Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Muse Returns to Play Word Games

I've recently returned from a two month stay in Colorado. My sister is well on the road to recovery from lung cancer. She finished radiation, and will have the results in a month. In the meantime she continues to pursue a healthy Ph balanced diet and an easily managed alternative treatment. 

After spending much coveted time with her, I find I miss her terribly. We keep in close communication by phone and e-mail. Having been absorbed with Joan's illness and recovery; first from surgery, then from a very serious case of pneumonia, I found my well for writing and thinking creatively virtually dried up. As I get back into the swing of daily chores, catching up on postponed business, and enjoying family, creative writing still hasn't gained its place at the top of my "tudu" list — but I'm working on it. 

As part of one of the lessons in the writing workshops I give, I introduce a few tricks for awakening the muse or stimulating the imagination. One of them, adapted from an assignment in a creative writing class I took many years ago, is one Joan and I enjoyed doing together. The original assignment was to take five random words (given by the instructor) and working them into a paragraph, and then developing it into a story. 

What fun it is to string five random, unrelated words into a paragraph that makes sense. Or to write a piece of flash-fiction from a descriptive title as a prompt. Another way to stimulate the muse is to look at a picture or photo and write a story about it. During Joan's recovery, she and I took turns picking five random words and then, to make it even more challenging,  wrote a sentence that contained them all. It was so much fun because my sister is a very talented writer. Since I've been home, we've continued the game by giving each other 5 words, then e-mailing back our sentences. 

For example, here is the first word list I gave my sister via e-mail. Hiding, Hostage, Majestic, Suggest, Thousand. 

Here is the sentence she made: The game you suggest sounds like it might be a thousand times more fun than hiding in the majestic mountains where we were taken hostage

Taking time out from working on various workshops I'm presenting in the next two months, I occasionally invite my muse to come and play. For example. Here are five random words I pulled from glancing around the office:  Bunnies, Calendar, Water, Challenge, and Doctor  (try to put them all into an opening sentence.)

Now let's see what my muse can do with that!

The doctor checked his calendar, before accepting the challenge to rescue the water-logged bunnies. 

Now here are five random words (picked from glancing at various papers and brochures near my desk). See what you can do in one sentence... or a paragraph as seed for a story. 

Complete, Saddle, Price, Mission, Soar

Have fun with words. 

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Colorado writing workshop planned.

My sister, Joan, is out of the hospital after a bout of pneumonia. The front range of the Rockies in beautiful Colorado greeted her with an explosion of spring time greenery, flowers, bird song, and blue skies. A new foal awaits our visit at our sister, Shirley's home. Whisper, a buckskin filly was born about the time Joan's cancer announced itself, so Joan hasn't seen her yet.

I will stay with Joan a while longer, as she continues radiation treatment for her lung cancer. In the meantime I have updated my Writer's Workshop work book and set a date for a 3-day event to be held at my sister Sharon's house, (the old Benson homestead) in Loveland in two and a half weeks. For details, see It's a way of getting back to the work I had planned for myself throughout the summer and year. I planned to present several workshops in Montana, this summer, as well as expanding my publishing workshop and offering it as well. That will have to wait until Joan has recovered her health in the remission we expect at the end of radiation. In the meantime, I'll offer my workshop to Colorado residents.

I have no regrets about putting my work on hold for a while, for when your loved ones are in trouble, there is nothing else in the world as important as supporting them in every way you can. Joan has been my idol and inspiration my whole life. She taught me to love books and story-telling from the time I was a preschooler. Both of us authors, we have enjoyed some wonderful times editing and critiquing each other's writing and traveling together on a book and lecture tour. We hope to do so again. As her health improves, we will both work on books in progress as well as creating new ones, continuing to encourage each other in the process.

When I get back to Montana, I will finish preparing my next book, Kyleah's Tree, for publication and get it printed with the beautiful illustrations that Herb Leonhard has already completed. I'll let you know when it's available.

I've learned to enjoy reading and writing Haiku's from my friend and editor, Florence Ore.

Here is one I wrote for Joan while she lay in her hospital bed.

Spring blooms, skies bright blue

Breezes scatter cotton clouds

Windows dim the view.