Muses at My Beck and Call

inspireJanuary 20, 2017 — No matter how much you love what you do, there will always be days when you need a little extra kick to get started. When the writing process becomes difficult, for example, a little Internet surfing does wonders to spark my creativity—or shock the hell out of me, which also works.

Sometimes I turn to great quotations from published authors to get me started. They act as a muse and provide instant inspiration to get writing juices flowing again. My favorite is a quote by author Tom Robbins. More clever than inspirational, it always puts things into perspective for me:

“I have been sick ever since I started working here, but I’m well today and I won’t be in anymore.”

Here are a few “more traditional” quotes that do the trick to round out an inspirational top 10:

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” – Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” – James Michener

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” – Agatha Christie

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” – Cyril Connolly

“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” – Tom Clancy

“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”  – Lawrence Kasdan

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” – Ernest Hemingway

 

Celebrating the written word

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October 14, 2011 – Next Thursday, October 20, is The National Day on Writing, and this year, it won’t pass me by without a celebration.

Selecting a day to honor writing began as a project by the National Council of English Teachers to encourage people to share why they write. The site also asked writers to tweet why they write, and last year over 60,000 writers participated. Join the conversation on Twitter with #WhyIWrite.

Here are a few responses that caught my eye:

1. “It’s cheaper than a shrink.”
2. “I can’t always say what I want to be heard.”
3. “To retain sanity.”
4. “To become a better person.”
5. “It’s the first thing I was good at.”
6. “There are restless characters clamoring to get out.”
7. “Because I can lie things into existence.”
8. “It comes out a heck of a lot better than when I speak.”
9. “It’s the least destructive addiction I could find.”
10. “Who says I have a choice?”

While I can relate, especially to #8 my answer is simple: it makes me happy.

My biggest fear for the future of writing, and why it’s so important to celebrate a national day like this, is that social media has turned many of us away from proper spelling or grammar. Aside from the occasional LOL, I’m not even able to use shortcuts or dominating abbreviations. I follow a simple rule when writing anything, from an email or text, a short story, or a speech for the CEO where I work: anyone who puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard should care about the outcome.

Thank you to all of the writers who have fulfilled me, shocked me, made me laugh and cry, and thoroughly entertained me through the years.

Three More Clever Writing Tools

March 11, 2016 Whether you’re trying to write a term paper, the church bulletin or the great American novel, writing can be a challenging process. Here are a few tools (or games) that get the juices flowing and make the process fun.

Portent’s Content Idea Generator
I discovered this gem when out of desperation I Googled, “what the heck can I blog about today?” Simply type in a word or idea in the subject line and the generator will provide you with a unique topic and a possible title.

portent generator
I typed in Philadelphia Phillies, and it generated an interesting idea: How Twitter can teach you about the Philadelphia Phillies. I never wrote about the topic—although Twitter probably could teach me a thing or two about my favorite baseball team—but it certainly started the idea process in my mind’s generator.

A few of the suggestions also gave me a chuckle. Since I’m in total political mode these days, I typed in two of the presidential candidates’ names and received the most amusing responses. You can’t argue that either topic would make juicy writing!

– You haven’t seen this Hillary Clinton list on Buzzfeed
– 20 ways knowing about Donald Trump will land you in jail

First Line Generator
Writing fiction may seem easier that nonfiction (because you get to make it up!) However, completing that first sentence is tough. Here’s a unique tool from across the pond that solves the problem. You don’t even have to type an idea. Just click and go!

first line

This is a great tool for setting the wheels in motion. It also helps you understand the importance of hooking your reader with that first sentence.

The site also has features that can help writers with plots, characters, the names of towns and more.

writing exercises

Writer’s Block Generator
Itching to write a story but don’t have a compelling plot? That isn’t a problem with this handy tool. Again, it comes to us from across the pond—no wonder those Brits can write!—and offers plot ideas, character names, and more.

plot generator

Bonus: the site also offers helpful tips on the writing process!

You won’t likely use one of the prompts to write a complete novel – or maybe you will – but it serves as the perfect brainstorming tool to generate your own ideas and get past an attack of writer’s block.

To find more of these fun tools search “Writing Generators” in your browser and explore!

Crazed and Confused

modern fairytaleFebruary 19, 2016 —Once upon a time in an urban kingdom nearby lived a girl who enjoyed the art of politics. She was always up for a good debate during family dinners and soon she became addicted to the variety of political news programs on television. Soon she realized that politics was actually a scary bedtime story—with nothing real or pure about it—and she grew sad. The current presidential primary, for example, was one of the most ridiculous and bizarre races she could remember, and it seemed never ending. There was still nine more months of campaigning before the kingdom elected anyone from the mediocre list of candidates! Not only had campaigning become too negative for the girl, it was excessively long and expensive.

One day, she leaped out of bed and began her morning ritual. She was almost ready to leave for work when she accidentally applied moisturizer too close to her eyes. Oh, how they burned! She prayed that if they stopped stinging, she’d be more careful next time. The burning sensation threw her day into a tizzy, and although she wanted to stay home and with a cool towel on her eyes, it was not possible.

The girl’s watering eyes made the drive to work difficult, especially with the blinding sun glare. Even though her vision was compromised, she noticed the troll driving in front of her throwing trash from his car window. She laid on her horn to show her displeasure. Why would anyone think it was acceptable to follow such a hideous practice? Maybe TV executives should rerun those commercials from the 1970s that showed the Native American running through the woods with a tear rolling down his cheek when he happened upon the littered woods. That would make any litterer think twice. However, this troll, she realized, had no soul.

Things didn’t get much better when she walked into her office and turned on her computer to read the daily news. Yikes! The state of Philadelphia sports, her home kingdom, was getting worse by the minute. Between the Eagles falling apart because of the actions of their former coach to the Phillies’ expectations to finish the season in dead last according to the latest MLB Power Rankings, things looked bleak. She closed her eyes and wished for a bright side, and then remembered that pitchers and catchers reported to training camp a few days before. She hoped that the new crop of young players would at least make the season interesting.

She plowed through her morning frustrated and plagued with negative thoughts about politics, burning eyes, littering and baseball. It was all too much for one morning. Then she realized that the day could only improve from there, so she smiled and lived happily ever after.

Ranking the Best

featherNovember 5, 2015 – Who are the best writers of all time?

According to those who rated them on Ranker.com, here is the incredibly long list.

It’s interesting how far you have to scroll down to find a female author, or someone who is alive. It’s even more interesting how much more scrolling is required before you find a mainstream author. There aren’t too many on the list.

Looks like I’m in the minority because I enjoy modern fiction more than the classics.

Ready, Set, Na NO!

download (1)November 1, 2015 – NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month begins today.

I’m exercising the NO in NaNoWriMo this year. I’m not even going to fool myself and sign up to participate as I have in years past.

In case you don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a unique way to approach writing a novel. Authors sign up on the website and agree to write 50,000 words or more by 11:59:59 on November 30.

The exercise isn’t about finishing an edited masterpiece in a month. For most of us that would be impossible. It’s about achieving quantity over quality, lowering your expectations, taking risks and ultimately becoming a better writer.

Sounds a bit crazy, I know, but the method works for some writers. Here’s a list of books published based on NaNoWriMo successes.

For me, writing is a joy, not a stressful task that pushes my limits. I’m funny that way.

Daughters of the Hall – Chapter Thirty-Four

downloadOctober 2, 2015 – Chapter One, Chapter TwoChapter ThreeChapter Four, Chapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter EightChapter NineChapter TenChapter ElevenChapter TwelveChapter ThirteenChapter FourteenChapter FifteenChapter SixteenChapter SeventeenChapter EighteenChapter Nineteen, Chapter Twenty,Chapter Twenty-One, Twenty-Two,Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four, Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six,Twenty-Seven, Twenty-Eight, Twenty-Nine, Chapter Thirty, Chapter Thirty-One, Chapter Thirty-Two, Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

On Monday morning, Martha Chadwick resigned from the Board of Directors explaining she wanted to take a lesser role in the charity now that the gala was over because she was going to pursue a business opportunity she couldn’t let pass. She would however, continue her good work to open the DIH Museum sometime the following year. Martha bought the Philadelphia Weekly, kept the staff intact, promoted Bill Hower to managing editor, and then had a frank talk with her husband about the money she paid back. She convinced him she wanted to reform and the paper would better occupy her time when he was busy with his work.

Elyse Walton decided to divorce her husband, get a job to support her family, and not worry what her  mother threatened. That meant her girls would have to get jobs too and she knew that would be good for their spoiled selfish souls. Since she had been journalism major in college, Martha hired her to work at the paper. To her surprise, Martha had asked Jenny to stay on, but she declined, explaining now that everything was out in the open about Carrie Grant, there was no longer a reason to continue. She suggested that Elyse take over the column, since she was familiar with the DIH.

Andrew and Jenny sat on the sofa while she explained the events to him, since she had just hung up after a long conversation with Martha Chadwick. “She almost seemed gracious,” Jenny added. “I’m not sure how to deal with that.”

Andrew smiled. “You’ve taken on Goliath and won,” he said. “And look at this wonderful picture in the newspaper.”

Jenny smiled. It was the two of them dancing with a caption below that read “DIH turned upside down by undercover journalist.” It was the best thing she ever saw.

“You surprised me Saturday night,” Andrew said with a smile. “I knew you were a smart person, Jenny, that much was obvious, but I didn’t know you had chutzpah!”

She laughed. “Only when pushed.”

He nodded. “I’ll have to make note of that.”

“Why’s that?” she asked.

“I don’t want to push you and unleash that beast on me,” he said with a large grin. “On second thought, maybe that’s not such a bad idea.”

“You are bad,” she said.

“Oh, honey, you’ve barely scratched the surface.” He leaned in and kissed her and it was the kind of kiss that stirred passion, and promised much more in the future.

When the phone rang, she looked at Andrew. “I’m sure that’s my mother,” she said. “She’s seen the picture in the paper and wants details.”

Andrew kissed her and smiled, and it was wonderful. “I thought she was in Paris.”

“She is, but somehow she knows. She always knows.”

“Make sure you tell her I’m sorry you couldn’t go with her, but I’m glad you didn’t.”

She smiled and walked toward the phone. “She’ll want to know who you are, and if you’re coming to brunch soon and if you’re coming to the wedding event of the year.”

Andrew smiled. “You better tell her yes then. Tell her I’m you’re plus one and that’s a title I don’t plan to give up any time soon.”

The End