On a Quasi-Vacation Thru 1st Week of January

Hello!  Checking in to let you know I'm around.  I still have all sorts of ideas floating around in my head for writercizes, but at the end of the day during these busy holidays I just don't have the time or energy to get them out of my brain and into the virtual world of blogging.  Happy to have family visiting through the first week of January, so look for intermittent posts between now and then, and a return to regular posting once the routine gets back to normal!

In the meantime, check out the archives and some wonderful guest posts listed along the right-hand side.

Thanks for your readership and Happy Holidays!


Day After Psychology - Return, Regift, Keep? - writercize #146

December 26 is generally considered the second busiest day of the retail year in the United States, between returns, purchases using gift card money and seeking deep post-Christmas discounts on holiday items and overstock.

It's also an interesting time to watch the shoppers.  There are the scrimpers out to save and the excited kids ready to spend holiday money on the gift of their choice, but there are also droves of people who hid disappointment over a gift with a wide smile and a polite thank you now ready to trade their unwanted wares in for something more their style.  I heard one woman state her first and last name on national radio and expose the gift she was rushing to the store to return.  Ballsy!

What do you do if you receive a gift you don't especially care for? Do you keep it, and stare at it in guilt for not using it? Do you keep it and use it, even though you don't like it? Do you regift or donate to charity? Or do you head straight back to the store for a return or exchange? If you are the gifter, would any of the above options offend you? What does the behavior say about the receiver, and what does the preference say about the giver? What would happen during the awkward moment when the person returning a gift runs into the gift-giver in line at the store?

writercize: Create a short character sketch of a person based on his/her solution to an unwanted gift.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response about a woman who keeps ugly sweaters.


Merry Christmas!

I would like to share the exterior and partial wording of my family's holiday card this year with my blogosphere friends: 

We wish you Happy Holidays!
"Snowflake" S---- and "Ornamental" O----

The scene is set.
Tree dripping with ornaments - 
glass, porcelain and handmade
Merry carols on the iPod
Fire crackling on the TV
With twinkling lights
and expectant eyes
Two little girls, full of wonder
wait for Christmas miracles

Yes, it's a wonderful life!

With peace and love from our home to yours.

(words (c) Alana Garrigues, card personally designed by Garrigues Graphics - a freelance graphic design service run by my sister, Keela)

I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season, 
whatever winter holiday it may be that you celebrate in your home!  

Thank you for your readership and support. 


Think Outside the Tale - writercize #145

The days until Christmas are turning into hours, and I'm a busy, busy bee with little brain to write, so I wanted to bring you a little opportunity to think outside the box quickly and painlessly.  

I will introduce a few problems Santa Claus runs across, and you twist your mind a *little* to find an alternative. Goofy fun.

Here we go.

writercize: Think outside the box to answer the following Santa-related conundrums.
  • Santa can't find his red suit this year. What will he be wearing Christmas Eve for his flight?
  • The reindeer are on strike. Who will pull Santa's sleigh?
  • Santa's on a diet. What should kids put out instead of cookies?
  • Oh dear, global warming melted Santa's glacial palace at the North Pole. Where will he relocate the factory?
  • No more coal for the bad kids - what could be worse in the bottom of their stockings?
Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.


Santa: Around the World in 26 Hours? - writercize #144

Ever wonder how Santa could deliver gifts to all the children who celebrate Christmas around the world in one night? 

Thanks to the earth's rotation and long nights in some areas, The Dinner Party hosts told Madeline Brand of NPR last Friday that Santa has about 26 hours to deliver the gifts. That still breaks down to a LOT of gift giving, chimney sliding, sled flying and cookie eating per second. 365,000 to be exact. And they only included Christian children in the world, who are clearly not the only ones who celebrate the holiday. I know plenty of agnostics and atheists who hang stockings for the kids!

So, how does Santa do it? Magic? Science? And how does he get in the houses without chimneys? Does he still wear the toasty red suit while delivering in the southern hemisphere?

Let your imagination run wild, and tell us how it's done!

writercize: Create an argument for how Santa Claus manages to deliver gifts to 365,000 children per second.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response using the space-time continuum.

This post partially inspired by the prompt "wonder" through the Group Blogging Experience hosted by the "wonder"ful Beth Grace. There's always room for more group bloggers - check it out!


Guest Writercize - Mike Miller - Let the words simmer

I am very excited to introduce you all to Mike Miller, a fellow Group Blogging Experience (#GBE2) participant and a person whose words never fail to make me laugh.  Almost always out loud.  Read this writercize, try it out, enjoy, and visit Mike's blog.  You'll be glad you did.

Now, passing the virtual mic right on over to ... Mike!

Hi Folks,

What say we skip all the writer cizer jazz and just do some good old calisthenics?  No?  Good idea!  Let's sit here and use the old noodle to try and come up with some good literary pasta.  Well I do have something of an idea for this exercise, so here goes:

I'm thinking of a word prompt kind of challenge.  

writercize:  Please pick up the nearest book and turn to page four.  Pick out the noun closest to the upper left corner and use that for the subject of an up and coming sentence.  Page two has the verb, the one you find closest to the upper right corner, and the object is on page three near the lower right corner of the page.  You may be wondering how I know that, but just trust me, I do.

Oh boy.  NOW I look around and find that the closest book to me is the 1996 Physician's Desk Reference!  Here is my sentence, gleaned, as it were, from the corners of the three pages:  Acetaminophen contains doses.  

I am willing to bet that your base sentence will be a lot easier than mine, to turn into a short story.   That's right.  The challenge here is to take your obscure sentence and expand it three times; first from your randomly formed sentence into three coherent full blown sentences based on the idea of the original, and then into a decent tease of a story of one or two paragraphs.  That's only expanded two times?  Right again.  The third time I want you to turn your few paragraphs into a full fledged best selling novel or, as in my case, a medical school textbook.    In each step, it is only an idea derived and descended from your first sentence that must survive.

Now for the kicker, just in case you're still standing:  I want you to think about your primordial sentence for at least one hour before committing your three sentence rewrite to paper or screen. And then please let the ruminating juices flow for another hour or more so the next version of your idea has had time to sprout wings or leaves or fur, or something equally useful.

By the way, there is a point to all this.  I have so often observed that my first idea, while practically genius, can ALWAYS be improved upon.  Sometimes even by me!  Seriously, while I may be quick with the quip, or an inane observation, there have been a million times when I realized later that I could have said  “________”!  Or more to the point here; even after steadily laboring over some article or essay for a long time, I have been struck later by the realization that a major element is fatally flawed,  that I should have taken another approach altogether, or that I killed the hero off in the first paragraph.  Let time pass.  Give the mind a rest.  And then see what comes.

(Mike's sample writercize response below:)

Here's my effort.  And yes, I will heed my own prescription and let an hour pass before expanding on my own medicinal therapeutics.

2:44 PM     

Acetaminophen contains doses.

7:33 PM

The stands are full of excited fans this afternoon.
The trucks and jeeps are lined up, each one full of gas and ready to go the distance.
Enough delight will fly from those big tires today to cover each onlooker with inches of                      mud.

12:20 PM (the next day)

Byron stepped hard on the gas but his bald tires were even worse than he knew.  While a dozen other trucks flew ahead and buried his windshield in their wakes, way overburdening his poor wipers, Byron just slowly slid back and forth, even in the thin mud at the starting line.  A glance out the side window showed him that the hundreds of people in the stands were missing the excitement at the first turn; they were all watching his four tires spin up a thin spray of misty mud, and they were laughing.

But one more glance made everything all right.  It had been a long hard year, and Byron had sadly discovered how disasters pile on.  The furnace died last Winter, the basement flooded in the Spring, and the long hot Summer was full of miscellaneous breakdowns and work lay-offs. He couldn't even afford to replace the AC so his wife had been stuck sweltering in the house, until today.  Byron looked across again, astonished at Minnie's great big smile where she sat in her brand new, mud-covered wheel chair. The sight made even his frustration at having to make the 'right' decision melt away.  Minnie never realized that By had traded in the new tires he bought last year, anticipating this very race, to buy her chair.  And as she watched him continue to glide back and forth, now somehow behind the starting line, and then heard him start to laugh out loud, she knew that while pills of pain may come in regular doses, a good man's love covers all like a flood.

Deja Vu Blogfest: Fairy Tale Rewrite Flashback (writercize #9)

Welcome to writercize, and my entry for the Deja Vu Blogfest hosted by bloggers Nicole Ducleroir, DL Hammons, Katie Mills and Lydia Kang! My blog combines fiction, nonfiction and word play exercises, so picking a deja vu entry was an entire challenge in its own. I consider myself first and foremost a nonfiction writer who loves to play with fiction for fun and inspiration.

I wanted to select something from the very first days of my blog, so this entry is from March of this year, the month I launched the site. I chose the fairy tale rewrite because it's whimsical and fun and gives the writer ample opportunity to work with something familiar from a brand new perspective.

Read on!

Witches, goblins, fair maidens, horses, magic spells, evil stepmothers, glorious kings ...

Fairy tales are a lovely way to pass stories and lessons from one generation to the next, bridging age gaps and cultural differences.   Through fairy tales we learn about romance and love, heroism, fear, honesty, danger, the innocence of youth, all within a framework allowing magic and imagination to permeate the story.  One high school English teacher used to call accepting that magic the "willing suspension of disbelief."

Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm Brothers are probably the best known fairy tale authors, but much of what they wrote for children was simply writing down and publishing a version of the stories handed down around a kitchen fire for centuries before.

Most fairy tales focus on one character and build a supporting cast around the lead.  Today's writercize shifts the focus onto one of the supporting characters (i.e. Cinderella's stepmother, one of the Seven Dwarfs, Prince Charming, the Big Bad Wolf from The Three Little Pigs).

writing exercise:  Pick a well-known fairy tale and retell it from the perspective of a supporting character.  You may choose to write in either the first or third person and you have full creative control over how closely you follow the original storyline.

PS - If you're looking for a fun, interactive retelling of classic fairy tales per Grimm, check out Grimms' Fairy Tales on the National Geographic website.  Very fun!

(To see the writercizer sample response about the Queen's perspective from the story of The Princess and The Pea, click "read more.")


The Long Dark Night - writercize #143

I'm really feeling the cold air and the lack of sunlight this time of year, and I am looking forward to getting the winter solstice over and done with. These long hours of dark skies and inability to warm my body are wreaking havoc on my inspiration.

When I was younger, my mom told me that my uncle's favorite day of the year was the winter solstice, because it signified a return to light, while his least favorite day of the year was the summer solstice, because it meant the earth would get darker again. I never understood it as a child; I couldn't figure out why he wasn't just living in the moment, enjoying the summer and hiding from the winter. Now as my mind spends a significant part of the day looking forward in time, I get it.

writercize: Use the depth of dark and promise of light as inspiration for a poem or short story.

If you are reading this post from the Southern hemisphere, I hope you are enjoying the long days of light but think of you with a bit of envy.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response in the form of poetry.


Next Word Five Words Mash-Up - writercize #142

Time for a twist on the next word game. For those of you unfamiliar with next word, it's a fun little word association game where I give you five random words and you write down your instinctual "next word" - the first word that comes to mind.  It's great to see how different minds can come up with vastly different thoughts out of the same word.

example - If I give you the word "grass," you might say green, or fed, or smoke, or picnic, or cow, or hula ... all can be traced back.  You could also think of something more obscure, like "kiss" or "love" if you had your first kiss in a field.  Some explain the connection, and others leave the back story blank.

Next word is a game I like to play every month or so.  As Tara Tyler, one very talented writercizer, once commented, "i love these! you should give us a state of mental health reading from them =)"

For the twist tonight, read on to the writercize below.

writercize: Look at the list of words below and type your instinctual response to each word. Feel free to simply state the next word or evaluate your response.
  • word
  • tape
  • train
  • small
  • pack
Now for the real twist ... if you're up for the challenge ... create a short story or poem using your five new words. You do not need to reference any of the original words, but you should include all five new words.

As always, leave your writercize attempt as a comment, or link to your blog if you post it there. I love to see what you come up with!
Click "read more" to read writercizer sample response about wolves.


Naughty or Nice? - writercize #141

With the holiday season in full swing, I plan to post a few winter holiday-themed writercizes in the days to come. I'll try to mix it up with a little bit of Christmas, a little bit of Chanukah and a little bit of Kwanzaa. Keep the holiday spirit alive! Don't be shocked by some regular old writercizes as well.

This weekend, one of my daughters was looking at her food, then out the window, back and forth, when she looked up at me earnestly and said, "I wonder what it's like to fly. Not in the plane."

"I don't know. Probably pretty cool," I replied.

She thought about it some more and said, with gumption, "I think that is what I really want for Christmas. When I talk to him, I will ask Santa for magical fairy dust so that I can fly like Tinker Bell."

Hmmm.  When I posted her request on Facebook, a friend told me that magical flying fairy dust is on back order.  

I'm not quite sure what will happen when none appears in her stocking, or when she discovers that no amount of sparkling glitter will help her grow wings or float into the sky. She's four, so the reaction could really go anywhere from acceptance to defiance to heartbreak to confusion over a forgotten pipe dream.

Oh, and speaking of Santa - today I was thinking of coal in the bottom of a stocking, and thinking that in this economy, there are probably a lot of chilly families who would actually appreciate a little bit of extra coal this time of the year. Funny how perspective can dictate the true worth of a gift.

writercize:  Write a letter to Santa Claus.  The letter can be from you or from a fictional character.  Let Santa know if you (or the character) have been naughty or nice, and what you'd like for Christmas.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.


Guest Writercize - Nicole, Madlab Post (Movie Review)

Today I welcome Nicole to the writercize guest spot. I met Nicole through the A to Z Challenge this past April, and instantly felt a connection to her through her thoughtful comments and supportive attitude. She runs a blog called The Madlab Post which reviews, evaluates, compares, questions, and more ... anything to do with cinema, from the perspective of an aspiring film maker and writer. Her irreverent style mixed with intelligent commentary is always a pleasure to read, and the questions she poses to her readers are always interesting.

Without further ado, I present to you: Nicole!  (Oh, and PS - you might want to leave a couple of candles and a slice of cake with your comment.  Just saying, today might be a special day for a certain someone.)  

The end of this post does reference sexual content in a movie, so be aware.

Greetings to all Writercize readers on this most glorious day. What makes it so glorious, you ask? Well, because we’re going to have some fun writing movie reviews. Here is a short primer for those of you who are unfamiliar with me and/or my writing: My name is Nicole; I blog about independent films, hot actors, prolific movie directors and Hollywood releases as well as party ideas that help mix cinema into the equation in almost any social gathering, at my blog, The Madlab Post. I am also a filmmaker who has made several short films and plans to bring one of my feature length screenplays to the big (or small) screen.

After reading movie reviews in newspapers, magazines and online, I leave the text feeling like I should have just watched the entire film instead of spending 15-30 minutes reading someone’s critique of the piece. Now, I don’t mind a good review that just happens to be lengthy, but have found many movie reviews to be obnoxiously lengthy for no reason. It usually occurs when the reviewer carefully dissects almost every aspect of a particular film, when some of the readers probably aren’t interested in knowing about all of this information in the first place. This is why I started writing an “In a Nutshell” series on my blog featuring short movie reviews that are often 140 words or less; well, THAT and I wanted to try writing shorter posts more often since mine tend to be on the long-winded side.

Movie reviews are the focus of today’s writercize. It is inspired by my “In a Nutshell” series, which was inspired by the word count limit that Twitter has setup for its users. 

writercize:  In 140 words or less, write a movie review on any one film that you have already seen.

Within the last two weeks or so, I’ve watched several movies including “Shortbus,” “Hostel,” “1408,” “Finding Forrester” and “Funny Games” and since either already used or plan on using most of these films for other online writing duties of mine, here is my review of the movie “Shortbus,” a title that ironically fits in line with the theme of this writercize:

(Nicole's sample writercize response below:)

I thought that this movie was about orgies, shot cinéma vérité style. While watching it, I learned that this was not a movie about orgies. It is a movie about a sexually frustrated “couples counselor” who cannot orgasm, her gay clients who add a third person into their depressing relationship in hopes of fixing problems that they have difficulties addressing, a dominatrix whose job stifles the confidence for pursuing her passions in art photography that she does on the side -- and a singing mistress of ceremonies who spends half of his time “blowing the NYPD” to provide a place for them all to congregate in a brooklyn salon that offers entertainment in a variety of fashions including discussion groups, live art, music, drinks and all of the free heterosexual and LGBT sex that you desire -- with real, full-frontal penetration.

Word count total for my “Shortbus” movie review: 139 words


Now, it’s your turn!


Spin It - writercize #140

A euphemism is a way to spin a negative into a ... slightly less negative.  It doesn't necessarily make it positive, thought it can sound deceitful pleasant, but at the very least it brings a bad thing around to something less harsh.  It paints as rosy a picture as possible.

Euphemisms basically boil down to public relations.  Useful in maneuvering tricky relationships, breaking bad news and winning in politics.  Euphemisms can also be quite useful in parenting.

"to pass away" = to die
"in a happier place" = dead
"to let go" = to fire
"to intervene" = to drop bombs and engage in warfare

writercize: Create your own, never before seen, euphemism for one of the following:
  • death
  • divorce
  • job loss
  • foreclosure
Write it out, then use in a sentence.

Essentially, I challenge you to make what could be a depressing post into something that sounds calm and lovely.  Go on - euphemize away!  (Yes, "euphemize" is a made up word.)

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.


Willing Suspension of Disbelief - writercize #139

"Willing suspension of disbelief" is a phrase stolen directly from a high school English teacher who pulled it out anytime anyone scoffed at a passage in mythology or the bible that screamed outlandish.  Anyone who attended Central Catholic in Portland, Oregon will surely recall the phrase.  Unless I'm the only one who recalls what English teachers said with precision, which is equally possible.

I bring it to mind right now because I think that there is this part in the brain of every writer that believes, against all logic, that anything is possible, including imaginary characters.  

Now, before I go on, if you have little onlookers who believe in everything magical that Christmas has to offer, please do not scroll down while they are in eyesight.  I do not want to be the one to crush the beauty of belief.

I willed myself to believe in Santa until I was 12.  When I was in seventh grade, my science teacher chuckled aloud to the class about how his third grade son still believed in Santa, with a tone of belittlement.  Logically by that point, I knew there was no such thing as Santa, but I wanted so badly to maintain the magic of Christmas morning that I refused until that moment to acknowledge that my stockings were filled by my parents.  For years, I recognized Santa's handwritten replies to my notes as my dad's writing, and I doubted very much that elves built toys with brands that could be found at any local department store, but it was more fun to believe.

If I'm perfectly honest and truthful, I still wake up every Christmas morning looking for proof in the bottom of my stocking that a fast-flying jolly old guy snuck in a little something extra.  

To be even more honest and truthful, I find myself believing more in Santa than any other reason most people celebrate Christmas.  I guess I'd rather willingly suspend my disbelief for literary fairy tales than religious conviction.  That probably sounds odd to a great many people.

That said, the willing suspension of disbelief is part of what makes writing so beautiful.  If I can imagine it in my mind's eye, I can will it to exist.  It is part of what makes daydreaming such an enjoyable pastime!

writercize:  Write a short story or dialogue in which a "normal" person comes face to face with an imaginary character.  

Use any one (or more) of the following: Leprechaun, Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, mermaid.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response about a leprechaun.


Santa Claus, Movies and the Economy - writercize #138

I was playing around with trying to work song or movie titles into a holiday card note last week, but the muses just were not cooperating with me, so I moved onto a holiday card plan B and I'll purge the song or movie title idea with a writercize instead.

This could be a bit of a stretch, but work with me here.  Sometimes journalists play with words in the opening paragraph of a story or in the title.  Arguments over a power plant are a "power struggle."  Eco-friendly development is given the "green" light to construct.  At times the creativity pays off, and other times it's a bust, but ... finding a creative way to spin the news can be good to get the juices flowing. 

For today's writercize, work a well-known song or movie title or two into that offbeat leading paragraph.  You can use a real current event for inspiration, or write the lead with a journalistic style for an imaginary event.

writercize:  Using the title of a holiday movie or song, write a lead paragraph of a news item referencing a current event.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response where the economy and unemployment rates meet Scrooge and Santa Claus.  (Like I said, bear with me! It all makes sense in the end!)


Inspired by a Phone Book - writercize #137

Names keep popping up lately.  

Pregnant friends considering baby names.  Photographs of names inspiring short stories in a book I'm reading, The Doorbells of Florence, by Andrew Losowsky.  Articles about selecting the perfect character name in writing magazines.  Discussions about how one of my daughters will have to correct people how to spell her name her whole life because we used her great grandmother's "i" rather than the more common "y" here.

Yes, my mind is swimming with names.  So, I figured, why not take a real name as inspiration and create a short fictional character study or vignette?  Hopefully you have a real, old fashioned phone book sitting around the house somewhere.  If not, you can apparently use a Name Shake app on your iPhone or you can google "random name" and use any of the name generators that pop up.

writercize:  Grab a phone book (or name generator ... or name shake app).  Close your eyes and open to any random page.  Point to anywhere on the page.  Create a completely fictional character based on that name.  

(I would recommend against disclosing the location of your phone book for this exercise - make up a fake location, or leave it out.  It is legal to create a fictional story about a real name, provided you state it is fiction, but the less you reveal about a person's true identity, the better for everyone.)

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response about a Cecilia Guerra.


Virtual Post-It - writercize #136

My mind is extraordinarily picky. 

It holds on for dear life to the most random, irrelevant facts, yet acts like a sieve when it comes to other things that actually matter in my day-to-day life, like where I should be driving my car at any given moment, or my husband's vacation time, or where I put my keys.

I am terrible about slowing down to live in the moment, as my mind races along to write imaginary texts or plan imaginary events or have imaginary discussions.  Daydreaming really can be detrimental to accomplishing things in the real world. 

So, sometimes I need reminders about what I need to do, like virtual little post-its programmed to pop up in my mind's eye when I start racing too far away from the present moment.  It's like those people who post reminders to themselves on mirrors, like "be strong," "remember to smile," "you are the master of your fate."  You've seen them in movies.

I imagine there is something that you need to remind yourself of regularly too, so here's your chance.  Need to eat better?  Conserve water?  Turn off the lights?  Read more?  Clean?  Take time to breathe?  Look at the glass half full?  Engage in conversation with someone?  Whatever is holding you back, take a minute to reflect on it and barrel through it.

writercize:  Write a sentence, a personal reminder just for you, that would easily fit on a Post-It note.

Click "read more" for writercizer two word sample response.


Caption What? - writercize #135

If a picture is worth one thousand words, can you pare it down the best dozen or so to describe it?  Today, I invite you to give it a try!  

writercize:  Using the photo below as inspiration, compose a caption. 

Need a genre?  Why not pick from one (or more) of the following: science fiction, comedy or mystery?  Or stick with straight journalism.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response about Georg and his unfortunate fate.


Shop Small Saturday - writercize "Review Local" flashback

In honor of Small Business Saturday, I wanted to flashback to one of my first writercizes on the site.  In the post, I touched on some personal reflections on what the economy has done to small, local businesses and then encouraged writers to post a positive local business review on Yelp or a similar site.

Check it out here: Review Local writercize.  For more information about Small Business Saturday, click here:  Shop Local, Shop Small This Saturday.

I'd love to see your reviews.  Leave a link in your comments to share information about your favorite local business.


Festive Thanksgiving Oreo "Turkey" Desserts (recipe bonus post)

This is a quickie recipe I posted on Technorati for a really cute Thanksgiving dessert kids can help with.  I welcome and encourage you to try it next year!  We couldn't find candy corn this year, so ended up using Red Vines cut in eighths and split in half lengthwise as the feathers and Mike and Ike's for the nose, along with some extra frosting as "glue" to hold it all together.  Lots of fun!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast with friends and family.  Thank you sincerely for your readership and comments.

(Article first published as Festive Thanksgiving Oreo "Turkey" Desserts on Technorati.)

Looking for a fun and easy way to keep your children occupied and entertained while helping you prepare Thanksgiving dinner? 

Look no further than these adorable Oreo Turkeys, easy to assemble for kids from ages 3-103 and sure to inspire "oohs" and "aahs" from all your guests.

 Oreo Cookie Turkeys
Ingredients (for 12 turkeys):
  • 24 cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreos work best)
  • 12 Whoppers malted milk balls
  • 1 bag chocolate-covered raisins
  • 1 bag candy corn
  • 1 small tube decorative frosting/icing
1. To make base for your turkey, twist the top off of 12 cookies. Keep the side with the cream filling. You can eat or dispose of the plain side.

2. Prepare the turkey feathers by inserting five or more candy corns in the cream filling of the 12 remaining cookies. The candy corn should make a semi-circle around half of the cookie. Use the skinny part of the candy corn triangle to put in the filling; the yellow and orange parts should show as feathers.

3. Place one turkey feather cookie on top of each base, centered and standing at a 90 degree angle. Push gently into the exposed cream filling of base.

4. Push one Whopper onto each base, centered in front of the feather cookie, for the turkey's head.

5. Push one chocolate covered raisin into each side of the head for the turkey's feet.

6. Break the thick end off of 12 candy corns. Stick point into base in front of whopper for turkey's nose.

7. Use frosting to put two small dots on each whopper, for the turkey's eyes.

8. Plate, serve and eat!

Be creative with your ingredients.  Here are a couple more substitutes and additions you can use:
  • Add small bite-sized Reese's peanut butter cups where the whopper is to add a turkey body.  Connect the Whopper head to the peanut butter cup with a toothpick to give the bird a long neck, and connect the nose with frosting.
  • If you can't find candy corn, feel free to use any long, thin candy in it's place for the nose and feathers.  Some possibilities may include Mike and Ike's, Good and Plenty or cut up licorice sticks.
Young children may like to add some freestyle culinary creations using left-over ingredients. We ended up with all sorts of interesting animals, from turtles to ducks, that were equally cute and tasty!

Photos courtesy of the author, November 2010. Finished product created by two three-year-olds, with a little help from their aunt.


Thanksgiving Thank You (new holiday tradition) - writercize #134

I've rarely met a person who doesn't appreciate being thanked.  Scratch that, I don't think I've ever met a person who doesn't like to be thanked sometime.  Particularly if the thank you is heartfelt, sincere and specific.

This Thanksgiving, as you go around the table and take turns giving thanks for your blessings or join hands in prayer, why not add a new holiday tradition?  In addition to giving thanks for material goods or life events, give thanks to another person seated at the table.

There are several ways you could do this: 
  • If there is an elderly matriarch or patriarch, everyone could thank that one person for something special.  
  • Each person could thank whomever they want when it's their turn to talk.  
  • You could throw each dinner guest's name in a hat and draw names.  
  • Each guest could thank every other guest for one small thing.  
(The method you choose may be directly correlated to how hungry you are!  Just be sure to additionally thank the host and hostess at some point in the day!)

To prepare and get you in the mood, today's writercize focuses on thanking someone.

writercize:  Write a short thank you to put in a card or a speech to let a friend or family member know you appreciate them.  Be specific.  Go beyond "thanks for being you" and "thanks for xyz gift" to tell them about a specific aspect of their character or personality that you love.

Be sure to share your thanks and thoughts as a comment here, and a very Happy Thanksgiving to Americans and all those residing in the USA.  Safe travels if you are heading out of town!

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response to my daughters.


Thankful For Poetry - writercize #133

If you are in the United States, this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving.  It is my personal favorite holiday because I love to eat and I love to spend time with family, and that's what my Thanksgiving is all about!  This year I will not be eating with family as holiday travel didn't appeal to me as it usually does, but I am quite thankful to have a very dear friend from college and his wife living nearby who are wonderful hosts to all of us displaced souls around the holidays.  It should be a great celebration. 

Historically, of course, it is the celebration of a feast between the Natives who knew how to cultivate the land and the Pilgrims who were clueless and had so much to learn, and it was a moment of peace and understanding before the horrible outcome of manifest destiny came to be.  Naturally, knowing what happened after that harvest is heartbreaking, and puts a damper on the historic significance of the holiday, but I do my best to appreciate it for the feast and the family and time to pause and reflect on the things that really matter.

A few weeks ago I did a holiday prompt based on The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown, and if you're looking for another creative way to write about Thanksgiving, check that out after you try this writercize.  Keep an eye open for one more Thanksgiving inspired exercise coming up this week as well!

writercize:  Write a poem, any style, beginning with the words "thankful for."  

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.


Guest Writercize - Clara Bowman-Jahn

Please join me in welcoming Clara Bowman-Jahn to the writercize guest spot!  Clara is a published children's book author and she posts about life, family and writing, from using digital media to support your writing to finding inspiration through writing groups and a schedule.  Today Clara's writercize focuses on your inner writer, and giving yourself the time and space to create.  

I invite you to try out the writercize, comment and visit her blog!

Without further ado, I pass the mic to Clar!!

Hi Readers!  Glad to meet you. My name is Clar, short for Clara, you can read all about it on my about page on my blog. I write about my experiences in marketing and writing picture books. I also write about how I’m constructing my life now that I have this second career of writing. My picture book, “Annie’s Special Day” will be published in early winter 2012 and I write about my experiences in publishing and getting it illustrated. I have really been all over the place in my blog and have had a hard time finding a niche, unless you want to *narrow* life down into a blog.
Thank you, Alana for the honor of being your guest today. As a picture book author and in the spirit of Picture Book Idea Month, the children’s literature equivalent of National Novel Writing Month, I am going to post an exercise on how to get an idea.
There are many venues for ideas in writing. People get creative in all kinds of places and doing all kinds of things from meditating in nature to taking a shower. Bloggers have been known to doodle, put up photo prompts and take walks to get ideas.
writercize: Think about when are you most creative.  How can you adjust your schedule to nurture your creative side? What are you doing when the creative juices hit? What else could you do? Think of something else that makes you creative. Share in the comments.
Clara's sample response:
My favorite time for getting an idea is letting my mind float over the previous day’s activities while slowly waking up from a good night’s sleep. That is when I’m most creative. I have to go to bed early enough so I don’t need an alarm to wake me. An alarm would totally destroy all the creativity.


What's In a Weekday? - writercize #132

What does today mean to you?  How does your baseline mood differ based on the day of the week the calendar falls on?  

As creatures heavily attached to measuring time, I think we subconsciously determine a great deal of our outlook on life each morning depending on which day of the week it is.  We remember what we have accomplished and what we have yet to accomplish within the confines of a week.  On weekdays, we realize how much longer before we make it to the weekend, and on weekends, we think about how many hours we can savor before returning to the workforce, or school, or an empty house, or a full house without another adult on board!

Think about cultural references pertaining to days of the week.

Monday =  I have no idea of the technical term at the moment, but suffice it to say Mondays are not popular days.  Facebook gets swamped with "Monday again?" status updates and the like.

Wednesday = Hump Day (over the hill, half way to the weekend) - random sales note - Wednesdays have been identified as the single most productive day for businesses, and an effective day to make a sale - people have caught up from the weekend and want to wrap things up before the next weekend.  Also a very busy day for meetings.

Friday = TGIF (Thank G(od)(oodness) It's Friday!) - time for the weekend, even from the start of the day.  Just think of how many companies have casual Fridays or coffee and donuts for employees Friday mornings. 

Now, think about all seven days of your week, and assess how each one affects your mood.  Do you think the weekday might affect your character's mood in a novel too?

writercize:  Assign an adjective, mood or nickname to each day of the week.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.  I'd love to see your take on this as well - please leave your response as a comment, or paste a link to your URL if you reference it on your blog!  Feel free to elaborate on why you selected the adjective, mood or nickname that you did.


Fairy Tale Book Blurb - writercize #131

Earlier this month, Brianna Renshaw of Pocketful of Playdough hosted a guest writercize where she presented three different book blurbs and invited writers to create a first sentence for each book.  

Talk about a monumental challenge!  It took me a few days to garner up the courage to try the challenge (kudos to my regular writercizers - attempting a challenge and leaving a comment is hard work!), but I have to say I really enjoyed playing around with it.  

I did look to a few books on my own shelf for the challenge, but couldn't write about a book that I had read since it limited my ability to think outside the box, so I highly recommend using the book blurbs she shared (provided you haven't read them yet!) to try the challenge.  Now that I got the hang of it, it's a writercize I plan to use while browsing through bookstores whenever (make that if ever!) I have some time to kill.

Brianna's writercize got me thinking about book blurbs and how fun and theatrical they really are.  A book blurb is like the musical theater version of a story - it's the dramatic and intriguing and bold twin to the novel or short story's subtler, deeper tale.  It's the one place to go over the top with adjectives and mystery.

Since I want to give you a challenge that everyone can relate to, I want you to start with a familiar story and build the blurb.  

writercize:  Create a book blurb to complement the fairy tale of your choice.  

The blurb should be 3-5 sentences long and summarize the story without giving too much away.  Turn on both the marketing mind and the editor to make it work!

Please leave the result of all your hard writercize work as a comment, or leave a link to your page if you use it on your blog.  I love to see all the different ways people can imagine the same challenge!  (And by hard writercize work, I mean a few minutes to a half an hour.  Don't worry about perfection.  This site is about practicing your writing often, not perfecting it!)

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response about Cinderella.


Vanity Plates - writercize #130

It's Tuesday night, which quite often calls for ... a little fun and easy word play. 

Tonight I'm thinking about vanity plates.  You know: those clever license plates that are much more inventive than the random mix of numbers and letters assigned by your state's Department of Motor Vehicles.  A standard plate may read BZT 792.  A vanity plate could read DR LOVE for a fertility doctor or SCRMOM for a suburban soccer mom.

Growing up in Oregon, very few people liked to draw attention to themselves with vanity plates, so I always chuckled at those cars, finding them frivolous and a bit silly.  Bumper stickers were much more in vogue to make a statement.  In Oregon, the older the car, the more it spoke.  Thirty year old VW bugs were definitely the thing to have, especially if the license plate was at least fifteen years old with no frills.  Yellow background, blue letters and number.

Fast forward a few years past college, I found myself living in Virginia, where it seemed everyone and their dog had a vanity plate.  In fact, per wikipedia, Virgina has the highest concentration of vanity plates at a whopping 16.19%.  That's nearly one in five plates.  Lots of people who want to make a statement.  I still wasn't willing to make the jump into the land of vanity plates, but I can tell you it made waiting at lights much more interesting, imagining the secret lives of all those around me, based on their choice of vanity plate.

Tonight, you will have the chance to create five vanity plates of your very own.  You are limited to a max of 7 characters per plate.

writercize:  Create a vanity plate (max 7 characters, numbers, letters and symbols ok) for each of the following professions:
  • postman
  • teacher
  • wrestler
  • actor
  • construction worker

Leave your result as a comment, or link to your website if you post on your site.  I'd love to see what you come up with!

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.


Guest Writercize - Gene Pool Diva

Today's guest post brought to you by none other than Kelly, the Gene Pool Diva, regular GBE2 participant and recorder of all sorts of funny family conversations.  Her posts are known to inspire true fits of laughing out loud, as you'll soon find out by reading below!  If you want a daily dose of humor and dialogue, I highly recommend that you check her out!

And now, without further ado, Gene Pool Diva.  Take it away Kelly!

After three weeks on the road, I stepped over my threshold and into the escalating odor of fish. I still haven't identified the source. Well, of course Rob's the culprit, but where do I pinpoint the problem? Tiny, suspicious dots form a trail from the kitchen, through the dining room and out to the lanai. Stains bloom on the counter. My sneakers stick to tiled floors. Did he drag the trash can liner from room to room, again? Did … oh crap, Alana's waiting.

I promised Alana a writing exercise. I don't know anything about writing exercises. According to Beamer, my internal dialogue is proof of mental illness. Great, but how do I turn that into an assignment? Dunno. I just know the clock is inching toward noon. Then I stumble on Haiku.

I remember Haiku. Weren't they nature inspired?

Then it occurs to me that Rob and culture are on a collision course.
Rob and nature are on a collision course.
Rob and I are about to collide

writercize:  So, I suggest a round of partner-inspired haiku. Haiku that even hubby, brained by a cast iron skillet, can understand.

Here's my attempt.

Whole house smells of fish
I contemplate Rob's demise
Who will walk the dog

No, don't talk to me
I still remember shark guts
frozen bits of beer

I raise the rafters
Boy escapes to mow the lawn
Sweet dog cuddles close

Alana's eyes roll
Uh oh, wheres the back up plan
Beth, about Friday

Ahem, you're next.
((Side notes:  There are still two guest spots available this year to interested parties.  Scroll along the left hand side of my blog for more information.
For a quick reminder on the rules of haiku, see this post.))


Question of Ownership - writercize #129

ABC's Modern Family, in its infinite genius, tackled the hilarious question of mistaken car ownership a couple of weeks ago on the "Go Bullfrogs" episode.  Mitchell and Cameron are given the wrong car by the valet only to discover the error when rifling through the glovebox and searching for music.  Comedy and misunderstandings ensue.

It's probably not every driver's *worst* nightmare, but I would be lying if I said I'd never worried that the wrong car in the mall parking lot would beep at my remote's signal.  I can't remember how many unique key designs and signals there are, but I do know that it's fewer than the number of cars on the road.  Hey, it could happen!

Questions of ownership are rife with possibility for comedy writing, as well as mystery and horror.  

Just think about the possibilities.  A wronged wife selling her husband's treasured possessions on eBay after discovering he was cheating.  Flowers from an anonymous source delivered to a woman in the wrong office complex.  Squatters in an abandoned building.  A work of art that is discovered to be a fake.  A work of art that is knowingly purchased illegally on the black market.  The wedding dress of the century during the annual Running of the Brides at Filene's Basement.  The crisp hundred dollar bill dropped on the casino floor.  Any unique idea or invention up for patent or copyright.  

Literally endless possibilities.  Today you get to pick one and run with it.

writercize:  Create a dialogue centered around a question of ownership.  Ownership may be real or imagined for the character, and may be based on any object or concept of your choosing.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response about an airplane seat.  Note I am not working on comedy or any specific genre here - it's dialogue practice.  Hopefully it could be interpreted with a small chuckle somewhere along the way.

This writercize created based on the prompt "ownership" over at GBE2, hosted by the blog world's most popular hostess with the mostest, Ms. Elizabeth Grace.  Faithful readers may notice that this week has been overwhelmingly inspired by GBE2 prompts.  Prompts are given weekly on Sunday, and there have been so many great ones lately that I was delayed in writing that I decided to make a week of it.  Hope you enjoyed!


The Inner Battlefield: Nature vs. Nurture - writercize #128

A few years ago, a good friend of mine posted a status update on his Facebook along the lines of: "Why can't we all just get along?"

I chuckled momentarily and headed to the park with my toddlers.  It took all of two seconds at the park to recognize the answer to his question.  

"Because we are programmed not to."

Every essence of our being is made to compete - for space, for attention, for affection, for food, for shelter, for the chance to say to everyone - "you see? I was right!".  

At the park, a swing set is a guaranteed war zone when the number of children exceeds the number of swings.  There is a battle to be first down the slide.  It is absolutely natural for a child to push, stomp, cry, scream or otherwise act in a completely unreasonable manner to get his or her way.  It is innate.  I know I did it.  And I'd bet money you did it too.  

By two, a child may be stubborn and throw a temper tantrum, but they ultimately know that they will eventually have to give in to society's whim and engage in civil interaction.  But between a year and about twenty months, heaven help the unlucky one who gets in the way of a full-on all-natural wild child.

Nothing natural tells us to work together, to cooperate, to accept and acknowledge one another's strengths and weaknesses.  That's all learned.  (And sometimes forgotten.)  Head to a playground at 10 a.m. any weekday morning, and you will see what mothers around the world work to nurture out of our truest nature.

Now, this is not to say that we don't also naturally crave warmth and love and human touch.  We do, but that comes from a rapport based on mutual recognition and trust ... and perhaps a few genes.  

The first six months, I was shocked to observe that my twins did not like each other.  At all.  They wanted my attention, only my attention, twenty-four hours a day, and not divided with one another or any other person in the world.  They wanted my smiles, my coos, my cuddles, my milk.  

When the second came home from the hospital two days later than the first, the first hit, kicked, pushed and even tried to lick her away.  They were two weeks old.  They would cuddle while sleeping and wanted to be close during the night, but in the day a glance at the other would set them off.  

At six months, something magical happened and they realized they did not have a choice in the matter, and started a friendship.  

When the were in that crazy toddler stage, they ganged up to support one another against all the other baby strangers at the park who might actually want a turn walking up the stairs or heading down the slide.  Not the proudest moment for a Mama, but hey, it's natural, and at least they could stand each other by that point, right?

Somewhere deep (or perhaps more shallow) inside of you, there is a natural instinct that wants to scream and shout and let it all out. You may work hard to nurture it away, and you may know that it's best to play and work with others, but a part of who you are is knowing who you are not, and that leads directly to a comparison with others and an enemy.  

It is natural to define ourselves as much by what we are not as by what we are.

That which we are not is at best unknown or confusing, and at worst an enemy.  This is especially true in societies, which are prone to reflect and magnify the weaknesses of our nature despite our attempts to civilize and nurture strength of character on a personal level.

Try to imagine the United States without an "enemy."  To feel as though we are a superpower, we need someone to defeat.  We have a long history of opposing forces, from the way we overpowered the Native Americans to the way we broke away from the British, fought North against South, worked to defeat the Germans, feared the Russians, fought in Vietnam and Korea and now wage war in the Middle East.  

How much better would the world be if instead of countries our enemies were poverty (in our own country and abroad), the oppression of women and trafficking humans and arms?  How much more could we do if we battled those injustices with the strength and force and resolve that we fight wars with nations, using science and education and agriculture and incentives over military power?

There is something in us that fights a constant battle between that nature that we have as members of the animal kingdom, and the nurture that we are raised with to set ourselves apart as human.

A glimpse into that battle within your character, whether it is a children's book, a journalistic expose' or the next great American novel, is fascinating.  It touches all of us on a level that we may not even want to admit to ourselves.

writercize:  Write a brief inner dialogue of a man or woman facing a personal battle of nature vs. nurture.  

This could be any situation you like - the beginning or end of a relationship or career, a pivotal moment in a person's morality building, a fight vs. flight response - your choice.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response about a man and his ex who can't resist ignoring him.

This writercize created based on the prompt "nature vs. nurture" over at GBE2, hosted by the blog world's most popular hostess with the mostest, Ms. Elizabeth Grace.