Monday, April 29, 2013

Inspiration: A Weekend in the Smokies

"Truly it may be said that the outside of a mountain is good for the inside of a man." 
--George Wherry, Alpine Notes and the Climbing Foot, 1896

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world." --John Muir

"The poetry of the earth is never dead." --John Keats

"After all, I don't see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles 
when every year there are miracles like white dogwood." --Anne Morrow Lindbergh

"Great things are done when men and mountains meet. 
This is not done by jostling in the street." --William Blake

"Climb up on some hill at sunrise. Everybody needs perspective once in 
a while, and you'll find it there." --Robb Sagendorph

"Nature is a writer's best friend." --Agave Powers

We were privileged to spend this past weekend in Tennessee's Smoky Mountains with good friends. What a relaxing, peaceful, regrouping time. Oh, that there be some carryover into work this week!

Just thought I'd share a bit of the view before getting back to work :-) What view are you looking at this week?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Dominoes, Triggers, and Plot

Photo:, Reece Kidman

"To avoid bad writing, think of the events in your novel as dominoes. Let's call them dramatic dominoes. The first event in the novel--and for that you can read 'the first scene'--must trigger an event that follows...The key here is to remember that scene one is the first domino. It knocks the next one over and so forth." --Elizabeth George, Write Away

Reworking some of my scenes this week with dominoes in mind. What table game inspires your writing? (Please don't say Sorry!)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Help! I'm a Prisoner in the Library

"Jo-Beth shouted into the phone. 'We're prisoners! We're prisoners in the library!'" 
                                                                           --Eth Clifford, Help! I'm a Prisoner in the Library

No, I'm not currently a prisoner in the library, but by chance I saw this book while there the other day. And I had to laugh at both the title and my situation.

For I was at the library for an extended period that afternoon and unable to leave at will. Hubby and I were about to head out on a short overnight road trip, but he had a tutoring session scheduled at the library first. So rather than him having to come back and get me before hitting the road, I chose to spend his 2 1/2 hour tutoring time with him, howbeit discreetly on the other side from where he and his student worked. I certainly had enough to keep me busy, a folder of writing material at hand as well as a list of books and authors I wanted to check out.

I did a little reading. I did a little writing. I scanned the shelves for the books on my list. And then, after exhausting the list, I casually wandered the children's stacks just looking for a title to jump out at me. Jump out it did--Eth Clifford's Help! I'm a Prisoner in the Library (Houghton Mifflin 1979). Ironic? I thought so.

Maybe you've heard of Clifford and her work? She has a long list of children's books to her credit. As for Prisoner, the flyleaf reads, in part:

"Although Mary Rose and Jo-Beth hardly ever agreed on anything, they both thought that night would never end. So much had happened! First their car ran out of gas in an unfamiliar city. Then, after their father left in search of a gas station, they trudged through the snow until they found a curious old library that housed the most extraordinary objects: wooden children dressed in old-fashioned clothes, a terrible flying creature that rushed at them in the dark, and (they would later learn) a cellar full of animals.

"But worst of all, they were locked in..."

Sort of like me, but not really--it's a much better story than mine! With a happy ending, all about the promise of saving an old library otherwise destined for demise. Mixed in with middle-grade sisters, bumps in the dark, a talking mynah bird, just enough spookiness. An old book but still a good read.

And to think I found it when locked...I mean, when enjoying an afternoon in the library!

Where better to be if you had to be locked in somewhere, right? How about you, where would you want to be if you found yourself stuck somewhere? And any new-found favorites and/or authors on the library shelves (or e-readers) for you lately?

Friday, April 12, 2013

National Poetry Month and a Little Bit More

Early Bird
Oh, if you're a bird, be an early bird
And catch the worm for your breakfast plate.
If you're a bird be an early bird--
But if you're a worm, sleep late.
---Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

Oh, April and rain, little boys and the things that fascinate them--including a worm or two. All these elements came together after two of our grandkids stayed overnight this past week and explored the rainy outdoors the next morning. Stir in some of Shel Silverstein's genius, and you've got your own kind of poetry!

And speaking of poetry, many of you probably already know that April is National Poetry Month. Though I may not be contributing poetic material for the cause, I'm loving some of the highlights others are sharing. A few samples:

Will you be an early bird this weekend--or the worm? What part does poetry play in your life?

Happy Poetry Month!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Writing Tip: Clustering, Bob Nicols
"Just as many natural forms come in clusters--grapes, lilacs, spider eggs, cherries--so thoughts and images, when given free rein, seem to come in clusters of associations."--Gabriele Lusser Rico

I'm a believer in clustering--the writing kind that is, though I do like grapes, lilacs and cherries, too (spider eggs, not so much).  Surprising insights have popped for me when I've played around with the technique.

Gabriele Lussen Rico describes clustering in Writing the Natural Way, Using Right-Brain Techniques to Release Your Expressive Powers. "Nature," she writes, "operates by profusion. Think of the nearly infinite numbers of seeds that fall to earth, only a fraction of which take root to become trees; of those five thousand or so drones that exist solely to ensure the fertilization of one queen bee...Similarly, human beings engaged in the creative process explore an astronomical number of possible patterns before settling on an idea.

"Clustering is the master key to natural writing. It is the crucial first step for bypassing our logical, orderly Sign-mind (Rico uses this term for left brain thinking, Design-mind for right) consciousness to touch the mental life of daydream, random thought, remembered incident, image, or sensation."

In clustering, "a nucleus word or short phrase acts as the stimulus for recording all the associations that spring to mind in a very brief period of time." After setting forth that nucleus word, the writer is encouraged to "simply let go and begin to flow with any current of connections" that come to mind, writing them down rapidly, "each in its own circle radiating outward from the center in any direction." Connect each new word with a line to the preceding circle. When something new and different strikes you, begin again at the central nucleus.

Exploration. Patterns. Associations. Connections. The stuff that writers are made of!

In my case, I needed to play this past week after feeling ideas were stalling and drying up. I turned back to clustering to see if I could prove Rico right when she states, "the initial anxiety will soon disappear, and in its place will be a certain playfulness."

The results? Insights into a blocked character sketch. Better visualization of a picture book idea. Playtime to see where an idea for a short inspirational piece might go. I was so excited at the results that I shared the developments with my writer's group when we met the other day.

Yep, I'm a believer in clustering. Are you? What techniques do you use to replace writing anxiety with a sense of play?

In case you'd care to read more on the subject of clustering, you might want to check out:
Gabriele Rico
Writer's Web
Meade Communications Clustering