Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Black cascade

Free write today. Cut these up, pick one and start writing.

Black Cascade
The Lonely Ones
Everyday Demons
Burn Halo
Before The Flood
Hills And Valleys
King Baby
Serpent Servant
Quiet Nights
Living Thing
You Are Here
Defy Gravity

Tomorrow begins National Poetry month :-)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wand's eye view

Write a day from the view point of a wizarding apprentice's wand.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

12023 Gifts

The sign in the dusty store window reads 12,023 Gifts. As you're standing there, it changes to 12,024. Intrigued you enter.

What do you find inside?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Show of hands

Instructions of what to write are hidden in the purple. Do one step at a time to release you from concern about where a piece might be headed. You're not concerned about story. You're just doing one step at a time.

So don't peek ahead! Highlight one box at a time (the last line is split in two so highlight both). (If for some reason that doesn't reveal the text, just copy and paste one line at a time into your document.)

  • Describe someone's hands.
  • Describe something they're doing with their hands.
  • Someone else enters the scene.
  • Describe your character's emotions about this new person just through their hands.

This was inspired by "A Creative Exercise in 5 Steps". Her steps are different, more open ended.

The slide show is from Guido Danielle. There are more examples at his website.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

There once was a guy named Saint Patrick

Not an original idea ;-) but there should be more opportunities for limericks!
The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I've seen
Hardly ever are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical. -- Anonymous
Limericks are 5 lines, with an aabba rhyme.

The rhythm is easy to catch once you've read plenty of good limericks. (There is a clear and succinct description below, though.) The Limerick Data Base has a big collection where submitted limericks are scrutinized for meter.
So on this great day for Saint Patrick,
Whip out your computer and write quick.
Tap out some fierce verse.
Though beat be adverse
It all can be cleaned with a mouse click.


In 1924, a series of responses to the famous (clean ;-) Nantucket limerick appeared in various newspapers. Those are preserved at Yesterday's Island and new ones have been added to continue the saga. Here's the original four:
There once was a man from Nantucket,
Who kept all of his cash in a bucket,
But his daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man,
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.
Princeton Tiger

But he followed the pair to Pawtucket,
The man and the girl with the bucket;
And he said to the man,
He was welcome to Nan,
But as for the bucket, Pawtucket.
Chicago Tribune

Then the pair followed Pa to Manhasset,
Where he still held the cash as an asset,
But Nan and the man
Stole the money and ran,
And as for the bucket, Manhasset.

Of this story we hear from Nantucket,
About the mysterious loss of a bucket,
We are sorry for Nan,
As well as the man—
The cash and the bucket, Pawtucket.
Pawtucket Times

The following is a very good description of the limerick meter:

Dylon Mirti wrote 10/10/95
I don't know if you're the authority
That will impart the absolute truth to me
But I'm not really sure
Just what is the structure
Of the limericks I'm slaughtering brutally.

Is it just 8 8 5 5 8
Or is it 8 8 6 6 8
Can syllables be crammed
And more than eight be jammed
To keep the meter read at the same gait?

My girlfriend and I can't tell
What makes these little rhymes swell
Please write me back
And teach me the knack
Of writing a limerick well!
What I really need to know is whether or not syllable cramming is allowed, or whether the exact number of syllables MUST equal the assigned number for the line. And, is there an exact number of syllables assigned for each line?

Thanks for your time.


Dylon, of course, gets a gold star for this well-written request.

For expediency, Toast Point did not phrase his reply in limerick form, but it covered the bases nonetheless:

The number of syllables is not as important as the beat pattern:
da DA-da-da DA-da-da DA-(da) (da)
da DA-da-da DA-da-da DA (da) (da)
da DA-da-da DA (da)
da DA-da-da DA (da)
da DA-da-da DA-da-da DA (da) (da)
Meaning that you can leave off the syllables in parentheses, but 1,2 and 5 should match each other, and 3 and 4 should match.

For instance:

There ONCE was a GIRL from nanTUCKet - leaves off the final (da)
A MAIDen whose NAME was feLIcity - uses all of them

It's more important that the STRESSES of the word be on the strong beats than to have exactly the right number of syllables.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy 15

Last week was the quindecennial (15th anniversary) of Wordsmith.org when Anu Garg sent out the first word of the day to a handful of grad students. 4000 words and 700,000 subscribers later he presented 5 15 letter words and the challenge to craft definitions of 15 letters for each. (I should have posted the contest!)

But, anyway, here's the results with catchy succinct definitions that are more likely to stick with you than standard definitions :-) (Though, admittedly, the opportunity to use the words won't crop up too often ;-)

From Anu Garg:

Last week's contest to define the words in 15 letters generated tremendous enthusiasm. Many teachers discussed the contest in their classes and shared definitions from their students. More than 2000 readers sent one or more entries filled with creativity, humor, and lateral thinking.

It wasn't easy to select the winners from so many outstanding suggestions. Listed below are the winning entries which have each gained an autographed copy of one of my books.



An idea alluded to. -Karyl Davis (karyl.davis lackland.af.mil)

Honorable mentions:
  • Don't say it. I get it. -Virginia Davidson (vdavidson50 hotmail.com)
  • Kenned sotto voce. -Chiron (chiron godhammer.com)
  • You should know it. -Susan Frost (richandsuzi yahoo.com)
  • Virtually stated. -Albert D. (filiquark yahoo.com)
  • Obvio sin decirlo. -Steven Fuller (sfuller garfieldre2.org)
  • Ca va sans dire - duh! -Margaret Cox (mocox1 cox.net)
  • No words required. (Anu Garg's worst nightmare!) -Monica Porterfield (mporterfield mltvacations.com)
  • Obvious ergo mute. -Paul B. Calico (pbcalico strausstroy.com)
  • Don't spell it out. -Brianna Sims (brianna.sims gmail.com)
  • Read my lips, dummy. -Jonathan Danilowitz (jon-dan 013.net)
  • Under the liminal. -Daniel Pesta (towardus comcast.net)
  • Doesn't need sayin'. -David Honigmann (david_honigmann mckinsey.com)
  • Said but not aloud. -Jonathan Weiss (jweiss1999 aol.com)
  • Feel it in my bones. -Edie Bonferraro (edieb mailbug.com)
  • A tacit knowledge -Rachel Blau DuPlessis (rdupless temple.edu)
  • Shhh. I understand. -Justin Peniston (moose0225 aol.com)
  • I get your message. -Judith Henderson (judyframehend aol.com)
  • I comprehend. *Wink* -Dan Marlowe (sisyphus42 gmail.com)
  • No need to mention. -Julie Southern (southernbookworm hotmail.com)
  • You know, I know, shh! -Liza Levy (sparkydoc kyk.net)
  • Inferred w/o a word. -Jeff Miller (jdmiller milligan.edu)
  • Don't need to say it. -Gabby Kissane (gkissane gmail.com)
  • The ways of a woman. -Gordon Havens (gordonhavens hotmail.com)
  • Many readers sent these suggestions:
  • Between the lines
  • Not said, but known.
  • Don't tell me - I know!
  • Not said, yet known.
  • Implicitly known.
  • Heard but not said.
  • Ya know what I mean.
  • Known sans speech.



To see life flit by. -Julie Paschkis (jpaschkis comcast.net)

Honorable mentions:
  • Life after cocoon. -Edie Bonferraro (edieb mailbug.com)
  • Study of flitters. -Rebecca Haaland (rebecca emsp.no)
  • About winged bugs. -Vaishali Kamath (vaishalikamath hotmail.com)
  • Flitterers study. -John A. Olmsted (jolmsted exchange.fullerton.edu)
  • Study live jewels. -Kate Daniel (writerkate earthlink.net)
  • What cute insects! -David M. Lieberfarb (dmlieb optonline.net)
  • Nabokov's leisure. -Stephen Schwartz (hillendari hotmail.com)
  • Study of farfalle. -Riccardo Fragnoli (riccardo.fragnoli mpsa.com)
  • i.e. Geek moth-ology. -James Miller (millnjam yahoo.com)
  • Focus: Flutterers. -Don Recker (dlrecker nwinfo.net)
  • On gossamer wings. -Uwe Stichert (info language-coaching.net
  • Splendor impaled. -Zack Fisher (zackipooh gmail.com) [He adds: While this is not the actual definition of lepidopterology, I remember thinking just that the first time I saw a butterfly collection, as a child.]
  • Buttermothology. -Judi Jones (judith.jones pncbank.com)
  • Science a-flutter. -Nyree Sharp (nyree_sharp yahoo.com)
  • Wee wing scrutiny. -Daniel Watson (dwatson illustratus.com)
  • Etude de papillon. -Gabby Kissane (gkissane gmail.com)
  • Re Papilionoidea. -Joe Dickey (joetdickey yahoo.com)
  • Study of cute bugs. -Terence Singh (terencesi nedbank.co.za)
  • Winged bugs study. -Jonathan Osborne (jono fullemployment.org)
  • Ciencia Mariposa. -John Connors (john.connors cengage.com)
  • Of the mothly crew. -Vicki Boyd (vickeeb gmail.com)
  • Volar bug studies. -Stephanie Hollenback (stephanietraylor hotmail.com)
  • Look! On the flower! / Look! Near the lamp! -Jeanne Landkamer (jeanne.landkamer metc.state.mn.us)
  • Moth examination. -Laura Richens (lrichens tulane.edu)
  • Many readers sent these:
  • Fluttery studies.
  • Butterflies et al.
  • Moth scholarship.
  • Moth and kin study.



2nd rate math geek. -Greg Foster (lokesman gmail.com)

Honorable mentions:
  • Ramanujan manque. -Eric Towne (etowne bates.edu)
  • A minor math major. -Howard Distelzweig (howard_distelzweig pall.com)
  • He divides by zero. -Peirce Hammond (Peirce.Hammond ed.gov)
  • Rounds pi to three. -Joselyne Gonzalez (joselyne yahoo.com)
  • Uneven math maven. -Catherine Masters (cmasters schiffhardin.com)
  • He's no Pythagoras. -Jacquie L Lowell (jlowell.improv juno.com), Dave Zobel (dzobel alumni.caltech.edu)
  • Two plus two's five. -R. Ganesh (r.ganesh iflexsolutions.com)
  • No Euclid or Gauss. -Devika Nair (devikanair1979 hotmail.com)
  • Digits: all thumbs. -Jason Morgan (aeelectra yahoo.com)
  • In-add-equatician. -Brendon L. Etter (better carleton.edu)
  • Can do two plus two. -Matt Schmidt (mschmidt hussoninc.com)
  • Math challenged. (I could have made it "maths challenged" but I prefer the irony of the above.) -Alan Broom (alan.broom macquarie.com)
  • Numbers Are Not Us. -Colleen (argonauta4 aol.com)
  • IQ's greater than pi. -Bill Ward (bill wards.net)
  • Bank executive, e.g. (not a timeless definition, but it works currently). -Aaron Long (aarondavidlong hotmail.com)
  • Just a calculator. -Tal Cohen (tal forum2.org)
  • One does not add up. -Mike Freedman (mike freedthinkers.com)
  • A nonplussed soul. -K. F. Turtletaub (doctorkf verizon.net)
  • Calculably unfit. -John Hudspeth (johnhudspeth windstream.net)
  • Big sum, small mind. -Caroline Murphy (ckmurphy54 hotmail.com)
  • An amateur at math. -John P. Marhin (john.p.marhin mainroads.qld.gov.au)
  • 0 < x < a math savant. -Greg Foster (lokesman gmail.com)
  • 99 percent of folk. -Kassy Daggett (kdaggett efn.org)
  • rkathleendillon. -R Kathleen Dillon (rkdillon verizon.net)
  • Math isn't my forte. -Kevin Ogburn (kevin.ogburn co.hennepin.mn.us)
  • Calculating Risk. -David Lehner-Smith (david.lehner-smith target.com)
  • Small-time mathmo. -Owen Biesel (owenbiesel gmail.com)
Many readers sent:
  • Number numbskull.
  • Math geek wannabe.
  • No good at numbers.
  • A numbers bumbler.
  • A numbers fumbler.



Digital printout. -Judith Bill (jgb22 comcast.net)

Honorable mention:
  • How callous are we? -Will Whetzel (wwhetzel mssadvisors.com)
  • Palm/foot reading. -Jeff Miller (jdmiller milligan.edu)
  • Epidermis scrawl -Kathleen (stidmama yahoo.com)
  • Digital imagings. -Jason Nabi (jhn8d virginia.edu) and Wendi Dumbroff (penelopey aol.com)
  • Unique digital ID. -Ian Hoffman (Ian.Hoffman usdoj.gov)
  • Skin cartography. -K. Sahasranaman (k.sahasranaman gmail.com)
  • No hands are alike. -Sophia S. 6th grader, Community Middle School [sent by James Eng (james.eng ww-p.org) who encouraged his class to try this week's contest and shared their many entries]
  • Skin crop-circles. -Matthew Planchak (panqike gmail.com), Alexis Abraham (cawaaahome aol.com)
  • No two are the same. -Mike Hansen (mfh papermc.com)
  • The skin's pattern. -Carly, 4th grader [in Erin Allen's class (eallen howell.k12.nj.us)]
  • Study of skin ruts. -Peter Kidwell (peter.kidwell cox.net)
  • Skin's hills, dales. -Noël Lee (noellee free.fr)
  • Palmar, plantar ID. -Lisa Hyatt Cooper (lhcooper verizon.net)
  • Skin deep studies. -Kenneth Kirste (kkkirste sbcglobal.net)
  • Think whorl piece. -Matt Schuette (schuette79 hotmail.com)
  • What OJ fears most. -Analiese van den Dikkenberg (sandad hotmail.com)
Many readers sent:
  • Hand- or footprint.
  • Extremity prints.
  • Finger, toe prints.
  • Skin ridges study.


I had not asked for 15-letter definitions for Monday's word, but some readers sent them nonetheless. Here are a few selections:
  • Tapered like a 3-D V. -Louis P. Nappen (nappen comcast.net)
  • Just like a conoid. -Julie Davis (julie.davis ssa.gov)
  • Tornado-ish shape. -Mike Riley (mr.mikeriley gmail.com)
  • Swirls into point. -Susan Frost (richandsuzi yahoo.com)
  • Hourglass halved. -Don Recker (dlrecker nwinfo.net)
  • It's funnelicious! -Keith Parsons (khp38120 aol.com)
  • Smaller at one end. -Joe Trivers (joe_trivers amat.com)
Many subscribers sent their congratulations (a 15-letter word) in exactly 15 letters:
  • A Happy Fifteenth. -Mike Weinert (weinert.mike bls.gov)
  • I wish you the best. -Michel Cornelissen (mjm.cornelissen gmail.com)
  • Best wishes to all. -BranShea (via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Thank you for participating and for your kind words.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Talk to the animals

I'm Amy Morshower, Pet Psychic, also known as an Animal Communicator. Ever since I was a child, I've had a connection with animals. When Mistress Muffington our champion Pomeranian became with puppies she named the debaucher for me and we had him fixed. Whenever my brother got too annoying, I persuaded the spiders to build nests in his room.

Do you ever wonder:
  • what your cat thinks of you?
  • where your dog ran off to?
  • whether your bull has forgiven you for having him castrated?
  • what your cat means when he barfs in your shoe?
  • why your horse threw the last race?
  • whether your sheep are satisfied?
Has your pet been an eye witness to a crime? Whether it be Snookie Cat beneath the bed, Snowball the Hamster in a cage or Bucko, the neighbor's dog tied in the yard. Often they eavesdrop on conversations, have unique perspectives on taste and refined scent senses. I can help them convey their opinions.

Consultations can be face to face with you, face to muzzle with your pet, through a photograph or artifact when a corporeal form might be too difficult to produce. All provide portals to your animal's spirit.

I also offer counseling by phone, on line, email, fax, text, IM. When I speak about your pet to you remotely, I am linked psychically through your pet's name, like a radio frequency I can tune into.

Take that any direction you're inspired to take it, from Amy's point of view, her brother's, a client's, a dissatisfied client's, an desperate investigating officer, Amy's psychiatrist ...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Last week you destroyed the local bad guy who held your village in fear for the past year. (The bad guy can be an evil wizard, thug, alien invader, dragon, whatever you wish. You can be a good wizard, fighter, clever strategist, ninja, again whatever you wish.)

You've received accolades, a parade, free drinks, a feast, letters of thanks. Today you received your first actual fan letter. As you read the gushing praise, it becomes increasingly disturbing. This person is obsessed with you. They may be more dangerous to you than the bad guy.

Write the fan letter.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Jack the Giant Murderer

Jack, of the beanstalk fame, has been charged with breaking and entering, larceny, and first degree murder.

Choose from one of two points of view:

As Jack's lawyer, present Jack's case on why the charges should be dropped. Argue from a legal standpoint rather than an emotional one. Being a big mean giant -- from Jack's point of view! -- will not stand up in court.

Or, as a reporter covering the trial, describe each character's view of the crime as it unfolds in court.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


There are a bazillion Monopoly editions. Make it a bazillion and one by coming up with your own for your favorite movie, anime, book, fruit, rock band, car, sports team, prison, decade, home town, store, sport, comic book hero, board game, planet, company, restaurant ...

Shake up your imagination. The cat edition uses cat breeds instead of streets, kitty favorites (mouse, catnip, fishbowl) for the Chance, toys (yarn, box, scratching post, paperbag) for Utilities. The Coke edition has pewter Coke bottles and truck.

Some large images of Monopoly boards:
Here and Now: World Edition
United Kingdom
Cat lovers
Star Blazers

(community chest)
(income tax)
(community chest)
(free parking)  
(go to jail)  
(community chest)
(luxury tax)
(pewter token)
(pewter token)
(pewter token)
(pewter token)
(pewter token)
(pewter token)
(pewter token)
(pewter token)