Poetry Challenge #80-Scribble Something

Really, would the tike in this pic do a naughty thing like that?

My love of writing can be traced back to when I was two-ish. As the story goes, I used my mom’s black mascara and lipstick to write on the neighbor's car! (And maybe blamed it on my brother… although he says I blamed it on him.) Nevertheless, a scribble is a scribble, and so we celebrate:

Poetry Challenge #80

Scribble Something

In honor of National Scribble Day* celebrated every March 27th,  scratch around for something colorful to write with: crayons, markers, colored pencils . . . lipstick—whatever you can find—and a piece of paper. Hold the writing implement in your non-dominant hand, close your eyes, take a deep breath and focus on whatever comes to mind. Then open your eyes and scribble—preferably on the paper.

A Nothing Scribble--or not…

Try scribbling whatever came to mind. if it was nothing, then scribble nothing. Scribble with 2-year-old abandon for as long as you can—at least 30 seconds.

Now, hold your scribble arm’s length away. While squinting like an artist (a beret might come in handy here), look beyond your scribble to what you drew. Write a poem about it.

*Not to be confused with National Crayon Day (March 31st).

Set the timer for 7 minutes.

Start writing!

Don’t think about it too much; just do it.

Scribble Resources:

*Cindy Faughnan and I began this 7-Minute Poetry Challenge more than 1050 days ago. We now take turns creating our own prompts to share with you. If you join us in the 7-Minute Poetry Challenge let us know by posting the title, a note, or if you want, the whole poem in the comments.

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7-Minute Poetry Challenge #12-I Like . . . I Love . . .

Brown paper packages tied . . .

Brown paper packages tied . . .

I like it! I love it! I want some more of it!

That song by Tim McGraw popped into my head when I read this week's poetry challenge. (I hope that's what you're thinking too, if you clicked over for this week' challenge!) And then, after reading the challenge, Julie Andrews, the Von Trapp kids and a thunder storm chimed in--image the cacophony!

Whiskers on . . . 

Whiskers on . . . 

If you're just joining us, welcome! (And if Tim McGraw's song's not your speed, dial up some Sound of Music, grab a pen and let's go: 

Raindrops on . . 

Raindrops on . . 

Poetry Challenge #12   

I like…I love…

List five small things that make you really happy. It could be a thrush singing, hot fudge, a puppy, anything. Add specific details to each thing. Make yourself smile. Try to use alliteration (same beginning sounds). Rearrange them until they’re in the best order for your poem.

Set the timer for 7 minutes.

Start writing!

Don’t think about it too much; just do it.

ear1.jpg

For Inspiration take a listen:

*Cindy and I began this 7-Minute Poetry Challenge more than 620 days ago. We now take turns creating our own prompts to share with you. If you join us in the 7-Minute Poetry Challenge be sure to let us know by posting the title, a note, or if you want, the whole dang poem, in the comments!

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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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Picasso or Cezzane-Which Are YOU?

Marty and I at VCFA this summer, learning to...(you guessed it!)

Marty and I at VCFA this summer, learning to...(you guessed it!)

I'm a Cezanne. My writing bud, Marty, is a Cezanne. It's a blessing...or a curse. We discuss it often, but haven't reached a definitive conclusion . . . 

If you are reluctant to scratch your John Henry on the bottom right corner of your work, or click "Send", you might be one, too. But if you're not, you--lucky you--might be a Picasso.

The inherent difference between Cezanne and Picasso, in this context, came to my attention by way of Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History podcast, specifically Episode 7: Hallelujah, about the creation of the song, but not.

Leonard Cohen closer to how he looked when he first wrote  Hallelujah .

Leonard Cohen closer to how he looked when he first wrote Hallelujah.

For purposes of this post, what I'd like to focus on is not the song, Hallelujah,  but how the song was written. Poet, Songwriter, Singer, CreatorLeonard Cohen is a Cezanne, too, as evidenced by this poem-turned-song's 15 year, countless drafts, journey from beginning to--Hallelujah!--Classic!

However, if/when you are so inclined take a listen to Gladwell's podcast for the whole story, including how, if not for Jeff Buckley having walked into the Mississippi--fully clothed, booted, singing--and drowned, Cohen's now-classic, oft covered & lauded song might never had been noticed at all.

                          Jeff Buckley (Dig the resemblance to Cohen in the photo above. 

                          Jeff Buckley (Dig the resemblance to Cohen in the photo above. 

Aside: Below, as usual, is this post's Playlist. When I was searching U-tube for these videos, the list on which I found Buckley's must have been one featuring songs by artists with tragic stories as the next video up was Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole's version of Somewhere over the Rainbow, the result of a late night, one take studio session after which "Iz" died. Fortunately, after that, on a lighter note came Bobby McFerrin's Don't Worry, Be Happy. Bobby, I'm happy to report is, according to Wikipedia, still living, so by way of celebrating him--and because Don't Worry, Be Happy is a smile song--I included it, too. 

Back to Cezanne & Picasso: Gladwell highlighted these two artist in his podcast because they represent two distinctly different types of artists. The difference is not restricted to visual artists. As Cohen's process shows, these 2 types exist within all Creators. And most significant to me, right now, the difference might be the root of some deep seeding feeling of inadequacy (I'll get back to that later). First, on to Picasso and Cezanne.

Picasso's "Cat Catching Bird"

Picasso's "Cat Catching Bird"

Pablo Picasso was a Conceptualist. While Pablo, baby, may well have spent a lot of time thinking, planning, visualizing beforehand,  he created in bursts. His efforts produced polished pieces which, by all accounts I found, he considered "finished" and was more than happy to sign and send out into the world. No second guessing, no revising, call it "done" and move on to the next idea...and the next...and the next...

 

Cezanne's "Compotier Glass and Apples"

Cezanne's "Compotier Glass and Apples"

French artist Paul Cezanne was an Experimentalist (What I call a Revisionist). Cezanne, Gladwell noted, didn't sign much of his work because he couldn't admit to himself his paintings were finished! He had his manager pose for a single portrait some 100 times! Cezanne destroyed and/or tried to destroy what are today considered "masterpieces" because he felt he could not accomplish in creating them what he'd set out to do. He could not please himself. Cezanne did not know how to say "done." He agonized. He doubted. He revised...and revised...and revised...

We Cezannes, aka Experimentalists, aka Revisionists--are plagued with feeling of frustration, and inadequacy. Why, because we compare ourselves to Picassos. 

And worse, our work may well languish, as Cohen's Halleluia, almost did because we don't--won't--put it out there.  

Which do I think is better, to be a Picasso or a Cezanne?

Or, how we Cezanne's be more Picasso-ish? Or, do we want to?        

                                       Hmmmm I'll have to think on it . . . 

Breaking News (As of Sept 2017):  The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is currently exhibiting Picasso: On the Beach, which showcases Pablo Picasso. The artist also has upcoming shows at the Musée Picasso in Paris and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid. We would like to take this opportunity to promote his work. Our hope is that the timing of this outreach will effectively support both the museum and Pablo Picasso. Its Pablo Picasso page provides visitors with Picasso's bio, over 1100 of his works, exclusive articles, and up-to-date Picasso exhibition listings. 

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That Three Letter Loophole

“I try to…really I do… But…It’s just that…”

Almost every time I hear that word “try” (except when I use it, of course), the same memory springs to mind. I can’t recall where I was or when it happened:

"Try to lift it."

"Try to lift it."

A man, perhaps a teacher or dinner companion, placed his hand on top if mine and said, “Try to lift your hand.”
I lifted my hand.
Shaking his head, disapprovingly, the man pressed my hand back down onto the table. “I said, ‘try to lift it.’”
Puzzled, I lifted my hand again.
He pushed it down again.  “I didn’t say ‘lift your hand,’” he said. “I said ‘try to lift it.’”

Try. The three letter loophole.

Yes, this includes Mount Everest

I tried to climb Mount Everest once—well, up to the Base Camp anyway. The plans were set. We had our gear. We had been training. But, at the last minute, our VISA requests were denied. It was a good try, and at least I tried. Spit in one hand, try with another, what do you get? One either climbs the highest peak in the world, or one doesn’t. One might start climbing and not reach the top. But that is not trying, that is climbing—doing. And yes, it is semantics. Some might say I’m “splitting hairs” even. That three letter loophole.

I do things. Lots of things. Most importantly, for purposes of this essay, when I say I’ll do a thing, I do it.  For example, I said I would brush my teeth twice daily; floss; pay bills; babysit my grandson; eat leafy greens, and I do (except on rare occasion).

I try to do things, too: Return extra pounds to whomever owns them; exercise daily; stop using the word “cute”; call my mother . . . Try-schmy. Nobody ever does anything they “try” to do.  

We do what we do. (Sally Bowles singing Mein Herr popped into my head as I typed that. I tried to resist, but…)

Where is this leading? To a confession:  Since the beginning of the year I have been trying to finish several manuscripts. I’ve tried, really I have. And although I do spend several hours per day writing and/or on writing-related activities, despite all my trying, I have yet to succeed.  After 10 frustrating months I have finally come to a decision: I am going to stop trying!

As of today, I am doing. One hour each day I am going to write. No excuses. No hall passes.

Mom’s Three Day Rule:

If Mom’s three day rule worked to help her quit smoking, surely it will work to help me get back to creative writing.

My mother always says it takes three days to make or break a habit. “Three days to make & three days to do & three days to set” she says (which is actually nine days, but somehow breaking it into 3 parts makes it easier.) If Mom’s three day rule worked to help her quit smoking, surely it will work to help me get back to creative writing.

And if, like me, there’s something you’re ready to stop trying, and start doing--and yes, I am talking to YOU! Writers who might be gearing up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). And YOU, too! Everyone else who wants to stop trying. Why not join me? Let’s do it! 

To Do List:

First Gather Tools. We’re on a Hero’s Journey and heroes needs tools!

  1. Calendar: Hang it in a prominent place.
  2. Happy Jar: Choose a happy jar/vase/pail to serve as your “Reward Jar.” Keep it on the smallish side so the vast emptiness of the vessel won’t be discouraging.  (You can always upsize.)Decorate it, if desired.
  3. Reward Token: Decide on a reward token of choice. It might be money, chocolate, toffee, jewels, lotto tickets, marbles, shells (or a combo of several).
See my Happy Jar? It's smallish,  the 30 days of Doing size. I can upsize!

See my Happy Jar? It's smallish,  the 30 days of Doing size. I can upsize!

The Plan:

  • Set: “To Do” Goal.
  • Commit: I will Do It each day. (Fill in the Do IT with your Do)
  • Track Progress: None of this X stuff; mark progress with a smiley face (mine’s red) on the calendar each day you DO IT!
  • Reward! (No hard work should go unrewarded): Each day of Doing It earns one token
  • Accountability counts! Miss a day/Lose a token. Take one out of your Happy Jar (No, you may not eat it!) Most importantly, tell yourself: Tomorrow, I’m back! I will Do It!

Do It for 3 days, then 3 days more, and three days after that, just think what we will have accomplished!

Three Letter Loophole Playlist:

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WHO YA CALLING a "SCAREDY FISH"?

Yes! Norman!   Okay, if you've read the book, you know how brave Norman the Goldfish can be. Especially late at night. When it's super dark. And some strange, super creepy something is scratching at the window. But...

SCRITCH, SCREECH! What's that noise?

SCRITCH, SCREECH! What's that noise?

Everybody's afraid of something (Okay, maybe not everybody, but almost everybody) even Norman the Goldfish.

In fact, I can think of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 things that really really creep Norman out. (And all of them begin with the same 3-letter word that we are never, ever, even in the most extraordinary cases allowed to say--or even think--around Norman's Fishbowl.)

However, because Not Norman is Jumpstart's 2015 Read for the Record© bookand frankly, Norman's been acting like he was a little too big for his fishbowl lately, I'm going to share that list with you. But only if you register to Read for the Record© 10-22-2015 !  Promise? I'll even give you a hint.

Hint: What animal has fur and pointy ears and 4 paws and purrs? 

Norman’s Top 10 Scariest-Yuckiest-Grossest-Freakiest-Worst Things Ever List:

1.       Scariest Villian?      Catwoman

2.       Scariest Boat?     Catamaran

3.       Yuckiest Herb?      Catnip

4.       Scariest Sight in the Sky?      Catbird

5.       Scariest Plant?     Cattail

6.       Worst Thing to Find in the Mailbox?     Catalog

7.       Gunky-est Condiment?    Catsup

8.       Scariest Sound in the Whole World?   Caterwaul

9.       Freakiest Insect?   Caterpillar

10.   Scariest Fish (even scarier than sharks)?   Catfish

I DREAMED IT . . . OR DID I?

Ever think so vividly about doing something that you believe you did it? Or have a dream so real, you wake thinking it really happened? I do.  Sometimes, those night/day dreams gets me into trouble.

Just yesterday I was working through my email and came upon a note I was positive I answered. With my mind’s eye, I could picture myself typing it, actually clicking on the keys, watching the letters roll onto the page. When I saw that note still in my inbox I began to doubt. Had I dreamed it?

I keep a very tidy inbox, you see. I sort, respond, file emails daily (Sometimes more…it’s one of my favorite avoidance tactics.) I’ve devised an efficient filing system. Notes that need responses are sent to a file, along with my response, so I can refer back to the chain easily, if needed. That’s why that note in the inbox freaked me.

Stories come via dreams, too. The first time, was one of those the Ecstasy and Agony moments:

I dreamed I was in a glass & chrome, wall-to-wall white house. I was waiting for whomever to come out of a backroom, noticed a picture book on a white marble coffee table, picked it up and began reading. It was an absolutely original, adorable, rhyming story about a longhorn bull who finds a lost Holstein wandering in the desert, rescues her and later she rescues him. The last illustration on the last page pictured the smiling Longhorn and Holstein were standing together, in an expanse of was a wide open prairie, surrounded by fluffy white and black calves with tiny horns: Longsteins!

Imagine this holstein, but ball of wool plump with little horns

Imagine this holstein, but ball of wool plump with little horns

I woke myself up laughing at those adorable babies. And with a raging case of BOOK ENVY. I vivid recall turning the pages, thinking how delightful it was and sooooo wishing I had written it.

Then, I realized “I did!” That was my dream. My sub-consious working. Those were my Longsteins!

The opening lines were playing in my head:

 

Way out west were the sweet sage grows,

Where tumble weed tumble and the Rio Grande flows

Lived a herd of cattle, big and small.

A rangy Longhorn named Louie was in charge of them all!

On our walk and talk that morning, I shared the dream with my then writing partner, Ronnie. I told her what I could remember of the story—which wasn’t much—we  walk and talked the rest. Over the next weeks and months, we worked on Longhorn Louie. Then sent it out to several publishers. None of them wanted it. They didn’t want rhyme. (Or our rhyme) They didn’t want “Cowboy”, they didn’t want, didn’t want, blah blah blah…

Ever since then, I’ve learned to pay attention to my dreams. Whenever I have one that vivid or interesting, I hold tight to what I recall and write it down. And, when I'm short on ideas, I flip through it. (If nothing else it reminds me I can be creative. subconciously, at least.) I keep a notepad and paper in my nightstand.

Friend and former critique partner, author Kathy Duval, keeps Dream Journals.

 

"My stack of dream journals comes up to my elbow," Kathy noted on her website info page.

Kathy’s upcoming picture book, A Bear’s Year comes out this October.

Kathy has this quote on her website:

“No one is able to enjoy such a feast than the one who throws a party in his own mind.”

Selma Lagerlöf

 

Makes me wonder: Do Kathy's picture books comes from dreams, too?

(Her PB Take Me To Your BBQ, about an alien visitation feels like it!)

 

 

Dreams

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow. 

Langston Hughes

What of you?

What becomes of your dreams?

Do you let them slip away?

Oh yes, about that email response: I'll have to check on it... 

I DREAMED IT Playlist:

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Village Life

“It Takes a Village…” Bless Hillary for coming up with that title.

Fish Dance!

Fish Dance!

Like Harper Lee, I have files... While preparing for Not Norman's birthday celebration (break for Glugs and a happy fish dance!)

I happened upon this unpublished post. Portentous in that I'm making travel arrangements and filling in my 2015 calendar, to DO IT-the whole Why? How? Will I? When? Waaaaaaa!-AGAIN! 

July 24, 2014: I’m just back from a month long visit with my village. My children’s book writers & readers village. It’s a mobile village. A global village. Despite that, connecting isn’t always easy. Especially living as I do with my feet and heart in many places: TT, WHB, NYC, TUL, RNO, CA, JKT . . .  And while techno innovations have made staying in touch, connecting, even face-to-face almost-like-being-there conversations possible, virtual can’t compete with actual.

Alicia Johnson, a long time friend and champion arranged this visit to Conroe Central Library

Alicia Johnson, a long time friend and champion arranged this visit to Conroe Central Library

First came the Why? Kids!!! 2 days of Library presentations at Conroe Central Library, organized by my friend and children’s librarian Alicia Johnson, let me get up close and personal with a couple of hundred children of all ages—all meaning 3 months to 20 years! Stand outs: 0-6 year olds: After reading NOT NORMAN we sang the “My Pet Says” song, which had us all wagging our tails, barking, clucking and almost left one little guy in tears because he wanted us to sing about his horse that said “neigh, neigh, neigh (no worries, we made him happy by singing one last verse just for him!) 6-9 year olds: Nothing better than that finger shaking No Bite! VAMPIRE BABY Chorus and loads of hugs after; creating a mystery with the teen group—which we got so caught up in that we ran over and they had to practically, physically pull us out the library so they could lock up but not before we managed to convict the chameleon and restore Mouse’s pilfered diary; and last—maybe best—Ideaphoria with 9-12 year olds who don’t let you get away with anything!

Don't be fooled by our demur pose: Wylld imaginings are in progress.

Don't be fooled by our demur pose: Wylld imaginings are in progress.

 

Then came the How? 4 days of intense picture book lock-down in Idywylld with 3 writer buds, Marty Graham, Sarah Tomp and Andrea Zimmerman, aka "The Wylld Bunch," which despite our names only had time to have wild imaginings.

 

 

After came the Will I?  Back to VCFA for the Alumni Mini-Rez and retreat. As we have ever since they kicked us off campus a few years back (that’s another story) my classmates, The Unreliable Narrators, have rented a house where we all bunk up, plug in and recharge each July.

Summer of 2014 Unreliable Narrator retreaters (The rest of the pack missed out on the lips)   L-R: Kerry Castano, me, Katie Mather, Tam Smith, Cynthia Granberg, Cindy Faughnan, Trinity Peacock-Broyles

Summer of 2014 Unreliable Narrator retreaters (The rest of the pack missed out on the lips) L-R: Kerry Castano, me, Katie Mather, Tam Smith, Cynthia Granberg, Cindy Faughnan, Trinity Peacock-Broyles

This year our guest of honor was Katie’s son James. At 17 months, the toughest picture book judge ever…

James lounging with his UN posse

James lounging with his UN posse

 

 

When Jame's mom was napping, I used him a guinea pig (I started to type “lab rat” . . . Katie would have laughed, but I wasn’t sure anyone else would have.)

 

The bright blue cover caught his eye. Lost it fast when he saw the inside (so that’s why they call them picture books?)

Reading to a 17 month old shows why short is best—I was cutting words willy-nilly, and adding sounds—especially animal-ish noises…no wonder repetition is big.

Last came the When?

When will it end? That was definitely the question my family was asking when after the VCFA retreat, instead of returning home, I rode on to Cindy’s house for more. Talk about a dedicated writer. Cindy makes sure she gets those words down every day—and she made sure I did, too.

Best, each night of every phase: How-Will-When came “PUT UP OR SHIP OUT” Time when we read aloud the work we’d done. No way did I want to be voted out, so I worked.

Now comes the Whaaaaaaaaa. I’m back again, facing the blank page, the revision notes, the What! But I’m not alone. . .

Bob Dole thought he was slapping Hillary in the face with it when, during his Rebublican Nomination Acceptance Speech for the 96 elections, he spouted, “I am here to tell you, it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child."

What is a village if not an extended family? A community of individuals clustered together for similar if disparate reasons. Village. Family. Village.  .  . Potato. Pot-A-toe. Mash um up, add butter, salt, and a dash of pepper and it’s all the same—a blend that makes for good eatin’ and comfort which fosters creative living! 

Village Life Playlist: 

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