Friday, March 27, 2009

Photo Prompts

See a story behind a picture? Take ten minutes to freewrite.

Click any picture to enlarge.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Always a Student

Last week I gave a terrible reading at my writing group. As I drove home that afternoon, all I could think was, “Am I crazy? How can I get up in front of big groups of people and read my work if I bomb in front of people I know?” I took a deep breath and reassured myself that one lousy reading didn’t mean I was a bad writer, or even a bad speaker. I knew one thing it did indicate: I needed to understand why my reading had gone all cattywampus, especially if I wanted to avoid a repeat.

I’d read an excerpt of my book-in-progress, The Department, because I knew I needed practice reading the material to a group. If you’ve written a book, chances are good that you’ll be asked to speak about it or read from it at some point. Authors who are actively promoting a book are usually seeking such opportunities. I knew all that, but I never gave it much thought. Heck, I’m one of those weird people who finds public speaking enjoyable. Or at least I thought I did.

I overlooked two key factors prior to my failed reading. First, the excerpt I picked was making its debut. Nervousness over its newness made me forget to breathe while I was reading. (Have you tried to read aloud without breathing? I looked like I was about to burst into tears from lack of oxygen, which made me more nervous, which meant I forgot to breathe again… you get the idea. The members of my writing group looked like they wanted to give me a group hug.) Second, I had not practiced my material before reading it to the group. On this point, I should have known better. This is one of the most basic steps if you are presenting anything—no matter how prepared you think you are. Had I read the selection out loud at home to myself, I probably would have chosen something else. But I thought I knew the material so well that I didn’t need extra preparation. I was wrong. I was over-confident, and I was grateful that I learned my lesson in front of my writing group instead of in front of a large audience.

What’s the motto here? You read it in the headline. At one time, I thought uncomfortable moments and mistakes meant I was an idiot. Now I know it just means I’m just human, and I’ve accepted that I will always be a student.

“You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.”
--Conrad Hall, cinematographer
Photo courtesy of Piotr Lewandowski at

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Abandonded Passenger & Other Writing Prompts

What might induce you to throw someone out of your car? What if you were in the middle of the desert? If that idea intrigues you, take ten minutes with the first prompt. Otherwise, pick another prompt. Write for ten minutes without stopping, stalling, or second-guessing your direction. At the end of ten minutes, you might want to keep working on your piece--or you might be done with that story. Let the writing be its own reward!

--I threw her out of the car about 50 miles outside of Barstow, telling her, “Maybe next time you’ll think twice before you….”
--Denise had never been downtown after dark. She was surprised to see….
--Have you traveled via train?
--Albert thought gardening was a lot like life. If you didn’t pull the weeds, then….
--Have you visited a labyrinth?
--What city would you most like to visit?
Photo information: My picture, taken in Zzyzx, California, in the Mojave National Preserve.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The End of the Rope & Other Writing Prompts

This week’s prompts range from a man at the end of that proverbial rope to spring, which has arrived here in Las Vegas. Pick a prompt that calls to you and take it for a ten-minute test drive. No stopping, stalling, or second-guessing your direction. At the end of ten minutes, you can decide if you’re buying or passing. Happy writing!

--Jason’s face was grim. “When you come to the end of your rope, you’re willing to do anything. Take me, for instance. I’m willing….”
--Did you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this week?
--Allie’s necklace of rubies and diamonds caught the light of the….
--Do you like sushi?
--The abandoned mine looked like a cave. It was the perfect place to….
--Now that spring has arrived, have you been outside to enjoy the warmth and the blossoms?
Photo courtesy of Abel Leemans at

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Road Trip & Other Writing Prompts

Find a prompt that piques your interest, and write about whatever it brings to mind. Let the muse have her way with you. Write for ten minutes without stopping, stalling, or second-guessing the direction of your work. At the end of ten minutes, you might have the start of something bigger. Or you might not. Either way, it’s both fun and good for your brain, so find a prompt and just write.

--Harold loved road trips because….
--Have you ever flown in a helicopter?
--The birds sang so loudly that they woke me before sunrise. I threw open my window….
--Do you have a vegetable garden?
Photo courtesy of Jano Lavalle at

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Writing Group Cancelled Until March 18, 2009

The Just Write group for writers will not be meeting tomorrow, March 4, 2009, or next week, March 11, 2009. Our regular meetings will resume on March 18, 2009. I apologize for the cancellation and look forward to seeing everyone on the 18th!