4/19/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #109: Dueling Six Word Shootout 11

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.

#109
Dueling Six Word Shootout 11
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) Portal 
2) Garnet
3) Chortled 
4) Venom 
5) Bellow 
6) Vertical

Set 2:
7) Dormant 
8) Flailed 
9) Elemental 
10) Odd
11) Errant
12) Upwards

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Bonus Exercise: If that's not enough, also include the following three things: The Pacific Ocean, A Lawyer and Smoke.
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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Chill with me" lofi mix.

4/18/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #108: Ekphrastic Fantastic 10

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.

#108
Ekphrastic Fantastic 10

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: This photo by Redditor GuniMiko of their grandfather enjoying a strawberry.


Image 2:  This watercolor titled "Naduvattam village" by Redditor Ryasartss.


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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? Is the watercolor a memory the man is experiencing? Is that where the eating is happening? Are they completely unrelated? 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, this combo really made me think of an old favorite, Joe Hisaishi's "Hatsukoi" or First Love.

4/17/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #107: Sentence Calisthenics 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 35 minutes.

#107
Sentence Calisthenics 5
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 some sort of water (rain, river, drinking fountain etc). 

Wordbank 1:
  • Cult
  • Prodding
  • Stilted
  • Somersault
  • Nodding
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:
  • Flawed
  • Wadding
  • Cotton
  • Jaw
  • Mauled
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 'powerful verbs' and write down at least 5-8 of them. Write at least six (6) sentences which include two words from Wordbank 2 and one (or two) of those verbs. 

You're marking 1-2 favorites, right? Keep doing it.

Wordbank 3:
  • Bald
  • Bowels
  • Wanton
  • Hauled
  • Enthralled
Set 5: Take just 3 minutes now to write as many sentences that use at least two of the words from Wordbank 3 as you can.

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

The Prompting Round-up
Step 1) Gather up all of your marked favorite lines and pick from those favorites at least three sentences to build your piece around. 
Step 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). 
Step 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.

COMPLETE-A-PIECE 

If your piece hasn't jumped right out at you, use this 'formula' today using those six sentences. 

Step 1) First, throw out three of those six sentences that you don't care for as much. Look back at your original full list of sentences and see if any stick out. Sometimes in the rush of things you actually choke out something inadvertently kinda brilliant/interesting. That's the point of rush-rush-rushing. Pushing your brain. Ideally you'll have 4 sentences before you move onto step 2, so if none of those other sentences stick out (tweaks are acceptable of course), grab back one of the sentences you threw out at the beginning of this step, you want at least 3..

Step 2) Now write a piece which is broken roughly into 1/3s with the first 1/3 including one of your sentences and an instance where someone is struggling to swim, be sure to use lots of concrete details, and don't describe things with the first way that comes to mind—"Tell it slant". 

Step 3) The second 1/3 should include 1-2 of your sentences and speak about the person/animal that is struggling to swim, but when they were young (or, younger), and when they learned something (it can be swimming, but I'd go with something unrelated and figure out how that can come back to the swimming so that the piece has nice 'moves'. 

Step 4) 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. 

Step 5) The third 1/3 should include your remaining sentences and return to your swimming person/animal either once they've recovered/finished swimming or farther in the future when the near-drowning (or, 'incident' if it wasn't that close/scary) is being recalled by another person. Is that portrayal charitable, comic? You decide. Be sure that you keep in mind the 'lesson' that they'd learned and how that can inform their humility (or lack of) when in the face of someone else telling their story. 

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 "Wave", the 1967 album from Brazilian Antônio Carlos Jobim, the 'father of Bossa Nova'.

4/16/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #106: Between a Fact and an Exact Place 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. 

#106
Between a Fact and an Exact Place 7

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, worked into the narrative/dialog etc).


As an additional assignment, should you choose to incorporate it, is as follows: Also include the words "Trust" "Forage" "Bees" "Slaked" and "Salted".

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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Summer Feelings" lofi playlist from our old lofi buddy Dreamy.

4/15/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #105: How to... 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.

#105
How to... 6

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 tie a knot" by James Kimbrell, 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 to: Properly Burn Christmas Cookies.

Extra Credit RequirementsYour piece must include a Christmas carol's name (or a snippet of the lyrics) and a famous Christmas movie/tv special and/or one of its character's by name (Scrooge, It's a Wonderful Life, John McClane in Die Hard).

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If you'd like some background music try this "Try for a better future" lofi mix.

4/14/21

Hump Day Submission Carousel 12

#12: 4/14/21

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 1El Portal. El Portal is the student-run literary journal from Eastern New Mexico University. As always read their newest issue. Or, they also have a recent long prose Web Feature "Boundary Bound" to check out. Click here for their submission guidelines. They read no fee submissions via email. Here is their editor's interview with Duotrope.


"Our mission is in our name: El Portal is the door. We open our doors to poetry and fiction, photography and art, non-fiction and flash works as we strive to share works that transgress boundaries, straddle borders, and most importantly, move us."

2021 Writing Exercise Series #104: Title Mania "Fringe" 11

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.

#104
Title Mania "Fringe" 11

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. There is absolutely nothing that these potential titles have in common, I swear.

Titles:
  1. Standing on the Fringes
  2. Fringed
  3. The Fringes of the Suburbs
  4. Fringe, Tassel, Sequins
  5. The Red Dress with Fringe
  6. Fringe Groups, Splinted Cells and Guerilla Accoutrements
Bonus Exercise: Three Things
(Your piece must also include the following three 'things', if you choose this option)
  1. A Disco Ball
  2.  Burping
  3. Sugar Cane
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If you'd like some background music try this "Inspiring" lofi mix.

4/13/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #103 Micro 101 Episode 08

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.

#103
Micro 101 Episode 08

For today's writing exercise you will write a few micro-poems or micro-fictions. These will be either poems under 20 lines or stories under 200 words.

For inspiration go read some micro or hint fiction in this Buzzfeed article, at Microfiction MondayAlbaMolecule50 Word Stories and Nanoism. Or also this Barnstorm blog post "How Microfiction Could Transform Social Media".

Read the full prompt twice before you start writing, because you're looking to keep it minimal, so have ideas. If your first draft is longer don't fret. Hone it down. And the piece will be what it is. I've started out with a goal of 100 words but hit on something and had to cull the end result from 1350 to 1200 for a contest because I loved the result. So each story will be its own beast, but we're ideally aiming for 20 lines or 100-200 words with these.

Micro Exercise 1: Sinking Boat. Tell the story of a boat sinking in three parts. First write a section where the leak/hole is discovered or when there is the accident that causes the boat's sinking. The second section should be what lead up to going out on the boat in the first place (immediately prior or the initial planning, or both—up to you). The final section should be a metaphor for something that is inevitable (for instance, a melting ice cube on a summer day), with at most one mention of the sinking's aftermath leading into the metaphor.
Micro Exercise 2: Green (lightning). Make a list of at least ten items which are a green color. Write a micro piece which uses at least seven of the items you listed, but does not (at least not conspicuously) draw the reader's attention to the items all being green. That's not to say they can't be described, not at all, but it can't say "and another blue thing is..." if that makes sense. Include lightning striking something.
Micro Exercise 3: Green Painting. Write a micro which uses at least three of the items not used in Micro #2, as well as someone painting a fence or wall as a punishment. While they're painting they think of three things they had gotten away with without being caught/punished, and ends with an escalating list of things which others get away with of greater and greater magnitude.
Micro Exercise 4: The Random Raft. Pick two interesting words from this Random Word Generator. One of those should be in your first sentence and one should be in your last sentence. The narrative of this piece should involve either a raft or a paper boat.
Micro Exercise 5: The Family Recipe. Write a piece in which a sibling or cousin goes missing for a short period of time, but long enough that the narrator is out putting up 'missing' signs when the missing person returns/is returned (or if you want to get darker, that's up to you).

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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Memories rush back" lofi mix.

4/12/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #102: Inspired By 8... "Ladders"

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.

#102
Inspired By 8... "Ladders"

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 "Ladders" by the poet Richard Garcia. This poem was published in a 2019 issue Poetry Magazine.

Seriously. Go read it. It's short. 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 great little prose poem that (I believe) is playing on the 'border wall' issue that came up in the news in the past couple years. The poem is subtle and doesn't go on diatribes or get doggerel. This poem could be just about overcoming adversity, or some other metaphor. Okay, now that you've ACTUALLY READ the poem, let's write something.

1. Object: Write a piece in which a ladder (or ladders) is vital to the piece.
2. Titles: Write a piece using one of the following titles selected from the piece:
1) They Invented Walls 2) To Climb a Wall 3) To Climb Down 4) One Side of the Wall 5) Stored in an Enormous Warehouse 6) To Destroy 
3. FormPoetry—Write a prose poem which 'riffs' on an object as this does (or Lydia Davis does in her wonderful piece "A Mown Lawn"). Fiction—write a flash or micro prose piece .
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. It's rare that you'll be able to use all of the words in a new order without some superflousness or awkward phrasing.
5. Beginning Middle & End: Using the same 'things' from the piece's beginning/middle/end. For today begin your piece with a Ladder, in the middle there must be the appearance of A Warehouse, and in the end we must get An Elevator. 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 the lofi mix "Space Walks".

4/11/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #101: Erasing Roger Ebert 26 "The NeverEnding Story"

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.

#101
Erasing Roger Ebert 26 "The NeverEnding Story"

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 1984 classic film "The NeverEnding Story" (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. The Enemy Isn't an Evil Wizard or a Thermonuclear Device
  2. The Only Thing Standing Between Fantasia and Nothingness
  3. In a Magical Bookstore
  4. A Healthy Amount of Skepticism
  5. The Child Empress
  6. To Save Tinkerbell
  7. A Lot of Imagination


Erasure Selection:

Roger Ebert's review of "The NeverEnding Story"

How's this for a threat? The kingdom of Fantasia is about to be wiped out, and the enemy isn't an evil wizard or a thermonuclear device, it's Nothingness. That's right, an inexorable wave of Nothingness is sweeping over the kingdom, destroying everything in its path. Were children's movies this nihilistic in the old days?

The only thing standing between Fantasia and Nothingness is the faith of a small boy named Bastian (Barret Oliver). He discovers the kingdom in a magical bookstore, and as he begins to read the adventure between the covers, it becomes so real that the people in the story know about Bastian. How could that be? Well, that's the very first question Bastian asks. This is a modern kid with quite a healthy amount of skepticism, but what can he do when he turns the page and the Child Empress (Tami Stronach) is begging him to give her a name so that Fantasia can be saved?

The idea of the story within a story is one of the nice touches in "The NeverEnding Story." Another one is the idea of a child's faith being able to change the course of fate. Maybe not since the kids in the audience were asked to save Tinker Bell in "Peter Pan" has the outcome of a story been left so clearly up to a child's willingness to believe. There is a lot we have to believe in "The NeverEnding Story," and that's the other great strength of this movie. It contains some of the more inventive special-effects work of a time when battles in outer space, etc., have grown routine. Look for example, at "The Last Starfighter," where the special effects are competent but never original -- all the visual concepts are ripped off from "Star Wars" -- and then look at this movie, where an entirely new world has been created.

The world of Fantasia contains creatures inspired by Alice in Wonderland (a little man atop a racing snail), "The Muppets" (a cute dragon-dog that can fly), and probably B.C. (a giant made of stone, who snacks on quartz and rumbles around on his granite tricycle). Many of the special effects involve sophisticated use of Muppet-like creatures (there are scenes that reminded me of "The Dark Crystal"). They are, in a way, more convincing than animation, because they exist in three dimensions and have the same depth as their human co-stars. And that illusion, in turn, helps reinforce the more conventional effects like animation, back projection, and so on. The world of this movie looks like a very particular place, and the art direction involved a lot of imagination. The movie's director, Wolfgang Petersen, is accustomed to creating worlds in small places; his last film, "Das Boot" (The Boat), took place almost entirely within a submarine.

Within the world of Fantasia, a young hero (Noah Hathaway) is assigned to complete a hazardous quest, sneak past the dreaded portals of some stone amazons, and reach the Ivory Tower, where he will receive further instructions from the empress. In most movies, this quest would be told in a straightforward way, without the surrounding story about the other little boy who is reading the book.

But "The NeverEnding Story" is about the unfolding of a story, and so the framing device of the kid hidden in his school attic, breathlessly turning the pages, is interesting. It lets kids know that the story isn't just somehow happening, that storytelling is a neverending act of the imagination.

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If you'd like some background music, try this video of Ojibwe Flute with ambient noise.
 

4/10/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #100: Three Things, Five Words 11

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.

#100
Three Things, Five Words 11
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. Lemonade
  2. Drool
  3. A Pond
'Five Words' 
Include these five words in your piece: 
Fool, Renewal, Bloated, Bleat, Flute.

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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Space Meditation" lofi mix.

4/9/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #99: 'Wedding' Multi-Prompt 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.

#99
'Wedding' Multi-Prompt 1
For today's writing exercise you actually have 4 choices! In the spirit of a wedding needing "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue." The first offered prompt is one from Notebooking Daily's past, the second is a brand new prompt for the day of one prompt theme or another, the third prompt is a 'borrowed' prompt from one of Sparked's 'Prompting Partners', and the fourth prompt is a wildcard riffing on the idea of 'Something Blue'. Take a look and dive in! First thought, best thought for these prompts.

Something Old: Fall Writing Exercise Series #97 Title Mania Plus the Reggae 15 (Published on Notebooking Daily on 12/7/2019, this prompt has 5 titles to choose from and a bonus prompt of "5 Random Constraints" to spice things up).

Something New: Three things (include these things in a piece): A pencil, Fuchsia, and Heavy Metal (music)

Something Borrowed: 3Elements' current prompt (use these 3 things): Stitch, Glacier, Beacon. (Due date for submitting to 3Elements for this prompt is May 31)

Something Blue: Write a piece that includes or takes place at The Great Blue Hole, the world's second deepest cenote in Belize, the term 'Cenote' coming from the Mayan word for 'Sacred Pit'.

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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this Nujabes inspired "Samurai Champloo" Lofi HipHop Mix 

4/8/21

2021 Writing Exercise Series #98: Beginning, Middle & End 10

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.

#98
Beginning, Middle & End 10

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 glass of wine being poured.

Somewhere in the middle: A book falls into a river or pool.

End WithA wedding reception's active dancefloor.

Extra Credit RequirementsYour title must include the word Yellow (or a hue of it), and the phrase "We knew better" must appear at least three times in your piece.

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If you'd like some background writing music try this playlist of Baroque acoustic guitar.

4/7/21

Hump Day Submission Carousel 11

#11: 4/7/21

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 1Contemporary Verse 2 (CV2). CV2 is a print Canadian journal of poetry. As always samples of their published writing. Click here for their submission guidelines. They read no fee submissions via Submittable

"CV2 is all about poetry and about all poetry. Published four times a year out of Winnipeg, CV2 is nationally respected for its openness to a diverse range of poets and poetic styles. From fresh to familiar and from traditional lyric to extreme language wrangling—we’re not afraid to take it on."

National Poetry Month Activity Pack Day 5

*Reposted from 4/5/2020


OK guys, I've checked again and April is still here, and in America that means 
Every day for National Poetry Month I'll be posting a few fun or interesting poetry links or videos, a Throwback writing prompt from this site, a few poems published in the last couple years and a couple classic poems—things that are poetry-related interesting or fun.

You will have a change to write poetry even if you've never done it before—the writing prompts aim to demystify the process of writing a poem. This will not take the place of the 2020 Writing Exercise Series, but will be in addition to it, so there will be a bevy of poetry to bathe your mind with.

So. Let's begin.

April 5, 2020
National Poetry Month 2020 Activity Pack Day 5


1) Yesterday we listened to David Kirby talking about creating poetry, now let's listen to him reading his poem "These Arms of Mine".



2) That was awfully quick, let's listen to one more fun poem before reading. Here is Thomas Lux reading his witty poem "I Love You Sweatheart".


3) Now go read one, or preferably all of the following three 'recently' published poems:

"For Lillian, Whoever She Is" by Matt Morris in Frigg Magazine Issue 54.
"Sparrow Shadow, Florida" by John Hazard in Atticus Review January 22, 2020.

4) Go read all of the following three short poems that were published more than two years ago:

"Dim Lady" by Harryette Mullen—with bonus Sonnet 130, for obvious reasons.

4) We've listened to a number of poems this month already, but not any performance poetry. I've been a fan of the tremendously witty Beau Sia for years. This performance of his poem "Love" is from the show Def Poetry Jam and skewers the idea of a love poem in the meandering, controlled stream of consciousness sort of way that I think David Kirby would very much appreciate. There is swearing in this video, so NSFW


5) And for good measure, here's a short video of Sharon Olds reading her sensuously geographic poem "Topography".



6) And now let's step into a time machine and go all the way back to December 16th, 2015 for this "Five Random Constraints" writing prompt titled "Hilltop Kangaroo". This will be fun—you can do this. This set of arbitrary requirements might be the creative spark you need today.

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2021 Update:

7) Bonus new poems! These additional poems were published in 2020 or 2021. Fresh off the presses.
"Jumpers" by Seth Jani in Waterwheel Review October 2020.
"Stage 4" by Whittney Jones in Red Tree Review Issue 1.
"Unearthlings" by Allison A. deFreese in River Heron Review Issue 4.1

8) Bonus video! I'm a big fan of poets reading their own work, so enjoy this recording of New York School great Frank O'Hara reading his poem "Present".

2021 Writing Exercise Series #97: Dueling Six Word Shootout 10

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.

#97
Dueling Six Word Shootout 10
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) Home 
2) Flute
3) Bomb 
4) Youth 
5) Scoot 
6) Clomp 

Set 2:
7) Vellum 
8) Volume 
9) Proof 
10) Overwhelmed
11) Exhumed
12) Ewe

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Bonus Exercise: If that's not enough, also include the following three things: A Trumpet, A Barber/Stylist and An Ashtray.
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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this mix of Studio Ghibli music.

4/6/21

National Poetry Month Activity Pack Day 4

 *Reposted from April 4, 2020


OK guys, I've checked again and April is still here, and in America that means 
Every day for National Poetry Month I'll be posting a few fun or interesting poetry links or videos, a Throwback writing prompt from this site, a few poems published in the last couple years and a couple classic poems—things that are poetry-related interesting or fun.

You will have a change to write poetry even if you've never done it before—the writing prompts aim to demystify the process of writing a poem. This will not take the place of the 2020 Writing Exercise Series, but will be in addition to it, so there will be a bevy of poetry to bathe your mind with.

So. Let's begin.

April 4, 2020
National Poetry Month 2020 Activity Pack Day 4


1) Listen to this short radio clip of poet David Kirby discussing his views on how poetry is the product of the deliberate and the accidental.



2) Go read one, or preferably all of the following three 'recently' published poems:

"Tin" by Matthew Murrey in Apple Valley Review Vol.14 No.1.
"Over 100°, La Mesa" by Zebulon Huset in Maudlin House March 17, 2020 (Sorry).

3) Go read all of the following three short poems that were published more than two years ago:


4) Check out the following two video poems by Kai Carlson-Wee from Button Poetry "Cry of the Loon" and "Holes in the Mountain".


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5) Step into the time machine and travel back to April 2, 2017 and try this exercise: "Complete a Piece Sunday: Dueling Cinquains" which walks you quickly through the cinquain form and guides you to writing your own "double cinquain".

6) Word of the Day x 3: Go to the Merriam-Webster Word of the Day website and look through the listings for January, February and March, picking one word from each month. Write a poem using those three words. 
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2021 Update:

7) Bonus new poems! These additional poems were published in 2020 or 2021. Fresh off the presses.
"3 Very Short Poems" by C. Cimmone in Dead Fern Press 1. ("The Day I Wrote His Obituary", "Psychosomatics", "Mortal Remains of a Used Up Woman")
"Stone Canoe" by Scott Waters in Bombfire March 13, 2021.
"To Live at Lemon Cove" by Paul Veracka in Dwelling Literary "Mini Crib" Issue 2021

8) Bonus video! I love this poem by the awesome poem Danez Smith, and think you will get a kick out of it too.  Check out Danez Smith reading "Dinosaurs in the Hood".

National Poetry Month Activity Pack Day 3

 *Reposted from 4/3/2020


Yes, I've checked and April is still here, and in America that means 
Every day for National Poetry Month I'll be posting a few fun or interesting poetry links or videos, a Throwback writing prompt from this site, a few poems published in the last couple years and a couple classic poems—things that are poetry-related interesting or fun.

You will have a change to write poetry even if you've never done it before—the writing prompts aim to demystify the process of writing a poem. This will not take the place of the 2020 Writing Exercise Series, but will be in addition to it, so there will be a bevy of poetry to bathe your mind with.

So. Let's begin.

April 3, 2020
National Poetry Month 2020 Activity Pack Day 3


1) Watch this 20 minute documentary about author of over 20 books of poetry and winner of the National Book Award, Ruth Lilly Prize and Wallace Stevens Award as well as the former Poet Laureate of New Jersey, Gerald Stern which is mostly him reading poems and showing pictures—and despite how I explained that, is actually really interesting.




2) Go read one, or preferably all of the following three 'recently' published poems:

"The Tree in the Midst" by John Shoptaw in Poetry Magazine April 2020.
"mountains before mountains were mothers" by Aimee Herman in Cream City Review Vol. 43 No. 2. (and listen to the audio)
"The Weight of Him" by Laura Foley in One (from Jacar Press) Issue 20.

3) Go read all of the following three short poems that were published more than two years ago:


4) Check out the following two-minute video of Phillip Levine reading his poem "Belle Isle, 1949".



5) Instead of going back in time to do an exercise from Notebooking Daily past, today write an ekphrastic poem (a poem in some way inspired by another piece of art) based on the following image, which you can, should you choose to accept the challenge, submit to the Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge which has a deadline of April 31st and is free to submit.


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2021 Update:

7) Bonus new poems! These additional poems were published in 2020 or 2021. Fresh off the presses.
"Tall Grass Blues" by Pablo Piñero Stillmann in Prelude 4.
"Publishing, the Old-Fashioned Way" by N. Minnick in Brazenhead Review Summer 2020.
"Planet of the Monster Girls" by Jessie Lynn McMains in Crow & Cross Keys February 24, 2021