Be Inspired: October Grab Bag of Exercises, Links, Ideas

Mother Earth, sculpture, Canadian entry at Mosaicultures Internationales, Montreal 2013

Mother Earth

I’m always excited and immensely grateful to come across links and ideas that inspire me to write and think and dream. Here are some I’ve been enjoying recently that I’d like to share with you.

Writing Warm-Up: a right-left brain exercise

  1. Touch your right thumb to your left little finger, let go, then touch left thumb to right little finger. Let go.
  2. Touch right second finger to left fourth finger, release, then left second finger to right fourth finger. Let go.
  3. Right middle finger to left middle finger. Turn hands over Continue reading

Quick-Thinking Witch Flies AND Has Fun! Dealing With the Unexpected!

Hallowe'en witch at Montreal's Botanical Gardens 2013

Montreal Botanical Gardens

A couple of days ago my husband and I were visiting Montreal’s Botanical Gardens with friends from the UK. As the sun went down, it quickly got cold so we took the ‘short cut’ through the greenhouses to warm up with the tropical plants. After a long, very pleasant walk through the greenhouses, we finally came to the last one which was filled with pumpkins decorated by school kids and a witch sitting knitting outside her house.

She was chatting away to herself, and to anyone passing by. Her nose was long and hooked, her voice high pitched, her laugh squeaky and very contagious through the little microphone. She stroked her oversize cat and Continue reading

Looking to Write Your Way Out From Your Usual? A Writing Exercise!

Fanny Fanny, a sculpture in welded bronze by César Baldacinni

Fanny Fanny
by César Baldacinni

Feel like it’s time for a change in your writing? Looking for portals that might lead you to different kinds of stories or different styles of writing from your usual? Try this exercise!

The exercise has two parts. The first – how to write this exercise – comes courtesy of Montréal poet Blossom Thom*, the second – the prompt – is from me.

You will need plenty of paper (I’d suggest good sized paper, not an itsy-bitsy notebook), and a pen or pencil.

But first, a warm up to power up both sides of the brain!

Warm Up

Clasp your hands in front of you. Note which thumb is on top. Open your hands and clasp them again, this time with the other thumb on top. Clasp and re-clasp your hands, alternating thumbs on top, as fast as you can.

Now do the same hand clasping exercise behind your back! Faster!

Part 1: Get Ready…

Using pen or pencil, you will write with Continue reading

Odd Connections and the Creative Process: Writing “Arrivals”

Arrivals notice boardI am so pleased to have my story “Arrivals”  in the new issue of carte blanche.

I started this story in response to an assignment given by Nancy Zafris in her workshop at Kenyon Review Writers’ Summer Workshop in June 2012. Nancy gave the group a list of sentences. We were to choose one as the closing line for a story.

We were given one or two assignments every day for the whole week of the Kenyon Summer Workshop. This assignment Continue reading

Writing Exercise for Narrative Energy: Juxtaposing Multiple Ways a Character Experiences the World

David Moore's 1994 sculpture Site/Interlude, Musée de Plein Air de Lachine

Site/Interlude by David Moore

In life we constantly shift between different ways of experiencing the world – between inner and outer lives, between doing and thinking, dreaming, remembering, talking, between being (in one’s body) and interacting with people, things. We shift between emotions, between judging, enjoying and complaining, between sensing and moving.

Forcing a character to experience similar rapid shifts disrupts linear thinking, often producing Continue reading

Inspiration and Intention: Writing New Stories On The Road.

walking the reflexology labyrinth at Coastal Maine Botanical GardensA change of environment can often work wonders in helping stimulate new ideas, new inspiration, new ways of seeing oneself and the world. New stories too.  Perhaps it’s because a strange place makes one hyper-sensitive to new sights, sounds, impressions… That’s why Continue reading

Writing Political Fiction – ‘The Brothers Wolffe’ in “Everything Is So Political”

Everything Is So Political, ed. Sandra McIntyre, Fernwood PublishingI am very proud and excited to have my story “The Brothers Wolffe” included in the recently released anthology “Everything Is So Political” edited by Sandra McIntyre and published by Roseway/Fernwood Publishing.

I didn’t set out to write a political short story. Somehow, that never works for me.

With “The Brothers Wolffe” I was simply writing in reaction to an image on a postcard that I noticed in a café in the UK when I was visiting on holiday.

The postcard showed two men sitting side by side, knees agape, hands on thighs, looking Continue reading

Getting Back On The Writing Track – Off With The Email

The Beach at Montreal's Vieux Port

Beach, Vieux Port, Montreal

I’ve not had a productive summer writing-wise. All sorts of humdrum interruptions cropped up, to say nothing of those sunny summery days that simply couldn’t be spent inside (and I’ve always had trouble writing outside!).

But as the first red leaves warn of fall around the corner, my agenda warns me of upcoming visits through September, October and November. So I better get going and get something written before my guests arrive or I’ll be a surly, resentful hostess.

I’m one of those people who work best with a schedule. I’ve always worked from home (except when actually in a school gym or dance studio) so I’ve been easily available. It took a long time to persuade people that there were now certain hours I was ‘out to lunch’. I had to train myself to let the phone go on ringing (argh, but suppose it’s….).

I need to get back to my writing. To help me focus even more, I’ve decided to turn off my email during my writing hours. August seems the perfect month to do this as anyone with any sense will be beside the ocean or a pool or hiking a trail in some lonesome backcountry, far from electronic communications.

Even so, it’s hard. The first few days I couldn’t resist peeking. I’m getting better though and today I’m committing myself to NO peeking during my writing time. At all. Whatsoever. Even if I have a blank moment and am stumped with my writing. Especially if I have a blank moment.

So just one last check now, and then I’ll close my emails down. I will.

What do you do to get yourself back on track?

Writer Watching Water

sitting watching waterI love being beside water. Before going to the ocean, lake, river, pond or stream, I imagine myself sitting on the beach or bank, writing page after page after page, diving at last beneath the surface of the story I’ve been working on, discovering at last its deep secret, or maybe getting caught up into the flow of a new story.

The truth is, I rarely write a word when I’m near water. I just sit, and look.

But that’s OK. Sometimes that’s exactly what a writer needs to do…sit and watch water.

Playing With Words: Sentence Experiments – Writing Exercise

Shadows II by Jaume Plensa MMBA on loan from Georges Marciano

Shadows II by Jaume Plensa
MMBA on loan from Georges Marciano

Nothing perks up a piece of prose – and a writer – more than playing around with sentence structures.

A fun exercise I especially enjoy is to take a sentence that feels totally alien and try to write my own sentence in exactly that same style. Why? To surprise myself. To kick myself out of my same old same old ho-hum sentence habits. To discover new rhythms.

“I’m playing with words” Virginia Woolf

The Exercise Continue reading