Month: February 2014

RUST REMOVAL: DAY 4

Continuing with the Writer’s Digest 12-Day Writing Plan.

A follower was kind enough to point out that WD also has weekly writing prompts as well. Based on the way I’m fighting, clawing, carving out writing time just for the 12-Day plan I definitely will focus on that next.  In the meantime…

A 12-Day Plan of Simple Writing Exercises

Day 4:  Write a letter to an agent telling her how wonderful you are.

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Dear Ms Clappingbotthom,

I strongly believe that what makes an enjoyable memoir or nonfiction essay is not that it’s so unique, but that it’s common enough that it resonates with someone.  Everyone has high and lows, up and downs, good and bad days, and so on.  It’s the story that connects that writer to that reader that’s important.  As the church folk say, “If I could just touch one” is good. This is in my mind as I share my stories.

I’m your classic people person. Never met a stranger. Yes, it has cost me a few times, but I refuse to let those few occasions trump all of the wonderful experiences in this great life I’ve lived.  Yes, my stories may contain sadness, but isn’t that life, and I would certainly be “unique” if I am the only writer who has never encountered grief in some form.

I can’t control misery happening, but I can control how much I talk about it.  Thus, my stories that  I share are not just “The Wonderful Life and Good Times of Dennis Young.”  They are “How I Lost My Wallet on Vacation and Still Had a Great Time.”

The enclosed story “One Night in Oz”, talks about my first visit to New York City as a young teenager, describing the sights and adventures my younger cousin and I lived during that night.

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Ok, that was quick and dirty.  I don’t know if that makes me “wonderful” or if I really got into the spirit of the exercise, but I enjoyed writing it nonetheless.

I’d appreciate any feedback, especially from  any agents or those of you who have done query letters before.

Next week’s exercise is going to be a bear: write a 20 line poem about an event in my life.  I think I’ve created, oh, about two poems, in my life!  ‘the hell I’m going to write a poem about my life?

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RUST REMOVAL: DAY 3

Slowly but surely, haltingly but patiently struggling forward, working with the Writer’s Digest’s writing plan:

A 12-Day Plan of Simple Writing Exercises

Day 3:  Write a setting based on the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen.

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I was never what you call a nature person. I like astronomy and space travel. Correct that: I love and I’m fascinated by it. The NASA channel is first one up on my cable’s Favorite list.

The physical things here on the ground were another story. I never went camping, grew up in a seaport city, so the beach was nothing special. My trips to the zoo were ok. Or as Dom De Luise as Caesar says, “Nice. Not thrilling, but nice.”

My attitude is changed now. Here we go…

It’s a rainy Friday night in Cupertino, and Ron is absolutely giddy about it. “That means it’s going to be snow over there.”

There is Yellowstone National Park. We’ve flown to San Francisco on a Friday to get in a weekend of sightseeing before our Hewlett-Packard training class begins Monday. It’s been a full day of riding all over the city as soon as we checked in, and with lots of things to do on our agenda (yea, we’re here for training, but come on, our first time in San Francisco?) Ron wants to move the Yellowstone visit up to tomorrow.

I’m not much of a nature person, but I love flying, especially to California. I spend the entire journey looking at the changing landscape, and the memory of seeing landmarks in real life will never be forgotten. The Mississippi is a big-ass river! The Rockies are awesome! Maybe that’s how I like nature – at 30,000 feet.

We’re joined by Linda, a flight attendant for Delta that I’m dating, and that Saturday the three of us make the journey. It’s a clear day, and as we go along I see what Ron was talking about. The amount of snow gradually increases, and soon it’s a winter wonderland. I’ve dealt with lots of snow before, so nothing dynamic happening here.

After we park the car and begin to walk the first thing that gets my attention is the sound, like a building collapsing. Ron notices the look on my face, and grinning he tells me “That was blocks of ice and snow falling.”

Suddenly I’m really paying attention to where I am. The snow and trees and the sounds are different. It’ s not just a park anymore, not just trees and snow. Now I’m putting them all together, looking at the whole picture. Now I’m not in the city, throwing snowballs in the yard. There’s a little bit of fun happening here.

Now I’m looking at a mountain that goes straight up, there’s no gradual slope. It’s a gray wall that goes up forever. Take a rectangular piece of rock, stick it in the ground vertically, and then enlarge it a million times. I’m staring, and it freaks me out when I realize that I’m standing here staring.

Nature ratchets it up on me – clouds start to roll over the edge of the top, like someone’s dumped dry ice up there, turned on a disco fog machine. Spilling over, the clear blue sky giving sharp edges to them, like someone coloring within the lines, the contrast making them seem so much whiter. I have my camera with me and I take a few shots before another rumble gets my attention again. I go back to staring.

I’ve seen mountains, seen snow, seen clouds. Been on a mountain in the midst and clouds, never giving a second thought to the world around me. Now, it’s all that I see. Ron and Linda are off somewhere, I’m still looking up, in my own world.

The moment in everyone’s life, the moment some place or person or event tells you right then and there that this is special, a good special, happens to me. The moment that’s seared into memory forever.

I feel… small.

For the first time in my life, I’m awestruck.

I don’t think about anything except what I’m seeing, and I recognize now how someone can describe nature as peaceful, beautiful, enjoyable, awesome… and the handiwork of God. The rumble is His voice, the clouds His breath.

“Yea, David. I can see where you’re coming from.”

RUST REMOVAL DAY 2: RETRY

As one of my followers correctly pointed out, I totally missed the intent of last weeks exercise:

DAY 2:

Create a character with personality traits of someone you love, but the physical characteristics of someone you don’t care for.

I fell into a personal trap of getting caught up in why the person I don’t care for made that list.  My writing mindset is focused on nonfiction, and I stumbled too deeply into the poison swamp of hatred.  As they pointed out, it’s FICTIONAL!

Get over the hate and get a grip.

Thanks!

So, let me continue as I planned, just letting the words flow, no revisions, spell check only.

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She’s like most grandmothers of that time – the undisputed leader of the family.  She’s the personification of  the old saying “If Momma ain’t  happy, then nobody’s happy.”  Sure, her husband acts the role of the strong, silent patriarch, yet looking at him you know that when the time comes he’ll take charge.  In the meantime, it’s usually “ok, honey.”  For the other 95% of the time, it’s her world, we’re the subjects,  and she’s knee-deep in all our lives.  Unquestioned love for us, strongly balanced with a no-nonsense attitude for foolishness.  Child or adult, you’re going to get her opinion about what you’re saying, what you’re doing, even what you’re thinking.  Oh yea, the same for the “not” word you can put in front of the action.

She has the knack for reading faces.  Mom tells us as kids it didn’t matter how they tried to hide it, she’d come home from work and not only tell them she knows they had an argument but she’ll damn near tell them exactly what it was about and what each one said to the other.  I used to think it was just one of those old family legends until the Thanksgiving day she confronted my brother and me about an argument we had at the grocery store during a last-minute run for a few things for dinner. I’m basically “How the hell did she know about that?” when she tells us  “looks like y’all been fighting again.” We had laughed and joked our way out of it on the drive back home, so it wasn’t like we came back angry.  At least I was pretty sure I wasn’t still upset, so it couldn’t have been my face that betrayed us.

She’s no exception to the jokes told about the shortest  person always trying act the baddest.  Barely over 5 feet, she has  the long, straight silver-streaked black hair handed down from the Native-American blood of the family from back in Mississippi.  Thick bodied, but not what you’d call overweight, and when she walks it’s like she’s carrying something on her back, slightly bent forward, with a pronounced lean to each side as she steps.  It’s a walk that, if you don’t  see her face, makes her look older than her 66 years. She’s blessed with smooth, copper skin with few wrinkles, and could easily pass for, oh I guess, mid fifties.  She has a thick southern accent, and sometimes I tease her about sounding like an extra from The Color Purple.  I often do it when she gets into her lecturing mode, unsolicited opinion time.  It’s always signaled with the opening words “You need to…”  It gets on my nerve when she says that to me, and that’s my way of taking the misery out of it for me and whomever else is the target.

But when it comes to how she dresses,  that’s another story. Grandma is serious about clothes,  and she puts her money and time into it.  Even if something isn’t that expensive she makes it look like it is. One of those people everybody knows who can make the ugliest outfit look good. She’s no fashion snob – she’ll shop Wal-Mart’s clearance rack, but at least twice a month at a minimum though, she’ll make the trip to the upscale places.  

All it takes is one phone call to one of the ladies in the family announcing her next shopping trip, and then she’s heading out in the SUV packed with any random assortment of daughters, nieces, sister-in-laws, daughter-in-laws, granddaughters, all eager for a touch of her fashion magic.  Those who can’t go demand to be the one to receive the first call for the next one.  She is their Goddess of Fashion – she wears her credentials everyday –  and as they shop they look to her. A slight frown if they even so much as look at a rack or display is all they need, an interaction they all love.

So needless to say that when she passes on a chance to give her thoughts on my brother’s decision to sell his house and move into a condo we think that maybe she’s just distracted.  Then my wife tells me that the ladies are talking about how long it’s been since the last shopping trip together.  Apparently she told them about her last two journeys after the trip.  No clarion call.  Now, everyone’s antenna is up, trying to figure out what this sudden deviation in behavior is all about. 

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So there, free-flowing and only checked for spelling.