Sunday, November 30, 2008

Day 10: Dreams


I have a list of 100 goals that I wrote as a senior in high school. It was an assignment for our psychology class. And while I didn't manage to date 100 boys before I got married (praise be), and I no longer have any desire to sea kayak from Alaska to Mexico (what was I thinking?!) there are many goals that I would still love to accomplish. At last count, I have managed to accomplish 47 of them, including "Drink hot chocolate in the Alps in January." (That being a highlight. Obviously.) For today's writing prompt, I'm supposed to write down 5 dreams and then write about one of them for five minutes.

Five dreams
1. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
2. Run for elected office.
3. Write a book.
4. Learn to do a 360 degree spin on ice skates (and look graceful while doing it).
5. Get my Master's degree.


I could hear the wind whipping around the walls of my lime green tent as I lay there and waited for sleep to find me. The walls felt as thin as paper. I tried not to pay attention, ignoring the fact that every single muscle in my body ached, the blisters on my feet throbbed, and even as exhausted as I felt--sleep felt far off and distant. We had completed day 2 of our five day ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro today. Over a year of planning and training had gone into this hike, for I was determined to summit. I had excitedly talked to clerks, reference librarians, strangers in line at Target about this trip. Anyone who would listen. It was not only a dream coming true, but one of the great challenges that I'd set out to accomplish in my life.

The flight over had been long, but exciting. The drive to the base of the mountain filled me with awe, and I had scrawled notebook pages full of nonsense about the mythical, magical nature of this place and this mountain. Now I just wondered what I'd gotten myself into. Wondered how I could turn back, and save face. Three more days to go. Three more days to Uhuru. The summit. I swear, I could hear the mountain laughing at me. I'm sure it was probably one of our Masai guides; maybe Jonathan, with his effortless stride and wide smile and 100 summits. But it sure sounded like the mountain to me.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Day 9: Bug.

Today's entry might be a little tricky. I would love to write children's books. (Actually, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte offers a Masters in Children's Literature that I've been wishing to try out for several years. Doesn't that sound cool?) So, today, I'm going to write an idea for a children's book. It's hard to explain how I picture it in my head, all illustrated, but I'm going to give it a shot. (Each space indicated "new page".)

Note: Below is the "revised" version. Several of you suggested filling out the end, so I tried to do that a little better. Let me know what you think--do you like this version better, or the old one?


Bug lived in a quiet corner of the world, deep in the shade of some dandelion trees, near the great Gutterspout River that only ran when it rained.

His home was a lovely little hole, dug in the warm ground with a friendly little entrance at the top. Next to his door was a little welcome mat, made of grass, for Bug loved visitors.

His nearest neighbor and dearest friend was Lady Bug, who lived in a vast house in a mushroom. Sometimes she would come calling with a large blueberry muffin crumble in her hands, because she knew that blueberry muffin crumbles, though rare, were Bug's favorite food in the whole world.

One beautiful summer morning, Lady Bug came by and asked Bug if he would like to go crumble hunting with her. "Blueberry muffin crumble hunting?" he asked hopefully. "Maybe," she kindly replied, "but we might find other kinds of crumbles as well." He pulled his grass mat over the entrance of his door, and they set out.

First they happened by his very old neighbor, Sir Centipede. Sir Centipede smiled and waved his many hands. "Good morning!" they called to him.

Further down the lane was the huge Ant family. "Hello! Where are you going?" all the little ants cried as they clamored about. "We are going crumble hunting." said Bug importantly. "Can we come?" they all begged. Oh dear! They would never find enough crumbles to feed this many little ants. But Mama Ant said, "No, children. For we must dig in our house and make more room for more baby ants." With a wave, Bug and Lady Bug went on.

Gathering small crumbles as they went, soon they came to the center of town. Here, there were many large and strange bugs to be seen. Bug could see katydid taxis, beetles cleaning the street, spiders going shopping, and praying mantis policemen. So many bugs, each of them beautiful. Each of them busy!

Soon they walked out of the center of town, and came closer to the most dangerous part of their world. Every bug was afraid to come here, and only the bravest bugs came. This was where the terrible, frightening SHOE MONSTER lived.

With a huge TROMP, TROMP, TROMP the Shoe Monster would come--crushing every bug in it's path! You had to be very careful.

But this was also where the very best crumbles were to be found--especially the rare blueberry muffin crumble, so Lady Bug and Bug bravely went gathering crumbles.

Just then, up ahead, Bug spied the biggest blueberry muffin crumble he had ever seen. He dropped his armful of cheese crumbles and dry cracker crumbles and rushed toward it.

Right as he reached the crumble with delight, he heard it coming. TROMPING, TROMPING, TROMPING. "Bug! The Shoe Monster!" cried Lady Bug. He scooped up the crumble, but it was too heavy--he could not run! The great shadow fell across the ground and darkened the sun. Bug trembled with fear.

But the brave Lady Bug dropped her crumbles, spread her wings, and flew to scoop up her friend Bug. "Hold on tight!" she said, and he did. He held on to that blueberry muffin crumble with all his might, and they flew away--back to the center of town.

"Shwew!" said Bug, laughing. "That was close." "Yes," said Lady Bug, "but that crumble is big enough to last you for days!" Happily, Lady Bug helped Bug to carry the huge blueberry muffin crumble back to his house.

When they got there the crumble was too big to fit in the door! They tried shoving it. They tried jumping on it. No matter what they did, it just wouldn’t fit in the little door.

Bug thought for a minute, and then told his friend, "I know! We must eat some of the crumble, and then it will fit. But you must come and share with me, for you left all of your crumbles behind to save me, and there is far too much here for me to eat on my own." Lady Bug happily agreed, for she liked blueberry muffin crumbles very much herself.

And so, they had a glorious picnic in the shade of the dandelion trees, feasting until they were full on Bug's favorite food in the whole world, with some sweet Rose Petal nectar to drink.

Day 8: A few thoughts on writing...

First off, I just wanted to thank everyone (every single one of you) for your comments and e-mails. They have been like getting A grades on papers (okay, with that one C from my mom... *grin*) and helped me to want to write more. Thanks!!!

When I first started painting several years ago, I was surprised at how I looked at the world differently. I started looking at trees, and rather than seeing green leaves, I saw green with a hint of yellow and silver. I started seeing things the way I would need to see them in order to paint them. After one week of writing, I'm beginning to see the world this way. Little things will trigger a "How would I write about that?" response. I am loving it. I've also (and you may have noticed this) stopped using a prompt every day and just started writing what's in my head. I know I'll probably run out of things and turn back to these books to get me going, but for now, I'm happy to find out what I can do on my own. :)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Day 7: Chiddingly



Happy Thanksgiving! Today, I'm thinking about my ancestors. I am descended, on both my mother and my father's side, from Mayflower pilgrims so it's natural for me, I think, to associate this holiday with my family. And while I do have two very old "American" lines, as I call them--most of my family were more recent immigrants who joined the Mormon church in the mid-1800s. They joined this new religion, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and then walked across the plains. I have often wondered about these people--why did they join? What did their families think? How did they feel as they left their family homes? Many of my ancestors, on my mother's side, come from a small town in England called Chiddingly. It is in East Sussex. They had lived their for generations. I don't imagine many of them had ever gone as far as Somerset, let alone crossed the ocean. Today's writing exercise is for them.

I have heard those bells all my life. They rang the morning I was born. They would be ringing still on the day that I died. But when I heard those bells this morning, my last morning, they seemed to carry with them a deep melancholy. I could hear my mother's own sobbed question in their tones, "Why?" Unlike my father's stony unquestioning silence, it was my own mother's confused, twisted agony that I saw when I closed my eyes. "Why?"

I lay there on the cramped floor, staring at the ceiling, and listened to that question echo and reverberate in my mind. I was surrounded by people at the Six Bells Inn. All of them believers, like me, in our new faith. Sometimes I wondered if that common tie would be enough to replace everything that I was leaving behind. I had been fortunate--my parents had been indulgent. They had not thrown me out of their home or pronounced curses on my head. But this, the leaving, had caused a grief I hadn't thought them possible of. I felt like I'd been to my own funeral. They didn't know why this new religion would take me out of their lives, for the rest of their lives. Couldn't I believe, and stay?

Shifting slightly on my couch, I knew that I couldn't stay. Even though it meant leaving my parents. Leaving the hedgerows and the sloping hills of my home. Leaving the boy with blue-gray eyes. Leaving crystal blue winter mornings and warm breezy summer afternoons by the sea. Yule logs and Guy Fawkes Day and everything that was England. Everything that was home.

Finally shaking off my covers, I quietly stood and walked to the small window and peered out. The spring leaves shimmered in the early morning light. The town was still quiet. Others began to stir. We shook out our clothing. Put our few carried belongings in bundles. Some people knelt to say their morning prayers. I could not think of what to pray for today. I resisted the strong urge to run home. Quickly. One more goodbye. But there wasn't time, and there had been enough tears. I did not feel strong enough.

We pulled on our wraps and our bonnets. Our leaders called us together, and we knelt and prayed. No one said much. Everyone's minds were elsewhere. Stepping out into the High Street, we began to walk. A woman came chasing, crying, sobbing--a young man and his wife stepping aside to embrace her. She could not be comforted. They pulled themselves away and left her standing in the street--shoulders crumpled and head buried in her hands. People stepped out from their homes now, silently watching us pass. Some had looks of hatred, others pity.

I concentrated on each step, my head held high. The bells rang out. I struggled to feel the deep fire of faith that had come to me so often in recent months. I knew it was there. I knew. And so I could not stay.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day 6: Fear Journal

For the writing exercise, I'm supposed to write down 8 fears. Then, I'm supposed to choose the one that stands out to me and write about it for a few minutes, before switching and writing about that same fear from a different point of view.

Note: I just finished the entry below. I didn't complete the exercise. I couldn't seem to do it. Somehow it turned from a "creative writing" entry to a very real journal entry. I'm going to post it anway--as vulnerable as that makes me feel. Maybe I just need to get it out there.

Eight fears...
Takeoff and landing when flying.
black widow spiders
undetected electrical fires
anything happening to any of my children
death of my spouse
bird flu
throwing up
deep water (not deep end of the pool deep. murky lake or ocean deep.)

Wow. Even making that list was hard. It felt raw. It felt difficult to say out loud--to write down for the whole world to see. I was tempted to write down laughable fears. There were some I couldn't even bring myself to write down.

Right now, I'm living with one of those fears every moment of every day. I have a baby on heart and lung monitors. I'm on edge at every second, poised to spring. I can't fall asleep at night unless I lay there and pray myself to sleep. Saying the same prayer, over and over and over. When I close my eyes, I can hear alarms going off. My back and neck muscles are wound up so tightly that they ache. Last night I walked into our room and the red bradycardia (decreased heart rate) light was lit, which meant that the monitor had gone off. And we hadn't noticed. She was fine and had self-corrected, but I felt sick. Suddenly, I knew I wouldn't be able to go to bed or sleep or relax. I put in an old movie and exercised my right to wake up my baby and hold her... hardly paying attention to what was on the screen, but instead feeling the rise and fall of her breathing. That motion--over which I have no control at all--rules my life right now. It is always with me. Always at the back and front of my mind. I wonder how much longer we will do this. I wonder if anyone at all has the answers that will help us. Our appointment with the pediatric neurologist is next week, but I'm bracing myself for more shrugs. More "I don't know"s. I wonder what I will do then. I feel like this fear steers the direction of my days, and I worry that it means I am lacking in faith. I guess I must be. Faith requires me to look this fear in the face in a way that I'm just not ready for. No matter how many times I tell myself that I am not in charge; that this is not my plan--my instincts lash out with how hard we fought to get her here. For how much faith it took. For how much it feels, true or not, that she is mine and mine alone. I worry that those things cry out "teach me a lesson", "humble me"... So I lay there at night. And I pray. Because it's the only thing I can do; pleading for mercy, and for justice. Both. At the same time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day 5: Solutions

Tonight's exercise comes from the book The Playful Way to Serious Writing by Roberta Allen. The instructions say "Below are the solutions to twelve problems. Choose the one with the most or least energy and write the problem after setting your timer for 15 minutes."

Here are the 12 solutions, as listed...
1. Leaving town for good. 7. Looking for a new job.
2. Ending a friendship. 8. Letting go of anger.
3. Telling the truth about his wife. 9. Buying a house.
4. Paying $20,000. 10. Joining the Marines.
5. Tearing up his telephone number. 11. Playing the saxophone.
6.Getting engaged. 12. Borrowing money.

Solution: Leaving town for good.

It had been a dark night. That was all she could remember--the depth of that windless autumn night. She had just finished the dress rehearsal of the little community play she was directing, staying late to see to last minute details. The programs were printed. The costumes hanging backstage. She went through the performance in her head as she drove, her little red car the only thing on the road, as far as she could see.

Then, suddenly--a shadow. That was all. A movement out of the corner of her eye. The next thing she could recall was waking to a stark, white ceiling. A cold winter's day. Stillness. Steel. She would soon discover that it had been nearly two months since that night. She was told she had hit a horse that had gotten out of it's pasture. A beautiful horse, the doctor said with regret. The play she was supposed to direct had gone on without her, as a show should. The cast had sent yellow roses that had wilted, drooped, and been thrown away by the janitorial staff long before she'd woken up.

A halo, with screws drilled into her skull, supported her head, keeping her neck perfectly still. She was lucky to be alive. Lucky not to be paralyzed. Lucky. But when her husband and her children came to see her that day--the day she awoke, she felt nothing. She remembered them, but the memories had no warmth. No color. The children chattered and quarreled. She wished the would go away. When her husband bent down to kiss her cheek, she flinched.

"What is wrong with me?" she wondered. Deep down, she felt--instinctively--that something much worse than her neck had been broken. She tried to tell herself to give it time. Surely, she was just in shock. She'd been in a major accident and suffered a traumatic injury. Things would get better.

But the days passed, and the weeks passed, and nothing was the same. She loved the color red--asking the nurses to tape Georgia O' Keefe and Rothko paintings on her walls. Her husband came to visit that day, and asked why--responding quietly, almost to himself, "But you always loved blue. The palest shades of blue." Her favorite food was caeasar salad. It had been strawberries. Nothing was the same--she was not the same. And the love that she kept hoping would return never did. Her husband knew it. She knew it.

Quietly, on the day she left the rehabilition center, her husband carried her small bag out of the hospital. He placed it in the trunk of her new, black car. He told her that he had set up a small account with a little money for her. That if she ever wanted to return... he left it hanging. He turned and gave her a hug with a single tear on his face. She took the keys, got in the car, and drove away.

Day 4: For Cristina...

My friend, Cristina, lives in Munich, Germany. Before that she lived in Paris. Before that, Chicago. Before that, the Netherlands. Basically, she's lived everywhere. Originally she's from Romania. So, of course, I picture her as being terrific at gymnastics and jumping gracefully into a pit full of bouncy things like Nadia Comaneci, which is what I thought all Romanians were like when I was a little girl. Cristina is a physicist who recently got her PhD and wrote a very long and complicated thesis on the Higgs-Boson theory. (I think. I could be wrong, since all I understood was part of the title.) She has a husband named Michiel and a son named Pieter. Pieter is 3.

I have never met Cristina. I've seen one picture of her, over a year ago. For my creative writing exercise today, I'm going to write an imagined meeting with her. (I hope you get a kick out of this, Cristina...)

The red and yellow commuter train pulls into the Zurich hauptbahnhof with a slow, controlled hiss. The doors swing open, and I pull my well-worn blue suitcase down the train steps and out onto the platform. The sound of Swiss-German babbles around me, rising and falling in it's musical cadences. Taking a minute to get my bearings, I turn and head for the nearest escalator. I had just touched down in Zurich an hour before and caught a train to downtown. The whole time, my heart felt like it was too big for my chest. It has been over six years since I was here last, but everything is as familiar as my hometown. More so, for it has changed far less.

Stepping off the escalator, I see that it is farmer's market day on the north end of the train station. I had forgotten how vast this place is... and how clean. I pass a Kiosk and go to wait beneath the huge clock. My friend Cristina and I agreed that this was the best place to meet, in a place that both of us were familiar with, rather than in Muenchen where she lived. I look around, watching. I expected her to be wearing red and black, her favorite colors, but suddenly realize with a small laugh that this was Europe. Everyone was wearing red and black.

Even I had chosen a black t-shirt, jeans, and leather sandals. Trying to fit in. Trying not to look like a clueless American. I could see some from where I was sitting--college students backpacking around Europe with their hiking boots and their gigantic Northface packs. One is passed out on the floor with his head on a fleece hoodie, while a girl flips through a Europe on a Shoestring Budget guidebook. Even these have some dignity--there is still something to be said for doing the Grand Tour of Europe's youth hostels for a summer in college. No, the ones you dread are the kind that come with their loud voices on their "SEE ALL OF EUROPE IN 12 DAYS" tours. More accurately "TRY ALL OF EUROPE'S BEERS IN 12 DAYS." Two hours in Zurich, two days in Rome, half drunk the whole time, and they go home thinking they've "seen" it.

Checking my watch, I turn and walk a few feet so that I can glance at the Arrivals and Departures board--the little plates going "flip, flip, flip, flip," just like in a movie. Her train had arrived around the same time as mine, so she should be around here somewhere. Turning to walk back to the clock, I see her from behind. I smile--she's wearing black. I have the advantage of seeing her before she's seen me--she has a thin build, even being quite pregnant. Her brown hair is pulled back in a smooth ponytail, She turns her face, searching the crowds, and I see her profile. She has distinctive eyes and high cheekbones.

I stop for just a second and hold my breath. I'm nervous. I wonder, will she like me in person? Will we have as much to talk about as we always have in e-mails? I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and step forward, saying "Cristina?" She turns fully and looks at me, and--in one step--we greet each other like sisters separated by continents and seas. Like hearts come home to stay.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 3: Shopping Cart

Ooooh! I'm excited about tonight's writing exercise. I'm supposed to pretend that I'm a cashier at a grocery store and make lists of shopping cart ingredients--10 carts, for 10 people. Then I'm supposed to write a brief description of each person (example; man, 64, widower) and write what the contents of their cart say about them. I'm supposed to make big assumptions and judge these shoppers by what is in front of me. She says, "As you visualize the items purchased by your customers, think about their lives, the homes they will be returning to with all this stuff, what their families are like, and who they really are." (Goody.)


Woman, 34, no ring on her left hand
Shopping cart: Frito Lay potato chips, Little Debbie snack cakes, Ben n' Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream, 6 pack diet Coke, diet pills, latest issue of "Cosmopolitan" magazine.

Woman, 42, tank top and workout pants, pedometer
Shopping cart: Organic strawberries, Fiji bottled water, camera batteries, sunscreen.

Man, 29, five young children, uses coupons
Shopping cart: fruit snacks, peanut butter, half eaten box of animal crackers, Shout stain remover, bananas, Advil, condoms, generic "Fruit O's" cereal, 4 gallons of milk, 2 dozen eggs, 4 loaves of store-brand wheat bread, economy size Arm and Hammer detergent, 2 pound block of cheddar cheese, Gerber brand baby food, Pedialyte.

Couple, mid-20s, holding hands
Shopping cart: spaghetti sauce, expensive fresh pasta, French bread, grapes, Martinelli's sparkling cider, fresh parmesan cheese--ungrated, long-burning fire log, single red rose.

Woman, 80
Shopping cart: tin foil, Postum, moist cat food, crysanthemums, whole cloves.

Man, 30s
Shopping cart: 1 dozen glazed donuts, 1/2 gallon orange juice, Tums antacid.

Little Boy with his mother, 5, pays in change
Shopping basket: Wrigley's doublemint gum

Woman, 29, spit up on her left shoulder and circles under her eyes
Shopping cart: Similac formula, baby Tylenol, Huggie Jumbo Pack diapers--size 2, bananas, apples on special, strawberry Jello, clearance bin raspberry vinagrette.

two teenage boys, 16-ish
Shopping basket: JOLT soda-pop, black hair dye, toilet paper.

man, late 60s, very friendly and asks about your day
Shopping basket: TV dinner, Luden's cough drops, one orange, one avocado, one pear, one can black olives, light bulbs, birthday card "For My Grandaughter, on her 9th birthday."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 2: Lines

The instructions for the exercise today, again from A Writer's Workbook, is to write down the name of 25 movies. Just--whatever movies come to mind. Then I'm supposed to describe the movie in one sentence. (Can be long, but no "Charles Dickens-type 250-word epics.") The point of the exercise is, apparently, plot--to look at the big picture.

10 minutes, go.

1. French Kiss : A woman follows her ex-fiancee after he breaks up with her to try and find him in Paris to make him come back to her, in the process find and falling in love with a Frenchman.
2. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: Set in frontier Oregon, a man named Adam meets and marries a girl named Millie in the same day, which sets the stage for his 6 younger brothers to want wives of their own, which they decide to do by kidnapping the six girls that they like and keeping them for the winter--all ends happily ever after when they're all in love by spring.
3. IQ: A mechanic falls in the love with Albert Einstein's neice and he enlists her uncle's help in making him look smart so that she'll fall in love with him as well.
4. While You Were Sleeping: A misunderstanding leads to a family believing that the girl who saved their son's life is his fiancee, and while he's in a coma she falls in love with his brother; hilarity ensues when the original man comes out of his coma and proposes, but it all gets straightened out in the end.
5. Mona Lisa Smile: A new teacher comes to a conservative girl's college and is seen as a radical for teaching modern art and modern lifestyle theories; she tries to teach the girls to imagine their lives as other than wives and mothers, but has to realize that she has changed their lives even if they still choose that path.
6. Bambi: A baby deer is born, grows, loses his mother to a hunter, and eventually lives to be the prince of the forest with his father.
7. Karate Kid: After moving to California and becoming the victim of bullies, a young man is mentored by a Japanese maintenance man to learn karate and defeat his enemies in a regional competition.
8. Better Off Dead: A young man is so sad after his girlfriend breaks up with him that he find different ways to kill himself, but can't even be succesful at that; in the process he meets and becomes friends with a French foreign exchange student, and they eventually fall in love.
9. Ghandi: A man sets out to obtain independence for India through non-violent methods.
10. Dead Poet's Society: A teacher at a private school inspires his students through literature, but is considered a threat to the welfare of his students after one of them commits suicide.
11. Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy fall in love after, at first she thinks he is too proud and he he thinks she isn't good enough for him.
12. Bridget Jones' Diary : A girl keeps a diary for one year of her attempts to lose weight, quit smoking, and find a stable boyfriend.
13. My Big Fat Greek Wedding: A Greek-American young woman tries to keep the best of her cultural and family traditions when she decides to marry outside her culture.
14. Sleepless in Seattle: Two people on opposite sides of the country want to believe in the kind of romance that usually exists only in old movies and end up finding their true love.
15. Singin' in the Rain: A silent movie-star and his girlfriend save a talking picture by having the girlfriend do voice-over for the famous, but awful sounding, actress that plays opposite the boyfriend.
16. Brigadoon: A modern day man and his companion stumble into a centuries old Scottish village that only appears one day every 100 years and he falls in love with one of the town's residents and decides to stay.
17. The Italian Job: A bunch of thieves take revenge on a thief that betrayed them.
18. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Indiana Jones and his father try to keep the Holy Grail out of Nazi possession.
19. First Knight: The classic tale of King Arthur, his queen, and Sir Lancelot and how the betrayal of the queen and Lancelot brings the entire kingdom to it's knees.
20. The Queen: The story of Queen Elizabeth II and her family's reaction to the death of Princess Diana in 1997.
21. Charlotte's Web: A pig befriends a spider and she, in turn, saves his life.
22. Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce dedicates his life and time in parliament to eliminating England's involvement in the slave trade.
23. Napoleon Dynamite: An awkward teenager tries to get his friend elected to class president.
24. Narnia: Four children find their way to an enchanted world through an old wardrobe and fight for good against evil, which ends in them becoming prince and princesses in this world.
25. Lord of the Rings : The journey of a small creature called a Hobbit and his companions as they try to destroy an evil ring.

Thoughts on this exercise...

This one wasn't as much fun as yesterdays, but it got easier as I went along. I realized that I could really sum up most plots very quickly if I left the "story" out of it. Most of them seem to be A does B and accomplishes C. Plot is something I worry about with my writing because plot is what makes a story, a story. It has to be cohesive. It has to have a point. I wonder if I have enough imagination and skill to put together a plotline that will draw in and involve. But when I looked at plot in these simple terms, I thought, "Okay. So I need to come up with a basic plot line, and I can add to it from there." For some reason, I'd never thought of trying to do it this way.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 1: Warm Up

Taking my prompt from the book A Writer's Workbook by Caroline Sharp.

She has a list of 30 abstract items and I'm supposed to write a short paragraph on each. Setting my timer for 10 minutes, and we'll see how far I get...

A Circle Smooth and simple, the easiest of forms. A circle is a child's first drawing; the first thing that they identify. "Ball!" says Caleb of his first, misshapen circle scrawled on a piece of orange construction paper. Simple, but endless, too. "Sun!" says Emily as she concentrates her whole being on this page with a yellow crayon in her hand. "Yes, Caleb. Yes, Emily" I say, "Both."

A spiral Staircase Standing at the top of the stairs, the most beautiful man I've ever seen. Standing, not realizing that I'm looking up at him. Holding on to the cool banister in my hand, the feel of smooth, worn wood--just at the first bend--I stopped and turned to look up at him. Five minutes a wife. And I stand on that bend in the staircase and gaze up at the rest of my life.

Classical music So easy to picture the dresses. Crinolines and skirts made of silk. Music of a different time, lit by candles. You can almost hear the rustling in the waltzes. Mozart lifts. Beethoven enchants. But Dvorak... Dvorak makes you weep.

the color red
My mom always stayed up late. A night-owl. Or maybe she just wanted quiet time, with 6 children wanting and asking and needing something. But sometimes, if you got our of bed at just the right time, you could share some of her red pudding. 2 cups cold water, and one packet pudding. Place it on the stove, turn on the heat, stir, and wait. The pudding--thin liquid and pale red. Slowly, you get bubbles of a deeper color. Stirring and swirling the color about, as it turns from a dusty red to a fire engine red to the purest, transparent scarlet. Memories of my mom and me alone--fingers and lips stained crimson.

A summer afternoon, laying quietly on the grass of a small, local cemetery. It is a peaceful place, a quiet place to think. Thunder rumbles and the echoes off the canyon not far away. "I have known some of these people." I think. Thunderclouds grasp and curl around the hills of the mountains. Another rumble. I slowly gather my blanket and book. Get up and start to walk. The clouds begin to stretch out over the valley, and one droplet of rain falls on the back of my hand. Cool. I smell the coming rain--dust and heat on wet roadways. An intoxicating scent. Then--deluge. I stand under the eave of the caretaker's shed. The rain soaks the ground, running in rivulets. It rushes past my feet. The sun breaks through the clouds and reflects off the droplets. Breathtaking. I feel sorry, for a moment, that the people already buried here missed a day like this.

the smell of barbecue
The smell of Sunday afternoons and jealousy.

(hot soup, cold weather, a pillow, a hot cup of hot chocolate, the welcoming bark of a dog,
wood/plastic/velvet/cotton, a bench, television, seedless grapes, being nauseous, spilling a liquid, kissing, a pencil, a tornado, white wine, wet tears on your face, a brick, warm socks,
perfume, fire, the grunt of a pig, rock n' roll music, silk, iron)

Thoughts on this entry...
It took me longer than 10 minutes, even to get to the ones I did, but it was fun! I wondered if I should focus on trying to describe the object, or if I should just allow myself to write whatever associations I had with the word or phrase. In the end, I decided to write my associations since those came easier. I was surprised at how much I had to write about "rain" and could've kept writing. Interesting.