Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Writing Prompt #2

Stock Illustration - baseball coach. 
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and vector eps 
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Today, we're going to concentrate on characterization. If you write fiction, you're most likely going to center your story on human beings. The reader wants to get to know them as they read. Are they coarse, crude personalities  or suave and sophisticated? Are they physically attractive or repulsive? Do they have a warm and caring heart or are they selfish and cruel? 

A good start is to write a description of a character you'd like to use in a story. Describe the person's physical traits, their emotional make-up, attitudes--whatever makes someone the individual they are. Remember to use sensory details.

The illustration above is of a baseball coach and his player. The coach could be great in his ability to get through to kids or he could be a bully, making their lives miserable. He could smell like Ralph Lauren's Polo cologne or like the garbage dump across the road. He can be fat or thin, bald or wear a pony tail. His pants can be so low they're about to fall off or so high he could rest his chin on his belt buckle. It's up to you to create this coach in a paragraph or two. Then try others in the list. 

Hang on to these character exercises. You may want to use some in a future story. Meanwhile, it's good practice on developing characters. Not everything can be covered, but you can still draw a word picture of each of these people. 

1.   Little League baseball coach

2.    professional baker

3.   beach bum

4.   mother of six

5.   advertising executive

6.   truck driver

7.   college professor

8.   bartender

9.   author

10.  nurse 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Writing Prompt #1

The next few days, I'm going to post some writing prompts. One of the more interesting ones we've done in my critique group is the Picture Prompt. Everyone receives the same photo, then they write a short story or few paragraphs that might be the beginning of a short story--perhaps even a novel.

Twenty people can look at this picture of the rugged coastline in--ooops, maybe I shouldn't tell you where this is.--and there will be twenty different pieces that come from it. Some will be of a light nature while others will write something very dark. They might study the picture and place a tragic happening there or lovers meeting secretly or a weather disaster. It could be a myriad number of events that might happen in this setting. Don't forget to include sensory details. 

You can enlarge the picture by enlarging the font on your screen, but that may not be necessary. I think the picture here gives you a good idea of the setting. 

Here's a second picture to stir your imagination. The one above requires you to add people to the setting, but this one already has a person in it. Study her and write a few paragraphs. If it goes well, keep on going with an entire story. 

Pre-school teachers often use picture prompts to stir imagination in small children. They tell the story they see in the picture and the teacher writes it on a story board. Teachers in the early grades and even beyond sometimes use picture prompts to inspire creativity in students. 

You can find countless pictures online to use for a prompt. As you do more of these picture prompts, you'll be able to let your imagination soar. Who knows? You may find your next publishable story from one of these exercises. Give it try!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Caution--Trouble Ahead

The last couple days, I've been discussing the benefits of belonging to a state, national or international writer's organization. Today, I have a few words of caution. As beneficial as these groups are, a writer can get so caught up in supporting them, being part of the leadership and serving on committees that it can cut into valuable writing time. 

Anything that lessens writing time is something to be wary of. When we're driving and see a caution sign, we slow down and look around before proceeding if it's deemed safe. Gotta do the same thing when joining writer's organizations. If you belong to too many, or if you take on too many jobs in one or more, you will make a serious cut into your writing time. It's what we call one of the traps of writing.

I wrote a full article on the several traps writers fall into. You can  read it here. All the traps in the article are things that writers are urged to do. They're things that can expand your writing world and help you grow as a writer if you proceed with caution.  It all comes down to that old wisdom that too much of a good thing can be detrimental. 

So join a group or two, but don't get caught up so much that you neglect your main goal--writing!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Worker Or A Shirker?

Orange Man Character Mascot Building Inspector clipart

Elderly Man Smoking a Pipe while Reading the Paper in an Easy Chair clipart

Yesterday, I urged writers to join a writers organization of some kind, either state, national or international. Any one, or all three if you are so inclined. But joining is only step one.

I firmly believe that, if you become a member of a club or association, you need to give something of yourself to the group. Sadly, it seems there is little middle ground when it comes to those who are willing to do the work and those who prefer to absorb what is happening from their chair. 

So, what happens? A handful of members do the lion's share of the work. No organization can function without leadership and others willing to serve on committees. Ooooh, I hate that! say those who never volunteer. They usually have a basketful of excuses. Many of the excuses (maybe I should say 'reasons' ) are perfectly valid. And acceptable. But there are also some pretty weak reasons given.

Granted, not everyone is a leader, but almost all of us can serve on a committee or do the legwork. Let me tell you what happens if you agree, no matter how reluctantly, to do a job for your group. Doesn't matter how big or small it is. You'll get to know the people in the group better and you'll raise your interest level. You might even discover that it's fun!

It's not fair to ask a few people to carry the load alone. You don't have to volunteer for every job that comes along, but once in awhile, give it a try. The leaders in a group get burned out if they have to keep leading year after year. When that happens, organizations tend to crumble, bit by bit, until they are no longer in existence. I've seen it happen, and it's not pretty. It's unbelievably sad.

So, I'm suggesting that you become a worker in your group, not a shirker. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Connecting With Other Writers

Yesterday, a facebook friend posted a message to remind members of my state authors organization that it was time to renew membership. I printed out the form and have it on my desk, ready to add my dues check. 

I started thinking about joining writers organizations or groups. Some writers join multiple groups while others shun them all. Are you a joiner or are you happy staying in your own writing world? 

For me, never connecting with other writers would be kind of lonely, but perhaps that's because I am a social being. I thrive on social contact. I enjoy attending conferences where I mingle with other writers. I believe in being a member of at least one writers organization. 

I joined Kansas Authors Club fourteen years ago. They offer me an opportunity to talk to other writers at district meetings and state conventions. Their website provides information that helps me know about writing opportunities in Kansas and what other Kansas writers are publishing. And more! 

Most states have a similar organization with members who are at different stages of their writing life. Beginners can benefit a great deal by joining, and seasoned writers still gain knowledge and a chance to confer with other writers. 

Besides your state organization, there are plenty of national and international writers' clubs or associations. Since the advent of the internet, it's easier than ever to participate, as many have websites which offer much to the writer. 

There are groups that specialize in one form of writing, such as poetry or mystery writers or seience fiction authors. Others are more general. Some require nothing more than paying annual dues, while several ask for writing samples and publication history before accepting a member. There are prestigious groups and some that only a few people have ever heard of. 

If you've never joined an organized group like this, look into it. Google the topic of writers clubs or organizations and you'll find a lengthy list. Pick one and send in your dues. If you feel you've gained little by the end of the year, don't renew your membership. It's as simple as that. 

Like all things, however, the more you put into it personally, the more you will receive. Joining and never attending a meeting or never reading the newsletter makes little sense.

One word of caution--join too many writing organizations and you'll cut into your writing time. Guess my dad was right when he preached moderation in all things.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Heart Or Head? Maybe Both!

What came first the chicken or the egg? Old, old question which came to mind when I read in a reference book for writers that one should 'write with your heart and edit with your head.' Which is more important?

It makes perfect sense that we should use our hearts when we write. If we don't, there is no emotion, no passion. There is little to touch a reader's heart. When we write without heart, we are reporting a series of events. But when it comes from deep within, we bring the reader into the moment and allow them to feel what we felt. We give the reader something to remember.

Write from the heart. It sounds so easy, but it can be difficult if we can't open our hearts enough to write with passion, no matter the subject. To write this way means we must bare our soul. Some writers might want to bare a little but not all. Get a reader partway there and then cut them off, and you won't get accolades. Give them the whole thing, and they'll be yours forever.

Let's assume you have written an emotion-filled personal essay. You let it all out, allowed your deepest feelings to surface in the words you tapped out on your keyboard. This is where the head part enters the picture. After you allow the piece to simmer on its own a few days, you need to go back and do some editing. This time, you need to listen to your head, not your heart. You might have a phrase that is pure poetry but doesn't belong in the essay. It hurts to strike it out, but if your head tells you it doesn't fit with the rest, axe it.

Use your head and look at the essay or story with the eyes of a reader, not a writer. Ask yourself what the reader is going to think. Then revise, cut, add--whatever will make your work better.

Which one is more important? I think they get equal billing. Trust your heart when writing, but use your head when you edit.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rejections Can Be A Good Thing

Look at this poor guy. He appears to have nothing in life going for him. Kind of how we all feel when that dreaded rejection letter or email arrives. Hits the ego, self-confidence and inspiration buttons all in one fell swoop.

I've received two rejections this month after having sent out only two submissions. 0 for 2 is not a very good track record, nor is it an encouraging way to begin a new year in my writing world. But wait! There's some good news involved here, too.

Both editors wrote me lengthy messages explaining the reason they didn't accept the work I'd sent. One was the editor of a haiku journal. I've dabbled in haiku poems ever since being introduced to the form at a writer's conference a couple of years ago. Since one of my goals this year is to step outside my comfort zone and submit to new publications, I selected my five favorite in my haiku file and sent them in. The editor let me know in a very nice way that I needed a better understanding of what haiku is, not just that it is a poem with a 5-7-5 syllable count in three lines. She even gave me a link to some good resources.

The other editor explained the reason they did not accept the story I'd sent, and she gave a suggestion as to how I could revise it so that it might fit their publication better.

Both editors asked me to submit again, which is encouraging, even somewhat inspiring. So, all is not doom and gloom with these two rejections. It's now up to me to act on the advice the editors offered.

Sometimes a rejection can be a good thing. We all want our best work to be offered to the reading public. If it didn't work the first time, revise or rework and try again. Then you might have a different look on your face. Even if it isn't accepted the next time, you know you've given it your all.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Product Details

I used an Amazon gift card to purchase three new books for my writers library;  The books arrived yesterday, and I'm eager to read them. Not sure which one to start on, but I'm going with the one whose title called out to me. Unleash The Writer Within by Cecil Murphy. 

I don't know what Mr. Murphy will have to tell me, but he scored with the title. He got my attention as I browsed through the section on books about writing. Enough to make me click on the title and read the summary and editorial review. 

Recently my critique group had a short discussion on titles. Why can we write a 2000 word personal essay and then be stumped when choosing a title? Why can a novel writer ruin a perfectly good story with a wimpy title? I think too many writers don't consider the importance of a title. 

I wrote an article a few years ago about titles and quotes. It was published at Absolute Write--a newsletter for writers. I'm going to put the section on titles below. They are important, so don't just grab one from the sky and plop it on top of your carefully written story. 

Gourmet Touches-- Titles and Quotes
By Nancy Julien Kopp

If you invite someone to dinner, you're apt to add some special touches to the food and table decor. As a hostess, you try to make a dinner party special for your guests. Stories and articles deserve to be dressed up, too.

Let's take a look at two items that add gourmet touches to a story-- titles and quotes.


The title of a story, article or book draws the reader's attention. It gives the reader a reason to read. Have you ever gone to the fiction section of the library or a bookstore and scanned titles? A few cause you to stop and pull the volume from the shelf. Something in the words on the books' spine called out to you. Ever wonder why?

When you meet someone new, they make an impression of some kind. Sometimes it's positive, and other times not. The title of a book or story also makes a first impression, and it either creates further interest or moves us to pass on by. So, it's important to find a title that is creative or catchy in some respect. That doesn't necessarily mean it should be outlandish. Some writers think an outlandish title will catch an editor's eye, and it may. It might also make the editor pass it by in a hurry.

When Margaret Mitchell finished her epic Civil War novel, she played around with several titles. Among them were Tote the Weary Load,Milestones, and Not in Our Stars. Her final selection, Gone with the Wind, turned out to be perfect. In four little words, Ms. Mitchell let you know that her story dealt with loss and starting over.

The title can be taken from the meaning of the story, a comment made within the text, or a strong image the story projects. A proper name can serve as a title, too. If the book or story is a success, the name will live forever. Don't we all know and love a boy and a book named Huckleberry Finn? The unusual first name piques interest.

A title should intrigue the reader, but it must also use the same tone as the story. After all, the title is an introduction or a preview of what is to come. If you write a story dealing with a tragic accident and death, you wouldn't use a title laced with humor. On the other hand, when you write a humorous story, you want to reflect that as well.

Some writers add the title last, and others begin with a working title. After the story is complete, the writer plays around with titles until the most satisfying one emerges. It's the frosting on the cake, the dressing on the salad. It finishes the story.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Be A Fighter

A Tiger Wearing Boxing Gloves. clipart

When we were children, our parents tried to teach us to settle problems with words. They didn't want to raise a fighter. Oh sure, they did tell us that we had a right to fight if we were defending ourselves, but they sure didn't want us out there fighting with every kid who came along. 

But here you are now--a writer who made the choice to ...give it your all.  In yesterday's post I mentioned a quote I saw and liked which said In life there are 3 choices: give in, give up, or give it your all. I'm hoping most people would choose the last one. In order to do that, you have to be a  fighter. Not literally like kids on a playground.

You can't let a rejection from an editor stop your writing journey. You might feel like giving up, but if you want your story published, you can't do that. It's time to move on  and send your work to another publication. Keep on sending it, keep on revising and editing, but don't give up. Keep fighting!

What about the give in part of that quote? Are you willing to fight with an editor or agent about making changes in your story? Or will you meekly sit back and let them rewrite your story? Granted, there are times that the editor is absolutely correct about needed changes, but put up a fight until they convince you that their way is the better way. 

When I say we should fight, I don't mean that we should rant and rave and become obnoxious. That's the quickest way to lose the battle--and an agent or editor. But you can stand up for what you believe about your story. You don't need boxing gloves when a softer approach can accomplish your needs. It's a two-way street. They talk, you listen. You talk, they listen. And somewhere you need to find a compromise. But that won't happen if you don't give it your all.

Be a fighter in the way you write, too. Don't dash off a piece in a hurry and expect it to fly out the door to be published in a major publication. Give it your all! If you do, I guarantee it is going to be a better piece and have a greater chance of publication. 

It all comes down to attitude. Pick the right choice of the three in the quote and you've also gotten the right attitude. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Choices In Your Writing Life

We have choices to make in our writing life. They they are looming in front of us, all lined up like ducks in a shooting gallery. It's up to us to decide. 

Should we pick one kind of writing and stay with it? Or should we branch out and try various things? If I've written four novels, should I suddenly veer off into the world of non-ficiton? Or should I attempt to write poetry? Or memoir? That's one of the nicest parts of being a writer. We don't have to stay on one path unless we're totally happy with writing in only one area. 

It's a personal thing. No two people are going to look at the choices in the same way. All the things that make you a unique individual come into play here. What's right for Writer A may be a horrendous choice for Writer B. So, don't measure yourself by what other writers have decided to do. Do what's right for you.

You have other choices to make in your writing life. Do you want to be published or write only for yourself and perhaps your family and close friends? Do you want to aim for the small markets or shoot for the big ones? 

Many areas of writing offer us many choices. I ran across a good quote recently which fits quite well in deciding what you want in your writing life. It said Everyone has 3 choices in life: give up, give in, or give it your all. Which one will you choose?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

About Blogging

Blogging hit the internet world with a bang several years ago, and it is still going. Multiple thousands decided it would be great fun to write a blog, and so they did. Then, a large majority quit within weeks or months. 

They whined about not having many readers. They pouted because no one left comments on the brilliant posts they wrote. Or they received less than complimentary comments. It started to feel like a job instead of being fun. They thought they'd make lots of money by allowing ads on their blog. Didn't turn out to be much at all. They ran out of ideas. Myriad reasons for bloggers who quit.

If you want to blog, there are some things to keep in mind. 

1.  you need to find a blog host that you understand and trust
2.  you should select a topic to blog about--writing, painting, house remodeling etc
3.  you need to make a personal commitment and post regularly
4.  frequent posting helps keep readers
5.  infrequent posting loses readers--why should they bother looking for your blog if you only post every couple months?
6.  give careful thought to the title of your blog--once you've got a following, it's hard to change it
7.  take some time and add clip art or photos to your posts to liven it up a bit
8.  stay alert through your day to day life for possible blog posts--finding new topics isn't easy
9.  remind yourself why you are blogging
10. if you decide to quit, do it without regret

One thing I urge others is to do some research about blogging before you begin. Don't jump in blindly or you'll end up more frustrated than pleased. 

Some benefits of blogging:

1.  if you post regularly, it means you are writing regularly
2.  there's satisfaction when a blog post is completed
3.  you know you're reaching others when you receive comments
4.  you can make a little extra money if you agree to ads on your blog (I don't do it)
5.  a blog adds to a writer's platform
6.  it's the perfect place to share your recent publishing successes
7.  it's often pure pleasure

There's more to blogging than most people realize. Try it, and if you don't like it, you can quit. No regrets.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Clean Out, Toss Away, and Organize

Little Girl Helping Around the House by Sweeping clipart

Pick up the January issue of any woman's magazine, and you're almost sure to find an article about cleaning your closets, drawers, or cupboards. Or one to tell you how to 'declutter' your house. January is a good time to do this, because it's the start of a new year, the weather is often more conducive to indoor pastimes, and we have to face it sometime, so why not now? 

We need to tackle our writing life in the same manner. It doesn't HAVE to be done in January, but why not? For the same reasons as above. I was jolted into thinking about it earlier this morning when my husband, who could be known as Saver Sam, popped into the office, holding a large book. "Do you think the music department at K-State would have any use for these music encyclopedias? If not, I'm going to toss them.? 

When I could get my mouth closed again, after my jaw-dropping reaction, I suggested we ask our Czech student who is a music major. She might know of someplace that would have an interest in these old books. And I do mean old--he's had them since he took piano lessons in grade school! Five minutes later, he was back. "What about my old law books? I suppose they're so outdated that they can be thrown away." Speechless, I nodded in agreement and wondered if he was getting ready to sell our house and move into a senior community. What has brought this frenzy of cleaning out to a man who saves bits and pieces of everything imaginable..

It also made me look around my home office at the stacks of folders filled with bits and pieces of my writing world. Then there are the file folders in the desk drawers that have been accumulating stuff for years. And of course, there are my computer files that hold old stories, ones I'm working on now and others that are mere ideas for future stories jotted down and just sitting. 

It's January--time for me to do some cleaning our, tossing away and organizing in my writing world. Starting is the hardest part. I know that I will come across a few surprises in those folders. I might also find some unfinished projects that can be completed in 2012. I'll slso feel pretty darned good once the cleaning process is finished.

While Ken's in the mood to clean out and toss away, I'm going to head to the lower level and see what else he can let go of. There's a box filled with memorabilia from his days as a Boy scout that we've carted from house to house in our 47 years of marriage. Maybe he can part with it now, too. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

My First Book Recommendation for 2012

Product Details

Time for me to tell you about a book I thoroughly enjoyed. Wildflower Hill by Kimberly Freeman hooked me from the first chapter to the last page. It's historical fiction, sweeping through three generations. The two main characters are Beattie Blaxland and her granddaughter, Emma.

Beattie lives in Glasgow in her youth. She falls head over heels in love with a married man, ends up pregnant and runs away with him to Australia in 1929. This choice leads to many other choices along the way. Hers is a story of love, loss, and hardship as she makes her way to become owner of a sheep farm and wool business at Wildflower Hil.

Beattie's granddaughter, Emma, is a ballerina who lives and performs in London. An accident ends her career, and the man she loves leaves her for another woman. Melodrama for sure, but also life. Emma returns home to Australia where she discovers her Grandmother, Beattie, has left her a house in Tasmnia, a far southern area of the country. Emma plans to sell the house but must go there first to sort out the furnishings and arrange for the sale. When she arrives, she discovers boxes and boxes of her grandmother's papers and belongings which she'd left there and some that she'd shipped later from her home in Sydney.

While going through the boxes, Emma learns more about her grandmother than she'd ever known, and she meets people near Wildflower Hill, the home she only wants to get rid of, who affect her in ways she'd never thought possible.

The story jumps back and forth between Beattie's life and Emma's, but it's not a distraction. Ms Freeman manages to use this technique skillfully.

The story is a good look at the 1930's and 40's in Australia, its economic difficulties and culture of those who live there. It's also a portrait of a woman who must make difficult choices and what the consequences are. It's the story of a young woman whose career is taken from her, who is so filled with self-pity that she can barely function. It's the story of learning to find a reason to go on. And it's also about the power of love.

The book is well-written and has received excellent reviews from both editors and readers. If you enjoy historical fiction, put it on yout To Read list.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Your Writing Library

Do you have a writing library? A shelf reserved for books that highlight the craft of writing and the tools needed? Or do you just wing it and ignore the advice of published authors and poets? I wish mine were as full as the one in the picture above.

When I started delving into the writing world, I was such a novice that I knew I could only benefit from reading books about writing. I haunted the library shelves looking for the newest publication dates which I hoped would give the most up-to-date thinking. I purchased books about writing that I happened across in bookstores and, later, that I found on Amazon.com in their Book department.

I found some that I'd recommend to other writers and several that I felt were a waste of my time and money. But what appeals to me may not to you. That's an individual choice. Depends on what you already know and what you're looking for. If you haven't started a writing library, don't wait any longer.
It's not necessary to go our and purchase a dozen books. Add them one at a time. Your one shelf will grow to two or three before you know it. But don't just buy the books because you liked the cover or the author's name. Buy them and read them. And then read them again from time to time. You find things on the second and third read that you never noticed the first time around, or maybe the new things you found are just more pertinent to your writing life at the time. 

Today, I had the pleasure of adding three new books to my personal writing library, thanks to an Amazon gift card I received for Christmas. It was hard to select since there are so many titles to choose from. I read the summary of each title that drew my attention and the personal reader reviews, which narrowed the selection.  I chose one on poetry because I like to write poetry but have never had any formal training. I'm hoping I can get some good tips from the book. Another was to help me write more descriptively, and the third one is about unleashing the writer within. Maybe it's psychiatry for writers! 

Earlier this week, I looked through my writing library, and I weeded out the very old ones and those that I knew I'd never go back and read again. But while doing that, I found a few that I would like to read again. 

Check out your writing library soon, and if your don't  have one, get started now. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Zany English!

A friend sent me the following poem that deals with the pronunciation of many English words which do not follow the rules. In a game, if you don't follow the rules, you can get kicked out. Not so with these words. Try reading it aloud and see how mnay places you get tripped up. A writer friend did say this is the shorter version. If so, I'd hate to see the full poem!

English Pronunciation

If you can pronounce correctly every word in this poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world.  After trying the verses, a Frenchman said he’d prefer six months of hard labour to reading six lines aloud.

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

English Pronunciation by G. Nolst Trenité


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

There's Joy in Writing

A member of my critique group sent a very simple list of her writing goals for this year. She said she was going to concentrate on the joy of writing and not berate herself over not doing enough of it.

It made me stop and think about that positive joyfulness that comes when we're doing something that pleases our mind and  soothes our soul. When I'm inspired and writing a story, I'm happy. Oh sure, I hit the frustration button now and then if it isn't coming out the way I'd hoped or I can't find the right words to say what I mean. But the act of writing makes me happy. 

It doesn't matter if there are dishes on the counter waiting to be put in the dishwasher, or if the dryer is buzzing at me. I don't care if the weather outside is dismal. I'm in my own world when I'm writing, a world that offers me a pleasant retreat from my everyday existence. 

I know that I will have to attend to those chores sooner or later, and I may have to go to the grocery store in a driving rain, but while I'm writing, none of that matters. 

I find joy in putting words together that my be of some beneftit to others. Whether it be as information or entertainment, the sentences, paragraphs and stories I create can be a positive in someone else's life. I've received comments from readers that tell me that is so. That makes me happy, too. 

When you write a particularly eloquent sentence or paragraph, does it give you pleasure? I hope so. We have thousands and thousands of words at our disposal, but it's up to us, as writers, to put them together in the very best way, and when we do an especially good job, it's a joy. 

The next time you are having trouble with a story, poem or article, stop a minute and look at the bigger picture. Remind yourself that there is joy in writing. Sometimes it may slip to the bottom of the pile, but you can reach down and bring it to the top like the cream on milk bottles of old. There is most definitely joy in writing, and like my friend, I plan to remind myself of that fact on a regular basis this year.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

I'm home from my Cotton Bowl adventure, still feeling sad about K-State's loss, but awfully proud of our team for getting there after a super season. But today, it's time to slip back into my writing world. 

I shared with you several days ago that my critique group had suggested setting some goals for this year. I'm still pondering on what I am going to put on my list, but one that is going at the top is Step Out Of My Comfort Zone

There are a fewl publications that have used my stories and essays a number of times. When I have a new story, they often come to mind first when I start the marketing process. My foot is well into the door at these places. They know me. They know my writing.. They know I'm not a problem to work with. Positives for both sides. And it's comfortable.You might also say it's safe as odds are in my favor when I submit to these publications. 

I'm not being fair to myself by sticking to these few publications. Oh sure, I do submit to others and get both acceptances and rejections. It's time to expand my circle and reach higher on the ladder. It's my year to submit to publications that are more competitive. There will most likely be more rejections, but if there are a few acceptances, it will be worthwhile. There may be days I look like the guy at the top of this post, but other days might find me smiling over a success..

It's stressful to step outside our comfort zones. It's also a bit scary, but this year I'm going to give it a try. How about you? Are you satisfied or is it time to take a deep breath and plunge into unknown waters? I hope you'll try ti. The rewards could be magnificent.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Cotton Bowl Game Day

Today is Game Day for the Kansas State University wildcats in Dallas.They are playing in the Cotton Bowl at 7 tonight. Ken and I will be there along with our son and his two daughters. Alexis and Gracen are already avid K-State fans. 

Figures since the oldest one had a K-State purple nursery almost sixteen years ago, thanks to her dad. Deep purple walls with white woodwork, white nursery furniture and a soft gray carpet. It was actually very pretty. I made her a quilt with shades of lavender, purple and white. So this girl was a K-State fan from the day she came home from the hospital. And her little sister fell into the very same pattern. It's nice to have a famiy that enjoys all this football craziness (and basketball) together.

We'll be off to Jerry Jone's place to tailgate as soon as te girls get home from school. The pulled pork is simmering in the crockpot as I write this, and I'll fix some cole slaw and pick up some chips and dips at the grocery store later today since my son and his wife are both at work.Various beverages in a cooler and we'll be ready.

The game is being played at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, not the old Cotton Bowl which has seen better days. I'm looking forward to seeing this fantastic-sounding place. We've heard a lot about it thanks to the many sports writers covering both teams.

The team arrived last Saturday and they've been entertained royally all week, with some practice time tossed in. It's a tremendous experience for these young student-athletes. They'll come home with a sackful of gifts, including a ring, and lots of memories. 

I hope the players are not as nervous about the game as I am. Arkansas is a powerhouse in the SEC conference, but we've got a great season record of 10-2. It should be a good game. I only hope we come away smiling, not shedding a tear or two. Win or lose, at the end of the game, I feel like all those young men on the field are my sons, and I have a mother's reaction first, then a fan reaction. 

Back to my writing world on the blog next Monday after I tell you whether I came home smillng or not.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Making Goals Isn't For Sissiies

While we're traveling to the Bowl game in Texas this week, I still try to keep up with my writer's group. And wouldn't you know this week they are extremely active. Fi, one of the members, has been challenging the rest to make some writing goals for 2012. The one thing she's emphasized is that we should write them, then print and post somewhere that we'll have to see them every day. It's far too easy to forget about our good intentions if we write them and then file away somewhere.

Writing the goals is the easy part. Staring that list in the face every day is going to be the tough task. If one of your goals is to revise and edit a novel you wrote five years ago, and you see it on that list every day, it can do wonders to spur you on. It could also begin to be like a nagging wife. It's going to start making you squirm whenever you look at it. I can see the aggravation building day by day until there are only two solutions.

You can tear the list into pieces and toss it in the wastebasket. Or you can pull out the old manuscript and start working on it a little bit each day. It's a no-brainer as to which is the best solution.

I haven't written my goals for this year yet. I'm working on it mentally. I decided I'd like to take a little time for this. I don't want to dash off a list that isn't going to help me grow as a writer. I want to set goals that I'm capable of achieving but also ones that will take me out of my comfort zone.

How about coming on this journey with me? Make a list of your goals for this year, print it, then put it where you will see it every day. As you achieve one, put a big check mark next to it. Or a smiley face. Seeing progress can be nothing but encouraging. Someone said to reach for the moon, and even if you don't make it, you'll still be among the stars. I saw that somewhere recently but can't give credit to who said it. Whoever it was has the right attitude.

If you don't want to commit to a full year's worth of goals, try doing two months first and see how it goes.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sports Writing This Week

Those who read Writer Granny's World regularly know that I am a huge fan of the Kansas State University Wildcats  That's Willie Wildcat in the picture above ready to roll for another game. We live only five minutes from the stadium and started attending games there in 1975. That's when K-State was one of the worst college football teams in the nation. Coaches rolled in and out of here without even having time to completely unpack. Here, no luck, gone!

But then, Bill Snyder arrived as Head Coach, his first time in that lofty position. He'd been an assistant coach at Iowa and was ready to be the number one guy in our program. He had plenty of time to unpack as he made one of the biggest turnarounds in college football ever seen. He brought our wildcats into the Top Ten teams in the nation and took them to one bowl game after another. 

Several years ago, Coach Snyder had a not so stellar season, and he got the feeling the higher ups at K-State wanted him to retire, so he did exactly that. In came a young, optimistic new coach who had big plans for the wildcats. In his third year, he was fired. Search on for a new coach. 

They didn't need to look very far. Coach Snyder still lived in Manhattan, KS, he still traveled the highway named after him, and he still attended every game in the Bill Snyder Family Stadium, also named for him and the K-State family of fans at his insistence. Enter Bill Snyder as coach once again. 

He's done it again, turned around a flailing program. In his second year back, he took the team to a bowl, not a prestigious one, but a bowl. They played in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York in 2010, arriving in a blizzard. Fans bundled up looking like penguins, but they were there. 

This year, the wildcats were picked to finish 8th in the Big 12. Wrong! They finished as #2 in the conference and are playing in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas Friday night. We finished the season ranked #8 in the BCS poll, and we play Arkansas, who was #6. Coach Snyder has received recognition in many places for his second turn-around of a program needing help. Besides being a good coach, he's a fine man, a class act. He prepares young men for life beyond the football field, and I admire him greatly, as do thousands of others.

The game is at the new Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington, TX, and Ken and I will be there with our son and our two oldest granddaughters. We're heading south today, bags packed with purple K-State gear. I'm nervous as a  cat about the game. Two tough teams, so it should be a good game. 

All this makes me think I'd enjoy sports writing if I could write about the human side of the college sports. The fine points of the game are beyond me, but the people side is my kind of story. Have you ever thought about sports writing? It's a field all its own. 

Stay tuned for more on the Cotton Bowl experience later.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Who Likes Poetry?

Roses are red,
violets are blue.
Sugar is sweet,
and so are you

The poem above (author unknown) is one of the first that grade school kids are exposed to.  It's romantic. It's corny. It's easy to remember.It's easy to change the final lines to suit your own needs. And it's a fun read. Kids like it.

So, why do so many people claim they don't like poetry once they reach adulthood? Is it because those nasty English teachers required so many poems to be memorized? Is it because the poetry the teachers  assigned  was difficult to understand? Were Shakespeare's plays, written in prose poetry, what turned them off at a young age? Could be all of this and more.

I like poetry much better since I can choose to read it. Maybe being forced to read it in school is a factor for those who end up disliking it. Poetry always drew me in, but I confess I had a hard time understanding a great deal of it. There are even many poems I read today that leave me with that "Huh?" comment swirling through my mind. But that's only occasionally. I'd like to think that I've grown in my appreciation for poetry, whether it be rhymed verse, free verse or haiku. 

After I started writing stories, essays and articles, I ventured into writing poetry. Oh, I didn't sit down and write poem after poem, but when something truly moved me, I found poetry a good outlet. I've used it to explore both things that pleased me and those that left me feeling bereft. It's also a fine way to vent your feelings on many things in life. 

Am I a great poet? Far from it. Have I written any poems worth of publication? Yes, I've had a few published, even one first place in a contest. But I've also written some real stinkers. Filled with corn and cliches. Still, there are several I'm proud of. A poetry presentation at a writers conference got me interested in trying my hand at haiku, and I found them to be great fun to write. 

How about you? When you see poetry, do you skip quickly to something else? Or do you take time to read it? I find that reading a poem once and moving on is not the best way to appreciate a poet's words. Read it through more than once. Sometimes, you see more the second, third or fourth time. 

If you still don't know what the poet is talking about, maybe it's not you, the reader. Instead, maybe that poet wrote only for herself about past happenings that no reader could know about. You don't have to like all poems. You don't like all short stories or all movies either. But give poetry a chance. And once you've learned to read it with pleasure, try your hand at writing some yourself. Your first effort might end up like the Roses are red... poem, but keep working at it and you might surprise yourself. 

Google 'learning to appreciate poetry' if you need more detailed help in enjoying poetry.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Brand New Page

We celebrated the New Year yesterday, and today it's time for many to get back to work. Not all, as some have the day off, but there are still plenty of people who are back in the Monday routine. I love the beginning of the year. I feel like 2012 is a blank journal waiting for me to fill it in, day by day.

The quote above led me to think about the way some people agonize over what's gone on in the past. This quote says it all for me. You can't change what happened. Not ever! Oh, how we sometimes wish we might undo something from our past, but there's no reason to keep beating yourself over it. 

The next part of the quote tells us that we should learn a lesson from those things we regret and then move on. That's the important part and one we should all remember.

In your writing life, you probably have many regrets. I certainly do. Maybe you wish you'd given an article one more revision before sending it to an editor who promptly rejected it. You probably think now that you could have submitted more in 2011 than you actually did. Looking back, you think that if you'd put in a little more time each day, you'd have been more productive. It's done! Time to move on.

So here we are today with that blank page before us. January 2, 2012. What are you going to do today to fill that page? It's a brand new page of your life. It's up to you what to do with it. Forget last year, this year has all kinds of possibilities in your writing life. Make it one of your best!