Monday’s Kick-Ass Prompt of the Week (KAPOW)

The last post had to do with dilemmas common to kids and those for whom they are the target audience.  This week’s KAPOW challenge is to write a first person piece in the voice of a child.  Pick an age from barely-able-to-talk (“Waaah, waaah, num, num, num.” won’t cut it) to eighteen years old.  The main character may be male, female or in the case of an alien, of indeterminate gender.

If you decide to write a piece for the prompt and post it to your blog, please let me know about it in a comment, or post the piece itself in a comment.  I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.  Comments are appreciated.  Kind critique is also appreciated.

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COOKIE CURE

by C J Gorden

My cousin and I were playing house.  She’s one year younger than I am so I gave her my favorite dolly from Christmas last year.  Just because I can’t find her clothes and one eye won’t open doesn’t mean she isn’t a good dolly.  But my ugly cousin just dropped her and stared at me with her bottom lip out in that way that always means trouble.  All of a sudden she reached out and grabbed the doll I was holding, right out of my hand.  “Hey!  That’s my Barbie!  I gave you a dolly.”

She held the Barbie behind her back and smiled at me, but it wasn’t even funny.  “You play with it then,” she said.  “I get the Barbie.”

I scrunched up my face so I’d look real mean.  “That’s my Barbie.  Give her back.  I don’t want to play with you any more.”  I stepped a little closer.  I’m bigger than her.

“Girls,” Mommy said from the kitchen, “do you want to help me make cookies?”

We stared at each other and our eyes and mouths popped wide open we were so excited.  Barbie hit the floor and we raced to the kitchen to pull chairs up to the counter.

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What do kids and YA or youth writers have in common?

Kids and those who write for them have to face a lot of the same decisions.  There is one large difference, of course.  As writers, we struggle with these decisions for our characters.  For adolescents and young adults themselves, the decisions are personal.  They agonize over the first time they want to ask a girl for a dance without being forced by a gym teacher.  They struggle with the challenges of dating and the social pressures regarding drug use and sex, and all that is influenced by the pendulum swings of hormones.  Nostalgia just took a turn for me.  Ah, angst – I remember it well.

As writers, we have to decide how we’re going to present these situations and how they are going to affect our characters.  Young Adult publications run the gamut of idyllic stories that seem intent on setting a wholesome example to edgy stories that reflect the slimy underbelly of the reality in which some children live.

In the novel I’m writing my protagonist is a fifteen-year-old girl.  She’s a pretty normal, sassy teenager but events are going to change her reality and she’s going to have to adapt.  Will she start cursing like a sailor, will she kill somebody in a fit of rage, will she and the guy she’s been making goo-goo eyes with have sex?  Not sure yet, but it’s been on my mind – thus this post.

I can understand the motivation of some parents and educators to only let kids read books that can serve as an example of exemplary behavior.  That’s what I wanted for my kids and want for my grandkids.  I would prefer they never experience adversity and never have to make difficult choices.  In order to ensure that, we would have to move back to Eden.  That quest would be fraught with everything I tried to shelter them from and is an impossibility, whether you believe it ever existed or not.

I spoke to a psychologist many years ago about how to handle it if you suspected someone was contemplating suicide.  This came up because my son suspected a friend of his was contemplating suicide.  Her advice was to ask them point blank – ask if they were thinking about it, if they were planning it and how far into the planning they had gone.  She assured me I would not be putting ideas into their head.  They were not going to say, “Why didn’t I think of that!” and start planning a suicide if the thought wasn’t there in the first place.

I have extended that advice to include any emotional place a person, adult or child can find themselves.  We chose what to read based on our needs, likes and dislikes.  If it’s of no interest to us we won’t read it.  If our children read something that relates to them and their lives or brings up something they’d like to understand, it opens the door for dialog with us as parents and educators.  Just because we don’t want them to experience or be faced with a thing doesn’t mean they aren’t.  Telling them they can’t read about difficult realities also tells them we don’t want to talk about them, effectively shutting the door to dialog.

I tried to write this blog post objectively and give equal time to both sides of the debate, but I find I’m just not objective enough about it to do that.  The journalist in me cringes, but the parent, grandparent and writer in me has to take a stand.

Monday’s (late) Kick-Ass Prompt of the Week (KAPOW)

The Monday prompt has been moved to Tuesday this week while I recover from a bug of some sort that has taken up residence in my throat and neck.  Ugh.

The last post was about the rewards of carrying on, writing when it’s difficult, writing in spite of distractions.  In that vein, the prompt is to write about accomplishment despite adversity.  That can be a tall order for 300 words or fewer.  It doesn’t have to be epic or involve galactic peace, although I wouldn’t rule it out.  Write it in whatever form works for you.  I rarely write poetry, but for the last KAPOW challenge I just couldn’t get it on paper any other way.

If you decide to write a piece for the prompt and post it to your blog, please let me know about it in a comment, or post the piece itself in a comment.  I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.  Comments are appreciated.  Kind critique is also appreciated.

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Quest

by C J Gorden

The spider runs around and around on the speckled enamel of the cup.  Unable to see as far as the green leaves overhead or the blue dappling of a clear mid-day sky, his world has shrunk to the inside of the smooth cup.  Several legs exploring the vertical side of the cup, around and around he goes, occasionally changing direction.  He stops to listen, to feel vibrations in the cup, aware he is a predator who could become prey.  His goal does not change and he resumes his path around the cup.

He freezes as tremors travel through the cup and the light overhead darkens.  Warm moist air from a large nose huffs around in the cup and he shrinks himself as small as possible.  The sky lightens momentarily, but the nose is replaced by a paw and the cup is pulled over on its side.

The spider stays crouched inside his former prison which now feels safer than the unknown outside it.  He hears the yip of a fox kit just outside the cup.  The kit crouches and looks inside the cup, curious, but his mother wants him to follow her.  He’s big enough they’ve left the den looking for food and she’s impatient.  She barks at him and trots away, sure he’ll follow.  After one more look inside the cup, he does.

Tentative legs explore the lip of the cup and the rocks of a cold campfire under it.  The spider raises himself to running height and makes his way swiftly out of the cup, down the rocks and into the surrounding grass.  The prison of the cup forgotten, his new goals are a home and food.

What’s life got to do with it?

I arrived at home in Minnesota late last night after driving from Florida through temperature highs in the upper nineties to over a hundred.  My inclination was to sleep most of today away.  Various members of my family, however, couldn’t wait to show me the new colors on the walls, to present me with an awesome welcome home cake baked especially for me and to see the goodies I brought back from Florida for them.  And then there was the mail awaiting my perusal, sorted into order of importance.  <yawn>  I could hardly wait.  Really.

I crawled bleary-eyed out of bed, was truly impressed by the new paint job in the living room, ate a slice of awesome red velvet cake covered in white icing roses for late breakfast, dispensed T-shirts and other goodies and dealt with the mail.  Then I vegged out.  I ate a Florida orange and a hunk of home-made snack sausage (the best recipe yet) and just relaxed.  It’s good to be home.

This is a writing blog . . . the point?  Writing is another of those things that makes me feel good when I do it.  It doesn’t matter if I have to drag myself out of bed to do it, let calls from friends go to voice mail to do it or agonize over it because it’s not flowing out of my fingers and into the keyboard with ease, writing makes me feel good.  Getting my tired self out of bed to take care of family business left me in the end with a feeling of accomplishment and the warm fuzzies.  I get the same satisfaction from writing.  Not only that, sometimes my own writing will make me cry until I can hardly see the page, make me giggle like a little girl or make my heart speed up and breath quicken as I write a fight scene.  I have had lots of jobs over the years, everything from school bus driver to bartender to secretary for a manufacturer’s sales department.  Nothing gives me the thrill that I get from putting words on a page.  I even like editing.  Go figure.

My new schedule started today.  I scheduled a day of rest (except for this blog post.)  I have several tasks scheduled for tomorrow:  writing, outlining/plotting and editing for my own work and critiquing for my writers’ group.  Several there will be returning the favor on Sunday, and I’m really looking forward to that.  I submitted the first five chapters of my young adult (half-) novel, the one I started during NaNo last November and plan to finish during Camp Nano in August.  That’s what the outlining/plotting phase of my workday tomorrow will be about – getting ready.

Dang it, I forgot to bring home a book I found on my mother’s bookshelf in Florida.  It caught my eye because it examines, among other things, everyday life in medieval France.  Putting on schedule:  Call Mom and ask her to send book.  Need it for research ASAP.

Doing NaNoWriMo last November taught me if I determined to just write no matter what, it worked – I wrote.  I accomplished the equivalent of half an adult novel in a month – the month with Thanksgiving, my birthday, family and friend drama and drop-in company in it – and yet I managed to accomplish over fifty thousand words.  This August I plan to use Camp Nano as not a mere month-long writing event, but a way to vet my new schedule and develop the habits I need to become a prolific writer.

My eyes have gone bleary on me again and I don’t have the energy to proof this post adequately, so I apologize in advance.  Time to sleep tonight so tomorrow I can Write On!

Monday’s Kick-Ass Prompt of the Week (KAPOW)

My head is so full of plans.  The first is to drive back to Minnesota from Florida.  In keeping with that plan I’m writing this blog post two, count them, two days early so they will post on time while I’m on the road.  One small victory over procrastination and my internal chaos.  Plan two is to formalize a writing schedule as soon as I get home and can install my new calendar on my desk.

Today’s prompt is to write 300 words or fewer about chaos versus order.

If you decide to write a piece for the prompt and post it to your blog, please let me know  about it in a comment, or post the piece itself in a comment.   I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.  Comments are appreciated.  Kind critique is also appreciated.

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CHAOS FACT

by C J Gorden

 

Some say chaos is a theory.

They fail to see my mind,

Where order is anathema

And whirling thoughts sublime.

 

The world values order

Because most could not accept

The flight of all the random thoughts

Except maybe while they slept.

 

What all those people miss, my friend

Is what I can explain

‘Cause where I live, those random thoughts

Are always in my brain.

 

People who are not myself

Converse inside my head.

Their lives unroll no matter what,

Whether in or out of bed.

 

I feared becoming crazy

And though some would say I am,

I’ve come to realize

Sanity’s a sacrificial lamb.

 

Don’t worry about me, really,

I can lay your fears to rest.

The chaos in my mind, my friend,

Is why writing’s what I do best.

Sit. Stay. Write.

I have been struggling with developing a schedule for my writing.  I’m retired from my “day job” for heaven’s sake.  I have all sorts of time on my hands these days.  What could possibly be the problem?

Well, I don’t really want to look at that dead on, but I will.  Denial is not really working for me.  My denial takes the form of good intentions, like after so many years of living in this skin I haven’t figured out the implausibility of that working for more than short stretches at a time.

I was surfing the web a few weeks ago doing research for a blog piece I posted a few weeks earlier and happened upon a guest post by Patti Larsen at Novel Publicity & Co.  Making time to write is always in the back of my mind and when I read this it spoke to me like an angel’s trumpet directly to my ear with a back up of angelic host singing the “Hallelujah” chorus.  Loud.  It didn’t relate to what I was writing about at the time, but I read it, wowed over it and bookmarked it for later.

This is the blog where I wanted to reference that post and begin the task of absorbing its message into my psyche.  Sadly I had forgotten the name of the author and I couldn’t remember where the heck I had bookmarked it.  I would liken searching my bookmarks to hiking through the Amazon rainforest.  The way is overgrown by flora that seems to multiply on its own (I don’t remember bookmarking this.  I wonder where it goes?) and fauna that threatens to eat my brain by taking me on side trips through everything from nostalgia (Oh yeah, I remember now.  Cool.) to predatory sites that ate my day away so efficiently once I saved them for a repeat.

My bookmarks reflect the rest of my life.  They are organized out of necessity due to sheer numbers.  There are folders inside of folders inside of folders.  Finally I thought to look for the coveted post in my saved documents.  Sure enough I had saved it to my hard drive.  Whew!  I could almost smell the rotting vegetation, hear the whine of mosquitos and other life-sucking forces and see the darkening green of the canopy as I closed my bookmarks.

This is what Patti Larsen has shown me in her guest post:  I can write an impressive daily word count and finish several novels and short stories (picking up speed as I gain experience) and she has provided the supporting mathematics.  The only thing I have to do is treat it like work.  I need to sit my derrière in my desk chair and put my fingers to the keyboard – for a set amount of time.  You can see the details for yourself here.

She’s not blowing smoke or selling a bill of goods because she’s not selling anything.  She’s saying what works for her, an accomplished, published author who writes young adult paranormal fiction.  <gasp>  That’s what I write!’

I’m sure I’ll tailor her advice as I find what works best for me, but the basic message is to sit myself down and write.  No more talking about it, no more intending to do it, no more being satisfied because I’m getting out two blog posts per week.  I enjoy doing the blog posts and I’m going to continue, but they were always meant to be an adjunct, not the whole enchilada.

At virtually the same time, a friend who buddied with me at NaNoWriMo during November 2011 (and who was also a winner) texted me an OMG because she discovered Camp NaNoWriMo.    Another challenge to write fifty thousand-plus words during the month of August.  It differs from the main NaNoWriMo in November in that it has a camp theme and the option of joining a “cabin” with cabinmates to schmooze with.  In light of the word count Patti assures me is possible on a long-term basis, I’m ready for it.

Another resource is Annie Neugebauer’s blog.   You may remember her from my “You’re not the boss of me” post.   Her latest posts have to do with writing tools, which is apropos, and she has a page called “The Organized Writer.”  I have downloaded to my hard drive a Character Chart Template and other forms she offers free of charge from her page (here.)   Under “The Organized Writer” at the top right of the page is a drop down menu.  I’m sure they will be a help as I try to hack out the second half of my YA novel during Camp NaNoWriMo.

By the end of the week I’ll be heading back to Minnesota from Florida.  I’ll keep you apprised of my writing progress once I get back home.  Write on!

Monday’s Kick-Ass Prompt of the Week (KAPOW)

The last post was about separating personal biases from those of your characters in your writing.  Today, in 300 words or fewer, write a piece that shows a character’s bias clearly.  It can be fiction or creative non-fiction and it doesn’t have to be negative, in fact let’s strive for the positive.

I’m simplifying the prompt posts by following the prompt with my answer to it.  Soon I will change the past posts to incorporate the pieces written for the post into the post itself instead of on a separate page.  Much simpler for you and for me.  When I update past posts, hopefully you won’t be inundated with notifications.  I’ll try and not let that happen.

If you decide to write a piece for the prompt and post it to your blog, please let me know  about it in a comment, or post the piece itself in a comment.   I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.  Comments are appreciated.  Kind critique is also appreciated.

PERSPECTIVE

by C J Gorden

“We weigh the same,” said my daughter, Mandy, as she and her best friend, Naomi, came out of her room to look in the full-length hallway mirror.  “How come my jeans fall right off your hips?  It’s not fair.”  Looking over their shoulders comparing derrieres.  Naomi’s eyebrows were raised as if the reason for the mystery escaped her.  Mandy’s scowl said she just wanted her recently acquired hips to disappear.  Hmmm.

They’d come home on the bus together after school to get some girl time.  Later, after we’d taken Naomi home for supper, I broached the subject.

“So, did you guys have fun this afternoon?  What was going on when you were swapping jeans?”  Her scowl was instantly back.

“I’m getting fat.  Look at me.  All of a sudden my hips are huge!”

“Huge?  Why do you think they’re huge?”

“She’d have to wear a belt to keep my jeans up.  She’s not getting fat.  She has these little skinny hips, like I used to have.”

“I’ll let you in on a secret kiddo.  She’ll probably grow a woman’s hips too, if she’s lucky.  She’s just a late bloomer.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

I explained (again) how babies come into the world.  This time I included the mother’s bone structure in the hip area and how that relates.  She mulled that over silently and I left her to it.

Several days later, Mandy and Naomi were again trying on each other’s clothes.  Naomi pulled up Mandy’s jeans and let go, which promptly dropped past her posterior.  I heard Mandy’s laughter coming from just out of sight.  Her hand appeared, finger pointing at her friend.  “You are going to be in labor forever!”

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