Friday, November 1st, 2013

Writing Prompt – National Sandwich Day

Reuben Sandwich. Photo by Ernesto Andrade.

Reuben Sandwich. Photo by Ernesto Andrade.

November 3 is National Sandwich Day!

Yay for sandwiches! I love a good ‘wet’ sandwich: soft, fresh bread, good cuts of meat–and for cold sandwiches–heavy on the pickles and hots. My favorite hot sandwich is a Reuben: corned beef and Swiss cheese on rye with lots of thousand island dressing and sauerkraut. Yum!

Novelist Lawrence Sanders in his book “The First Deadly Sin” describes his detective eating a ‘wet sandwich’ over the sink, accompanied by a bottle of beer. It’s the first time I’d heard the term.

Sanders goes into such loving detail describing the making and eating of this sandwich–taking nearly an entire page to do so, if I remember correctly–that my mouth watered the entire time I was reading.

That’s good writing. (Or maybe it’s my Pavlov response to sandwich descriptions!)

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Write a scene in which one of your characters eats. He doesn’t have to eat a sandwich. If you’re writing fantasy, it could be stew, or bread and cheese. If you’re writing contemporary, maybe it’s wings or tapas. The point is: spend time crafting a few sentences which will make your reader’s mouth water. Don’t spend a page doing it: that was Sanders’ schtick. Write it your way.
     
  • Write a scene where “the big reveal” is made during a meal. Don’t let the dialogue carry the scene. Bring in the setting: the tablecloth and silver salt and pepper shakers, or, the scarred wooden table and broken crockery.
     
  • Write a “long” haiku of four of five stanzas describing the perfect sandwich and building it. When you’re done, see if you can whittle it down into one stanza, but still keep the ‘flavor’ of the long poem.
     
  • If you journal, write family history, or enjoy memoir, write about a memorable meal. Don’t forget to include descriptions of the food.
     

Good Luck!

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, March 9th, 2012

Writing Prompt: Using Clichés as Story Starters, Scene Builders and to Chisel Your Way Through Writer’s Block

Cliched quotes from college applications.I’ve talked about cliches before in my “How to Write Like a Professional Journalist” post some time ago.

In that post, I stated that writers should work to eradicate clichés from their written words.

Clichés are shortcuts: a hackneyed phrase we use in a collective to get a point across very quickly. It’s easier to tell someone you didn’t come to work yesterday because you were “sick as a dog,” instead of going into detail about your fever, vomiting and chills.

Used in context, your friends will also “get” that you had the worst hangover ever if you let them know you were “sick as a dog,” after last night’s bachelor party.

In writing, however, clichés tend to make a writer sound like an amateur. (There are some exceptions to this, of course. I’ll get into them in another post.)

One thing clichés are useful for is giving your brain an immediate picture of what’s going on. If I use the term “man cave” to describe a guy’s office, some kind of image is going to flash into your mind.

The thing of it is, what I meant when I said “man cave,” and what you perceived (or saw) when you heard “man cave,” are probably two different things. So, in writing, you should take the time to explain things, rather than settling for the cliché.

Another thing clichés are good for — since they deliver an immediate picture postcard of the idea – is to use them as story starters or scene ideas.

Here’s Your Prompt:

  • Search your current writing for a cliché and re-write that passage to say what you really meant. (If it’s in dialogue, leave it alone. Dialogue is one of the exceptions!)
     
  • If you want to write, but feel like you’re blocked, find a hackneyed phrase you like and see what it conjures up. Spend fifteen minutes free writing a journal entry, the beginning of a short story, a scene from a much larger work, or a poem.
     
  • Do the same if you’re writing your memoirs, letters or working on genealogy: use the phrase to prompt a memory, then write what you recall.

If you can’t think of a phrase, the ClichéSite has a tremendous list of clichés. Wonderful!

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Thank You, Veterans…Thank You Current Service Men and Women

Walter J. Rakowski

Your hard work, service, and dedication are neither forgotten, nor overlooked.

My family has a strong history of military service: grandfathers on both my mother’s and father’s side of the family and more uncles than I can count have served. Some have given their lives in service, some have dedicated their lives to serving.

Pictured is my great-uncle, Walter J. Rakowski. He held the rank of Staff Sergeant and served as an Ordnance Officer (ammunition) up until the time he died in service. He served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

I often wonder, not just on days of remembrance, what life would have been like had they not made the choice to enlist. I know it wouldn’t be as good as it is.

To all U.S. Military personnel: Thank You.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

From the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Web site, History of Veteran’s Day:

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

Military Tombstone: SSG Walter J. Rakowski
Rest In Peace, Uncle Walter.
 
Rest In Peace all who have served our country and are no longer with us.