"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Words ... a Gift to Share

by Carol Stilz

Words can weave us together and join our hearts…or break them.

As we approach Mother’s Day, I recall projects using words and pictures to create special gifts for moms and other very important people in our lives. While these projects can be easy enough for a young child to do, with guidance, the prompts for these projects are useful in writing memoirs, essays and fiction.

One of the simplest gifts is a picture with words surrounding it. Begin the writing in the upper left corner, along the edge of the picture, wrapping the words around the picture or photo. The word wrap may be along the edge only, may be written on a paper or cloth frame, or may wind its way toward the photo at the center. The latter looks something like a chambered nautilus. Perhaps the center could be an object such as a sea shell collected on a beach trip with the gift recipient. Frames for these projects are endless, from handmade poster board size9” x 12” to canvas stretched over a frame. I’ve seen shadow boxes made from repainted shallow kitchen cabinets to antique window frames.

This project can be extended to create a scrapbook or a photo collage that can be printed on a computer or through one of the companies online that specialize in photo books. Each Christmas I receive one of these books featuring important moments in the lives of my grandchildren designed by my talented daughter, Kathleen.

If you sew, you can create a quilt, using these picture squares printed on cloth via computer. A smaller project is a pillow, perhaps writing with fancy pens on fabric, or embroidering the words on the fabric, then sewing the pillow or framing the work of art. This format takes “refrigerator art” to a designer level through your imagination.

Of course, the simplest project for a very young child is a card with the picture on the front. The words spoken by a child can be written by the helper. For the child’s signature, why not use a handprint?

Enjoy using language and illustration to create a unique gift, sure to impress a special someone.

Prompts for gift giving and for writers follow. I like to use these prompts when making character sketches. Some I have used in journal writing. Others I have assigned in my writing classes. If you approach this list with a playful spirit, you will laugh and be amazed at what you have learned.

Write a list that begins with the words below and add to it each day.

1. I wonder…
2. What if…
3. I want to know more about…
4. What’s important to me is…
5. Courage is…
6. Love is…
7. I have a dream…

Brainstorm for 10 minutes focusing on one of these topics:

People who are important to me and why
People I admire
People I want to meet
People who are important in my neighborhood
People who wear hats
Places I want to visit and why
Places I like to play
Places where I feel safe
Places where I hide, see shadows, hear songs, smell good smells, etc.
Things I like to do
Things I do well
Things I don’t understand
Things I’ve done alone
Celebrations I enjoy
Funniest experiences in my life
If I had three wishes…
I laugh when…

Use pictures to tell a story. Draw pictures and make up a story to go with your drawings. Or, cut pictures from magazines and catalogs to make up a story to go with the pictures. The key to this exercise is the pictures come first, and then you add the words.

From the files of Carol Curtis Stilz, reprint only with permission please.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Courage to Write

by Sue Anne Hodge

I once had lunch with author Sue Grafton and nearly wept with joy when I found out anxiety accompanies the first and last word of every book she sits to write. The eight other hopeful writers seated at her table reacted with sighs, smiles, and one even laughed out loud. What a relief to find out fear is felt by writers at every level.

So, what can a writer do about this anxiety? One could let fear take on an altruistic disguise by employing the I-can't-say-no-syndrome. This is one of my favorites. Make yourself so busy helping with truly admirable tasks that you don't have time to sit at your keyboard. Or another ploy dear to my heart is the I-come-last-syndrome: I just need to dump the garbage, throw in a load of wash, walk the dogs, go to work, make dinner and clean up the kitchen ... then, if there's time left, I'll write.

What is the remedy for fear, anxiety, ploys that push my story out into the cold?

First: I need to remember that a gift of storytelling is valuable. Where would our world be without its storytellers? I need to ascribe worth to my talent. Yes, I said the (gasp) five-letter word: Talent. For even if I've yet to sell my mystery series, I have completed two books in that series. Two books that have won first and second place in different writing contests I've entered.

Second: I need to grab my fear, anxiety, feeling of worthlessness by the throat and wrestle all into submission! Then, like many writers, including multi-published ones, pull on my boots, cowboy-up, sit down, and type the first word on that blank page.