Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Topic Tuesday

  • Dumb luck
  • Big Cheese
  • Mogul
  • Wonderous Oblivion
  • Countdown
  • Tragic Conflict

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Topic Tuesday

  • Stand in her way
  • These days
  • Spellbinding
  • To avoid vomiting
  • Dig deep
  • Snorted

Friday, October 27, 2006

Getting Up Off The Couch

Just finished Haven Kimmel's book She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana and you have to admire the skill with which she tells the story from the point-of-view of a pre-teen child. She never strays from the POV and never sentimentalizes the event as they occur in the child's eyes, but essentially this is the story of her mother, Delonda, who tirelessly solved problem after problem to get a college degree in 2 years. Despite her poverty, her husband's total lack of support of the idea, her oldest daughter's pregnancy, lack of transportation, and more, Delonda manages to overcome all and DO SOMETHING about her dissatisfaction with her life. An inspiring story for persistence for us all.

I was curious about how Kimmel's mother is doing now and ran across this interview with her on the Southern Scribe website, and she had this great advice for writers:

"Writing is like carrying around an empty bucket. You have to fill it up with words even if they're crap. You have to be willing to write one bad draft after other."

Now we know where "Zippy" got her tenacity and persistence. If Zippy's mom can overcome all of these things, you can fill up your bucket with words... even if they are crap.

Provocative Phrase Friday

  • What will it take...
  • You seriously won't believe...
  • What'll it be...
  • I'm going to do...
  • No, I don't think...
  • This can't be...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Topic Tuesday

Six more topics for your consideration!
  • Rivalry
  • Late-night
  • Not a fan of
  • Floppy ears
  • Eye exam
  • Kick back

Friday, October 20, 2006

Provocative Phrase Friday

  • What have I done?
  • You need to be honest...
  • Do you feel okay?
  • Dad lost his job...
  • I learned last night...
  • He has many...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Muse Review: The Playful Way to Serious Writing by Roberta Allen

It is about time that I get this updated. Let's start out with a Muse Review:

The Playful Way to Serious Writing by Roberta Allen; Houghton Mifflin; 2002 (Paperback) 200 pages

Roberta Allen’s book is short, (I read it in about an hour.) but has some good information. Using that quirky style often used by several of writing prompt books such as Monica Wood’s The Pocket Muse, and A Writers Book of Matches compiled by the staff of Fresh Boiled Peanuts, Allen’s title mixes in photos, an unusual book size and a font designed to look like handwriting to provide some good information along with exercises designed to crack your creative side wide-open.

She uses what she calls the “Energy Method” which is similar to Natalie Goldberg’s “Keep your hand moving,” or my own “Flash writing” process. It involves using timed writing sessions and writing fast to avoid your inner critic and just get something down on the page.I hate books that have you fill-in-the-blanks in order to round out the content provided by the author. I see this as a cop-out, but at least Ms. Allen balances these fill-in-the-blanks with good ideas and examples of her own. She encourages you to list your fears, the fears you have overcome, realizations, “before and after” statements, and much more.

In short, The Playful Way to Serious Writing does a great job giving you some starting points for writing if you are totally lost and have no idea what to do next. Yet, it isn’t as good as some of the other similar books out on the market. At only 200 pages the book feels more like 50 or 75 pages after you consider the smaller footprint of the book, the large handwriting-like font, and the previously mentioned fill-in-the-blank pages. At a cover price of $14.00, I think that there are many other similar writing prompt books out on the market that are a better value for your money. But if you need some some fresh ideas or a quick spark, don’t hesitate to borrow this one from the library or simply flip through it in a bookstore. That should be enough time to get value out of the book.

Rating: ** (Borrow It from the Library)

About Ratings: ***** -- Well Worth it at Full Retail Price; **** — Buy on Sale/Discounted; *** — Buy Used; ** — Borrow It from the Library; * — Waste of a Good Tree

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Topic Tuesday

Try these on for size:

  • Full blast
  • Bankruptcy
  • Dumbbell
  • Trust me
  • Tumble dry
  • Infectious disease

Friday, September 29, 2006

Provacative Phrase Friday

Provocative Phrase Friday:
  • I must be going crazy...
  • Who cares where you went?
  • You ran from...
  • She looked for him everywhere...
  • The dog ran off...
  • I'll create a distraction and you...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Topic Tuesday

A brash, offshore Bohemian receives an undersized postcard of an old barn. Welcome to Topic Tuesday!

  • Undersized
  • Old barn
  • Bohemian
  • Brash
  • Offshore
  • Postcard

Friday, September 22, 2006

Provacative Phrase Friday

Provacative Phrase Friday:

  • I told a cop...
  • Why stare at...
  • I can't wait to see...
  • ... doesn't cost much...
  • When we first met...
  • Oh yes...

Can you write a story using all of these phrases?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Topic Tuesday

Your latest Topic Tuesday prompts:

  • Liquid metallic
  • Floored
  • Bible-thumping
  • Illiterate
  • Revved up
  • Tweezer

Challenge: Try using all of these words in a story or poem. YIKES!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Not Reading Enough

I was shocked to discover today that I've only managed to finish reading 3 books so far this year: Marley and Me, Faith of a Writer, and The Traveller's Gift.

I have been tracking the books I read July 2002 on a spreadsheet. I list the title, author, publisher, publication date, number of pages, category, the date I started reading the book, the day that I finished reading it, and some general notes about it.

I have 11 books that I've started reading and have yet to finish. One of them, Atlas Shrugged, has been on the list since April 1, 2003. I am about two-thirds of the way through it, and can't bear to take it off my list, but yet I am not in a big hurry to finish it either. It has been sitting on my desk at work, and every once in a while I'll read a few pages during lunch if I have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE available to read. It has been one of those efforts to read one of those books that are considered to be classics, but I still can't quite figure out why.

I am up to 74 books on my list for this year. I count audio books (20) and graphic novels (36) on this list so this is where the bulk of my reading has been this year. The audio books, strictly for long drives and my commute to work, and the graphic novels... I use them as light meal-time or just-before-falling-asleep reading. I just love comic book superhero sagas. I always have, and probably always will, and they are the perfect way to end a long day or take a mental break from a work day.

I've always been bad about finishing the books that I start, but this is bad even for me. How can I call myself a writer if I haven't even been reading too many books this year? This is going to have to change...

Provocative Phrase Friday

Here is the first of the Provocative Phrase Friday series were every Friday Grist for the Muse will post six provocative phrases that you can use in your writing (courtesy of JumpStart Jar). Use these as a first line, a jump start for a scene that is giving you trouble, or use them all in one crazy writing session. Enjoy!
  • Keep walking.
  • Do you believe?
  • Wouldn't it be a...
  • I stood there at the door...
  • She'll never know you can't...
  • I am no longer afraid...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Writing Topic Tuesday

Each and every Tuesday, Grist for the Muse is bringing you (courtesy of JumpStart Jar) Writing Topic Tuesday: a list of six provocative words or short phrases to use as writing exercises or jump start a stalled writing session. Here are this week's topics:
  • The blahs
  • Nosedive
  • Too dangerous
  • Squint
  • Loophole
  • Turning around
Not sure what to do with them or how to use them? Check out my article on flashquake.org with some suggested guidelines on "flash writing" a first draft.

Tune in this Friday for the first Provocative Phrase Friday, where you will get six unique phrases to start a new writing session or bring a new twist to an existing one.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Dreadful Day Jobs and the celebration of Labor Day

When I ask people at my presentations and workshops what do they do for their day jobs, most of them sigh and say... I'm a... customer call center manager... an attorney (I have a LOT of unhappy attorneys in my classes)... a software engineer... in Retail... work in the insurance industry... all with that same beaten-down, Eeyore-like enthusiasm. These are the true writers in the bunch, they have come to grips with the fact that the day-job is a necessary evil (and probably always will be), and they don't like it.

Their creative spirit snarls and growls at the walls of their cubicles, their offices, their lockers or work areas. It whimpers at the time that melts away the days when they'd rather be reading a trashy sci-fi novel, hiking up that mountain, playing marbles with their kids, or painting a masterpiece on the back of the garage.

Day jobs suck and here's a neat little song parody that I stumbled across reading the Cincom eXpert Access newsletter which always seems to have some good articles on marketing trends, blogging, or some other online content issue. But this one made me laugh out loud and is very appropriate for this day to commemorate those of us who still toil in our day jobs. Enjoy My Comfy Cubicle. Happy Labor Day everyone!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Grist for the Mews

Meet the newest addition to the Grist for the Mews staff: Elvira. She's assuming the roles of Rodent Control Specialist, Attack Cat and Administrative Assistant But don't ask her to mail anything, answer the phone (although she does knock the phone off of the hook every once in-a-while), make copies, or file anything. She enjoys laying on top of the stackable trays on top of the filing cabinet, batting at inkjet cartridges trying to print, attacking computer cables, purring on your lap while typing, climbing on back of my chair and chewing my hair.

She is a sweet-tempered kitten with a constant purr. Who loves visits from the kids who find new ways to make her leap and jump around with various strings and kitty toys. I think that Ben wants to train her to do a trick to get her on America's Funniest Animals on Animal Planet. She is a hard working mews.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Thrill of Dreams

Spent the last two days at the Columbus Writers Conference where I always have a great time. There is so much energy in the room where kindred spirits meet, discuss their passions, exchange business cards, and then move on to the next person. The energy there is similar to a freshman orientation at college or maybe the first week of college where you are still absorbing everything, enjoying meeting everyone and classes haven’t started yet… so there is nothing but time to discuss your dreams, socialize, and maybe make a few new friends. I have a slew of business cards of people I’ve met, things that I need to follow-up on, and work to get done (the www.jumpstartjar.com site needs to be up and running within the next 24-hours... ARRRRRGGGH!!!).

I also met a couple of wonderful agents who I will keep in touch with. Both seemed to really like my next project idea: The 15-Minute Writer: How to Achieve Your Writing Dreams in Just 15 Minutes a Day, and this has given me the kick in the ass that I needed to get going on the book proposal that I've been too busy to start. They both loved my marketing idea for the book, which is to show how I wrote this book in 15-minute chunks of time and tracking it on a blog from the beginning of the project. Granted I’m not at ground zero, as far as starting the whole thing, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done, and I can do it… 15-minutes at a time. Check it out at

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Punching out the Inner Critic

Currently reading Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing, and he has a colorful metaphor for the power of frequency (or persistence).

“Muhammad Ali did not become heavyweight champion of the world by punching twenty people one time each. No, he became champ by punching one guy twenty times. By applying frequency to the poor opponent’s head, Ali was able to bring his message home.” Page 82.

I love Seth Godin. He knows his stuff and communicates clearly, and this was yet another great example of this. Check out Seth’s Blog at
http://sethgodin.typepad.com/. On paper, you’d think that marketing would be a dry subject, but Mr. Godin always seems to find a way to make abstract concepts clear through the use of metaphors like these.

So what does this mean to you as a writer? How many times have you started a project that you were REALLY excited about, only to run out of gas, or get sidetracked by another project? Sometimes projects need that extra push to get beyond the initial adrenaline rush when you start a new project… where you get that first questioning thought that asks you, “What the hell was I thinking when I decided that THIS would be a great project?” Sometimes you have to apply some frequency to the poor project’s head. Work at it just a bit longer when you are convinced that it is going nowhere.

This is your Inner Critic’s way of shutting down an idea if you ignored his initial grumbling at the beginning. He switches tactics and no longer blocks the individual words and thoughts, but attacks the concept itself, by making premature (and often unrealistic) expectations on the end result, when in reality you are still working through the details. If push through this resistance, you’ll be able to bring your own message home.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Hey there! This is the first posting of the Grist for the Muse blog, the blog that will get you writing and keep you writing. This blog will include writing exercises, writing book reviews, websites to check out, as well as the occasional article or rant.

There is also an advice column: Ask the Muse, where you can ask writing and publishing related questions, as well as anything else that might come to mind. The content of this blog will serve as the basis for the monthly Grist for the Muse newsletter, so stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as I stumble around the blogging process.