Wednesday, October 29, 2014

It is not in my nature to admit defeat. -- Alexandra David-Néel

Alexandra David-Néel
She has such a forthright gaze. She has secrets. She challenges your own secrets, hinting that she can see them whether you choose to see them or not.

Take ten minutes to craft a story of this woman. Who is she? What were the circumstances of her life? What prompted her to embark on the events that made her notable?

Don't edit. Just let the ideas flow and take you where they will. :-)

Her own story is possibly even more inspiring than her photo, and may spark a female character who won't be constrained by her times for you.

Alexandra David-Néel was born in 1868, hardly a time when adventurer and woman could be one and the same. Even from an early age her heart was drawn beyond the garden walls and fortunately had the spirit and determination to follow it.
"Ever since I was five years old, a tiny precocious child of Paris, I wished to move out of the narrow limits in which, like all children of my age, I was then kept. I craved to go beyond the garden gate, to follow the road that passed it by, and to set out for the Unknown."
She was a Belgian-French explorer, spiritualist, Buddhist and writer. She is best known for her 1924 midwinter trek across the Himalayas to the holy city of Lhasa in forbidden Tibet. Accompanied by her adopted son Lama Yongden, she disguised herself as a beggar to elude soldiers and brigands. David-Néel wrote over 30 books about Eastern religion, philosophy, and her travels.
Of Tibet when she had left the first time, "Truthfully, I am 'homesick' for a land that is not mine. I am haunted by the steppes, the solitude, the everlasting snow and the great blue sky 'up there'! The difficult hours, the hunger, the cold, the wind slashing my face, leaving me with enormous, bloody, swollen lips."
She began her adventurous life as an opera singer, traveling to far corners of the world. At 36 she met and married a French railroad engineer though she was shortly off for India. Her husband would be her friend and supporter for the rest of his life while she explored the world.
"It is a funny and inconceivable idea that people attach to a place like oysters to their bench, when there is so much to see in this vast world and many walks of life to enjoy."
At one point she befriended and perhaps took as her lover Sidkeong Tulku, a young, dashing progressive Maharaja of Sikkim. His life ended tragically by poison in 1914. Afterwards, she retreated into the Himalayas to live and study with the Gomchen of Lachen, the hermetic master of the Buddhist monastery near the Tibetan border from whom she deepened her knowledge of mystical Buddhist practices. After studying for two years she and her adopted son left to work their way into Tibet.

There is more to her story at her Wikipedia page. The following two webpages, though still brief, go into more detail.

A Mystic in Tibet - Alexandra David-Neel
The Amazing Tibetan Adventures of Alexandra David-Neel

Her books and a couple of biographies are also listed at her Wikipedia page.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Quadrival Quandary

At Quadrival Quandary you're given four unusual words and challenged to use them not just in a sentence but in one illustrative sentence. As the guidelines at the site state, "Your sentence should do more than use the words in a grammatically acceptable way, it should show what they mean. If someone didn't know the meaning of a word, could they make a good guess from how it's used in the sentence?"

The definitions are given on the page for each new day's set of words. If you dig into the archives or the randomizer (which digs further back to when the site was contributed to regularly), the sentences others crafted are there to inspire you.

From February 13, 2012:
  • promethean
  • ventripotent
  • mutt
  • exoteric
"Dr Atkins decided to confront the elephant in the Obesity Task Force conference room by asking, 'If it’s already a promethean task to convince people that their ventripotent mutts need more exercise and less food, how will we ever mount an effective exoteric awareness campaign for their masters to change their ways as well?'" (by wordgirl)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


A Snowball is a poem in which each line is a single word, and each successive word is one letter longer. If you're metrophobic, try writing a sentence. Though poetry might be easier since it doesn't need to make as much sense ;-)


Two sites that list words by length are Your Dictionary and Best Word Lists.

If you would like to see a prolific snowballer in action, check out Snowball Poetry on Twitter. (The beginning of mine came from one there.)

Snowball was created by the Oulipo (Workshop of Potential Literature). They gather together to create constrained writing challenges. It's also called a chaterism which Wikipedia defines as "where the length of words in a phrase or sentence increases or decreases in a uniform, mathematical way." (I'm guessing since snowballs get bigger when rolled, the word originally referred to poems with words that increased. Chaterism is a broader concept.)

There is a Snowball Poetry Generator for Windows.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Tripartite soul

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr said, "Every man possesses three characters: that which he exhibits, that which he really has, and that which he believes he has."

Describe your character's three characters.