Unlock the Muse – April 14, 2020

The schools where I live are officially closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year. The school district mandated distance learning beginning this week. I have been home from work for the past two weeks trying to step into the gap left by the statewide school closure. My children, their teachers and myself have been working to adapt to this new way of life.

Between learning new technologies and keeping three boys separately occupied, this process has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Even so, I am hopeful that we can arrive at a new equilibrium. Things won’t be the what they were before, maybe not ever again. But we can keep pressing forward. We can find new ways to reach our goals. Flexibility and adaptability will be important. But so will persistence and patience.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Retell a memorable story you’ve heard, being as faithful as possible to the voice of the teller. What does the story say about the storyteller? What makes the story so memorable?

Stories are important. True histories. Family stories. Make believe stories. Our lives are made up of stories. And we need to remember them. Write down those you can remember. Write your stories.

Encourage
I’ll leave you this week with this thought:

Adapt Quote 3

Happy writing.

Unlock the Muse – April 6, 2020

Most of us are learning to cope with a new normal. Many people are working from home. Many others are out of work. Schools are closed across the nation. And no one can tell us how long these “temporary” measures will go on.

For some of us, this new reality has opened up new avenues of creativity. More time at home means more time for writing. For others, myself included, the anxiety of the unknown, or the pressures of new activities have shut down the creative muse.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Create a fable that explains how the sun, moon or stars came to be.

Every culture around the world has a creation story. Imagine your own version of how things came to be. If you’re writing fantasy fiction, or fiction set in another world, write a creation fable for your world.

Encourage
The most important thing we can do in this new reality, is to adapt. Compared to so many people, my life is easy. I’m healthy. I’m still employed. I have the means to stay home and attempt to educate my children. Writing has taken a back seat for me, which is frustrating. But like so many, I am trying to adapt, to adjust, to find a way to make this new normal work better. For myself, for my family, and for my goals I’m not willing to give up.

Thank you for reading. I hope you are finding your way through this crazy world we’re living in. If my words have helped you in anyway, or if you have found a way that works for you, please consider sharing in the comments.

Thank you, and happy writing.

Unlock the Muse – March 31, 2020

This week I started home schooling my three children since the schools are currently closed. I anticipate it being a very challenging time personally. After just the first day, I’m exhausted. I do not take this privilege lightly. I am simply trying to do my part to #StayHome.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write a list of the 10 things you enjoyed most about today.

Life is hard enough right now, a little positive goes a long way. Hold on to the good things. They are there, though sometimes we might have to look a little harder to find them.

Encourage
If you can’t tell from the brevity of this post, I’ve been struggling to find words. The stress of this new reality and the pressures of learning what amounts to a new job on the fly, have squashed my creativity. Maybe you’re struggling too. Or maybe this COVID-19 pandemic has inspired you. Wherever you find yourself right now, consider sharing your experience as a writer. How are you getting through this crisis?

Happy writing, and thanks for sharing.

Unlock the Muse – March 24, 2020

When the unanticipated comes along and sidelines everything, it’s about all anyone can do to keep moving forward. Priorities have suddenly shifted in a massive way. From full-time employee, I’m about to become full-time homeschool mom. And I know I’m not alone in this new inside-out reality.

In the midst of all of this, it is all too possible to lose sight of the goals set earlier in the year. I know for myself, I have had very little interest in writing anything in the last couple of weeks. On some level, I want to write, but when it comes down to the actual work, I’m just quite simply, exhausted.

All I really want to say this week is wherever you are at in this global crisis we find ourselves in right now, hang in there. We will come out of this. We will come out of it changed, possibly scarred, but hopefully stronger. Have faith, hold on, care for one another and stay strong.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Start networking. If you write nonfiction, consider attending a business expo for article ideas. If you write fiction, consider joining a writing group. Write an essay about your goals.

In these unique and challenging times, your networking will likely need to occur virtually. But the good news is there is so much available online. Find a webinar in a subject that interests you. Join an online writers’ organization. Even during this time when social distancing is the present norm, we can still reach out to support one another and learn from one another. Even in these difficult times, we don’t have to lose sight of our goals.

Encourage
Because we can really a little positive right now, here’s a little fun from Rory’s Story Cubes. Use one, or use them all and have some fun.

StoryCubes22

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – March 17, 2020

In this weekly post, I try to keep things positive. That is, after all, what this is supposed to be all about – encouraging and inspiring writers to do more and keep writing. I’ve intentionally stayed away from the less pleasant side of life, though I have by no means intended to discount it. Right now, however, life isn’t so pleasant. While we have all watched the progression of the corona virus pandemic, though I doubt any of us anticipated anything like this. Not truly.

We are surrounded by so much loss right now. I would be surprised to learn that there is anyone left who hasn’t lost something to this pandemic – a senior prom, an audience at a soccer game, a family vacation, peace of mind, a loved one.

In the midst of all this, some might find writing to be cathartic. Others might find it completely impossible. Wherever you’re at, don’t give up. Don’t lose sight of your goal. If it’s worth striving for, it will still be there when this season passes. If it turns out it was the wrong goal, choose another. Whatever you do, don’t let guilt destroy what you’ve already accomplished.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Be creative and redub your family and friends with nicknames. Challenge yourself to search until you find the word that pegs their personalities. (And be nice!)

Try this exercise with your characters. Maybe the nicknames will become a beloved pet name your main character’s dad used to use. Or maybe it will become their military call sign. Nicknames can add unexpected layers to your character. Oh, and you don’t have to be quite so nice with your fictional family!

Encourage
an·tic·i·pate
verb

1. Regard as probable; expect or predict.
2. Act as a forerunner or precursor of.

Dating from the 1530s, meaning “to cause to happen sooner,” from the noun form anticipation. It comes from the Latin anticipare, “take (care of) ahead of time,” or literally, “taking into possession beforehand.”

Later, it came to mean “prevent or preclude by prior action,” (c. 1600) and “beware of (something) coming at a future time” (1640s). Used in the sense of “expect, look forward to” dates back to around 1749.
(from etymonline.com)

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – March 10, 2020

When working toward a long-term goal, one important thing is to anticipate events that will, or are likely to come up that could potentially derail your plans. For example, this past week I knew I had a significant family event to plan and prepare for. It meant giving up time usually dedicated to writing. It was necessary, and it was worth it.

Don’t stop with simply anticipating the road ahead. Work out a way to write around the coming event. Celebrating your anniversary on the weekend? Write extra words earlier in the week and enjoy your time off. Or, arrange to set aside extra time for writing the next weekend. Scale back on the writing goals in the days or weeks leading up to the big event. Just never lose sight of your overall goal.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

You are in an elevator, and it suddenly stops. Who else is there? How do you get out? Write a short story, make it as absurd as possible.

Don’t over think this one. Write the first things that come to mind. Put yourself (or your character) into an impossible situation. Arm yourself with the most inappropriate tools. Then, get yourself out. Have fun!

Encourage
I leave you this week with a final thought from author Mark Helprin…

Anticipate Quote 2

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – March 3, 2020

Welcome to March! The year is nearly a quarter over. Already!

But there is still work to do. Plans must still go forward. Regardless of what life decides to throw out at me. It’s time to look ahead. Anticipate what’s coming and make the most of every opportunity.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Imagine you could speak with a notorious figure in history. What would you say to persuade him to change his way of thinking?

One benefit of writing about history, it is much easier to anticipate what comes next. Whomever you’ve chosen to talk down, use what you know about him to your advantage. Anticipate his actions and figure out what it will take to change his mind.

Encourage
This month, I’m looking at the word Anticipate. In working toward a huge goal, it’s a good idea to look ahead and see what’s coming. It’s okay to make room in your life for life. Need a Saturday off for a child’s birthday party? Take it. Write more in the days leading up to or following the event. Use a calendar or some sort of planner to anticipate the events that are coming up in your life. Don’t forget to anticipate for yourself a time just for writing.

Happy writing!

Monstrous March – Reading Challenge

Kathy over at Books & Munches hosts a monthly reading challenge, and this month is Monstrous March. This simply means that you include at least one book on your TBR for March that qualifies as a “monstrous” book. This could be a book with monsters, characters behaving like monsters, or even a monstrously large book. Thrillers, suspense novels, horror, ghost stories and the like, all are fair game for March!

This challenge seems particularly timely for me as I have several thriller/suspense types coming up on my list that I can’t seem to get especially excited about. This challenge could prove just the thing to get me over this suspense novel slump and make room for more of the books I really want to read.

On my to-read list I have several books that will meet this challenge, including:

  • Several of the Kinsey Milhone books by Sue Grafton
  • The Last Innocent Man, by Phillip Margolin
  • A handful of Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware books
  • Or how about a monstrous nonfiction – Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, by Jeremy Scahill

I will not get through all of them, but it would be nice to mark a few off the list. This is assuming, of course, that I don’t get completely sidelined by John Ringo’s Black Tide Rising series. Though, to be fair, these books also fit very neatly into this monstrous challenge. What isn’t monstrous about a zombie apocalypse?

Unlock the Muse – February 25, 2020

We’re two months into 2020 and – hopefully – we’re making huge strides toward accomplishing the goal we established at the beginning. We have a plan, and we’re going to town on it, right?

Maybe not? Life and other obligations have risen up in the way of working on my goals. Things like work and children, birthday parties and sleepovers and pot lucks. Fortunately, the things I’m up against are good, positive things. I knew they’d come up, and I attempted to plan for them.

This week, take a good look at how things are going so far. Are you still moving forward toward your goal? Be honest with yourself and make sure you’re working on the right goal. Now is the time to evaluate your progress so far and decide if you can realistically accomplish what you’ve set out to do. Do you need to step it up a notch? Or maybe you need to dial it back a little.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

A character’s regional, ethnic and socioeconomic background will to some extent determine what vocabulary he uses. List a few of your main characters and five words that they would use.

If there isn’t a specific reason for all, or most of your characters to have a similar background, this sort of exercise can help you develop distinguishing traits for each character. This can give them voices distinct from each other, and make your stories more interesting.

Encourage
It’s play week. During Planning month. Therefore, here’s your roll of the Rory’s Story Cubes, Action edition, along with a plan:

StoryCubes21

  • Step One: Roll! (Okay, I did that one for you. You’re on your own for the rest!)
  • Step Two: Examine the images. If you find yourself inspired by one or all of the images, proceed to Step Three. Feeling uninspired? Skip to Step Four.
  • Step Three: Write, using one, four, all of the images, for however long the muse leads you.
  • Step Four: Choose a pair of images that seem to have nothing to do with one another. Write for ten minutes putting both images into a single scene.

Happy writing!

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon: A Review

I chose to read Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon for the 2020 Popsugar Reading Challenge prompt #32, a book by a WOC (or, woman of color). I had several fantastic choices just from among my own bookshelves, so I didn’t have to look far. I added this book to my library after reading Nicola Yoon’s other book, The Sun is Also a Star for last year’s challenge. I fell in love with her breezy, hopeful style in the midst of tragedy and family drama. And Everything, Everything did not disappoint.

This book tells the story of Madeline, an 18-year old girl suffering from severe combined immunodeficiency. She has essentially been locked away inside her own home her entire life, with very little contact from the outside. The only people she has regular contact with are her mother and full-time nurse, Carla.

Madeline knows she must stay inside and that her mother is doing everything possible to keep her from getting sick. While not always, she is at present content with her life – with her books, her online classes and movie nights with her mom. But then a new family moves in next door, and Madeline’s contented life begins to turn inside out.

I couldn’t help being drawn into Madeline’s story. I felt very sympathetic toward her and her situation despite the sometimes foolish decisions she made. And the end that came was not the end I anticipated.

I chose the audio version of this book, excellently narrated by Bahni Turpin and Robbie Daymond. I enjoyed this book very much.