Monthly Archives: June 2015

Current Projects

ScheduleI find that I work best when I have a deadline looming. Sad, I know. I try so hard not to be a procrastinator, but it’s so much easier to meet my goals when they are well-defined and include a due date!

Usually when I start a “project,” I fall off the deep end. I have the habit of completely obsessing over one project for a week or two. Sometimes I’ll see it through to completion, and other times I’ll just give up on it. The ones I end up completing are usually the things I am doing for other people. Maybe that’s why I have trouble setting exercising or eating goals – no one is going to be checking my work. 🙂

Anyway, here are the projects I have been working on lately:

Voice Lesson Binder

Now that I am teaching again, I have put together a binder with fun songs that have a limited range (for my young students’ developing voices). I’m going to call that project “done” for now, even though I will be adding to it as I come across new pieces that I like. At the front of the binder, I attached a basic format for a voice lesson – to help me make sure I am covering all  my bases each lesson, and also to give me some direction is I can’t think of anything to do! I intend to blog about voice lessons and my format later this week, so be on the lookout if you’re interested.

Piano Curriculum

I have wanted to write my own curriculum for a while. I don’t have any pedagogy credentials, but there are so many things that get on my nerves in the method books I have tried over the years. First and foremost is the sheer number of books you have to buy at one time to cover all the basics. There is usually a main book supported by at least 3 more: technique, theory, and some sort of book that includes nice pieces that could be played in a recital. This drives me crazy! Does anyone know why music publishers do this?

So I have some new students, and they would prefer to not play pop music or anything with questionable lyrics. I was lying awake after having talked to one of their parents via FaceBook (I hadn’t met the family yet, but we had arranged a lesson time), when an idea hit me: write my own curriculum, but use lyrics directly from the King James Bible. I’m so excited about this because it’s something I can really get behind. How cool is it that students will be able to learn to read music and memorize scripture at the same time?!?

Kindle eBooks

I have published a couple of ebooks in the last few weeks: A Prompt Disguised and Write an Outstanding Paper. I am looking to get another one up pretty soon – basically one for each of the three categories I intend to write in: creative writing, education or homeschooling, and devotions. I have so many inspirational blog posts that I’ve written over the years; I’m going to compile my favorites and put them out there for Kindle readers. I just need to think of a theme to tie them all together and choose the ones I want to include. And then format everything – that’s the boring part.

Multi-Sensory Creative Writing

I began putting this creative writing curriculum together several summers ago while teaching a homeschool class on the subject. It’s a work in progress, but one of my favorite ideas ever, so I’d like to see it through to completion. I blogged about a few of the lessons here, here, and here.

Well, that’s all I can think of for now! It feels like I have more going on than that, but maybe that’s it. What have you all been up to this summer?

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A Prompt Disguised as “Take Two”

Take TwoGo somewhere that you’ve been only once before. Perhaps you tried a trial membership at a gym, or checked out a health food store, but the proprietor was too chatty, etc. The point is, you never went back for some reason. Go back, and look for a story there.

Acting Prompts

This post is in response to all of the folks who have landed on my page by searching for acting prompts. First of all, a confession: If you’ve never visited my blog before, you need to know that I am a writer, not an actress. However, when I was younger, I bought a book of acting prompts for the sole purpose of using them and applying what I learned to my writing sessions. I have created dozens of creative writing prompts on this site, and I have suggested that many of them can be used as acting prompts as well. Maybe, maybe not. Like I said, I’m not an actress, so I don’t really know what acting prompts are supposed to be like. (The book I owned of acting prompts is long gone, and I don’t remember a single thing from it.) So why don’t you all let me know? Are these any good for acting prompts? Here are the ones that I think might work (borrowed from my prompt disguised series):

Number 1

ActorsIf you have a work-in-progress: take on the role of your main character, and have a conversation with a friend or an unsuspecting stranger 😉

Take on the viewpoints and attitudes of your character. It would be best to try to get into some sort of discussion in which you do not agree so that your character can defend his position, thus revealing his personality and motivations more fully.

If you don’t have a WIP, then invent a personality or base one on a character from a movie, TV show, or book. The point is, step outside of yourself and become someone else.

Number 2

Take a walk, but pretend you are anywhere but where you are or anyone but whom you are. Try to see your town or neighborhood through fresh eyes, as your character would see it. Try to think your character’s thoughts as you go along. You might notice something you never have before, or find a fascinating new twist for your WIP.

Again, if you don’t have a WIP, then imagine yourself to be any person or character you can come up with.

I tried this once on my son when he was young. We were walking, and he became very tired. So I told him to pretend he had to get medicine to someone who was very sick and waiting for him to arrive. It seems silly, but it gave him the courage to keep walking until we got home.

Number 3

Go somewhere you wouldn’t normally go. Transportation museum? Antique mall? Local baseball game? Think of something that’s out of character for you. Find some inspiration for a story or put a character from your WIP into the setting you just visited.

If you use this as an acting prompt: while you aren’t actually doing any acting, I think it’s important to go places and do things that might be out of character for you, as it broadens your horizons and allows you to think in ways that might be important to the personality you are trying to portray.

Number 4

Remember pretending? It’s that fun thing we did when we were kids. See if you can conjure up a little anxiety or fear as you walk. Is someone following you? What about a ferocious bear (if you’re in the woods)? Or imagine that you are on a mission that you must accomplish at all odds. If you don’t find that information you’re looking for, the whole world is going to suffer! Or maybe you are on your way to meet your favorite person, but you aren’t sure they’re going to show up. What kinds of things can you drum through your brain as you take step after step?

Number 5

Here’s one that I think will be really fun for you. And not only will you be inspiring your muse, but you will also be relieving some guilt at the same time. I’m talking about that guilt that comes along when you’re spending time writing instead of playing with your kids. Are you familiar with it? Well, check this out:

Take a half hour to an hour out of your busy writing schedule to inspire a new character in your story. Only instead of staring at the wall trying to come up with ideas, let your kids do the work. Tell them you want to play a story with them, and ask them how they want it to go, and who they want you to pretend to be. While playing with them, follow all of their leads, no matter how crazy or unbelievable, and just see where their imagination takes you. When nap-time rolls around, spend a few minutes jotting down the ideas that you just gleaned from playing a round of make-believe!

Number 6

Research something you know absolutely nothing about. (For instance, quantum physics has some interesting theories.) Pick up a magazine that you would never have considered buying, and flip through it for inspiration.

I always thought it would be cool to build a science fiction story off of a Popular Science article, for instance. I also know nothing about horses. I wonder what kind of inspiration I could glean from  Equestrian? Or a magazine about outdoor survival? Visit your local library or newsstand, and see where your imagination takes you!

Again, if you use this one as an acting prompt, you can get inside the head of your intended character by reading and learning about the things that interest him.

Number 7

Go to a thrift shop and purchase an outfit, or borrow something from a friend that’s totally out of character for you. Complete the ensemble with accessories and attitudes that complement what you’re wearing. Now, go hang out in places that would attract your alter ego, and test out your new duds. Do people treat you differently? Do you treat them differently or feel any different? Now find a quiet place to relax and write about your experience. Apply it to a character in one of your stories. Actually, you could begin the whole exercise with a specific protagonist/antagonist in mind. Just remember to stay in character as much as possible throughout your little expedition.

Number 8

Mute the television. Based on people’s gestures, make up plots and conversations. (My husband and I do this anyways to avoid contrived stressful scenes while watching reality television shows, such as American Chopper.) Then write about the scenario you created.

PS: Be prepared to laugh a lot!

Number 9

Begin a conversation with the next woman you meet. Be it in line at the grocery store, someone you bump into at the park, etc. Write a story based on what little you learn about her life. Try to remain true to her personality, instead of merely plunking yourself into her situation. If you have a WIP, how would your main character interact with this stranger?

Ok, sorry, but this one involves writing, even if you are using it as an acting prompt.

Number 10

Watch a documentary or a foreign film that you have absolutely no interest in. Give it at least 20 minutes of your life, and see if you can’t learn something new. If interest picks up, watch the whole thing, and expand your horizons a bit! Alternatively, you could watch a movie dealing with a new topic or one that takes place in a different culture, even if the movie itself is American-made.

Use this in the same way you would numbers 3 and 6.

Number 11

Explore ways to volunteer in your area; then choose an opportunity, and spend an afternoon helping out somewhere. Not only will it encourage a caring attitude, and facilitate your development into a better citizen, but it may very well spark a story idea or two. How? Well, you’ll be working with new people, many of whom will show up to help for entirely different reasons – community service, involvement in an organization, a former recipient of the service being provided, etc. They all have a story to tell. And if you are lucky enough to meet the people you are ministering to, even better! On top of all that, you’ll be dropped into the middle of new scenery, new dynamic relationships, and new ways of thinking. Give it a try – even if no stories are forthcoming, you’ll be glad you did!

Use this one for the same purpose as 3, 6, and 10.

Feedback? Are these helpful at all? I’m a bit out of my element here.

 

Stop and play

GuitarLife is busy. It flows by so quickly and changes so much. Lately, I have been trying harder to just stop and do something that I enjoy. I have been able to carve out a lot more time by making one change in my life: I never watch movies or television anymore. Sometimes I’ll sit in the living room while my husband or son watches YouTube, but I am always reading or playing the guitar or eating dinner, and I never stay for long. I have decided that when I look back on my life, from my death bed, I will regret all the time I spent in front of the TV. I don’t know – maybe nothing will matter at that point – perhaps I’ll regret the fiction I read and any other time I wasted (Can we say FaceBook?). Do you think we will consider any of our learning to be a waste of time? But anyway…TV is definitely out. I’ll work on the rest later.

With the arrival of the warmer weather, my favorite retreat has been on the bench that my husband got me for our front porch. I sit out there so often that complete strangers recognize me when they come into my place of work! (I’m a hostess at Applebee’s.)

Now I just need to think of a way to get moving – one that I enjoy. Before Ian was born, I would get up when my husband went to work and go for a run. That’s what I’d like to try again, if I can just bring myself to start! Does anyone know where I can find some will-power laying around at 6:30 in the morning?

Anyway, what would you find the time to do if you cut television out completely? Or FaceBook, or your biggest time waster? I want to challenge you to try it for a week and pursue something you enjoy or something you’ve been wanting to learn. You never know – you might like it!

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/41385059@N04/6178377279″>1979  YAMAHA FG531SB</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Coming Soon: A Prompt Disguised (for Kindle)

KindleFor anyone that is enjoying my prompt disguised series, I am in the process of formatting the prompts for Kindle. I should be finished sometime this week, so you should see the book appearing in the Kindle Store by the end of the month. The book will contain my first 31 prompts. Why 31? Is it because I cleverly designed one for each day of the month? Um, no, that’s just how many I’ve written so far. 🙂 Although that might be a good marketing strategy. Hmmm…

One of them is a new prompt that will be coming out here on June 29th. Should I add something exclusive to the book? A bonus for purchasing it? If I do, what should it be? I’m new to this whole publishing thing.

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Writing Club

The other day I mentioned our new writing club and how much it has affected me. Well, I thought it would be fun to upload an excerpt or two from our short little writing sessions. The very first time we all got together, we all created several writing prompts and put them in a jar. My 10-year-old even got involved! He surprised me by grabbing a sheet of paper and asking, “How do you spell ‘insignificant’?” (Can’t wait to use some of his prompts!) Anyway, every time we meet, we draw from the jar randomly and write for five to ten minutes. Then we take turns reading our little creations. I knew from the beginning that there would be a lot of variety from us ladies (we are all from very different backgrounds), but I am always blown away by the depth of the ideas!

Anyway, here’s the one I wrote during our very first session (a month ago now). I have not edited it – with the exception of a spelling error – so it’s a little raw and underdeveloped. What stands out to me the most about my own writing (compared with the other ladies’ pieces) is my lack of descriptive detail. That’s something I need to be more aware of, I think. I will also try to get permission to post some of the other ones, or at least link to where you can read them:

Jenna peered through the portcullis into the night sky above. Something was happening up there. What could it be? Whatever it was, it was noisy. She could hear what sounded like big, short bursts of thunder as she tried to get a better view. 

Her nurse wasn’t in the room at the moment, so she decided to try standing. Moving through the pain, she first rolled herself into a sitting position, and then with all her effort, knees shaking as she grabbed the bedframe, she pulled herself to her feet. 

How long had it been? Months? Years? She had been content to lie in bed while nurse tended to her and brought her food. But Daddy had left with a handsome young woman a couple hFireworksours ago. They had seemed excited. Now something was going on, and she wanted to know what.

She leaned toward the portcullis, which was now eye level. She could see hundreds of people milling about on the shore. But more importantly, she could see more of the sky, and the bursts of color that were lighting up the harbor.

The writing prompt for this one was “fireworks over the harbor,” courtesy of my writing buddy over at https://bluepictureframe.wordpress.com/

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A Prompt Disguised as Architecture

CastleFind or print some graph paper, and design your dream home. Or a haunted house. Or the floor plan for a passenger spaceship. Imagine what life would be like if you lived there, and begin to build a plot and characters based on your sketch. Years ago, my son and I drew a floor plan for a castle, complete with surrounding farms and businesses (blacksmith, herbalist, etc.). This exercise in creativity became the launching pad for a story that we began, based on the life of one of the castle’s occupants. It was the first time I had ever witnessed my son enjoying the writing process, and I still have the floor plan and the story to this day. I blogged about it here.