and drunken nights
from addiction and from mistrust
that’s where I’m from

I am from the laughter in my heart
from hope seen in my dreams
that’s where I’m from

From darkness deep inside of me
from vanished dreams and tears
that’s where I’m from

I am from the strength inside of me
strength that emerges when needed
that’s where I’m from

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Searching through the web this morning, I came across a site that gives you one word at the top and then a text box with a 60 second timer.  You write for 60 seconds then you can choose to submit it to the site for publication or not.  The site is called One Word.  The url is here.

I thought it was a neat idea so I tried it out.  I ended up with a quick 50 word fiction that I liked.  I’ve included it below.  Don’t worry you guys, I’m okay.  This just sort of came out when I saw the word, which was “DIMMER”.

She hit the dimmer switch, thinking it was set to the lowest setting. Turning it in both directions, she realized she was wrong. It was at its brightest but it was still so dark. That’s when she figured out that the dimness was actually coming from inside of her soul.

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a re-post!  I’ve been watching the USGS site to get word on a series of earthquakes in Baja California where I have in-laws, or more correctly former in-laws.  I still care.  So I am too distracted to write so he’s a little post I wrote a while back.  It’s from a prompt (Headlights In the Rain) and it’s from the POV of a child.  Enjoy (or not).

Headlights In the Rain

I was so tired.  I wanted to be home, warm, safe, in my bed, but I wasn’t.  My mother and my brothers and sisters and I were walking home from the movies.  It was dark and late.  We had stayed all afternoon.  We watched both movies and the cartoons over and over again.  My mother gave us money to get food at the snack bar when we complained we were hungry.

We wanted to go home but my mother said it wasn’t time yet.  So we stayed longer.  Finally all the movies were over and everyone had left.  We were the only ones there and the man came and said we had to leave.  So we did.

When we walked outside, it was dark and cold and raining.  My little sister complained that she didn’t want to walk.  She cried and told my mother to call our father to come get us.  My mother said no.  She said our father should be asleep now and we couldn’t wake him up.  So we started to walk.

This wasn’t the first time.  It happened all the time.  When my father didn’t have to work on the weekends, he would drink beer.  A lot of beer.  Then he would fight with us and with our mother. My mother always let him say things to her and even hit her but when he started to hit us, she would get mad at him.  She would find a way to send us outside or in the other room where he couldn’t hit us.  Then she would come and tell us to get our shoes on and our clothes ready because we were going for a walk.  We had to be quiet.

And that is what happened today.  He drank his beers.  He yelled at my mother.  He hit her.  Then he started yelling at us.  When he got up to hit David, my mother distracted my father and motioned for David to leave the room.  Then we got our jackets and quietly waited for her.  It didn’t take long.  We went to the movies, walking quickly and looking back to make sure he wasn’t following us.  Then we watched the movies and waited.

Now we are walking home, in the rain and I know we are all hoping he will be asleep when we get there, or the fighting will start again and we can’t leave at night time, in the rain, because all there is out there are headlights in the rain.

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And so it begins…

Last night I headed out to a local café for a midnight NaNoWriMo write-in. Armed with my GPS, I drove 25 minutes then found the place. However, I couldn’t get to it because I was on the wrong side of a concrete divider. I got turned around and then missed it again because it wasn’t well lit from that angle. After I went around another two times, I got there. One problem. There were no parking spaces. I had anticipated this because I called ahead. The owner of the café told me there was a Subway store across the street and I could park there with no problem. I looked for the Subway and it was waaaayyyyy across the street…SIX LANES, three in each direction. I first looked for a space on the side of the street that I was on and couldn’t find any. I searched for four blocks in all directions. Nothing. The Subway parking lot was completely filled. It was raining. I don’t know about you but I am not about to park four blocks away in an industrial area and walk, alone, with my purse and laptop and no jacket. Nope. Not me. So I headed back home.

In the end, I had wasted almost two hours in travel time, getting lost time, assessing the parking situation time, and driving back home time. I walked in the door at home at 12:05 am and had to start up the desktop and load my MS Office before I could start writing. After 20 minutes, I took my first break to fix some coffee and visit the potty. More writing. Within an hour, I had written 2650 words. I quit at that point because my neck and back hurt. Today, I haven’t written anything for my novel. I just don’t feel like it. I’m sure I’ll give it all another try some time tonight and again tomorrow. I’ll be happy if I can get to 6,000 words by the end of the weekend. I don’t think that’ll be a problem. I tend to write fast so I think I can easily get there.

So that’s how it starts.

Let’s see how it ends!

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