Prepare for Words Matter Week

Words Matter Week – March 6 – 12th.

Try the Blog Challenge Questions. Answer each in your blog on the day they begin.

  • Monday, March 7 – Is there a word that has changed, or could change your life? What is it, and what difference would it make?
  • Tuesday, March 8 – Words can change history. What speech or document do you believe to be most important. Why?
  • Wednesday, March 9 – What is your favorite quote about words. Why?
  • Thursday, March 10 – Words can be mangled, misused, or misunderstood. What is your funniest example of mangling, misuse, or misunderstanding?
  • Friday, March 11 – Words, like moths, are captured by writers who pin them to the page in various forms. What writer’s work most deftly captivates you? Why?

What If? …

Create an alternate history for your day, today. Start with getting out of bed and then along the way, change something so that your day goes in another direction. The same things happen around you, unless they are changed by you or by things you did not do in your alternate history.

As a writing exercise turn your own personal history into a “what if?”…

Google Groups: Soc.history.what-if
Today in Alternate History
Wikia: Alternate History
Other Timelines
Uchronia: The Alternate History List
Uchronia:Sidewise Awards for Alternate History
Changing the Times
Point of Divergence
Wikipedia: Alternate History
Wikipedia: Counterfactual History
Hypothetical History

Ideas for Writing Christmas Cards

We send out Christmas cards each year, sometimes we get them done with enough time for them to be mailed and even arrive by the big day (sometimes I don’t). One thing I wish I had more time to do was actually write a note of some kind along with the card. So, I went looking for some ideas I could use. I wanted something more interesting than the typical newsletter style. Though that can be fun too if you design it like your own zine. A zine is a non-professional (amateur/ indie) magazine, kind of a retro thing.

Anyway, here are the ideas that appeal to me (along with some of my own ideas). I have written this for people with family but these could all work just as well if you are single and have only yourself to talk about (as I am myself).

  • Change perspective. Write as if you were someone else. You can go so far as to make it a True Confessions type of thing, telling all the comings and goings as reported by your babysitter or the neighbour across the street with the really big binoculars.
  • Pick different characteristics about yourself or each family member and write a list of the geekiest thing I did this year, or the most romantic thing that happened this year, or the most carefully planned and organized thing I did this year, or the most stubborn, the most optimistic, the most creative…
  • Write it as if you are a year in the future, or ten years in the future, looking back on this year. I remember that year…
  • Make it all up. Go all the way. Put in a note saying it is all fictional at the end or the beginning, if you desire. (Though you may want to not send anything too elaborate to relatives who tend to be gullible or need things explained, slowly).
  • Use the alphabet or the letters of a word (Christmas for instance) and write a point about something starting with each letter.
  • Write the family news as if it were an ad for something: a new car, laundry soap or a movie coming to a theatre near you! Make it exciting, give it a commercial spin, sell it!
  • Write it all as a poem, rhyme it. Or use some style of verse, like haiku. (Haiku may take some thought and planning but it is short to write out if you are working with pen and paper rather than using a printer).
  • Give them a test, try a quiz about your family or Christmas itself. See what they know about the old, traditional holiday. Stick in some family news here and there, where it has some relevance to your quiz question.
  • Get inspired by Talk Like a Pirate day and write the Christmas card in Pirate speak, in the style of a Borg or some other character from history or fiction.
  • Make a top ten list. Go through the family news from the past year and pick out ten things you really want people to know. Turn them into a list. Or be a bit silly and go with something like the top ten things the members of your family don’t want for Christmas, etc.
  • Create a timeline of things that have happened in Christmases past in your family and your extended family. Christmas is a nice time to remember things everyone felt happy about in the past.
  • Send some heart warming quotes about family, holidays and the good times and things in life. You can even get each family member to think of a quote (their own words).
  • Get each family member to pick something that happened in the year past and write about it themselves. Then add all the notes together to go out with the cards.
  • Use this as a mass thank you note to family members who have helped you and your family. Give credit for small and big favours in a way that everyone can read about how you appreciate the help given. Let family know if you still need help or not. Or, ask if others need help, pass along the goodwill.
  • Personalize each card with a short note. Kind of getting back to the newsletter idea but it does give you a sincere connection to each person you are writing to. Of course, you may only see some of then once a year and not really have much of a personal nature to write about.
  • If you have children get them to draw Christmas artwork which can be mailed out with the cards. This is a nice way to get the kids busy and yourself off the hook for writing anything more than “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” in each card.
  • Send a postcard, or print a family photo and send that in the card instead of written contents. You can also do something with scrapbooking, graphic arts or drawing – as long as it will easily fit inside the envelope. Try some mail art on the envelope too.

If nothing on my list really works for you, at least it may give you inspiration for ideas of your own. Let me know what you think of in comments here. You may have just the right idea for someone else.

Give Your Opening Some Space

From a post – Top Five Errors New Writers Make – by Carol Gaskin. I read this at Editorial Alchemy.

I hadn’t thought about this but I probably do it all the time. I make the mistake of not starting with something really planned so I plan as I write it. Maybe this is why I don’t tend to get anything more than short stories. I am always writing in the short story form, trying to pack everything into the opening rather than giving it some space.

#3 In Fiction—Opening in the Wrong Place

New writers often get stuck trying to cram everything they know about their protagonist into the first chapter and attempting to use every word in their vocabulary as well. I know, because I did this myself in my first novel! In most short or full-length fiction, you’ll want to open your story on the edge of the action, and then keep it coming. First, engage your reader in the trajectory of the story. Then allow your characters to gradually reveal their personalities and secrets.

Does your first chapter include a lengthy flashback? Have you spent the first twenty or thirty pages explaining the context for your protagonist’s predicament? If so, chances are you have begun in the wrong place. Don’t let your protagonist wallow in the past until the ongoing present is firmly established—if ever. Ideally, your book should move forward in time. You’ll also want to cut any long passages of background information from the front and integrate the material into later chapters. Today’s readers do not want to wade through pages of description or history before discovering what the book is about. Your characters’ plight must capture your readers independently of the background we will come to learn.

Just a Bit of Pen Envy

I miss writing with a pen. I miss penmanship too. My penmanship has suffered from lack of use. However, my keyboarding skills are pretty fast and accurate – as long as I am typing my own words right out of my head.

I still like to look at pens. I seldom fail to go down the office supplies aisle in stores. There are so many nice pens, some with thick nibs, some thin. Some with the perfect black ink. Now there are gel pens with multi colour inks, unlimited ranges of colours. Then there are the old style fountain pens, like a calligraphy pen used to write invitations in a fancy script.

I still remember my favourite pen from school days. I still have an assortment of pens on my desk, close at hand. I seldom use them and that is kind of sad. Yes, I’m a bit of a history geek. Sort of a traditionalist in the leave no man behind way. But, that doesn’t mean I am going to go back to writing long hand. It just means I feel the loss of the pen in my hand, the writing flowing from my pen in cursive style.

One thing I do not miss is the old typewriter. Word processing on the computer is far too good for me to want to return to the old manual typewriter.

Do you ever miss writing with pen and ink? Do you also have a growing collection of pens, seldom used?

Happy Thanksgiving in Canada

I’m slacking off a bit today. Actually, I’m slacking off a bit on Sunday which will be yesterday when this posts to the blog. I have done the baking, the cooking and the clean up. Just need to pack it all into the car to take with us to my brother’s house this year. We made pumpkin pies, dinner rolls from scratch, apple pies (which we made earlier as frozen and took up there already), and I made a Turtle cheesecake for my sister’s birthday which is just two days away from Thanksgiving (so we are thankful for her as well).  Anyway, by Monday it will all be over, eaten and cleaned up again. Just the left overs remain and the pot of soup stock.

Thanksgiving hasn’t been one of my favourite holidays for awhile. Too much work. Too much family. Too much old history. Too much blame game. Too much food. Too much clean up. I do like not having it at our house any more. I hope this is a tradition that lasts. Even though we made what feels like half the dinner (but actually isn’t) we are at least not hosting it this year. There will be a ton of stuff to load into the car when it is done though. Not the pies. I don’t really like pumpkin pies and the apple pies… we still have more than half a bushel of apples here to make more. There will be serving dishes and serving things which we sent on ahead. The tablecloth we offered for them to keep. So, maybe not that much coming back after all.

It is nice not having it here. A bit less expected of you when you are a guest versus a host. Write about what you think about Thanksgiving, really.When you aren’t writing to impress anyone in particular and you know your family and friends won’t read it and think any less or more of you, what does Thanks giving mean to you? I think it strongly depends on how much you take part in the preparations and how many days ahead you start. Do you ever feel a bit annoyed/ jealous of those who just come for the dinner and then go on about how much they ate and how full they are while they pack themselves onto a chair in front of the TV?