Scars – WFMAD Day 8

(Image from PostSecret)


I have two external scars of note. The one on my left arm is about 3.5 inches long, the one on my right shoulder is a little longer.  I got them both ten years ago this week, when a meticulous surgeon did a great job cutting out the scary melanomas that grew there.

There is much, much more to the story, of course, but I’m going to keep those cards close to my chest until the time comes to spread them out in a novel.

Realizing that I have made the ten-year mark (not completely clean, alas; I had a pre-melanoma removed last year… but clean enough to celebrate!) made me think about the power of setting to evoke strong characterization and conflict potential.



 Today’s quote

“I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.”

William Carlos Williams


Today’s prompt: Write a scene in a doctor’s office. It can be one from your own life. One that you imagine a relative went through. It could be a famous person, stripped down and wrapped in a paper gown, about to get The News. Try to alternate the patient’s thoughts with details from the room. Introduce other characters; nurses, other patents, medical students, the doctor, the patient’s beloved companion, the person the character sees in the mirror. You don’t necessarily have to tell the reader exactly what is wrong with the character. Draw out the tension. Let the reader add his own tension that inevitably comes into play in this setting.


 Scribble… scribble… scribble…

Invite Your Monsters – WFMAD Day 7


For the first time in years, I was not online at all this past weekend. It was weird. And wonderful. It actually freed up a part of my brain that I didn’t realize was always thinking about which site I wanted to post and whose feed I wanted to check. When I mentioned this last night a friend told me I should do that at leasst once a week for a 24-hour period. Or more. But he added that I needed to go one step further. I needed to turn off my phone as well.

Just the thought of turning off my phone made me break out in a cold sweat. What if something happened to my kids or my father? What if they needed me and I didn’t know it because my phone was turned off?

And I realized that that’s one of my biggest fears. I have a lot of them; tornados, suffocation, rat tails (not the body of the rat, just the tail), lightning, and a certain smell that I have only smelled a half dozen times in my life that I am convinced is the smell of pure Evil. But being out of touch with my kids and dad is at the top of the fear pile.

And so, in that frame of mind…


Today’s Quote

“As a child, I read because books–violent and not, blasphemous and not, terrifying and not–were the most loving and trustworthy things in my life. I read widely, and loved plenty of the classics so, yes, I recognized the domestic terrors faced by Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters. But I became the kid chased by werewolves, vampires, and evil clowns in Stephen King’s books. I read books about monsters and monstrous things, often written with monstrous language, because they taught me how to battle the real monsters in my life.

And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.”

Sherman Alexie


Today’s Prompt: What are you most afraid of? What chills your blood, makes you lose your lunch? Today, embody that fear. Give it bones and blood, dress it up in skin. Make that fear a human being and then put it in a scene with a vulnerable person who does not understand what they are up against. Or write a scene in which you or a character are cornered with that thing that scares you to death… and there is no escape.


  Scribble… scribble… scribble…

Exercise the Writing Muscles – WFMAD Day 6


I spent the weekend with my daughter Meredith in Montreal, Canada. The stated goal of the trip was to watch the Philadelphia Union soccer team play the Montreal Impact, but it wound up being (as all good trips do) much more complex and fun.

WRITING NOTE – Travel is very, very good for your Muse. The change of scenery and stimulation feeds your soul and fills your well. Writers are very sensitive to language and I believe that being exposed to a foreign language stimulates your brain, too.

Not only did we watch the game (Philly lost, despite our loud and raucous cheering), but we got to explore the site of the 1974 Olympics, visited a tiny part of the that city’s great Botanical Garden, rode the subway, mangled a lot of French, ate poutine, and a grilled cheese and duck sandwich, drank a little wine, and enjoyed a divine lunch in an outdoors garden courtyard.

The best part was sharing it with my daughter and laughing constantly. We came home with the need to schedule another get-away weekend immediately!

And now it is back to writing!


Today’s Quote

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.” 
― Jane Yolen


Today’s Prompt: For fifteen minutes – without stopping – you will write about all of the ideas and characters and feelings and memories and dreams and people that you want to write books about for the next fifty years.

NOTE – I find this easier when I am playing music very loudly in my headphones. The noise helps drown out the cackling laughter of my Inner Bitch who makes fun of me when I dream big.


  Scribble… scribble… scribble…

Don’t Think – WFMAD Day 5

 You know the problem with writers? We think too damn much.

We over-analyze and worry about character arcs and rising and falling plot action and what is hot in the market today and will my dog still love me if I don’t get an agent and on… and on… and on…

Most of that worry is an avoidance technique. Writing is scary and we’re never sure if we’re doing it right and it is much easier to fret than to write.


The voices will speak to you if you quiet your mind enough to hear them.


Today’s Quote

“Writing begins with getting words down on screen or paper. See movie in your head-scene or memory. Type up details like court reporter.”

Anne LaMott


Today’s Prompt: Go to the Washington Post or the newspaper of your choice and choose a story from the front page that, for whatever reason, really strikes a chord in your heart. Read the story through twice, then put it away. Don’t look at it again.

Write a scene connected to that article. Put your character in the middle of the action. The character can be someone who was actually mentioned in the article, or – more interesting! – make the character someone who has a strong emotional connection to the people in the article. Or insert yourself into the middle of the action and write a scene.


  Scribble… scribble… scribble…

Childhood Magic – WFMAD Day 4



It’s Saturday, the day when the best of intentions disintegrate under a heap of weekend plans. Stop right now and figure when you will write today and tomorrow. Set an alarm on your phone, or tell a friend who will annoy you ceaselessly until you fulfill this promise to yourself.

(If your best intentions to write every day this month went up in flames earlier in the week, fear not. Write TODAY. And then tack a few days on at the end of August to make up for what you missed. One year I think we still had people writing on August 46th.)

One of the reasons we let the “real world” interfere with the plans for our writing or art is that we have disconnected from the part of us that remembers what it was like to be a child. I’ve found that by staying in touch with my kid-self makes it easier to make time for writing.

Today’s Quote

“If you want to find a magical situation, magical things, you have to go deep inside yourself. So that is what I do. People say it’s magic realism — but in the depths of my soul, it’s just realism. Not magical. While I’m writing, it’s very natural, very logical, very realistic and reasonable.”

Haruki Murakami

Today’s Prompt: Quickly write a paragraph about what your days were like in second grade (around age 7).  Then choose a fairy tale from this list. Pull one of the elements from the fairy tale and write about who you would have reacted if it showed up in your life when you were in second grade. For example, what if your new babysitter had been Cinderella? Or the giant from Jack in the Beanstalk?

NOTE: You can only use the minutes you are actually writing towards your goal of fifteen minutes. Time spent reading or thinking doesn’t count.

ANOTHER NOTE: Loosen up! Have fun!

 YET ANOTHER NOTE: I’m taking a road trip to Montreal this weekend. I’ve already written and scheduled Sunday’s blog post. If it doesn’t post automatically during the morning, I should be home in the early evening (East Coast time) and will post it then.


 Scribble… scribble… scribble…