7/31/20

2020 Writing Exercise Series #211: Erasing Roger Ebert 4 Max Dugan Returns"


The Notebooking Daily 2020 Writing Series is a daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep your creative mind stretched and ready to go—fresh for your other writing endeavors. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.


These exercises are not meant to be a standard writing session. They are meant to be productive and to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive. It's like taking a 5 minute breather in the middle of a spin class—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink them, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

#211
Erasing Roger Ebert 4 "Max Dugan Returns"

For today's exercise we have split paths for fiction and poetry, though I highly recommend that even fiction writers try the poetry exercise, because erasures can be a blast!

For poetry do an erasure or black-out poem from the following:  Roger Ebert's review of the 1983 film "Max Dugan Returns".

Roger Ebert has been the stereotypical film critic for decades, and he's written thousands of reviews. Because of their nature, almost their own bit of ekphrastic art, this series of erasures will be lots of fun!

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 'bingo' occurs multiple times and could be a good touchstone for your piece.

If you insist on fiction, write a piece with one of these six titles taken from this section:

  1. Shallow Wholesomeness
  2. a world where the family gets together for a cute-talk confab in the breakfast nook
  3. A World Inhabited Largely by Movie Stars, Drug Dealers and Transvestite Roller Skaters
  4. With a Lot of Pluck
  5. To Even an Old Score
  6. Sort of Sweet

Erasure Selection:

Roger Ebert's review of "Max Dugan Returns"

"Max Dugan Returns" is a sweet little movie that evokes, in its shallow wholesomeness, a world that has pretty well disappeared from TV and the movies. I'm thinking of that lost American paradise inhabited by Blondie and Dagwood, Ozzie and Harriet and the Beaver -- a world where the family gets together for a cute-talk confab in the breakfast nook.

The movie takes place in the Venice Beach area south of Santa Monica. That's a world inhabited largely by movie stars, drug dealers and transvestite roller skaters, but you wouldn't know that from "Max Dugan Returns." The movie stars Marsha Mason as a widowed schoolteacher who's raising her teenage son (Matthew Broderick) with a lot of pluck and cheerfulness.

This is one of those movies that starts right out with little character touches; Mason is provided with a standard-issue Colorful Hollywood Car that bounces like a bronco and backfires on cue.

Then two big things happen in her life. (1) Her car is stolen, and police Lt. Donald Sutherland is assigned to the case. (2) After 30 years, her long-lost father (Jason Robards) returns, bearing a briefcase full of money. While Sutherland and Mason slowly fall in love, Robards moves in and explains that he swindled the money from a Las Vegas casino to even an old score, but now he has only six months to live and wants to get to know his daughter and grandson.

This is, as you will have noticed, a Plot. There is never a danger that we will confuse it with Real Life. It's unfair even to ask for realism; "Max Dugan Returns" isn't supposed to be a slice of life, it's supposed to be a series of situations leading to a semi-tearful happy ending. The movie was written and co-produced by Neil Simon, who is certainly facile.

He can create colorful characters on a moment's notice, and spin out funny dialogue by the yard. His problem is making the characters seem somewhat three-dimensional. He defines them by their jobs, ethnic categories, costumes and speech patterns, so we can tell them apart -- but how many Simon characters can you really remember through the years? "The Odd Couple," Dreyfuss and Mason in "The Goodbye Girl," Mason in "Chapter Two," Ann-Margret in "I Ought to Be in Pictures," Michael Caine in "California Suite," and who else?

Simon's gift also is his downfall. He's so good at writing lightweight dialogue that it all begins to sound the same. In "Max Dugan Returns," for example, there's a running gag about whether the dog is named Plato or Pluto, and the trouble is, the first time the names are confused, we know with a conviction approaching certainty that they will be confused again, and again.

"Max Dugan Returns" is watchable and sort of sweet. Robards gives a poignant performance as the dying father, although the movie makes him express his love through expensive gifts that are sort of off-putting. When the movie is over, however, it seems to evaporate. It doesn't have a purpose for being; it's just spun sugar and a few tears, a plot situation set into motion to create the illusion of suspense before everyone gets what he wants, or fears, or deserves. There's hardly a moment in the whole movie that would be confused with daily life as it is really lived. Maybe that's the idea.
------------------------------------

If you'd like some background music to write to, try this ambient "The Ocean inside of you" lofi mix.

7/30/20

2020 Writing Exercise Series #210: Six Word Shootout 23


The Notebooking Daily 2020 Writing Series is a daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep your creative mind stretched and ready to go—fresh for your other writing endeavors. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

These exercises are not meant to be a standard writing session. They are meant to be productive and to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive. It's like taking a 5 minute breather in the middle of a spin class—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink them, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

#210
Six Word Shootout 23

For today's writing exercise write a piece that includes the following six words. While it perfectly sets you up for a sestina, and I've chosen homonyms, feel free to write whatever you'd like (but ya know, maybe give that sestina a shot!). Also feel free to make slight alterations to the required words if you want to avoid that eye-pokey repetition you can find in sestinas sometimes.

This one's for the hive!

Required Words: 

1) Medal
2) Muscle
3) Flecks
4) Tale
5) Tied
6) Cellar

-
Bonus Exercise: Include the following three things in your piece: A Flat Basketball, A Tape Measure, A Five Dollar Bill 
------------------------------------

If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Warm Afternoons" lofi playlist.

7/29/20

2020 Writing Exercise Series #209: Three Things Together 33


The Notebooking Daily 2020 Writing Series is a daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep your creative mind stretched and ready to go—fresh for your other writing endeavors. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.


These exercises are not meant to be a standard writing session. They are meant to be productive and to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive. It's like taking a 5 minute breather in the middle of a spin class—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink them, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

#209
Three Things Together 33

F
or today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following three things, Nice and simple.
  1. A Pair of Overalls
  2. Bunny Ears (costume)
  3. Henry Ford
------------------------------------

If you'd like some background music to write to, try the "Jazz Cloud" lofi hip hop mix.

7/28/20

2020 Writing Exercise Series #208: First Line Bonanza 7


The Notebooking Daily 2020 Writing Series is a daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep your creative mind stretched and ready to go—fresh for your other writing endeavors. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

These exercises are not meant to be a standard writing session. They are meant to be productive and to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive. It's like taking a 5 minute breather in the middle of a spin class—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink them, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

#208
First Line Bonanza 7

For today's writing exercise write a piece that begins with one of the following first lines.

  1. They say that a third of the stars fell from the sky that night.
  2. The overfilled water balloon burst in my hand.
  3. As the dog whined for a treat, she searched for the remote between couch cushions.
  4. Rain pocked the dusty table.
  5. He kicked open the stall door with more force than he'd intended.

-

Bonus Exercise: You must include a paragraph which is four sentences long, only one of them may be more than four words long.
------------------------------------

If you'd like some background music to write to, try this mix of harmonica-forward blues. You didn't know you needed it, but now you do!

7/27/20

2020 Writing Exercise Series #207: Ekphrastic Stray 12


The Notebooking Daily 2020 Writing Series is a daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep your creative mind stretched and ready to go—fresh for your other writing endeavors. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

These exercises are not meant to be a standard writing session. They are meant to be productive and to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive. It's like taking a 5 minute breather in the middle of a spin class—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink them, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.


#207
Ekphrastic Stray 12
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 fantastic painting called "Stray" by artist David Ambarzumjan frm his series "Brushstrokes in Time"


No handholding today. Is this a timeless entity seeing the two different times overlaid? Is it a painter seeing a vision of the past? Is this world somehow in flux between two different times? Is that the fox imagining the world he'd only been told of? Or imagining that future wasteland? Is that actually a good future somehow, the picture being intentionally misleading? What is it? You tell us, in the world of your poem, you're the one in charge. You have the authoritah. You got this.

via GIPHY
---

If you'd like background writing music, try this "Road to the Dream" lofi mix.


7/26/20

2020 Writing Exercise Series #206: 3x5x7 Wordbank Sprints 29


The Notebooking Daily 2020 Writing Series is a daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep your creative mind stretched and ready to go—fresh for your other writing endeavors. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

These exercises are not meant to be a standard writing session. They are meant to be productive and to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive. It's like taking a 5 minute breather in the middle of a spin class—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink them, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.
#206
3x5x7 Wordbank Sprints 29
For today's writing exercise complete the following steps. The wordbank exercise has changed so be sure to take a peek at the new 'rules'. I recommend using the timer on your phone or computer and setting it for 1 minute. Each time you write a sentence, quickly reset the timer. If it goes off before you're finished with the sentence—wrap it up ASAP!

In order to complete the large number of sentences demanded of this exercise it is imperative that you write fast. Don't think too much at all until you've reached the final exercise. The process of this quick production is to thrust past second guesses or other stumbling blocks that sometimes impede your writing. You're aiming to write 23 sentences in at most 20 minutes so you have ten minutes to organize and write that actual piece, so you're going to be writing more than a sentence a minute.

WRITE FAST, DON'T OVERTHINK


  1. Pick one word from each of three groups and write a sentence that includes all of the words, feel free to change tense, pluralize, gerund etc. Repeat the process five (5) times using different combinations. No dawdling! 
  2. Now write three (3) sentences that are six (6) words or fewer in length that use any two (2) words from the wordbanks.
  3. Now write three (3) sentences that use four (4) or more of the words.
  4. Now write five (5) sentences which begin with one (1) of the words and contain a second one (1) of the words.
  5. Now write five (5) sentences which are fewer than ten (10) words in length and conclude with one (1) of the words from the wordbanks. Remember, keep up the pace! Don't overthink!
  6. Now rephrase two (2) of your sentences from exercise #1 in either a more efficient or more descriptive manner.
  7. Now write a piece of fiction or poetry that uses at least three (3) of the sentences you've written throughout this process of exercises. Try to use as many of the (good) sentences as you can, or parts of the sentences if the whole thing doesn't fit or works better altered.
Word Bank 1:
  • Miracle
  • Feint
  • Fallopian
  • Drained
  • Willow
Wordbank 2:
  • Droll
  • Carrot
  • Gorilla
  • Vibrant
  • Quaint

Wordbank 3
:
  • Tangerine
  • Original
  • Languishing
  • Justified
  • Ploy

Bonus writing exercise: In your piece, include the word "Orange" in your title, and you must include someone blowing a bubble with their gum.

------------------------------------

Want some unobtrusive background writing music? It amazes me that this exists, but check out, from the official Oakland A's youtube channel, this Oakland A's Lofi mix.

7/25/20

2020 Writing Exercise Series #205: Title Mania Plus 33


The Notebooking Daily 2020 Writing Series is here! These are daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep your creative mind stretched and ready to go—fresh for your other writing endeavors. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

These exercises are not meant to be a standard writing session. They are meant to be productive and to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive. It's like taking a 5 minute breather in the middle of a spin class—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink them, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.
#205
Title Mania Plus  33

For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which uses one of the following as its title. Before you write, first read the poem from which the titles are selected. For a bonus challenge use the additional exercise of five random constraints.

Today's titles come from Justine Auberie's poem "They’ve Blocked the Yellow Brick Road" from Atticus Review (July 22, 2020).

Titles:
  1. Rusted in the Woods
  2. Sleep Over 
  3. The Wrong Side
  4. Wizard's Smoke
  5. Fighting Terror with Terror
  6. The Storm She Was Bringing

Bonus Exercise: Three Things
(Your piece must also include the following three 'things')
  1. The Yellow Brick Road
  2. Norway
  3. Mark Twain
------------------------------------

If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Warm Nights in Tokyo" lofi mix.

7/24/20

Friday Flash Fiction Edition 2 | 7-24-20


It's back!
.
Friday Flash Fiction #2
There are hundreds upon hundreds of journals out there publishing fantastic writing, and it's impossible to read everything. I'm not collecting every great piece, just some. Good reads. Good, quick reads. For this second issue I'm keeping the focus on microfiction, prose poetry and the very shortest end of flash fiction, cutting off around 250 words. Enjoy the hint fiction, micro fiction, flash fiction, sudden fiction, whatever you want to call them, and maybe try your hand at some of the exercises if you're inspired. If you'd like mood music, I've included some sad lofi, because I didn't realize it when I was choosing the pieces for this edition of Friday Flash Fiction, but it is about to get pretty heavy around here, but, interesting or funny heavy, at least. So let's begin!

When Your Ex-Lover Walks on the Moon
I was in love and you were married and that was fine until it wasn’t anymore.  You chose her and I learned to think about other things. You took up so much space. 

I watched you land on the moon. I ached as you combed your fingers through moon dust. I know what your hands can do. 

I hope you think of me as you look at Earth. I hope you search for me in the clouds of green and blue and feel far away. I hope you’re thinking of my hands. You know what they can do. You know what they’ve done.


%%%%%%%%%%%

Originally published in the newest issue of Cease, Cows as a "Rare Flash Feature" with another longer story. I absolutely love the idea of this piece, it had me from the title. It's such a funny idea to think about, the astronaut's spurned lovers, during a moon landing. Astronauts are human too, and they have their faults, their follies, their flings (Remember Buzz Aldrin on 30 Rock?). I love that the relationship is over before the end of the first sentence, because the past isn't important so much, or, us knowing the specifics. This is about the mistress/narrator as her former lover lands on the moon. Then it ends with that mystery, the thing we weren't told of—leaving the saucy bits to be with the underwater unsaids of this iceberg.  

Taking their quirky name from Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, at Cease, Cows they "want to explore the contemporary, the strange, the big questions. We want to feel cultural pulses, expose mental arteries, bathe in both the sanguine and sanguinary. We want to publish prose with fire and truth. Humans may be animals, but the power of words can allow us to revel in or transcend the physical. The best literature achieves both. Or something profound like that." About the Author: Madeline Anthes is the Assistant Editor of Lost Balloon. Her chapbook, Now We Haunt This Home Together, is now available with Bone & Ink Press. You can find her on Twitter at @maddieanthes, and find more of her work at madelineanthes.com.

Potential exercise: Write a short piece in which a person in turmoil begins to see signs everywhere in nature (perhaps exploring the idea of signs themselves, and how perspective comes into play).


%%%%%%%%%%%

I Lost God Last Week

He was in the pocket of my favorite jeans, but must have slipped out or been 
swallowed by the spin cycle. Sorry god. Sometimes it’s hard to get things right. 
We talked a lot. He understood my fears, particularly of pigeons. Although he 
did get upset when I poisoned an entire batch of them. But agreed not to say 
prayers for the rotting winged-rats. He knew I siphoned cash from the 
pawnshop, juggled the books, built a swimming pool. The problem was god 
loves to swim. So he looked the other way. He knew I lowballed the treasures 
people brought in. A five carat diamond ring that I said was fake, hoping the 
tear-stained woman wouldn’t return. The stamp collection with a rare 1851 
three-cent stamp, but the owner didn’t know and had four kids to feed. I gave 
him ten dollars. God fussed a bit, but then went for a swim. I remember 
afterward he looked a bit pale. I posted notices MISSING GOD. I put an ad on 

Next Door South. I lost god last week. But perhaps god lost me. 


%%%%%%%%%%%

Originally published in HeartWood Issue #9 as a prose poem, I was drawn in by the title in the table of contents and the surreal piece did not disappoint. The tale of a pawn broker's relationship with God on quite the personal level makes this unique poem really stand out, and the fine details of the people the narrator had swindled were both realistic, and unique enough to stick with you after your first read.

HeartWood is an online literary magazine in association with West Virginia Wesleyan's Low-Residency MFA program. Their submission guidelines indicate that: "We are interested in writing that pushes into, dares to reveal, its own truth, that takes emotional risks, that gets to the heart of the matter." From her website: "Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.

Potential exercise: Write a short piece in which a person imagines (or has) a very personal relationship with God (or a god), and how they justify or try to talk their way out of punishment for their sins because of that relationship.

%%%%%%%%%%%

Sunday Blues 

A lot of people feel depressed on Sundays, starting about 4 in the afternoon. I’m different. I feel depressed on most days, and it doesn’t matter what time it is. A grief without any obvious source has pursued me my whole life, a claw-like hand that will abruptly fall on my shoulder. Sometimes the hand can get too heavy to shake off. Overnight a woman who jumped from the old railroad bridge was pulled from the river still alive. The water seems particularly agitated now, sounding like it’s muttering, “Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck,” over and over.


%%%%%%%%%%%

Originally published in The Citron Review Issue 10 (Summer 2020) this micro fiction is a bit of a depressed narrator's mindset capped by a depressing scene, ending with an image. How friggan poemy, right? That's what I love about microfictions, how they blur the line between prose poem and fiction when done well. I especially liked the way the author described the "claw-like hand that will abruptly fall on my shoulder", been there brother, been there. 

The Citron Review is a journal that celebrates microfiction in a way that many other journals do not. They publish all genres, or, as they put it in their submission guidelines: We publish short poetry, flash fiction, micro fiction, and flash creative nonfiction. The Citron Review doesn’t have a particular aesthetic, nor does it have a theme, though we have published a themed issue, and we may publish more of them in the future. Generally, we’re looking for pretty much anything that fits within our guidelines. It can be traditional or experimental. About the author: Howie Good is the author of What It Is and How to Use It (2019) from Grey Book Press, among other poetry collections. He co-edits the online journals Unbroken and UnLost.

Potential exercise: Write a short piece which gets into the mind of a depressed narrator using a similar structure to this micro. Build the character of the narrator and their relationship with depression, briefly show us a real world, concrete scene that relates to something in the description you gave us and depression (metaphor or direct correlation), then end on a single image in that scene which has the feel of the piece that is leading up to it, like the idea of the water retaining the jumped woman's panicked cursing.

%%%%%%%%%%%

Please Fill in the Blanks
Remember when the census bureau called while you were away in New York and they asked what race you were?

********Yes. M said it was complicated.

Would you care to elaborate, please?

********M said it was complicated but they still persisted in asking what race I was.

Do you remember what she said? M told them you had a Spanish-sounding last name but that you weren’t Hispanic. M told them that you looked Asian but that you didn’t consider yourself Asian. M said that you acted white but that you weren’t white.

********Wait. I don’t act white. What does that even mean?

Anyway, M asked if they could put you down as OTHER. They refused to accept that as an answer. Remember what they finally agreed on?


********Race: CANADIAN


%%%%%%%%%%%

Originally published in Matter Monthly Issue 25, March 2019, this micro fiction is very apt in this time when race is an extremely sensitive issue. I love the back and forth, the "what does that even mean?" is a great moment in the story. Microfictions often eschew dialog but this one is entirely dialog which is almost its own mini-genre. I dig it, even if it doesn't have a name—micro dialogues, maybe?

Matter Magazine is a journal of political writing, or as they put it: Matter is an online journal of poetry, political commentary, prose, and visual media, established with the intention of de-stigmatizing and expanding the definition of “political poetry,” too often associated, in the West, with polemical verse.  Matter aims to break down structural divides between labor and capital, aesthetics and politics. About the Author: Greg Santos is the author of Blackbirds (Eyewear, 2018), Rabbit Punch! (DC Books, 2014) and The Emperor’s Sofa (DC Books, 2010). He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. He regularly works with at-risk communities and teaches at Montreal’s Thomas More Institute. He is the poetry editor of carte blanche.

Potential exercise: Write a "Micro Dialogue", I'm running with it. A short piece that consists solely of the back and forth dialogue between two people. For your Micro Dialogue, follow Santos' lead and have the piece be a phone conversation between someone who has been trying to get ahold of the other person, confirming second-hand information perhaps.

%%%%%%%%%%%

The Plastic Bag Will Not Fully Inflate
by Beth Gordon


Originally published in The Hunger Issue 8, I think this would technically be a bit more of a prose poem, or just poem than microfiction, but seeing as I'm in charge here, and there aren't line-breaks just changes to the margins of the piece, I think it fits. I love the bittersweet reminiscences of this piece, the straightforward wording is still very interesting and voicey. Big fan of this author. 

In their words: "The Hunger is a journal of visceral writing that publishes fiction, poetry, nonfiction, hybrid work, and visual art... [they want] writing that guts you, that makes you howl with its honesty, that leaves you bloodied, raw, and hungering for more. The Hunger is looking for the lyrical, the strange, the uncomfortable, the vulnerable, the mangled monsters inside." About the Author: Beth Gordon is a poet, mother and grandmother currently living Asheville, NC. Her poems have been published in numerous journals and nominated for Best of the Net, Pushcart and the Orison Anthology. She is the author of the chapbook, Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe (Animal Heart Press) and the chapbook, Particularly Dangerous Situation, (Clare Songbird Publishing). She is Poetry Editor of Gone Lawn and Assistant Editor of Animal Heart Press.

Potential exercise: Write a piece from a somewhat older adult's perspective in which they're recalling old friends by first name very briefly, moving on quickly. Try to imbue your piece with the sense of slow urgency, an ominousness such as Beth Gordon's piece has. Kicker? Include as the penultimate sentence the same one word as in "The Plastic Bag Will Not Fully Inflate".

--
Background reading and writing music.


2020 Writing Exercise Series #204: Beginning & Ending with Mashed 23


The Notebooking Daily 2020 Writing Series is a daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep your creative mind stretched and ready to go—fresh for your other writing endeavors. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

These exercises are not meant to be a standard writing session. They are meant to be productive and to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive. It's like taking a 5 minute breather in the middle of a spin class—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink them, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.
#204
Beginning & Ending with Mashed 23

F
or today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which begins with one image, scenario, line of dialog or place and ends with another, and an optional additional requirement.

Begin WithSomeone mashing another person's face in snow (a "whitewash").

End WithSomeone cocking back a spoonful of mashed potatoes (ala food fight).

Extra Credit RequirementsInclude, somewhere in the first two paragraphs/stanzas, the phrase "Set ablaze"; and somewhere in your piece include the words: "Cello" "Flighty" "Serving" "Scrambled" and "Pepper".
------------------------------------

If you'd like some unobtrusive background music try this "Tea Time" lofi mix.

7/23/20

2020 Writing Exercise Series #203: Three Things Together 32


The Notebooking Daily 2020 Writing Series is a daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep your creative mind stretched and ready to go—fresh for your other writing endeavors. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.


These exercises are not meant to be a standard writing session. They are meant to be productive and to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive. It's like taking a 5 minute breather in the middle of a spin class—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink them, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

#203
Three Things Together 32

F
or today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following three things, Nice and simple.
  1. A Scrambled Egg
  2. An Oily Puddle
  3. A Bowling Trophy
------------------------------------

If you'd like some background music to write to, try the "late night vibes" lofi hip hop mix from our friends at Chilhop Music.

7/21/20

2020 Writing Exercise Series #202: Erasing Roger Ebert 3 "The Goonies"


The Notebooking Daily 2020 Writing Series is a daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep your creative mind stretched and ready to go—fresh for your other writing endeavors. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.


These exercises are not meant to be a standard writing session. They are meant to be productive and to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive. It's like taking a 5 minute breather in the middle of a spin class—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink them, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

#202
Erasing Roger Ebert 3 "The Goonies"

For today's exercise we have split paths for fiction and poetry, though I highly recommend that even fiction writers try the poetry exercise, because erasures can be a blast!

For poetry do an erasure or black-out poem from the following:  Roger Ebert's review of the 1985 film "The Goonies".

Roger Ebert has been the stereotypical film critic for decades, and he's written thousands of reviews. Because of their nature, almost their own bit of ekphrastic art, this series of erasures will be lots of fun!

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 'bingo' occurs multiple times and could be a good touchstone for your piece.

If you insist on fiction, write a piece with one of these six titles taken from this section:

  1. A Smooth Mixture of the Usual Ingredients
  2. Words Bogart Didn't Know
  3. A Thin Line Between the Cheerful and the Gruesome
  4. Down in the Cellar
  5. How to Excite
  6. The single most important line of dialogue in any Spielberg movie is probably the line in "E.T." when one kid calls another kid "penis-breath."

Erasure Selection:

Roger Ebert's review of "The Goonies"

"The Goonies" is a smooth mixture of the usual ingredients from Steven Spielberg action movies, made special because of the high-energy performances of the kids who have the adventures. It's a fantastical story of buried pirate treasure, told with a slice-of-life approach that lets these kids use words Bogart didn't know in "Casablanca". There used to be children's movies and adult movies. Now Spielberg has found an in-between niche, for young teenagers who have fairly sophisticated tastes in horror. He supervises the formula and oversees the production, assigning the direction to stylish action veterans (this time, it's Richard Donner, of "Superman" and "Ladyhawke").

"Goonies", like "Gremlins", walks a thin line between the cheerful and the gruesome, and the very scenes the adults might object to are the ones the kids will like the best: Spielberg is congratulating them on their ability to take the heavy-duty stuff. The movie begins with an assortment of engaging boys, including a smart kid, a kid with braces, a fat kid, an older brother, and an Asian kid whose clothing conceals numerous inventions. Along the way they pick up a couple of girls, whose function is to swap spit and get bats in their hair. The kids find an old treasure map and blunder into the hideout of a desperate gang of criminalsÑtwo brothers, led by a Ma Barker type. There is a third brother, a Quasimodish freak, who is kept chained down in the cellar, where he watches TV. The tunnels to the treasure begin under the hideout. The kids find the tunnels while fleeing from the bad guys, and then go looking for the treasure with the crooks on their tails. There are lots of special effects and among the set pieces are the same kinds of booby traps that Indiana Jones survived in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (falling boulders, sharp spikes), and a toboggan ride on a water chute that will remind you of the runaway train in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."

If the ingredients are familiar from Spielberg's high-powered action movies, the kids are inspired by "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial". The single most important line of dialogue in any Spielberg movie is probably the line in "E.T." when one kid calls another kid "penis-breath." The dialogue hears and acknowledges the precocious way that kids incorporate vulgarity into their conversations, especially with each other; the line in "E.T." created such a shock of recognition that the laughs swept away any objections.

This time, his kids say "shit" a lot, and it is a measure of Spielberg's insight that the word draws only a PG rating for the movie; Spielberg no doubt argues that most kids talk like that half the time, and he is right. His technique is to take his thirteen-and fourteen-year-olds and let them act a little older than their age. It's more refreshing than the old Disney technique, which was to take characters of all ages and have them behave as if they were twelve.

Another Spielberg trademark, faithfully achieved by Donner, is a breakneck narrative speed. More things happen in this movie than in six ordinary action films. There's not just a thrill a minute; there's a thrill, a laugh, a shock, and a special effect. The screenplay has all the kids talking all at once, all the time, and there were times, especially in the first reel, when I couldn't understand much of what they were saying. The movie needs to be played loud, and with extra treble.

During "Goonies", I was often exhilarated by what was happening. Afterward, I was less enthusiastic. The movie is totally manipulative, which would be okay, except it doesn't have the lift of a film like E.T. It has the high energy without the sweetness. It uses what it knows about kids to churn them up, while E.T. gave them things to think about, the values to enjoy. "The Goonies", like "Gremlins", shows that Spielberg and his directors are absolute masters of how to excite and involve an audience. "E.T." was more like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"; it didn't simply want us to feel, but also to wonder, and to dream.
------------------------------------

If you'd like some background music to write to, try this ambient "Lost Woods" lofi mix from our friends at Fantastic Music.


2020 Writing Exercise Series #201: Between a Fact and an Exact Place 17


The Notebooking Daily 2020 Writing Series is a daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep your creative mind stretched and ready to go—fresh for your other writing endeavors. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

These exercises are not meant to be a standard writing session. They are meant to be productive and to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive. It's like taking a 5 minute breather in the middle of a spin class—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink them, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.
#201
Between a Fact and an Exact Place 17

For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following place (either as the setting, referenced or some aspect of it described) and the following fact in some way (its discovery, used as a metaphor, witnessed etc).
Exact Place:  The Grand Canyon Skywalk 
Fact: Lake Vostok in Antarctica is the world's largest known subglacial freshwater lake (the size of Lake Ontario) buried under 2.5 miles of ice.


As an additional assignment, should you choose to incorporate it, is as follows: Also include the words "Newborn" "Elixir" "Depressed" "Dollop" and "Clot".
------------------------------------

If you'd like some background music to write to, try Claude Debussy's The Girl With The Flaxen Hair

7/20/20

2020 Writing Exercise Series #200: Ekphrastic Rings 11


The Notebooking Daily 2020 Writing Series is a daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep your creative mind stretched and ready to go—fresh for your other writing endeavors. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

These exercises are not meant to be a standard writing session. They are meant to be productive and to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive. It's like taking a 5 minute breather in the middle of a spin class—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink them, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.


#200
Ekphrastic Rings 11
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 fantastic painting artist Aurore Uwase Munyabera, It is also the image for Rattle's July Ekphrastic Challenge, which is free to enter. So, write that poem and polish it up, then send it to Rattle for no fee.



No handholding today. What do the rings make you think of? Why the different colors? Is it literal or a representation of something? A Venn diagram with no overlap? What is it? You tell us, in the world of your poem, you're the one in charge. You have the authoritah. You got this.


via GIPHY
---

If you'd like background writing music, who doesn't love a little Afro-Cuban Jazz? Try RUBEN LOPEZ FURST - JAZZ ARGENTINO .

7/19/20

Jukebox Sunday 2: Yusef Komunyakaa, Eyedea, Anticon


AND WE'RE BACK!

Jukebox Sunday 2 is here with some poetry videos and poetic music for you fine folks. And just a warning, I'm feeling a little nostalgic for hip hop today.

Let's start out with a little poetry fun. Billy Collins' very entertaining poem "Lanyard" is as good a place as any. We'll meet back up with poetry at the end with Yusef Komunyakaa.


Sean Bonnette's escaped the trap that we built to capture him last week, he's been spotted in this recording of the AJJ song "A Poem" which has one of the better poetry-related lines in recent songs: A poem is a song, that no one cares about, except the writers of the songs that we're all singing"


Let's move toward some poetic indie hip hop from 20 years ago, everyone's favorite! I know it's one of mine, at least! Anticon was a tremendous force of poetry in the hip hop scene and Sole was one of its co-founders. One of my favorite albums from that era was Sole's Bottle of Humans, and this is its title track.


Now a bit more abstract, here is alternative/indie hip hop supergroup Deep Puddle Dynamics formed of Slug, Sole, Doseone, and Alias, and their 1998 song "Scarecrow Speaks"


And coming around via Slug to one of my favorite little hot spots of music, Minnesota Hip Hop, here is the Eyedea & Abilities song "Sky Diver"


While we're with Eyedea, one of my favorite emcees, legendary lyricist, freestyler, battler etc etc. here is a song from his Oliver Hart project, this song is called "How Much Do You Pay" and it has some recordings of a very well-known homeless man from the time in Minneapolis who played a bucket and was very friendly.


As we transition back towards poetry let's do that through Atmosphere's anaphoric list song "Scapegoats".


Dipping back to Eyedea's Oliver Hart for this minimalist narrative rap "Step by Step"


OK, Back to poetry. This is a writing blog after all. Here is a short video of Yusef Komunyakaa talking about when a poem is finished, more specifically, he gives a little insight into the revision process that is quite useful. 


To add to what Mr. Komunyakaa says, I also am wary of the beginnings of poems. Sometimes it can take a stanza or two even for a poem to find its feet, to discover what it's trying to say, what truth it's trying to highligh about the human condition or whatever, and this can often be rectified in editing, sometimes that opening needs to be hacked off. I just chopped the opening stanza of a poem I'd been sending out and had been proud of and I couldn't feel better about the excision. And finally we'll end with a short film made by the filmmaker Iriana Rucker for Komunyakaa's poem "Slam, Dunk & Hook".


---

Bonus Writing Exercises: You didn't think you'd get away without writing a poem did you? 

1)Take inspiration from what you've listened and use either a setting, a turn of phrase, an object, something from one of the songs and write a piece based on that.
2) Look up the lyrics to your favorite of those songs at Lyrics Genius and make an erasure poem from those lyrics.
3) Look up the lyrics to your favorite of those songs and find a line to use as the epigraph for a piece of writing. The quote usually will be a pithy way to 'sum up' some aspect of your piece, or just be related in a way that the quote informs the piece.