Take Action - writercize #192

This week our nation has succumbed to violence. A mall shooting followed up three days later by a school shooting, at opposite ends of the country, with the same chilling results. Fear of the everyday. Uncertainty over what may be just around the corner. Confusion about what drives individuals to that breaking point. And, perhaps most importantly, the realization that we can not control our environment or understand where danger comes from.

What did I do? Turn off the TV and the radio, for one. I fear one of two things will happen if I watch - I will crumble with sadness and blaze unwanted images into by eternal sub-conscience or I will have to create such a strong, impermeable shell in order not to crumble with sadness that I will lose a bit of my humanity. Neither seems terribly appealing.

What couldn't I do? Ignore it altogether. Turn away from Facebook. There is something slightly, subtly comforting in processing fear and disbelief with others via social media. It is not the same as an intimate conversation with a loved one or small group in person, which I also did, but in many ways it opens up the opportunity to more depth and reflection as people share inner thoughts uninterrupted. I don't believe it is false or unworthy to share such experiences via social media - I believe it has the power to be cathartic, particularly when one has established real connections with Facebook friends.

I read thoughts by others - some simple, some direct, some lengthy. There were those that prayed for families, those who sought understanding, those who wanted to discuss gun control, those who looked for solutions to a seemingly impossible problem, those who wanted their families to know how much they loved them, those who were trying to figure out how to broach the subject with children, those who just wanted to speak up and say,  "hey, I heard too. This means something." And I felt honored to be given access to my friends' minds.

Here is what I posted:

"Violence permeates our society once again. It feels so "normal" by now to be faced with such news, that I am honestly shocked to think that Columbine, the first wild gun rampage I can recall, was *only* 13 years ago. 

As much as I wish all this could be blamed on guns - that answer strikes me as too simple in a complex problem. (And I do believe in stringent gun laws, and I do believe guns serve 
no purpose beyond harnessing the ability to kill, but even with my convictions, I am not ready to blame them for what is happening.) 

I am really at a loss on how we can prevent this, as I don't believe threat of a prison sentence or punishment works either. I even wish I could blame it on the state of the economy and desperation some individuals feel in a hopeless situation, but I don't think that's it either. 

The only thing I can come up with is that the one way to prevent individuals from this insane violence is to somehow ensure every member of our society feels loved, valued and cared for, and that every person feels deeply connected to a (positive) community. I hope against all hope that human love, compassion, a healthy respect for one another, animals and the earth and real, offline face-to-face heart-to-heart connection could be the trigger to stop violence, and that empathy can be learned. 

And, when a person does not have empathy or frightens others with a lack of humanity or dark intent ... or when we see a person under attack or faced with bullying or extreme loss ... or when we see a child chastised and made to be afraid of the world or human connection - we can not turn our backs and try to ignore that situation away. We must be brave and speak up and make others aware of our concerns. We must at once reach out and take precautions to protect one another and our families and friends.

We need to bring back the culture of neighborhood community and caring that would have made this news so utterly shocking a generation or two ago, and we need to look our children and those lost in society in the eye and let them know that someone believes, and insists upon, the concept that they can be a power for good. Somehow."

It felt good to put it out there. 

Then I wanted to do a little something more. So I went to the White House website and began a We The People petition. If you haven't heard of it, it's like a direct link to the White House - provided you can find 25,000 people who agree with your cause within a month - and the first 150 without your petition appearing on the public website. No easy task, my writercizer friends! However, the payoff is great - if a petition receives 25,000 signatures, it will be taken under consideration by the administration and a response will be issued. That is pretty amazing. I welcome you to sign mine if you like - verbiage below - but regardless, I encourage you to look at something in your own community that needs a little exposure, and expose it.  

Here is my link to the We The People petition:

Take action through your words.

writercize: Choose an issue that you want to champion or bring attention to, and write about it. Put it on Facebook, write a blog post, send a letter to the editor, email your friends and family, start your own petition - just get it out into the world.

Please paste a link here, or leave your words as a comment below. I want to know what matters to you. My sample response below is taken directly from the We The People petition linked above. There is an 800 character limit.

writercizer sample response:

We petition the Obama Administration to:

Through schools, community groups and multimedia, educate our community about gun safety and ways to minimize violence and isolation in our society with a nationwide PR campaign.

Roll out a la Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" to drugs, early 90s efforts to teach AIDS prevention, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and recent efforts by cigarette companies to emphasize the danger of smoking.

Educate through direct exposure to victims of violence, particularly gun violence and those with permanent scars, and share the stories of family members who lost loved ones to violence. Use powerful images and stories, and relate a message of community, caring, empathy and civic responsibility as a way to build up resistance to violence. Address dangerous effects of bullying and violent media.


Welcome Guest Kelsey Clark - Color Quandary

Please join me in welcoming guest Kelsey Clark to writercize! As many of you know, I love playing with colors and fanciful words, and Kelsey's great writercize brings the two together. Please read on, then give it a try. My writercize attempt will be in the comment section. Everything you read below is by Kelsey!
Color Quandary 
by Kelsey Clark
When I am stuck for ideas on what to write about it seems like I will never be able to write again. Sometimes I get stuck because I have too many ideas and just can’t seem to get them out. Other times I feel like I have no good ideas left at all. When either of those things happens to me, I know that I just have to start writing again and I will get back into the swing of things. One idea I have used to get writing again is this:
Writercize: Focus your attention on color. Pick one basic color and start your story from these. It can be a poem, a description, or even an entire story can start from your color choice.  
All you have to do is come up with a color and get started writing. If you have trouble or get stuck just think of things that are that color and include them in your writing. Here are some colors and objects to get you started, or you can think of your own:
·       Red – blood, cherry, lip, rose, crimson, rust, ruby, fire engine, barn, raspberry
·       Blue – moon, blueberry, sky, sea, navy, cerulean, cobalt, sapphire, indigo
·       Yellow – sun, star, buttercup, sunflower, butter, wheat, rubber duck, taxi, lemon
·       Green – tree, leaf, grass, mold, broccoli, kiwi, lime, jade, emerald
writercizer sample response:
It was a blue day. There was just no other way to describe it. I knew that I was feeling down, but it wasn’t just my imagination. The glimpses I got of the night sky were dark blue, almost navy, as the rain clouds hung heavy and grey-blue, trudging their slow path across the horizon. The rain, a pale, translucent blue, gathered in the upside down umbrella before me; it’s happy, bright, bluebird blue almost glowing in the dim light of a, you guessed it, blue moon. If I had ever liked the color blue before, the fondness had now been driven completely from me. Besides, blue was his favorite color and I had enough reminders of him, thank you very much.
The bright yellow taxi that pulled up in front of me seemed as blinding as the sun, and the taxi driver that got out was equally as surreal. His canary-yellow rain coat squeaked as he splashed through the puddles to open the rear passenger door for me. He stood in a several inch deep puddle, grinning at me as I stared at his lemon-colored galoshes. I got into the taxi, the blond faux-leather seats ripped but clean, and we set off. As he drove I watched his hands move across the wheel and wondered at the mustard tinted fingertips. How many cigarettes must he smoke to make his wizened hands so spectacularly stained?
Author Byline:
Kelsey is the editor in chief for www.findananny.net/. She loves to write article and ideas that parents & nannies would be interested in hearing. She helps society on giving information about nannies through nanny services. She is a professional writer & loves writing on anything.


Welcome Guest Katheryn Rivas - Finding Motivation

Please welcome Katheryn Rivas to the writercize platform today. After college, Katheryn temporarily lost her passion for writing - see how she found it again! Her story is compelling and easy to relate to!
How I Re-Discovered My Motivation to Write After College
by Katheryn Rivas
I majored in creative writing in college, and spent pretty much every day of my college career working on some writing project for one of my classes. When I graduated, I thought this trend would continue. I imagined myself completing a book of poems and a novel the year after I graduated, while I idly passed the time at some office job and applied to MFA schools. Then life happened. The economy was a wreck. I had to move back in with my parents. I spent most of my free time writing cover letters, not poetry. By the time I finally found a low-level editing job, I hadn't written anything creative in almost six months.
My editing job was mentally taxing, and I rarely felt like writing when I got home. I rarely felt like reading either. A year passed, and I still hadn't prepared the portfolio I planned to use to apply to MFA schools. I started to wonder whether I even wanted to go to graduate school for creative writing. Was I even good enough to make it as a writer? Without the validation I received from my peers in college, I started to seriously doubt my writing abilities, and I nearly lost all the motivation I had to be a writer.
I've heard this happens to a lot of writers. It's even happened to many of the people I know who've completed MFA programs. Some writers don't know what to do with the lack of structure in the real world. Unless they're forced to write for their jobs, they find it difficult to produce any written work.
Fortunately, over the past year, I've started writing again. I write a poem or work on a short story almost every day now, and I'm getting close to completing my novel. One night, in the middle of a deep phone conversation with a friend from college, I realized that life had become dull and lifeless because I didn't write anymore. And I thought of the Rilke quote from Letters to a Young Poet:
"Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all—ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write?"
I asked myself Rilke's question over and over again for the next few days after my realization. My life had lost meaning because I wasn't writing anymore, but was I not writing because I intrinsically didn't need to? My feelings about this matter confused me. I knew it was time to stop thinking and start writing.
Writing had always helped me sort out my feelings. So, I sat down at my computer, started typing, and all of my pent up creative energy just seemed to pour out. What started out as a simple electronic journal entry turned into me writing a short story about a girl who struggles to define herself after she graduates from college. It was similar to The Graduate in many ways (minus Mrs. Robinson), and it wasn't very good. But it was something, and writing it made me feel amazing. So, I kept on writing. Sometimes I didn't feel like it, but I didn't stop.
Now, I keep myself motivated by reminding myself that, for many reasons, I must write. My life loses meaning if I don't. I've joined a local writing workshop group to help keep me focused on completing projects in a timely fashion. I set aside at least thirty minutes every evening for writing, no matter how tired or busy I am. I keep myself healthy by eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising. This gives me more energy to write and helps keep my brain as sharp as I need it to be to produce quality work.
Writercize: Make a list of what prevents you from writing. Then make a list of what motivates you to write. Think about how you can eliminate some of the factors in your life that stifle your motivation.
Katheryn Rivas is a freelance writer and blogger who contributes to a variety of sites about her experiences as a writer and human. When she's not working on professional writing projects for www.onlineuniversities.com, she's working on her novel and staying up late writing poetry.


Welcome Guest Heather Smith - Setting the Stage

Please join me in welcoming freelance writer Heather Smith to writercize today! She has a great way to create a scene by setting the stage below. The writercize sample is hers - I will post my own in a comment below. I welcome you to do the same!

Read on for the writercize, sample and Heather's bio!
Setting the Stage
Coming up with ideas on what to write about is never easy. Sometimes it seems like I am pulling teeth just to get down a few hundred words every day. Other days I feel like my fingers will just not type fast enough! We all have good days and bad days, days where we feel like writing is a chore and days where we feel like there is nothing in the world we would rather be doing.
On the days that I get stuck for ideas, however, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. One of my tricks I will share with you now, in the hopes that it, too, will help you get started in your writing adventure.
writercize : Instead of coming up with a plot idea or even characters, first start with the setting. You can look at a painting on the wall, the background on your computer desktop, or an image on Pinterest. Once you have the setting in mind, picture what would go on there. Who would live there? What job would they have? What kind of relationships? What era is it in – modern, historic, fantasy, or future? Once you get to thinking about the setting, other things start falling into place. If you do not have access to an image or do not want to look one up, then try one of these settings below:
·       A dark city street filled with fog
·       A green pine forest
·       A towering glass skyscraper
·       Twisted trees barely visible in the dark
·       The cogs of a great machine, slowly turning
·       A cubicle-filled office
·       A grassy meadow with a red barn in the distance
·       A lighthouse in the middle of stormy seas
·       A grey cement jail cell
writercizer sample response:
The cell was the same as it always was. Pale grey-green paint peeled from the ancient walls. The bars were rusted, coated in sharp, flaky powder. The remnants of names and numbers were barely visible all across the grey cement, like graffiti washed away by the sands of time.
Jeremiah shivered, wishing he had never taken the job. Sure, it sounded like an easy opportunity to make a few bucks, but as he eyed the cracked and stained wooden cot in the corner with trepidation he wondered what he had gotten himself into.
“A word of advice,” the old man croaked, his voice barely audible as he forced the words past the cancerous lump in his throat, “Stay away from cell number four. That’s his cell.”
Jeremiah nodded mutely, stifling a cough as the man’s cigarette smoke curled around his trembling, yellowed fingers. Jeremiah threw a glance towards cell four, lost in the shadows. The narrow, barred windows let in precious little light, especially as the sun set.
As the old man shuffled down the long, empty corridor, the crash of waves masking his footfalls, Jeremiah couldn’t help but wonder if Alcatraz was truly as haunted as the stories said.
Pulling out his lantern he went to work, the broom scraping against the dust left behind by inmates long dead but never forgotten.
Author Bio

Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to www.nanny.net/ service by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.


Guest at Nutschell's Today @nutschell #writing #onwriting

Howdy Writercizers!

Today I don't have a normal writercize for you, as I'm hanging out over at Nutschell's blog, The Writing Nut. Contrary to my norm guest post practice, I don't offer a writercize up over there either, because Nutschell did it for me!

Nutschell wants to know where writers write, what their workspace looks like, and how they get inspired. She features a different writer every week in her Wednesday Writer's Workspace series, and this week it's me!

I'll leave my intro about myself and Nutschell to you, so go ahead and click on over. While you are there, check out Nutschell's veritable encyclopedia of all things writer-related. She is one of the best resources on the net for helping writers navigate the tricky waters of querying, building a platform, editing material, and more. And if you are lucky enough to live in the Los Angeles area, you can see her dynamic teaching style in person at Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles meetings.

So, come on over. Find out a bit more about who I am and why I write, and I'll see you there!

If you'd like to share info about your writer's workspace, let Nutschell know while you're there. She has openings available.

If you still want to do a small traditional writercize here, here you go.

writercize: Share five attributes of your ideal desk space. You can focus on the desk itself, items, organizational qualities, room placement, even geographic location. Whatever you like!


Enviro-Poem - writercize #191

Today I just want to play with language and create sounds that flow off the tongue. I want to use words like pop, and slithery, and laden - pretty words and startling words. I want to feel them glide through my mind and out of my mouth and transport me to a place that is not my desk chair in the dim light of the night room.

Join me in this literary romp. 

Combine the tools of onomatopoeia (words that evoke a sound) and alliteration (same beginning letter). Challenge yourself to invoke the inner Latin in your soul and bring fanciful words to light. One does not share a secret, one engages in a clandestine conversation. A gem does not simply sparkle, it shoots stars from within. Play with similes and metaphors. Ooze with adjectives and adverbs. Forget about grammar and the writing rules, and just enjoy the sounds of language.

writercize: Pick a place that you love. Conjure the image, the sights, sounds and smells in your mind's eye. Now paint a picture of that place in words. An environmental piece of grammar-optional poetry.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response. Please leave your writercize result in the comments below!


Writercize #FlashbackFriday - Naming Babies

Last weekend I attended a baby naming party. For those who want input from friends and family leading up to baby's birth, it was truly genius. 

Mom and Dad collected names, and plugged 14 choices into brackets that both agreed were good names. The night of the party, attendees chose their top choices among several additional "pre-vetted" names - the top two were entered into the brackets, making a total of eight pair-ups of two names each. Think of it as the "Sweet 16" of baby names.

From there, friends and family compared and contrasted sets of names - there were debates galore about famous people, personal experiences with certain names, nicknames good and bad, positive and negative associations, rhymes, considerations of the last name. Aspects of pairs like Dexter vs. Pierce and Grant vs. George were picked over with a fine-toothed comb. 

"Presidential!" "Mass-murderer!" "Screams cowboy!" "Rough elocution!"

Lots of fun, but could be rough for sensitive parents-to-be with a true preference or affinity for a particular name.

Once the discussion for each pair wound down, they went to vote, with the majority vote moving on to the next round. The names were whittled down from "Sweet 16" to "Elite 8" - then the semi-finals and finalist.

Before anything went to vote, attendees filled out brackets and threw in five bucks to add intensity to the challenge. Winner took all - one point per winner in the first round, two points per winner in the second round, three points per winner in the third round, and four points for the overall winner - 26 points total up for grabs.

Throw in balloons, pink or blue chocolates, champagne, pizza and cupcakes, and you have a co-ed baby shower (or in this case, just plain old party) to remember.

I have to admit, when it came down to finals, I was torn between voting for a name that I liked a bit more than I was expecting and the name that I had put down as the winning ticket. Certainly added a bit of a twist. Vote for a potential payout with my original pick or vote for a name I was digging in the moment? The intensity! The drama! The FUN!

The hosts did include a clause claiming full legal authority to disregard the choice upon completion of the birth certificate. However, since they were 16 choices both liked, that would be highly unlikely. They also held onto the full right to pick a middle name all on their own.

When it came to naming my own girls, my husband and I immediately agreed on the names, and didn't share them with another soul until after they were born. Our families kept perking up their ears, hoping for us to slip and use real names rather than Baby A or Baby B, but we never did. And which name belonged to who was not chosen until after they were born, and the NICU staff wanted something to put on their beds. My husband randomly assigned the two names we'd selected while I recovered in Labor and Delivery immediately post-birth.

This was night and day from our selection process, and I loved being a part of it.

I also felt like it was time to do a flashback to an old writercize from several months ago, about playing with names. Read on! The sample is my original sample, but I have eliminated the lead-up. To see the entire post, click on "Inspired by a Phone Book."

Have fun with it! Look for #FlashbackFriday posts this fall, as well as a return to the #WeekendWritercize coming soon. Guest posts will also make a comeback and original writercizes are on the way! The girls are back in school, and this Mama is ready to WRITE!

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.


writercize #190 - Firecracker

Well, that blog break took much more time than I expected! I don't believe I will post frequently throughout the summer, but hope to return to the #WeekendWritercize and three to four posts a week come school time late August, as well as finish out the missing letters from the #AtoZChallenge over the next few weeks.

So, what to write about? Today I had a little fun over at #5MinuteFiction to get the flash fiction writing bug going again, and was lucky enough to be selected as a finalist. It's a no cash operation, hosted by the lovely Nicole Wolverton, but it's always an honor to be recognized for 15 minutes of logorrhoea. If you read this shortly after posted, head on over and read through the entries for the prompt of "betrayal" and vote for your favorite.

I've been spending a lot of time writing true stories about city budgets and school districts and honorable citizens lately, so it was fun to shake off reality and have a little fun. I thought I would share it with you, while twisting in a little holiday cheer. 

Americans (and those living here) know that tomorrow is the 4th of July, or Independence Day, a day for barbecues and parades and strawberry/blueberry/cool whip salads and fireworks ... and maybe a little history lesson thrown into the mix. Let's go with the holiday theme and speed up the brain cells with some flash fiction.

writercize: In fifteen minutes or less, write a story, poem or character study inspired by the word "firecracker."

Click "read more" for writercize sample response.

Please share your sample as a comment, or link to your page! I always love to see the variety and talent that comes to light when readers try out the writercize.

And - if you are in the States, I wish you a happy and safe holiday tomorrow!


Dear Writercize, My Apologies

Dear Writercize Blog,

I want to apologize for abandoning you these past several days. I've missed you, and while it may sound cliche', it's not you - it's me.

I've just been busy trying to balance the scales with work, parenting, volunteering and sleep, and you are the piece that was neglected. I know, no excuses are good excuses. It's all about making the time.

But, I've been to a wedding! And I've skied down slopes for the first time in nearly a decade! And I've had articles published in the paper! And I've led a couple of meetings! And I've managed to wake up and take my kids to preschool and pick them up and feed them! So, you see, I've been living and experiencing things so that I can come to you with renewed energy and ideas.

Now, my brain is on, and I'm back! I'll catch up on your missing #AtoZChallenge posts this week and get you rolling right along again. My mind needs the creative flow that comes with feeding you frequently.

I'll be seeing you.



Take Five - writercize #189 #AtoZChallenge #FlashFiction

Five words is a writercize that I post every so often where I give you five words to use in a poem or short story. 

It is based on a writing prompt that my mom gave me when I was a young girl to help pass the time on airplanes and in cars, and to keep me in the educational mood during summers. She would write down a series of words in my notebook and encourage me to journal based on those words. It was not a creative fiction exercise at the time; the words were closely related to what we had done that day, but it stuck with me as a very useful exercise.

Take Five, today's writercize, takes the five words concept and twists it with a five minute time limit. I encourage you to go fictional, but if you are drawn to the words in a non-fiction or poetic way, go for it. The time limit puts the exercise squarely in a #FlashFiction state of mind.

For those unfamiliar with #FlashFiction, the net is rife with challenges and competitions on blogs that encourage bloggers and writers to write a short story with a quick turn-around. 

Some use photo prompts, some specific words, some first sentences, or combination of the above. Some set a limit with minimum or maximum words and others with an instant time limit. 

I host a weekend #FlashFiction here called #WeekendWritercize with rules that vary weekly (on hold until May 6 due to A to Z), but I highly recommend checking out any of the #FlashFiction challenges that follow today's writercize. 

It is a fabulous way to write in community, get inspired by other bloggers and push your personal writing limits!

writercize: Write a poem or short story using all of the following five words:
  • sympathy
  • contempt
  • melt
  • wisdom
  • day
There is no minimum or maximum word limit, but watch the clock and write quickly! Five minutes max.

More #FlashFiction Around the Web:

Monday: Cara Michaels' #MenageMonday @caramichaels
Tuesday: Glitter Web #TuesdayTales @theglitterlady
Tuesday eve: Nicole Wolverton #5MinuteFiction @nicolewolverton
Wednesday: Lisa McCourt Hollar 55 Word Challenge @jezri1
Friday: Jen D #FridayPictureShow @JenD_author
Weekends: Right Here Of Course! #WeekendWritercize @alanagarrigues

This is NOT an exhaustive list, but these are some of my faves to play in. Sign up to follow these people on twitter to get reminder tweets.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.


Sell It! - writercize #188 #AtoZChallenge

Image courtesy morgueFile

What sells? How do we choose how to part with our money?

  • Do you want to buy a pizza because it is a meal measuring 10 inches in diameter with a couple of toppings, or do you want to buy a pizza because it is a fun and creative way to put dinner on the table?
  • Are you going to sign a contract with a wedding photographer because she shoots 500 photos in six hours and delivers them digitally, or because she gets the photo-journalism vibe you are going for and has a winning smile?
  • Do you pick a cell phone based on the gigabytes of memory and address book capabilities or the hip techie feeling you get when you talk with the sales person and hold the phone in your hand?
  • Is your purse a place to store your wallet and keys, or does the brand and design say something to the world about who you are?
  • When picking high heels, do you go for the practical pumps or the lofty lifts?
  • When it is time to buy an apple, do you head to the closest grocery store and pick up a Red Delicious, or do you seek out a Whole Foods or the farmers' market?

There are two major components to every purchase we make: the facts and the image.

You can't change the facts. A product is a certain shape, size, color, weight and it will remain that shape, size, color and weight. There may be 100 other products with that same shape, size, color and weight. So, how do we choose?

Price probably has something to do with it, as does convenience. If one store or brand is easier for you to access, you may be drawn in a particular direction.

But, there is no denying that people are willing to pay a premium on one of two similar products (shoes, purses, perfume, food) based on the perception of a brand's quality or image. 

Take that apple, for instance. Pretend that same apple, from the same farm, is organic at all three stores. (For arguments' sake.) Now, say nearest store sells that apple for $0.30, Whole Foods for $0.45 and the farmers' market for $0.40. What is it about that organic apple that will make a person choose one of the two more expensive options? 

Image. The consumer who wants to shop local and finds joy in communicating directly with the farm will choose the market. The consumer who wants to make a statement about being healthy and supporting a pesticide-free world will choose Whole Foods. The consumer who looks at price and convenience and doesn't care about anything besides getting that apple into his/her hands will go to the nearest store.

We make choices in our lives based on image all the time. A consumer with $25,000 to spend on a car will have several options with regards to mileage, auto body shape and safety features, but chances are they will only select one or two brands and approach those dealerships.

There are several banks vying for our checking and savings accounts, all with similar fees and account options, all FDIC insured to protect our money, but one will have the advertising or account manager that ultimately wins our trust. It's not a difference of .01% interest that makes us decide, it is a feeling, an image.

Advertisers are banking on consumers making decisions based on image, and they are ready and willing to sell it to you. Copywriters make a living writing about the image of products with the ultimate goal to boost a company's sales. They know it's all in the wording and presentation.

Classified ads are no different. Do you want to rent a home that is "small" or "cozy?" Buy a couch that is "stained" or "shows light wear and tear?" Do you want to buy a car that is "old" or "a classic?"

Today, use your words to sell a product. 

writercize: Look around you for a normal, mundane product, such as an envelope or pen. Now sell it!

Alternatively, pick a luxury item such as a necklace, car or perfume, something with a good deal of competition at a similar price point, and sell it!

Click "read more" for writercize sample response about a pencil.


Rewrite - writercize #187 #AtoZChallenge

A couple of months ago I attended a writing workshop led by the fabulous Nutschell of the blog The Writing Nut for Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles (CBW-LA) and one of the exercises I walked away with involved paraphrasing a passage in a novel in your own voice. Basically, tell the same story, but rewrite it in your own style.

Style is something that we have. It is the writing that comes naturally to us. It involves the way we organize our words and our thoughts, the language we use, the point of view we prefer. It is the intangible, yet very real, thumbprint of a writer.

To do this, Nutschell gave each of us a worksheet with several first paragraphs from recognizable books. She had us see how many of them we could recognize (book title and/or author) from the passage.

Once we identified the voice of the author, she had us take ten minutes to rewrite in our own voice, our own style. This is a great exercise for writers to use in order to practice our writing. It helps us in a couple of regards. 

For one, we can play with things like tone and verbiage and point of view without having to come up with the story on top of everything else. 

For another, it helps us get past that hump of writing like the book we just read. 

(We're chameleons, and whether we like it or not, we are influenced by what we read. I like to think I'm less influenced now than I used to be, but when I pick up my writings from 1st through 7th grade, I can tell you exactly which novel or book series I was reading when I wrote my story because either the story or the voice is so similar. A LOT of babysitting stories in the days of The Babysitter's Club, a fair amount of influence from Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley Twins, and then the random influence of books like Trumpet of the Swan, Charlotte's Web, Harriot the Spy and authors like Roald Dahl and Madeleine L'Engle.)

Today, I invite you to rewrite a paragraph from a recognizable book in your own voice. You can pick any of the three paragraphs that follow, or pick a favorite book you have at home.

writercize: Rewrite one of the following passages in your own voice, or use a passage from a book you have at home. Feel free to split it up into more than one paragraph, elaborate, or cut down! Just be sure to take it into your voice.

  • "When Mrs. Frederick C. Little's second son arrived, everybody noticed he was not much bigger than a mouse. The truth of the matter was, the baby looked very much like a mouse in every way. He was only about two inches high; and he had a mouse's sharp nose, a mouse's tail, a mouse's whiskers, and the pleasant shy manner of a mouse." - from Stuart Little by E.B. White
  • "It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no others think and to put them down upon a paper no others are to see. It is base and evil. It is as if we were speaking alone to no ears but our own. and we know well that there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone. We have broken the laws. The laws say that men may not write unless the Council of Vocations bid them so. May we be forgiven!" - from Anthem by Ayn Rand

Have fun with it! Leave your writercize rewrite as a comment - I love to see what people come up with! Please be sure to leave your URL so I can pay you a visit as well.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response based on Stuart Little (excerpt and sample response from that workshop).


Quirky Characters - writercize #186 #AtoZChallenge

When creating a fictional character, it is of my humble opinion that one should always infuse a certain amount of quirkiness into the character's being. Whether you want to show your reader that character's quirky side or not is up to you, but if you truly know your character, you know the funky little things they do.

Why quirky?

Well, it certainly makes a person more lovable. I had a roommate once upon a time, whom I will not name, but state I no longer keep in touch with this person (just in case any of my old roomies are reading this and wondering if it is you - it's not!), who was a bit of a tight ass. She was polite enough, and smart enough, and honestly charming enough on the surface level, but she walked a bit of a tightrope between Debbie Downer and Serious Sue. She just couldn't let loose and laugh, and I always felt every word out of my mouth was being judged and calculated. She absolutely could not make a mistake and took perfectionist to the extreme. Oddly enough, talking to our other roommate years later, each of us had felt strongly that this particular roommate preferred the others' company and disliked us!

Anyway, one day as I was taking a long walk with this particular roommate, she opened up and told me something odd about her hands. I don't totally remember what it was anymore, but it had something to do with blue nails and cold fingertips and nerves and insecurities. And in that moment, knowing this odd quirky thing about how her hands reacted physically to any emotional insecurities she was dealing with, I decided that I really liked her. That tiny bit of insight made her human and real and vulnerable, and I adored her. She went from being this uptight, cold shoulder robot to a real person who was just as annoyed about hiding herself with her uptight ways as I was living with them.

Sometimes quirks do just that, make a person more human. Sometimes quirks make a person easier to relate to. Sometimes, quirks make people more charming, like Zooey Deschanel's character in Yes Man. Sometimes quirks make people annoying. Sometimes, quirks confuse people, like Claire Dunphy in Modern Family who inadvertently smiles when giving bad news.

We all have quirks, little things like tapping our toes or averting our eyes, or talking too fast when we meet people, or avoiding black cats and ladders. Some little thing that our conscious mind just can't quite control. Figure out what your character does, his/her "tell" as it were for poker players, and see how it plays out in the character's career and relationships.

Our quirks are often complex in relationship, those things that first attract and then repel. Classic things that first make us unique and then make us too different. 

Think of a guy with, say, a collection of old Hot Wheels. Maybe kind of cool at first, makes the girl dig his playful side and see the kid at heart, perhaps see a potential for some good cash from collectors on eBay when time comes to give up the bachelor pad. Then super annoying when dinner conversations turn to Hot Wheels makes and models and the cars that he wishes they had produced. Quirky.

writercize: Give your character something 2-3 quirks to work with, something to make them unique. It is best if it is a trait that has the power to both endear and annoy, depending on the relationship and circumstances.

You can do this to create a new character, or you can pick a character in your story to finesse.

Leave your writercize as a comment and be sure to leave your website so I can come pay you a visit! I am a bit behind on visiting blogs with A to Z and quite a bit of travel this month, but I will make it sooner or later and love to see your creative juices flowing!

Click "read more" for writercize sample response.


PSA: Earth Day - writercize #185 #AtoZChallenge

My P post is the same theme as my entry for last year's A to Z Challenge - PSA: Earth Day. Same theme, same writercize, different background and writercize sample.

A PSA is a Public Service Announcement, which basically means an advertisement to raise awareness about the "greater good," greater good meaning anything of moral or social consequence that is deemed important enough to communicate to society for waived advertising fees generally imposed by the media.

PSAs can come in many forms, from radio announcements to TV commercials to magazine ads, and they can cover any number of topics. Drug awareness, drunk driving prevention, smoking prevention, speaking out against domestic violence, standing up to bullying, condom use to prevent STDs and teen pregnancy, pet care, breastfeeding.

Generally, a PSA reflects the government's priorities with respect to values. Occasionally, PSAs are part of legal decisions for companies. Cigarette companies are required by law to produce anti-smoking ads.

A good PSA is memorable and conveys a clear message.

"This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?" - (image: egg, egg on a frying pan) - anti-drugs
"Buckle up, dummies." - (image: crash test dummies getting in car crashes)

The Ad Council has several current examples of PSAs, as does the Best Ads Ever fan site (look to the latter for humorous takes).

courtesy morguefile.com
In honor of the 31st Earth Day, coming up on April 22, I invite you to pick any earthy topic (water conservation, energy conservation, alternative energy, litter, recycling, composting, urban farming, etc.) and drum up your very own PSA. 

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

Please leave your PSA as a comment and be sure to leave your website address so that I can visit you too! I am excited to see what you come up with.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.


Next Word - writercize #183 #AtoZChallenge

Next word is a game I play once a month or so here at writercize. 

It is a simple word association game meant to loosen the brain and dump out some words. The rules are easy. I give you a word, and you give me the first word that comes to mind. Explanation optional. 

Fans of the Step by Step show back in the nineties may remember the character Cody spewing out word associations, which very well may have planted the seed in my mind. 

Example: I give you the word table, you may say ... dining, or stop, or restaurant, or chair, or elements ... all answers would be correct. Cody would have taken it ten words deep, but I only ask you for one. 

I love to see how meaning is in the eyes of the beholder and get a glimpse into how different minds work. If you want an extra bonus writing twist, create a story using all of your "next words." 

writercize: Tell me the first word that comes to mind for each of the following words: 
  • pop 
  • shake 
  • wood 
  • curl 
  • rock 

Please leave your next words in a comment. I love to see all the different answers! Be sure to leave your website so I can pay you a visit. 

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response. 


Myers-Briggs Personality - writercize #182 #AtoZChallenge

Please note the #WeekendWritercize is on hold until May. I love all the entries that come in and want to give them all the attention they deserve, and with 26 posts the month of April and nearly 2000 blogs to visit with the #AtoZChallenge, I have made the decision to place the weekly challenge on hold. Look for it to come back with a vengeance (hint, hint?) on May 6!

I do a lot of volunteer work and work on committees, and this week a discussion of the Myers-Briggs personality test came up, something I haven't thought about since my days in business school many years ago. 

The Myers-Briggs test is a personality test that divides people into sixteen (surprisingly accurate) groups. Corporations like to use Myers-Briggs to see if an employee will be a good match for a particular job, but it can also be used to understand overall strengths and weaknesses of a person and how they act in marriage, friendships, as parents, etc.

I am not sure which age a Myers-Briggs reading can be considered accurate, but I took it when I was 21 and I don't believe it has changed in more than a decade. 

Most writers supposedly test INFP, a.k.a. idealists. They are introverted, intuitive, feeling and perceiving. 

Here's the short list of INFP from PersonalityPage (linked above): "Quiet, reflective, and idealistic. Interested in serving humanity. Well-developed value system, which they strive to live in accordance with. Extremely loyal. Adaptable and laid-back unless a strongly-held value is threatened. Usually talented writers. Mentally quick, and able to see possibilities. Interested in understanding and helping people"

I do not test INFP or fit the writer profile. 

I test ENTP, a.k.a. visionary, and the description fits me like a glove. Switch that I to an E, and you get a (marginal for me) extrovert, and switch the F to a T and you get a thinker rather than a feeler. 

I am a person who loves to lead, but hates to control the way people do things. Loves to come up with ideas and the plan, but balks at following through. Time and schedules are flexible; structure freaks me out. I *need* surprise and spontaneity sprinkled into my life, or I wither with boredom and a lack of inspiration after. 

For me, life is all about shades of gray, vision and connections. It's about creating something new.  I would prefer to leave the details to someone else. I also have a very difficult time finishing things that I start, and daily routines drive me batty. 

I love debate, and my closest friends often have fundamentally different ideas politically or on select social issues. I appreciate the insight and opinion they can provide to give me a glimpse of the other side. I love big ideas and piecing together different bits of information and opinions to find the story. Perhaps a reason I am drawn to journalism, where I don't have to come up with the story, I just have to uncover what is already there.

Because repetition and finishing are tough, the A to Z Challenge is truly a challenge, and I do allow myself to slip a day here and there with the promise to myself that by April 30, I will have 26 posts reflecting each of the letters, and I will have visited at least one third of the blogs listed on the challenge sign up. It is a challenge, but it is a short-term challenge, and one that I relish.

I would love to know if you are familiar with your Myers-Briggs, or if you have assigned characters in your stories Myers-Briggs. I think it would be fascinating to take characters in your novels and take the test as your character, to see where they fall and some of the traits they may express. It could give you insight that you would not have otherwise considered! 

You can take some versions of the Myers-Briggs online for free, although they are not the real deal, so it may not accurately reflect your personality. Certainly for characters in novels, it could still offer valuable insight.

writercize: Use the Myers-Briggs finding to delve into a character study (of yourself or a character in a novel). 

Please share your personal story or character study and provide a link to your blog so I can come visit! I would love to hear what you have to say

Writercizer sample response coming soon!  (Yep, that whole finishing thing ... !)  ;)  But, until I do post further, consider my ENTP description above my character study.


Linked - writercize #181 #AtoZChallenge

First off, let me apologize to everyone who has been entering a word verification for comments to my blog! I just turned it off again for probably the fifth time over the past year and can't figure out why it keeps defaulting back to the word verification! If you have read this post and notice a CAPTCHA pop up in the future, please let me know because it is NOT meant to be on this blog! 

Second, due to the busy schedule of A to Z, I am finding it difficult to keep up with judging and posting #WeekendWritercize results, so I have decided to suspend it for the rest of the month of April. Look for a strong comeback in May! For those unfamiliar with the #WeekendWritercize, it is a flash fiction competition that starts Saturday morning and closes Sundays at midnight Pacific time. Check out the tab for more info.

 Ok, now ... onto the meat of the linked challenge. Sometimes we run across two items or people that clearly do not look like they belong together. 

For example, I found a clawfoot bathtub in an open field while hiking at the foot of the Alps. Very odd. 

Or think of Hugh Hefner and his teenage bunnies. Were he not famous, an elderly man nuzzling the neck of a young buxom vixen would certainly prompt some questions. 

How about a cowboy at the Opera? Or a Ferrari at a rodeo? 

For today's exercise, think of a couple of things that don't quite fit together and find the link between them. You can come up with the two unrelated items or people on your own, or you can pick from a few prompts below. 

writercize: Find and explain the link between two seemingly unrelated people or items found together. 

Here are a few options to get you started: 
  • wedding ring in a shoe store 
  • wine glass in kindergarten classroom 
  • yuppie and hippie 
  • homeless man and soccer coach 
  • cassette tape at Apple store 
  • baseball bat in bowling alley 
  • textbook and picture book 
  • scarecrow on skyscraper rooftop 
  • indiginous amazonian tribal member on great wall of china 
  • Queen of England and American farmer 

Pick any of the unrelated pairs above, or create your own, and create a reason they are together! 

Post as a comment, and be sure to link to your blog so that I can visit! 

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.