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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Dream Makers Writing Prompt (3)

Daybreak in Alabama by Langston Hughes

“When I get to be a composer
I’m going to write me some music about
Daybreak in Alabama
And I’m going to put the purtiest songs in it
Rising out of the ground like a swamp mist
And falling out of heaven like soft dew.
I’m going to put some small trees in it
And the scent of pine needles
And the smell of red clay after rain
And long red necks
And poppy colored faces
And big brown arms
And the field daisy eyes
Of black and white black white black people
And I’m going to put white hands
And black hands and brown and yellow hands
And red clay earth hands in it
Touching everybody with kind fingers
And touching each other as natural as dew
In that dawn of music when I
Get to be a composer
And write about daybreak
In Alabama.”

1.     Write a brief prose piece about what your dream looked like in the past, or looks like now.

2.     What strikes you the most about the author’s use of senses? What do you see, hear, touch, smell, taste in this poem?

3.     Re-write your prose piece adding sensory detail.


After a few days re-read the three poems and your response to each. What comparison of your dreams have you experienced that relates to the models Langston Hughes gives in these poems?

Write your own poem.

1. Do you see a re-connection to the power of dreams in one’s life?

2. Which sense of voice at what age, or emotions, do you most identify with?

3. What is your new dream?

4. If a writer what idea starter do you see as a new project: picture book, short story, character, incident scene, or new research.

5. In whatever art or life form you have for a new dream to follow this year—what are your first steps?

6. Choose one step to do the first week of this new year.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Dream Makers Writing Prompt (2)

As I Grew Older by Langston Hughes 

“It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun--
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Between me and my dream.

Rose until it touched the sky--
The wall.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!”

1. How does the wall metaphor impact this poem? What other feelings or emotions does it imply?

2. Identify and list places where your dreams were stopped or side-tracked, delayed, or changed. Next to each write down one to three metaphors that express the situation.

3. Choose one metaphor and expand it by saying other ways you could describe it.

4. Re-write that chosen incident either as a poem or prose piece incorporating your metaphor, and if appropriate, the voice age at which the incident was experienced.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Dream Makers Writing Prompt (1)

Dream Makers Writing Prompt

Readings: Poems by Langston Hughes
            The Dream Keeper
            As I Grew Older
            Daybreak in Alabama

            Read Assigned Poem           
            Exercise: Write down any words that jump out to you and then consider their Definition or Explanation or Questions they spark.
            Freewrite: Without considering sentence structure or punctuation, write down everything that comes to mind. Maybe set a timer for five or ten minutes.
            Writing Prompts: Set your notes away for a few hours or a day and let the ideas float for a while. Then take a short block of time to respond to the poem or the questions for each one.
            Dream: What connection did you make to this word personally in this poem?           

The Dreamkeeper by Langston Hughes 

“Bring me all of your dreams.
You dreamers.
Bring me all of your heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.”

1. What were some of your dreams as a child, a teen-ager, a young adult, and now?

2. Which word in this poem do you most relate to?

3. Which words do you wish you could relate to?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Journal With Impact: Overview

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“Surely a kind of fascination or a deep desire to learn more about a subject must be there from the start.” Jane Yolen

Whether you have been exploring a journal memoir, or nature, or travel, or family, or vocation, or ongoing reflection, your material has been growing.  If you decide you’d like to begin sharing your thoughts with others one-to-one, or as a blog, or in articles, or books the next steps can become basic outlines and categories to see where your content is overflowing or where it is slim and needs more research or personal involvement.

Think in terms of a preliminary outline to gauge your primary purpose and direction.

What is your story/subject about? Where did it start? Is it an idea to explore, a character memoir, a significant place, or a feeling that sent you on a search?

What is your delivery voice? The delivery voice, like any story, includes the writer’s voice, which must be the consistent voice of your work and worldview. It includes the:
narrator’s personae/personality
attitude  towards the subject
world at large.

What language style will engage a conversation between you and your reader? What words will sing from your story to your readers’ hearts?

And with whom do you most want to share? When you know that the above questions will almost answer themselves.

Hope you continue to enjoy journaling.

Thank you for reading and participating in this year’s blog. In January the new writing blog will be based on my workshop Words That Sing. Below is an excerpt exercise on a language search for when you just need the right one for a particular reason or moment.

And for those of you who would like some small snippets to journal on for a few more weeks, I am posting three blogs based on poems by Langston Hughes as you consider your own dreams for the coming year.

Holiday Blessings and Happy New Year.

Action Steps:

Here’s a brief excerpt from an opening paragraph from an exercise called Quilting in the Ditch, given by James McKean in the book The Practice of Poetry.

“Choose a particular item or activity and make that the object of the language search. Find out as much as possible about the language associated with that object, especially active and concrete verbs, the history of the names used for that object, and terminology that seems especially colorful. Then save from your search a list of nouns, a list of verbs and a list of adjectives.”

I’m focusing on this section only as a variation on the list poem as well as a general search for key metaphoric and rich words. The first run may or may not contain usable words, but by doing so you’ll spark imagination. And/or you may discover just what you needed for a particular sentence or detail.

Here’s an example of one word I searched just on the surface. I didn’t take his next step of research on this. Dividing the nouns, verbs and adjectives gave me sufficient material for my needs at that time.


Nouns                                                Verbs                                                Adjectives
arc                                                enclose                                    curved
spatial position                        draw                                                navigational
instrument                                    determine                                    indicator
directional device                        pivot                                                magnetic
circular cord                                                                                    ‘moveable rigid legs
hinged at the end’

I ended up with fifteen words to choose from. The next word I choose to search was navigate for which I ended up with thirty-six words.

To my surprise I was actually able to incorporate the moveable rigid legs.

Have some creative exploration.

Share: What surprised you?

Read deep, marcy

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Book Review: Writing BLURBS THAT SIZZLE and Sell! by Karen S. Wiesner

WOW! Once again Wiesner has expertly taken a critical aspect of a writer’s necessary abilities and made it understandable and, even more important, doable.

Most of the authors I know cringe at the word blurb and even the ones who are capable without extreme stress see them as a necessary evil. This book gives a well- needed tutorial for each potential blurb format.

The various versions, and the many ways, blurbs are misunderstood or misused has been both startling and encouraging. Knowing what is a wrong approach and why clearly explains why so many authors find them almost terrifying. But after listening to Karen S. Wiesner’s clarity they now become an interesting and strong resource to complement each individual book.

Right now there is so much misuse or misinformation regarding blurbs that the need to have them each stand out is undermined. Blurbs That Sizzle takes each detail, explains the purpose, points out the potential pitfalls, differentiates between genres and readers, gives tips, offers clear techniques, and shares multiple examples and exercises to evaluate and “to hone effective good blurb writing skills.”

One quality I extremely appreciate in all of her writing books are the hands on step-by-step examples and worksheets for every tool she discusses. Here she doesn’t only explain the differences between High-Concept Blurbs, Back Cover Blurbs, and Series Blurbs but shows a wide range of examples—both bad and good—then walks us through the process for our own stories.

A blurb is meant to be for the reader, she says, not the many other versions. It is to invite your reader to enter into a compelling story. “The purpose of the blurb is a-three fold C for a reader: capture, (to provide) content, (to give a reason to) care.

In Writing BLURBS THAT SIZZLE and Sell! we can learn to sizzle too.

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Journal With Impact: Memoir Theme Poetry

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

“A ‘we’ approach makes the reader feel that the writer is with him, not talking at him.” Jane Fitz-Randolph

            “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and Thou wilt not hear?
            I cry to Thee, ‘Violence!’ Yet Thou dost not save.
            Why doest Thou make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness?
            Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises.
            Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld,
            For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted.”

Protest also encompasses a deeply spiritual perspective as well, as we hear from Habakkuk when the Chaldeans assaulted Judah. (Chapter 1:2-4 NAS version)

Self-development style essays are undergirded by empathy, and a sense of  “we” are in this together. It’s not coming from a telling attitude but rather as someone who has walked this path and is a listening ear. These article types are both compassionate and inspirational. Their applications apply to memoir poetry as well, with the focus being more heart and soul.

The range can be very wide from dealing with emotional situations, like anger management, confrontations, like being bullied, health issues and family tensions, as well as career choices and developing skills.

Sometimes turning the topics, and themes into poetry can amplify your connections in fresh and innovative ways. Like the vignettes they can become an introduction, or opening, or an example of your memoir’s theme and a consistent thread.

Even if you don’t decide to use the poems in your published version, writing them can deepen insights whether or not you have ever written a poem. Even basic lines can deepen perspective.

Action Steps

1. Make a list of the struggles you have experienced either personally or with a close family member.

2. Choose one that made a significant change in your life, either by an attitude perspective or by a specific course of action.

3. Write it up as if you are sharing one-to one with a close personal friend.

4. Using the guideline below write a few of your thoughts in poetry.

Share: What words of hope do you want to share in your memoir?

Read deep, marcy

List Poems are one way to develop images and discover word connections.

1. Write a list poem. This works well for non-poets to get past the inner critic and just write for fun. It also helps get us in touch with abstract concepts.

Choose one of the following words: hope, love, faith, trust, beauty and do a cluster brainstorm for it.

2. Now write up your thoughts as a list poem adding whatever new ideas rise to the surface as well. Keep writing the repetition in each line:

hope is…
or, I believe beauty…
or, set up as a question; is love…?
Or, can love be found in a …..?

3. Leave it alone for a day or two then come back. Now go down your list of images. Can you change each line into a metaphor?

For example: hope is ...a waterfall.     Hope is a waterfall like rushing wind.
                                         Hope is an hourglass waterfall.

Although you may not end up using the words themselves, the practice will help you connect to the emotion you want your situation to generate heart to heart.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Journal With Impact: Memoir Theme Non-Fiction

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

Excerpt from Puerto Rico, Feb 23, 1968, by Denise Levertov
“…You see how it is—I am angry that they feel no outrage. Their feelings flow in the wrong directions and at that wrong intensity. And all I can bring out of my anger is a few flippant rhymes. What I want to tell you—no, not you, you understand it; what I want them to grasp is that though I understand that Mitch may have to go to jail and that it will be a hard time for him and for me, yet, because it’s for doing what we know we must do, that hardship is imaginable, encompassable, and a very small thing in the face of the slaughter in Vietnam and the other slaughters that will come. And there is no certainty he will go to jail.”

The well-known guidelines for solid nonfiction are still the basic who, what, when, where, and how, but the undergirding purpose is why.


Nonfiction sings when curiosity begins a dialogue of interest. When an author has a connection with their topic and a desire to share, then trust is built.

Focus on the heart of your topic, your potential audience age, the questions you need to research for clarity, confirmation of truth, vocabulary, and the impression you desire to share from your specific experience.

“People are always interested in other people.” Jane Fitz-Randolph

Find the Angle. For example, Deloris Jordan wrote a memoir story for children of her famous son when he struggled playing basketball at the neighborhood park one particular summer, and how his commitment turned his despair into success. This one specific insight into this gifted athlete opened up a whole new generation to recognize love, family, perseverance, and faith through this true story.

Be interesting to a broad range Audience. Regardless of your immediate intended audience look for the themes that are universal and ageless, and their truths will cross age, race, and culture. Life matters.

Be Authentic. The research needs to be solid. If you include interviews be sure to get permission. If you are doing historical research and find conflicting material give the reasons for the discrepancy and why it is an issue.

Find fresh material or Application. For example, women played a much more dangerous role in many battles, such as World War ll, that were not acknowledged or revealed at the time due to danger for them and their work.

The movie Hidden Figures unveils the three women math geniuses that played such an important role in NASA. Why did it take so long to release their stories? What factors will connect to your specific audience and age group? What do you want to be made open that was hidden?

Action Steps:

Begin to ask the questions now. Use the italic outline to write down potential ideas.

1. Who is your intended target audience?

2. What will be the reader expectations be that you need to include?

3. What overall effect do you want your readers to leave with?

a. Hope? What kind: emotional, physical, spiritual?
b. Solutions? What kind: cost, time, and/or relational?
c. Entertainment: Why? Long term—short term?

4. Write up a sample outline for an interview to fill in either in person or for research material.

Share: What did you choose in step three and why?

Read deep, marcy

A Few Interview Suggestions

1. Be clear regarding what you want to discuss.

2. Do the interview in a location that will make both of you comfortable and at ease without interruptions.

3. Be clear on boundaries and time commitment.

4. Ask if you can record.

5. Don’t interrupt but note where you would like more details and ask later for clarification.

6. Build up to any difficult questions. Wait until the end to ask them.

7. Be considerate of any emotional trauma your questions create and be sensitive.

8. Offer to show share the material once you have written it to be sure it’s acceptable to your interviewee before you publish.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Journal With Impact: Memoir Theme Fiction

Workshop: Six Conversations for Writing Creative Journals

As I mentioned earlier one approach that Michael J Bugeja suggests through vignettes is over-arching threads for perspective and voice and theme. For the next three categories of memoir I’m sharing a few of his examples using the theme of protest as theme joins perspective and voice in memoir delivery.

Bugeja notes that “protest poetry, songs, stories came, I think, in greater quantity and public awareness during the sixties when anti-war, anti human rights, anti discrimination became a more public voice. Not that these issues or advocates had not existed before but the ability or resolve to act upon protest spread. Some of the protests came in unaccustomed ways, and in fresh voices not seeking personal gain.”

Whatever theme we discover in our journals and memories we are looking to share a fresh voice from one heart to another. Each delivery has its own special strengths and weaknesses. So first we prepare our musings and then choose which format best expresses our insights. Fiction—non-fiction—poetry each captures theme in a different way.

“Fiction often allows a glimpse into hidden motives or perhaps silent protest. In Invisible Cities, by Italo Cavino, Marco Polo shares stories of cities with Kublai Khan.”

Here’s a sound bite from the city Valdrada that speaks volumes.

            “At times the mirror increases a thing’s value, at times denies it. Not everything that seems valuable above the mirror maintains its force when mirrored. The twin cities are not equal, because nothing that exists or happens in Valdrada is symmetrical: every face and gesture is answered, from the mirror, by a face and gesture inverted, point by point. The two Valdradas live for each other, their eyes interlocked; but there is no love between them.”

And a more personal example from Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street in the chapter My Name.

            “And the story goes she never forgave him. She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. I wonder if she made the best with what she got or was she sorry because she couldn’t be all the things she wanted to be. Esperanza. I have inherited her name, but I don’t want to inherit her place by the window.”

Sometimes when gathering together your experiences, emotions, and expectations to choose through which lens you want to present, it is helpful to look at it through a fictional stance. This way you can view your story as if a reader to gain a neutral opinion. Then when you have chosen your focus and voice you can return to nonfiction.

Or another reason some authors choose a fiction format for their story is if there are too many missing parts, if for example, you are including family history before your time and have large gaping holes. Fiction enables you to do research into the era and events current then. And still be completely engaged emotionally as the example My Name captures the atmosphere and circumstances.

Action Steps:

1. If you have discovered a theme of protest in your perspective maps and voices then use the following action steps to develop them further. Or choose another theme that has become more relevant and substitute it for protest and show it through a “glimpse into hidden motives.”

2. Make a list of times you have protested in different categories: personal issues, spiritual prayers, anti-……  for community or worldwide issues.

3. Which ones did you protest silently and which out loud?

4. Choose one that had the most positive outcome and one the most negative and write each of them as a vignette in either fiction or non-fiction or both.

 Share: Which example on your list touched your heart with the strongest desire to change?

Read deep, marcy

Note: You can approach these questions for a real person as well, especially if you are looking back to a specific time period. Think of them as character development set in a narrative scene.

What If Questions For Fictional Characters

Who is the main Character?
Who or what is the antagonist?
Who are the other people in the story?
What does the main character want?
How important is it for him to get it?
What does the antagonist want?
How does he/it prevent the protagonist?
Results-initial action
Struggles lead to (crisis)

"The Seeker" Rachel Marks | Content Copyright Marcy Weydemuller | Site by Eagle Designs
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