Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Inspiration Prompt #4

July 16, 2018

Neither my computer nor any of my electronic devices are working today. I am writing on a borrowed device, which is always scary. My prompt today is to describe fear. When I was training for my first black belt test, I wrote terror haiku. If poetry doesn’t work for you, use what does (except for scribbling on the wall with permanent marker – that creates a whole other level of anxiety).

Lani Longshore nail file

When I finish chewing my nails, I will need this file.

Inspiration Prompt #3

July 9, 2018

Gizmos are great

I love gizmos like the item pictured above. This one has a compass, magnifying glass, ruler, straight edge, curved edge, and long cord for hanging around your neck or on a pack. What kind of person would need such a multi-tasker? What kind of person would think of cramming so many tools into one small object? When I start building worlds for my science fiction stories, I have to create the tool as well as the society that makes it, and I often start with things available here, but not ones that I normally use. Your prompt is to imagine a tool your character would need, using the item above as a starting point, and build the world of your story around it.

Inspiration Prompt 2

July 2, 2018

Old school dictionary and encyclopedia

My book club discovered Dictionary Stories by Jez Burrows. It is literally that – stories made up entirely from example sentences in dictionaries. Some of the stories are so good I hope Burrows will someday pick up on them and write chapter 2. My prompt today is to take your dictionary off the shelf and find a word, example sentence, or bizarre secondary definition and see where it takes you. Please share your first lines or concepts!

Inspiration Prompt 1

June 25, 2018

We inherited this clock from our daughter. We had been storing it (and some of her other possessions) ln case she decided she wanted it later, but she said she was ready to let it go, so we are using it now. The notion of inheriting things from your children has me wondering if I can write a story about a clock that travels backwards in time. That got me thinking about other visual prompts I could present. After I came up with a second idea, I said, “Self, use these for a blog series.” So, for as long as I can find something in or around the house, that’s what I’ll do. Share your first line if this inspires you!Lani Longshore clock

My Life As A Sawhorse

June 18, 2018

I’ve always said if I ever get around to writing my memoirs the first volume will be called My Life As A Sawhorse, and the second will be Getting Lost With Lani. Rachael Herron spoke at Tri-Valley Writers the other day and gave me the title for a possible third installment in my life story: Packing Up.

Herron said that good memoir doesn’t have to cover one’s entire life. One could relate a series of stories that are thematically linked, or focus on the events of a few years. Getting Lost With Lani is an example of a theme memoir. Sadly, it will be a rather long book.

My Life As A Sawhorse would cover our first years as homeowners. My husband is a talented woodworker, and he decided to make a lot of our furniture. That’s all well and good, except we had moved from a 1-bedroom apartment to a 4-bedroom house, which meant three-quarters of the space was empty. We were also extremely house-poor. We had the money for the supplies for the furniture, but not for workstations or sawhorses. Thus it came to pass that when my husband was cutting large sections, I was on the output side of the saw holding the pieces steady.

The title for a third installment of my life story, Packing Up, comes from one of Herron’s writing exercises. She told us to write down six pivotal moments in our lives, then choose one event and write a couple of sentences about that. I realized the most life-changing moments for me center around the many times I’ve moved. It isn’t just the pulling up stakes that changes a person, it’s the putting those stakes in a box with all the other bits of one’s existence. Packing is an art form as well as a skill. It is fair to say that one of the reasons I am married is because the man who became my husband made an off-hand comment about my packing. He was part of a group of friends helping me get the last load out of one apartment and over to my new one. The last load is always a bit sloppy, and I wasn’t going to let his comment slide. I went on a campaign to make him think better of me. Five months later, he proposed.

So there you have it, notes for a 3-volume story of me which I will write in my copious spare time. What are the titles of your life story?

Gambling With Beauty

June 11, 2018

My husband and I are not gamblers, except with plants. Going to the nursery is our version of hitting the casinos. We never spend more than we can afford to lose, because although we are gambling with beauty it’s still even money whether those plants will live or not.

Most of the time we’re willing to let the plants accept their fate, but this little orange critter was an exception. We both loved the leaves, and the way the orange petals glow. It wasn’t doing well where we first planted it, so my husband dug it up and put it in a pot. It did okay, but wasn’t thriving. My husband moved it next to the front door, gave it a new pot, and hoped for the best. The gamble paid off.

I realized that I can use this example for both my writing and my quilting. Sometimes I write a scene or a character that doesn’t fit the story, just as I sometimes make a block that doesn’t fit with the other units of the quilt. Instead of trying to force the odd one to conform, I’m going to save it. I can cut a scene or even an entire chapter and paste it to a file. I can put the orphan block in a bag or bin. Someday, I’ll find the right place for those bits, and watch them bloom.

In Praise of Talking to Yourself

June 4, 2018

Have I mentioned that talking to yourself is really useful? The other day my husband was trying to remember to plug in his electric car. In the morning, he asked me not to let him forget to do that later in the day. In the afternoon, he told me he had written himself a note about charging the car. With each iteration, I smiled, nodded, and refrained from observing that he was really talking to himself, not to me. Speaking aloud is a fabulous memory aid.

Just pretend you’re talking to the plant

I often talk to myself when I’m trying to remember something. If it happens when I’m home, no problem. I just pretend I’m talking to the plants. Grocery shopping brings out the worst in my memory lapses. I cringe to think of what I must look like wandering down the aisle, squinting at my shopping list, and berating myself for not being more specific in my descriptions (what exactly does “salad stuff” mean today, for example).

I’m starting to think that I should be a little less harsh when I’m trying to remember ideas for my writing. I’m tired of having a great idea that disappears like a leaf in a strong wind when I finally get to a notebook or scrap of paper. From now on, I’m going to jabber loud and proud whenever an idea I want to remember strikes. If anyone gives me a funny look, I’ll smile and say, “Sorry, but I’m writing my novel just now.”

At the Beginning

May 28, 2018

Whether I am writing or quilting, the first hurdle is always the same – the beginning. No matter how wonderful my idea is, until I get the first line of a story or the first fabric in the quilt established I flutter around like the butterflies in my backyard.

Ready for the first line to reveal itself

When the first line flows easily, I can convince myself that the rest of the story will spill out as if by magic. It rarely happens, but the joy of a good beginning can carry me through the hard work of creating a decent middle and respectable conclusion.

Even if the first line comes easily, it might not be what the story requires when I finally reach the end. The hardest thing about rewriting for me is reworking the beginning. I can gleefully slash whole pages in the middle, but cutting my first line is painful. That’s when I pull out the advice Mary Ellen Hopkins gave to quilters: “If your quilt isn’t working, take out the fabric you love the most.” When I find myself protecting that first line as if it were a cherished heirloom, then I know it is probably time to let it go.

Becoming an Author

May 21, 2018

My writing club offers a scholarship at the local community college. The president of the club and I went to the awards ceremony and met this year’s recipient. She is planning a career in teaching, and hopes to encourage her future students to write well. She said she had no plans to be a writer, but she asked about the process. When we described all the ways one could bring one’s work to readers, she changed her mind. Here are some resources for you to become an author.

Smashwords.com

This is for ebooks only, but it is free for authors and offers a boatload of tutorials and help. I convinced my co-author to publish Death By Chenille on Smashwords. We were so energized by having a book on-line that we wrote a second book, then a third, and now we’re working on a fourth.

Small Publishing Houses

Just because you don’t have an agent to shop your manuscript to the big publishing houses doesn’t mean you’re done. A small publishing house might be interested. We published our third book (shameless self-promotion, that book is now available here) through Russian Hill Press.

My books, on my bookshelf – woo hoo!

Createspace/Amazon

Createspace is the go-to place for many independent authors. My uncle, Philip Gordon McGirr, just published a book of short pieces. He is another who never thought about being an author until a friend of his started writing and inspired him.

Booktrack.com

Booktrack lets you score your work. Yup, you can put music, ambient sounds, or special effects sounds together with your written word.

Local anthologies

Not sure your work is ready for a large audience? Check around and see if there are any groups in your area that publish an anthology. Our community college publishes annually, and you don’t have to be a student to submit. Julaina Kleist-Corwin, a local writing teacher, published a book of her students’ work.

All authors struggle to find readers, so don’t be discouraged that your book might sell only enough to buy you a really good lunch. This has been my experience, but I’m okay with that. Becoming an author, even at my level, has been worth it.

Writing Down The Dates

May 14, 2018

I was a history major in college, as were most of my roommates. We threw dinner parties to commemorate important dates. The Chicago Fire, the invasion of Poland, Pearl Harbor Day, Armistice Day – anything that came close enough to a free weekend so we had time to cook.

Dates and food are still important to me. I once made Cheesehenge Fondue for a summer solstice. As a writer, however, I want to do more. My friend and fellow writer Marlene Dotterer published her wonderful alternate history The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking. I started writing a story that is set in World War I. While the 100th anniversary of the end of that war is fast approaching, the end of that story is not.

I decided part of my trouble was pulling myself out of the “what-does-this-date-mean-to-me?” role. Separating my ego from my words is job number one for getting a story written. One of these days, the right story for the right date will reveal itself. Until then, bring on the cookbooks. There’s always another anniversary to celebrate.