Sunday, January 19, 2020

Items from Alice's bucket list

Today's blogging prompt was all about bucket lists. As in share some items from my bucket list. I've done this in the past, but my bucket list keeps evolving. Many of the items on this list are unrealistic but the point of a bucket list is to reach for the stars, not the ceiling. And, hey, if you can't even reach the ceiling, at least you've tried.
So, this post is a continuation of yesterday's dream big post. Oh, and since I've never been in any of the places that are on my bucket list, I am just adding some random photographs of places that I've been and have enjoyed and are now removed from the aforemention bucket list.

Here we go. My reach for the stars, not the ceiling, bucket list (in categories):

places that I'd like to visit:

Machu Picchu: It's in Peru. An ancient Incan city. On top of a mountain in the Andes, of course. You can climb to it on lots and lots of stairs. It sounds exhausting, although the city sounds as if it would be worth it. The buildings are made of stone and fit together like puzzle pieces. No mortar was used in the construction of the building, which occurred at about 1450 A.D. It is a gem because most of the Incan cities were destroyed during the Spanish conquest.

Bhutan: It's a Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas. High up in the mountains. There is a mountain there that no one has ever climbed to its peak because it is considered to be sacred.
Its peak is 24,840 feet, which is really high! It is a very environmentally conscious country. There are many different plant and animal species that can be found in Bhutan. One of them, the golden langur, is an endangered type of monkey that can be found only in the Black Mountains of Bhutan and in a small area of western Assam, India.

Vietnam: There is a bridge in Vietnam that I want to walk on. It is a pedestrian only bridge, and the entire structure is held up by a giant hand.

Tahiti: It must be great. That's where Paul Gauguin went to paint. On the beach. He painted on a beach. Probably in February. I want to paint on a beach in February. I'll call myself Paulette. Or Pauline. One of those. 

a few more, in no particular order: the Grand Canyon, Victoria Falls, Mount Fuji, the Galapagos Islands, Transylvania (there's a vampire), Loch Ness (there's a monster), County Limerick (it's a poem)...

things that I would like to do:

write a novel 
paint a fresco
learn ballroom dancing
fall in love
learn how to decorate cakes
take a long trip, maybe cross country or maybe farther, and maintain a blog about the adventure
attend a writers retreat
learn how to bake spritz cookies
study entomology
paint every day for a year

Well, that's all I can think of for now.
Oh... and the winner of the archaic word creative writing contest is...

Come back tomorrow!!!!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

If I could do anything that I dreamed of...

Today's blogging prompt has to do with dreams. It's about how we dream big when we are children. Our imaginations knew no bounds when we were thinking about what we wanted to be when we grew up. And the question was: if we could dream that big, what would like to become now? 

Here are some of the things that I heard from kids whom I used to babysit. They have all since grown up.

I want to be a professional baseball player!

I want to be a mechanic and fix cars!

I want to be a veterinarian!

The baseball player wanna-be became a musician and a music teacher. The mechanic wanna-be became an engineer. And the veterinarian wanna-be became a physician. They are happy with the careers that they have chosen.

So, what were some of my earliest career dreams? Here are a few. I wanted to be an astronaut, an astronomer, a cartoonist, and an actress. I never became any of those things. Instead, I became a journalist. I enjoy the work, but I never did find that Real Job with career advancement that I was hoping for.

So... what if I were to start over again and dream big, as I did when I was a kid? Well, for sure, some of my dreams have changed. I actually enjoy staying on the earth so I guess that astronaut isn't the best option. Plus, I have issues with vertigo and motion sickness, which could be potentially career ending for an astronaut. I guess that getting into some sort of spaceship would be like the most extreme type of roller coaster possible.

I have new dreams now. I have discovered a love for gardening and landscape design and insects. I've discovered that I love being outside, walking and exploring.
By participating in long-distance walks in a number of different places, I have found that I love travel, especially slow travel. Close to the ground travel. I like taking photographs and drawing and painting. So.... what would I choose for a career? Maybe I would want to be a travel writer. Or maybe I would want to be an outdoor educator. Or an entomologist. Or a botanical illustrator. Or maybe even a novelist.

I can see all of those as being dreams for me, the grown up version of me who still wants to dream big. What are your dreams? What would you like to do if you were to dream big?

Egg-cellent foods at Eggsquisite Eats

Last week, my friend Amy and I went to sample the cuisine at Eggsquisite Eats, a new restaurant at 1752 Grand Island Blvd., that serves breakfast and brunch. Amy ordered two pancakes topped with chocolate chips and crispy bacon and was very surprised to receive an enormous plate, covered by two of the largest pancakes that I had ever seen. 

The meal that was brought to me was strawberry-basil avocado toast. It was gorgeous. It had everything on it that I could like, which included strawberries, avocados, toasted almonds, spinach, and goat cheese. It was topped with a balsalmic glazed. In addition to this luscious avocado toast, I also got a colorful bowl of fresh fruit. When you order the strawberry-basil avocado toast, you get your choice of a variety of breads, and I chose rye bread.

The avocado toast was presented in a beautiful way, and it tasted as good as it looks. The different textures of the food was great, from the crunchy toasted almonds to the silky smooth goat cheese.

Eggsquisite Eats was definitely an eggsquisite restaurant. There are a lot of foods to sample, and, when you're on Grand Island, you might want to stop over there. They are open Mondays through Saturdays from 6:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. and on Sundays from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Ten really stupid laws

Every now and then, I write about laws that come across as so absurd, it's amazing that any lawmakers were able to put them on the books without howling with laughter. As the job of a lawmaker doesn't always include howling with laughter, I can understand why the comic relief would be necessary. But imagine if you were charged with a stupid law and you had to go to court, where you found that your attorney, the prosecutor, the judge, and even the bailiff couldn't control their laughter over your most absurd case. How would you know whether you were guilty or not guilty if the judge was squealing with laughter while rendering a verdict?

So here is a list of ten idiotic laws that might set your judge to hysterical fits of laughter:

  1. Moose-related laws in Alaska. There are a few, so I am grouping them together. First off, it is illegal to feed alcoholic beverages to a moose. That's probably because mooses? meese? are rather large. Who wants to watch a moose binge drink and run around in a drunken state? And hiccup? How loud can a moose hiccup? But most moose aren't in the bar, getting inebriated. So does that mean that you have to hunt a moose down to bring that moose into the bar? I don't know but it is illegal to whisper something in the ear of someone who is hunting a moose. No sweet little nothings. No words are to be whispered to someone on that moose hunt. And, once you've  caught that moose, you're going to need to transport it somewhere. Maybe to the bar where you're not allowed to get it inebriated. But keep in mind that, if you transport it on an airplane, it is illegal to push it out of the airplane. Yep. Illegal. That's right. You cannot jettison a moose from a jet. Even if the moose is drunk.
  2. Churches in Alabama. It's very important to behave properly in Alabama's churches. In fact, bad behavior is illegal. For example, it is illegal to wear a fake mustache in church because that might provoke laughter. As we know, one must NEVER laugh in church for any reason whatsoever. I myself would never consider laughing in church. Especially if I saw someone wearing a fake mustache. Nope. I am very serious. Super serious. I put the S in Serious. But I digress. Seriously. Oh, and there is one more. And it is Serious. You are not to disguise yourself as a priest, especially one wearing a fake mustache that causes people to laugh in church.
  3. Rules of the road in Ohio. It is very important to follow the rules of the road. Here are a few of the Most Important Rules of the Road in Ohio. It is illegal for a dog to urinate on a parking meter. In other words, the time that you take in paying for your parking spot is not the right time to give your dog a potty break. What else? The person sitting on your lap is not allowed to operate a motor vehicle. And, for heaven's sake, don't scare a horse while you're driving. That's... illegal!!!
  4. Theatrical productions in New York. Theatrical productions must be regulated in a state that boasts a Broadway, an off-Broadway, an off-off Broadway and a Broadway that is so off-Broadway that it is in Buffalo. And speaking about productions that are really off Broadway, you could end up in jail for 30 days if you present a puppet show from your window. (I don't know what happens if you present a puppet show from your jail cell.) It is also illegal to start any public performance of show before 1:05 p.m. Especially if it is a puppet show from your window.
  5. Laws in a town that might have more letters than people in Wales. By the time that you are six years old, you are required by law to be able to spell Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Yep. I think that there is something like sixty letters. I don't know. I lost count. And not only do you have to spell it, you have to be able to pronounce it by the time that you are thirty-four years old. Of course, some people cheat by calling it Llanfair. But is that fair?
  6. Running in Iceland. Relax. Don't run too frantically. It's illegal to complete a marathon in Iceland in under three and a half hours. But who does that? 
  7. The regulation of music in Washington, D.C. First of all, it is illegal to whistle in the bathroom. And there will be no dueling accordians. No facility that offers musical entertainment is permitted to set up a band that features more than one accordian. Remember that, you accordian fans! If you like hearing an accordian chorus, you might not want to go to Washington, D.C. And, since it is illegal to take pictures nonstop for more than five minutes, the accordian chorus won't even get properly photographed.
  8. Operating motor vehicles in Germany. It is illegal to run out of gas while you are driving on the autobahn. Save that running out of gas and pushing your car thing for other roads. Of course, since there are no speed limits on the autobahn, you should be able to get off the road fast when you notice that your gas gauge is getting dangrously close to "empty."
  9. Dental care in Russia. It is illegal to brush your teeth more than twice a day in Russia. So watch out for cops' peering into your mouth and discovering that your teeth are unusually clean! You could try to confuse the cops by speaking to them in a foreign language, but be careful about which language you choose. It is illegal to use more than four English words in a sentence in Russia. Especially when your teeth are unusually clean.
  10. Jury duty in Oregon: It is illegal to require a dead person to serve on a jury in Oregon. So don't worry. If you're on trial in Oregon, the juror who looks dead is just sleeping. Listen for the snores.
In the comments section below, please feel free to add more stupid laws!!!!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A haunted house that speaks to our reality

Today's blogging challenge is to review a book or a movie and then relate it to your "niche."

Crown Hill is Christina Abt's first novel. Published in 2014, this is the fictionalized story  of Christina's home, an old farmhouse in Eden, New York, that, according to local legend, was haunted by a woman who suffered in her life and who was unable to pass from this world to the next. 

In the novel, the woman's name was Mary Southwicke. Her story takes place in the 1880s. Mary's husband, Owen, was a controlling man who expected his wife to bake fresh bread every day and to have his meals on the table at times prescribed by him. He beat her and terrified her if the meal was late, even by a single minute. Mary lived with no hope because, at that time, there was no escaping an abusive relationship. Mary died under suspicious circumstances, and the rest of the novel dealt with future generations of people who lived at Crown Hill trying to piece together the horrifying set of circumstances that led both to Mary's death and to her haunting the house. 

I found this novel to be well written, interesting, and with characters who brought the book to life. I would have to say that the most fascinating characters were the house itself and the ghost of the trapped Mary. The house had a voice and a story. Within its walls, there were secrets, heartache, and pain.

Eventually people learned the truth of Mary's tortured life. And this is where fiction collides with reality. Mary's painful life, lived in shadows of fear, has been replayed over and over again. But with the passage of years, the stories are being told and people are listening. 

Over the past few years, I have been writing articles about domestic violence. I have interviewed a number of people, from survivors of domestic violence to advocates for victims. They tell me that, like Mary Southwicke, the victims often feel shame and humiliation. They blame themselves for the abuse that they suffer.

So, today, my niche is journalism. I am currently working on an article about a new place that offers hope for domestic violence victims. On the grounds of Trinity United Methodist Church, there sits a currently unused parsonage that will become the future permanent home of the Grand Island Family Justice Center. 

Mary Southwicke's world was full of shadows and sadness. In the nineteenth century, no one talked about domestic violence. In the twenty-first century, domestic violence often occurs behind closed doors. It occurs in apartments and in small homes. And it occurs in mansions. Victims can be affluent and they can be well-educated. And they are still victims.

The statistics are stark. One in three girls between the ages of 15 and 24, one in four women, and one in seven boys and men will become domestic violence victims. 

Mary Travers Murphy has personally seen the results of domestic violence. Her friend and co-worker from the days when she was a television reporter, Aasiya Hassan, was brutally murdered by her abusive husband. Not long afterward, Angela Moss, a nurse at an Orchard Park nursing home, was killed by a former boyfriend. Death followed upon death, which stirred Mary Tavers Murphy into action. And action for Travers Murphy was the establishment of a satellite office of the Family Justice Center in Orchard Park, the home of both Assiya Hassan and Angela Moss.

"The Family Justice model is dedicated to the victims of domestic violence and their children. they took anything and everything that one needs and they put it in one place."

Once the victims walk through the purple doors, they find instant access to all of their needs, which, Mary Travers Murphy said, includes forensic medical, a nurse, someone from the district attorney's office, police, and domestic violence advocates. Advocates help victims get orders of protection via videoconferencing with the court. There are even therapy dogs available for comfort, thanks to the SPCA Paws for Love program.

On the second anniversary of Assiya Hassan's death in February 2011, the Orchard Park branch of the Family Justice Center was opened and dedicated to Assiya Hassan, Angela Moss, and to all victims who had been lost. It was dedicated to the survivors, too, who were given new hope at a place where they could be supported and given hope for a safe future. Where they could feel that they were not alone.

And, on Grand Island, hope comes, in the form of an old parsonage, donated by Pastor Kevin Slough and the members of Trinity United Methodist Church. People and groups who are interested are encouraged to adopt rooms. A grand opening is anticipated for some time in the spring.

"We are putting skin in the game," Mary said of all of the volunteer efforts to create beautiful spaces for the domestic violence victims to start on their path away from closed doors and muffled screams to safety and freedom from fear. "We are giving a message to people who are still trapped behind closed doors."

But back to the other Mary, the one who began this story. Mary Southwicke. She died under suspicious circumstances, abused and ashamed. People remembered her fondly for her gorgeous gardens and for the foods that she baked. But the violence that she endured at the hands of her controlling and vicious husband was something that would not be spoken out loud for more than a century to come. 

Although a character in a novel, Mary Southwicke and the house that was her only witness had stories to tell that are as real in the twenty-first century as they were in the nineteenth century. But now, the stories are coming out of the shadows, and help and hope are available.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Technology can be your friend

Today's blogging prompt was to talk about a process or technological tool that I use as a writer/blogger/photographer. 

I admit to having a love/hate relationship with technology. First of all, I will also admit that I was brought, kicking and screaming, into the technology era. When I first learned to type, I learned on an old manual typewriter. It was fun to type. I got to pound on the keys with as much force as I could muster. And then, the carriage made a very satisfying ding! when I was at the end of a line of type. In journalism school, we used manual typewriters in our basic newswriting classes. When we cut and pasted our articles, we were literally CUTTING and PASTING. I made friends with rubber cement. It was fun to play with scissors and rubber cement. I think that I cut and pasted for the sake of cutting and pasting.

When I got to more advanced classes, I found that I had to use a COMPUTER. I typed and edited on the computer. That was nice because my fingers were no longer sticky from all of that rubber cement and all of that white-out that I used because I typed too darned fast and made too many typos. I could make typos go away just by hitting backspace, which was fun.

The most magical thing about computers was that I could type an article and, somehow, the article was transferred from my computer to the editor's computer. This was before the internet became a household item. I thought that it was magic. I could also rearrange articles in the computer. That was called CUT and PASTE. It was... well... okay, but it wasn't as much fun as cutting and pasting with scissors and rubber cement. 

Well, I will always prefer scissors and rubber cement, That is probably because I am a tactile learner, something that I will talk about in a future blog post.

So... fast forward to today. No one uses manual typewriters anymore, which is probably a good thing because it's almost impossible to find replacement ribbons. Those darned ribbons. Your fingers were always covered with ink when you had to replace a ribbon. That is, unless the spool unspun and you had to respool the spool, while muttering some rather inappropriate verbiage.

What do I use now as a journalist and as a blogger? What are some of my favorite technological tools? Well, if I want to have a bit of fun, I can go to "" and make a meme. You just upload your own images and you can go to town with words. 
political meme

There are websites that are very helpful if you want to make a collage of your photographs. When I am putting together a newsletter, I like to have a variety of photographs, and I find that the collage format is very attractive. There is also a low-tech version of that, and that is called scrapbooking. It involves a lot of glue and you get to use scissors, so, for all of us tactile learners, that is great fun. But if you want to make your collage online, there are several websites from which to choose, such as "" and "" Here, I have to say that the online choice is less stressful than the low-tech version. If you mess up a photo online, you can just delete that version and start over again. If you accidentally cut up a physical copy, you've got to get new photographs.

What about software? Well, for editing newsletters, I really like Microsoft Publisher. It has plenty of graphics options. You can make text boxes, resize a photograph, frame that photograph in any way that you choose, choose your font from a wide range of fonts that include everything from very bold to whimsical. 

Then there are various other tools, such as digital cameras, voice recorders, and, of course, my favorite... Spell Czech!!! Well. It's not perfect but what is?

Sunday, January 12, 2020

A right hand/left hand art experiment

Today's blogging prompt was to find a favorite quotation and then to expand on it by giving my take or my thoughts.

The quotation that I chose was "All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist when we grow up" (Pablo Picasso).

In my blog post from Thursday, January 9th, I mentioned that I gave up art when I was fifteen years old. During the previous summer, a kid at camp told me that I couldn't draw. I was already feeling insecure because I could see how other kids' artwork looked much more realistic than mine. So I gave up art.

As an adult art student, I began to understand that I could just explore with pencil, pen, and paintbrush. I began to understand that my pictures were my interpretation of reality, not an exact replica. And so, in my mind, I took myself back in time, to me at about the age of nine, when I thought that I might like to have a career as a cartoonist.

Well, of course, I never did become a cartoonist. In the past few years, however, I have explored the idea of creating a cartoon titled "Cartoonie people for a nuclear free future." It would feature characters, such as these:

And, today, I was thinking about drawing. I was thinking about exploring creativity. I had read that it's a good idea to try to draw with your nondominant hand. Since I usually draw with my right hand, I decided that I would call that my dominant hand. The challenge was draw a human twice, once with my right hand, and once with my left hand. It was a fun experiment. The pictures are blurry but these are what I got: 
left hand

This is the drawing that I made with the hand that I consider to be nondominant. So this is the southpaw version of my artwork.

right hand

This is the person that I drew with my right handed. I usually draw with this hand, so I guess that it is dominant. I would say, that, if there is a southpaw, there has to be a northpaw. So this is my northpaw version.

Apparently, there have been scientific articles that address the issue of using your nondominant hand for such things as brushing teeth, opening jars, and writing. It's probably good for the brain in some way. At worst, it's not going to be harmful. And it's a fun way of reclaiming that artist you used to be as a kid.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Four fun stories from readers I recommend you read

Today's blogging prompt was to take a headline and revise it, leaving the basic structure intact. One of the examples that was given was _____
tips to _________.

The suggestion was to look for magazine headlines. I chose a headline from The New York Times Book Review section to adapt. The headline was "11 new books we recommend this week." So I adapted that title.

Those five fun stories are the contest entries from the Wednesday blog post titled "Old Words and New Fun." It's time for you to vote for your favorite, which you can do in the comment section below. I will use the winning story as the start of a eight minute timed writing, which I will post after the voting period closes next Wednesday, January 15th, at midnight. So make sure to vote! 

I found all of the stories to be delightful! Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest. I am most thankful for your willingness to participate in this challenge and to show such wonderful creativity. 

Just as a reminder: the challenge was to use archaic words to write a story. The contestants could use any or all of the following words in their stories:

Please choose from this list of words:

aliment      food; nourishment
asunder     apart
appetency  a longing or desire
animalcule  a microscopic animal
apothecary a person who prepared and sold medicine
ambuscade an ambush
aught anything at all
avaunt       go away

Here are the entries!!!

Alana wrote: I'll enjoy the winner of your contest but it won't be me. My mind has been torn asunder due to lack of ailment. Me thinks I have an appetency for spring. Alas, alack, I need to seek out an apothecary to prepare me a cure for that longing.

Lady in Read wrote
"Avaunt, avaunt!", said she
to the apothecary,
as torn asunder was she
with an aliment appetency!

Maureen Durney wrote: You will need more than an Apothecary if you indulge your appetency to put asunder what God has joined together. An ambuscade of mammoth proportions will not serve aught in assisting you to flee. And I’m not talking about an animalcule - I mean the other ‘flee’, of the ‘avaunt’ variety - as you try to get away. Nor will aliment serve you in such a situation. Your strength will diminish to that of an animalcule (flea - the other ‘flee’ variety) and resistance will be futile. wrote: I always like a contest. It's an aliment to my soul.
It seems that Alice is getting bored already up in Shuffle-off territory, and has an appetency to engage fellow bloggers in a contest.
No restrictions at all! Aught! Nothing will tear us asunder from the contest.
Having spent the week (and devoting Friday to complete the task) describing microbes- that's bacteria not animalcule- and how they resist the apothecary's ability to eradicate them, I will have to first post this as a comment to her challenge. In essence, an ambuscade on her own territory.
You see, it's important for those of us who write serious blogs- talking about medicine, health, water, the environment, technology- to demonstrate that we have senses of humor.
After all- the way the world is going, without a cultivated sense of humor, we would truly be doomed.

For sure, without a cultivated sense of humor, we would be doomed. 

Thank you to the contestants! I really enjoyed all of the entries! Thank you for your creativity! I hope that you had fun.

Please don't forget to vote. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Relax with music

Today's prompt is to share a video and to make a few comments about that video. So I decided that I would like to share a music video with you.

Music is happiness. It's good for the soul, whether you produce music or listen to it. It encourages creativity and good health. Music with a good beat will motivate us to get up and dance. Music therapy is good for healing people from a wide variety of conditions, and it is soothing for people who have no hope of a cure. I have read that people who suffer with dementia and who have almost no short-term memory left will have no trouble remembering their favorite songs. 

Music is also good for people who experience writers' block. After struggling with the written word for a long time, you might just need to take a break and shift your focus. Kick back and listen to some of your favorite music. Listen to some of your favorite singers and get lost in the music. 

One of my favorite singers is Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Jazz. I love the warm tones in her voice, and I love how she sang runs with such flexibility. Ella Fitzgerald had a gift for skat singing, which is a vocal technique that employs nonsense syllables or no words at all. It is vocal improvisation, with the goal of making the human voice sound like a musical instrument. After I listen to her music, I feel so happy, so relaxed, and so ready to get back to the task at hand. I love all of her songs, including "Black Coffee," "It's Only a Paper Moon," "Blue Skies," and so much more. Today, I am sharing a video of Ella Fitzgerald singing "Cry Me a River." Her expressive voice is absolutely perfect for this song. I hope that you will enjoy this song as much as I do!

In the comments section, please name some of your favorite singers. Feel free to list some of their songs!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Alice's Art Adventure

Today's blogging prompt is to share photographs. So today, I will share some of the pictures of things that I have decorated, painted, and designed.
My life as a visual artist has been quite an adventure. It almost didn't happen. At the age of fifteen, I decided that I was incapable of doing art so I abruptly gave it up!
Despite that, I couldn't stop doodling. I doodled everywhere. I found pieces of paper and started drawing random shapes.

As a (slightly) older person,
I went back to school, and I found out that I was required to take some sort of art class. The class that I chose was a drawing and painting class for nonmajors.
Because I was convinced that I was absolutely incapable of doing art, I said to myself, "Self! You have no talent! So don't worry about the end result! It will be terrible!!! Why don't you just have fun creating your bad art?"

That sounds really negative, right? Actually, it was a great approach. I freed myself from all expectations. I was completely focused on having fun.
As it turned out, I did have fun. And I was very relaxed because of that no-expectations thing. When my paintings were finished, I was very surprised because I actually liked them. A few of my classmates asked me if I was actually a beginner or if I was a ringer! 

Well, yes. I was. A beginner. Not a ringer.

It was the start of my rediscovery of the joy of art.
It was also the start of my understanding that I didn't have to compare myself to other people.
It's not a contest, this exploration of creativity.
It is all happiness to let go of expectations and free your imagination. If you've been thinking of embarking on an exploration of your creativity, go for it. It will be fun, and you will discover things about yourself that you never even knew existed.

Speaking of contests, however, you have until tomorrow to enter my fun creative writing contest. Here is a link to yesterday's blog post, where you will find details about the contest! click here for details about the creative writing contest!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Old words and new fun

Today’s blogging prompt is to run a contest! And I have decided to run a creative writing contest that I am hoping will be loads of fun for you. Below is a list of words that were once very commonly used but have become archaic. Your challenge is to write something in which you use at least two of those words. What you write is your choice. It could be a conversation or a poem or a story. The length is your choice, too. It could be something as short as a haiku. But try not to post a book-length manuscript in the comments section. Although if you succeed in doing so, you will automatically win the title of Honore de Balzac wanna-be. (You’ll need lots of coffee to win that title!)

At any rate, good luck and have fun. You have until Friday, January 10th, to complete the contest. On Saturday, I will post the entries and voting for the winner will commence!

Oh. The prize! There has to be a prize! The winning entry will be the beginning of a timed writing that I will compose and share right here. And, of course, the author will get credit. So, use your imagination and have fun!

Please choose from this list of words:

aliment      food; nourishment
asunder     apart
appetency  a longing or desire
animalcule  a microscopic animal
apothecary a person who prepared and sold medicine
ambuscade an ambush
aught anything at all
avaunt       go away

A writer's resource guide

Today's prompt was for me to offer you a resource list of information that could help you. Here is a list of writerly types of things that could help you out. They fall into several categories, which include internet resources, books, and resources available in your community.


Here are a few books that I've found useful in developing creative skills as a writer, as well as guides to the more mechanical aspects of writing, which would be grammar, usage, and punctuation.

  • Writing Down The Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. This book gives hints, suggestions, and exercises for freeing your mind and for "writing down the bones." The author, who is also a Zen instructor, talks about Zen sitting meditation, as well as the importance of place an memory.
  • The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White. This small book is full of helpful information about writing. It goes into issue, such as grammar and punctuation. It is a gem. 
  • The AP Stylebook (produced by the Associated Press). For journalists, this book is a necessity. It gives you all of the information necessary to maintain consistent style throughout your articles. It also gives information about media law, social media, and much more.
  • MLA Handbook and the Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association. If you write in a more scholarly style, the manuals produced by either the Modern Language Association or the American Psychological Association are good things to have. They give information about footnotes and bibliographies and more.
  • Chicago Manual of Style (Produced by the University of Chicago Press). This is the book that is considered the definitive source of information in terms of writing style, grammar, and usage. 


You can find a lot of information about writing, editing, and journalism online. The Internet is a great resource for information. When you get online via computer, tablet, or mobile phone, you have the knowledge of the world at your fingertips. Here are a few websites that are great for writers, especially when you are dealing with writer's block. There are, of course, many more.

Community resources

  • writers groups. Check out your community for groups of writers that meet regularly to talk about writing, to read works in progress, and to provide support to one another.
  • your public library. Your library is one of the best resources around. It is one of the best community services around. There are books and other media to borrow from the library. And these days, you can either borrow an actual physical book or you can borrow an ebook. Libraries also organize events, such as readings by local authors. Check your library's schedule and enjoy.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Exercising your writer muscles

In today's blog post, I am going to demonstrate one of the pieces of advice that I offered in yesterday's post, titled A few random words of advice.

Yesterday, I had suggested doing timed writings, with a prompt to get you started. Writing without stopping and without the pressure of feeling that your first draft has to be perfect are good ways to release your creativity. It is normal and natural to have that internal editor. That is the thing that is going to save you from turning in really bad first drafts. 

Seriously, no one should ever turn in a first draft. They are almost always atrocious, unless your name is Honore de Balzac (1799-1850). He wrote really fast because he had to pay off all sorts of debts, which wasn't much of a surprise, seeing that he had four love affairs going on simultaneously. He wrote all night every night and hardly ever slept. Needless to say, he consumed massive quantities of coffee to induce enough insomnia in himself so that he could pull off all of those all nighters. He had great confidence in his ability to get his writing done, which is impressive because he didn't get that self confidence from his parents, who reportedly told him that a croissant could write better than he could. Um. How rude!?

Only now, Honore de Balzac is remembered for his writing, which, apparently no one besides his parents compared to a buttery roll.

But most of us are not Honore de Balzac-style writing machines. We write intermittently, not constantly, and we struggle with writers block. So... the timed writing is one technique to deal with that. As I mentioned earlier, having an internal editor is a normal and natural thing and it often saves us from some really embarrassing faux pas. It's a really good thing when you're working on revisions to articles and stories. You can look at your own writing with a critical eye. But, for a first draft, that internal editor can create frustration and the feeling that your writing is never good enough.

What you really need to do is to turn off the internal editor while you're writing the first draft. But abruptly turning off the internal editor is difficult. It's hard to shut off that critical little voice in your head. It's telling you, "what are you doing?" "This doesn't make sense." "Look at that spelling error!" "You can't write so don't even try!" "A croissant writes better than you!" That negative self-talk is often the result of an internal editor gone amuck. When your internal editor goes haywire, it's time to take action. You must, at least temporarily, shut it down.

So here is a demonstration of one method, which is called a timed writing. I am going to write nonstop for five minutes. It doesn't have to make sense. The spelling doesn't have to be perfect. The goal is to write nonstop with no expectations. It is like stretching before running.

I am going to use one of the two prompts that I had suggested yesterday. They were "After I mislaid my keys, I..." and "The cat's nocturnal yowling startled me into wakefulness and..." First, I will set a timer, and then I will start typing.

The cat's nocturnal yowling startled me into wakefulness and I nearly fell out of bed. Fortunately, just as I was rolling precariously at the endge of the bed, I caught myself and stepped tentatively on the floor. Ugh, I thought, as I really did fall. What was that? Oh, another cat toy. Why does the cat play with his toys and deposit them on the side of my bed that I get out of? How rude. How incredibly rude. I felt embarrassed but not injured. I knew that I had wounded my dignity. Maybe forever. MNaybe there was no cure for an infured dignity.

Ugh. No cure. So sad. Too bad. In the meantime, it was actually morning and the cat was responding to my noisy and very obnoxious alarm clock. So obnoxious. Why did I have the alarm set to play that raucus song from the underworld. Oh, I don't know. Maybe because I am old. Really old. Practically ancient. Almost an antique. Maybe I should sell myself at the antique store. Put a price tag on my forehead and watch people actually pay to own their very own me. I am easily trained and I can sing if they wind me up. Wow, where is that winder? Wait a second. I am old. That part of me broke off years ago. And I am a discontinued model so the parts are not manufactured anymore.

Oh, shut up, my internal critic shouted at me. What? Internal critic? Are you talking to me? Why are you using such inappropriate language. I am never inappropriate, siad the internal critic. I am your boss. Dont forget it.

Well, I did forget that I had a boss called Internal Critic. Maybe it was some bit of undigested vegetablke or...

Time expired!!! As you can see, it's slightly wacky and somewhat stream of consciousness type of writing. That is exactly what you want. Something wild and wacky. And I left the spelling mistakes in because this is not a polished piece of writing. After doing that exercise, your writing muscle should be loosened enough to get you through a first draft. If not, just repeat the process. 

Have fun, stay hydrated, and write, write, write.