Zoobie Animal - writercize #42 (A to Z 26)

First off, an ode to the letter Z.  Beautiful, zig-zag letter z, how I adore thee ... and all that you mean this month of April.  Satisfaction at completing a challenge and the return to four posts a week, down from six - hooray, hooray, hoorah.  

(To my followers not involved in the A to Z Challenge, thank you for bearing with me on this alphabetical journey with all its little side notes, and to those involved in the A to Z Challenge, thank you so much for finding me through the challenge and signing on to follow this blog.  I hope you continue to log in often as I have many, many more writercizes coming up!)

Now that that's done, let's make a zoobie.  Think newbie at the zoo, hence the name zoobie, an animal creation all your own.  Dr. Seuss was fantastic at inventing make-believe characters that could easily live in the city zoo - The Lorax, The Sneetches, a Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz.  As a matter of fact, I think it's nearly impossible to make it through a Dr. Seuss book without learning about a new animal living within Theodore Geisel's imagination.  

writing exercise:  Let your imagination run wild and create an animal that does not exist in the real world.  Be as creative as you can about giving your zoobie a natural habitat, a diet, a few physical characteristics and a name for its species.

(Click "read more" to meet one zoobie in the writercizer's sample response.)


Yelp It Out! - writercize #41 (A to Z 25)

Yelping is a great way to help out your fellow consumer and favorite local business.  Yelping, meaning writing a review on a website such as Yelp, fueled by comments and ratings by people such as yourself.  For bloggers, yelping often can also help drive traffic to your site since you may list your website with your review profile.

Some people yelp everything, including mediocrity, but I'm more of the thought that you choose selectively and yelp extremes.  A complimentary review can help a local business keep afloat in a tough economy, while a scathing review (use sparingly --- don't complain about one bad experience since someone could have just had a rough day --- use instead for repeat poor experiences or if you've been cheated or something equally horrible) can help consumers avoid making the same mistakes you've made.

writing exercise:  Log on to Yelp.  (Create a profile if you don't have one already.)  Choose a local restaurant, cafe', store in your town to rate and write a review.   Post the link to your review in the comments section below!

(Click "read more" to see writercizer sample response of Lady Alice Cleaners.  Those of you who have watched this blog for a while will recognize my sample response.  I did not have a chance to write a new yelp prior to posting this, but promise to do so upon my return from vacation.


Xerox - writercize #40 (A to Z 24)

Xerox is a simple fill-in-the-blanks story game I've created for the elusive X-word in the A to Z Blogging Challenge.  It's sort of in the spirit of Mad Libs for those who remember flipping the pages to fill in adjectives, nouns and verbs for ultimate silliness, but I'll leave it up to you to determine what type of word (and how many) to fill in the blank and whether you want to be silly or serious.

The idea is that a document has been copied on a faulty xerox with many splotches.  Where there are splotches, you will see an ellipses (the term for the three dots ... as seen here) and you will fill in the blank.  You determine the size of the splotch, and thus how long the missing word or phrase should be.

When you comment, feel free to take a short cut by using copy and paste for the paragraph below, and just fill in the dots!  Have fun with it.

writing exercise:  The xerox machine has gone berserk and left splotches all over the paper!  Fill in the blanks to complete the document the way you believe the "original author" intended.

There once was a ... who lived in ... .  This ... had many ... powers, the most ... of which was its ability to ... .  It came in especially handy when ... .  One day there was a ... and ... used their power.  It ... .  People who didn't understand asked ... and wondered ... but it was difficult to explain.  ... tried, with a ... result; ... .  The people felt ... and from that day forward ... was ... called upon to serve in times of ... .

(Click "read more" to see writercizer sample response.)


Word Scramble - writercize #39 (A to Z 23)

Let's have a little word scrambling fun with today's writercize.  I've selected a Shel Silverstein poem entitled The Acrobats from his collection Where the Sidewalk Ends, and I'd like you to write something new using only the words in the poem. 

writing exercise:  Scramble the words from "The Acrobats" by Shel Silverstein to come up with a new poem or phrase.  You may repeat words, change verb tense, delete words, or add conjunctions such as "and" "but" "so" "if" "or" etc. ... but no other new words.

"The Acrobats"
by Shel Silverstein

I'll swing
By my ankles,
She'll cling
To your knees
As you hang
By your nose
From a high-up
But just one thing, please,
As we float through the breeze - 
Don't sneeze.

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)


Voices: Authentic Characterization - writercize #39 (A to Z 22)

Voices are like oral fingerprints.  No two people speak in exactly the same way.  People generally don't even speak the way that they write, and certainly not along the exact track of their thoughts.  Even siblings have different tonality, different slang and vernacular.  We speak at different speeds, with different accents, sentence structure, sometimes a foreign word thrown in, sometimes a mispronunciation, even in our mother tongue.

In sales training for a position in college admissions (yes, I said sales for higher education - much to my naive chagrin) one of the primary techniques was to mirror the applicants speech patterns and gestures, to make yourself more relatable.

When creating a character in a short story or novel, be cognizant of their dialogue.  A man from New York City will not speak the same as a man from New Orleans or a man from Seattle.  A woman from Brisbane will have a different world view andspeech pattern than a woman from Omaha or from London.  Even if all of these people share English as their native language, their regions will (likely) affect their speech.   

I put likely in parentheses there because there are certainly exceptions to that rule.  Anyone who is a fan of Breakfast at Tiffany's will remember Holly Golightly's reported transformation from southern belle to New York socialite based on speech training.  My Fair Lady fans can hardly think of the movie without hearing "The Rain in Spain" in their heads.

However, these exceptions are helpful examples of understanding your character's complexities.  Dialogue must match a character's upbringing, current living situation and ... audience.  I had one good friend in college who would speak with Ivy League perfection in a networking situation, then switch to informal Ebonics with fraternity brothers and Spanglish with some of the South American international students.  Same person, same essential message and heart, but three completely different speech patterns to fit different parts of his identity.

When considering your character, remember to give them dialogue that fits their character (and be sure it is distinct from their inner monologue, if you allow the reader to see that, which may be much more honest than who they represent to the world).  

Are they speaking in their native language?  Do they tend to listen to the person they are conversing with, or carry on a parallel conversation?  Do they speak quickly or have a drawl?  How do they alter their speech for different situations?  Do they blurt things out or think before speaking?  Where do they pause in their speech?  Are sentences chopped or verbose?  How old is your character?  What is their relationship to the person on the other end of the dialogue?

writing exercise:  Lunchtime at a restaurant.  Briefly identify the setting and write a dialogue between customer and waitstaff or friends/coworkers at table.

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)


Useful Blogging Tip - writercize #37 (A to Z 21)

One great way to practice succinct writing (and editing) is to jot down instructions for someone to follow.  When writing instructions, you must assume the person knows nothing about the topic.  Always edit your instructions for clarity.  (How often have you been frustrated reading instructions on game play or construction or computers when it is obvious that the writer's assumptions of your knowledge are far beyond your true ability?)

writing exercise:  Think for a moment about tips and tricks you've discovered in the process of writing or blogging.  Pick one that you find both unique and useful and share!  Write in an instructional manner.
  • sample instructional ideas: comments, posts, publicity, followers, contests, topics, scheduling  

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response about writing a description of your blog.)


Travelogue - writercize #36 (A to Z 20)

Travelogues (writings about travel) are a great way to reflect on a traveler's attitude towards his or her own culture as well as the one visited.  They can expose a writer's view of the world, and open the reader's eyes to new experiences, as well as serve as a great memory and accompaniment to photos.

When I sit down to read a travelogue, I look for something that will take me off the beaten path a little bit - something that will challenge my perceptions or make me want to jump out of my seat straight over to the geographic location and try whatever it is that the author is describing.  I am not so interested in frequently described locations such as the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum or Tower Bridge.  I can visit those in many a book or photo, let alone board a plane and see them.  Not to say they're not marvelous and interesting places on their own, just to say that it's hard to make it new.  So, unless you can share an interesting bit of historical data that I probably haven't ever heard, or you notice something unique in the way people interact with the location or something extraordinary happens, I probably won't read too far into the story.

Now, here's the beauty of a travelogue.  Only you see the world in your particular fashion, and only you can help the reader view your world.  

If you see the world in a different way, or know what will turn a reader on, you don't even need to travel outside of your city to write a travelogue.  You could pick a hidden walk or a special park or a spectacular view right outside your front door, and write about it.  

If you are a person who likes to find commonalities among nations, you could travel to the most exotic corner of the world and write about something that binds us all together, such as sharing a morning cup of coffee.  

If you are a person who sees art in everything, you could point out something unique such as the shadow one monument casts on another.  Whether your world is music or food or hiking or fashion, there's a place you can discover and something new you can share with your audience.  It's totally up to you.  Just throw in a location and let loose.

writing exercise:  Think about a trip you've taken or a location you'd like to share with an audience, and write about it.  Be sure to explain where you are geographically, but beyond that you may choose the content.  (ideas:  food, music, airline travel, customs, dress, short anecdote, holiday abroad, miscommunication, art, recommended tourist site, etc.)

(Click "read more" to view writercizer sample response about a trip to the jungles of Ecuador.)


Slogan Contest (winner=free logo design) - writercize #35 (A to Z 19)

Just Do It!  The Ultimate Driving Machine.  Taste the Rainbow.  

The three slogans above are examples of highly successful slogans that have become as popular and recognizable as the companies themselves.

When writing a slogan, think of three goals.  Make it memorable.  Make it simple.  Make sure it relates to the product.  (Keep this in mind while you're reading - in the end you'll be challenged to write a slogan, and the winner, selected by the business owner, will receive some free design work!)

Nike's Just Do It calls to mind a fierce competitor who recognizes that without trying, there can be no success, no progress.  It calls athletes to get up off the couch, out the door and engage in the world of sports.

BMW's The Ultimate Driving Machine is simple and conveys an image of a car that is attractive, luxurious and mechanically sound.  With slogans, superlatives are acceptable.  In this case, the word "ultimate" may be in the eyes of the beholder, but an advertiser or PR writer would not be called into question for its use.

Skittles' Taste the Rainbow sounds like a fun, playful, colorful eating experience.  It sounds light and airy and happy.

I recently penned a slogan for a local women's clothing resale shop in Torrance, CA called Second Time Around.  The owner wanted to highlight her commitment to being earth-friendly, so I came up with "Reduce.  ReDRESS.  Recycle."  (The company below designed the logo; I penned the slogan.  Good teamwork!)

Today's writercize focuses on a company called Garrigues Graphics, a freelance graphic design business owned by none other than my sister.  She is looking for a slogan for her company to put on her website, business cards, postcards and online advertising and will gift the winner of the challenge with a new blog logo.  Deadline to enter is Monday, May 16 at midnight, Pacific time.  (Ed note May 17 - Deadline extended due to blogger site difficulties past week.  New deadline is Friday, May 27!!  Winner will be selected on May 28.)  Winner will be notified by writercize, so include a link to your blog so that I can get in touch with you!  

writing exercise:  Write a slogan for Garrigues Graphics.  I highly recommend looking through the website first so that you can get an idea of what the work conveys.  Multiple entries accepted from each applicant.

Below is some additional information from Garrigues Graphics to help you with the challenge.

Target audience(s):  Established / New Business Owners.  (logos, business cards, document creation)
Moms / Brides-to-be. (holiday announcements, invitations)

Unique business qualities:  Passion.  Accessible to clients.  Affordable.  "Young, new" outlook on design.

No writercizer sample response this post - it's all up to you!  Good luck!


Read Between The Lines - writercize #34 (A to Z 18)

One of my favorite pastimes, especially in the days before children when I didn't have to keep a constant watch on anyone whose safety I am responsible for, was people watching.  I would sit for hours watching couples and families stroll by, singles out for a run or night with friends, crowds of people vying for coveted space at a picnic or concert.  Sometimes I headed out alone and sometimes with a friend.

Some people were entertaining simply by their clothing (thank you 85-year-old roller skating man in hot pink short shorts and a neon yellow tank - you make a people watcher's day!), but most were relatively normal-looking so I would entertain myself by watching their facial expression and creating scenes in my head about the relationship or where they were headed. 

I held no judgments for or against anyone I watched; I merely watched for the simple pleasure of curiosity and story-making.  Today's writercize offers you a creative writing opportunity to read between the lines of a silent scene and determine the main character's main reason for being there.

writing exercise:  Read between the lines of the following story and create a character study of who the woman is and what has happened to drive her to where you find her.

A tall, slender woman dressed in a meticulously ironed black sheath and red heels walks into a jewelry consignment shop.  Her eyes are covered by large Audrey Hepburn sunglasses which she does not remove as she marches directly over to the man behind the counter.  She stops for a moment to reach into her purse, pulls out a box containing the ring, opens the box, places it on the counter and slides it over with a nod.  He pulls out a form to begin the consignment process, looks carefully over the ring with a magnifying glass and looks at her inquisitively as if to be sure she is prepared to part with it.  She glances momentarily to the right, invisible behind the sunglasses, before nodding again.  He points to the bottom of the receipt.  She confirms the ring's value, signs the document and walks out with the cash.

Who is she?  Where did she get the ring, and why is she in the consignment shop?  Feel free to elaborate on or alter the story to suit your character's needs.

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)


Question It All - writercize #33 (A to Z 17)

One of the greatest gifts we have as humans is the ability to question, to investigate, to expound on our curiosity.  It is a gift that we may choose to ignore at times (ever heard the phrases "ignorance is bliss" or "curiosity killed the cat?") but it is an important part of thinking critically.  Critical thinking allows us to search for meaning, to evaluate the veracity of statements, to understand what lies beyond a study or a news story, to balance fact and fiction.  It also allows us to ignore fact in favor of fiction knowing full well what we are doing.

Questioning the contents of a news report, whether it be with a comment on a social network such as Facebook or Twitter, a comment on a news sites web page, or a real deal letter to the editor of a magazine or newspaper, encourages community interaction and dialogue.  It gives a voice to the reader and allows for an exchange of thoughts and ideas that is important in a functioning society.

Questioning the government or authority can certainly lead to difficulties at times (I especially don't recommend questioning TSA and their methods too much while getting through airport security - could mean dire consequences for a traveler trying to catch a flight), but investigation is a necessary check in the balance of power.  I would say that good investigation is often best left to question along the way, rather than seek proof or support for a theory.  

For example, lawyers must work off a theory - that a person is guilty or innocent depending on whether they are working for the prosecution or defense - and find documentation to support that theory.  The judge, on the other hand, must evaluate all of the evidence on equal footing to determine a fair and just verdict.  The curious citizen, or the journalist, should be that judge.  Searching for information to support a theory can lead to (at least) two problematic endings - 1/ blinders regarding opposing information, even if it is more valid and 2/ conspiracy theories.  I won't go into conspiracy theories now, because that's a topic for a whole other writercize, but I digress.

Here's one news report that I've decided to question this week.  (I should clarify - I'm not questioning the news report itself as it's just a scanned copy of the document - I am questioning the veracity of the document itself.)

This past week, the FBI released documents that had previously been hidden in "The Vault."  One of these documents, dated March 22, 1950, purportedly cites three flying saucers recovered in New Mexico, each approximately 50 feet in diameter, and each with three bodies of human shape but only three feet tall, dressed in a metallic uniform and "bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits used by speed flyers and test pilots."  The document goes on to state that "due to the fact that the Government has a very high-powered radar set-up in that area and it is believed the radar interferes with the controlling mechanism of the saucers."

writing exercise:  Select a recent news report that you are wary of.  In the comments section, please provide a URL leading to the story and then explain why you question it.  This is great practice at writing arguments, so be sure to acknowledge the story, address something that you appreciate about the writing (the style?  a particular paragraph?  sections of the story), and then dig in with the questioning.  Classic debate style.

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)


PSA: Earth Month - writercize #32 (A to Z 16)

PSA = Public Service Announcement.  A public service announcement is generally delivered over the radio or on the TV.  It is essentially a free advertising spot to get the word out about an educational idea, concept or event that is important public knowledge.

A few nationwide public service announcements have become so familiar that their message itself has become an inherent part of our vernacular, open to SNL-type satires and talk show discussions.  To be effective, they are generally simple and direct.

Famous PSA Examples:  
"This is your brain.  This is your brain on drugs.  Any questions?" (voice-over an image of a whole, then frying egg - anti-drug campaign) 
"Only you can prevent forest fires." (Smokey the Bear, telling people not to leave smoking fires or matches while hiking or camping)
"Take a bite out of crime." (encourages people to stand up and report crimes)
"Friends don't let friends drive drunk."

April 22 marks Earth Day, which in many communities has been extended to an Earth week or even Earth month.  It is the time that schools and community groups highlight the virtues of the three R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and organize events to plant trees, clean the beach, reduce pollution, discuss water and energy conservation, etc.  For today's writercize, I'd like you to tap into Earth month themes for inspiration.

writing exercise:  Pick a lesson of Earth Day and write a short, catchy Public Service Announcement (PSA) to educate the public.

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)


Pass It On (bonus post...YOU select the topic for Madlab Post blog)

Hello writercize readers!  ***This is a bonus post for you that does not count as a writercize or A to Z Challenge (those will both come tomorrow, Apr. 19), but I wanted to share an opportunity with you none-the-less.***

I recently won a challenge through Nicole's blog, The Madlab Post, a movie blog, to choose the topic for not one, but five (!) of her posts.  She welcomed me to pass the topic selection along to my readers, so I've selected two topics but want to pass the rest on to the first three people to comment.

If you would like to submit a topic, please leave a comment here with your topic and your blog URL, and I will pass it on to Nicole!  Here's the catch - the offer expires on Tuesday, April 19 at midnight EST - so comment quickly!

The official rules follow:  "The topic does not have to be directly related to movies. It can be ANY topic that you want me to write about on the Madlab Post blog. I do, however, reserve the right to give it a movie-like spin on it depending on what I write, but the post will be on topic." 

Onomatopoeia (Say What?!?) - writercize #31 (A to Z 15)

Bang. Clang. Crash. Pow. Zoom.
Buzz. Buzz. Swoosh. Swoosh. Screeeech. Kerplunk. Ah-choo.
Meow. Snarl. Ruff, ruff. Ribbit. Oink. Moo. Bleat. Arrgh. Pffft. Shazaam.
Snap. Clap. Whizz. Pop. Pop. Pop. Beep. Buzz. Thud.

Feel like you just opened a comic book to a page illustrating an incident at Old MacDonald's Farm?  Or the first draft of a Shel Silverstein poem?

The words above are all examples of onomatopoeia (spell that!), which is just a fancy way of saying - words that evoke or imitate a sound.  My definition.

Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines it as follows: 
1: the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (as buzz, hiss)
2: the use of words whose sound suggests the sense.
It literally comes from the latin for "word" and "to make or compose."  So, my challenge for you is to make or compose a word that describes a sound, one that you don't find yet in whichever language you speak.
writing exercise:  Think of a sound that is not adequately described in words.  Create a word to define the sound using onomatopoeia, and write the definition to help the other writercizer's follow your thought process.

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)


Next Word 2 - writercize #30 (A to Z 14)

Happy Saturday blogosphere writercizers!  
We're just past the halfway point in the A to Z Challenge, and I believe everyone involved could use a nice little break this lovely Saturday, so I'm bringing back a previous exercise with new words.

Growing up, I can remember teachers using a very simple icebreaker to fill time on the bus for field trips or indoor recess days.  In the game, teachers would say a word, and students would free associate the next word that came to mind.  It's an interesting study on how your mind makes connections and relationships between ideas.  

writing exercise: 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.

  • Sunday
  • midnight
  • field
  • cover
  • red

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)


Muse - writercize #29 (A to Z 13)

Every writer needs a muse, and every writer needs a moment to be quiet and meditate. 

In Greek mythology, the muses were the goddesses who inspired poetry and literature, imagined feminine deities who could flirt with music and language and give meaning to the written word.  If you are interested in their history and who each of the muses were, visit The Nine Muses of the Greek Mythology.  

As time passed and language developed, those muses inspired an English verb, to muse, which is described as follows:

Muse, as a verb, per dictionary.com:

–verb (used without object)
1. to think or meditate in silence, as on some subject.
2. Archaic . to gaze meditatively or wonderingly.
–verb (used with object)
3. to meditate on.
4. to comment thoughtfully or ruminate upon.

Today I invite you to take a moment to sit quietly and meditate on the muse I give you - a writer's quote. 

writing exercise:  Read the following quote.  Meditate on it for a few moments, and respond. 

"What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers."  ~Logan Pearsall Smith, "All Trivia," Afterthoughts, 1931

You may respond any way you wish, but here are a few prompts: What does the quote say to you?  What do you try to whisper?  Who is an author who whispers to you?

(Click "read more" for writercizer response.)


Last Words - writercize #28 (A to Z 12)

Your words have the power to leave a legacy.  Especially when they are "famous last words."

As a cultural phenomenon, I think we are nearly as interested in the final sentence people utter as in the words and actions they use throughout a lifetime.  This is especially true pertaining to celebrities, and of course, family members. 

I'm not sure why these final words hold such gravitas, perhaps we believe in the last moments of life we are offered a view of what lies ahead, or perhaps we believe that a person on the brink of death holds the wisdom to package the importance of life in a few brief words.  Maybe we want to hear a confirmation that life is important, that it is worth fighting for and holding onto, even at closure.  Maybe we are interested because from a young age we are taught that the end of a chapter, a book, a movie, a song, should hold extra meaning that the reader or listener can take with them. 

Saying goodbye to a visiting friend or relative can be difficult.  Saying goodbye forever, even to a stranger, can be nearly impossible.  Perhaps the magic of last words is that we know they are final, and therefore we vow to commit them to memory, to honor a person's life by remembering their closing lines. 

There are a couple of sites dedicated to last words by famous people - if you're interested, you can find them at Brain Candy Celebrity Quotes or Wikipedia.  I can't say for sure that they're accurate, but it's one way to glean some random trivia.

I would certainly not ask you to write your own last words, for two reasons.  One, I hope you have a long, lovely life ahead of you.  Two, I'm pretty superstitious when it comes to that sort of thing - no pictures at graveyards, no baby names before birth - I'm not big on tempting fate so I'll leave that alone!

What does interest me is what you believe a few people from history would have said, had their lives not been ended too soon.  Had they lived on to a ripe old age, or had they dealt with a disease with time to prepare for passing, what might they have said to friends, family, the world?

writing exercise:  Pick one (or more) of the following historical figures whose life was ended abruptly and imagine what they may have chosen for those famous last words.
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Elvis Presley
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy
  • John Lennon
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Click "read more" for writercizer response.)


Kudos - writercize #27 (A to Z 11)

Recognition feels grand.

I absolutely love brainstorming the writercizes for this blog, but even more than that, I love seeing the comments and responses people leave under the exercises, especially those who give the exercise a try.  I recognize some writercizes are more intense than others, and for those of you participating in the A to Z Challenge, it can be A LOT to take the extra time to write a thoughtful post, but you are fabulous for doing so.  It is fascinating to me how many different responses can come from one idea, and proof positive how creative the blogging community is.

So, thank you for your participation and Kudos to you for making the time to do so!

Now, onto the interactive writercizing bit ...

Just over a week ago, Nutschell at The Writing Nut mentioned my writercize blog in a post and gave me the One Lovely Blog Award, with the instructions to 
1- Accept the award on your blog with a link back to the original post.
2 - Pass if on to 15 other blogs you have newly discovered.
3 - Contact those 15 bloggers to let them know that you have chosen them.

As this blog focuses on writing exercises, I would like to graciously accept the award (thank you Nutschell!) and change up the instructions just a tad. 

Rather than posting a list with links to blogs, I'd like to describe the blog I received the award from and describe a few blogs I've stumbled across over the past few weeks, along with their links.  If I mention you, you've received the award and may choose to accept per the original instructions or my altered instructions!  I will add comments as time progresses and I discover fabulous new writers and blogs.

writing exercise:  Leave a comment on this post with the name, URL and a short description of a blog you think the world should know about! 

Since this is a Kudos post, you are welcome to link to describe your own blog, but please be sure to write about another person's blog.  After you've written the description, send them a comment with the link to this page to pick up the following award pictured below.

(In lieu of my normal "click read more for writercizer response" I am recognizing some blogs within this post.  I'm giving a shout-out back to Nutschell, along with a summary of five other bloggers.  This list is by no means exhaustive of talent I see, so be on the lookout for more recommendations via comment or in the future.)
Thank you to:
The Writing Nut:  Nutschell, author of The Writing Nut blog is an amazing resource for writers, especially MG and YA writers, within the Los Angeles area and around the world via her blog.  She has researched the writing arena, from genres to inspiration to editing, agents and publishing, and she generously posts her findings for anyone to see.  She also posts the occasional book review and personal reflection.  If you have any interest in getting published, check out her blog.

Kudos to: 
Pocketful of Playdough:  Brianna, the author, started her blog just around the same time as I started mine and she was the first person to click "follow" that I didn't know personally, which was thrilling, so a special thank you also!  Brianna blogs about running, parenting and writing in a manner that is always engaging and vulnerable (which, lest you misunderstand, is by no means naive - for she is published and quite wise - rather to say charming and raw).  You feel instantly like a long-lost friend who is privileged to know her thought processes and emotions, especially as they pertain to the very self-aware task of writing.  Brianna is blogging her way A through Z creating blogs for biblical characters and her knowledge will be impressive to religious and secular readers alike, but what really stands out is her fresh, humorous voice.

Jaydee Morgan:  A self-entitled blog (to the best of my knowledge!), this is a refreshing read offering very short posts that are insightful and thought-provoking about writers and the craft.  If you're looking for three paragraphs that will leave you with a smile and affirmation, check out her blog!

Life in Retrospect:  NiaRaie, the author, offers a fresh, young voice on breaking into the world of writing.  She reads and writes a lot, and references interesting little tidbits from mainstream culture.  What I really love about her blog is that after analyzing an idea, she asks her readers a specific, pointed question as it pertains to the topic, and it's a great way to read a wide array of perspectives.  (i.e. "Any tips to add on developing emotion in your stories?"  "Any recent discoveries?  What are your invaluable writing resources?")

The Alliterative Allomorph:  Jessica Bell has partnered with her friend Nicole Ducleroir during the A to Z Challenge to write a daily post inspired by a one word emotion.  Followers are encouraged to guess the emotional word prompt and post a comment with their guess.  Fun, fun, fun.  Jessica's posts can get a little raunchy, so if you're a parent of a student looking through writercize, beware, but otherwise, check her out. 

Quilts Seam Just Right:  The author, "umbrellalady," posts about cooking and quilting.  I'm not a quilter and can hardly sew a seam to save my life, but I really do like to cook and especially love to eat.  For the month of April, umbrellalady is posting homemade recipes along with pictures that she took of the food and it makes my mouth water every time. 


Jeopardy Clues - writercize #26 (A to Z 10)

As a huge fan of Jeopardy, and a lover of research, I decided to take a break from creative writing prompts today and instead offer an exercise that involves swift research and succinct wording.  

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Jeopardy (perhaps you live outside of the States or somehow manage to block out all quiz shows?), it is a TV game show where three contestants face off to answer clues.  There are three rounds - two rounds of 30 clues, divided evenly into six categories with a monetary value proportionate to the difficulty of the clue, and one final jeopardy round where contestants hedge their bets on a single clue in a single category.  Contestants give answers in the form of a question.  (i.e. Category: Colors in Nature. Clue: Chlorophyl is this color, almost universal in the plant kingdom. Answer: What is green?)

Naturally, winners must be knowledgeable, but also lucky in the categories and quick with the buzzer.  I believe I would have made a fabulous contestant back in high school, but sadly my memory of literature, American history and religious texts would now leave me mediocre at best.

writing exercise:  Create Jeopardy clues within a single category for the following answers:
What is ... Amsterdam, Boston, Cairo, London, Tokyo?
Assign each clue one of the following monetary values according to the level of difficulty:
$400, $800, $1200, $1600, $2000
Do your research before you post your clues to make sure they are accurate and only lead to the response you seek!

(Click "read more" to see writercizer sample response.)


Imagine If ... - writercize #25 (A to Z 9)

A few weeks ago I was listening to a program on NPR about how science fiction novels, movies and kids' cartoons have inspired this generation's engineers to take out-of-this world ideas and produce mainstream products and services.  

One invention the story referred to was Skype, inspired by Jetsons video-chat.  I remember debating with friends growing up whether we would want our friends and family to be able to see us with messy hair in pajamas during a phone call.  Of course, Skype gives us the option - we may use a phone instead - whereas Jetsons cartoons did not allow the user to select audio/video vs. video-only. 

Unfortunately, I am unable to locate the exact transcript or podcast, but NPR affiliate WBUR in Boston does have a related post, Sci-Fi Inspires Engineers To Build Our Future,
which includes a quote from technology forecaster Paul Saffo:  "Basically, what happens is, teenagers read these things, they fall in love with the novel, they get inspired by the technology and they keep [it] in the back of their minds till they're about 30, and then they build it."

Other inventions purportedly inspired by books and film (my list, not NPR's): Microsoft's new motion technology for computers, Wii by Nintendo, Segway scooters that use physical cues to pick up on which way your brain wants you to move.   Airplanes and space shuttles inspired by early artwork and fiction about flying machines.  Even genetically modified foods and alternative energy may relate in some way to a piece of fiction, a seed that a novelist or screenwriter planted in a young scientist's mind at just the right time to allow it to grow and blossom into a full-blown invention.  

Pop culture trends can be inspired by science fiction as well - think 1980's Madonna cone bras or the exaggerated shoulders worn by Lady Gaga and Fergie today.

Today's writercize focuses on the power of the writer's mind to engage in freethinking "What If...?" questions.  How far can your imagination take you?  How many generations could we be from making your mind's quest into the impossible a reality?  You don't have to be a science fiction writer to benefit from such an exercise.  I believe a writer should imagine first, edit later.

writing exercise:  Pick one (or more) of the following "Imagine If" scenarios and freewrite about it.  You may talk about the environmental impact, the human factor, inventions that could be necessary - you're only limited by your imagination!
  • Imagine if ... the earth itself expanded with the birth of each human.
  • Imagine if ... we had a third eye on the back of our head.
  • Imagine if ... a highly reputable Harvard research study was released indicating we are naturally nocturnal creatures.

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)


He Said, She Said - writercize #24 (A to Z 8)

It is a widely accepted notion that men and women speak two different languages. 

In the book The Female Brain by Dr. Louann Brizendine, the author refers to studies finding that women use about 20,000 words per day whereas men use about 7,000.

Simply not true, says sciencemag.org that published the findings of another study in 2007 on how many words the average human speaks daily.  The abstract states: "Women are generally assumed to be more talkative than men. Data were analyzed from 396 participants who wore a voice recorder that sampled ambient sounds for several days. Participants' daily word use was extrapolated from the number of recorded words. Women and men both spoke about 16,000 words per day."

Even if we accept the notion that men and women speak the same number of words each day, John Gray's bestselling book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus points out that men and women differ in their approach to communication.  He says that men speak to communicate needs and data while women speak to communicate feelings and emotions, that men process their thoughts before speaking and women process their thoughts while speaking.

If Gray's assertions are true, I must admit that I speak more like a man.  I may write like a woman, at times quite verbose, but conversation wise, I probably lean towards the masculine side of things.  

In my household, my husband and I literally do speak two different languages - his native tongue being Italian and mine English.  We go through many days speaking some form of Itanglish - mixing the two languages mid-conversation, sometimes even mid-sentence.  Throw in a couple of preschoolers and our house is a linguistic hodgepodge!  Somehow we find a way through the differences and generally find a meeting of the minds along the way.

So, how does all of this relate to writing? - you may ask.  Here's the deal - when you create a character in a book, you want their voice to sound as authentic as possible.  Study the nuances of male and female conversation and how they relate to one another - how men speak with other men, how women speak with other women and how men and women speak to one another.  There are very distinct styles and you want the characters in your book to reflect that.
writing exercise:  Write a short dialogue between each of the following characters, given the circumstances:
  • two men - want to get together to watch sports and have a drink
  • two women - want to pick a restaurant
  • one man / one woman - looking through "for rent" ads (can be couple or roommates)

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)


Genre Play - writercize #23 (A to Z 7)

Tackling a huge challenging topic today, perhaps too large in conjunction with the A to Z Challenge, but what's a reward without risk, right?

The G topic of the day here at writercize is "Genre," as in playing with genres.  

A very wise writer I know who runs a blog at The Writing Nut recommends that beginning authors put some work into determining the genre(s) to focus on in the process of outlining and writing the story.  For those with a finished manuscript ready for an agent, she advises that the author understand the accurate genre before sending it off for review.  That helps focus on the right agent and give the author credibility in the literary world.

Naturally, for many beginning writers, picking a genre can be as trying as finding a needle in a haystack.  How difficult is it to focus one's writing, not only into a coherent and interesting story, but also into a recognized literary genre?  Mind-bogglingly tough!  The good news is, each story you write will be different, so there will be time to try different genres.

Today, I invite you to try three genres on for size.  Test them out and see which one fits you best.  Then keep practicing the craft until you find what feels right.

writing exercise:  Take the very simple premise of boy meets girl.  Now, write three variations on how boy meets girl using the following genres:
  • autobiographical fiction
  • historical romance
  • science fiction

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.  None quite fit my comfort level, but it'll be fun trying them out!)


Five Words - writercize #22 (A to Z 6)

As a young girl on long flights and road trips, my mom knew just the thing to keep me quiet and engaged for an hour at a time.  She would buy me a notebook and a pencil and write down five words that I had to use in a story.  When I was young, the words would be simple like dog and ball, but as I grew older, the words would be more complicated or in some way related to the trip to serve as a travelogue.

At the time, it was a great writing tool for me.  I loved to write, but could never for the life of me figure out what to put down on the paper.  My mind would race so quickly that I was left with a blank stare at an empty page and get frustrated.

It's still a good tool, but not as necessary anymore.  The thing that fascinates me now about the exercise is that with the same five words, no two people will write the same story, and I love that!  So please, show me how your mind works.  Write a sentence, a poem, a paragraph or a story, but write. 

writing exercise:  Use the following five words in a sentence, poem, paragraph or short story. 
  • business
  • bureau
  • start
  • tickle
  • yo-yo
Don't worry about structure - just freewrite for a few minutes.  You may use the definition of your choice for words with multiple meanings.

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)


Elementary, Dear Arithmophobe - writercize #21 (A to Z 5)

If I know one thing about writers and linguists, it's this: 95% of you are terrified of math.  (Ok, that's not a true statistic, and the number may be inflated, but ... it's something I hear all too frequently.)

I seem to be one of the lucky few who really loved both as a child, and still do as an adult.  Numbers do not terrify me; I actually get overly excited with number puzzles and sudoku.  Though admittedly they can send my brain running circles around itself occasionally, like a dog chasing it's tail, and I do not like to play real-life budgetary games with them.  I would much prefer an infinite supply of monetary funds rather than have to crunch dollar signs, but I digress.

As terrifying as arithmetic may sound to some of you, as a writer I am positive you can set out a clear word problem for an elementary school math textbook.  And that is exactly your challenge today!

writing exercise:  Pick a simple math sentence (i.e. 5 + 6 = 11).  Translate it into a word problem that would appeal to elementary school-aged children ages 8-10, where they are asked to provide the solution.

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)


Dog's Perspective - writercize #20 (A to Z 4)

Sometimes we get so stuck thinking within our own heads that it's tough to see the world with fresh, new eyes.  

I can remember teachers in college art classes encouraging us to view the world in shadows for a day, or contrasts, or shapes.  That attention to light and dark and the natural curves and lines in the world helped us not only improve our drawing skills, but it helped us see something interesting in an otherwise mundane space.  An empty staircase became a maze of sharp angles scattered with light patterns from the small window above.  The rainclouds of Seattle became a visual treat when viewed for their undulating patterns in the sky.

Writing is not a purely visual medium like drawing or painting or sculpture, but it is visual none-the-less.  The writer works in relationship with his or her audience to create a scenery, an environment that must come alive in the reader's mind and excite them.  A writer is an interactive artist of sorts, giving the reader enough details to make the story come alive, but leaving out enough specifics to allow that reader some creative leeway in visualizing the character and the environment in the story.

To practice writing about an environment, I'd like to know more about a room in your house.  However, to encourage you to see your room with fresh, new eyes, I want you to see it as a dog would and describe it through that dog's eyes.

writing exercise:  Pick one room in your house (i.e. living room, kitchen, bedroom, dining room).  Take a moment to get down on your hands and knees, if you are able.  Crawl around for a moment, imagining yourself as a dog.  What would it smell, see, hear?  Now come back to the computer and write about it.

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)


Caption This! - writercize #19 (A-Z Challenge 3)

A couple of weeks ago I posted a photo of a friend and myself hanging out with the Naked Cowboy in Times Square in NYC, with a request for a caption and this intro:

A picture may speak a thousand words, but the right caption complements a photo with considerably less verbiage.

Let's try another Caption This exercise.  

writing exercise:  Write a caption for the photo below.  (May be humorous or journalistic in approach.)

Photo back story: This photo was taken of a fellow traveler on a Green Tortoise camping trip through Costa Rica several years ago.  I no longer remember his name, but love the energy of the photo.

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)


Book Review: writercize #18 (A-Z Challenge 2)

Inspiration can come to writers from all different sources - dreams, nature, politics, friendship, history, even blogs.  One source of inspiration that I'm sure most writers share is books and articles written by other authors, especially those they wish to emulate in some way.

Take a moment to reflect on a book that has inspired you with its story or narrator's voice.  What was it that made that a particularly memorable story?

writing exercise:  Write a book review on Amazon about a book you would recommend to other readers.  Please share the link in the comments here so others can learn about the book!  Fiction or nonfiction ok.

(Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.)


Alter Ego: writercize #17 (A-Z Challenge 1)

Hello writercizers!  

Before I get on to today's task, let me begin by stating I'm blogging on Fridays and Saturdays for the entire month of April to work through the A to Z Challenge, the brainchild of Arlee Bird, author of the blog Tossing It Out.  Nearly 1150 bloggers signed up to blog A through Z every Monday through Saturday the entire month of April.  Tough task for the bloggers to be sure, to feel inspired six days a week, but imagine being one of the seven hosts selected to read those blogs.  Holy cow!  Arlee and team, thanks for putting the challenge out there, and thanks even more for your commitment to read through and support the bloggers.

Ok, on to writercizer business.  The topic of the day is Alter Egos.

Every human I know has at least a little something they'd like to change.  The most obvious that people mention is weight, but I would venture to say that weight is not truly the top change many people would like to make for themselves.  I would say that digging a little deeper, I'd probably discover wishes for more bravery or putting the kibosh on procrastination or exuding admirable character traits such as creativity, patience or wit.  Who knows the possibilities - there are probably 10 times the possibilities for positive improvement as the number of people I could ask - we all have something we would add or tweak or eliminate!

The beauty of an alter ego is that a person can be another character, someone who may take risks the primary ego or person would never take.  They can project themselves as another person, similar to acting, but on their own terms.  

Most often, when you think of alter egos, you probably think of comic book characters such as Superman and Clark Kent or literary characters such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but there are actually many modern-day celebrities who use an alter ego to gain the confidence to perform.

Joanna Douglas of Shine by Yahoo wrote about ten of them in an online article entitled Celebrity alter egos: Double the fame.  Among those performers: Beyonce as Sasha Fierce, who she describes as more sensual and aggressive than her "normal" self, Britney Spears as Mona Lisa, Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana, Eminem as Slim Shady.  Some of the alter egos seem to be to appeal to different audiences, as those of Miley Cyrus and Eminem, while others give the artist a performance edge.

writing exercise:  Think of a characteristic you would either like to change about yourself or add to your repertoire.  Use to create your alter ego, and give your alter a name.

(Click "read more" to see writercizer response.)