Just Write

Personal Essay – Pivotal Event Plus . . .

A personal essay isn’t your life story. It’s a pivotal event. The narrator has an epiphany, or is changed at the end of the story. “Personal essays represent what you think, what you feel . . . your effort to communicate those thoughts and feelings to others . . . What is the point of your essay? Don’t belabor the point too much; let the point grow out of the experience of the essay. It might be true, in fact, that you didn’t even have a point to make when you started writing your essay. Go ahead and write it and see if a point develops.” — The Personal Essay More on personal essay: How to Write a Personal Essay Writing Personal Essays Personal Essay is Memoir in Short Form Still don’t know how to start? Gather your writing implements: Paper, pen, pencil, writing device, choose a writing prompt and…

Sparks

Dad

By Susan Bono “That’s quite a sack of rocks you’re carrying, sweetie,” my father’s friend Bruce said more than once during phone calls last year. It was his way of acknowledging how heavily Dad’s poor health, hard-headedness and self-imposed isolation weighed on me. But I also took it as a tribute to Dad’s stubbornness and my strength, too. “Dumb as a rock” never made much sense to me, since stone strikes me as having its own unassailable intelligence. Its ability to endure illustrates its genius. I have never believed in the ability to factor equations or compose sonnets was proof of brain power, although I shared with Dad the idea that someone with rocks in his head was lacking in foresight and flexibility. Rocks may be smart, but they are slow. Time measured in stone is something else again. There were moments during my dad’s dying that were as slow…

Sparks

Shopping at the A & P

By Jonah Raskin My mother always shopped at the A & P in the small town where I grew up. Going there with her was almost as wonderful as going to the Planetarium with its stars and planets in its make-believe night sky, and the Museum of Natural History with its reconstructed dinosaurs. At the A & P I liked the rows and rows of canned goods, and packaged cereals, the smell of the wood floor and the man in the green apron who always helped my mother. I thought of him and the A & P the other day when I went shopping in my own local food market. Like the A & P of my boyhood, my local market is small, clean, and tidy. Some of the smells are nearly the same. Walking the aisles, I’m reminded of the smells in the A & P. Before I know…

Sparks

History Lesson

By Susan Bono I’ve been rummaging around in already full closets lately, trying to find space for all the stuff I brought home when I emptied my parents’ house last May. It’s been rough going, but I stopped wondering why when I realized Mom and Dad lived in their house for thirty-seven years, only eight years longer than we’ve lived in ours. Our youngest son often encounters me staring into space clutching a quilt, wood carving, or photograph. I think my uncharacteristic attempts at organization are making him nervous. “What are you doing? What’s that?” he asks. “Oh, this is some of your Great Aunt Emily’s needlepoint,” I tell him a little too eagerly. “These are my Barbie clothes, and here are the baby rompers your great grandmother made for your grandfather back in 1925. You wore them once yourself.” I give him these family history updates knowing full well…

Just Write

How to Write a Personal Essay

We aren’t born knowing how to write personal essays. So, how does one learn to write personal essays? The following is inspired from “A Few Tips for Writing Personal Essays,” by Robert Lee Brewer, March/April 2021 Writer’s Digest. Read personal essays! Then write. You will discover your style as you write. ~ Start with action. Save backstory for later in the essay. The beginning should have a compelling scene that hooks readers and makes them want to continue reading. The following is an example of “start with action.” The hook compelled me to read the entire essay. “When he walked into a San Francisco barbershop after the war, he was told by the owner, ‘We don’t serve Japs here.’ The owner of the barbershop obviously didn’t know who the one-armed Japanese-American was – his name was Daniel Inouye. And, according to one website that honors heroes, he was one tough…

Sparks

California Winter

California Winter By Patricia Morris (with thanks to Ted Kooser) The wind turns the pages of rain As drops splatter on the skylights,     beating a rhythm punctuated by     the cracks of unmoored oak limbs      hitting the roof.    The rain chain dances,     brass acorns jingling,     water swooshing through its cups.    The creek rushes over rocks,       gushes into the culvert and out again,       making its overground / underground way to the river.   The thirsty earth soaks it in,    filters it down into empty aquifers. One chapter ending, another beginning.   Freewrite inspired by the poem, A Rainy Morning, by Ted Kooser   Patricia Morris misses the summer thunderstorms of her rural Midwestern upbringing, but enjoys observing and writing about the California rains from her home in Petaluma. After careers as diverse as…

Guest Bloggers

Why not just get busy and write?

I’ve been reading back issues of Tiny Lights and found this gem by Suzanne Byerley, published December 2000. Even though this was written twenty years ago, it’s a perfect piece to share with you in these days of restlessness, as we wade through difficult times to find inspiration and energy to write.—Marlene Cullen “Steps” by Suzanne Byerley. I find myself restless. I prowl about the house in my slippers making sure the cats are behaving themselves, sorely tempted to turn on CNN and see if Florida has picked the next president yet. Maybe I’ll lay out a game of solitaire or fumble through that little Bach prelude my daughter mastered when she was six. What is this wild drive to diversion? Why not just sit down and get at what makes me happy? Why not just get busy and write? Because the steps to the desk are like slogging bootless…

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…

Prompts

Five minute writing exercises . . . Prompt #431

~ Write for 5 minutes about something difficult, challenging, or painful. It’s only five minutes. Go ahead. Do it now. We’ll wait. Humming in the background while writing gets done. Quiet while writing gets done. Are you still reading?  Write!  Just write. For five minutes. After five minutes . . . ~ Write for 5 minutes about something comforting, happy, or joyous. Yes, you. Now. Just write. Go ahead. We’ll wait. Waiting. Waiting. Patiently waiting. I’ll write, too. After five minutes . . . ~ Write for 5 minutes about images of nature, the natural world. Hmm . . . what will you choose from nature to write about? Feathers, rocks, trees, birds, rocks, dirt, peach blossoms, river, waterfall, penguins, geese. Write whatever comes up for you about nature. Shhh. . . Writers are working here. Doing what we do. Writing. Just writing. Keep on writing. For five minutes. Next…