7-MINUTE STRETCH:#1 Poetry Challenge-If You Dare...

I've got a proposition for you. A challenge. A dare.  . .

The gauntlet to undertake a similar challenge was tossed to me by my writing bud, Cindy Faughnansome 540 days ago--and I caught it! I can't say it has been easy, or convenient, but it has made me a better something?!  Maybe it will you, too. So come on, try it! What have you got to lose?

7-Minute Poetry Challenge

Write a poem, a paragraph or a story in seven minutes. Here's how: 

                                                               Read the prompt

                                                              Set the timer for 7 minutes

                                                              Start writing!

Don't think about it too much; just do it. If the prompt moves you, follow it. If it sparks something else, go with it! Our 7-Minute Poetry Challenge is not about writing great poetry; or writing what is expected; it's not even about writing anything good. It's about one thing, writing IT!  

Challenge #1  The First Day

 Gavin & Keira's 1st Day of School 2017

Gavin & Keira's 1st Day of School 2017

On the first day of school what things do you bring? A backpack? Pen? Paper? Maybe you’ll wear a new pair of jeans or shoes? 

Think about it: Not only will it be your first day of school, it will be that “things” first day of school too. How do you think those “things” feel about going to school for the first time? Write a “First Day of School” poem from the point of view of one of those things.

Note: It can be the first day of anything. Just tell the story from the point of view of one of the thing you bring with you that first day.

For Inspiration read: SCHOOL'S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, written by Adam Rex and illustrated by Christian Robinson (Roaring Brook Press, 2016), the story of the first day of school as told by Fredrick Douglass Elementary—a brand new school building!



Gavin & Keira were up the the Challenge. As you can read below, Gavin's Binder shared. Keira's dress was "shy" on that first day:

If, like Keira & Gavin, you're up for the 7-Minute Poetry Challenge, please let us know by posting the title of your poem under "Comments". Or if you would like, share your poem (or whatever the prompt inspired you to create!) We would love to see IT!


This is only the beginning. Cindy and I will post a new challenge prompt once a week—every seven days. We invite you to take the 7-Minute Poetry Challenge with us.

And, please share our Challenge with your friends, students, classmates... (even those, like me, who are absolutely, positively, NOT poets!) After all, the state of the world being what it is, to paraphrase the BeatlesPoetry is All We Need!

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Fie on Harvey, Fie!

Harvey Aug 29, 2017.jpg

HARVEY rose up from the Gulf waters like one of those menacing cartoon storm clouds on Aug. 27th, 2017. My mother's 81st birthday. Harvey was definitely no cartoon we could click off when it grew too terrifying.

As I write, the rain is still falling, the rescue efforts are ongoing, people are still trapped and scared, animals are missing, and worse--much worse--the evil in us has reared it's nasty, greedy head--looters are prowling. But. . . 

Goodness! Kindness! Compassion! Win! And that is what I, We, cling to. 

 Our Friend's mid-town Houston patio, garden and pool, Aug.27, when the rains came.

Our Friend's mid-town Houston patio, garden and pool, Aug.27, when the rains came.

You may have noticed (maybe not) that I've been Blog silent for the summer. Not because I didn't have anything to say (I always have something to say. . . ) Since January blues set in (preceeded by election disbelief-fear-healthcare despair . . . ), I have been reconsidering the energy I want to send. Our collective response to Harvey gladdens my heart. That what I break my silence to CELEBRATE!

As soon as the news broke that Harvey was coming, people from all over reached out with offers of help. Facebook messages flooded my inbox: "I have a boat! A generator! A room! An open door!" . . . Red Cross mobilized, communities banded together, individuals joined forces, support for relief efforts grew and grows!  Here's news footage of some rescues.

Our friends Dan & Kristin Stacy of Royal Fig Catering in Austin, are one example of how people are stepping up to help. Along with Royal Fig employees, friends, family and food & supplies donated by Austin businesses and folks, drove through the middle of the storm to set up a kitchen at Texas Children's Hospital where they are now cooking for the staff--cupcakes included.  National and local companies are sending relief, Texas Football star, JJ Watts kicked-off a relief YOUCare Compassionate Crowd Fund with a $100,000 donation that's now risen to more than $5.6 million so far, and the rain is still falling. 

Unfortunately, when the rain ends, and the waters receded, often so does the attention. And saddest to say, as heartening as they are, the funds pledged to date are just a drop in the bucket compared to what will be needed. Officials have estimated the amount needed to rebuild will be in the BILLIONS.

After the storm is when the most, long-term help is and will be needed. Let's be there, together. Let's bring the Sun!


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Slacker? Maybe . . . NOT!

 You calling this kick-line "Slack"?

You calling this kick-line "Slack"?

It's not often, even when visiting a school, that I'm invited to lunch in the Teacher's Lounge. And before this week, I didn't realize that could be a good thing. But, maybe it is...

You know that old adage, "Eavesdropper seldom here good of themselves"? Well I was sitting there chatting with teachers at one table while behind me another table of teachers discussed my mornings presentation. How do I know? Because, as a self proclaimed committed eavesdropper, my ears bent back and cranked to high as soon as my name was mentioned. Anyway, here's what I overheard, read it in your envy-greenest disdainful voice: "She said she only writes for two hours a day--blah blah blah--I wish I only had to work two hours a day . . . 

On the way home, that night, the next morning, and after, unlike any other school visit, ever, the only thing I could recall was that teacher's comment. It bothered me so much I told Curtis about it. "What should I have told them? A lie?"

“What should I have told them? A lie?”
— agonized response following the teacher's lounge rebuke

A few days later, sweet Curtis sent me the perfect response by way of an article from the Natulus blog entitled:

Darwin Was a Slacker and You Should Be Too

Many famous scientists have something in common—they didn’t work long hours.

In the article, ALEX SOOJUNG-KIM PANG (author of REST and THE DISTRACTION ADDICTION), explores how many acclaimed scientists, scholars, thinkers--i.e.  Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman--spent very few hours doing deep work--2 to 4 hours a day in fact doing their "important work."

The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking.
— Darwin Was A Slacker, March 30, 2017

While the "10,000 hour" theory, Malcom Gladwell expounds in his book The Outliers (originally put forth in a study of outstanding violinists), holds true, in order for the 10,000 hours of practice to be fruitful,  it only counts if those are hours of "Deliberate Practice," capital D, capital P, as in practice that is "focused, structured, and offers clear goals and feedback; it requires paying attention to what you’re doing and observing how you can improve."

Turns out even the most gifted, committed students aren't capable of more than, at most, 4 hours of Deliberate Practice.

What's more, (and what is especially reassuring) is how, along with focused deliberate practice, these outstanding practitioners also sleep more! But not at night. Turns out, these great thinkers and doers nap. Capital N-A-P!

About four hours a day. About the same amount of time Darwin spent every day doing his hardest work, Hardy and Littlewood spent doing math, Dickens and King spent writing...four hours of really focused, serious effort per day.

I'm sharing this in case you, like me, have been called "Slacker", or worse. May (as I do) called yourself the same, all because you (like me) can't or won't keep your butt in the chair for more than a few hours at a stretch. Take heart! 

And, Give Yourself A Break!--Lots of them!

Slacker? Playlist:

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A Poet-Picker-Profit-Poet-Problem . . .Solved!

 Kristofferson at 42 in 1978

Kristofferson at 42 in 1978

If you regularly click over to test The Fishbowl waters, you may have guessed how music is my touchstone. My earliest recollections on are triggered by songs:"A walking contradiction/partly truth and partly fiction . . . "Busted flat in Baton Rouge," "Make believe you love me one more time..."  And, like many folks of a "certain age" aka mine, Kris Kristofferson's song--some performed by him, but mostly not--are the playlist of my teens and twenties. So, when I learned he was performing in our village, I jumped at the chance to attend.

Here's the scary part: Kris Kristofferson is 80! Here's the scarier part: He had pretty much disappeared from the music scene these past few decades. Here's the scariest part: Why? Because of memory loss, depression, assorted other complaints doctors were treating unsuccessfully. In fact, according to an 80th birthday hurrah by Neil Strauss in the June 2016 RollingStone, having labeled Kris baby's issues as "Alzheimer," "Dementia," or "Results of too many football, hockey, head butts," the medical community told the family to expect bad to worse . . .

 Kris Baby at 80 (my mom's age!) Still smokin!

Kris Baby at 80 (my mom's age!) Still smokin!

Que the Rainbow: One of those doctors went beyond--and tested Kris Baby for Lyme's disease. Here's the happy: The lyme's treatment seemed to have worked! Kristofferson is Back! And touring! And that's why we were going to get to see him! And hear him play and sing! 

But wait, there's more! We were supposed to be a party of four at last night's concert. But, as happens, the couple (who shall remain nameless) that were supposed to be sitting beside us backed out at the last minute. Not wanting the tickets to be wasted, we returned them to WHBPAC and were told the concert was Sold Out! And surely the tickets would be resold. 

Problem Solved: When the usher showed us to our row and pointed to our seats, it wasn't hard to guess which two they were. Ours were the only empty seats in the whole theatre! Of course I checked out the folks seated next to us. I was curious to see who'd snagged the two--prime--last minute seats. One was a tall, young (too young to have been alive when KK's songs came out) curly haired guy; next to me was an older women (probably my age). At first I thought they were mother and son--or grandson--and thought "sweet", but a little eaves dropping quickly sussed out that they did not know each other. In fact, the young guy was trying hard not to be "with" the lady--trying so hard he was practically leaning on the person seated on his other side.

Why? Maybe because the lady seated next to me was crying. She cried through the whole concert. During some songs sniffling softly; during others sobbing. At one point, I reached over and held her arm. She looked at me, and smiled. Hers, like mine, were happy tears. 

Can't tell you how the concert affected the young guy (hope it did). But I can say for sure, how it happened with those two extra tickets, happened for exactly the right reason, and to exactly the right person.  This ole' world keeps on turning...

He's A Poet-Picker-Profit-Poet Playlist:

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A funny thing happened when I clicked on my inbox this morning. Nie on two years ago (Aug. 19, 2015 to be exact), I posted musing from 1976 when my high school in Huntington Beach, California tried for, and set--for one brief shining moment--a Guinness Book of World Record's record in lap sitting: Confessions of a Former World Record Holder

We tried, we sat, we set the record--and very soon after we lost it--I enjoyed recalling the event and sharing it, but I thought that was that...until this morning: 

Message: Dear Kelly, when i was a student at Central Michigan University in 1976 we attempted to set the same record. Our total was over 5,000 students and faculty. I have told people about this over the years, but it wasn’t until this past year at my 40th high school reunion that i found out another fellow high school graduate was at the same college and was in the same group that set the record. It has since been broken by the Nissan Motor Company in Japan with over 10,000 people. in 1982. But, for that shining moment I shared my 15 minutes of fame. I enjoyed your article which brought back fond memories. Have a wonderful life. The BEST is yet to come.
— "mj. french" via my website 4/28/2007

No clue what possessed "mj.french" to send that note today...maybe he was procrastinating (as I was when I read his comment, then searched for the current Lap-sitting record resulting in me landing on a hilarious site of hilarious attempts at setting sitting records) or maybe he habitually harkens back to those lap-sitting record-setting bygone days. Whatever the reason is he to the extra time to connect... Made me ssmile, hope it does, YOU, TOO!

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Happens that I wrote this last week on a Sanibel Island retreat and fully intended to post it then. But, as it happened, unexpectedly, I fully immersed in the experience. So, I never did post. Then, today after a "feels like spring" yesterday, it's full blown--literally, blowing white and sideways, capital B BLIZZARD. So, snowed in,  I'm thinking Sanibel and thus posting now... Happenstance!

Why am I on Sanibel Island? Holiday? No. . . . Yes . . . Could have been, except: I have an Agenda!. A complete plan fulling formulated in my Bullet Journal. My intention is to align the chunks and bits of a middle grade novel I have been writing so I can finish this draft. A momentous goal, yes. But one I felt sure I could accomplish given the expected situation. 

 Sanibel sand and surf! My view as I sit typing. No, I am not on the beach...really.

Sanibel sand and surf! My view as I sit typing. No, I am not on the beach...really.

As it happened, the reason I am on Sanibel Island is my sis-in-law, Marilyn Bennett, an author and filmmaker  is teaching a course at Big Arts, a three-day, 3-hours per day, class on how to get started writing one's stories. I'm her guest. 

The way this guest-invite was couched, I would have days--all day, every day, for seven days of solitude while Marilyn taught and did whatever she had/wanted/needed to do. Evenings, from Sundowners on, would be girl time with Marilyn and our hostess and friend, Deborah.

Definition of happenstance
: a circumstance especially that is due to chance
— https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/happenstance

It so happened, I was home packing my suitcase when Marilyn called and texted asking me to take her course. (I think she wanted me to provide color commentary ala Monday-night Football.--Over to you Chet!)  By way of twisting my arm, Marilyn said I'd be "Doing her a favor." Little did she know..."

Deborah's enrolled, too," she said. (Which upped the guilt factor and interest quotient.) How could I not say "Yes." 

Yes, Steven Pressfield, I did consider this was one more way of avoiding writing "The End" on my manuscript and thus having to send it out into the world to face criticism . . .  

Needless to say--but I'll say it anyway--when class time came, I was there--last one to arrive, sans paper and pen, but There. And to quote Chauncey Gardner, isn't that what it's all about? Being There?"

My post from last week end with that. (What happened later, comes later.) So what's my point? Simple, when SH#* Happens, don't explain, don't complain, flip it. 

Celebrating Hitting 300!

Nope. Not talking baseball. Although I do love baseball. However . . . Ever since that time my boy Max was catching and I was up, batting lefty, and caught him in the head on my backswing . . . well, suffice to say, I'm benched.

But I have been doing something in secret that now, on this 300th day, I'm Celebrating! Cue the Band! 

...be kind to your fine feathered friends/for a duck maybe some-body’s mo-th-er!

For 300 consecutive days, midst two moves, construction, vacation, births and birthdays etc. etc. I have completed a poetry prompt ala Bernard Friot's The Aspiring Poet's Journal. 

No, I am not going to share any of my poems here, now. (You're safe...for now!}

No, I did not do it alone! 

Nor would I ever imagined getting to day 300. And that's what why I'm telling you about it.

Is there something you've been meaning to try, but haven't?

Perhaps a personal goal? Maybe a resolution? Do you keep saying to yourself, as I have/do/probably will again:  "I'll start next week" . . . "After the holiday, really" . . . "Tomorrow." . . Tomorrow. . . tomorrow. . . tomorrow . . . tomorrow . . . tomorrow . . . 

What's the Gimmick?       Gotta Have Skin in the Game. 

Here's what I mean:  I committed to the challenge with a friend. The rules of the game were set in writer's blood (aka "Ink"). We pledged to email or text our assignments to each other every day by midnight. Or else...

It's that "Or Else" that made the difference.

Rewards & Consequences: Some folks respond better to positive reinforcement. I've shared previously how my author-mentor-friend the late Paula Danziger bought herself pieces of amber jewelry but...gave them to her editor to hold until she met a deadline. In order to get SE Hinton to write her second novel (after The Outsiders), her then boyfriend waited each day for her to finish her pages. Others reward themselves by putting dollars into a honey pot. (Big bucks!)

Rewards do not work for me. It is too easy not to pay myself. Nor have I yet found a payoff big enough (and attainable) to entice me to do anything...and I mean An-ny-thing!

I need Consequences, penalties, shame. That's what motivates me. Deadlines with consequences. So, in order to insure that I'd stick with the challenge, I set a penalty a miserable embarrassing consequence. I pledge to complete each days prompt and send it to Cindy by midnight. If failed I vowed to donate $50 to Trump's campaign publically--on Facebook. Pre-election that was the stiffest-realistic-penalty I could imagine. One I was not willing to pay and so, I did the work Every. Single. Day.  Here's the 1-2-3 of it:

  1. Set a "realistic" Goal
  2. Set a "clear" Consequence or Reward
  3. Set a Timer (The secret ingredient!) Cindy and I devoted 7 1/2 minutes each day to complete the prompts. That's it 7 1/2 minutes. Read. Set Timer. Go. 

I was amazed at what we accomplished in 7 1/2 minutes. Having a set deadline and consequence for not meeting was exactly the motivation I needed to stick with the journal, especially through those first couple of days, then weeks, and vacations, and late nights, and yucky prompts. The answer is YES I CAN! 

Tomorrow is here. 300 down, 65 to go!

Celebrating 300 Playlist:

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Don't Toss The Baby Out With the Bathwater!

 I Googled these...what're Yours??

I Googled these...what're Yours??

Happy 2017! It's a new dawn, a new day, a new calendar waiting to be filled with good intentions. Many of us--maybe you, definitely me--are making or have already made resolutions. Since one of mine (which I've already broken) is to be timely, you may already have your resolutions SET. IN. STONE. 

If you're open to revision, get out your chisel and read on. If you, like me, having broken many year's worth of good Resolutions, haven't committed yet, read on. 

A recent, informal survey revealed how most New Year's Resolutions are intended to break bad habits: Eat Better! Exercise More! Organize! Be More Loving! More Creative! BE More... Better...BETTER. . . 

BETTER. BEST. That's what it's all about. Being "Better" or best, THE BEST. Before you go hog wild with the "Out with the old on with the new," while make this year's Resolutions, I'd like to inject one word of caution: BABY

As in the adage ‘Don’t Toss The Baby Out With the Bathwater!’

What the heck do babies and bathwater have to do with New Year's Resolutions? To answer that we'll need Mr. Peabody's to set his Time Capsule back to the 1500's. 

Back then the term "running water" referred not to tap water, but to naturally running water, i.e. a river or stream. There were no spigots to fill a waiting tub. Instead buckets of water were lugged from a running water source, heated on a stove and then poured onto a tub. Then bathing commenced. Which ends, as you'll see in example #1, with Baby being the last one in the bathwater.  At this point, there are two possible ways the baby could have been tossed:

1. Since lugging and heating bathwater was heavy, hard work, baths were infrequent and everyone in the family used the same water based on family rank: the man of the house had First Bath privileges, "followed by other sons and men, then the women and finally the children—last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it—hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."-via mentalfloss.com

 Yeah, if the "baby" is a catfish tossing it might be in order...

Yeah, if the "baby" is a catfish tossing it might be in order...

2. After bathing the baby, someone calls "Mother!" or "Woman!" or screams thus distracting Mom, so she tosses the tub of bathwater with the baby still inside. 

Still wondering what baby bath water has to do with resolutions? Here's what:

Traditionally while making New Year's Resolution, we focus on the mucky bathwater and forget about our babies. (Thus New Year's Resolution time becomes "Beat The Crap Out Of Yourself Time".)

It's just past the holidays, the busiest time, the time following a long period of so much MERRY MAKING has totally trashed routine making it easy to think of a kazillion things we should resolve to do better. 

WAIT! Before you go making that naughty list and checking it twice. Before you commit to any resolving what-so-ever. I challenge you to do yourself and everyone in your life a favor and make another list, FIRST.

On this First List, write down what you did RIGHT this past year.  List everything RIGHT! . . . . OK Everything you DID. Every. Single. Thing. YOU ACCOMPLISHED. 

 Come on, Chick'n write the list!

Come on, Chick'n write the list!




3. I don't care how slovenly, lazy, messed up, OCD, ADD, RAP, MIA you might think you are, you did DO SOME THINGS right in 2016. (Assuming self-deprecation, I stopped at 3 in the example...This is your list, so LIST ON!)

Now--with this list of "babies" worth cuddling in plain sight--set your 2017 Resolutions. To be sure you don't throw your accomplishments out with the proverbial bathwater. Hug those babies! Embrace them. Celebrate them. If you're please with the way those things turned out. Put them on your new New Year's Resolution list FIRST!  Because dang it, YOU DID GOOD!

2017 New Years's Resolution #1 

Celebrate What You Did Right, First! and Do IT Again! Hooray Happy 2017!

Don't Toss the Baby Playlist:

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