Unlock the Muse – February 26, 2019

I went to see How To Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World this week with my children. They were all excited to see it, and so was I. I love these movies, and without giving anything away, I think I can say this movie is a great ending to a well done series.

I read a lot of series fiction, and I tend to write it as well. The How To Train Your Dragon movies are an excellent reminder of what it takes to put together a good series. I’m currently in the middle of writing a series of novels, and my hope is that I can bring the overall story to a satisfying conclusion such as the Dragon series.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Begin a short reflective essay with the phrase ‘I remember…’ and continue as far back as you can. Be descriptive.

Memories are elusive, changeable things. Capturing them can be tricky, especially the older they get. Explore this exercise with a partner, someone who shared an experience with you. Separately write down everything you can remember about the event. Compare notes and see what’s the same, and what is different.

It’s play week! Here’s a roll of the Rory’s Story Cubes to get the fun started. Try focusing on one image at a time. What ideas do each one evoke?


Happy writing!

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, by Paul Fleischman – A Review

I purchased this book a while back because I ran across a good deal on the ebook version. It is on the Newbery Honor list, so I picked it up. I decided it fits the ATY 2019 Reading Challenge prompt #38, a book not written in traditional novel format. It isn’t even traditional poem format.

I didn’t realize just how unique the format of this book is when I purchased it. This is a collection of poems about a variety of insects – grasshoppers, honeybees, mayflies, and so on. Each poem is written in two columns, intended to be read aloud by two people. One individual reads the column on the left, one reads the column on the right. Some lines are read separately, some simultaneously.

I was so intrigued by the idea of two voices, I decided I had to hear it. I purchased an audio version of this book and listened to it in a single session. It’s a very short book, so this was not difficult to do. My favorite poem is “Whirligig Beetles”. So much fun!

I also wanted to try this for myself, so I invited my son to read this aloud with me. My son is nine years old, and is quite a competent reader. However, the poems in this collection do include words not commonly used by nine year olds. My son struggled a little bit with some of the words, making it a little cumbersome to read aloud. He found it a little annoying, he said, with the voices talking at the same time. To be fair, it does sound somewhat chaotic, but I think that’s what I liked about it.

I look forward to reading it with my other two sons one day. They seem to have more of a chaotic free-spirit about them than my analytical eldest.

While it isn’t impossible to enjoy a visual read through of this book, it is far more interesting to read out loud, or at least to listen to. This book is a very unique and enjoyable experience.

Unlock the Muse – February 19, 2019

Basketball season is coming to a close for my boys. A few weeks following that they will start soccer again. Life is busy with three boys. It never stops, and it never slows down. As a writer, finding time to focus on the current project is never easy. The trick is to fit the writing in around the sports schedule, the day job, the homework and bedtime routines.

My challenge for this final week of February is to take the moments available, turn off the unnecessary devices, block the internet, and do whatever is needed to just focus on the writing. Are you with me?

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Engage in primal scream therapy.

Primal scream therapy:
Psychotherapy in which the patient recalls and reenacts a particularly disturbing past experience usually occurring early in life and expresses normally repressed anger or frustration especially through spontaneous and unrestrained screams, hysteria, or violence.

Writing is hard and frustrating. Characters aren’t cooperating? The whole novel is about to be consumed by a giant plot hole? Shut yourself in a closet and scream it out.

Now go on, get back to work.

This week we’ll take a look at the word FOCUS.

1. The center of interest or activity.
2. The state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition.

1. (Of a person or their eyes) adapt to the prevailing level of light and become able to see clearly.
2. Pay particular attention to.

From the 1640s, focus comes from the Latin meaning “hearth or fireplace.” It was used in post-classical times for “fire” itself and was taken by Kepler (1604) in a mathematical sense for “point of convergence,” perhaps referring to the burning point of a lens. It was introduced into English in the 1650s by Hobbes. It’s use in the sense of “center of activity or energy” is first recorded in 1796.

Happy writing!

Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech: A Review

For Popsugar’s 2019 Reading Challenge, prompt #29 – a book with “love” in the title – I chose to read Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech. I wanted to use books from my overflowing bookshelves, but sadly, have no books whose titles contain the word “love.” I found this book by Sharon Creech when I went searching for books that qualified.

I was intrigued by the description, so I borrowed a copy from my local library. Goodreads describes the book this way:

Jack hates poetry. Only girls write it and every time he tries to, his brain feels empty. But his teacher, Ms. Stretchberry, won’t stop giving her class poetry assignments – and Jack can’t avoid them. But then something amazing happens. The more he writes, the more he learns he does have something to say.

This book is labeled a “novel,” but is written in the format of a poem, or series of poems. It is the story of Jack, a middle-grader, who learns a thing or two about poetry. It’s a story about a boy and his dog. It’s about a boy finding his voice.

This book moves fast. I read it in a single sitting. I think I would like to read it again sometime, a little slower, perhaps.

I enjoyed it so much, I immediately handed it off to my 9 year old son. I did finally get him to read it. My son learned a few things about poetry. For one, it doesn’t necessarily have to rhyme. Two, poems shaped like the object they are about are a little weird (his words). When I asked him if he would recommend the book to someone else, he said maybe. He rated it a four out of five, and asked me to get the next book, Hate That Cat. That sounds like a recommendation to me.

The Color of February

It’s February 14th – Valentine’s Day. A day of red heart boxes filled with chocolate, red roses, red balloons and red cards filled with sappy sentiments. Red is the color of February. Right?

Well, it turns out, red is the color of my reading list this month. It wasn’t intentional, but I’m really loving the red this month.

Shadowheart, by Tad Williams – the one I should be reading, but haven’t started yet
Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – the library book I’m actively reading
Ship of Magic, by Robin Hobb – the one I just can’t leave alone
Bloodwitch, by Susan Dennard – the brand new release I couldn’t wait to get my hands on

It’s the perfect line-up for February, don’t you think? (Yes, I added the sappy decorations to the already gorgeous covers.) Red really is the color of February.

What have you “red” so far this month?

Happy Valentine’s Day! And happy reading!

Unlock the Muse – February 12, 2019

Another week, another chance to focus on writing. I’ve struggled all week, battling distractions. I’m sorry to say, the distractions have been winning more often than I have. But there have been a handful of intensely productive episodes in among the failings.

Despite all that, I’m as focused as ever on achieving my goals. I continue to move forward my project. This will be a short post because, well, the distractions are real.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

What would your favorite author do to beat a block? Type.

Who is your favorite author? Stephen King? Jane Austen? J. K. Rowling? Put yourself in front of that author’s keyboard and write. Don’t stop until you find your own voice again.

One final thought for the week:


Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – February 5, 2019

It is the beginning of a new month. I hope January treated you well, and you’ve come away from that first month in the new year with a renewed energy to tackle whatever writing project you’re currently working on.

I hope you’re ready, it’s time to get to work!

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Music is poetry. Write a poem intended to be sung. If you’re musically inclined, try singing it when you’re finished.

I’ve never done well with poetry. Most of the time when I read it, I feel like I’m missing a crucial point, leaving me vaguely disappointed. I want to like it, and sometimes I do. I’ve tried my hand at writing it, but I think I’m lacking a basic understanding of the genre to really do much with it. Still, I think it’s a good creative exercise to play around with different forms. So go on, play! Sing! Dance! Create!

Life is full of distractions – day jobs, school, families. Sometimes, though, these “regular” distractions are the easiest to work around. It is the self-sabotaging distractions – the time-wasting variety – that I struggle with the most. I also suffer from “shiny new idea” syndrome, and too often find myself jumping from project to project without finishing anything.

Therefore, I’ve chosen the theme of Focus for the month of February. I’ve made the decision to focus on a single project (it’s a five-book series, so it will keep me busy for awhile). Also, for the month of February, I’ve narrowed that focus to work specifically on characters. My goal is to have as many characters fully developed as I possibly can by the time Camp NaNo arrives in April.

What project are you working on right now? Commit to that one project for the month of February. Narrow your focus to accomplish a specific task.

Happy writing!