Saturday, December 14th, 2013

Dear Family: Your Christmas Cards Are In the Mail

wedding-invitations-stamps-galoreHey Friends and Family!!

I finally got my Christmas Cards out this morning.

Mom taught me that my Xmas cards should be perfect and beautiful, that I should use a Christmas stamp, that I should take my time so that you know I did my very best for you…

Sorry, Mom. Here’s the deal:

This year, some of you will receive cards that I’ve used in the past. I got rid of all those leftover ones and twos that have been hanging out for years. Apologies in advance if you received the same card you got last year – I did my best to remember.

Also: With this Christmas mailing, I was able to get rid of my entire stash of 32 cent stamps, 37 cent stamps, 42 cent stamps, and a variety of “make up” stamps such as the “H” class, as well as nearly all my 1 cent, 2 cent, 3 cent, 4 cent and 5 cent denominations.

Some of your cards will have an excess of seven stamps on them to make up the difference. (The stamp collectors among you should be salivating.)

I actually had to buy 4 cent stamps at the post office this morning! Please note that it is a sign of how much I care about you, that I actually stepped foot into the Hell which is the post office during Christmas season.

The good news is: I get to buy all new holiday cards next year for you to receive. And since I own only “forever” stamps now, they’ll all have a single, pristine Christmas stamp on them.

See how much I care about you? Love to you all…and Merry Christmas!

Image ‘borrowed’ from:

Friday, October 11th, 2013

Writing Prompt: “Reading Stories is Bad Enough but Writing Them is Worse.”

Cover of First Edition Text of Anne of Green Gables by L.M. MontgomeryI’m reading Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables currently as part of my Project 100–and I’m quite enjoying it. Anne is an imaginative, talkative , young girl of ten who is forever getting into scrapes brought on by her flights of fancy. As the book begins, she’s adopted by a quite sensible spinster woman whom Anne refers to as Aunt Marilla.

Aunt Marilla is a dried up, middle-aged woman who lacks imagination and sucks the life out of people with her discreet and circumspect habits. Sensibility is her motto, and fun takes a back seat to decorum every time. She’s unfashionable, and dresses Anne like a mini version of herself.

But little by little, Anne wins her over. As the book progresses we see Aunt Marilla untwisting her panties and enjoying life a lot more–even though she’d thought adopting Anne had been a mistake from the beginning: she’d asked the orphanage for a boy.

I was just starting to like Aunt Marilla. But near the middle of the book, Anne–now thirteen years old–starts a “literary club” with some other young women. They are required to write one story “out their own heads” each week, and then meet to read them aloud to each other and critique them.

(My kind of party!)

When Anne tells Aunt Marilla, the aunt replies: “Reading stories is bad enough but writing them is worse.”

Oh, boo, Aunt Marilla! I don’t like you again.

Nonetheless, Marilla (sort of) brings up a good point: we can’t always write fiction. So, in honor of that, today our prompts are non-fiction related!

Here’s Your Prompt:

In honor of family–natural, adopted and chosen–lets write family stories in a variety of styles:

  • Choose a memorable event that you were involved in that your family was not: being away at camp, attending a concert, something on your bucket list, etc. and write a letter home telling all about it. Be certain to include all the parts of a letter: salutation, body, closing and signature.
  • Write a newspaper story about a BIG family event: a milestone anniversary or birthday, a wedding, a graduation, etc. Here’s information on how to write a news story.
  • Write a journal entry of your earliest memory. Ask family members for their input on what they remember of the same event and incorporate that into the narrative.
  • Flip through some old family photographs and choose one or two of the same day that evoke strong memories for you. These strong memories could be good or bad, it doesn’t matter. Just find something you’re passionate about one way or the other. Use the photos as the basis of a scrapbook entry. Lay them out on the page and decorate with magazine clippings, fancy paper, bits of ribbon, etc. Finally, journal about the events of the day. Include your not only the facts of what happened, but your feelings on the topic.

Good Luck!

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Writing Prompt – Family Highs and Lows

Two inquisitive ducks - Photo Copyright Peter Elvidge found at Dreamstime Stock PhotosFamily can be the source of great joy, or utter despair.

I love my family. I love getting together and seeing each other and just plain talking on the phone. When I get to yakking with my sister or brother or my Mom or Dad, even my aunt…we’re nearly always on the phone for over an hour. We can’t help ourselves.

This could be because nearly two thirds of my family lives out of state. (Funny that, they’re all from here …but moved away.)

The fact is, I see my out-of-state family a whole lot more than my in-state family. I think it’s because we chat on the phone, we send stuff via snail mail, we make plans…we make the effort, and get together. I invite them, they invite me. The stars don’t always align, but it’s all good.

The in-state side of the family: they’re a little more insular. They prefer to stay in their own neighborhood, where church and close-proximity friends take precedence. Travel is anathema. They live over an hour’s driving distance away, and that feels like such an effort to overcome, apparently. (I drive that distance every day to work and back: it’s a nuisance, but certainly not the great divide.)

But those in-state folks are a whole lot more tech-savvy, I have to admit–always have been. We communicate via email and Facebook and occasionally, Skype. Though it’s all very metaphorical distance-making: family through the telephoto lens. (But still family, even if they keep the rest of us out of their neat little box.)

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Make a list of the three best things about someone in your family: these traits could come from a single person or three different family members. Do the same for worst traits. Now, build a composite family character using those traits. Introduce this character in your work in progress as an impediment to the hero getting his way.
  • Similar to above: write an essay about how your family gets in the way of your dreams.
  • Write about a time when your family came to your aid unexpectedly.
  • Write about a family betrayal.
  • If you’re a poet, write a poem about growing up in your family. Describe a singular event that epitomizes what it was like.
  • Describe “the most perfect family.” Write a story about someone who has no family at all, and dreams about being in this perfect family. Does he or she achieve this dream in the confines of your story? What happens?
  • If you journal, write about how you are like your mother or your father. Or, write about how you are unlike your mother or father. Skip the obvious physical distinctions, instead pay attention to opinions, mannerisms and thought.

Good Luck!

Photo copyright © Peter Elvidge | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Writing Prompt – Epitaphs

Spina Monument - O Holy Redeemer Cemetery - Baltimore MDI attended a family member’s funeral on Monday.

It was not unexpected, and I’ve been thinking a lot about death in the last weeks or so. I’m the unofficial genealogist of the family, and have a collection of death memorabilia — so it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that I’ve been paging through albums of tombstone photos this week.

I love tombstones.

I’ve always wanted something really cool to mark my spot in the acreage where generations of my family are buried. (It’s unfortunate that we’ve become so lazy as a society that many cemeteries are no longer allowing upright stones since they’re harder to mow around. If I want to be buried with my family, then no stone for me…)

I’ve thought long and hard about what I want my epitaph to read.

Epitaph: a commemorative inscription on a tomb or mortuary monument about the person buried at that site.

(You should know: most epitaphs are composed not by the deceased prior to his or her demise, but by the person who buries him. Not a rule, it’s just how it happens…)

Sadly, like a tattoo, I can’t seem to find the phrase I want to be stuck with for eternity. But I keep trying.

Long ago, pre-teen, I heard a (trite, pithy, silly) poem about death which has always stuck with me:

When I’m gone
Bury me deep
Lay two speakers
at my feet
Put some headphones
on my head
And Rock and Roll me
When I’m dead!

Yes, please! And make it heavy metal. I want to rock through eternity!

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write your own epitaph! Be known how you want to be known for eternity.
  • Write the epitaph for the characters in your WIP.
  • Create a character for a new novel or story. Start by writing the character’s epitaph. Work backwards to fill in the details of the person’s personality based on the slogan. Here is a list of famous epitaphs to give you some ideas.

If you write an epitaph, please leave it in the comments. I’d love to read them.

Good luck!

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Writing Prompt – Death

Angel Gabriel taken at Holy Redeemer Cemetery - Baltimore, MD  - by Kelly A. HarmonSomeone in my family died this week.

It was unexpected, but not surprising. Still a bit of a shock to hear on the phone.

Human nature being what it is (and this being my family, I guess), the first order of business was a tussle over which family plot my uncle will be buried in.

(What – your family doesn’t have any death real estate?)

Grudges can be held, apparently, into the grave…and for decades beyond.

And we learned there’s going to be an autopsy. Required, apparently, by the state.

Since there’s time between death and burial preparation, the phone lines have lit up among the older generation in the family. People who have not spoken to each other in years, finally have a topic to bring them together.

Funny how that happens.

After you get over the initial impact, that kind of “out of the blue” call gets you to thinking about, well, death.

Here’s Your Prompt:

Caution! Some of these prompts may cause you to come to terms with death.

  • Plan your own funeral.

    (If this seems morbid to you — consider that you’re doing your family a favor by letting them know what it is you want to happen upon your death. It saves them the time of speculating (perhaps agonizing) during the initial grieving process. With luck, it will ensure that they lay you out in your favorite outfit, instead of something pulled off the rack at the funeral home.)

  • If you can’t plan your own funeral, plan one for someone else. Be creative: plan a funeral for your Great-Uncle Harry who always slipped you a fiver when he saw you, and never forgot your birthday. Do it up right. Conversely, create a special ‘funeral in hell’ for that neighbor of yours with the dogs that never stopped barking, the wild parties every day of the week, and the police raids which happened on a regular basis.
  • Your grandmother dies and leaves you $75,000 in her will. How do you feel when you hear this? What will you do with the money?
  • Write a story — starting with the reading of a will — where the most unlikely person in the room inherits all the cash and assets. This is the black sheep of the family — the runaway, the drunk, the drug user. Everyone hates him (or her). Speculate why this person inherited everything. Was there a relationship with the deceased that no one else knew about? What happens with the family dynamics now that this person inherits?
  • Your spouse or partner dies suddenly. Write their eulogy.
  • Write your own eulogy. How do you think people will remember you?
  • You’ve just learned you have terminal cancer. Write what happens for the next week of your life.
  • Write the funeral scene of the villain in your current work in progress. Or, write the funeral scene of your favorite evil character from a book, movie or television series.
  • And now for some obligatory quotes about death:
    • I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, and in short, I was afraid. ~ Thomas Stearns Eliot
    • Let death be ever daily before your eyes, and you will never entertain any abject thought, nor too eagerly covet anything. ~ Epictetus
    • Death destroys a man, but the idea of death saves him — that is the best account of it that has yet been given. ~ Edward Morgan Forster
    • Our scripture tells us that childhood, old age and death are incidents only, to this perishable body of ours and that man’s spirit is eternal and immortal. that being so, why should we fear death? And where there is no fear of death there can be no sorrow over it, either. ~ Mahatma Gandhi.