3/8/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #67: Sentence Calisthenics 4

The 2021 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep their 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.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—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 it, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 35 minutes.

#67
Sentence Calisthenics 4
For today's writing exercise complete the following steps for a specific period of time, using the timer on your phone or computer and setting it for 5 minutes for each 'set'. The point here is to produce at very least 6 sentences in each set, but you're looking for both quality and quantity. Don't write a bunch of sentences with the same construction or that are boring—it's better if you have no idea how in the heck you might use the sentence. Something funky, interesting.  Normal, well-phrased sentences are of course good to have in the mix too, but include some quirky ones in each set.

At the end of every set mark your favorite 1-2 sentences.

In order to complete the large number of sentences demanded of this exercise it is imperative that you write fast. Don't stop to 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 30 individual, unlinked sentences in 25 minutes so you have ten minutes to organize and write that actual piece using the 'round up' prompt. This means you're going to be writing more than a sentence a minute. You can't do that if you're dawdling or trying to figure out the 'perfect' phrasing. The first couple times writing to these sprint-style prompts you may barely squeak the lines out in time, but as you get more used to it you'll get more both in quantity and in quality of your sentences. 

Save all of your sentences to a "Sentence Calisthenics" document, if you participate for awhile we'll have some bonus exercises that will refer back to these sentences, because sometimes you can't see the gold hiding in plain sight when you've just written something. Having fresh eyes might result in a quick, awesome piece. So, save those sentences!

WRITE FAST, DON'T OVERTHINK

Getting into the mindset: Before you start your timer, take a moment and breathe and think about keeping cool during a very hot day (and also during hot nights). Think about the feeling of a hot night, trying to sleep when sweating/covered in sweat or however else you experience a hot night or day. Think both humid and dry heat. Keep thinking of these things in the back of your mind as you're writing and in between sets. By no means should all of your sentences revolve around these things, we just want your mind centered with a few anchors in place before we charge into our piece, DON'T LET THIS DISTRACT YOU FROM YOUR SENTENCES. When you feel set, read the set instructions, appropriate Wordbank, and start that timer. 

When the timer goes off move on to the next set regardless of if you met the 6 sentence goal, you wrote only 3, or 12—when the timer rings, move along and if you don't hit 6 for one set, do your dangedest to knock out 6 in the next set even if some of them are short or silly or straightforward or even a fragment.

Set 1: Using the first word bank write six (6) or more sentences which include one of the words and a non-primary color. 

Wordbank 1:
  • Slick
  • Fan
  • Particle
  • Scorching
  • Spring
Set 2: Now write six (6) or more sentences which use two words from that first bank. At least two (2) of the sentences must be fewer than six words. Remember to mark 1-2 favorites for each set.

Wordbank 2:
  • Thrilled
  • Shrill
  • Wilted
  • Onion
  • Dust
Set 3: In preparation of the next six (6) or more sentences you should first pick two words Wordbank 1 and type/write them out. Each of your sentences for this 5 minutes must include one of those two pre-selected words and one of the words from Wordbank 2.

Set 4:
 Now take a minute to look through this list of texture descriptions and write down 3-5 of them. Write at least six (6) sentences which include two words from Wordbank 2 and one of those textures. You're marking 1-2 favorites, right? Keep doing it.

Wordbank 3:
  • Bolt
  • Bucket
  • Exit
  • Jug
  • Lumpy
Set 5: Take just 3 minutes now to write as many sentences that use at least two of the words from Wordbank 3

Set 6: Now write six (6) sentences that include one word from each of the three wordbanks.

The Round-up
1) Gather up all of your marked favorite lines and pick from those favorites at least three sentences to build your piece around. 
2) Now that you know the core of your piece, go back up to the un-favorite lines and pick three additional sentences that you must use (even if you 'spruce' them up by tightening or quirking up the language). 
3) Now you have 6 sentences that are unconnected. You have a large chunk of a jigsaw puzzle but you've lost all the rest of the pieces. So it's time to make those pieces yourself. Make sure your piece has a 'point' or some sort of larger meaning above just the literal narrative/descriptions. Make an observation for better or worse, large, small or teensy tiny even. But, something new, and unique to your brain.

4) OPTIONAL COMPLETE-A-PIECE. If your piece hasn't jumped right out at you, use this 'formula'. First, throw out three of those six sentences that you don't care for as much. Now write a piece which is broken roughly into 1/3s with the first 1/3 including one of your sentences and briefly recalling (or inventing) a night in which the heat is overwhelming, making it impossible to sleep, be sure to use lots of concrete details, and don't describe things with the first way that comes to mind—"Tell it slant". The second 1/3 should  include 1-2 of your sentences and either an actual adventure out into the late night heatwave world, or an imagined one (imagined even within the world of the piece perhaps, ie fantasy/imagination). Before moving onto the last section of the piece take a quick look back at your starred list of sentences and see if there's any that would fit in your piece. You want to use this as a little scaffolding for the final chunk, but if you don't find one or two that fit that is fine too. The third 1/3 should return to your narrator's past (at least ten years prior to the sleepless night) thinking very briefly of another two times in which they had gotten especially hot/sweaty (ideally non-sexual, but this is your piece, if something sexual fits, go for it), then returning to the sleepless night, describing something seen in the room with the narrator that is 'still', almost like ending on a still life, but also giving the piece a sense of calm. And that's it. You have your piece. This will definitely take longer than ten minutes but may just be worth it.

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Want some unobtrusive background writing music? Try "Stone Flower", the sixth studio album from Brazilian Antônio Carlos Jobim, the 'father of Bossa Nova'.

3/7/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #66: Three Things, Five Words 8

The 2021 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep their 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.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—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 it, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

#66
Three Things, Five Words 8
For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following three things, and these five individual words. The three things should be important to the piece, not just a throwaway reference used because it has to be. This is prompt time, baby! 

If you're not sure where to start, begin by finding a connection between two of the 'things'—whether that is a shared appearance, locale, one of the things might interact with another (or all three), some way that the two are likened or could be physically together. Use one of the things with two of the 'words' in the beginning of the piece and explore for a bit, knowing that you're aiming at the second ''thing' (where the two 'things' have their connection) about 1/3-1/2 of the way through what you imagine the length of the piece (which may be totally off). By then you should have a direction and it's off to the races, with that third 'thing' in your pathway to the finishing line.

'Three Things'
  1. A Pig
  2. A Sewing Machine
  3. Copper
'Five Words' 
Include these five words in your piece: 
Bolted, Drag, Flew, Wafer, Dill.

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If you'd like some background music to write to, try jazz saxophonist Stan Getz's album "Cool Sound of Stan Getz" (1958).

3/6/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #65: Erasing Roger Ebert 23 "Wholly Moses"

The 2021 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep their 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.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—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 it, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

#65
Erasing Roger Ebert 23 "Wholly Moses"

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!

Poetry: For poetry do an erasure or black-out poem from the following:  Roger Ebert's review of the 1980 film "Wholly Moses!" (one star).

Roger Ebert has been the archetypal 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.

Fiction or (poetry): If you insist on fiction (or just feel like writing a "Title Mania" piece), write a piece with one of these  titles taken from this section:

  1. Slightly Scandalized
  2. A Fashionable Daring
  3. Out of Sympathy, No Doubt
  4. Aphrodisiac Peddler
  5. Manfully
  6. From the Bottom of a Well


Erasure Selection:

Roger Ebert's review of "Wholly Moses!"

One of the things that makes "Saturday Night Live" funny is that it's on television, so we're supposed to be slightly scandalized by its irreverence. It takes on sex, religion and politics, subjects that were out of bounds during TV's early years, and so cloaks itself in a fashionable daring. We laugh at some of the stuff not so much because it's funny as because it's on TV at all.

Proof of this is a very bad new comedy named "Wholly Moses!" which is the first feature film by "Saturday Night" director Gary Weis. The movie depends for its effect on the kind of shock value the TV show has, and it seems to he under the impression that that's enough. It kids the Old Testament, it has angels with wings that fall off, its narrator says things like "He sat her upon her ass," and we're expected to laugh.

I didn't. The movie's not funny on its own, and since movie audiences are scarcely going to be shocked by its mild but relentlessly repetitive irreverence, it all boils down to a very old joke. The screenplay is third-rate college humor, a "satire" that doesn't dare really satirize its alleged source, a newly discovered Dead Sea scroll, since the audience might not have heard of the Dead Sea scrolls, and so tries for laughs instead with one of the oldest gimmicks in the book: dressing people up in Biblical costume and having them speak in contemporary terms.

To this old wheeze has been added another one, the inspiration of casting all the minor rules with comic actors we'll recognize from other movies. The cast stars Dudley Moore and includes James Coco, Paul Sand, Richard Pryor, Jack Gilford, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, John Ritter and John Houseman, and it is a commentary on the film that none of them are particularly funny, although the audience did applaud Pryor, out of sympathy, no doubt.

Maybe Weis doesn't know that comic actors, even good ones, are rarely funny in and of themselves. They need characters to play, and they need funny material. "Wholly Moses!" doesn't have it. Example: Madeline Kahn plays an itinerant aphrodisiac peddler. She gives Dudley Moore a lift in her cart, he guzzles some of her patent aphrodisiacs and begins to get fresh, and she pushes him out of the cart. That's it. But the movie finds it necessary to supply two shots of the sign painted on her cart, so we'll remember she sells aphrodisiacs and get the joke. This movie was made either by or for very stupid people, or both.

One measurement of its failure is Dudley Moore's hapless performance in the lead. Moore is a very funny actor, something he has proven not only in his big hit comedy "10" but also in thousands of stage appearances with his sometime sidekick Peter Cook, and in a wonderful but half-forgotten 1968 comedy named "Bedazzled." Here he's totally at a loss.

The movie is told in flashback, and he plays both a tourist who stumbles across some hitherto undiscovered Dead Sea scrolls, and the hero of the scrolls. The scrolls are about Hershel, a baby boy whose tiny boat of rushes was floated onto the Nile at the same time as Moses', but who had the misfortune to be just a little bit further upstream all of his life. Moses gets the glory, and Hershel forever finds himself trying to put out the fire in the burning bush. If the idea here sounds familiar, maybe that's because it's parallel to Monty Python's more accomplished (and more successfully shocking) "Life of Brian."

Moore marches manfully through the script, but the movie sabotages all the performances with a sound track that sounds phoned in from the bottom of a well, and with editing so inept that Moore's big scene with Pryor has backgrounds that don't match from shot to shot. Nor are Pryor and Moore in the same shot for most of the scene, which looks as if Pryor was encouraged to do his schtick and then reaction shots of Moore were edited in afterward. The whole movie's like that: It feels like a series of "guest star" cameo appearances on a TV show we wouldn't want to see in the first place.

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If you'd like some background music, try this "Calm Your Anxiety" lofi mix.
 

3/5/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #64 Lucky for Us Anaphora—Repetition Files 1

The 2021 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep their 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.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—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 it, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

#64
Lucky for Us Anaphora—Repetition Files 1

For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which focuses on repetition. In this instance we will work with anaphora. It's a handy little bit of poetic craft that goes a little something like this:

the repetition of a word or words at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or lines to create a sonic effect.
Take a moment and read the above-linked Poetry Foundation article, even if you know the term. For even more fun check out this longer article called Adventures in Anaphora.

Your mission is to use the following phrase to begin at least 4 sentences.

The word or phrase we'll use for our exercise today is:

"Lucky for us..." 

    There are a number of ways you could approach this bit of anaphora—is the 'luck' genuine or sarcastic? Both? Is the piece going to unfold in a linear fashion or will details be revealed out of order in order to build a certain tension or to garner movement? Is four enough repetition or should you use it like ten times? Maybe 'us' won't be the same each time and sometimes you'll see "Lucky for him" or "Lucky for them"... Just be sure that the repeated phrase earns its worth in your piece, and it should in some way build upon what came before it. The repetition should be necessary and not merely redundant.


    Bonus Exercise:
     Include these five words into your piece "Niceties" "Emerald" "Bunt" "Belt" and "Mosaic".
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    If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Residual Warmth" lofi mix.. 
     

    3/4/21

    2021 Writing Exercise Series #63: Dueling Six Word Shootout 7

    The 2021 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep their 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.

    This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—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 it, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

    #63
    Dueling Six Word Shootout 7
    For today's writing exercise write a piece that includes one or both of the following sets of 6 words. Don't front-load them all into the beginning of your piece, save at least one or two for somewhere to 'aim' your piece. Remember sestinas have 6 different end-words, but don't let me tell you what to write. Just use all 6 (or twelve) words in a fashion that isn't throw-away. Don't put them in in a way that you'll definitely later edit them out because they don't add to the piece. Make them important. This might require a little brainstorming at first. Don't be afraid, you can do it!

    Set 1: 
    1) Fight 
    2) Gutted
    3) Hunch 
    4) Limelight 
    5) Munch 
    6) Pyrite


    Set 2:
    7) Chug 
    8) Rug 
    9) Kite 
    10) Freight
    11) Grate
    12) Pirate

    ---
    Bonus Exercise: If that's not enough, also include the following three things: A Trombone, Grass and A Tangerine.
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    If you'd like some background music to write to, try jazz trumpeter Kenny Dorham's 1960 album "Quiet Kenny".

    3/3/21

    Hump Day Submission Carousel 6

    #6: 3/3/21

    It's Wednesday, so you know what that means! HUMP DAY SUBMISSIONS! Because it's easy to fall off the submission train during the week I'm presenting you with 3 cool and very different small journals currently open for submissions to save you research time! Pick one of the three journals presented and read some of the pieces in your genre. If you're not digging them, check the next journal. Don't agonize over it, if you're not enjoying the writing or you don't feel your writing would fit in there move along to the next journal. If none of them seem to fit... maybe next week? 

    Journal 1Tulane Review. This bi-annual print journal out of Tulane University in Louisiana is currently reading no fee submissions in poetry, fiction and nonfiction via Submittable


    Click here to read their most recent online archived issue from 2015. It's not the most recent, but for a print journal it's nice to get anything substantial to research so there's that. I find they lean accessible but want there to be layers to the writing.

    Notebooking Daily is getting a facelift!

    We're prettying ourselves up at long last. That means that while all the blogspot.com links will remain active, soon the updates will only be happening if you access the site via www.NotebookingDaily.com. I started this site many, many moons ago, and I went with the cheapest domain registry I could find. Now I run a whole WEBRING! Remember webrings? They were from a very specific, punctuated time in the world. Anyway, I'm really excited about all I'm learning in wordpress and the freedom from janky line spacing and random fonts that ND has been plagued with on Blogger's intereface. It's been a long time, but now that I'm getting more in touch with my WP self, I decided it was time to get everything under the same roof.

     I'll be updating y'all again soon, and when the final movement happens I'll leave a stickied post, but know that we're definitely not stopping just because the blogger site has at some point in the future stopped updated. We're over on the greener grass of a hosted wordpress site. 

    2021 Writing Exercise Series #62: Inspired By 5... "Bananas"

     

    The 2021 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep their 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.

    This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—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 it, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

    #62
    Inspired By 5... "Bananas"

    For today's writing exercise you will first read a short piece of writing, and then respond using one of the following prompts. 

    Today's inspiring piece of writing is the powerful poem "Bananas" by the poet Nancy Smith. This poem was published in the fall 2020, issue #1 of the journal Invisible City.

    Seriously. Go read it. I'll wait.

    I mean it, jumping right to the prompts will be borderline pointless as they won't have context. It's a 2 minute read, you got this.

    This is lovely poem about differences in upbringings, class perhaps, but also about fruit and scarcity. The language is accessible while still evocative. Okay, now that you've ACTUALLY READ the poem, let's write something.

    1. Object: Write a piece that includes a Banana (or Banana Bread).
    2. Titles: Write a piece using one of the following titles selected from the piece:
    1) Eat the Grapes 2) For Special Occasions 3) Commonplace 4) One of the Better Fruits 5) Or the Plums 6) A Bright, New Bunch 
    3. Form: Poetry—Write a piece of poetry in three six-lined stanzas, with the middle stanza having noticeably shorter lines. Fiction—write a flash fiction that is about two main characters and roughly broken up into 1/3s, the first two thirds being about the 'he' and the final one being about the 'I' which juxtaposes a different life experience against the second person's.
    4. Wordbank: A cross between a cento and an erasure, you can think of this as being like magnetic poetry on a refrigerator. Copy the text from the poem and paste it into a word document. Create a new piece using only words from that 'bank', when you use a word, highlight it in the bank and either 'strikethrough' or add a black background so you don't use a word twice. You'll likely have some words left over but that's ok.
    5. Beginning Middle & End: Using the same 'things' from the piece's beginning/middle/end. For today begin your piece with a plums, in the middle there must be the appearance of America, and in the end we must get oatmeal, however you get from one to the other, make it your own.

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    If you'd like some unobtrusive background music try Kenny Burrell's 1963 album "Midnight Blue".

    3/2/21

    2021 Writing Exercise Series #61: Erasing EAP "The Premature Burial" 6

    The 2021 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep their 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.

    This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—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 it, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes. 

    #61
    Erasing EAP "The Premature Burial" 6

    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 selection of Edgar Allen Poe's 1850 short story "The Premature Burial".

    Edgar Allen Poe is considered by some to be the writer that solidified the short story genre as, well, a genre. Not the first writer of short stories, or even popular short stories, but he wrote enough of them that with the stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens, Irving Washington and others, critics were finally like—fine. Short stories can be a thing.

    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, or themes.

    If you insist on fiction (or if one of these strikes you), write a piece with one of these titles taken from this section:

    1. With the Chilliness of Night
    2. Radiance of Decay
    3. A Spectacle of Woe
    4. Fewer by Many Millions
    5. Sudden Violence
    6. Regard Me as Irrecoverable
    7. Convenient Receptacles  


    Erasure Selection:

    from "The Premature Burial"

    "Arise! did I not bid thee arise?"

    "And who," I demanded, "art thou?"

    "I have no name in the regions which I inhabit," replied the voice, mournfully; "I was mortal, but am fiend. I was merciless, but am pitiful. Thou dost feel that I shudder. -- My teeth chatter as I speak, yet it is not with the chilliness of the night -- of the night without end. But this hideousness is insufferable. How canst thou tranquilly sleep? I cannot rest for the cry of these great agonies. These sights are more than I can bear. Get thee up! Come with me into the outer Night, and let me unfold to thee the graves. Is not this a spectacle of woe? -- Behold!"

    I looked; and the unseen figure, which still grasped me by the wrist, had caused to be thrown open the graves of all mankind, and from each issued the faint phosphoric radiance of decay, so that I could see into the innermost recesses, and there view the shrouded bodies in their sad and solemn slumbers with the worm. But alas! the real sleepers were fewer, by many millions, than those who slumbered not at all; and there was a feeble struggling; and there was a general sad unrest; and from out the depths of the countless pits there came a melancholy rustling from the garments of the buried. And of those who seemed tranquilly to repose, I saw that a vast number had changed, in a greater or less degree, the rigid and uneasy position in which they had originally been entombed. And the voice again said to me as I gazed:

    "Is it not -- oh! is it not a pitiful sight?" -- but, before I could find words to reply, the figure had ceased to grasp my wrist, the phosphoric lights expired, and the graves were closed with a sudden violence, while from out them arose a tumult of despairing cries, saying again: "Is it not -- O, God, is it not a very pitiful sight?"

    Phantasies such as these, presenting themselves at night, extended their terrific influence far into my waking hours. My nerves became thoroughly unstrung, and I fell a prey to perpetual horror. I hesitated to ride, or to walk, or to indulge in any exercise that would carry me from home. In fact, I no longer dared trust myself out of the immediate presence of those who were aware of my proneness to catalepsy, lest, falling into one of my usual fits, I should be buried before my real condition could be ascertained. I doubted the care, the fidelity of my dearest friends. I dreaded that, in some trance of more than customary duration, they might be prevailed upon to regard me as irrecoverable. I even went so far as to fear that, as I occasioned much trouble, they might be glad to consider any very protracted attack as sufficient excuse for getting rid of me altogether. It was in vain they endeavored to reassure me by the most solemn promises. I exacted the most sacred oaths, that under no circumstances they would bury me until decomposition had so materially advanced as to render farther preservation impossible. And, even then, my mortal terrors would listen to no reason -- would accept no consolation. I entered into a series of elaborate precautions. Among other things, I had the family vault so remodelled as to admit of being readily opened from within. The slightest pressure upon a long lever that extended far into the tomb would cause the iron portal to fly back. There were arrangements also for the free admission of air and light, and convenient receptacles for food and water, within immediate reach of the coffin intended for my reception. This coffin was warmly and softly padded, and was provided with a lid, fashioned upon the principle of the vault-door, with the addition of springs so contrived that the feeblest movement of the body would be sufficient to set it at liberty. Besides all this, there was suspended from the roof of the tomb, a large bell, the rope of which, it was designed, should extend through a hole in the coffin, and so be fastened to one of the hands of the corpse. But, alas? what avails the vigilance against the Destiny of man? Not even these well-contrived securities sufficed to save from the uttermost agonies of living inhumation, a wretch to these agonies foredoomed!

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

    As your background music sommelier I've chosen Vangelis to pair with your "Erasing The Premature Burial" series. For this sampling I've selected the "Antarctica" suite from the 1983 Japanese film Antarctica.  

    3/1/21

    2021 Writing Exercise Series #60: Rhymebank Rounds 3

    The 2021 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep their 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.

    This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—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 it, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes. This may be pushing 40 unless you're really writing fast, but writing fast is the goal.

    #60
    Rhymebank Rounds 3
    Rhymbank Rounds are a new type of exercise. Kind of like the Sentence Calisthenics, but there will be more focus on fragments instead of full sentences, and you'll complete a piece, with the main focus of the exercises being on Like Sounds. Save your sentences with your Sentence Calisthenics raw writing for later harvesting. The timer settings you'll be using today are (in minutes) 3, 3, 10, 5, 5, 7. 

    Before you start each timer reread the set's guidelines at least 3-5 times so you are sure what you're doing and don't have to waste time checking.

    SET 1: Take three (3) minutes and jot down/type all rhymes and slant rhymes (include phrases for multi-syllabic words/feminine rhymes) you can think of just off the top of your head for the word: Boot. If you have trouble getting more than ten or so remember to rhyme with Soup, Blue and Duke. You want to have close to thirty (30) words (when possible) even if they're only kind of rhyming.
    SET 2: Now take another three (3) minutes and brainstorm rhymes for See. Be sure you get at least fifteen (15), but aim for thirty (30) again.
    SET 3: Fragment time! Take ten (10) minutes and write down six (6) sentence fragments which use two words from one of your lists and at least one from the other list (so something like "The dweeb with the bluetooth headset is the new dude in tech support" would work).
    SET 4: Fragment time 2! Take five (5) minutes and write at least six (6) 5-word partial sentences that use at least two (2) words from only one of your lists. Don't worry about context or what might be being said, just make sure you can make some logic of the phrasing.
    SET 5: Short fragment time! Write five (5) three-word partial sentences which use two (2) words from one of your rhymebanks back to back. No dawdling, but try to switch it up and use words you hadn't yet if you can. An example would be "Hey, cute boots" or "three bees attacked".
    SET 6: Fragment time! Take seven (7) minutes and write ten (10) 5-7 word fragments that include a number and two words from either of your lists (you can do one from each for this one).
    ---
    Poem or story time!
    1. Rhymed Poem: Write a poem that is 16 lines in four quatrains (4-lined stanzas) with the rhyme scheme ABAB BCBC CACA CBCB. Try to use fragments from the previous exercises and even the rhymebank itself to fill out your poem with as many 'like' sounds as you can within the lines. Use at least five of your fragments, if not more like eight to ten of them. Start your poem by picking your fragments and determining your rhymes. Don't write to the end words every time, like swinging a golf club or bat, follow through that line break with what's called enjambment and it will be more smooth/organic.
    2. Free form narrative: Pick your ten favorite fragments and find a way to fit those pieces together. What do I mean by fit them together? I mean that you're required to use ten of the fragments you'd written in a coherent piece by adding connective tissue and exposition/whatever needs to get you narratively from one line to the next. Whether you write this as a story or a poem is up to you. Think of it like a 100 piece puzzle which is missing 85 pieces, but you still want to make a picture from it. Take what you have, and create the rest by filling in the missing places.
    3. Title Mania: Write a piece that uses your favorite fragment from #4 or #5 as your title.
    4. Randomize: Pick your favorite ten fragments, and six words from the rhymebanks, either or both. Type Random Number Generator into google and randomize 3 numbers from 1-10. The corresponding lines must be used in your piece. Next, pick 6 strong words from either of your rhymebanks. Randomize 2 words from that list of 6 using 1-6, you must use both of those words in your title, no matter how strange it seems at first. Now make it work.
    5. Beginning and Ending: Pick your two favorite sentences or fragments—those will serve as your first and last sentences in some shape. Polish them up and expand/cut down however you need to in order to facilitate that beginning and ending.
    ------------------------------------

    If you'd like some background noise today (instead of music) let's go with this "neon dreams." lofi mix.

    2/28/21

    2021 Writing Exercise Series #59: Beginning, Middle & End 6

    The 2021 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep their 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.

    This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—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 it, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

    #59
    Beginning, Middle & End 6

    For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which begins with one image, scenario, line of dialog or place, includes another thing or event somewhere beyond the first and before the last stanza/paragraph, and ends with another required 'thing'.

    Begin WithA bridge collapsing.

    Somewhere in the middle: Someone baking.

    End WithA Zamboni.

    Extra Credit RequirementsYour title must include a color and you must include a someone leaping from something at least six feet high. See... see what I did there?

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    If you'd like some unobtrusive background music try this mix which isn't labeled as muzak but it definitely brings me right to the mall food court in the 90s. 

    2/27/21

    2021 Writing Exercise Series #58: Between a Fact and an Exact Place 4

    The 2021 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep their 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.

    This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—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 it, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes. 

    #58
    Between a Fact and an Exact Place 4

    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 Tower Bridge in London 

    As an additional assignment, should you choose to incorporate it, is as follows: Also include the words "Fuchsia" "Neighborhood" "Viking" "Quilted" and "Invoke".

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    If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Mind on Clouds" lofi mix from our new lofi buddy Tunable Music.

    2/26/21

    2021 Writing Exercise Series #57: How to... 2

    The 2021 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep their 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.

    This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—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 it, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

    #57
    How to... 2

    For today's prompt we are focusing on imperative directional pieces. What does that mean? A "How to"! You don't have to title your piece "How to ..." (though you certainly can if you'd like to), you could write a prose piece that merely includes someone giving another directions or you could make it a step by step process like a recipe, however you want to interpret the prompt, the process that is the 'how to' should merely be described at some length during your piece, in some fashion. 

    For a couple examples of "How to" pieces. "How to Get There" by Philip Levine, "How to be Perfect" by Ron Padgett, the villanelle "The Grammar Lesson" by Steve Kowit, Mónica de la Torre's wonderful "How to Look at Mexican Highways". and the awesome short story "How to Write a True War Story" by Tim O'Brien.

    How toLose a Whole Day.

    Extra Credit RequirementsYour piece must include a snake or fish, and within the first 20 words a color must be included.

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    If you'd like some unobtrusive background music try George Benson & Jack McDuff's eponymous collaborative jazz 1976 album.

    2/25/21

    2021 Writing Exercise Series #56: Ekphrastic Fantastic 6

    The 2021 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep their 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.

    This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—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 it, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes.

    #56
    Ekphrastic Fantastic 6
    For today, we're pairing images for you to respond to. The two images will be contrasting and it will be up to you how they can interact, how your writing can make the two pieces of art meet. Or, just pick one of the images and run with it if you'd rather. I'm not here to tell you exactly what to do, just to help you get the ball rolling. But if it was me, I would look for commonalities or how one image could be an imagination or memory or media within the other image, or if they exist in the same 'world', how you can get from one point in space and time to the other. But you do you boo-boo.

    Image 1: "A Passing View" by the awesome illustrator Nicholas Moegly.


    Image 2:  “Human Nature” by artist David Ambarzumjan from his Brushstrokes in Time series


    -----
    How do these two images play off of each other in your mind? Are you going from one to the other or do they intermingle in your piece? Are you time-jumping? Showing an artist at work in his suburban home? A time traveler seeing the same scene changing ala The Time Machine? Something completely different? You decide. Don't overthink it, take a couple minutes perhaps, but dive in and make this happen!

    You got this!
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    If you'd like background writing music, let's go with our good lofi friends Chillhop Music's 2019 'Yearmix'



    2/24/21

    Spy in the Slushpile #11: EX/POST

    Spy in the Slushpile #11 EX/POST

    Psssst! Over here! 
    Notebooking Daily snuck agents into the offices of your favorite literary magazines to bring you—the potential submitter—the sweet low down, the inside track, the full two scoops of raisins. Everything you need to know to make as successful of a submission as possible will be here, but remember that the number one rule to putting your best foot forward is to take the time to read the journal you're submitting to and FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. This is vital to show the editors that you respect their time and effort, and because some journals will reject submissions that don't extend the simple courtesy of following guidelines, without even reading it—and no one wants that.

    Today we check in with our spy who hit the offices of the literary magazine EX/POST which dubs themselves as being 'dedicated to the frontier of experimentation'.


    Our dossier: 

    EX/POST is an online journal of experimental writing that made a splash when they published their first issues in 2020. They READ BLIND, so remove identifying information from submissions before you send them in. They say "We want the raw, unblinking work that will haunt us unapologetically. We want to be a home for timely, experimental, and most of all daring writing. Send us your secret radio transmissions or your experiments gone awry—we will welcome all of it.". About the name: "Ex post" — out of the after. It's a clipped form of "ex post facto," itself a bastardized version of the Latin for "after the fact." Here at EX/POST, though, we aren't interested in reactive action so much as perceptive thought—we want art, poetry, fiction, essays on the craft, one-act plays, and more." 

    They just closed on February 15th for submissions but will reopen soon!


    With the Postmaster Terrible, or, General, busy in talking to congresspeople, we took this opportunity to send out our agent disguised as a postal worker to get the lay of the land at EX/POST. The ruse seemed to work when our agent greeted the editor Sarah Lao who openly spilled the beans about the journal. 
    1) I always recommend that potential submitters read the most recent issue or two of a journal before submitting there (at least the genre which they're submitting), but if you could recommend, say three or so pieces (or however many) that you feel especially exemplify for one reason or another, what you're looking for, or that you are especially proud to have published and think everyone, whether they plan on submitting or not, should read? 
    TL;DR Pieces that exemplify the journal. 
    What a difficult question! At the moment, though, I think my three picks would have to be Jessica Lee Richardson's "Better than Dancing," Erin L. Miller's "The Goat," and Bailey Cohen-Vera's "Intervention with Absurdity and Parts of Speech."
    2) Is there any genre, topic, theme or stylistic that you are surprised you don't see more of, or that you would like to see more of? For instance prose poems, stories about organized sports (or one in particular), non-conventional family narratives, non-standard typography, alternate history, high sci-fi, hybrid pieces utilizing white space... 
    TL;DR I wouldn't kick these submissions out of bed for eating crackers. (updateable, if the interview results in an unwanted flux of submissions)
    In terms of underrepresented genres, we'd really love to see more submissions of mixed media, comics, and film writing. Other than that, we'd like to see some longer poems (though if you do submit one, please only send one poem) or work that subverts form.
    3) Hard sells—and not just the standard (though very important) "don't send hateful, misogynist, racist etc" work. Is there a plot, trope, character, motif, idiom or even phrase you would like people to think twice about before using? One that you see a ton, or that stick out when you're reading, in a negative way for whatever reason.
    TL;DR Hard sells.
    Hard sells... I think we've struggled with the fact that no matter how style-agnostic our submission guidelines try to be, past issues will increasingly and inevitably define the perceived aesthetic of our magazine, which influences both the pieces we accept and the ones we receive in the first place. To be more specific, we've struggled to accept some more traditional fantasy pieces or genre writing in the past because they clashed with the more contemporary style (the majority of what we attract) of the rest of the issue. This is why I hope our submitters truly take it to heart when we say that a rejection doesn't mean their piece was bad at all—often times, it just means the work didn't fit in with the rest of that cycle's submission pool and issue lineup.

    4) If you could pick 2-3 pieces of writing that you just love that are already out in the world and somehow have the ability to have discovered it in your slushpile, itching for you to publish them, what would they be? 
    TL;DR Wish I could've published that!
    There are so many pieces we love already out there! But here are three: Kimberly Grey's "from A Mother is an Intellectual Thing" in the Adroit Journal, Hala Alyan's "Spoiler" in the New Yorker, and Lucy Wainger's "Scheherezade." in POETRY
    5) To your tastes, how would you describe the sort of "experimental" writing you seek? The idea of categorizing experimental or avant-garde writing is very slippery, as it means different things to different people, and it can even change over time from the same person's perspective. So in this moment, allowing that tomorrow you may feel differently and we won't hold you to it, what are you looking for in experimental writing? Is there a 'soft line' where it begins to lose meaning or goes too far (say, where you think the author/artist's intentions are subverted or hurt by the radical level of experimentation—of course allowing exceptions, we're not issuing challenges here), or perhaps a 1-10 scale with 10 fully embracing the avant-garde and 1 wanting no part of it at all. 
    TL;DR The journal's place on the spectrum of 'experimental'.
    Ahh, we're definitely still struggling with this question, and I think the definition of "experimental" definitely shifts as the literary world's current conventions do. When we first started EX/POST, I was specifically annoyed by conventions like arbitrary word limits, restrictions against genres, etc., but topics like the pushback against tokenizing POC writing as just trauma writing for the sake of winning competitions come to mind when I think deeper about it. There are definitely artforms that our staff have a soft spot for like concrete poetry, but ideally, "experimental" would mean the lack of genre boundaries to our submitters—feel free to submit anything that's not offensive or discriminatory with the knowledge that our staff will approach the weird and new and risky with an open mind.
    6) If you could speak directly to a potential submitter as a voice in their head, like their 'submission conscience', neither angel nor devil but bookish nerd that wants the person to have the best chance with their submission as possible, what would you want them to be sure to do or consider when submitting? 
    TL;DR Please consider this when submitting.
    Hmm, I honestly don't want them to spend that much time prepping for the actual submission; I'd rather reduce the friction of formatting and research involved in the submission cycle compared to the actual act of writing. Please just make sure to remove identifying information from the body of the submission!

    --

    The editors hadn't even questioned the postal worker's obnoxious inquisitiveness, but noticed the time and quickly and politely excused themselves to get back to their busy day. Content that the thorough answers would really give readers the inside track, the spy took an extra moment to write this 'outro'. This has been another installment from the Spy in the Slushpile.

    Hump Day Submission Carousel 5


    #5: 2/24/21

    It's Wednesday, so you know what that means! HUMP DAY SUBMISSIONS! Because it's easy to fall off the submission train during the week I'm presenting you with 3 cool and very different small journals currently open for submissions to save you research time! Pick one of the three journals presented and read some of the pieces in your genre. If you're not digging them, check the next journal. Don't agonize over it, if you're not enjoying the writing or you don't feel your writing would fit in there move along to the next journal. If none of them seem to fit... maybe next week? 

    Journal 1Night Music Journal. This online journal publishes issues twice a year and reads no fee submissions in poetry, fiction and nonfiction all year via email

    "Night has fallen. People unzip their suits and embark. Voices call out and are echoed by others. Each sound is a beat, a rhythm. Even a screech is song. Under these stars there are no rules, no limits, and no secret handshakes. Here, you are welcome. Night Music is an inclusive journal of poetry, nonfiction, mixed genre, and reviews. Writers of color, LGBTQIA writers, and writers who have ever been shushed are especially encouraged to submit. The more voices, the richer the music. This night isn’t silent."