Posts Tagged ‘writing exercise’

Girl in the Wind –

01/18/2012

Girl in the Wind

Chapter 1

Cassie ran as fast as her long, skinny legs would carry her. The screen door banged shut behind her. A sound guaranteed to piss off her mother  but she didn’t care. She had to get away from her. She had to escape the cutting words that sliced into her as sharply as any knife, carving away at her heart until the only way she could stop the bleeding was to run to the big oak tree across the yard and climb high into its enveloping branches. Past the long abandoned robin’s nest.  Past the broken limb that snapped off in the thunder storm last year.  Higher and higher she went until the branches thinned and she doubted the next one would hold even her slight weight.

She inhaled deeply, saying her personal version of a prayer, “Please God, don’t let me blow away in the wind before I show her a thing or two!” and stretched her arms as high as she could, wrapped them around the tree trunk, and stepped out on a limb so thin it seemed barely strong enough to hold the trio of leaves dangling from its tip.

She raised her gaze to the sky and felt the sun on her face  calming her.  White clouds of summer drifted overhead in a sky so blue it made her want to cry. A gust of wind rocked her as the tree swayed. Cassie welcomed the feeling of vertigo that came with the thrill of fear that she might fall. That was why she was there after all. To face the fear.  To prove she was more than what her mother claimed. Although she would never admit it, she was terrified of heights. Even more terrified her mother was right. She was clumsy. She was school smart and life stupid.  She would never be very pretty. Not like her mother. Not like her sister.  How many times did she have to listen to the same story? She got the message the first time she heard it.

They lived in the apartment house then. The one with two families and one bathroom on each floor. More than once she’d peed her pants waiting for someone to finally clear out of there.  It was bad enough if they were just whizzing or pooping, but if someone was taking a bath it could take a very long time and it wasn’t fair to get spanked or have your nose rubbed in wet pants if you tried and couldn’t get in.

That’s the place where they all got sick and the doctor had to come and give everyone but her father a shot of penicillin every day for a week.  Cassie, who was four at the time, and her big sister, Sue, six-years old,were with Mom in the big bed. Their little brother, Billy, was in his crib pushed up against the wall. All of them were sweaty and coughing. No one was getting any sleep and Daddy had to bring them soup and pass out pills and change Billy’s diapers.  Every day the doctor would ask Cassie and Sue who they wanted to get a shot first. Neither little girl would answer. Cassie always wanted to tell him to give the shot to their mother first. She was the only one who didn’t cry and maybe, just once, he’d get confused and forget about her.  But she never got up the nerve to say anything. Some days she was first, some days Sue or Mom. Billy was always last everyone always got the shot

Finally they were all better. Her father was at work and her mother was brushing Sue’s hair, getting her ready for school. Sue thought she was big because she was going to first grade and Cassie was still too little for Kindergarten.  Every now and then, as her mother talked and brushed her hair, Sue would turn to Cassie and give her a look that seemed to be a mix of superiority and embarrassed pity.

“You have the most beautiful hair,” Mom said. She brushed the long, naturally curly, locks at least five-hundred strokes every morning.  “Strawberry blonde is such an unusual color. When you grow up you will be beautiful and have lots of boyfriends. You will go on lots of dates and break a lot of hearts.”

“What about me? What color is mine?”  Cassie asked. She had hair too, but Mom rarely brushed it. After all, she wasn’t going anywhere but outside to play and she always came in a mess so why bother.

“You? Your hair is dirty blonde. Some people call it dishwater blonde because it reminds of them of the dingy water they pour down the sink after doing the supper dishes. It’s not unusual at all. And your hair is super fine. It won’t hold a curl like Sue’s. You’ll have to spend hours curling it or get a permanent. You won’t be pretty like Sue but, if you spend a lot of time doing your hair and putting on the right makeup, you could turn out to be cute. ”

“Will I have lots of dates?” Cassie asked.

“Not a lot,” her mother answered, turning to scan her younger daughter from head to foot. “Some of the boys that Sue isn’t interested in or has dated for a while and then jilted will probably ask you out. Maybe one of them will really like you.”

“I hope not”, Cassie said. “I don’t want to go on dates anyway!”

But she did. Not then of course, but someday she would want someone to think she was pretty and take her for a ride in his car. Somebody who wouldn’t care about the color of her hair. She secretly wondered if boys cared as much about hair as her mother seemed to. The ones she knew certainly didn’t do anything with theirs.

“Oh look, the sun is coming out,” Cassie’s mother said. She stopped primping Sue’s hair and crossed the kitchen to open the curtains over the sink.  All morning it had been raining hard with occasional crashes of thunder and bursts of lightning.  “It reminds me of the day Sue was born.”

“Tell us,” Sue said.

“April is a wonderful month to have a baby. Everything is so fresh and pretty in the Spring. However, it stormed all day and all night when I went to the hospital to have you. When I was in the delivery room the lights flickered out a few times and I was getting scared. Even the doctor said he hoped you would get here before the electricity failed for good.”

“Did I?” Did I come before the lights went out?”

“Yes, you did,” her mother assured her. “And just as the nurse was bringing you to me, the storm ended and the sun came out, filling the hospital room with light. It turned out to be a perfect Spring day after all. I had never known what it felt like to be so happy.”

“Tell me about when I was born,” Cassie said. “I’ll be you were very happy that day too.”

“No, I wasn’t,” her mother answered abruptly. “You weren’t due for another three weeks and your Dad and I had planned to go out. Aunt Celia was coming to stay the night and watch Sue.  It was the last time your father and I would have a chance to go have dinner in a restaurant and go dancing before you were born. “

“What happened?” Cassie asked. A chill ran up her spine as she waited for the answer. She knew that something had gone wrong and it was her fault.

“What happened is you!” her mother snapped.  Instead of having a night out I was in pain in the hospital. No, I wasn’t happy. I was mad. My last night out was spoiled. ”

“I’m sorry,” Cassie whispered, tears glistening in her big blue eyes.

If her mother heard, she didn’t respond. She simply finished brushing Sue’s hair, helped her put on her prettiest dress, and with Cassie following a few feet behind, walked her daughter to school.  Later that afternoon, when her mother shooed her out of the house so she could have some peace and quiet, Cassie pushed a rickety ladder up against a tree, climbed up on one of the branches and faced the sting of her mother’s rejection for first time.

Why did feel so much like falling?

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Blogging in 2012

01/04/2012

Last year at this time I was committed to writing a blog a day. As you well know, I started out strong and fizzled out half way through. This year I am going to be much more realistic in my goals. I make no promises for a daily blog. I do hope to post weekly but if writing, teaching, and/or spending quality time with my family interfere, so be it. I will get back to posting as soon as possible.

At best this new plan will result in better blog content and more followers. At worst it will give me a little time to goof off and that’s not bad at all.

So, what can you expect to find here?

1. Installments of a fiction piece titled,  Girl in the Wind.

I’m not sure how long it will be or how it will end. It’s a story that is writing itself as I type it. Reading that last sentence will drive writers who have a clear outline in place before they begin a little crazy. I apologize for that. But, I’ve discovered that when a story starts telling itself it’s best to let it flow. I’m often delighted by how things work out in the process. In this case, I hope you will be too.

I repeat, the story is fiction. However, in places I will draw on my life for inspiration. If I write it well you will be left wondering what is true and what is pure imagination. When asked, I will smile an inscrutable smile and assure you I am innocent of all wrong doing. And please, don’t rely on whether or not I blush when saying so in order  to determine the truth of my assertion. Blushing  happens often to fair-skinned people like me and, at my age, it could be signaling the onset of a hot flash.

2. Guest bloggers. Authors, aspiring authors, bloggers and others with something of interest to writers and readers are invited to contact me about doing a guest blog.  Readers enjoy a change of pace from time to time and so do I.

3. Book reviews.  I will post my review on my blog, Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com. I also write a monthly book review column for About Families Publications with a circulation of 48,000 families. I prefer hard copies of books but I do have a Nook e-reader so I can accept electronic copies.

4. Odd comments and things of interest as they come to my attention.

Installment one of Girl in the Wind will be posted tomorrow with future installments appearing weekly after that. I look forward to your comments.

 

Prepping for NaNoWriMo

09/12/2011

PREPPING FOR NaNoWriMo with SUSAN MEIER: Online Course

INSTRUCTOR: Susan Meier
DATE: October 1 – October 31, 2011

REGISTER: http://tinyurl.com/PennwritersCourse201110
(LIMITED CLASS SIZE. Enroll now.)

COURSE DESCRIPTION:
Everybody believes NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which runs every November at http://www.nanowrimo.org) is a race against the clock, a fight with procrastination and inertia. In some ways it is. But once you’re in the thick of things, you’ll discover NaNo is really all about ideas. Writers don’t stall because they’re lazy. Writers stall because they don’t know what to write next.

The month BEFORE NaNo, get proven tips from Susan Meier—the author of almost 50 books for Harlequin and Silhouette—and let her take you through several different ways to examine the story you want to write, to capture the natural scene possibilities within your idea, to generate new ideas, and to push yourself through the most grueling, but fun, month you will spend this year! Lessons include:

* The List of 20 (How to generate ideas quickly so you have little downtime when your natural ideas run out)
* Turning a “Want” into “Need” (How does knowing why you’re writing this book provide you with both energy to write and ideas for your story?)
* The One-Paragraph Story Summary (Say it succinctly…3 kinds of one-paragraph story summaries: back cover blurb, core story question, and growth paragraph)
* Could, Might, Must and Should List (How to capture ideas that spring up naturally)
* Storyboard Versus Synopsis (Breaking your idea down into manageable bites)
* The Psychology of Pushing through the Hard Times (What to do when you get stuck)
* The Psychology of a Draft (Push, push, push!)
* What Are You Doing in December? (Editing tips)

Discover how to get the most out of NaNo and write a publishable novel. LIMITED CLASS SIZE. Enroll now.

REGISTER: http://tinyurl.com/PennwritersCourse201110

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR:
Susan Meier is the author of over 45 books for Harlequin and Silhouette and one of Guideposts‘ Grace Chapel Inn series books, THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS. Her books have been finalists for Reviewers Choice Awards, National Reader’s Choice Awards and Cataromance.com Reviewer’s Choice Awards and nominated for Romantic Times awards. Her book, HER BABY’S FIRST CHRISTMAS won the traditional category in the 2009 More Than Magic contest. HER PREGNANCY SURPRISE, her first release for the Harlequin Romance line, made both Walden’s Bestseller List for Series Romance and Bookscan. MAID FOR THE MILLIONAIRE, MAID FOR THE SINGLE DAD, and COUNTRY TWIN CHRISTMAS are her 2010 releases. Susan loves to teach as much as she loves to write and is a popular speaker at RWA chapter conferences. Can This Manuscript Be Saved? and Journey Steps, Taking the Train to Somewhere! are her most requested workshops. Her article “How to Write a Category Romance” appeared in 2003 Writer’s Digest Novel and Short Story Markets. Susan also gives online workshops for various groups and her articles regularly appear in RWA chapter newsletters. For more information about Susan Meier, visit http://www.susanmeier.com.

* Subscribe to our announcement list for email on our latest online courses!
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PennwritersOnlineCourses

*****
* For more information on this course, contact Laura M. Campbell, Online Courses Coordinator.
To mail in your registration and payment, send payment at least one week before the course starts using the mail form at this link.

Summer Writing Camp for Kids – Some Results

08/01/2011

Kids pull no punches when asked for commentary and sometimes they volunteer their comments without being asked.

Three weeks ago I taught my first summer writing workshop for kids ages 7-12. It was a weeklong writing camp held at a local community center. For three hours each morning I tried my best to convince 19 kids that being inside with me was more interesting than playing outside with their friends or participating in the Minute-To-Win-It camp across the hall.

Sometime midday on the first day one of the kids asked my why I have a boy’s name. Whoever formatted the sign-in log each child and parent had to sign each morning had listed my name as Ms. Bobbi at the top of the page.

I’ve been asked that question by kids for as long as I can remember, starting with my grade school classmates. I explained as I alway have,  that some names, depending on the spelling, can be used by boys and girls. Bobbi with an “i” is a rare but not unheard of nickname for Barbara, my given name.  And besides, I look like a girl so it’s not a problem.

“Except for that hair,” one observant boy commented to the approval of the rest of the class. Clearly they had been wondering why my hair is so short. I was happy  to tell them about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and how my husband and I participated in a fundraising event to raise money for research into a cure  for cancer in children. In support of the cause we had volunteered to have our heads shaved.

“I was completely bald then,” I said. “What’s up there now is a lot longer than it was a few weeks ago.”

“Cool,” seemed to be the consensus in the room after that.  And they seemed to settle into the rhythm of creative writing a lot easier when I brought in a photo of Bald Bobbi the next day and we talked about the stories we could write based on that picture.  They accepted me, funny name, weird hair, and all. And I accepted their comments no matter what.

When, at the end of camp, the time came to ask them and their parents to fill out a comment sheet, I trusted them to tell it like it is. They did.

You Are the BEST!  – by Enzo

It’s Good. – Rithvik

This was the BEST! She always gives new things to help us write. When I first got there I was a bit confused, but the next day it was great! Maybe I will sign up next year. –  Joe

I now know how to write a book with chapters. I also learned a lot of skills. – Simran

I wish my Grandma had signed me up for something else. – Nicholas  (Oh well, you can’t win them all and I did ask for the truth.)

Next week I meet a new group of kids for fice days of writing camp. I hope they are looking forward to it as much as I am.

It’s Been Longer Than A Week

07/07/2011

My intentions were good. I planned on being very good about dates and deadlines and all those things.  I’m pleased to say that writing got in the way. Not the actual putting words on paper or clicking keys on keyboard kind of writing, but the very productive the voices of my characters are talking to me, sort of writing.

I can see the page where I left off and my fingers are itching to get started again. One would think I would be doing that instead of this but that’s not how it works for me. There’s an intangible sense of knowing that comes over me when the time is right. Once that happens I know the words will flow and the story will take shape. Until then I keep my hand in by submitting short stories written months ago or trying out a new market. I teach writing workshops and do readings, all of which I’ve done since the last time I posted here.

At times like this writing is work. However, when the words and ideas are truly flowing writing is like soaring. I know I have to be aware of my surroundings so I don’t crash but the free flow of ideas is such a delight the experience becomes effortless.

Is it like that for you? Do you soar and come to rest in intervals as I do? If not, what does it feel like when the story begins to unfold?

***

I am pleased to say that the work of writing is showing some results as well.  Two of my short stories are scheduled for publication in the online magazine Eerie Digest www.eeriedigest.com Sweet Revenge will appear in the September issue and The Marriage Contract will appear in the October issue.  I like these quirky pieces. Each shows a darker side to this author first published in anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort and who is now the author of a book for young readers, Storee Wryter Gets a Dog, www.storeewryter.com

Do you have multiple writing personalities as I do or is your writing entirely focused on one genre?  I look forward to reading your answers. Until next time, write away!

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – Workshop Part 1

05/13/2011

Today I’m teaching part one of my two-part course for writers, A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.

Learn how to evoke real emotion in memoir or personal essays. Participants are encouraged to bring an assortment of candid photos taken at significant moments in their life to use as inspiration in this interactive workshop. Part I will be mostly instructional/writing. In Part II (Sun @ 9:15), participants can share what they wrote in Part I and get helpful feedback

Checkout this link to see the other informative workshops available today. http://www.pennwriters.org/prod/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=255

Yesterday …Continued

05/05/2011

I didn’t finish everything on my list for yesterday but I did a lot. Posters were delivered to Borders Express and the manager there is very enthusiastic about the upcoming signing. The books have been ordered and she plans to set up a table for me right at the front of the store. “This place is a real mommy magnet,” she said. I hope so. We’ll both find out on June 11th.

I didn’t get to Dog Day Afternoon. I couldn’t find the place but I remain  undeterred. I’ll be heading out again later and won’t head home until my mission is accomplished. If you don’t hear from me tomorrow send out a search party, please.

I did go to the post office but have to go back again today. Another one of the books listed for sale on Amazon to benefit the Young Voices Foundation (not my book) has sold.

I wrote a piece for a new blog column I’ll be collaborating on with my husband and my neighbors. It will debut soon and I’ll post more about that when the time comes. The good news about that venture is the responsiblity for content is shared and the postings will be monthly not daily. It also entails socializing and not having to cook dinner. I like that and look forward to spending time with friends on a regular basis.

I entered an excerpt from my creative nonfiction book to a contest seeking the next big idea in Christian writing. The winner is to be announced in two weeks. There are moments in the book that might be a bit raw for the market but I believe the overall message fits the criteria. We shall see.

Today I will work on my presentation for Pennwriters Conference some more and after that I’ll start putting together the baskets for the silent auction held there. The theme for the Area 7 basket this year is Encourage a Young Reader  – Inspire a Young Writer.  Children’s books from board books to YA will be included in the basket. I am also donating a basket myself.  The theme for that one is relaxation and will include a sleep mask, bubble bath, scented candles and soothing music.  That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

On that note, I have to get to work. What’s your day going to be like?

What to Write About?

05/04/2011

There are so many things that need my attention today that I am almost paralyzed.  I still have work to do on my upcoming workshop at the Pennwriters Conference next week.  Next week! OMG it’s next week. Yesterday I realized that what has been far on the horizon for so long is now imminent and I’m not quite ready. I’ll get there. I always do but in this moment all I can think is, How on earth can I get it all done?

The Young Voices Awards call for submissions honoring books that Inspire, Mentor, and/or Educate readers of all ages just closed. That means I have to mail the book to the judges for review and scoring. This is another near monumental task that should be done this week. Oh boy.

Today I absolutely must get to the post office to mail the April Book of the Month to the young reader whose name wa selected in the monthly drawing sponsored by the Young Voices Foundation. I’ve already put the information about the May drawing up on the website so that’s one thing I can cross off the to-do list.

I sent my book review column to About Families Publications yesterday afternoon. Not as early as the editor would like it but not late either. About the same time I was hitting the send button on my keyboard two more books for review arrived in the mail. The good news is, I have three weeks before I have to submit another column.

It’s almost eleven o’clock and I’m still in my pajamas and robe. My tea has grown cold and I really need to go to the bathroom. Before I log off to take care of that pressing need and head out to deliver posters announcing my upcoming book signings at Dog Day Afternoon in Leesburg and Borders Express at Dulles Town Center I want to explain why you, my readers, have been subjected to this rant.  It’s because with all of that going on and more I could not think of a single thing to write about this morning. Stop by tomorrow when I hope to have something better to entertain you with.

If You Want to Write

05/03/2011

1. READ  – Novels, Biographies, Books about Sports, signs along the road, read cereal boxes, read plays, read poems. Read  horror and sci fi and romance and mystery. Read blogs and text messages, read on line, use an e-reader or a ratty old book you found under your bed.

2. Learn and use the Rules of Grammar, Punctuation and Form

3. LISTEN- Listen to family stories, listen to music, listen to the news, listen to gossip (don’t repeat it – use it in a story or book or play), listen to little kids and old people. Listen to bird song and crickets. Listen to traffic sounds and hear the life in it. Listen to your dreams and your doubts and make stories out of what you hear.

4. READ – read comic books and graphic novels, read history books and the classics.

5. Write – Write about what you know and what you don’t know. Write about life and death and fish and bubble gum. Write about anything that comes into your head. Some of it will be great – a lot of it will not be great. It doesn’t matter as long as it gets your imagination going. This is how you entice your brain to cut loose with all the imagination stored in there. Let it out and use what you can, store the rest in a file on your computer. You might want it someday.

6. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. They don’t know what you can do. Only you can decide that. As long as you have ideas you can create stories. But you do have to learn the craft as well as the art. SEE RULE 2 AS OFTEN AS NEEDED.

7. READ – read blogs and text messages. Read on line, use a Kindle, fish that ratty old paperback out from under your bed and read it again.

8. Talk to other writers. Join a writers group if there is one near you. If there isn’t start one. 9. Submit  your work to a contest or for publication –FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES – ALL OF THEM.

10. Never give up. There is a place for you in the writing world.

Writing Contest – Win A Copy of Lady Killer by Lisa Scottoline

04/30/2011

Write a mini story (250-300 words) using the following words: cell phone, blog, roast beef sandwich, blow dryer, flat tire, Facebook.

Have fun with it and post your entry as a comment to this blog.  Contest open May 1 – May 21, 2011

Winner announced May 30, 2011

 Win A Copy of Lady Killer by Lisa Scottoline