Friday, April 8, 2011

Haiku or Bust

It's been a while since I posted here on SFD, but I've gotten a bit of inspiration. I belong to Off Campus Writers' Workshop (lucky me), the oldest continuously running writing workshop in the country. We currently boast about 200 members and each Thursday morning between September and early May, we host a speaker. Two-and-a-half hours of graduate level classes on topics from technique to pitching to marketing (plus everything in between) for 8 bucks ($10 for nonmembers, so if you are ever in the northern Chicago suburbs on a Thursday morning, you should drop in — we welcome all comers).

On March 31, we heard Janice Del Negro, storyteller extraordinaire. Her topic was ostensibly "Building Inspiration: The practical construction of creative motivation", but it was so much more than that. That's the thing about OCWW — you never know what you might learn from a speaker.

One exercise Janice had us try was to write the entire plot of a story in Haiku — that 5-7-5 poem format. She recommended that we use a fairytale or folk tale, since the plots are so familiar. This is not a traditional form for me by any means, and I tried Goldilocks, but didn't like the outcome. Of course, one of the points of the exercise was to avoid perfection and just do it (i.e., create a SFD), but that's not my best thing either. So I tried a different story — my favorite story, so it is very familiar to me: The Great Gatsby. Here's my effort:

Gatsby wants Daisy
Nick visits, Tom cheats, three die
Dreams live best as dreams

Whether you like my haiku or not, it proved to be a lightbulb moment for me. First, I think this is a great exercise for creating your elevator pitch for your book/novel/story/script.

Second, it showed me that I have to know my story as well as I know Fitzgerald's masterpiece — so well that I could distill it down to 17 syllables.

Third, that I need to hone my story until it is concrete enough, substantial enough in its theme and plot, to be expressed in 17 syllables.

Thank you, Janice. If you like this exercise, feel free to take a crack at it in the comments.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Winter Storm

It speaks to me in sounds
I didn't know I knew
A wounded moose
Ancient radio crackles
News from long ago
Train wheels grind frozen rails
An eagle screams
A drop of well-deep quiet
A thousand hands rub
Together to keep warm
An old man rocks and hums
Deep in his chest

Weary house answers
Windows whistle
Bones grumble and groan
Every door grunts
Against the winter storm
Pipes clang
Furnace harrumphs, then heaves
Bits of plaster surrender
And spit pieces to the floor

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Two Kinds of People: Second Annual 2KoP Writing Challenge

Two Kinds of People: Second Annual 2KoP Writing Challenge: "[Update 1/19/11 — The ante has been upped! NY Times best-selling author Laura Munson has taken the 2KoP Writing Challenge, posting her versi..."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Writing Prompt: Next to Last

This writing prompt is from Lisa Romeo.  She promised a summer of prompts, so I'm pretty sure I know what this one means. Like everything else in my summer, this is coming to an end. I didn't do as well as I had hoped keeping up with the prompts, but I've saved all her emails and will probably go back and work on some of them, posting them as if I had done them on the day she sent them. Or is that cheating? In any case, thank you, Lisa, for the inspirational summer.

Penultimate — it's one of my favorite words. When I first heard it, I thought it meant that the event or thing in questions was even more ultimate than the ultimate. Penultimate is  such an elegant word, so luxurious in the mouth, that it had to mean something great. It was somewhat of a letdown to discover that it meant "next to last" or not quite ultimate. That really took the shine off of the word for me for a while.

But I've come back to it. At first, it was probably due to the smugness that wordies like me feel when we know the true meaning and usage of a word that many people use incorrectly. I've often heard penultimate used the way I imagined it as a child. Every time I hear or read the misuse, I take out my mental Sharpie pen and correct it. There's such satisfaction in being right. It turns a pet peeve into a gleeful moment of triumph.

But the real attraction of the word is that there is something hopeful about being the penultimate. It means there's still one more chance after this one to get it right; one more opportunity to enjoy something wonderful. Penultimate may not be the "ultimate", but it also isn't the final, the last, the end.

Geez, I'm a geek. Who else takes so much joy in parsing words? If you do, come sit next to me. Leave and comment and we'll discuss. Thanks again, Lisa

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Just Tryin' Out the iPad

I'm at the Apple Store waiting for my new computer, and just could not resist the temptation to play with the iPad. While this little goodie has gotten a pretty bad rap, I have to say that it's pretty seductive -- so sleek and small, lightweight and easy to throw in your bag and go. You can surf the net anywhere there's wifi. Way fun, and not as tiny as typing on an iPhone (but I covet one of those, too).