Saturday, August 17, 2019

Summer Writing Exercise Series #53: Repetition and a Song


#53
For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following phrase at least four times (non-sequentially):

"And they sang."

    Think of this both literally and metaphorically, and maybe have the sentence begin earlier, or continue past the word dry.
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    If you'd like some background music to write to, try the London Calling by The Clash.









    Thursday, August 15, 2019

    Summer Writing Exercise Series #52: Three Things and a Side of Fries


    #52
    For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following three things. Nice and simple. If you're not intimately familiar with these things do a little reading and see if a piece of info sticks out.


    1. A Diner
    2. A Mullet Haircut
    3. Azaleas

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    If you'd like some background music to write to, try the soundtrack to the game The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker









    Wednesday, August 14, 2019

    Summer Writing Exercise Series #51: Title Mania en route to Alpha Centuri


    #51
    For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which uses one of the following as its title. For a bonus challenge, try to use as many of the titles in your piece as you can manage organically.


    Titles:

    1. Rat Poison Without Directions
    2. Another Doctor
    3. Travelling to Alpha Centuri for the Weekend 
    4. Relaxation
    5. Annotated Bookmark

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    If you'd like some background music to write to, try this mix of Carlos Carty's pan flute music.





    Tuesday, August 13, 2019

    Summer Writing Exercise Series #50: One of Two Ends Emdashed on the Rocks


    #50
    For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which ends with one of the following sentences—think of it like starting a maze from the end.


    Sentence 1: "Vodka on the rocks—and no fruit this time."

    Sentence 2: Like so many things—dashed upon the rocks.

    Bonus prompt requirement: Include someone crushing a can and begin the piece with a necklace or bracelet going missing.
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    If you'd like some background music to write to, try the soundtrack for the hilarious Wes Anderson film The Grand Budapest Hotel.


    Monday, August 12, 2019

    For Your Enjoyment: A conversation with former US Poet Laureate and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner W.S. Merwin at his home in Hawai'i

    I got to see WS Merwin read once while I was in graduate school and he was great. His contemplative poetry often takes nature as its subject and while not overly complicated, his poems have a great resonance to them.

    In this conversation with W.S. Merwin at his home in Hawai'i his connection to the environment, a sense of place and language are explored, they walk around his beautiful grounds a little and he reads a number of poems. Big shout out to PBS for continuing to produce great educational and arts programming.


    Summer Writing Exercise Series #49: Repetition at the Dry Well


    #43
    For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following phrase at least four times (non-sequentially):

    "The well has gone dry."

      Think of this both literally and metaphorically, and maybe have the sentence begin earlier, or continue past the word dry.
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      If you'd like some background music to write to, try the score to the movie Holes.






      Sunday, August 11, 2019

      Summer Writing Exercise Series #48: Three Things at the Dam


      #48
      For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following three things. Nice and simple. If you're not intimately familiar with these things do a little reading and see if a piece of info sticks out.

      1. The Hoover Dam
      2. A Tangerine
      3. Licorice Candy
      If you don't know much about the Hoover Dam watch this great American Experiences episode about it, it's an amazing feat of engineering.

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      If you'd like some background music to write to, try a loop of the music from Soarin' Over California by Jerry Goldsmith.






      Friday, August 9, 2019

      Summer Writing Exercise Series #47: 3x5x5 Wordbank 7


      #47
      For today's writing exercise you will pick one word from each of three groups and write a sentence that includes all of the words, feel free to change tense, pluralize etc. Repeat the process five (5) times using different combinations. Now write a piece of fiction or poetry that uses at least two (2) of those sentences. Try to use as many of the sentences as you can.


      Word Bank 1:
      • Thirst
      • Jarring
      • Plural
      • Flunk
      • Potato
      Wordbank 2:
      • Swift
      • Leper
      • Broadside
      • Lukewarm
      • Flimsy
      Wordbank 3:
      • Poker
      • Slate
      • Juvenile
      • Gopher
      • Shark

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      If you'd like some background music to write to, try Tom Petty's Greatest Hits.



      Thursday, August 8, 2019

      Summer Writing Exercise Series #46: Title Mania with Bamboo


      #46
      For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which uses one of the following as its title. For a bonus challenge, try to use as many of the titles in your piece as you can manage organically.


      Titles:

      1. Shiny
      2. Note to Self #32,434
      3. The Missing Dinosaur
      4. Modeled in Clay
      5. On the Steps of the Capitol Building

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      If you'd like some background music to write to, try this mix of Studio Ghibli instrumentals




      Wednesday, August 7, 2019

      Summer Writing Exercise Series #45: Erasing The Crystal Egg 5


      #45
      For today's exercise we have split paths for fiction and poetry, though I highly recommend that even fiction writers try the poetry exercise. For fiction, write a piece beginning with the sentence "He told a complicated story."

      For poetry do an erasure or black-out poem from the following selection of H.G. Wells' short story "The Crystal Egg". An Erasure/Blackout is really simple: you take the given text and remove many words to make it your own new piece. One way to go about the erasure that I like to do is to copy the text and paste it twice into your document before you start erasing or blacking out (in MS Word set the text background color to black), that way if you get further into the erasure and decide you want a somewhat different tone or direction, it's easy to go to the unaltered version and make the erasure/black-out piece smoother. Another tip is to look for recurring words, in this example Cave occurs many times and could be a good touchstone for your piece.


      Erasure Selection:

      from The Crystal Egg

      Now, without mincing the matter, we must admit that Mr. Cave was a liar. He knew perfectly well where the crystal was. It was in the rooms of Mr. Jacoby Wace, Assistant Demonstrator at St. Catherine’s Hospital, Westbourne Street. It stood on the sideboard partially covered by a black velvet cloth, and beside a decanter of American whisky. It is from Mr. Wace, indeed, that the particulars upon which this narrative is based were derived. Cave had taken off the thing to the hospital hidden in the dog-fish sack, and there had pressed the young investigator to keep it for him. Mr. Wace was a little dubious at first. His relationship to Cave was peculiar. He had a taste for singular characters, and he had more than once invited the old man to smoke and drink in his rooms, and to unfold his rather amusing views of life in general and of his wife in particular. Mr. Wace had encountered Mrs. Cave, too, on occasions when Mr. Cave was not at home to attend to him. He knew the constant interference to which Cave was subjected, and having weighed the story judicially, he decided to give the crystal a refuge. Mr. Cave promised to explain the reasons for his remarkable affection for the crystal more fully on a later occasion, but he spoke distinctly of seeing visions therein. He called on Mr. Wace the same evening.

      He told a complicated story. The crystal he said had come into his possession with other oddments at the forced sale of another curiosity dealer’s effects, and not knowing what its value might be, he had ticketed it at ten shillings. It had hung upon his hands at that price for some months, and he was thinking of “reducing the figure,” when he made a singular discovery.

      At that time his health was very bad — and it must be borne in mind that, throughout all this experience, his physical condition was one of ebb — and he was in considerable distress by reason of the negligence, the positive ill-treatment even, he received from his wife and step-children. His wife was vain, extravagant, unfeeling, and had a growing taste for private drinking; his step-daughter was mean and over-reaching; and his step-son had conceived a violent dislike for him, and lost no chance of showing it. The requirements of his business pressed heavily upon him, and Mr. Wace does not think that he was altogether free from occasional intemperance. He had begun life in a comfortable position, he was a man of fair education, and he suffered, for weeks at a stretch, from melancholia and insomnia. Afraid to disturb his family, he would slip quietly from his wife’s side, when his thoughts became intolerable, and wander about the house. And about three o’clock one morning, late in August, chance directed him into the shop.

      The dirty little place was impenetrably black except in one spot, where he perceived an unusual glow of light. Approaching this, he discovered it to be the crystal egg, which was standing on the corner of the counter towards the window. A thin ray smote through a crack in the shutters, impinged upon the object, and seemed as it were to fill its entire interior.

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      If you'd like some background music to write to, try this live performance of the Drive By Truckers on Seattle's KEXP.


      Monday, August 5, 2019

      Summer Writing Exercise Series #44: One of Two Starts Near Death


      #44
      For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which begins with one of the following sentences.


      Sentence 1: It wasn't laughing at death, but at inevitability.

      Sentence 2: Its claws were longer than any of your fingers.
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      If you'd like some background music to write to, try the soundtrack for the movie Field of Dreams. Gotta you some James Horner.


      Summer Writing Exercise Series #43: Three Things in the Keys


      #43
      For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following three things. Nice and simple. If you're not intimately familiar with these things do a little reading and see if a piece of info sticks out.
      Fort Jefferson, FL; Photo by Jason Rohrer


      1. Fort Jefferson, Florida
      2. A Waterspout
      3. A Barn Swallow Nest

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      If you'd like some background music to write to, try the folk punk band Andrew Jackson Jihad's album "People That Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World".






      Sunday, August 4, 2019

      Summer Writing Exercise Series #42: Ekphrastic Chimneys

      #42


      For today, we're going to write a poem or prose piece inspired by another piece of art or an ekphrastic piece. The piece of art in question is this photo of a tree growing out of an abandoned factory chimney.



      Whether you're writing a lyric poem about time passing in an industrial town as the industry moves away, a narrative of traveler in a strange land, an animal growing up in these ruins, or one of a million other options, have a blast with this great piece. There's a ton of possibilities. Shout out to the Abandoned Porn subreddit where I saw this image. I linked to the earliest copy I could find with a Tin Eye search. 


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      If you'd like background writing music here a live performance from The Uncluded (Kimya Dawson and Aesop Rock) on Seattle's KEXP.




      Saturday, August 3, 2019

      Summer Writing Exercise Series #41: Micro 101 Episode 002


      #41
      For today's writing exercise you will write a few micro-poems or micro-fictions. These will be either poems under 12 lines or stories under 100 words.

      For inspiration go read some micro or hint fiction in this Buzzfeed article, at Microfiction Monday32 Poems and Nanoism.

      Micro Exercise 1: Write an accident of some sort with 3 items/things described in motion.
      Micro Exercise 2: Make a list of ten items you might find in an alleyway. Write a micro piece that includes at least seven of those items.
      Micro Exercise 3: Write a micro which uses the items not used in Micro #2, as well as someone chewing loudly on gum.
      Micro Exercise 4: Pick three interesting words from this Random Word Generator and use them in a micro.

      Bonus Exercise: Combine two or more of these pieces into one 250ish word piece.
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      If you'd like some background music to write to, try this mix of Studio Ghibli instrumentals.



      Friday, August 2, 2019

      Summer Writing Exercise Series #40: Title Mania in Blue


      #40
      For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which uses one of the following as its title. For a bonus challenge, try to use as many of the titles in your piece as you can manage organically.


      Titles:

      1. In the Weeds
      2. Quick as a Cheetah with a Flaming Tail
      3. Runaway
      4. Above Sunflowers
      5. Tourniquet 

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      If you'd like some background music to write to, try Weezer's classic Blue Album.







      Thursday, August 1, 2019

      Summer Writing Exercise Series #39: 3x5x5 Wordbank 6


      #39
      For today's writing exercise you will pick one word from each of three groups and write a sentence that includes all of the words, feel free to change tense, pluralize etc. Repeat the process five (5) times using different combinations. Now write a piece of fiction or poetry that uses at least two (2) of those sentences. Try to use as many of the sentences as you can.


      Word Bank 1:
      • Elfin
      • Truculent
      • Wrecked
      • Quaint
      • Fez
      Wordbank 2:
      • Trout
      • Poplar
      • Regulated
      • Triangle
      • Expedited
      Wordbank 3:
      • Taut
      • Flex
      • Wax
      • Pock
      • Fluid

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      If you'd like some background music to write to, try the independent hip hop album "Two-Headed Monster" by Blueprint.



      Wednesday, July 31, 2019

      Summer Writing Exercise Series #38: Erasing The Crystal Egg 4


      #38
      For today's exercise we have split paths for fiction and poetry, though I highly recommend that even fiction writers try the poetry exercise. For fiction, write a piece that includes the line of dialog "What has become of it" as well as the words "amuck" "garbled" and "acrimonious".

      For poetry do an erasure or black-out poem from the following selection of H.G. Wells' short story "The Crystal Egg". An Erasure/Blackout is really simple: you take the given text and remove many words to make it your own new piece. One way to go about the erasure that I like to do is to copy the text and paste it twice into your document before you start erasing or blacking out (in MS Word set the text background color to black), that way if you get further into the erasure and decide you want a somewhat different tone or direction, it's easy to go to the unaltered version and make the erasure/black-out piece smoother. Another tip is to look for recurring words, in this example Cave occurs many times and could be a good touchstone for your piece.


      Erasure Selection:

      from The Crystal Egg

      At that Mr. Cave, apparently much surprised, rushed to the window. “Isn’t it here?” he said. “Great Heavens! what has become of it?”

      Just then Mr. Cave’s step-son re-entered the shop from, the inner room — he had come home a minute or so before Mr. Cave — and he was blaspheming freely. He was apprenticed to a second-hand furniture dealer down the road, but he had his meals at home, and he was naturally annoyed to find no dinner ready.

      But when he heard of the loss of the crystal, he forgot his meal, and his anger was diverted from his mother to his step-father. Their first idea, of course, was that he had hidden it. But Mr. Cave stoutly denied all knowledge of its fate, freely offering his bedabbled affidavit in the matter — and at last was worked up to the point of accusing, first, his wife and then his stepson of having taken it with a view to a private sale. So began an exceedingly acrimonious and emotional discussion, which ended for Mrs. Cave in a peculiar nervous condition midway between hysterics and amuck, and caused the step-son to be half-an-hour late at the furniture establishment in the afternoon. Mr. Cave took refuge from his wife’s emotions in the shop.

      In the evening the matter was resumed, with less passion and in a judicial spirit, under the presidency of the step-daughter. The supper passed unhappily and culminated in a painful scene. Mr. Cave gave way at last to extreme exasperation, and went out banging the front door violently. The rest of the family, having discussed him with the freedom his absence warranted, hunted the house from garret to cellar, hoping to light upon the crystal.

      The next day the two customers called again. They were received by Mrs. Cave almost in tears. It transpired that no one could imagine all that she had stood from Cave at various times in her married pilgrimage. . . . She also gave a garbled account of the disappearance. The clergyman and the Oriental laughed silently at one another, and said it was very extraordinary. As Mrs. Cave seemed disposed to give them the complete history of her life they made to leave the shop. Thereupon Mrs. Cave, still clinging to hope, asked for the clergyman’s address, so that, if she could get anything out of Cave, she might communicate it. The address was duly given, but apparently was afterwards mislaid. Mrs. Cave can remember nothing about it.

      In the evening of that day the Caves seem to have exhausted their emotions, and Mr. Cave, who had been out in the afternoon, supped in a gloomy isolation that contrasted pleasantly with the impassioned controversy of the previous days. For some time matters were very badly strained in the Cave household, but neither crystal nor customer reappeared.

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      If you'd like some background music to write to, try "Satchmo in Style" by Louis Armstrong.


      Tuesday, July 30, 2019

      For Your Enjoyment: The Sciences Sing a Lullaby by Albert Goldbarth

      The Sciences Sing a Lullabye (audio link)

      Physics says: go to sleep. Of course
      you're tired. Every atom in you
      has been dancing the shimmy in silver shoes
      nonstop from mitosis to now.
      Quit tapping your feet. They'll dance
      inside themselves without you. Go to sleep.

      Geology says: it will be all right. Slow inch
      by inch America is giving itself
      to the ocean. Go to sleep. Let darkness
      lap at your sides. Give darkness an inch.
      You aren't alone. All of the continents used to be
      one body. You aren't alone. Go to sleep.

      Astronomy says: the sun will rise tomorrow,
      Zoology says: on rainbow-fish and lithe gazelle,
      Psychology says: but first it has to be night, so
      Biology says: the body-clocks are stopped all over town
      and
      History says: here are the blankets, layer on layer, down and down.

                             by Albert Goldbarth

      --


      This tremendous poem is from the Ultra-Talk/Stand-Up Poetry master Albert Goldbarth. I love the musicality of this poem, which can often be lost in the more prosey poetry of the Ultra-Talk. For example, take a look at the repetition of /s/ and /t/ sounds "has been dancing the shimmy in silver shoes / nonstop from mitosis to now / Quit tapping your feet. They'll dance / inside themselves" and the sharp consonant sounds of p's and q in "nonstop" and "quit tapping".

      While it doesn't maintain a steady rhyme (the final stanza is the closest to a standard rhythm) you have subtle nods to rhyme with you/shoes, feet/sleep in S1, and uses direct repetition in S2. Now, it could be just looking too deep into a simple choice, but I like to think that the direct repetition being with Geology, which is notoriously cyclical isn't chance but intentional. The final stanza turns the reading of the poem (structurally) a bit, or it did for me the first time reading it. In the first two stanzas I took the italicized "Physics/Geology says" as part of the poem just, stressed. With the final stanza it becomes apparent that those are more like stage directions.

      The final stanza is a five part verse with each science personified and singing its part. If it isn't that, the reading becomes a bit awkward if you were to remove the line breaks "Astronomy says 'the sun will rise tomorrow', Zoology says 'on rainbow-fish and lithe gazelle,' Psychology says..." as opposed to it reading as 5 sequential voices saying "the sun will rise tomorrow on rainbow-fish and lithe gazelle, but first it has to be night, so the body-clocks are stopped all over town  and here are the blankets, layer on layer, down and down."

      The little touches from each branch of science definitely strengthen the poem, and history ending with its soothing repetition is perfect.

      Bonus writing exercise: Write another type of a song from specific sciences, whether you use some of the ones chosen by Goldbarth or others. Here is a list of different types of songs. Or just write a lullaby from other sciences, or in a specific situation (in a jail cell, in a foxhole, on a sailboat, in a cocoon etc).

      If you'd like some music to write to, it only seems fair to link They Might Be Giants' wonderful album "Here Comes Science".



      Summer Writing Exercise Series #37: Three Things and Some Subtext


      #37
      For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following three things. Nice and simple. If you're not intimately familiar with these things do a little reading and see if a piece of info sticks out.

      1. The Suez Canal
      2. Q*Bert
      3. A Cricket

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      If you'd like some background music to write to, try the Strength Magazine compilation "Subtext" for some classic indie hip hop.







      Monday, July 29, 2019

      Summer Writing Exercise Series #36: One of Two Falling Starts


      #36
      For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which begins with one of the following sentences.


      Sentence 1: Where was once was the safe inside of an airplane was now rushing air and clouds.

      Sentence 2: It felt like the drop would never cease.
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      If you'd like some background music to write to, try the album Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.