Friday, May 30, 2014

My, Oh Maya

In all my work, I try to say —
'You may be given a load of sour lemons,
why not try to make a dozen lemon meringue pies?'
   Maya Angelou

How I miss her already.

This little blue planet is not the same without her…

It’s a whole lot bluer.

But still, it’s a time to celebrate a life well-lived…

And a woman who did not leave this world with her soul’s music caged inside.

So, I thought I would repost the Angelou inspiration that I wrote for April’s poetry celebration…

Today we’re celebrating Maya Angelou, a writer who had the good sense to be born in National Poetry Month.

When you consider that she achieved international success as a poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, historian, and filmmaker — there’s obviously a whole lot there to celebrate!

So, what exactly was her secret?

Well, Ms. Angelou reported that even though she lived in a fine, large home, she also rented a hotel room in town. She had all of the paintings and decorations removed from the space, so it was a lot like the blank page all writers must confront each day. In fact, the only items she kept in the room were a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a Bible.

Every morning she headed off to her hotel writing room at about 6:00 in the morning. There, she used only ballpoint pens and yellow pads to write for about six or seven hours.

So within those hours, did everything that spilled from the pen of this award-winning honorary doctorate recipient effuse perfection?

Of course not.

As Maya put it:

"What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, 'Okay. Okay. I’ll come.'"

She also said:

“I wrote some of the worst poetry west from the Mississippi River, but I wrote. And I finally sometimes got it right.”

And here’s my favorite:

“Of course, there are those critics — New York critics as a rule — who say, ‘Well, Maya Angelou has a new book out and of course it’s good but then she’s a natural writer.’ Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing… It must look easy, but it takes me forever to get it to look so easy.”

There you have it — Maya Angelou’s recipe for success.

So celebrate her today by whipping up a batch of it for yourself —

Create your own special space, and then…

Just write.

Happy travels, Maya.


PROMPT: If life has handed you lemons, use them to create a fine meringue pie or pound cake. Remember, it’s ALL material. Then try making this your new daily mantra — just write, just write, just write. And before you know it, those words of yours are bound to sing…

just right.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Got Compost?

It’s May 29th!

And you know what that means…

It’s National Learn About Composting Day!

Go ahead, Doubters — look it up.

I’ll wait.


Well, dang it, then — let’s learn about composting!

When gardeners compost, they take a bunch of useless leftovers, throw them into a pile, turn them over and over a bunch of times, and voilĂ !  They create fantabulous fertilizer for rockin’ their leaf-lovin’ world.

You may be wondering exactly what qualifies as a compostable, useless leftover.

Well, wonder no more — I found a website listing 163 things you can compost. The page was cleverly titled “163 Things You Can Compost” and if you’re interested, you can find it here.

As you can imagine, I was incredibly inspired by this list. So much so that I decided to take a few of the items and translate them into writer-speak just for you.

Because here’s a little secret that you ought to know —

Writers out-compost gardeners every single day of the week.

Gardeners (Writers)
Wood ashes (rotten childhood)
Chicken manure (schoolyard bullies)
Bee droppings (the ones who dumped you)
Sunday Comics (the ones you dumped)
Crab shells (lousy bosses)
Moldy cheese (lousy jobs)
Freezer-burned fish (picked last for the softball team…again)
Hoof and horn meal (but first to be seated in the spelling bee)
Dried jellyfish (laid off, downsized, terminated, frustrated)
Dead flies (wardrobe malfunctions)
Dust bunnies (worst haircut ever  she wouldn't even let you pay)

Yes, Writers, you've got this composting competition in the bag.

PROMPT: Take a bunch of useless leftovers, throw them into a pile, turn them over and over a bunch of times in your mind, and voilĂ !  You've got fantabulous fertilizer for rockin’ your keyboard-clackin’ world.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Story Quarry

Let’s say you have a great character —

The story kind, not the moral excellence kind (although I’m sure you’re great in that department as well).

Anyway, we all know that a great character needs a great story.

And if you’re kind of, sort of stuck on the story part, then here’s something to try —

Write down a list of everything your character LOVES.

And I’m not talking about things he or she is namby-pamby about. We need some strong opinions here. That’s precisely why it’s LOVES and not loves.

Next, make a list of everything your character is good at.

What’s his or her skill set?

Finally, add a dash of his or her comfort zone.

Got all that?

Now it’s time to delve into the wicked side of your character (yes, now I’m talking about the moral excellence kind).

Take the opposite of every single item in the above list and…

Gift it, grant it, throw it, toss it, heave it, lob it, sprinkle it, shove it, fling it (you get the idea)…

at your great character.

Then stand back with pen in hand as you watch ‘em squirm, wiggle, flounder, wrangle, battle, struggle, and…


Shazam —

Instant story.

PROMPT: Mwahaha!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I Don’t Know Jack, but Joe’s Another Story

A local radio station recently reported that my little rural county ranks 4th in the nation’s per capita coffee consumption. Apparently we’re just behind Seattle, San Francisco, and some place in Alaska where they probably use only drip…

an IV drip.

Trust me, those Alaskans will stop at nothing to get on the percolated podium.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure that our recent spike in coffee drinking was thanks to yours truly.

Staying up until 1:00 AM in order to make "lifelines" has made Joe my very best friend. When my current project is complete, I may have to write a song about that beautiful bean. Trust me, if you drink a lot of coffee, these things happen.

When J.S. Bach wasn't working on Fugues and Passions, he was suckin’ down the home brew. Next thing you know, he’s expressing his espresso devotion with a Coffee Cantata (seriously — look it up). Composer Verdi was next to chime in. “Coffee is balm to the heart and spirit,” he said (quite musically, I’m sure).

And Verdi could have added “the mind” as well. Java research has found that it can boost mental performance.

And while coffee’s effects on creativity specifically are mixed, the latest studies have found that combining a caffeine buzz with coffee shop background noise is great for the mind’s elbow.

And speaking of noise…

One group of researchers has suggested that drinking over 5 cups of coffee a day can increase your chances of auditory hallucinations…

Hmmm… Those voices you’re hearing may not be those of your book’s characters after all.

Anyway, so far my “ode to Joe” sounds a lot like the Lennon classic, Whatever Gets You Thru the Night.

Because in my book…

Whatever gets you through the day

is okay… okay.

PROMPT: Go ahead and slip yourself “a slug from the wonderful mug” by writing your own Java Jive today. But if you’re not feeling musical, no problem! Ponder your main character’s favorite coffee house order. Or go for a Best Beverage ABC featuring D for Double Shot and T for Tall No Foam No Fat Caramel Machiato.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

Each year this final Monday of May is set aside in memory of those who have lost their lives while serving in the Armed Forces.

And that, my friends, is far more important than anything I have to say here.

So instead of writing today, I’m going to take a little time to reflect. Then I’m going to offer up a whole lot of loving thanks. 

After all, so many have sacrificed so that I can have the freedom to create a life of my own choosing.

And isn't the freedom to create what this blog is really about?

And while I’m at it, here’s something I'd like to create 

I'd like to create a world in which there are no new names added to the Memorial Day roll call.

PROMPT: Who’s with me?