Un-Crashed — Welcome Back



Yay! It is wonderful to be back up and running.

If you have visited this site at any point between July and now, I apologize for the inconvenience. When it comes to technology and WordPress, I am on a strict Need To Know basis–which means that when my website crashed in July, I didn’t know how to fix it. (in fact, I have a strong suspicion I made it worse).

Anyway, what with Camp  NaNoWriMo and rewriting, vacations, a family illness and death, and then school starting again, it wasn’t until NOW that I’ve had time to get the technology glitches unglitched. Not that I did the unglitching. I error-102075_1280have to thank my wonderful techie co-worker Nate Mihalek for his expertise. So, thank you, Nate. You rock.

WELCOME Back and for those of you who are new to this site–welcome. Hopefully you will stick around to join me in my wandering through various worlds, both real and imaginary. I don’t claim age has brought me wisdom, but it has brought a certain freedom, an unself-conciousness if you will, that enables me to share my creative journey. In fact, the older I get, the more I realize that even though creativity and the creative process varies from person to person, there

Color Your Life

Color Your Life

are similarities–and we can learn and grow from each other. And no matter how difficult it can sometimes seem to find time for those creative endeavors — I firmly believe those are the very things that make life worth living.

So please, feel free to join me as I seek to live the creative life (despite the tyranny of the NOW) and don’t be afraid to comment (agree or disagree). I love to hear what world-walkings others are doing. What works. What doesn’t. Your struggles and successes. Maybe together we can discover the keys to unlock a creative life.


Never underestimate the power of the flock


Even though I love to write, often I need motivation to weigh the scale in favor of writing–and less in favor of other things like sleeping, eating, and well, everything else. Having someone willing to read my manuscript helps, but with no exact deadline, I still find myself putting writing too far down on the priority list. That’s why I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo.

The flock

I’d heard of National Novel Writing Month a long time ago. But for me to attempt to write a novel in November–wasn’t going to happen. But this past June, one of my writing friends told me about Camp NaNoWriMo in July. Seemed like perfect timing to give me that extra little bit of inspiration.

I started off fairly productive. Every day I’d log on and see how I was doing compared to the others. Where was I in the flock of writers? Ahead? Behind? One of the middlers?

I had a good 9,000 words in when I left for vacation. And everything stopped. I had brought wrist bands thinking I’d write in the car–and I drove most of the way. (wristbands don’t help one drive and write, too bad.) When we reached Colorado,

All alone

there were always cool things to do, like white water rafting, caving, and shopping in Manitou Springs. Oh, I looked at the writing now and then–but it seemed like work and I was, after all, on vacation. Without internet access, I didn’t have to face my cabinmates and their ever increasing word count. I didn’t have to see their encouragement, or face their ‘why aren’t you writing’ questions. So I didn’t write.

Swimming hard

But now, now I’m back home and everyone in my cabin has more words than me. When you’re coming from behind, you have to swim hard and fast. I vow to write long and often. All I have to do is… start. Quit quitting. Begin. Turn on the computer, pull up my document, and start typing words on the page. I can do it.

And so can you. Join a writing group. Be a part of NaNoWriMo. Take a writing class. All of these are ways for you to harness the power of others. Go for it.

It’s the end of the world as we know it

End of the world as we know it

And I feel fine. This morning, when I woke up at the awful hour of 7:00 am (only awful because I wrote until 2:50 am and then couldn’t sleep until who knows when), the lake disappeared into mist halfway across. Sometimes this place really does feel apart from the real world. Quite often I suffer a sort of compression when I return to my life at the end of the week–a form of jet lag if you will.

Sunny outside

Anyway, now the view from my window is bright and sunny and I’m not totally hating what I have written so far. Last night I started the novel in contemporary omniscient, setting the scene, and then delved into single third, in Sera’s head. After getting frustrated (partly because I switched to past tense as well and I’m so used to writing in present), I started a second beginning (See previous post about my insane creative process) with classical omniscient and then into single third, present tense.

This morning, I sort of melded the two together by making the classical omniscient beginning into Sera’s journal entry. At one, I’ll see whether my small group thinks it is working.

The other thing I’ve had to think about is what question(s) I am going to ask the large group. I’m in charge of leading a group discussion about the writing process–and because I’ve done this for so many years, it’s hard for me to come up with something we haven’t discussed many times. So here is what my brain came up with during the wee hours of the morning.

My daughter recently told me she thought her life was boring, so she had decided to say “yes” to one thing a year that was outside her comfort zone. If you were to do this in your writing this week (and I do challenge you to do so) what might this “yes” look like?

Say yes

What draws you to write what you write? I want you to think about that in terms of the form (poetry, prose, short story, novel…), the tense, and the content. (go with what you are writing currently if that helps–each piece being rather individual, I understand) 

What form will you choose?

Feel free to share your answers to these questions in the comments.

Happy writing! (or, if you can’t be happy about it, at least make it productive writing)



Is it really necessary to go away to write?

Here I am again at writing camp heaven on big Glen Lake. I’m looking forward to a week of writing, sharing writing, and talking shop with other writers all hours of the day and night. What a fabulous way to get a good jump on a big re-write. And who wouldn’t be inspired by this view?

Writing Camp Heaven

When I talked to my husband about coming up here for a week to write, he pointed out that I could write at home. Which I can. But I also can (and do) cook, parent, clean, do laundry, take my mother-in-law to the doctor, answer the phone and shoo away telemarketers, cook some more, clean some more, garden, break up fights….. The list goes on. The great thing about coming up here to write–my MAIN job is to write. I only have to cook when and if I want to. I don’t clean other than to pick up after myself, and I certainly don’t do laundry or break up fights or any other of the multitude of things I have to do at home.

So yes, I can write at home. But it takes nerves of steel.

Tune in this week and see how my rewrite is coming along. Now however, I’m going to write.

Who’s telling your story? Exploring Point of View

Investigating Point of View

Recently an editor contacted me about a query I had sent her quite some time before. She stated an interest in reading the entire manuscript, if I would rewrite it to address some of the limitations inherent in using first person point of view–namely the inability to know what other characters are thinking or feeling.

The story, which is about one person’s experience with clinical depression, had seemed so internal that I hadn’t questioned using first person POV. Now, however, I’ve taken a step back to look again at how best to tell the story–or, in this case, who best should tell the story. It’s all about perspective, just like with painting. Change perspective and you change what one notices in the picture. Change the POV and you change what the reader can experience in the story.

So the problem becomes, again, what do I want the reader to experience, and what POV best achieves that? In an attempt to decide which POV might be best for this story, I went back to my writing books. The Writer’s Little Helper by James V. Smith talks about first person (already tried that), second person (ruled that out), and third person–which is then split into 3rd person unlimited omniscient and 3rd person limited omniscience. The author notes basically no disadvantages for using 3rd person limited, so that seemed to be the way to go.

Still feeling like I didn’t have a handle on that perspective, I turned to Alicia Rasley’s book The Power of Point of View–and found that there is even more distinctions within the third person POV. (no doubt, just to confuse me more) Rasley begins by breaking it into two groups — impersonal or personal. Impersonal is where no actual character narrates the story. Forms of impersonal POV includes objective, classical omnisciency, and contemporary omniscient. In third person personal, however, the POV is within a character.

Following is a breakdown of those distinctions (both for your benefit and mine) taken from Rasley’s book.

Camera-eye view

Third-Person Objective: Think of this as the camera-eye POV because it is just recording what is going on–not offering any type of interpretation or commentary. Advantages: objective description is often considered ‘true’ by the reader, it can quickly convey factual info., it adds a gritty tone (good for adventure and detective novels), and because info is restricted, objective can show action without giving away too much detail. Disadvantages: gives no interpretations and allows for no nuance, it ignores the internal and emotional reality, and the clinical tone strips away color and depth. POV theme: “Objective POV explores whether there is an objective reality, apart from each of our own interpretations.”

I think I can rule this out. I went with first person originally in order to make the story personal, to get the reader to feel what it is like to suffer from clinical depression. Third-Person Objective seems too distant–although I do like the idea that it explores an objective reality.

Third-Person Classical-Omniscient: has a narrator that knows everything about

Third-Person Classical Omniscient

everything. This adds a sort of filter between the reader and the characters. Advantages: can help connect large casts and multiple settings, irony and humor are easier when characters are viewed from a distance, helps foreshadow coming events, gives an outside commentary on the characters – plus more information than the characters could know, and it is helpful to set the mood and provide cliffhangers. Disadvantages: distances the reader (so could be good or bad depending), detract from protagonist, can be hard to figure out what each individual character knows (not good in mysteries), sometimes leads to more telling instead of showing, and can eliminate the exploration of characters through their individual voices. POV theme: “Classical omniscient explores human society: How do we interact and why?”

I’m going to rule this out as well. Again, don’t want a filter between the reader and the characters.

Third-Person Contemporary Omniscient: has the same comprehensive view as classical omniscient, but lacks the narrator. It is also more flexible than classical-

Society or freedom?

omniscient POV, but still has most of the same pros and cons. Advantages: good with large cast and multiple settings, moves from one character to another/one place to another as suits the action, helps smooth transitions between different simultaneous events, and allows for greater scope in presenting action and description within a scene because the writer isn’t stuck with the perceptions of one or more characters (like with personal POV). Disadvantages: easy to show actions so it can lead to too much action taking place away from main characters, can result in dry factual narration without voice of classical narrator, and it can become head-hopping if not careful. POV theme: “Contemporary omniscient explores the conflict between our need for society and our need for freedom.”

I like that the author makes note that you can use contemporary omniscient to transition into or out of a scene, but then sink into single or multiple POV. I like the flexibility of this — the zooming out for a broader view (putting certain actions/thoughts/emotions into context) and then zooming in for a closer look. I also really like the theme that contemporary omniscient illustrates. It fits well with the struggles of my main character. I might consider trying this POV.

Third-Person Singular

Third-Person Singular: when you use only one character at a time to narrate the events of a scene. Advantages: the readers get the whole scene from one person’s perspective, it is easier to keep track of who knows what, the author can develop a unique view of each event because it goes through one person, and the reader can learn much more about the POV character through the thoughts/actions/perceptions. Disadvantages: reader is confined to one perspective, whatever bias the POV character has will distort the narration and this will not be apparent right away, and while the reader is getting to know that one character, the others in the scene will remain somewhat unknown. POV theme: “Single-third person explores the issue of the interior life: How do internal needs and conflicts drive an individual’s external actions?”

I’ll definitely try this POV. In the Point of View book, it does talk about how you can shift from a more contemporary omniscient to transition into a scene and then use third-person singular. I love that this POV explores the issue of an interior life and how it drives the external action — perfect for exploring depression.

Third-Person Multiple: when you use two or more characters to narrate a scene’s events. Advantages: allows the reader to experience events from different perspectives,

Third-Person Multiple

can give a second character’s version of an event without having to replay it in the next scene, can show how much characters are in agreement or disagreement, allows you to cut from one place to another/one person to another without ending the scene, and it can scan the crowd to show different reactions. Disadvantages: can easily lead to head-hopping, can cause readers to not identify with characters, can reduce reader involvement by telling rather than showing, can lead to redundancy. POV theme: “Multiple-third person explores the issue of perspective: What we see is very much dependent on where we stand.”

This might be interesting to use in my novel–have to think about it some more. Not sure if it would add or not. Our reality is all based on our perspective, so that might be interesting to play with. I think I’ll start with the other two possibilities and save this for Plan C.

Your reality depends on your perspective

Which point of view do you find the easiest to write? Which is the hardest for you? Have you ever written a novel in one point of view and then changed the whole then to another POV? What was the hardest part of making that change?





Games for writers and word play

Word Play

It’s getting so close to the end of the school year I can taste summer  (of course, it might be all the great fresh fruits and vegetables we have been eating). Strange as it may seem, finishing a school year means starting to plan for the next year. This is partly because if I don’t commit ideas to print, then I’ll probably forget them over the summer.

One thing I want to try next year with both my creative writing club and any writing RTI classes I teach is playing games. I was lucky. I grew up in a home with an English teacher mother and a Librarian father. Words were a source of interest, amusement, and pleasure. I strongly believe that along with being a reader, good writers engage in word play. So I got thinking about how I could help develop that sense of play in those who maybe didn’t have a chance to grow this wordplay skill at home. I thought of Taboo, a game I played with my family. It always got a bit loud and crazy (usual for my family), but it also made me think outside my usual vocabulary rut. Scrabble was another game I played a lot since it was one of my grandmother’s favorite games. I have to admit, I like a little faster paced game, but it did stretch my vocabulary (and when I played with my siblings, who tried to add made-up words, it occasionally became a contact sport.) There is, BTW, a ton of different versions of Scrabble. The Chocolate edition is of special interest to me.

I did a bit of research to find several games I could use next year–and following is the by no means complete list of games for writers and word play. Descriptions come from Amazon or BoardGameGeek.com

A to Z – Fundex’s A to Z game certainly runs the gamut of high-pressure alphabet fun. Each team is supplied with a plastic tray containing indentations for each letter of the alphabet, as well as a supply of transparent chips. Dice are rolled to select a timer setting (15 or 30 seconds) and a category from among 336 possibilities, such as Superheroes or Card Games. Set the timer and start covering letters on your board as you announce responses appropriate to the category–cover the A and B with chips by saying “Aquaman” and “Batman,” for example. Fill your tray and win the game, but watch out: some rounds allow opposing teams to remove chips from your board.

Apples to Apples – The name of the game is a play on the phrase “apples to oranges,” and the game is about making comparisons between different things. General game play is as follows: players are dealt red cards which have a noun printed on them, and the judge (a different player in each turn) draws a green card on which an adjective is printed and places it for all players to see. Each player then chooses a red card they are holding that they think best describes the green card. The judge then decides which adjective she likes best.

Balderdash – Balderdash rewards knowledge and creativity. Players are given a word and they each write down what they think the definition is. The definition guesses are then read aloud and voted on. A player gets points if their definition is correct but you can also earn points if people vote for your proposed definition. Includes game board, 336 game cards, answer sheet pad, 6 movers, 1 die and 1 instruction sheet. For 2 or more players.

Blurt – Think fast! What word means “a partially dried grape”? Be the first to say “raisin,” and you’re on your way to winning this riotous game of rapid word recall. Players take turns reading clues aloud, competing to blurt out the correct answer first and move ahead on the board. The first person or team to circle the board wins. Sounds simple, right? But as the race for the right word heats up, and the blurting gets boisterous, it’s easy to get tongue-tied! Blurt is a great vocabulary builder for kids, a hilarious addition to adult parties, and a must for family game night. Includes junior version for ages 7 to 9. For 3 to 12 players.

Boggle – Shake the letter dice, flip the 3-minute sand timer and put together as many words as you can. Boggle, a Parker Brothers classic, is as fun as it is great for improving spelling skills. For 2 or more players, ages 8 to adult.


Buy Word – BuyWord is a game of words with a twist. You pay good hard cash to buy your letters, then form a word to sell at a profit, if you can. Your payoff depends on the quantity and the quality of the letters in your word. BuyWord mixes basic mathematics, money management, and good old-fashioned word-building in a simple, yet elegant blend that keeps every player involved in every turn until the very end.

Chunks – (Not terribly fond of the name- makes me think of “blowing chunks”) Great hands-on reading and spelling tools for developing fluency! The possibilities are endless with 70 yellow onsets (consonants blends and digraphs) and 70 green rimes (rhyming sounds) that students will love mixing and matching! Grades 1-4.


Cyrano – (this one sound fun to me.) Tell me how great my poem is! In Cyrano, you take the role of a star-crossed lover who must write beautiful poems to earn the right to climb the tower and join his One True Love. Each round, a theme and two rhymes are selected. Players simultaneously compose a 4-line poem using the selected theme and rhymes. Examples are given for players lacking inspiration, but if you use them, you won’t earn as many points. Once all players are done, they take turns reciting poems, followed by a secret vote where everyone votes for their favourite poem. Everyone who votes for the winner scores points. The first player to reach their One True Love wins the game! Features Easy to play; no knowledge of poetry needed! A party game for the whole family.

Dabble – Dabble is a great learning tool for kids and fun for the entire family. At the core of the game lies a fast-paced word game that will help children and adults develop many useful skills – inclduing vocabulary, spelling, and quick thinking.



Konexi – Konexi the gravity-defying word game. Konexi is the 3D word-building game that will have you pushing your luck and on the edge of your seat. Take turns adding letters to a teetering tower of words. Go for longer words – upward, downward or sideways – to score more points. Age 10+, number of players 2 to 4.

Pass the Bomb – A fast-paced game to test your word knowledge, Pass the Bomb is the explosive word game that will blow your mind! Players draw a card bearing two or more letters. The other players then have to say a word that contains the letters on the card as they pass around a bomb. Quickly say a word and pass the bomb before it blows up. The player who is holding the bomb when it blows, collects the card. After 13 cards have been used, the player with the fewest cards wins!

QuickWord – Players participate in every round to come up with word lists according to letters, clues, and categories. Four color categories provide lots of exciting challenges. Race against the timer and outsmart the other players. Each time you win a round, check off a colored box on the score pad. First player to complete all color categories wins the game. Complete instructions included. Ages 12 and up. 2 or more players.

Quiddler – Quiddler is a fast paced game of words. Arrange your hand into words by taking turns drawing and discarding. Use your high point letters but don’t get caught with them uncombined. High score wins. Short words can help you win too because a bonus is given for the most words as well as one for the longest word.

Scattergories – Scattergories is the crowd-pleasing, fast-thinking game from Parker Brothers. Roll the die and you have just seconds to come up with a band name, vegetable, shoe style and more, all beginning with the right letter. But be creative! If another player matches your answer, you get 0 points. With more than 190 categories and 20 letters the combinations and fun are endless.

Syllaballistic – This game is played in 3 or 5 minute rounds. Players quickly write down a list of ten words that contain the corresponding word fragment like “tion” or “ous.” The fragment can be found anywhere within the word. Within a time limit, players write down a word for each of the ten fragments. Players score points if no other player has the same answers, and it based on the number of syllables in your word. You earn one point per syllable. Score the most points to win the game.

Synonyms–  An exciting word challenge that entertains and educates in a fast-paced and fun board game. Players race their pawns around the board to be the first to collect all the letters of the word SYNONYMS. How to play: Roll the die and select a card. You have one minute to earn your letter by naming the designated number of synonyms – unless another player declares a challenge. Play as a team or individually and put your verbal skills to the test! Improve your active vocabulary with every game. 2-8 Players

Taboo – (one of my favorites) Players take turns describing a word or phrase on a drawn card to their partner without using five common additional words or phrases also on the card. The opposing partners watch a timer and use a buzzer to stop the game, buzz the player describing if one of the five off limits words or phrases is used, or the describing player makes any gestures. The describing team gets a point for each card they guess successfully and the opposing team gets a point for each card they pass on, make gestures on, or lose for saying one of the off limits words or phrases.

Typo –  Individual letter cards are placed on the table and players take turns adding letter cards from their hands to build words. Those who can’t place their letters have to take the longest letter row into their hand. The first to play all their cards wins. Contains a set of letter cards, timer and instructions. Ages 8 and up.

Upwords – A 3-dimensional word game that’s a stack of fun. Now the expanded 10 X 10 grid offers more squares to build words across, down and up. And with 36 more tiles, you can still stack lots of letters on letters to form new words and score sky high.  For 2 to 4 players.

Word on the Street – On each turn, one team flips over a category card. Team members frantically brainstorm words that fit the category while the opposition tries to sidetrack them. The team must agree on a word and pull each letter of that word one lane closer to their side of the street, all before the time runs out.

Word Thief – A multi-award winning and internationally acclaimed game where players use letter cards to make words and score points. A strong vocabulary doesn’t win the game: competitors can snatch away other players’ letters and words, adding an extra element of plotting, planning, and fun.

Writes of Passage – a unique and enjoyable game that brings six to eight players together to craft six to eight stories. Each player contributes to each story in this game of cooperation, which unleashes creativity by randomly combining improbable genres, settings and characters.

You’ve been Sentenced – Grades 3 & up. This sentence-building game uses unique five-sided cards with multiple conjugations of a base word. With a hand of 10 cards, players try to score the most points per round by constructing the longest, grammatically correct, and sensible sentence. Any player can object to another players sentence, on either grammatical grounds, or the fact that the sentence just doesn¿t make sense. The defending player and the objecting player get to argue their points to the rest of the players, who form a jury. Half the fun is trying to defend, explain, and justify a completely ridiculous sentence to the other players. First player to reach 200 points wins.

Know any more great word games for writers and word play? Let us know in the comments.

Now go play!



Writing outside the comfort zone — literally

The Writer’s Desk — where one creates highly important works of grandeur

Words of wisdom: Creating is not reliant on setting. One can still produce great works even when her desk is sandwiched between the cat litter pans and dirty laundry. (Even when her husband adds a box of indoor/outdoor pillows to the mess–right in the doorway at that.)

Cat litter pans

If you’ve been putting off writing or painting because you don’t have a creative workspace — be creative in the space you have. (and burn nice smelling candles when the occasion demands it.)

Just saying, don’t wait for perfect.

“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” -Stephen King (On Writing)

Things I learned from my mother

My Mother

In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to take time to appreciate some of the things my mother taught me–things that I, no doubt, failed to appreciate in the moment. Now, with kids of my own, I have a much different perspective, and a far greater appreciation of all those little things my mother demonstrated in her daily life. I’d like to think I have carried on the tradition, despite having long way to go.

1. Make people feel welcome.

My mother excelled at this. She might not have been the best at teaching formal manners, but if you stopped by (even if you didn’t call first), you could be sure you would be welcome. She would drop what she was doing and sit down to have a cup of coffee or tea with you, and she would listen. If it were meal time, you’d be invited to stay. Mom would have opened up some applesauce or heated up another can of corn or something to make the meal stretch. All without fuss, without drawing any kind of attention to the fact that it meant extra effort for her.

2. It’s okay to make a mess–as long as you clean up after yourself.

Baking a mess

My brother and sisters and I were allowed to cook/bake by ourselves by the time we were ten or eleven. She even let us to experiment, making up our own (frequently inedible) recipes. The only rule was that we had to clean up afterwards. Painting projects, gardening projects–my brother and I made a fort of scrap lumber in the back yard. It took up most of the yard (including the clothes line). We dug a six foot hole and made a fort out of that too. I remember turning the basement into a roller rink, and inviting the neighbor kids in to play “dark” after blocking off all the windows and doors so that you couldn’t see your hand even one inch from your face.

3. “Necessity is the mother of invention.”


This was one of my mother’s favorite sayings. Whether it was figuring out how to do something for a school project, how to fix something broken, or what to do when we were bored, this phrase meant we had to be creative. The good part was that she usually was willing to help.

4. “Chalk it up to experience.”

Chalk it up to experience

An even more popular phrase of my mother. She used to when my first boyfriend broke up with me, when I caught the gas pump hose under the raw edge of the steel bumper and ripped it, spraying gas everywhere, when I lost everything on the computer because I hadn’t saved it and the power went out, when the cake came out overdone. And she always managed to say this in such a down-to-earth, pragmatic way. Not unkind, but not in a way that allowed you to feel too much self-pity either. I should probably hang this on the refrigerator. Wouldn’t hurt.

5. Beauty is all around–take time to enjoy it.


This enjoyment of nature was evident in my mother’s gardening and in her art. Her gardens were the old “cottage” style with lots of variety and color–and that is the way her paintings showed nature as well. We went camping several times every year, even when we were little kids. Now that I’m a mother, I know it isn’t easy. Yet either my mom really loved it, or she was a very good actress. (I’m not that good)

There are, of course, many other wonderful things my mother taught me–how to laugh at myself, how to make all the parts of a meal ready at the same time (still don’t have that one down), and how to live and die with dignity and faith. One cannot ask for a better mother than that. I love you Mom.

Bleeding Heart

» 15 Tips for Taming Distractions When Trying to Create – World of Psychology

See on Scoop.itFeed the Writer

When it comes to creativity, distractions “are a mixed blessing,” according to Christina Rosalie, a writer, mixed-media artist and author of A Field Guide

Sarah McElrath‘s insight:

I really like the number 3 kitchen timer idea. When difficulties arise, it is so easy to walk away, but if I am forced to keep my butt in the chair, often I can push through the problem.

See on psychcentral.com