To write is to write is to write

…is to write is to write is to write

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50 “How To” Writing Posts on Craft

Kathy Waller:

I know I’ve reblogged several posts lately, but I have to add another. Ramona DeFelice Long has an announcement that all writers will want to read. As always, her post is both brief and valuable.

Originally posted on Ramona DeFelice Long:

RamonaGravitarIn May of 2012, I announced a blog project for the coming month: I would post a How To craft post every day for the month, Sundays excepted. My month of blogging resulted in 27 posts about writing log lines, avoiding typo blindness, breaking the that habit, curing overpopulation, introducing characters, writing thematic statements, and so on.

Eventually, I put together all of those posts in a How To collection, which can be found under the FOR WRITERS tab. I continued to write How To posts in a more sporadic fashion, when the need or an idea arose.

Last week, I wrote my 50th How To post for this collection. All are available and tagged in one spot, so help yourself!

Writing a blog post every day was a fun, albeit crazy-making, challenge. I’ve thought about,and talked about, doing it again, but I usually talk myself out of…

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English: Photographic example of a set of hand...

English: Photographic example of a set of hand carved false teeth. Advertisement for False Teeth from the United States Dental Company. Advertisement from the pulp magazine Weird Tales (September 1941, vol. 36, no. 1). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


“Should I have taken the false teeth?” ~ Robertson Davies, The Cunning Man

Canadian writer Robertson Davies, author of Th...

Canadian writer Robertson Davies, author of The Deptford Trilogy.



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Kathy Waller:

Another gem from The Bonny Blog

Originally posted on The Bonny Blog:

doc told me he had a very bad cold
the dog gave it to him
one steamy summer afternoon
when the humidity soared into outer space
everyone dripping with water beads
the size of ripe teenage zits

his office wife
strongly suggested a toddy
already waiting for him
in the crowded lab
next to the fish tank
pillared above 4 corners
of piled of books
on ick

which he drank
most slovenly and in haste
then returned
to his nervous patient
squatting on the floor

he got down on all fours
and joined him
until his vocals got tired
and both fell fast asleep

it was dark
when he woke to thunderous snores
the bulldog
already recovered
from the tooth extraction
performed by elbow
while on the floor
with doc

gone for the night
gave doc no recourse
but to cage himself
lest he perform
another surgery

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Originally posted on Daily Awareness:

We are reputed to be good Christians go to Rome, they are papists. go to Geneva, they are Calvinists. go to the north of Germany, they are Lutherans. come to London, they are none of these[.] orthodoxy is a mode. it is one thing at one time and in one place. it is something else at another time, and in another place, or even in the same place: for in this religious country of ours, without seeking proofs in any other, men have been burned under one reign, for the very same doctrines they were obliged to profess in another. you damn all those who differ from you. – Thomas Jefferson, quoted in Wilson, introduction to Jefferson’s Literary Commonplace Book, 156; Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an by Denise A. Spellberg


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Day 5:
You discover a letter on a path that affects you deeply. Today, write about this encounter. And your twist? Be as succinct as possible.


English: The path across Burstock Down Deeply ...

English: The path across Burstock Down Deeply entrenched, under a canopy of very old trees. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) ["The path across Burstock Down" by Roger Cornfoot is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

This morning I found a letter lying beside the path. It contents affected me deeply.

Forgive me–tears blur my sight and fall onto the paper, causing the ink to run. I can write no more.



More Writing 101 posts:

Thoughts and Happenings

Idle and Bored

Love Always, Sarah


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Day 4: The Serial Killer
“Today, write about a loss. The twist: make this the first post in a three-post series.”


I’ve removed this post from public view for two reasons. First, I don’t like to put my fiction on display while it’s in draft stage, and “Rosemary” was a (very) first draft. When I started writing it, several hours before posting, I didn’t know how the story would turn out. I still don’t. If I were to continue, what’s written here might not even make it into the final version.

Second, most editors won’t accept for publication anything that’s appeared on the Internet. So if I finished the story, there would be no market for it.

A professor told me years ago not to put too much energy into an exercise. Writing 101 is worthwhile, but it is an exercise. So I shall tweak the rules to fit my needs. If “Rosemary” returns, and anyone wants to read, I’ll let you know where to find her.





Jo Stafford Sang at My Wedding

“Today, celebrate three songs that are significant to you. For your twist, write for fifteen minutes without stopping — and build a writing habit.”

Oh, all right, might as well stop complaining about these Do-Not-Edit twists. Nobody’s listening.

Fifteen Minutes:

I can’t think of three songs that are significant to me. I can think of the four that were played/sung at my wedding; they’re significant, I suppose. But I’ve written about them elsewhere. What’s significant is that I chose two and the groom chose two, and our choices differed so widely.

English: Publicity portrait of Jo Stafford fro...

English: Publicity portrait of Jo Stafford from her 1950s CBS television show. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) [Public domain]

My hand stopped. This is hard to do on a computer: it’s too easy to go back and fix things, choose another word. Even when you’re trying not to. Cursive is easier.

Anyway, David supplied recordings of “A-You’re Adorable” and “La Vie en Rose” (Jo Stafford). We opened with the Adorable song, and that set the tone for the entire day. Emily Post ran up the aisle and out the door in disbelief. But the guests visibly relaxed, and that was a good thing. No tension, no worries. Even the bride had a good time. After she saw the caterer’s van parked in front of the fellowship hall.

My songs were “Simple Gifts” and “The Prayer Perfect.” My gift to myself was a trained soprano to sing them.



Emily (Photo credit: sk8geek) [CC SA-BY-2.0]

Saturday morning I’ll spend two hours writing as Natalie Goldberg prescribes. David and I belong to a practice group called 15 Minutes of Fame. We write/read/write/read, etc. We’ve done it for years–I met him in another practice group–and I enjoy it. But we don’t publish our work. Well, we do, if we want, on our blog, but we clean them up a bit first.

And I never write on computer in practice. Cursive is faster. If schools stop teaching cursive, how will students ever be able to scrawl a note? Or write in a margin? Or practice writing their names in different styles? Educators need to think.


Mention of Emily Post, above, brought up this sweet photograph of a cat named Emily perched on a post. The unintended juxtaposition of the two made my day. If I hadn’t shared it, I could never have forgiven myself.

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The House

Only Day 2, and I’m already tempted to drop out of Writing 101.

Yesterday I had all day. I started early, ignored the instructions and wrote what and how I wanted, and took my time doing it. Fine.

Ernest Hemingway's 1923 passport photo

Ernest Hemingway’s 1923 passport photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I had both morning and afternoon meetings, and now I’m as tired as I was when I had an eight-to-five job. In addition, I don’t like the topic. There’s no place I want to beam up to right now except bed.  I’m trying to get my sleep patterns straightened out, and I can’t do that if I stay up writing.

Furthermore–and this the heart of the matter–I don’t like doing descriptive writing. I’m

not good at it. When reading, I often skim or skip. I miss a lot of great prose, I know, but I prefer to get on to what the characters are doing. A professor remarked that Hemingway‘s description of the scenery during a drive through the Pyrenees in The Sun Also Rises was some of the finest writing in the English language. We had just read the novel. I tried to look as if I agreed about the quality of the description I hadn’t noticed.

 Now that I’ve expressed my discontent with the topic, I’ll move on to a place I memorized:

My great-grandmother’s house two blocks from the house where I grew up. After you cross

French Pyrenees

French Pyrenees (Photo credit: p_v a l d i v i e s o)

FM 20, the street angles off toward the left, and the one house and the foliage between hid Grandmama’s house from ours. The houses weren’t far apart, but when you crossed the two-lane road we called “the highway,” and the street made that little jog you felt like you were in a different part of town altogether.

 My great-grandmother died three years before I was born. When I was a child I called it “Aunt Ethel’s house” for the great-aunt who lived there. When my uncle inherited it, it became “Donald’s house.” My father, who, with his four brothers, had lived there as a child, after his mother died called it simply “the house.” “I’m going up to the house,” he would say. No one ever asked him to explain.

 It sat on the corner a block from Main Street, a white frame house with a big front porch. At each end a door led to a bedroom; the door to the living room was in the middle. Queen’s crown growing up the brick supports (pillars and columns sound too grand) and provided shade in summer and sometimes a measure of privacy. Inside there was no privacy at all: there were lots of windows, and most rooms had french doors. That they had sheers was little comfort. When we spent the night there once, my mother commented it was like living in a fish bowl. Surrounded by trees, it was hot in summer. On winter nights, when propane space heaters were turned off, it was absolutely freezing.

English: Publicity photo of Jack Benny.

English: Publicity photo of Jack Benny. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While my father called it “the house,” my mother called it “Grand Central Station.” Two of Grandmama’s sons lived across the street. Their children and grandchildren were in and out all day. Some walked in through the front door, stopped in the kitchen for a glass of water, and walked out the back without saying Hello. (I always said Hello.) When there was a funeral, four generations met there for lunch, sitting in the dining room, spilling out onto the front porch and the back yard. Those who lived there gathered there in the evenings. Mother offended my father early in their marriage by saying she’d rather stay home and listen to Jack Benny on the radio.

 By the time I was out of high school, things had changed. For the first time, I knocked on the door before walking in. The house was no longer a gathering place. Later, it passed out of the family, and none of us went there at all.

 Several years ago, I was invited back. An estate sale had been scheduled, and the auctioneer, knowing that many things there had been in my family for years, allowed me to come in for a pre-sale sale. I bought an old china cheese keeper that my mother had coveted, and some demitasse spoons from what had probably been Grandmama’s first set of flatware, and a place setting of the flatware used daily when I was a child, entirely utilitarian and, in my opinion, about the ugliest pattern imaginable.

It was strange being back after all those years. I remembered huge bedrooms, huge living room and dining room . . . Everything had shrunk. Except the porch. There was still room for several card tables of domino-playing ladies on summer afternoons.

For years, I felt as if that house belonged as much to me as to the great-aunts and the uncle who lived there. When it passed into new hands, I was sad. But it was a house. People had made it special.

The house was sold. My memories were not.


Recently, the house was sold again, this time to a friend. I’m pleased to know it’s in good hands.






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One Pure Thought From My Wild Mind

Never again.

The Lady of Shalott, based on The Lady of Shal...

That’s what I said when I received my M.A. No more school. I’d learned enough. More to the point, I’d stayed up for thirty-six hours at a stretch drafting and typing reams of literary criticism too many times. I’d tired of having to take off the weight (peanut butter) that appeared with each paper. The Idylls of the King alone added five pounds.

Six years later, after receiving library certification, I said the same thing. Enough.

Now here I am in summer school. WordPress’ Writing 101. Post every day in June.

English: Reese's Peanut Butter Bar

English: Reese’s Peanut Butter Bar (Photo credit: Wikipedia) [Public domain]

Several years ago, I tried posting every day for a year from January 1 but fell out around March. It was fun but exhausting–sometimes Emily Dickinson had to step in for a guest post–and I had no energy to write anything else. I don’t write fast. I revise and edit as I go. (Please don’t bother telling me I shouldn’t.) I suffer; how I suffer.

But last night I saw the word challenge, which is the emotional equivalent of chocolate, and my resistance is low, so I cratered and registered. It’s just one month with weekends off, so perhaps I will last it out. The catch is that WP provides a topic and a twist.

Today’s topic, or goal, is to unlock the mind: free write for twenty minutes. Follow Natalie Goldberg and access the pure thoughts and ideas of your wild mind.

Today’s twist is to post the free write. It doesn’t matter, says WP, if what you write is incomplete, or nonsense, or not worthy of the “Publish” button.

Yes, it does.

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2I respect Natalie Goldberg, but I’m not about to put my wild mind out for the public to view. I will display irony and self-deprecating humor, keep my tongue lodged in my cheek, and present myself as flippant, superficial, frivolous, shallow, and self-absorbed.* My thoughts, which are seldom pure and never simple, thank you Oscar Wilde, plumb a depth those who read my blog and listen to me talk cannot imagine. And I don’t share.

That’s one reason I’ve cut down on Facebooking: It’s too easy to record what I think.

This free write has gone on for an hour and will go on until the manager of the book store tells me my car is about to be towed for violating the three-hour limit on parking if I don’t make myself stop.

To introduce today’s prompt, WP quotes Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, on what all writers face:

Khaled Hosseini at the White House in 2007, wi...

Khaled Hosseini at the White House in 2007, with Bush and Laura Bush. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) [Public domain]

You write because you have an idea in your mind that feels so genuine, so important, so true. And yet, by the time this idea passes through the different filters of your mind, and into your hand, and onto the page or computer screen — it becomes distorted, and it’s been diminished. The writing you end up with is an approximation, if you’re lucky, of whatever it was you really wanted to say.

– Author Khaled Hosseini, “How to Write,” the Atlantic

 Irish Murdoch expressed a similar idea in fewer words: Every novel is the wreck of a perfect idea.

What jumps out at me is this: Most of life is a wreck of a perfect idea. And we publish it anyway.

There: I’ve accessed a pure thought and idea of my wild mind.

Well. It’s been drummed into me that an essay must have a conclusion. The previous paragraph, although an abrupt ending, is close enough. I’ll leave this and work for a while on the *I#%+)(^! rough draft of the novel, which is what I’ve been avoiding for the past three-plus hours.

Thanks, WP, for supporting procrastination.


 *I am self-absorbed.

Note: The painting is The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse.

Note: This place isn’t busy and the manager hasn’t said anything, so I assume my car is where I left it.

Note: With all respect to Mr. Hosseini, who writes beautiful books, I had no idea to express when I began writing this. I wrote it because WP told me to.















































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