Reading & Writing

Writing Prompt: The Center of Attention

To find today’s prompt, I scrolled through the photos on my laptop. Most of them were of my daughter, in a pink dress, frolicking with our dogs. She’s wearing a peacock feather in her hair and holding a few fake flowers. There’s paint or ink on her arms.

Twenty minutes before these photos were taken, my daughter was not smiling. She moped around the house, growled, grumbled. She was BORED. Everything was BORING.

For a moment, I saw myself at five. I remembered a day when my mom dressed me in a new outfit and took me to the playground, camera in hand. Just us. She had me climb the slide, sit on the swings, look over my shoulder while she took pictures. She used up the roll of film. Just on me. It was one of the very best days of my life.

So I did the same for my daughter. I let her put gel in her hair and loaned her my fanciest headband. She had a great afternoon.

Looking at these photos, I initially titled the exercise “Happy Place.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized what made those moments special for my daughter and me, and it wasn’t the place. It wasn’t the clothes or even the photos. It was time spent with our mothers, but that wasn’t quite it, either. It was time with our mothers’ undivided attention.

So I want you to think about one of your characters, or if you’re writing memoir, yourself. I want you to think about a time when they (or you) were the center of attention–the very center–and if they/you never were, I want you to imagine it, preferably in a positive light. This might mean the character has to be very young, and the attention will probably come from an adult whose attention feels terribly important.

Give yourself ten minutes. Try to fill them.

When you’re finished, I’d love to read them! Post in the comments!

Here’s mine:

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Goals & Challenges, Reading & Writing

Am I Ready for Some Feedback?

The other day, I had a meeting with my lovely friend Antoinette. I say “meeting” because while I’ve known her (off and on) since second grade and I consider her my friend, this was not just coffee talk. Antoinette is a business coach, and I had booked an hour of her time.

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Reading & Writing

The Resolution to Write

I love New Year’s Resolutions. I tend to make a lot of them. But there’s one resolution I make year after year:

The resolution to write.

Then again, it isn’t really one resolution. Some years my resolutions are about word count. Sometimes they’re about establishing routines, carving out time–my “writer’s life,” if you will. There are dozens of ways to resolve to write, and that resolution can be regularly renewed or revamped. I’d say there are so many ways to resolve to write, that the blanket statement isn’t enough: we need to focus on a more specific, more concrete goal.

Since I’ve been resolving to write for so long, I thought I’d share some of my more specific resolutions. You’ll notice that they all come with a common theme: Don’t expect too much of yourself. I don’t want you to underestimate yourself, either, but it’s better to set yourself up for success than for failure.

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Reading & Writing

Writing Exercise: Beginning with the End

Last night, I was watching A Christmas Story with my kids when bedtime hit. Right as I had to turn off the TV to start the bedtime routine, the narrator (adult Ralphie) uttered one of my favorite lines: “From then on, things were different between me and my mother.”

At first, I thought this would be a great opening line–for an exercise, perhaps, but not for an actual story. So I thought, perhaps I could use it as a last line–sort of like reverse engineering. I’ve heard of writers thinking this way (the one that comes to mind is Gilmore Girls and the six words Amy Sherman-Palladino swore would finish the series–six words she didn’t get to write until the follow-up episodes a few years ago) and while it might not be the very best way to work, it’s something I hadn’t tried.

Read my attempt below (there is sooo much more work to be done!) and share yours in the comments!

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Reading & Writing

Writing Exercise: Flamingo

Do you ever get words stuck in your head? I’ve heard it’s a symptom of OCD (though if you look up a full list of OCD symptoms you’ll probably un-diagnose yourself). There was a time in my life when these words plagued me. I’d read the name of a chemical on a shampoo bottle in the morning and it would play over and over and over and over, whenever my mind was quiet.

This morning, for no reason at all, I thought of the word “flamingo.” Flamingo, flamingo, flamingo. And just as it was starting to get annoying I though, “Maybe I could use this.”

So the challenge this week is to write something using a repetitive word. I know it can work when wielded by the right writer–just read something by Robert Lopez and you’ll see what I mean. (Seriously, though, read Robert Lopez anyway. He’s amazing.)

Here’s mine:

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Reading & Writing

Writing Exercise: The End is the Beginning

One of the most popular writing prompts I’ve posted here on The Sensitive, Bookish Type is also my favorite: The Opening Line. Today, we’re doing basically the same thing but instead of working with a novel’s first line, we’re working with the novel’s last line.

At random, I reached onto my shelf and grabbed Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis. This will be interesting for me because I haven’t actually read it yet–excepting, of course, the back cover. But that doesn’t matter because I’m not trying to extend the story itself. I’m simply borrowing its last line.

Which goes:

Arms about each other’s shoulders, the Babbitt men marched into the living-room and faced the swooping family.

Now, without planning ahead, I’ve come across a perfect example of the theory upon which this exercise is based: the end of a novel should always read somewhat like a beginning. Unless everyone dies at the end (which would be a very poor ending, in my opinion–not even Shakespeare had EVERYONE die) the end of one story is always the beginning of another. So now I shall use this last line to start a paragraph of my own. In this case, I’m going to replace the last name with the name of a family in the novel on which I’m currently writing. My exercise, below, might not be the beginning of a story, but certainly the beginning of a chapter.

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Reading & Writing

Writing Exercise: Write Drunk, Edit Sober

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Do you ever follow Hemingway’s famous advice, “Write drunk, edit sober?”

I’ve never had great luck writing drunk. Alcohol used to make me write these crazy, horrible poems–the kind of stuff you might’ve written in seventh grade–and then email them to an old friend who found them highly amusing.

Only once have I written anything under the influence that I later considered worth editing: a section of a story in which the character had been drinking. It was like method acting. The character had some hilariously twisted thoughts that I don’t know if I could have written sober. Interesting thoughts. Uninhibited thoughts, I suppose.

So maybe it’s worth a try, huh? Let me know if you like it.