Sunday, December 20, 2020

Writers' Pantry #51: Year's End

 Greetings, dear wordsmiths – in fact, Season’s Greetings!

Yes, it’s holiday time. This will be our last post for this year. Magaly will usher in our New Year with a new Weekly Scribblings on Wednesday January 6th – after a pause of two-and-a-half weeks when we can focus on festivities, or a good rest, or both. And if you can’t stop writing, don’t worry – save up the results to share with us next year.

Personally I'm planning a solitary Summer Solstice celebration, as at present I need rest more than circle dancing  – though I'll send the local Goddess gathering some light, of course. Nor will I be visiting family interstate for Christmas this year (except by video). Our State borders are not long open; and, at the time of writing this, some may need to close again. In any case I'm still wary of long journeys on public transport. Instead I intend some gloriously lazy self-indulgence right here. For one thing, I have a number of Mary Oliver books to re-read; one of my greatest pleasures. And it might be time to watch Breakfast at Tiffany's again – a movie I can see over and over (and have) while loving it just as much every time.  What will you be up to?

Hands up who’s glad to see the end of 2020! Hmmm, yes, that seems to be unanimous – at least in terms of large-scale things such as firestorms, pandemics, economic downturns, and volatile political events.  Whew!

On a smaller scale, some things haven’t been so bad – in this community, for instance. Our transition from the old format to Poets and Storytellers United, with an almost-new management team and of necessity a new blog, has turned out very well all things considered. Or so your remaining staff of three feel. We’ve settled down to a smooth and easy operation behind the scenes, with much accord, some laughter, perfect trust, and a lovely lack of drama.

Although it appears that Blogger is still doing some updating, I’m glad to say the glitches are not nearly so dramatic as they were a year ago. We can usually correct them before you even see them. I’m grateful for Magaly and Rommy’s technical expertise and their willingness to make it available to me.

Of course we'd be nothing without our lovely community of willing participants! You're  the point of it all. We thank you for playing along with the ideas we dream up, and keeping it fun and interesting.

For this final post of the year, feel free to link any piece of writing you care to, old or new, poetry or prose, just one each, and please keep prose to an upper limit of 369 words. The prompt will stay open for a week.

On the first Weekly Scribblings of the new year (Jan 6 2021), Magaly will invite us to revisit our Weekly Scribblings selection, and write new poetry or prose using one of our 2020 prompts. Please add the title (and link, if you can) of your chosen prompt to your post. Don’t feel like searching? No problem. Here are some choices: 1) Weekly Scribblings #40: Walking Away, 2) Weekly Scribblings #25: Well, That Was Unexpected, 3) Weekly Scribblings #9: Contagion.

And in conclusion, here's a little gift to writers (particularly storytellers, but I’m sure poets will enjoy it too) which I found while roving the web recently: 

9 Lines of Writing Advice with Cats 

– from Robert Lee Brewer at Writer's Digest. (Once there, keep scrolling down.)

Happy holidays! Stay safe and well!

(Parcel image from Unsplash, by Kira auf der Heide.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #50: Down In My Bones

Hello, Word Artists and Admirers! For this, the last prompt I will host in 2020 (good riddance), I’d like us all to think about how we might finish this sentence, “Down in my bones, I feel _____________”. If you’d rather tackle this from a different angle, you also have the option to write about bones in general. It also isn't necessary to use the exact phrasing. 

I am taking poetry or prose, fiction or non-fiction. Just make sure your word creations are new, one entry per person, and please keep your prose offerings to 369 words or fewer.  

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Writers’ Pantry #50: How Do You Take Your Notes?

Greetings, poets and storytellers. I hope you and yours are doing as well as 2020 has allowed any of us, and that 2021 brings better things to every aspect of your lives (and mine, too): at home, at work, in our writing…

Speaking of writing, how do you take notes on the go? On a notebook? On your phone? On both? Or, mayhap, on any surface that lends itself to the purpose (i.e., napkins, receipts, coffee or tea paper cups, skin…)? I’m asking because I recently witnessed a wonderfully heated argument between a writing group, where some members did their note-taking on notebooks and others did it on their phones.   

I was not surprised by the topic of the discussion. The print or digital question is a very common philosophical debate in writing circles. I was, however, taken aback by the viciousness of some of the reactions. There was a lot of not-quite-passive aggressive name calling. And when it was my turn to answer, and I confessed that I didn’t really care (I have taken quick notes on leaves, on the inside of my skirt, on my legs), both groups united to point out the horror of my erroneous ways. It was hysterical (don’t tell them I said that *cough*, who knows what they might do).

So, my beloved poets and storytellers, notebook or phone, or both and more?

Now, let us open the Writers’ Pantry. Link poetry or prose, new or old, short or longish, fictional or realistically dystopian… the choice is always yours. If you go for prose, please choose 369 words or fewer as your word count. Mr. Linky will stay open for a week. Let us write, read, think together. Also, since this is going to be my last 2020 hosting, let me wish you healthy, warm, peaceful, hopeful Holidays. We have one Weekly Scribblings and one more Writers’ Pantry left this year, so please don’t pack your ink and quill just yet. 😉 

- for our next Weekly Scribblings, Rommy would like us “to think about how we might finish this sentence, ‘Down in my bones, I feel ______________’. If you’d rather tackle this from a different angle, you also have the option to write about bones in general. It also isn’t necessary to use the exact phrasing.” But you can, if you want to.

a terrible picture of my phone, my preferred note-taking paper material, and a leaf that helped me brainstorm

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #49: A B C D E F G ...

Hello, dear wordsmiths.

We’ve been focusing on the words recently: our love of them, the fact that they are our basic tools, and particular new ones coming into currency. 

Now let’s look at letters.

Letters are the building blocks of words. In fact I first learned my letters, as a pre-schooler, from a set of wooden alphabet blocks my parents got me. I had an affinity for letters from the start (unlike numbers!) and delighted in the magic of being able to put them together to make sounds and words. But that’s not all one can do!

It can be an interesting exercise to try leaving out one letter from a piece of writing – very tricky if it’s E, the most frequently used letter in English. [That exercise came from Australian author Kate Grenville’s The Writing Book: A Workbook for Fiction Writers (Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 1990). I can’t recall where I found the following exercises.]

It can also be interesting to see what happens if you decide to use one particular letter repeatedly in a piece of writing. Of course, most letters are used many times in a piece of writing, but I mean purposefully working a particular one in as often as possible.  Here is what happened for me when I tried this with the letter M, many years ago, in a prose-poem. (In fact I shared it with Poets and Storytellers early this year.) It was most felicitous! 

Some of my favourites of my own poems came from an exercise to choose a vowel and write a 10-line poem, using a word with that vowel in every second line. I immediately got it wrong and used my chosen vowel in every line, but decided to leave it that way. That poem became the first of a series using this method, in the course of which I varied the number of lines in some poems, varied which lines got my vowel words, used both the long and short versions of each vowel (in different poems) and when I ran out of vowels turned to diphthongs and r-controlled vowels (e.g. boy, fur).

I didn’t go through the alphabet in any particular order; didn’t start with ‘a’ for instance – though one could. It was fairly random, as the whim took me, except I made sure I used every vowel in both long and short versions, and then every diphthong and r-controlled vowel sound, before I finished the series. It was fun. 


[Some of you read the series, but I didn't at the time disclose this technique, and no-one picked it up. To tell the truth, I don’t think these open-mouthed sounds have as much effect on the mood of a poem or story as using a particular consonant does.]

So, what could you do with one single letter used over and over in one piece of writing? (Don’t panic, I won’t ask you to write a whole series right this minute!)

I invite you to use one letter multiple times in a piece of writing, whether poetry or prose. The choice of letter is up to you, as is the subject matter. If you choose prose, please keep it to the upper limit of 369 words (excluding title). If you choose a vowel, think about whether you want to use all the sounds it can make or just one, e.g. 'home', 'drop' and 'come' in the same piece of writing, or only the long  O: 'home', 'bone' and 'mope'.  (Or only the short one: 'drop', 'stop', 'shop', etc.)

Have fun, leave us a comment here if you’d like to, and enjoy each other’s responses to the prompt, which are sure to be fascinating in their variety.  The prompt will stay open a week. 

Image  from Unsplash by Susan Holt Simpson.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Writers Pantry #49: Get Your Binge On!

Hello, Word Artists and Admirers! American Thanksgiving may have come and gone, but we’re still eating well at House Driks. Darling Eldest has discovered he’s not half bad at making banana bread. And Darling Youngest is continuing their kitchen experiments to test out new ways to take in their seasonal favorite, pumpkin spice.

It looks like it’s going to be another long, cold winter under quarantine here in the US, but at least we’ve got no shortage of comfort food to binge on. And I’m enjoying some comfort viewing too. I’ve taken a break from anything serious, and am enjoying lighter stuff, like Schitt’s Creek. Have you watched anything that got you laughing recently?

For those of you who can't get enough, here's the full autotuned version.

Looking forward to the week ahead, Rosemary will be asking us to choose one letter of the alphabet to use multiple times in our writing, like she did in this poem for the letter 'm'.

So now it's time to share your words, old or new, poetry or prose, fiction or non-fiction. One submission per person please, and if you decide to share prose, please keep it to 369 words or fewer.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #48: “Words of an Unprecedented Year”

Greetings, my dear poets and storytellers. I hope December (and January, too) brings us all sorts of wonders we need and many (wonderful things) we didn’t even know we wanted. We all need… something good to soothe our memories of 2020, don’t you think? So much happened this year, and most of it not great at all. Still, there has been a silver-lining or three: strangers spreading kindness, previously buried social issues coming into the light, and the Word of the Year going from 1 word to more than 40.

All right, so the last item in my listed trio might not truly make the silver-lining category for some of us, since more isn’t always better. But it certainly is different. The Word of the Year is most often just one word, or a phrase, or in the case of 2015 a laughing emoji 😂. Not in 2020. This year produced 47 words (in a 38-page report that can be downloaded HERE).

Today’s prompt was inspired by the “Words of an Unprecedented Year”. On our preview of this prompt, shared on our last Writers’ Pantry, I offered the words Allyship, Blursday, Covidiot, Doomscrolling, and Virtue-signalling, and then invited everyone to write new poetry or prose where the central theme revolves around one or more of the given words. But here is a longer list for you to choose from (all these words appear in this year’s report):  

Allyship, n. active support for the rights of a minority or marginalized group without being a member of it.

Anthropause, n. a global slowdown of travel and other human activities.

Blursday, n. a day of the week that is indistinguishable from any other.

Blended learning, n. a style of education in which students learn via electronic and online media as well as traditional face-to-face teaching.

Cancel culture, n. a culture in which there is a widespread practice of publicly rejecting or withdrawing support from people or things regarded as promoting socially unacceptable views.

Covidiot, n. a person who disobeys guidelines designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Doomscrolling, n. the action of compulsively scrolling through social media or news feeds which relate bad news.

Hygiene theatre, n. cleaning practices which give the illusion of sanitization without reducing the risk of infection.

Infodemic, n. a proliferation of diverse, often unsubstantiated information relating to a crisis, controversy, or event, which disseminates rapidly and uncontrollably through news, online, and social media, and is regarded as intensifying public speculation or anxiety.

Moonshot, n. an extremely ambitious and innovative project.

Virtue-signalling, n. the public expression of opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue.

Wokeness, n. the fact or quality of being alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice.

Workation, n. a working vacation; a holiday during which one also works.

Please, choose one or as many of these words as you wish, and write new poetry or prose with a central theme inspired by your choice(s). This prompt will stay open for a week. One link per participant, please. If you choose to write prose, the word count should be 369 words or fewer. Let us create… with words!

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Writers’ Pantry #48: Words, Words, Words

Don’t we love them! They are our most basic tools of trade. Perhaps, dear wordsmiths, the most wonderful thing about them is that there are so many different ways we can use them. 

The town of Murwillumbah where I live (in New South Wales, Australia) is home to Poets Out Loud, a series of performance opportunities initiated and managed by poet Sarah Temporal (whom I’ve featured  in our previous incarnation at Poets United). One of its initiatives is the Youth Slam, where Sarah and others coach school-age poets in how to present their work live, culminating in a competition.
Because of the pandemic, they’ve been held on video this year. The 2020 winner, 18-year-old Pancho Symes, is a young man who clearly loves to have fun with words elaborate and fantastical. He recites his humorous, almost nonsensical poem, The Confederacy of Ants, as if it were utterly serious – which is part of the charm. It’s full of multi-syllable words, intricate phrases and marvellous rhymes, and it tells a story too.

If you’re on facebook, do find the Poets Out Loud page (at this link) and then find the video introducing Pancho. Or if you’ve an hour to spare, enjoy the whole Youth Slam here at the Poets Out Loud website. I promise you, it’s a joy and a revelation. Or you can find individual entrants on YouTube.

I’m also impressed by the runner-up, 16-year-old Georgia Smith, who presented, with gut-wrenching fervour, a powerful piece on relationship violence. The vivid originality is here also, and the clever rhymes – but these words are direct, strong, and mostly one-syllable. Two terrific poems, so very different, each suiting the words to the theme. And, if you decide to enjoy the whole hour, there’s a variety of other poetic choices in just this one small geographical area and one brief space of time.

This is what I love about our P&SU community, too: always such a rich variety of styles, moods, forms, subject matter … so many different ways, not only of using language but of exploring it to find its utmost expressive possibilities.

I’m primarily a poet so I tend to focus on poetry, but the limitless ways of using words apply as much to prose – from the powerfully spare sentences of Hemingway to the richly complex style of Lawrence Durrell, from the careful details of plot, personality and social observation in Austen to the wide-open Joycean ‘stream of consciousness’.

If there are limits, we – the whole collective of poets and storytellers all over the world, throughout all of human time – haven’t found them yet. We keep on finding ways to 'make it new'.

Exciting, eh?

Feel free to excite us (or soothe, inspire, amaze, arouse, agitate, alarm, delight, surprise, chill or warm, etc.) with your writings – old or new, poetry or prose, in any style, on any topic. If it’s prose, please keep it within 369 words, excluding title. Then share it with the rest of us via Mr Linky, which will stay open for a week. Happy reading, folks! And don’t forget to check back for participants linking towards the end of the week.

Meanwhile, next Wednesday, Magaly will invite us to write new poetry or prose where the central theme revolves around one or more of the following five words: 1. Allyship (n. active support for the rights of a minority or marginalized group without being a member of it), 2. Blursday (n. a day of the week that is indistinguishable from any other), 3. Covidiot (n. a person who disobeys guidelines designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19), 4. Doomscrolling (n. the action of compulsively scrolling through social media or news feeds which relate bad news), 5. Virtue-signalling (n.  the public expression of opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue).

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #47: Meme Madness

Hello, Word Artists and Admirers! Most of the time I get a good laugh out of memes, but every now and then I’ll run across something that really gets me thinking, like this one:

My love of tricksters comes from my dad reading me a kids’ version of the Odyssey, as well as bonding over old Bugs Bunny cartoons. I first heard of Dr. Who from a friend in elementary school. An old boy friend is responsible for my love of classic rock. My husband made me better appreciate folk and indie music. One of my best friends got me to lean into more whimsically femme clothing styles. And on, and on, and on…

So for today, I’d like you to think about the things you learned to love because you loved someone else. You can approach this prompt from your actual experiences or write from the perspective of a fictional character. Both new poetry and prose are welcome, but be sure to keep prose offerings to 369 or fewer.


Sunday, November 22, 2020

Writers’ Pantry #47: Breathe in the Words

I am exhausted. I know that is a terrible way to start a post, but it doesn’t keep it from being true. It’s good exhausted though. You know, the kind of fatigue that comes after completing a necessary task (or 7,000) successfully? So, I shan’t complain too much. I will get a good night sleep (I’m scheduling this rather late), and then I will delight in your words after breakfast. Reading what others spill into being can be so very soothing.

So, my beloved poets and storytellers, share your poetry or prose. Let your contribution be new or old, short or long(ish), deliciously bright or intriguingly gloomy. One entry per participant, please. And if you go for prose, let the word count be 369 words or fewer. As always, Mr. Linky will remain open for a week. Bring on the yummy words.

- for our next Weekly Scribblings, Rommy would like us to write new poetry or prose while thinking about “things [we] learned to love because [we] loved someone else.”  

(and I suspect that for many of us, the same is true about what we read here,
so let us read and breathe and such…) 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #46: Let's Celebrate!


So I had a birthday. Did I what! Which, dear wordsmiths, many of you already know from having seen it on facebook and showering me with good wishes.

That made me pause to realise, gratefully, how many friendships poetry has brought me over the years. Not all my fb friends and well-wishers are poets, but the majority are.

It has sometimes been said that one can only have a limited number of ‘real friends’, and that therefore most of one’s facebook friends can’t possibly be ‘real’. But poetry, as I have found through conducting writing workshops for many years, is a recipe for instant intimacy. We get to see into each other’s souls. Furthermore, many of my poet friends, whether encountered first online or known in the so-called real world too, have been in my life for years already. Your loving wishes are very treasured!

I’m not much for big parties (are all poets introverts?) but my lovely hairdresser, who is also a pal, decided she MUST make me a cake, even though far too busy herself to share it with me. So I hastily phoned an old friend who lives nearby to come and help me with the eating.

Old friend turned up with presents and more foodie treats. I had decided to dress up a bit, and put on a bright garment which the same old friend gave me last birthday. I posed for her in my kitchen, just for fun, holding out my skirts. She said, ‘Stay like that! I must get a photo.’ So I did, grinning. She said, ‘Oh, you look so happy’ – and yes, this is the photo.  

Like many others, I’ve become – er – very well-rounded during the pandemic isolation. But heck, I’m 81 now; I don’t have to look like any fashionable ideal (not that I ever did). So I posted the photo on facebook and Instagram, just because it’s so happy and colourful. I was plump as a little kid, with a mop of white-blonde curls, and often a big grin. This photo reminds me of the happiest snaps of me when I was little. (‘Second childhood’ takes on a new meaning!)

[People loved seeing the photo, and told me I looked beautiful. Take that, Inner Critic!]

I always seem to end up having extended birthdays. This year I took left-over birthday cake next day to a women writers’ group I mentor – and they gave me another one! At a different writers’ group the day after that I was given more pressies. The good wishes kept coming in, on the social media and by phone. I've been feeling delightfully spoilt.

So let’s continue the party mood here! I invite you to write something celebratory. Or else to tell us about a particular celebration, real or imagined. New writing please, one per person, poetry or prose. Prose – a maximum of 369 words excluding title – may be fiction or non-.

Please post your piece on your blog and add your link below. We’ll love it if you also find time to leave us a comment, link to this P&SU post at your blog, and read and comment on some of the other participants’ offerings. (Yes, we know you know all this, but we need to keep repeating it for the newcomers who show up every so often.)

Have fun!