Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Yay - I'm Excited About This One!


I'll be the first in line!


(click poster for website to see trailer)


(I removed the trailer because there was no way to shut the darn thing off)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #9

I dug this one up from my 2000 files. Another unpublished one, having been dropped from a manuscript because I wasn't completely happy with it.

All these poems have inspired me to write poetry again, so thanks to all the folks on Rhian's Poetry Train for that. I have started a new series and will post some soon. In the meanwhile, an oldie...

formless (pt. 1)

whether time is a reasonable mode of transportation

whether transportation is a reasonable measure of time

I am not the poem

the poem is empty

stripped

of form

a hundred clouds move through the sky

like the monkey that escaped from my car

and became lyrics to a song

or was it a rain pellet

I forgot the melody

rather being movement itself

lingering by a vast body of water

there among the exploded nothing

without form I need no temperature

without form I need no tangible sustenance

I can’t even say float

because that would imply scales or wings

it is more an invisible wave

come to pass through the unexpected ear

that moves

from heart to tear


He said the painting made him cry

was it the brushstroke or the color of the

complete image

was the artist manipulating him

to prove a point

or was he himself crying

and wished someone would hear

was it the softness of the female figure

or the expression that triggered

a memory

and remembering

he was crying

exited the room

formless


Friday, October 26, 2007

Weekend Writing Workout #6 - Objects, Images, Incidences (Part 2 of 5)

This is a part 2 of a series of writing exercises around objects, images, and incidents. I constantly use exercises around these three things in my own writing and in my workshops. They make excellent jumping off points.

This weekend, let's focus on IMAGES.

You've probably heard writers and instructors of writing chant SHOW not TELL a hundred-thousand times. One of the ways to do this is to constantly come back to the image. As you're writing, ask yourself, if this were a movie, what would I see on screen?

IMAGE LISTING

EXERCISE #1

Here's a nice warm-up exercise if you just want to write, but aren't working on anything in particular.

Take a walk outside for 10-15 minutes. Do not talk with anyone, do not write anything down, simply observe anything and everything as you walk. Make a mental note about what you see. Sometimes I say hello to the images as I notice them. It sounds silly, but it works. Something like: Hello tennis shoe hanging over telephone wire... hello dead crow in the green grass... hello blonde twins boys on the monkey bars... hello ant playing tug-a-war with another ant over a bread crumb... Any image that strikes you, make a mental note.

Then, go inside and LIST as many of the images that you saw. Don't do anything other than list them at this time:

Black tennis shoes hanging on telephone wire
Mutilated dead crow in green grass under tree with spring blossoms
Blonde twin boys in blue jackets swinging towards each other on the monkey bars
Black BBQ in the empty parking lot at the firestation.
ETC.

Give yourself 5-10 minutes to make this list.

Then, go through and circle the images you really like. When I do this in my workshops, I have other people pick three lines for you. Pick ONE line and use it as a starting off piece for a poem or a piece of prose. Write for 7-10 minutes without stopping. Then go back and edit it.

EXAMPLE

A black BBQ in the empty parking lot of the Fire Station as if
young men had to interrupt hamburgers on a warm blue day
to attend a meeting
no sense of emergency
lid closed
who would secure a lid if sirens were blaring?
who would take time to bring in the mustard if
flames leapt across homes?
who would bring in the trash, the bag of buns, the relish
who would manage the utensils
if bells were jarring the senses?
no, everything from this picnic walked away
the blue-uniforms still wear their crumbs
there may even be dishes to wash
but for now they digest their bit of summer’s end
and let the BBQ rest
for there is no rain


EXERCISE #2

If you'd like to do some backstory work, pick a character from your current story and think about images that come to her mind when she thinks about her childhood.

We all have images from our childhood that we've attached meaning to. When I think of my childhood, some of the images that come up for me are the huge almond tree in my front yard, my dad's tools in the garage, the 500 National Geographic magazines my parents refused to throw away, and our large square record player that was more a piece of furniture.

Think about your character's past. What images come up for her when she thinks about her childhood? Make a list of at least 10 images, the more, the better.

Once you have your images, select one. Let's say my character thinks about her father's broken watch that sat on the counter for months. Take that image and set your timer for 7-10 minutes. Write about the associations that come with that image. Do not stop or edit your work.

Startline: When my character thinks about ____________, it always reminds her of...

EXAMPLE:

When Polly thinks about her father's broken watch on the counter, it always reminds her of how many broken things she has in her life. Things get broken and don't get put back together. The basement window, the lawn mower, the reclining chair... how many things have to break around her until she breaks? Until she can no longer be put back together...


EXERCISE #3

Using the same idea of image listing, pick a scene from your story that you'd like to work on. Let's say I want to work on the scene where "Mavis confronts Prof. Herbert's wife, Terri."

Take 5-10 minutes and do an image listing exercise around this scene. What do I see in my mind as this takes place? Set your time and do not stop listing images, even if you are unsure of them. You don't have to use them for anything later, and you don't want to miss anything that comes to mind.

(BTW - if you ever need to think about a scene before you start, simply write "The scene I need to write next is when..." and write spontaneously for 5-10 minutes)

EXAMPLE

Mavis kicks Terri's door
Terri in a grey sweatsuit with paint stains
Mavis in her nurse's uniform
Terri and Mavis drinking wine on the back porch
Terri showing Mavis a photo of her son
The full moon when Mavis steps off the porch
ETC.

Then, write the scene starting with whichever image you want. It doesn't have to be the first thing that happens in the scene, it just needs to launch you into it. Keep all the other images in mind as you write.

EXAMPLE:

Terri and Mavis sit on the back porch, feet on white stools, a bottle of red wine between them. Mavis has removed her nurse's cap and Terri has a bathrobe on over her sweats.

"He's no demon, you know," says Mavis.

"I know," says Terri, "It's just easier to think of him that way."

ETC.

Have a great weekend writing and if you'd like to share your exercises on your own blog, put your link below.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #15 - 13 start lines to 13 books

TT logo by Goofy Girl Designs

Opening lines... they're tough to write. They've gotta draw people in, set the tone and the style and perhaps even the theme. I was examining the start lines of a few books and was intrigued by their uniqueness.

Below find the first line or two from 11 novels, one diary, and one short story. If there was a preface, I skipped it and went to the first chapter.

I think you'll have heard of most of the authors (and perhaps many of the books), but it was hard to find well-known books whose first lines didn't give the book completely away. (like this one: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.")

Do you know what books these are from? I will post in the comment section as people guess them right. Personally, I think the hardest ones will be #11, #9, #7, and #5 - I picked them simply because I liked them, not because I thought anyone would guess them.

UPDATE
ANSWERS will be revealed as they are guessed

The TRUTH revealed by The Accidental Novelist

  1. It was a bright, defrosted, pussy-willow day at the onset of spring, and the newlyweds were driving cross-country in a large roast turkey. - Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins

  2. I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there making their moves, setting up their devil doll stool pigeons, crooning over my spoon and dropper I throw away at Washington Square Station, vault a turnstile and two flights down the iron stairs, catch an uptown A train... (Naked Lunch guessed by Superfast Reader)

  3. "When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets," Papa would say, "she made the nipping off of noggins such a crystal mystery that the hens themselves yearned toward her, waltzing around her, hypnotized with longing. (Geek Love guessed by Megan)

  4. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
    (Anna Karenina - guessed by Superfast Reader)

  5. An Octopus? He pulled out his knife and opened his eyes, it was a dream. - Troubled Sleep by Jean-Paul Sartre

  6. Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. (The Little Prince guessed by Janet)

  7. There was no hope for him this time: it was his third stroke. (Dubliners by James Joyce - I should have counted this as a short story, too, I suppose)

  8. We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas guessed by Superfast Reader)

  9. The day had gone by just as days go by. I had killed it in accordance with my primitive and retiring way of life. - Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

  10. Through the small tall bathroom window the December yard is gray and scratchy, the trees calligraphic. - A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

  11. Ten thirty... once again I'm ready too soon. My friend Brague, who helped me when I first began acting in pantomimes, often takes me to task for this in that salty language of his... - The Vagabond by Colette

  12. The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. ("The Cask of Amontillado" guessed by Susan Helene Gottfried)

  13. In Spring it is the dawn that is most beautiful. As the light creeps over the hills, their outlines are dyed a faint red and wisps or purplish cloud trail over them. (Hint - this is a famous diary, not a novel.) - The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon
Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #7

How's this for a funny little poem I found in my files.

Concrete Designs on Things Less Tangible

spring cleaning for ghosts of past lovers

my sword of Damocles

we are all fragile vases containing the same big air

the news headline at breakfast:

trade made for player to be named at a later date

(1999)


Jump on Rhian's Poetry Train Y'all!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Weekend Writing Workout #5 - Objects, Images, Incidences (Part 1 of 5)

Using objects, images, or incidents is a great starting point when you have writer's block, or when simply warming up for your writing day. In this Five Part Series, I will introduce you to some of the exercises I use in my classroom and in my own writing practice.

Let's start with OBJECTS.

There are numerous ways I use objects in my writing. For spontaneity in my writing workshops, I have everyone write random objects on pieces of paper and we draw from them for each exercise. You might try this on your own, just keep a little bag full of pieces of paper, each with a different object listed on it. (umbrella, drum, coffee mug, little red pillow, etc.)

Sometimes, when I'm on my own, I simply look around the room and pick something. It doesn't really matter what the object is, it's simply a launching point to get you writing.

The Precious Object Exercise

1) Decide which character you are going to develop / work on for this exercise.

2) Pick a random object, let's say a drum.

3) Imagine that this object is the MOST precious object in the world to your character.

Set your timer for 5-7 minutes. Using the start line below, write (without stopping, without editing) until your timer goes off:

The most precious object in my character's life is her...

EXAMPLE
The most precious object in Helen's life is her drum. It was the first thing she bought after her divorce. It's cracked from too many moves and she can't play it anyway. She has terrible rhythm. At the time, when Steve left her, she felt she needed a drum. She took her drum to weekly drum circles for 6 months and the sound of the rest of the drummers drowned out her own rhythm. It was like beating something without hurting anything. She needed that, to beat something, but to not cause harm. She was a Buddhist after all...


(If you have the time, you can go into the MIDDLE of this exercise and pull out a line and write for 5-7 more minutes, using that line as a start line. I think doing this THREE times is best. It gets you quite deep into it all)

4) Decide what scene you are going to write.

5) Decide who will be in this scene with your character. (example: Helen's mother and brother)

6) Write your scene, incorporating your object, and starting with this line:

"What are you doing with that?"

EXAMPLE:

"What are you doing with that?" Helen asked her brother Mark.

"What, this thing?" Mark held up the drum, "As if you ever use it."

Helen marched over to Mark and pulled the drum from his fingers. "That's not the point."

"Helen, it's dusty," coughed her Mother, fanning the air as if the drum dust were cigarette smoke. "Why are you keeping that silly thing. You're a grown woman for God's sake."

ETC...


IF YOU HAVE TIME
write the scene a SECOND time, this time giving the start line to one of the OTHER characters. (in my example, Mark or Helen's Mom would have the start line "What are you doing with that?")


Have a great weekend. Write on!

AND A NEW ITEM! If you choose to do any or all of this exercise, post the results on your blog and leave your link here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #14 - All About Books and a Meme to Boot


I was tagged for yet another meme, so I've included it in this special ALL ABOUT BOOKS issue of my Thursday Thirteen.

This TT is a bit random, so I'm organizing it into two parts.

I - My "reading challenge" progress (or lack there of)
II - The Book Meme

I. Summer Reading / Book Challenge Report

1) Since July 26 (the EXACT date I wrote up my Reading Challenge List), all of Vancouver's municipal employees have been on strike. Not only has this meant no garbage pick-up, it's meant no librarians. All the libraries have been closed for almost 3 months. And, since Baby and I are on a No New Book Buying promise (due to lack of space and having to move again in the near future), I was hoping to take advantage of the library down the street. Instead, I have had to depend upon book loans from friends and what we currently have in our own library.

So what did I read over the summer?

2) The final Harry Potter. I sped through it as fast as I was able, only staying up past 3 am twice. The conclusion was fairly satisfying (except for that horribly cheesy ending) and I admire how she tied up the loose ends (especially dealing with Snape, which I predicted, although his demise was totally anti-climactic).

Honestly, I was just glad the whole thing was over so that I could move on to something else. I still have the same issues with HP as I always have, and that is he is too passive a hero and I get very tired of how quick to anger he is. I bore of his screaming... There was a ghost character, for instance, that he began to yell at for no good reason. I also think that he has very little character arc. He seems quite immature at times, and not much wiser than he was 6 years before. In addition, I wish someone would bully JK into editing down her text and removing all her superfluous adverbs. (BTW- my friend Tod and I discovered a gaping plot hole, but that didn't really bug me too much for some reason.)

It really is a fun story, such a great world, and it has many other satisfying characters. I absolutely adore Luna Lovegood. The final battle was quite amazing as well. All in all, I understand why people love the books, though there are others I treasure more.

3) The Alchemist, which WAS on my list. This is a fable rather than a novel. It's a quick read and a feel-good story about following your heart. It's packed with little jewels of wisdom such as: When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too. Sayings that might come across as cheesy, but put in the context of the fable, they are sweet. I read it with a highlighter. I like the lessons and the manner in which the story plays out.

4) My fantasy adventure novel involves faeries, so I decided to borrow a friend's daughter's fairy books. The first one I read was for 2nd and 3rd graders. It was one of the Disney Fairy books called Rani in the Mermaid Lagoon. I can't believe this book got 4.5 stars on Amazon, because if I had a daughter, I would not buy this book for her. I found it condescending and shallow, as well as expository when it had the opportunity to use imagery. At one point, Rani goes through this fairly tragic event with a water snake, but then the mermaids do her hair up and paint her nails and make her look pretty again so gee, everything's all right! Yick!

NOTE: on Amazon it lists Rani for ages 9-12. They are on crack. There's no way with the sophistication of our readers these days that this book would titillate a 5th or 6th grader.

5) The second book I picked up was the first "Fairy Realm" book, The Charm Bracelet, but it didn't have any actual fairies in it. According to Amazon, it's for ages 9-12, but the book itself says 7-10. I can buy that. I liked it much better than the Disney book. The characters were far more interesting, that's for sure, but still not as clever as they could have been. It wasn't completely satisfying to me, but I wouldn't have an issue with my daughter reading it because the protagonist is independent minded and proactive. One pet peeve, though... I have this thing about overuse of exclamation points in literature! There were a lot in this book!

6) I next read the 2nd "Fairy Realm" book, The Flower Faeries, and enjoyed it more than the first. Perhaps the writer matured with the story. This one actually had fairies and they were way more fun than the Disney fairies. They were pesky in an amusing way. The story was a bit darker, more dangerous than the first. There was a lovely scene where the protagonist tries on a pair of wings. I think of the three fairy books this one had the strongest imagery.

7) I read The Phantom Tollbooth for the millionth time. I read it out loud to a student of mine on the set of Psych. As with all the kids I share it with, he loved it. The book fell apart halfway through, it's been loved so much.

8) Jeff Kitchen's book Writing a Great Movie. If you only read the part on dilemma you are doing yourself a HUGE favour. This is an excellent tool for screenwriters. I'm now using chapters in my classes at Vancouver Film School.

9) Do books on tape count? Baby and I listened to The Secret books on tape and both liked how it went more in depth than the film and also focused on more than just attracting personal financial abundance, but also larger issues that affect the world.

II. BOOK MEME

10) Total Number of Books I own: Sometimes, pictures speak louder than words. This is after getting rid of (sob) over 1/4 of our books when we moved and does not include the 40 books I also counted in our bedroom nor the 12 books in our bathroom (yes, we have a bookshelf in our bathroom).

Pic on left is in our living room
Pic on right is in our office.

11) Last Book Read: I am currently reading Skinny Legs and All (on my book challenge). Robbins had me at the opening sentence (which I will post on the next TT).

12) Last Book Bought: Rules for Renegades by Christine Comaford-Lynch (a self-made millionaire and self-proclaimed "renegade" entrepreneur). Yes, I said I was on a book buying hiatus, but she was having a pre-order special deal which gave loads of bonuses. Of course, due to the Canadian mail system, I have yet to receive the book. I heard Christine speak last spring in L.A. and she is AMAZING.

13) Five Meaningful Books:
I wasn't sure what meaningful meant... to me personally or to the world? Life changing? And meaning changes over time...

I decided to pick five books that impacted me when I was growing up and inspired me to become a writer:

All of the Oz books (because my Dad read them to me and they're fantastic)
Anything by Judy Blume and especially Are You There God It's Me Margaret (There's a new book called Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume which I think it just about right)
Beezus and Ramona (All the Ramona books are wonderful, but I was was especially fond of this one.)
I, Trissy (I read this in 6th grade and for some reason it completely resonated with me. I think it was the honesty and humour. I loved Trissy's very real struggles and the fact that her father got her a typewriter when he divorced her mother)
To Kill a Mockingbird (I cried every time I read it.)

Okay, Vicki? (oh, and i'm reading that harlequin romance you sent, too. my first harlequin romance ever, seriously)




Monday, October 15, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #8

I have a poet friend visiting from out of town, Jen Hofer. She's one of my favourite people and favourite poets. She's one of the original 3:15 poets with me from way back in 1993.

Since she is here, I asked her to participate in this week's poetry train with me. At 2 AM last night, we wrote two exquisite corpses together. Here are the specific rules we made:

1) Each line is 11 words long.
2) The poems are 11 lines long.
3) We each selected a book from my bookshelf and opened them to a random page and selected a random sentence to use as a start line (the freaky thing being that both of us randomly selected sentences with 11 words in them)
4) We left only 3 words showing for the next person, who would then finish the line with 8 words to total 11, fold the paper, and leave 3 words showing on the next line.

Considering it was 2 in the morning, I think we did quite well.

If the above explanation confuses you, just know that in an exquisite corpse, the previous person leaves no or only a few words showing for the next person to write from. It's a fun form, writing blindly like that.

POEM#1

Hermaphroditos was an outdoor type who roamed wild on Mount Ida.
Gods gone wild, gone windy, gone out the window past that
future we saw forests with no names, animals whose fur had
worn in patches or worn down at the elbows, knees, heels
to walk miles as a camel across dream deserts not knowing
how long until we traced and untraced footsteps of another
mammal body, another glance at the working muscles of it and
we can conclude only how utterly inconclusive the night sky is
and the day sings like leopard cubs and falls to its
knees with ironic supplication, mock awe for the real gods or
real awe for fine silver, slipping between the cracks, lost again.


POEM #2

We had a real feeling for the human element in it.
A real feeling like sticking a finger in a socket or
lightning striking twice into tree branches open, fern pattern fronding open
into electric ricochet, a bouquet of light and matter, my fingers
extensions of something we believed could not be extended or could
be extended if the ego attracted peacock attention. When the day
came that we, like the world, undid becoming further unraveled against
this violent and necessary moment, it was as if time had
won and cashed or lost and cashed, spent, trashed, jilted and
jolted into some jungle space, kicking and screaming, colliding with the
natural state of the state, if we can call that natural.


Jump on Rhian's Poetry Train!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #13 - The Truth Revealed


Last week I wrote eight things about myself (to fulfill a meme request) and five things about characters in my stories. I asked people to guess which were me and which were my characters. This week I reveal the answers...

1) I lost the spelling bee in 2nd grade because I couldn't spell the word "kiwi."
This is about me. I was mortified. It was the first round of the 2nd graders. I didn't even know what a "kiwi" was. I had been absent for some reason and had forgotten that the spelling bee started that day. To this day, when people ask me to spell things out loud for them, I freeze up.

2) I raised several thousand dollars for a cancer research center by holding a chocolate festival.
This is about me. It was awesome. Everyone was all dressed up and went from table to table eating chocolate. Yum.

3) I drove across two states to stop my best friend's wedding.

Well, I'm glad no one thought this was about me, although 15 years ago I wanted to drive across two states to stop my best-friend's wedding. Instead, it's part of the plot in my romantic comedy feature screenplay Chickens and Stars.

4) My first real job was shredding paper at a real estate office. My second was at Winchell's donuts.
This is about me. Shredding paper wasn't as dull as it sounds. I did this after hours and read a lot of the material before shredding it. I also vacuumed. After my job at Winchell's, I couldn't eat donuts for months.

5) I accidentally hit a blind woman's dog with my car.
Not me. This is from a short film I wrote. I picked something that sounded unforgivable and tried to make the audience sympathize with the drunk woman driving the car instead of the blind woman whose dog she hit.

6) I have taken formal Buddhist vows of refuge.
This is me. I graduated with my MFA from Naropa University, a private college in Boulder, Colorado founded on Buddhist principles, in 1993. It wasn't until a few years later, when I was having a spiritual crisis, that I took refuge. I even took a Tibetan language class for a while so I could chant the words properly.

7) I lived in Eastern Europe for a year.
Also me. I lived primarily in Prague (although if you call Czech's Eastern European they get a little snippy), traveled to Bosnia, Croatia, and Hungary, then spent a month in Vienna (although they also don't consider themselves Eastern European).

8) I was on top of a mountain in Colorado when a thunderstorm moved in. A man hiking below us was struck by lightning.
Also me. Scary as hell. I could feel the electricity in the air. I was crying and sure we were about to die. The man struck by lightning was picked up by a helicopter. By the time I got to where he had been, they were gone, but I remember blood on the rocks. I have no idea if he survived.

9) I fell and broke my arm while trying to find the Christmas present my husband had hidden from me.
Not me. A character from a short film script called No Peeking. In the script she gets progressively more injured as she seeks out the present.

10) I used to videotape my room at night in case there were ghosts.
Not me, but totally sounds like something I'd do. From another short film script called In Case of Ghosts. This short is being produced some time in the next few months. I'm excited, because it's always been a favourite of mine.

11) I make the best carrot-cake you'll ever taste.
This is me. My husband won't order carrot cake in restaurants because it never measures up. Vicki, if you're ever in town, I'll make you a carrot cake. :-)

12) The lenses in my eyes have been replaced by fake ones, which make me far-sighted.
This is me. I had premature cataracts in my eyes due to long-term prednisone use. I have fake lenses now. I went from being near-sighted to far-sighted overnight. It was a bit of a shocker and for a while I thought my writing life was over. Now I just wear reading glasses.

13) When my forest was hit by a mysterious curse, my little sister and I had to travel to Dead Mountain to find an excommunicated faerie.
Not me. I don't have a sister.

Have a great weekend! Watch out for that Mercury in Retro!


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #7

Here's an unpublished one I found in my journal from our honeymoon in Greece. I've always liked it, though have never been quite satisfied with it. Suggestions welcome! Tell me what's working and what's not.

(BTW - if the spacing seems off, it's because I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get the tabs and spaces into blogspot - it always leaves them out! Grrrrrr!)


phobia

after too much food and drink
I take a walk in the night
while my husband does dishes
I turn down a dark street not
frightened by the dark street we are in
Platanes, Crete and the most dangerous thing
I can think of
is the uncertain sidewalk

a motorcycle takes the corner - heads
directly intentionally for me
and at the last second veers and speeds away
there isn’t any laughter
I could be less frightened
if there were laughter

back at our hotel prepared
with my motorcycle story
I find my husband on the floor
keep your shoes on he says I dropped a wine bottle
and there are shards in every corner
of the room - this is his fear
right now he is frightened by bits of glass

I keep my shoes on while we prepare for bed
no longer the motorcycle engine in my head
or its light blinding my eyes

when flying in planes with my husband
I figure one of us should not be afraid
as the plane dips I take
his damp hand and smile

I am frightened sometimes by herds of animals
of the way they all move at once
one thought becomes all thought
all thought becomes sudden

I am not frightened by cherry blossoms
although they are just as sudden
and of one mind but I’ve never
had to jump out of their way

and when they drop on stone floors
it is merely fragrant snow


April 5, 2004


Ride Rhian's Poetry Train! Yee-hah!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Weekend Writing Workout #4 - Defining Moments

I give an exercise to my writing classes called "10 Defining Moments of my Life." It is inspired from a short story by Canadian Author Anne Fleming called "The Defining Moments of my Life."

It's a fabulous story first told from the perspective of protagonists' mother before she is born. What her mother fantasizes her daughter's perfect life will be like. It is then told again from the protagonists' perspective. Well, we all know, life is messy and doesn't happen the way we, or our parents, always fantasize it does.

The story is told in list form, each "defining moment" numbered. As the protagonist's life journeys on, the numbers get a little wonky. As does her life.

I've asked elementary school students to write the 10 defining moments of their lives and they come up with great stuff like getting their pet iguana and coming in first place in the school spelling bee.

When I give the exercise to my older students, they usually groan a little and feel slightly uncomfortable. But more than any other exercise I've given, the students tell me later it was their favourite assignment.

You can do this for yourself, as a personal journey. It's a really great exercise. Have you ever thought about the moments that have defined who you are and why you do the things you do?

Today, I'm recommending you write these moments down for any characters you'd like to develop. These defining moments are all backstory, the joyful moments, the painful moments, the wounds that make them who they are in your current story. Some of these things may never even be mentioned in your actual story, but keep them in the back of your mind. It will give this person a life before you met them on the page.

Here's how it works:

1) Make a list of the 10 Defining Moments of your character's life (or yours if you'd like to try this yourself)

2) From each moment, write at least 3 images that go with that moment. I want you to SEE it happening, as if on a movie screen.

example:

Father's suicide: briefcase, crystal bird, open door to balcony
Ran away from home: black limousine, red "otel" sign, stained carpet
Met Gary on-line: library, broken blue umbrella, wet streets
etc.

3) Now, for each defining moment, show us what happened. Write a paragraph or two. make sure to SHOW the story, don't explain what happened. Do it in visuals. I try to get my students to think this way, in images, as much as possible. It will make it more "real" in your mind if you can see it. And showing in your writing is always good practice.

You can tell it in 3rd person OR 1st person as the character.

Example:
Casey opened her eyes. She was lying on the couch. Her father's black leather briefcase, the one he had taken on his business trip, sat two feet from her face next to the coffee table. The room was cold and quiet. Someone had left the patio door open and the white curtains were blowing in and out like delicate sails. She had goosebumps on her bare arms. She looked down. Her bird, the crystal bird her father had given her, lay broken on the marble floor... (and so on)

Have a great weekend and Happy Thanksgiving to all Canadians out there.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #12 - 8 Truths and 5 Lies

Vicki tagged me with the old "8 things about you" meme. Since I hadn't yet done my Thursday Thirteen, I figured I would merge the two.

So, below, EIGHT of these things are facts about me.
FIVE
of them are things about characters in my stories.

See if you can guess which are about me, and which are about my characters.

1) I lost the spelling bee in 2nd grade because I couldn't spell the word "kiwi."

2) I raised several thousand dollars for a cancer research center by holding a chocolate festival.

3) I drove across two states to stop my best friend's wedding.

4) My first real job was shredding paper at a real estate office. My second was at Winchell's donuts.

5) I accidentally hit a blind woman's dog with my car.

6) I have taken formal Buddhist vows of refuge.

7) I lived in Eastern Europe for a year.

8) I was on top of a mountain in Colorado when a thunderstorm moved in. A man hiking below us was struck by lightning.

9) I fell and broke my arm while trying to find the Christmas present my husband had hidden from me.

10) I used to videotape my room at night in case there were ghosts.

11) I make the best carrot-cake you'll ever taste.

12) The lenses in my eyes have been replaced by fake ones, which make me far-sighted.

13) When my forest was hit by a mysterious curse, my little sister and I had to travel to Dead Mountain to find an excommunicated faerie. (just seeing if you're paying attention)

That was fun! Sort of like "two truths and a lie" only on a grander scale.

I'm supposed to TAG someone for the meme now... hmmm... well, I'll tag POST MODERN SASS and CAMMIE IN BLOGLAND just because I haven't before, so they are the least likely to kill me for it. CAMMIE and SASS - you are to write in your blog 8 things about yourself. (you don't have to do the lying part, that was my twist on it. Although that was fun.)


Monday, October 1, 2007

Monday Poetry Train #7

I was looking through my old virtual files and found this little poem. I don't remember writing it. I hope I did. It's not my usual style, but I think it was from a time when I was unemployed and discouraged.

I do not know who Sylvia is.

applicant

I am responding to your recent posting
for a reader-of-words I have extensive
experience petting grass I am very
fond of sunshine and spent the last
few minutes of my time absorbing
the warmth from my window I get
along well with leaves and pinecones
did I mention my degree in solitude?
during my previous position as a
singer-in-the-shower I was responsible
for prioritizing soap bubbles I would
be happy to solve any riddles or provide
a means of transportation to the center
of anything thank you for your time
and consideration love Sylvia


1.28.03

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