Just Write

“Tis the season . . . NaNoWriMo

‘Tis the season for NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month is held during the month of November. Have you ever done it? Have you thought about it and wondered if you could or should do it? I say: Go for it! What do you have to lose? And, you might gain some excellent writing. “National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 as a daunting but straightforward challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days.”  Sharon Oard Warner says “A work of fiction that logs in at 50,000 words is actually a novella . . .” So, if the idea of writing a novel is overwhelming, consider writing a novella. Prepare for NaNoWriMo Julie Artz writes about her NaNoWriMo experience on Jane Friedman’s blog, “Want to Win NaNoWriMo? The Secret is Preparation.” Learn from her mistakes to get “that coveted NaNoWriMo win.” Prolific author Bella Andre wrote about her struggles…

Book Reviews

The Write Spot: Musings and Ravings From a Pandemic Year

Reviews of The Write Spot: Musings and Ravings From a Pandemic Year Review by Sande Anfang: The Write Spot founder and writing coach Marlene Cullen has been guiding writers through her Jumpstart workshops. I’ve been lucky to participate in some of them. Marlene’s motto is “Just Write,” as in don’t stop to evaluate what you’ve written during the drafting process—just keep the pen moving until the timer rings. In this collection, she has gathered a wide variety of poetry and short prose pieces from sixteen writers. If there’s a common thread that binds this anthology, it’s a grappling with the surreal nature of 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic. Being forced to upend our “normal” lives and adapt to changing threats, both medical and socio-political, has created an opportunity for deep investigation that finds catharsis, much-needed humor, and rich forays into family memories. There are inviting dips into the pool of…

Sparks

One Wish Now, or Three In Ten?

Memorable writing that sparks imagination. Lean in. Hear the writer’s voice on the page. One Wish Now, or Three In Ten? By Patricia Morris Patricia’s response to the writing prompt: Would you rather have one wish granted today, or three wishes granted ten years from now? Given that my dear friend of forty years died last week after a fast and furious 6-week illness, I will take my one wish today, please. No waiting for ten years for anything anymore. There are no ten years guaranteed, especially when, in ten years, I will be six months shy of 70 years old. That is a shocking thing to write, but that is my reality. Having only one wish, the pressure is on. To make it the “right” wish, the “best” wish, the “greatest good for the greatest number” wish. I could game it. I could make my one wish be to…

Book Reviews

The Strongbox

“I do most of my pleasure reading in bed, and I found myself eager to pick up The Strongbox, night after night, as the story unfolded. I knew from the book description that author Terry Sue Harms would come out okay in the end—despite setbacks that would have broken many: neglectful parents, a stepdad who called her a bastard, the death of her mother when she was sixteen, running away from home, dropping out of high school, and exposure to drugs. But how? I kept reading to find out. She wrote honestly about her vulnerabilities but kept me feeling safe along the way. “The author’s smooth, almost conversational story-telling drew me in and compelled me to read on. I marveled each time she pulled herself up: by completing beauty school, landing a steady job, teaching herself to read, taking college courses, graduating from Mills College. I cheered with her along…

Just Write

Telling Your Truth

“Telling your truths—the difficult ones and the joyful ones and all the ones between—is a big part of what makes for good writing. It is also what brings you pleasure in the process of writing. Most people who create and tend a garden don’t spend time on their knees pulling weeds just for the perfect end result—the gorgeous display of flowers that others will exclaim over. They pore over gardening books, order bulbs, water a sickly shrub, arrange the flagstones to make a pleasing path, all because they enjoy the doing of it. So, too, it should be with your writing. You want to see your writing grow, to find your daily work absorbing, to discover you can do better on the page than you could three years ago. None of this will happen if you shy away from the truth. The rewards that you seek are the rewards that…

Book Reviews

The Most Fun We Ever Had

“The Most Fun We Ever Had” by Claire Lombardo is one of a handful of books I read a second time, right after the first reading. I read quickly the first time to find out what would happen. I read carefully the second time to savor passages and to try to understand the structure. The second reading also helped to understand the characters and their actions. This book is complex with traveling back and forth in time, and switching point of view, making it hard to know who “she” and “he” are referring to. I think, with some editing, the pronouns could be made clearer and there could be consistent ellipses and em-dash usage. I grew to like this family, like comfortable slippers. They took some getting used to. I didn’t really like the parents until trouble, in the name of Gillian, surfaced. Reading this during the Covid-19 pandemic, the…

Prompts

Never The Same . . . Prompt #533

Today’s prompt is inspired by a poem I wrote in response to the fires that ravaged Northern California, October 2017 and to the devastation throughout the world. The sentiments seem true today, especially “adjusting to a new normal” and the feelings of frustration, anger, and hope. October 10, 2017 by Marlene Cullen Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Santa Rosa will never be the same.Las Vegas concert goers will never be the same.Hurricane victims will never be the same.This City, That City . . . the list too long. new perspectivesnew fearsnew ways of thinking frustrated with natureangry with wrong-doersangry with bureaucracyangry in general now we know what we don’t want to knowthe unimaginable can happenthere are no guarantees what will we take awaywhat have we learnedwhat do we need we need time to processwe know the five-year droughtand the heavy rainsmade tinder that caught sparksfueled by heavy windscreating flying embers but the…

Guest Bloggers

Chug, Chuff, Hiss, Squeal, Off We Go

Today’s post is inspired by Nancy Julien Kopp’s blog post about using sound in writing. Nancy wrote: This morning, I was catching up on email when I heard the whine of a train whistle, blown several times. I wondered if it was the historic Union Pacific train, known as Big Boy, making its way across Kansas this week in celebration of 150 years of the Transcontinental Railroad. It was due to stop here in our town at 9:30 a.m.  The sound of that whistle made me stop and listen. I always liked to hear train whistles when I was a child. We lived across the street from the railroad tracks, so we were treated to that arresting sound on a frequent basis. I can remember being in bed on a summer night, windows open, hoping for the train to come by and announce its presence. When I did hear it,…

Book Reviews

The Write Spot: Memories

Marlene Cullen’s collection of short essays compiled in The Write Spot: Memories unfolds like a gently-made, multi-colored origami box. Each story is its only piece, its own regretful, loving, confusing, humorous, illuminating tale, yet held together by one theme that touches us all—our fathers and our memories of them when we were children, and our awakenings about them as we became adults. The Write Spot: Memories is for anyone who has had a father—whether present or absent, loving or distant, authoritarian or goofball. Authentic and relatable, each story is written with deep insight and love. —Julie Wilder-Sherman I love this book and the way it encourages, instructs and gives writers practical ideas to keep on writing. The stories are captivating and written from the heart. Each author ends with an honest description of their Inner Critic and how they tame it! I read this book twice because of the honest…