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Summer Writing Project – 170 prompts

Hello, are you still out there? You might be wondering the same thing about me. I’m still alive, although I’ve had less time for blogging recently. I’m still writing, just in other areas.

Businessman Buried in Paperwork --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

This is why I love computers (Source)

However, I thought I’d try something different for the summer to get back into blogging and try some different kinds of writing. I’m a writing teacher, teaching students for whom English is a second language. Part of what I get them to do is create blogs and write about various things every week. At the moment, I have two students, and here are their blogs:

https://japaneseninjablog.wordpress.com/

https://writingclass2016.wordpress.com/

Sometimes I give them a specific prompt to write about, but sometimes I let them write about whatever they want. One thing I use is a list of 170 Journal Writing prompts I got from Daily Teaching Tools. So I decided to try it myself. For my class, I picked out 170, so I’m going to go through the list and see how far I can get.

Of course, I have to be me, so I’m going to do them my way. Most I will write as fiction, but some I will write from my point of view. If it is non-fiction, I will make that very clear.

Coming soon:

Prompt #1 “Write about going back to school after summer vacation.”

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Coffee and Writing and Muggings

Last Monday, I wrote a story that only had verbs and adjectives, called Read Run Inspired. People speculated what was happening in the comments and some got pretty close to what I had intended. Here is the full story, with nouns and prepositions and everything.

Sources 1 2 3

Sources 1 2 3

It was my New Year’s resolution this year to never have a full-time job again. That might seem risky but it wasn’t total suicide. The November before, an agent had gotten back to me about a novella I’d written. “Great,” he’d said. “Make it into a full-length novel and I think we’ll be in business.”

So I quit my job. I sold most of my furniture and moved into the back room of my friend Crazy Bob’s coffee shop, eating the bagels and baked good he couldn’t sell during the day. And I sat and drank free coffee and typed as fast as my jittery fingers could.

At least that was the plan. Maybe it was malnutrition or the pressure of having to produce a masterpiece, but everything I wrote sounded stupid. Crazy Bob was sympathetic but I could tell he thought I was stupid, and that’s something, coming from Crazy Bob. I wasn’t stupid, although I was afraid I might get scurvy by the end of the year if people didn’t stop buying all the lemon muffins.

I usually worked in the back where I wouldn’t take up table space, but one day I just kept writing and rewriting the same paragraph and went out front to get some sunlight and coffee. I sat there in an overstuffed chair and sipped my coffee, feeling my brain activity spark back into life.

I was feeling very cozy when a woman came in and walked straight at me. She was dressed like a mugger, or at least what one might be dressed like in a movie. She had a hand stuck in her pocket and it looked like she had a gun.

“Can I help you?” I asked, desperately hoping that I couldn’t.

“Give me all your gold dust,” she said. I didn’t know if this was a euphemism for money or a new kind of drug, but I just froze. She repeated it and moved a step closer.

I’m not a good one for crises. My body flips a fight-or-flight coin and I have no say in the matter. I yelled and threw my cup of coffee in her face. She screamed and fell down and I ran towards the door, leaving my laptop on the table.

“Wait, come back!” she shouted after me. I wasn’t going to fall for that trick. I kept sprinting. She stumbled out of the shop, still wiping coffee off her face, and promptly ran into a light pole. I heard the scream and looked back, still running. It was so comical that I laughed. I turned back around just in time for my nose to collide with the “S” on a stop sign. I shouted something that started with “S” but it wasn’t stop.

I kept running, limping even though it was my nose that was bleeding and apparently broken. The woman kept coming, cursing and shouting for me to stop. I was considering slowing down when I heard a gunshot, which convinced me not to. I was getting tired when I turned down an alley that was blocked by a truck at the far end. I stopped, trapped.

She came into view, scalded, bleeding, and holding a gun. I screamed like a little girl because no one gives out medals to the corpses that died with dignity. She stopped, caught her breath, then gave a little laugh.

“Are you done yet?” she asked.

“Uh, I guess.”

“You run really fast for an unemployed writer,” she said. I waited, not sure how to take that. “I’m Crazy Bob’s cousin,” she said.

I was confused so I just nodded. “He was worried about you,” she continued, “so he asked me to pretend to stick you up and ask for something bizarre, then just leave. He thought it would inspire you in your writing to have a real experience to write about. The gun’s not even real.” She put her hand over the muzzle and pulled the trigger. Sure enough, there was no hole in her hand.

“Are you crazy?” I was just about to begin an epic rant when I remembered whose cousin she was and thought it might not be a rhetorical question after all. I stood for a moment, trying to adjust my mind to not being mugged and murdered and then I started to laugh.

“Sorry about throwing coffee at you,” I said.

“Sorry about your nose.” We both laughed, then waved and limped our separate ways.

I went back and bandaged up my nose. It didn’t seem to be broken, just very sore. I got another cup of coffee and sat down again. The caffeine flowed through my brain and suddenly I started to write.

Thank you, Crazy Bob.


Ask Alex a Relationship Question

Meet Alex.

alex clockwork

He likes music, Beethoven, to be particularly; milk plus; and a little of the old ultra-violence every now and then. He’s the main character of Anthony Burgess’ 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange. I got him to answer some questions on relationships in my ongoing series, “Ask Fictional Characters.” Leave a question in the comments and I’ll post his answers this coming Tuesday (translations from Nadsat will be provided).

Ask Fictional characters


Read Run Inspired

This is a story with only verbs and adjectives. I’m not going to explain anymore than that.

 

Sources 1 2 3

Sources 1 2 3

Lives

Poor

Works

Depressing

Writes

Frustrating

Thinks

Thinks

Thinks

Frustrating

Goes

Drinks

Reads

Cozy

Sips

Delicious

Enters

Ominous

Threatens

Pleads

Panicked

Demands

Throws

Scalding

Screams

Falls

Painful

Runs

Scared

Chases

Blinded

Collides

Excruciating

Looks

Laughs

Collides

Broken

Throbbing

Bleeds

Staggers

Chases

Curses

Slow

Shoots

Loud

Runs

Runs

Runs

Exhausted

Traps

Screams

Screams

Terrified

Stops

Laughs

Confused

Explains

Confused

Explains

Shoots

Loud

Fake

Furious

Relieved

Amused

Chuckles

Waves

                   Waves

    Leaves

Bizarre

Returns

Bandages

Tolerable

Exits

Buys

Drinks

Caffeinated

Writes

Inspired

 

Got it? Let me know in the comments and what you think happened.


There Needs to be an Oscars Ceremony for Books

Before I start, yes, I know there are already slews of awards for books. There is even the National Book Awards, which has all kinds of categories and a ceremony every year. Yes, that’s all true, but I don’t care.

trophy

For one thing, the National Book Awards (NBA) are even more obscure than the Oscars. I consider myself an avid reader but when I went through the list of ALL the NBA winners from 1950 to the present, I had barely heard of any of them and I had only read two (Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: 1961-Nonfiction, and Holes: 1998-Young People’s Literature). Both of these were good books, but I don’t think anyone would contend that book awards are as glitzy as TV or movie awards.

But they should be.

Some things are going to need to change. Here is my idea. I think together we can make them happen.

1. Design a Whole New Awards Show

This is all about branding. We need a new show with a distinctive name for the awards. Taking after the Golden Globes, you could call it the Golden Pen (even though Golden Keyboard might be more accurate these days). Personally, I prefer the Bookies. It has shock value and common sense wrapped up into one. But, of course, that exists already as well. Maybe the Inkies? Any better ideas?

They need to be televised too. I don’t care if they won’t have the market of the other awards shows, it’s just got to happen. And I don’t mean on PBS either. To get this done, we need to make a grand, garish spectacle of it. Grotesque even. I want to see Stephen King juggling chainsaws on stage and Neil Gaiman doing an interpretive dance to Ke$ha. Who wouldn’t want to see that, right?

2. Make Interesting Categories

The National Book Awards have all the categories you’d expect: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, various genres, etc. That’s all fine, but if the Oscars have Best Makeup and Best Film Editing, what can books have? Here are some suggestions:

  • Best Protagonist
  • Best Villain
  • Best Supporting Character
  • Best Illustrations
  • Best Cover Art
  • Best Passage of Description
  • Best Passage of Dialogue
  • Best Twist Ending

The problem with that last one is that they couldn’t reveal the twist ending without everyone who hadn’t read it yet being really annoyed, but maybe it’s their own fault if they’re watching/attending the awards and haven’t read all the nominations yet.

3. Bring Authors into Pop Culture

I’ll bet the number of authors you could pick out of a lineup are so small you could count them on your fingers. At least the living ones. That’s the problem with authors; they hide behind their words. Okay, so it’s not really a problem but it is if we want a huge, red-carpet awards ceremony where everyone discusses what Amy Tan was wearing the next day. We need tabloids that only follow author scandals and paparazzi who follow around China Mieville or John Grisham to find out what they’re up to. The writers have to play their part too, of course, and not just go to the grocery store and hang out at the bookstore for three hours. It would at least make me watch TMZ.

What do you think? Any nominations for me?

And the award goes to…


The Charons

This is a true story, although it’s not mine. It is a story of betrayal, malice, and harassment. It’s a story of family poison and co-worker acid.

It is the story of the experiences of blogger and author Sharmishtha Basu, who has just released this book entitled the Charons. I asked her a few questions about the book and how she works as a writer.

David: Is this a true story?

Sharmishtha: It is more of a journal than a story. Everything that is written has happened, but in a lot more horrible way. I just don’t have the mental strength to bare my soul to everyone.

D: When did you first decide to write this story?

S: In 2001, after returning from hell. I decided I would share my experience to warn others in crystal clear words. In the next ten years my tormentors made that decision a resolution.

D: What was the hardest part about writing this book?

S: The pain. Reliving the memories of those ghoulish tortures and betrayals, memories of monstrosity that dwells inside human beings, it was such a shock for me, someone who believed in humanity so very much.

D: Do you have a set place and time when you write?

S: No. I sometimes discipline my muse but she breaks free.

D: Do you have any insights or words of inspirations for other writers?

S: If you believe you want to share your works, don’t let anyone stop you. Createspace and kindle are absolutely free sites, all you will need is friends who will give you the well needed publicity or you can go for paid services. If a publisher refuses your work, that does not makes it bad. Listen to your heart and friends.

The Charons is on sale now at Amazon.com or Createspace.


5 Mind-blowing Facts about English that Historians Don’t Want You to Know

Please share this post. People deserve to know.

It’s easy to take our language for granted and not think about where it came from or what it looked like only a short time ago. However, the English language has had a twisted and bizarre past, and historians have tried to cover up some of the most startling facts. Here are five facts about the English language that they don’t want you to know, which will literally blow your mind.

5. Shakespeare created the future tense.

This is hard to imagine but before William Shakespeare, there was no future tense. Time in that period of history was divided in two: past and present. This was the case not only for English but every other language up until that point.

The main reason for this was that in ages past, life was very hard. Hopes for the future were slim or non-existent and people did not dwell on it. A popular proverb in Old Germanic translates as, “Let it be so: we shall all die today anyway.” Today, in this case, meant either the present or the future.

We still have a vestige of this in today’s grammar, in the expression “to be going to” as in “I am going to eat a bucket of gerbil heads.” Even though we know this means the future, it is still technically the present.

Shakespeare, however, was the first person in history to have both hope and a way to express it: i.e. through his writings. He created the future tense and then, when trying to think of a word to use for it, decided to use his own name. At first, people were confused at this new word will, but Shakespeare cleverly always used it with a future time phrase and soon people accepted the new word and the idea of the future. Eventually, many other languages noticed this and formed their own future tenses.

4. Spaces Between Words Were Created During WWI.

This one may surprise you, but take a look at any book written before 1914 and chances are, there will be no spaces between the words (later editions of these books have since put in the spaces for the benefit of the modern reader). The reason for this was that paper was extremely expensive and so publishers would push all the words together to save space. Authors were allowed to have one blank line between chapters, although they were charged 1 cent per line by the publisher (this is where the term “publisher’s penny” comes from, when referring to line breaks.)

Actually, spaces between words used to be a hot issue, with many authors in the 19th century fighting for their use. Other authors, however, were against them. Jane Austen once famously said, “I want my words huddled together so as not to catch cold, when read upon a cold winter’s night.” To give you an idea of what this looked like, here are the first few sentences of Pride and Prejudice, as they would have looked when first published:

jane austen no spaces

Jules Verne, another supporter of no spaces, declared that reading novels with no spaces “caused the reader to strive mightily and through great toil, to attain the true meaning of the text.”

Kind of like this, but with words (copyright Universal Pictures)

Kind of like this, but with words (copyright Universal Pictures)

World War One, however, changed all that. Suddenly, troops at the front were having to read dispatches quickly and accurately. They began to put spaces between words to make them easier to read in the trenches. After the war, authors who had been soldiers adopted this practice and within a few years, it had become standard, to the point that now it seems inconceivable to have text with no spaces in it.

3. The Semicolon was Created in a Bar Bet

semicolon cat

[*]

In 1871, two writers, Lewis Carroll and Benjamin Disraeli, were drinking together in a tavern in Oxford. Carroll argued that there were no more innovations to be made in literature and that the art form was more or less dead. Disraeli declared that he could create an entirely new punctuation mark and have it accepted within 5 years. They wagered a Nebuchadnezzar of fine Bordeaux wine on the attempt. Disraeli drew a period and a comma on a napkin and although he meant to draw them side by side, his hand was shaking and he accidentally drew the period above the comma. He liked the effect and this is how it has remained.

Its usage was somewhat in debate at first. Disraeli first declared that it was designated for “full stops that have not yet a full-committal” or as Punctuation Daily editor Mark Groobinsky put it, “when you think you want to stop, but you’re not sure.” It would take fifty years or more before the modern usage of the semicolon came into standard practice.

Over the next few years, Disraeli included this new mark in all his writings and even gave talks on it. Initially, he called it the ‘perio-comma’ but it was later renamed ‘semicolon’ since it “partially resembles that particular body part.

The semicolon was slow in catching on and Disraeli eventually lost his bet. However, by the turn of the twentieth century, the semicolon was an accepted punctuation mark.

2. The US Almost Adopted its Own Alphabet

Although the US has never had an official language, back in 1795, it almost had its own alphabet. Right after the Revolutionary War, there was a great deal of anti-British sentiment in the United States. It was generally agreed that changing the language would be too hard, but some senators proposed changing the alphabet to make it purely American.

It was known as the Stockton-Bloodworth Plan, named after the two senators who proposed it. The idea was to replace the standard letters with American symbols that started with those letters. Thus, “T” was replaced by a sketch of a turkey and “G” was replaced by an upright gun. Today, there are only a few examples of this type of writing in existence, all of which are stored in the Library of Congress archives.

The current American alphabet [*]

The current American alphabet [*]

Critics of the plan pointed out that many of the symbols were not uniquely American (the letter “H” was a horse); some were very hard to draw (the letter “F” was an American flag, complete with all fifteen stars and fifteen stripes); and others simply did not make sense (the letter “X” was represented by a picture of a man kicking a puppy.) Ultimately, the proposal was defeated in Congress with a vote of 18-14.

1. For a Period of 300 Years, All English Words Were Palindromes

Henry II was crowned king of England in 1133 AD. He always had trouble reading and in 1135, his court doctor declared that he “had a right-moving globe of Apollo”, as opposed to most people, whose globe of Apollo apparently moved left. This meant, according to the doctor, that the king could best read words from right to left. To facilitate both types of reading, the king declared that all words be made into palindromes, so that they could be read from either direction. The court scholars worked for two years to perfect this system (some of these words, such as “level” and “refer” still persist in English today).

The king trumpeted the achievement as a great step forward for both right- and left-moving globes of Apollo, despite the fact that he was the only person to have ever been found in the former category (historians now believe this was actually a form of dyslexia.)

Here is a sample of this type of text from the Old English version of Orosius’ The Amazons, converted to palindromes:

Old English Palindromes

Spaces added later for modern readability

This type of writing became established and persisted long after Henry II’s reign. It was finally abolished in 1443 by Henry VI when a major ink shortage caused the king to look for ways of shortening the language. Still, whenever you talk to an “Anna” or do anything “civic”, think of Henry II and his right-moving globe of Apollo.

 

 

The preceding article has been rated “S” for satire.


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