Slow day, snow day

Little Church in Porto
This photo is from a day well spent in Porto, Portugal back in 2010

I haven’t written anything yet today and time is passing so I probably won’t except for this post.  I start work late on Wednesdays but that doesn’t mean I get anything useful done at home.  This morning I bought some shoes on line and reserved some books at my local public library.  Both trivial actions relate to preparing for my upcoming trip to Lisbon (February 1).  Now that I think of it both relate to portability–good, light shoes that are easy to pack and likely to fare well on hills and e-books for the journey.

I am making a point of reading MG books at present.  In December I binged on essay collections.  I have been writing and submitting an essay or two to literary journals but am now trying to focus back on my MG novel-in-process.  So I am concentrating on craft.

Lisbon is not just a holiday for me, although it will be that.  It is also a writing retreat.  If I stayed here at home to write, I would have to face the weather that leaves me down and demoralized.  I also would procrastinate and the guilt would send me back to the office.  So why not rent a small apartment and hole up somewhere?  And if I’m going to do that, why not somewhere warmer and far more exciting than my home turf?  Hence, Portugal.

Two years ago, I did a similar retreat to Bari, Italy.  It worked very well!  I edited, proofed and submitted my novel to agents.  I participated in a Twitter competition.  I learned about pitches and synopses.  Not all happened in that order necessarily.  I didn’t get any bites and have since started a deep revision which brings me up to the present.

I have a critique group.  What I need is space and time to work.  So there I go in a few short weeks.  With my new shoes and e-books.

I missed blogging about StoryStorm for a couple of days.  The prompts are about telling a difficult story (the example given is a Holocaust story) and about starting a story in the journalistic sense with Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.  Not that all of those are necessary at once, but it makes for a great framework for considering beginnings.  The question words remind me to get back to studying Portuguese.  I can now say, “I drink milk” but haven’t gotten to “Where’s the bathroom?”  Very useful words, those.

May all your journeys, literal or figurative, writing or otherwise be bright.

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The three sights

At the beach

The StoryStorm prompt for today is to use three “sights,” namely eyesight, insight and hindsight. I read this as: 1) What do I see? 2) What do I learn from this? 3) How does this relate to my past?

I am just now looking through my window. I see snow and sunshine. The sky is blue, everything is reflective, sparkling and clean. What do I learn? To take joy in the moment. Chicago in winter may be cold and inhospitable but there are moments of striking beauty. The hindsight? Snow days of my childhood. Trips to Mt. Rainier with our sleds–it was lovely to be able to visit winter but not stay. Getting snowed in at school and eating hot dogs waiting for the buses to arrive. My first winter in Chicago–26 below zero that year. Being literally blown off my feet.

I’m not turning all this into a picture book because I have other projects on tap but I am grateful for the prompt and it will give me something to return to someday.

Contemporary Reading

backyard bunny

I just chose this title to reflect on the previous blog post.  A comment from a reader this week inspired me to, finally, go to the library and clear up some old fines and get my library account usable again.  Now I can check out or download as many books as I want.  This solves my bind of not wanting to buy large numbers of hardback books to keep myself up-to-date with children’s literature.

I arrived home with around 6 middle grade novels and a graphic novel.  All are due on February 1 which coincidentally is when I will be leaving for 5 weeks in Portugal.  I call it my self-made writing retreat and hope to sightsee, write and edit my book, and escape from cold Chicago.  I am cramming a bit of Portuguese before I go and trying to catch up on all the necessary chores before I leave.  The new library card was motivated in part by wanting to download books onto my Kindle instead of carrying them with me.

Toys in the Snow

I missed two days’ of prompts for StoryStorm.  My short form of those two days and today amounts to this:  1)  Stop, look and listen (be mindful of the world around you) and recombine prompt words in novel groupings.  2) Keep a journal of interesting words and phrases.  3) Make a pillow fort and connect with your childlike self.  I need to get my idea book and work on these tonight.

Writing Historically

picture books

The latest writing prompt from StoryStorm day 9 is about historical events and anniversaries. The notion is to look up a certain date, say, 50 or 100 years ago plus or minus a year or two and write about something from that date.  An example was given of the toaster which was invented in 1926.  This brought to mind a story already written of “The Brave Little Toaster” which was turned into a film my kids and I watched many times.

Besides toasters, this prompt got me thinking about my anniversaries and about my reading history.  The process of writing a middle grade novel gets me revisiting beloved stories of my childhood and of my kids’ youth.  They are 21 and 26 now so I haven’t been reading to them much lately although just this week my older son had a novel he liked shipped to our local bookstore for me to read.  That was a delightful surprise.

Unfortunately, I find it hard to keep up with modern MG novels which is a professional necessity.  I think I need to renew my library card and get over to the library more.  I have a bad habit of accumulating fines!

bookshelf

The images above show some books from my recent and more remote past.  Most of the children’s books were boxed up and I am already missing them.  The books are an odd mix.  Some I bought or were gifts reflecting adult favorites, for sentimental value–books that the kids never read.  Nancy Drew is one of those.  Some of the most worn picture books were read countless times. I miss reading to the kids and hope that reading will be something I can share with grandchildren some day.

Happy reading or writing to all.

Writing Prompt Day #7

Silence

Today’s StoryStorm writing prompt suggested using one’s neuroses as prompts.  You know, like fearing that if you swallow a watermelon seed it will grow out of your stomach.  That was a childhood fear of my husband’s after someone kindly told him it would happen.

It took me a few moments but I came up with a few.  The most obvious one is that  I have a bit of a spider phobia,  more now as an adult than as a child, strangely enough.  Spiders are used not infrequently in stories as scary monsters.  I can think of Shelob in the Lord of the Rings who was truly terrifying and Aragog from Harry Potter.  Of course, then there was Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web.  She was amazing and friendly and safe.

I’m selfishly holding onto my other phobias.  They are my ideas and quirky enough to be mine alone.  There was an idea I had while I was outside earlier today and didn’t write down. That one is now gone.  Maybe I can develop a new phobia–mysteriously disappearing ideas, similar to the way dreams are forgotten.

You might want to check out today’s Google Doodle.  It is the dream of a 2nd grader of becoming a paleontologist and is beyond cute.  Plus the little girl won a college scholarship and her school got a grant.

Junk drawer inspiration

OK, the prompt for generating ideas today from StoryStorm Day 6 suggests a dive into the junk drawer. The contents are a little embarrassing to share–a Lego man, 10 British pounds, a ruler, my never used tuning fork from medical school, a Chicago city sticker from my car, a Mariano’s market loyalty card.  What fun though as long as I don’t think about needing to clean the drawer out.  Everyone is obsessed with Marie Kondo these days.  I doubt there is much in my drawer that would spark joy but I think I can spark a few writing ideas.  The Lego man seems irresistible.  I have the idea now and need to run off and write it down before I forget!  See you tomorrow.

Weird Stuff

Mantis

Today’s writing prompt is “Weird Stuff.”  I think the prompt idea is working.  I already have 4 pages filled in my January journal.  I did a bit of digging through my photos and found a praying mantis.  I think they are pretty weird with their overlarge eyes and the way they seem to watch you watching them.  I think one would eat me if I were a bit smaller.  Seeing one eat another insect isn’t weird.  It’s downright disgusting.

crop circles 2

Did anyone ever wonder why there are circles of crop land in the Midwest? It turns out they are due to center-pivot irrigation. It makes sense but the circles are weird-looking to me.

Enough weirdness for one day. Thanks to Tara Lazar and her Story Storm for today’s prompt.