Food! Spices! Prompt #179

Picture the house you grew up in. Or, any house where you have lived. Walk into the kitchen. See the table and chairs, the counter, the cupboards. Open a cupboard door. . . or walk into a pantry. Take a deep breath. Notice the smells. Open the spice cabinet. Inhale and . . . what are those many and mysterious smells? Prompts, multiple choice: What food reminds you of the kitchen in the house where you grew up? Memories surrounding that food? OR: What nourishes you? Or: I grew up with . . .


Silverstein wrote for the ear

Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends “resonates because Silverstein wrote for the ear. Purposeful rhythm. Calculated pace. Challenging riffs. Delightful melodies. Words selected as much for their sound as their meaning.” —Jack Hamann, “For the ear — Writing with rhythm,” The Writer, July 2015   Tips to make writing stronger, inspired by Jack Hamann, “For the ear.” Vary pace – “bookend longer sentences with short, rhythmic declarations.” Use a thesaurus. Use alliteration (see below). Give weak verbs the boot. Omit unnecessary words, especially “the.” Read aloud. You’ll notice places that need tweaking. Alliteration is a stylistic device in which a number of words, having the same first consonant sound, occur close together in a series: But a better butter makes a batter better. Marlene’s Musings: Have fun with this. Choose a prompt and write. Then, revise, using the tips above.

Just Write

Sensory Detail – Smell

How do you put the sensory detail of smell in writing? Let’s sniff out ideas. Take a deep breath and imagine the smell of: fresh lemons watermelon chocolate coffee fish – cooked, or freshly caught roast turkey right out of the oven popcorn – movie popcorn with melted butter How would you describe these smells to someone who cannot smell or who never smelled these particular scents? What does a crunchy red apple smell like? Does a red apple smell the same as a green apple? Does an apple smell different if it’s crunchy or mushy? If it’s cold, it might have that earthy smell of a river. Or an apple might smell like a hot summer afternoon in an orchard. Can you put apple smell into words? If you can, walk through an orchard or a field where the earth has recently been plowed. Inhale. Describe that earthy smell….

Book Reviews

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

We’re talking about sensory detail in writing this month on The Write Spot Blog. Delicious! by Ruth Reichl is rich in sensory detail: . . . I could taste the cake in my mind. Strong. Earthy. Fragrant. I remembered the nose-prickling aroma of cinnamon when it comes in fragile curls, and the startling power of crushed cloves. I imagined them into the batter.  Aunt Melba was grating the orange rind now, and the clean, friendly smell filled her airy kitchen. Delicious! is filled with this type of glorious descriptions about smells.  Reichl is a restaurant critic and cookbook author. No wonder she knows about smells! Delicious! is . . . well. . . delicious with lovable characters, a charming story, delightful scenes and interesting premise. Characters’ stories circle around one another, building upon detail until the end, when it all comes together in a satisfying scene. “Got any ginger?” “What…

Places to submit

Talking Writing: Why writing matters in the digital age.

Talking Writing features stories, poetry and first-person journalism. Talking Writing is a nonprofit literary site that features essays, first-person journalism, and poetry. New material is published weekly, focusing on provocative themes. ” Great writing makes us want to sing or shout or argue, and TW’s innovative format opens virtual doors to readers and writers everywhere. As the publishing industry continues to transform itself online, Talking Writing exemplifies why luminous stories and well-executed journalism matter more than ever.” Talking Writing magazine publishes four issues a year—Fall, Holiday, Winter, and Spring. Submission deadlines for upcoming themes can be found in TW’s Editorial Calendar. Holiday 2015 – Writing and Faith     Submission Deadline: September 14, 2015 How do you tackle life’s Big Questions? During the holiday season, our annual faith issue will examine why writing is such a powerful tool for soul searching, creating meaning, and defining one’s spiritual beliefs.


What if? Prompt #178

What if you start from reality and then use “worst case scenario” to do some writing? Here’s how it could work: Recall a time when you desperately wanted something. Could be a good grade on a test, or a good health check-up, or the biopsy comes back negative, or a divorce, or the cute guy/girl to notice you, or a good job, or any job. Just choose a moment when you really wanted something. Now, shift . . . as you write about this desire, this longing. . . the narrator becomes a character in a story. We’re no longer talking about “you.” We’re focusing on A Character Who Wants Something. Next, as you write, throw in some curve balls, some roadblocks. Give that character an obstacle to overcome. . . the worst case scenario. What is the worst thing that could happen? For example, the character fails an important…

Guest Bloggers

Guest Blogger Daniel Ari: Sense And Specificity . . .

Guest Blogger Daniel Ari writes about Sense And Specificity: The Soul of Great Writing Great art is about balance. Okay, great art is about a heck of a lot of things. But one thing that makes great writing stand out from the superfluity of all writing is that it strikes a balance between emotional abstraction and concrete specificity. We want to read about things like devotion, honor and transformation. But the actual words devotion, honor and transformation aren’t concrete enough to sweep a reader away. As I discussed in “How to Make Your Poems Stand Out: Advice From a Reader” for Writer’s Digest online,  abstract nouns can’t be grabbed, and they don’t grab readers. And what’s worse, they tend to come in flocks. Once a writer writes honor, then love and respect want to come in. Then deep, forever, and mutual are at the door, having chased away all the beautiful…


Write a note . . . Prompt #177

Today’s writing prompt: Write a note to someone alive or not, to someone currently in your life or from your past. Start with one of these lines: I forgive you . . . I love you . . . I will always remember . . . This is a note you may or may never send. You can write about something that happened to you, something that happened to someone else or write from your fictional character’s point of view. You can also write to a “thing” . . . to a body part, to something mechanical, to any Thing that was meaningful. Just write.


Start at the height of desire — David Lavender

Many of us have heard “start your story in the middle of the action, or the height of the conflict.” David Lavender suggests “start at the height of desire.” “You need not worry about being dull if you can present within the first few hundred words a definite character in the grip of a definite emotion.” “But introducing a character and his motives to an audience must be done deftly and without explanation. For example, if setting up a boy-loves-girl story, Lavender says, ‘I must show the boy immediately engaged in wanting the girl. I must do it with unobtrusive little touches. I must bring it out through the way he acts and what he says, being at all times careful not to let the reader guess that he is having something explained to him.’”  — Nicki Porter, August 2015 The Writer magazine

Just Write

Sensory Detail – Sound

I cranked up the music to prepare this post and was reminded of the sixties and seventies when I worked downtown San Francisco Monday through Friday. Saturdays were house cleaning days. I centered my Swan Lake record on the turntable and turned up the volume. By the time I was dusting and cleaning downstairs, I was rocking to West Side Story. To finish, I blasted Hair. Odd combinations, I know. But they worked for me . . . a satisfying way to completely clean the house and do laundry. Sound. . . how do we incorporate sound in our writing? But first, why do we want to use sensory detail in our writing? Sound can evoke strong memories: screeching tires, whining four-year-old, grinding gears when learning to drive a stick shift, songs from our teenage years, wedding songs, hymns, sing-song rhymes. When we employ sound in our writing, we transform…