Category Archives: Writing Challenge

QUERY

Query

Have you a pattern for your life
wherein you’ve cut out stress and strife,
only allowing perfection?
Is every day a new confection—
cherry pie and chocolate cake?
No rejection? No heartbreak?
No erstwhile friends or jealous crazies—
your entire life a field of daisies?
It must be great, without a doubt,
but what have you to write about?

The prompt word today was pattern.

Judy’s “Prompt Answers” Challenge #1: Dastardly Words.

Dastardly Words

Because it is a rainy rainy day and too wet, even, to make my way down to my studio, I’m going to recruit your efforts in trying to keep me busy and out of trouble. With this in mind, I’m posting a challenge for you to tell me the word you hate most in the English language. (This challenge was prompted by Helen Miekle’s absolute refusal to answer this question.  To console myself, I’m calling upon friendly bloggers to show me theirs if I show them mine.)  Not really fair, as if you’ve followed me for awhile, you already know that the word I hate most in the world is . . .. Nope, can’t say it.  Instead, I’ll reblog this poem I wrote about it a few years ago:

img_2272This is!!!!


Empty Praise

There was a time when awesome really meant ”inspiring awe”—
events like the moon landing that made one drop one’s jaw,
sights of numbing beauty or achievements of great skill,
art pieces by the masters or achievements of great will.

Yosemite is awesome and so is Everest.
Those climbing it are awesome.You know they are the best.
But today the word has fallen into widespread use—
ubiquitous right to the point where it’s become abuse.

Rap music is most awesome, as is that way-cool blouse.
You drive an awesome car and live inside an awesome house.
My friend’s boyfriend is awesome. So are her dog and cat.
Her garden blooms are awesome, like her new purse and her hat.

You might have guessed by now that awesome’s not my favorite word.
I think the overuse of it is frankly quite absurd.
This pizza is not awesome, though you may find me petty
for saying it is merely good, and so is the spaghetti.

Your child is lovely, so’s your dress, your silverware and smile.
But none of them are awesome—that word brings up my bile.
Please use some other word for it—some adjectival jaw full.
Because in my opinion, using awesome’s simply awful!!

 

img_6979This isn’t!!!!

So now that I’ve told you mine, please participate in this challenge in one of two ways. Either post your answer in your own blog with a link to this post and a link to your blog in my comments section, or simply answer in the comments section of this blog posting. It won’t take long, so please participate and if I receive enough words, I promise to make a poem out of them.

Update: I’ve written the poem! You can see it HERE.

When I Grow Up

 When I Grow Up

daily life  color096 (1)

Blank Page

It stretches forever in front of me.
There, no future happens until I create it.
And that is the power of words
that rub like pieces of gravel in my shoe.
I become less of a child in bearing them,
grow to adolescence as I pry them from my shoe.
In storing them on the page, I become my own creator—
writing a new world with each decision of word.
On the page, I can, if I so choose,
grow up again and again.
Each page filled or every edit of the last
becomes another part of me
that tells the same story:
that growing enough to fill the space inside of me
never happens.

Yes, one or two of you have seen it before, but since I had totally forgotten this poem, it’s clear that one advantage of growing up is that you get to enjoy the same things over again with very little memory of them!  This applies to books, movies and even first spouses remarried!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/ballerina-fireman-astronaut-movie-star/

Mr. Cole

Mr. Cole

He lurked out in the hall as we all took our seats and came to order.  He took a drink from the water fountain, putting down what looked like a new briefcase as he did so.  He picked up the briefcase and made for the door, then turned and walked back to the fountain, putting his briefcase down as he took another drink.  He started for the door again.  Changed his mind and returned for another drink.  Then he squared his shoulders, picked up his case, re-rounded his shoulders and entered the room.

He was a little mole of a man—sniffy and hunched with scrunched-up eyes behind thick glasses.  When he entered the classroom, he looked straight down at the floor, as though he wasn’t sure one foot would follow the other without great attention.  He maneuvered his way to his desk and stood with his back to us.  He slammed his briefcase onto the desk, then removed it again, as though in indecision over whether he really wanted to stay at all.  Then he slammed it down again.  Removed it.  Slammed it down.

Finally, he moved around to face us and assumed a more teacherly demeanor.  He actually looked at someone in the front row for two seconds, before retreating back around to the back side of the desk, perhaps seeking some protection.

It was the first day of my freshman year in college. Next to me was a very new friend who not only lived in the same dorm but who also had just pledged the same sorority. We sported our bug-like black pledge pins on the fronts of our sweaters, a hand’s distance above the nipple, as we’d been instructed to wear them.  It was a bit like being in enemy territory, for we had already learned that the English department and the dormitories were not the best places to display our new status as Greeks so openly.  Our sitting together was a bit like circling the wagons on a westward journey.  We had each others’ backs.

“My name is Mr. Cole,” the dwarf said. “This is the honors section of Freshman English 101.”  He had facial ticks and a way of floating off into dreams.  Sometimes the end of a sentence just sort of wandered off, as though some other matter of greater importance had intruded upon his thoughts.  We did not disturb him in these reveries.  My new friend Linda and I would exchange looks and she would giggle the sexy little laugh that was her only laugh.  We both admitted, finally, to having a bit of a crush on him.

It was my first of many crushes on “different” men.  Men who had facial ticks or personality disorders that made others look on in horror or disgust just seemed to intrigue me, and my new friend was someone who gave validity to my strange behavior.  She, too, thought he was intriguing.  When we invited him to be a faculty chaperone for our pledge dance, he asked if he would be expected to function in the capacity of a bouncer and I assured him that no, it was more of an honorary position. To our surprise, he accepted, showing up with a tall willowy English department assistant who seemed herself to be of a literary bent.  I don’t remember if they danced, but I believe they dated for the rest of my college career.

You can see by my relation of these details how little I really knew about this man. On that first day in Freshman English, I remember being frightened and feeling inferior to the big town kids in the class.  If the truth were told, most of them were probably small town kids themselves, but coming from a town of 700, I thought of a town of 6,000 as a city , and I was sure that my own excellent academic record was more a result of comparison (there were 15 in my graduating class) than of true prowess.  Mr. Cole explained that instead of studying grammar, sentence and paragraph construction, that as honors students we would be expected to write an essay or story a week which would then be read in class and commented upon.

The night before our first writing assignment was due, my insecurity had kept me from committing a single mark to paper.  We had been given no topic and no direction.  This paper was to function as a sample of where we were on the continuum of writing skills.  This was to be my introduction to the strange gnomish man who had studied under Roethke.  Although I had no idea who Theodore Roethke was and no easy way of determining who he was in this pre-computer, pre-Google age, I had made one of my rare forays into the college library and found a whole section dedicated to his books in the poetry section.  So, I was about to be read by the student of a very important American poet.  And, I didn’t know what I was doing, really.  Our composition efforts in high school had been for the most part limited to essays and term papers.  I’d once written a humorous sonnet about Goldwater and Johnson and that was about it.  How did one go about writing a vignette, which as I recall was our assignment?  Midnight, one a.m., two a.m. ticked away on the smoking room wall as I sat looking at the blank page.

A fly, brought back to action by the hot light of my study lamp, worried my ear before buzzing off to pin itself to the wall. The smoke of my cigarette curled between us, and suddenly, in a sort of astral projection, I was that fly on the wall getting high on the fumes of a doobie that smoked in the ashtray beneath it.  The room was filled with the imaginary bodies of stoned kids splayed out on the floor or with headphones on their heads.  I started to write.  Forget that I had never smelled or seen marijuana, let alone smoked a joint. It was easier for me to imagine that fly getting high than to imagine myself doing so, but within a half hour, I’d completed the essay, set my alarm clock and had joined the fly in its herbally-induced sleep.

The next day, I placed my own sheet on the pile of papers on his desk.  Mr. Cole entered as usual, slamming the briefcase, removing it, slamming, slamming.  I had never been introduced to the term “Tourette’s Syndrome,” but many years later I wondered if perhaps this accounted for some of his oddness.  He would stand at the desk and crane his neck upwards, roll his eyes.  Sometimes he would look at one back corner of the room and then at the other, as though he were privy to some world and audience we had no access to. Seeing a film on Roethke, I wondered if he had patterned some of his odd behavior on his former teacher. This is just a scrap of a remembrance, so perhaps I dreamed it.  In this era of YouTube it would not be hard to check out.

Three days later, he was ready to discuss our vignettes.  There were many in this class, he revealed, who were able to put words down on paper but who were not writers.  There was one student, however, who had portrayed the truth in a way that the others had failed. This student had displayed courage in telling about a part of themselves that no one else had been willing to be vulnerable enough to display. He then read my essay as an example of superior writing to the entire class.

What I felt? Relief, certainly.  Pride?  Sorry, but yes.  I enjoyed being singled out.  After the class, other students came up to me saying they would not have had the courage to write the truth like that or to admit they’d smoked pot and applauded my success in exactly expressing what it was like to be stoned.  On the way back to the sorority house to do our pledge duties, my friend giggled and admitted she had never smoked pot.  “Neither have I,” I confessed, with a sideways grin at her.

I took three classes from Mr. Cole. In Honors Freshman English, I earned an A.  When I took creative writing from him a year later, he seemed to have me completely confused with another student who had taken a class from him the semester before.  He kept calling me Jenny and commenting on how my writing had improved.  The next semester, I took another class from him and in the margin of one of the first poems I wrote for him, he said, “Not quite up to the sudden fine standards you set for yourself last semester!”  I knew then that he was still thinking of me as Jenny and was disappointed that I’d returned to my former standards of mediocrity.  He’d given me a B+ on the poem.  I tried harder for the remainder of my last semester in his class, earned another A and would like to believe I lived up to his expectations. Of Jenny.

We do not always stand out in the memories of those we admire with the same clarity that they stand out in ours. What happened to Mr. Cole, I do not know.  As with many in our lives, when his importance in my own life ended, so did his existence.  I tried Googling his name once and found nothing, which may mean his own poetry books were published in a pre-computer era.  When I Google my own name, there are 209,000  entries listed, probably most having to do with some other combinations of my name, but most of the ones really referring to me have to do with writing. Probably all of those entries deserve a footnote of thanks to Mr. Cole, who was the first to find merit in my words and also the first to be deceived by them.

(You can see a 25-minutes YouTube video on Theodore Roethke here. Other than his reading style, he really doesn’t have much in common with Mr. Cole at all.)

The Prompt: Teacher’s Pet—Write about a teacher who influenced you.

Writing Habit

The Prompt: Winning Streak—What’s the longest stretch you’ve ever pulled off of posting daily to your blog? What did you learn about blogging through that achievement, and what made you break the streak?

Writing Habit

I’ve written every day since April 1, 2014, except for yesterday, when I couldn’t get online all morning. I then got involved in working with the illustrator of my next book, who came to visit for two days to work on the covers. They are now finished, except for the lettering, and he’s done a wonderful job. Thrilling! I actually did answer yesterday’s prompt today and I’ve answered every other WordPress Daily Prompt since May, when I switched over from the NaPoWriMo prompt. I have not, however, managed to post a pingback to the WordPress Prompt page 3 or 4 times in the past and have not now been able to do so for the past 7 days, which is frustrating. I wonder if anyone reading this knows what the problem is and why some can trackback/pingback and others are unable to?

Blogging and the WordPress and other prompts have given me two things: a daily audience and pressure/permission to make writing a priority. I write every day, first thing, with very few exceptions. I now exercise in the late afternoon instead of the morning, giving me the entire morning to write if I need it. If I have activities, I get up early to write and sit waiting for the prompt like the parent of a teenager out after curfew.

I also sometimes post things I’ve written as a draft, waiting for a prompt to which they will relate. This serves as a backup as well, but so far I haven’t had any writer’s block. I think writing every day helps to prime the creative flow. I expect it to be there, so it always is. I also try not to censor myself. It’s necessary to let thoughts flow naturally. One can always delete or edit things later, but sometimes what feels not up to par when being written actually ends up being good. We need to give ourselves a chance and to be as supportive of ourselves as we are to our fellow writers.

Beachside Refractions and Other Poems

 

(Click on photos to enlarge)

 

Here are three poems that I wrote while being held prisoner on my porch for two days waiting for the internet man.  He came after a half dozen phone calls and a half dozen promises to be there in 1/2 hour, but never did get my internet up, so I’m sitting in a closed palapa restaurant in the dark, listening to the surf and using their internet, which I’ve paid them to use.  I actually had a wonderful day spent watching the pelicans, fishermen and frigate birds, then went way out and did my exercises in the ocean, watching the sunset.   There were fishermen and little boys on boogie boards all around me…and a young girl standing on a paddle board and paddling back and forth between me and the sunset.

Beachside Refractions

When I wake up at six that man
is out collecting bait.
And he is still out fishing
when the sun goes down at eight.

I guess that staring at water
and at the sky is fun,
for in the week I’ve been here,
he’s only landed one!

The tide comes in each morning,
bringing us new gifts;
transforming everything to sand
it sifts and sifts and sifts.

The frigate birds sail over all:
the headland and the town.
I don’t know what they’re looking for.
They never venture down.

A string of pelicans fly north.
Seconds later, they fly south.
guess the reason is not one
has fish within its mouth.

The beach cat sits here looking
out to the open sea,
willing all the fisherman
to “Bring a fish to me!”

The tide comes within feet of me
when it is at its height.
Tucked away here, in the shade,
I do not feel its bite.

When tide goes out, I go with it
to float beyond its curl.
It does not know if I am fish
or shell or boat or girl.

All the local folks collect
each evening at the beach.
Sand within their sandals,
and tequila within reach.

They talk the long day over
and orchestrate the sun
to sink beneath the seascape
to prove the day is done.

They come to view the sunset,
though they talk into the night.
It cannot be the sun they seek,
for it’s gone out of sight.

When most go home still one or two
stay to feel the night.
Their voices drift over the sand
sibilant and slight.

Whispers, merely whispers
by the time they get to me.
Unconnected syllables
for which I have no key.

The moon has not yet risen
and the stars are hidden by cloud.
And all the words that wait for me
are not yet voiced aloud.

All around me, darkest night
surrounds me like a womb.
I think words wait for me in dreams
just in the other room.

……..

Pelicans

They float upon the gentle swells,
with chins tucked in politely.
Of all the birds, most dignified,
their movements never sprightly.

They look like grumpy butlers
named Oliver or Jeeves
in morning coats of softest gray
with wings tucked in their sleeves.

They may be only scouting
the source of their next meal,
for soon they take off to the air
with energy and zeal.

And soon they’re diving down again,
straight like an arrow shot,
into the water’s surface
to see what can be caught.

Bobbing once again,
they lift their bills and then let slide
all that’s in their pouches
to another place inside.

I wonder if the fishes flop
all the long way down,
and this is why the pelicans
then fold their arms and frown?

………………..

The Magnificent Frigate Bird

They polonaise up higher,
far above the rest.
Not once dipping to the land.
Do they ever nest?

I never see them fishing,
foraging or chewing.
As though their wings are made for art
but are not made for doing.

A gentle crease within their wings
looks folded and unfolded,
but keeps its shape no matter what,
as though it has been molded.

This rhyme is not so fragile
nor so graceful as these birds.
I guess such elegance as theirs
cannot be caught in words.

The Prompt: Leftovers Sandwich—Today, publish a post based on unused material from a previous piece –a paragraph you nixed, a link you didn’t include, a photo you decided not to use. Let your leftovers shine!  https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/leftovers-sandwich/

NaYesWriMo

DSC08906The day before yesterday, I decided to let my novel of three chapters die a quiet death.  My plans to go to the beach to finish it already firmed up and rents paid, I decided I’d devote the time to my other books, already written, getting them illustrated and formatted.  Then yesterday, my dear friends Betty and Larry showed up at our monthly reading at La Rueda with this gift for me.  Looks like that novel (or a different one?) is back in the works.  Who can reject a gift from a friend?