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


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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!

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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."

2021 Writing Exercise Series #55: Title Mania "In the Hospital" 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.

#55
Title Mania "In the Hospital" 7

For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose that utilizes one of the following titles, and if you want extra 'bonus points' also include the three items from below the title list. All of today's poems come from the wonderful poem "The Playground at Night" by D. Nurske from the most recent (Issue 86) Cortland Review.

Titles:
  1. Whizzing
  2. Giants on a Faraway Screen
  3. They Could Kill
  4. Earth Trembling
  5. The Disappearing Face
  6. Like Flames
Bonus Exercise: Three Things
(Your piece must also include the following three 'things', if you choose this option)
  1. A Slide (playground equipment)
  2.  A Winter Coat
  3. A Grasshopper
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If you'd like some unobtrusive background music try this "Classical Lofi" mix.

2/23/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #54: Erasing Roger Ebert 22 "The Gods Must Be Crazy"

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.

#54
Erasing Roger Ebert 22 "The Gods Must Be Crazy"

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 1981 film "The Gods Must Be Crazy" (three stars).

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. Tree the Gods
  2. The Film Begins in the Kalahari Desert
  3. Fire Starter
  4. The Edges of the Desert
  5. The Xhosa and his Coke Bottle
  6. Little Tics and Assumptions of Every Day Life


Erasure Selection:

Roger Ebert's review of "The Gods Must Be Crazy"

Here's a movie that begins with a Coke bottle falling from the heavens, and ends with a Jeep up in a tree. “The Gods Must Be Crazy” is a South African movie that arrived in Europe with little fanfare in 1982, broke box-office records in Japan and South America and all over Europe, and even became a cult hit here in North America, where there has not been much of a demand for comedies from South Africa. 

The film begins in the Kalahari Desert. A pilot in a private plane throws his empty Coke bottle out of the window. It lands near a Bushman who is on a hunting expedition. He has never seen anything like it before. He takes it back to his tribe, where it is put to dozens of uses: It becomes a musical instrument, a patternmaker, a fire starter, a cooking utensil, and, most of all, an object of bitter controversy. Everybody in the tribe ends up fighting over the bottle, and so the Bushman, played by the Xhosa actor N!xau (the exclamation point represents a click), decides there is only one thing to do: He must return the bottle to the gods. This decision sends him on a long odyssey toward more settled lands on the edges of the desert, where the movie develops into a somewhat more conventional comedy. 

We meet some of the new characters: A would-be schoolteacher, a goofy biologist, and an insurgent leader. They are all intent on their own lives and plans, but in one way or another, the Xhosa and his Coke bottle bring them together into unexpected combinations. And the director, Jamie Uys, has the patience to develop some really elaborate sight gags, which require a lot of preparation but pay off with big laughs particularly the sequence with an indecisive, back-and-forth Jeep. 

The star of the movie is N!xau, who is so forthright and cheerful and sensible that his very presence makes some of the gags pay off. In any slapstick comedy, the gags must rest on a solid basis of logic: It's not funny to watch people being ridiculous, but it is funny to watch people doing the next logical thing, and turning out to be ridiculous. N!xau, because he approaches Western society without preconceptions, and bases all of his actions on logical conclusions, brings into relief a lot of the little tics and assumptions of everyday life. I think that reveals the thought that went into this movie: It might be easy to make a farce about screwball happenings in the desert, but it's a lot harder to create a funny interaction between nature and human nature. This movie's a nice little treasure.

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If you'd like some background music, let's get classical with "Califano Trio Sonata - Oboes Bassoon And Basso Continuo" 

2/22/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #53: Three Things, Five Words 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.

#53
Three Things, Five Words 7
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 Playing Card
  2. Yoda
  3. Clay
'Five Words' 
Include these five words in your piece: 
Bluff, Drained, Flick, Wavered, Notched.

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If you'd like some background music to write to, try jazz guitarist Herb Ellis's debut album "Ellis in Wonderland" (1956).

2/21/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #52: Dueling Six Word Shootout 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.

#52
Dueling Six Word Shootout 6
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) Hatch 
2) Catch
3) Clutch 
4) Lucked 
5) Touch 
6) Tucked


Set 2:
7) Jut 
8) Nut 
9) Lugged 
10) Wench
11) Gamut
12) Plot

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Bonus Exercise: If that's not enough, also include the following three things: A Snake, Ants and Texas.
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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this lofi mix "coffee job" which... I think is like coffee shop? It's good unobtrusive music so that's what we're looking for.



2/20/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #51: Sentence Calisthenics 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 35 minutes.

#51
Sentence Calisthenics 3
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 road trips. Think about types of cars you might see on the road that would be memorable, that would be common. Think of roadside sights, types of 'middle of nowhere', etc. And also think about any road trips you've been on. 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 some sort of food. 

Wordbank 1:
  • Gas
  • Slip
  • Skunk
  • Sugar
  • Pocket
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.

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.

Wordbank 2:
  • Orange
  • Tar
  • Acrid
  • Quick
  • Parallel
Set 4: Now write at least six (6) sentences which include one word from Wordbank 1 and one word from Wordbank 2 and at least one word that includes motion (you know, a verb, but one that involves movement). You're marking 1-2 favorites, right? Keep doing it.

Wordbank 3:
  • Bolt
  • Bucket
  • Exit
  • Jug
  • Lumpy
Set 5: Now Look back at all of the sentences that you've written and re-write six (6) sentences to include a word from Wordbank 3.

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. At least two of them. Now write a piece which is broken roughly into 1/3s with the first 1/3 including one of your sentences and briefly retell or invent a road trip (if you're inventing it, be sure there's an occasion or motivation behind the trip which is interesting/memorable), 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 at least two types of motor vehicles and two different roadside attractions. The third 1/3 should return to your narrator's current life (pre-road trip) back home, recalling at least three small details which are pleasant. End with the a gesture to arriving at the destination and the occasion, recall one detail from the road trip and slightly expand one one detail from the 'then-home'. 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 some chamber music with "Cambini Flute Oboe Violin Viola & Cello Quintets".

2/19/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #50: Erasing EAP "The Premature Burial" 5

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. 

#50
Erasing EAP "The Premature Burial" 5

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. Traces of Warmth
  2. A Species of Exaggerated Lethargy
  3. Strictly Speaking
  4. Sick and Numb and Chilly and Dizzy
  5. From Slumber
  6. The Torture of Meditation
  7. Sepulchral 


Erasure Selection:

from "The Premature Burial"

For several years I had been subject to attacks of the singular disorder which physicians have agreed to term catalepsy, in default of a more definitive title. Although both the immediate and the predisposing causes, and even the actual diagnosis, of this disease are still mysterious, its obvious and apparent character is sufficiently well understood. Its variations seem to be chiefly of degree. Sometimes the patient lies, for a day only, or even for a shorter period, in a species of exaggerated lethargy. He is senseless and externally motionless; but the pulsation of the heart is still faintly perceptible; some traces of warmth remain; a slight color lingers within the centre of the cheek; and, upon application of a mirror to the lips, we can detect a torpid, unequal, and vacillating action of the lungs. Then again the duration of the trance is for weeks -- even for months; while the closest scrutiny, and the most rigorous medical tests, fail to establish any material distinction between the state of the sufferer and what we conceive of absolute death. Very usually he is saved from premature interment solely by the knowledge of his friends that he has been previously subject to catalepsy, by the consequent suspicion excited, and, above all, by the non-appearance of decay. The advances of the malady are, luckily, gradual. The first manifestations, although marked, are unequivocal. The fits grow successively more and more distinctive, and endure each for a longer term than the preceding. In this lies the principal security from inhumation. The unfortunate whose first attack should be of the extreme character which is occasionally seen, would almost inevitably be consigned alive to the tomb.

My own case differed in no important particular from those mentioned in medical books. Sometimes, without any apparent cause, I sank, little by little, into a condition of hemi-syncope, or half swoon; and, in this condition, without pain, without ability to stir, or, strictly speaking, to think, but with a dull lethargic consciousness of life and of the presence of those who surrounded my bed, I remained, until the crisis of the disease restored me, suddenly, to perfect sensation. At other times I was quickly and impetuously smitten. I grew sick, and numb, and chilly, and dizzy, and so fell prostrate at once. Then, for weeks, all was void, and black, and silent, and Nothing became the universe. Total annihilation could be no more. From these latter attacks I awoke, however, with a gradation slow in proportion to the suddenness of the seizure. Just as the day dawns to the friendless and houseless beggar who roams the streets throughout the long desolate winter night — just so tardily — just so wearily — just so cheerily came back the light of the Soul to me.

Apart from the tendency to trance, however, my general health appeared to be good; nor could I perceive that it was at all affected by the one prevalent malady — unless, indeed, an idiosyncrasy in my ordinary sleep may be looked upon as superinduced. Upon awaking from slumber, I could never gain, at once, thorough possession of my senses, and always remained, for many minutes, in much bewilderment and perplexity; — the mental faculties in general, but the memory in especial, being in a condition of absolute abeyance.

In all that I endured there was no physical suffering but of moral distress an infinitude. My fancy grew charnel, I talked "of worms, of tombs, and epitaphs." I was lost in reveries of death, and the idea of premature burial held continual possession of my brain. The ghastly Danger to which I was subjected haunted me day and night. In the former, the torture of meditation was excessive — in the latter, supreme. When the grim Darkness overspread the Earth, then, with every horror of thought, I shook — shook as the quivering plumes upon the hearse. When Nature could endure wakefulness no longer, it was with a struggle that I consented to sleep — for I shuddered to reflect that, upon awaking, I might find myself the tenant of a grave. And when, finally, I sank into slumber, it was only to rush at once into a world of phantasms, above which, with vast, sable, overshadowing wing, hovered, predominant, the one sepulchral Idea.

From the innumerable images of gloom which thus oppressed me in dreams, I select for record but a solitary vision. Methought I was immersed in a cataleptic trance of more than usual duration and profundity. Suddenly there came an icy hand upon my forehead, and an impatient, gibbering voice whispered the word "Arise!" within my ear.

I sat erect. The darkness was total. I could not see the figure of him who had aroused me. I could call to mind neither the period at which I had fallen into the trance, nor the locality in which I then lay. While I remained motionless, and busied in endeavors to collect my thought, the cold hand grasped me fiercely by the wrist, shaking it petulantly, while the gibbering voice said again:

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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 1980 album "L'Arbre De Vie"  

2/18/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #49: Beginning, Middle & End 5

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.

#49
Beginning, Middle & End 5

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 WithAn umbrella blowing in the wind (or being blown from someone's hands by the wind).

Somewhere in the middle: Someone wields a knife (not in a kitchen).

End WithThe Big Bang.

Extra Credit RequirementsYour title must include a President by name and part of the piece must take place on a train or trolley.

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If you'd like some unobtrusive background music try this "Fantasy Lofi Music for Chill" mix.

2/17/21

Hump Day Submission Carousel 4


#4: 2/17/21

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 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 1Eastern Iowa Review. This online journal reads no fee submissions in creative nonfiction and prose poetry for the theme "Water" until February 20 via Submittable

"We seek the linguistically unique and beautiful: lyricism is prized here so it stands to reason that our favorite writing forms are the prose poem and the lyric essay... Do remember, there's enough darkness and sadness in the world -- we want your GOOD SPACES. We are 'a journal of good spaces.'"

2021 Writing Exercise Series #48: How to... 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.

#48
How to... 1

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 toBuild a home.

Extra Credit RequirementsYour piece must include a river, creek or ocean by name, and include three different numbers.

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If you'd like some unobtrusive background music try Finnish composer Jean Sibelius's "Symphony No. 6 in D minor, Op. 104"

2/16/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #47: Inspired By 4... "Falling Knives..."

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.

#47
Inspired By 4... "Falling Knives..."

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 "Falling Knives Have No Handles" by the poet Grace Day who seems to be in just about every literary magazine out there! This poem was published in the brand spanking new July 2020 issue of the journal Bodega.

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 a relationship (potentially a world) falling apart, and the desire for the pieces to fit together properly. For there to be a clean kitchen for once. Okay, now that you've ACTUALLY READ the poem, let's write something.

1. Object: Write a piece that includes a Bell Pepper.
2. Titles: Write a piece using one of the following titles selected from the piece:
1) Tiny Corpses 2) Ice Cream Sundaes in Bed 3) On a Front Porch Swing 4) We Are Dreaming of Empty Hands and Clean Kitchens 5) Each Time We Sleep 6) Cold Days in November 
3. Form: Poetry—Write a piece of poetry in one stanza that is fifteen lines that are at least ten syllables each. Fiction—write a flash fiction that is one long paragraph (no more than 2 pages).
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.
5. Beginning Middle & End: Using the same 'things' from the piece's beginning/middle/end. For today begin your piece with a broom, in the middle there must be the appearance of ice cream, and in the end, as is fitting for the last year, we must get a knife, 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 this "Mind merged with this place" lofi mix.

2/15/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #46: Three Things, Five Words 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.

#46
Three Things, Five Words 6
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 Blueberry Pie
  2. Venetian Blinds
  3. Mud
'Five Words' 
Include these five words in your piece: 
Buff, Dinged, Fried, Watery, Nugget.

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If you'd like some background music to write to, try Herb Ellis & Remo Palmier ‎– Windflower (1978).