Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Campfire Stories 7/25

In Tuesday's (7/24) quick-write prompt from Kate Messner's blog, she asks us to tell a campfire story.

My experience with campfires is vast, as I spent many weeks at sleep-over camp when I was younger, both as a camper and a counselor.  In fact, I met my husband at camp when we were both counselors many, many years ago.  We are both skilled at starting a one-match fire.  In the rain.  With our eyes closed.  Just kidding.

Since we both love campfires, we have built a permanent fire pit in our patio in the back yard.  Our children have subsequently attended multiple weeks at the very same camp we attended as children, and it is so much fun to hear their voices tell the same stories that we heard (and later, as counselors, told) long ago.  It is a great connection that our family shares, and it is fun to compare and contrast our versions of the same tale.

Our camp had been an ice mine a long, long time ago.  On the property, there is a place we called "the gorge" that was essentially a dam where miners would harvest large blocks of ice, back in the days before people owned electric powered refrigerators.  The ice blocks would be cut, loaded onto railroad cars, and distributed throughout the area for sale.  Once electricity became more widespread, however, and the demand for large quantities of ice declined, the mining business dwindled and then disappeared.

We would love to hike to the ice harvesting dam to swim, because the area is wide and deep and filled with cool water.  It was a refreshing reward after a hike on a hot summer afternoon.  On the way back, however, we counselors liked to stop at "The Hermit's shed" for a break at dusk, the perfect time to tell his scary story.  My version is below.
According to legend, there was a man who wouldn't leave the ice mine when the industry shut down.  He had nothing left, no family, no other skills besides ice harvesting and living off the land.  We are sitting in his home, a one-room cabin that he built with his own two hands.  He had started off with hopes of settling here and making a homestead while living off the land, and he would walk to town once a week for supplies.  After the first winter, however, his visits into town became less and less frequent, and he began to mumble to himself without making eye contact with the storekeepers who saw him.  He also began carrying his ice-pick with him everywhere, making it increasingly difficult for the friendly townspeople to approach him, for fear of startling him and becoming skewered like BBQ meat.  His trips stretched from weekly, to monthly, then to random evening surprises- banging on closed shopfront doors until the owners let him in to grab what he needed and go, his long hair covering his eyes and his dirt-streaked beard moving mechanically as he mumbled in a hypnotic trance.
(At this point, our co-counselor would make a low humming, repetitive noise, and the kids would start whispering, "What was that?")
Soon, the hermit (as he had become known) stopped visiting the town altogether.  Despite warnings from other friendly townsfolk, a couple of brave souls decided to take a trip out to the homestead to check on their strange neighbor.  As they approached the house, they were greeted by a variety of vermin, or should I say, vermin hides, strung up on twine to dry across the front yard.  Squirrels, rabbits, even rats were gutted and hung up like bloody laundry.  A variety of sharp, rusted instruments lay scattered across the porch, like an evil game of pick-up sticks.  As they knocked on the creaky, mildewed front door, it swung open.  And RIGHT THERE (counselor pointing to a poor terrified camper) he was laying in a heap in the corner, clutching his ice pick, frozen STIFF, his eyes wide open as if he had seen a terrible beast and died on the SPOT!
Even today, if you listen carefully, you can hear him walking around with his ice pick, Thump, Thump, Thumping around (co-counselor then thumps on the floor, and all of the campers jump and scream on cue.)  And as for the beast he saw, well, that mystery is still unsolved...

Then, we evil counselors would take our frightened campers back to our tents in the dark.

Good times.  I mean, who doesn't like a good ghost story every once in a while?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pick One!

This Monday, I am doing the Monday morning warm-up, courtesy of Jo Knowles.  From her blog:

I picked:  Come away with me.

Come away with me.  Disconnect, empty your angry heart, and walk with me to another place.  Away.  
Far from disappointment and fear, where your eyes can be opened and unburdened by hate and judgement and lies.  Away.  
Step forward and see.   Separate yourself from the rest and their expectations and costumes   and paint.  See yourself For Real.  
Because I know you are in there.  Deep inside the layers of walls and spikes and wire that you have wrapped around yourself, you are there.  I know.  I Know.
Reveal your real self to me.  Come to that place, where it is safe to breathe, clear and clean, a fresh start to begin your true story without the mistakes of your past.

Come away with me.

You'll be Free.

I wrote this today with my main character in mind.  She is very wrapped up in herself and I am having trouble getting into her heart.  She doesn't trust anyone, even me.  I'm hoping she'll let me in soon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Making Rain- Quick Write 7/10

From Kate Messner's blog: Our Tuesday Quick-Write guest author today is Megan Miranda.  Learn more about her at her website: 
I hadn't considered how weather can influence plot and character development in my writing, and I am excited to see how this turns out!  We can't have perpetual sunny skies in YA, with all of its angst, right?  Ok.  Here comes the rain.  And thunder.  And lightning.

The low rumble of thunder in the distance jolted Beth from her slumber.  Opening her eyes, she surveyed the damage.  Half-empty glass, perched on top of the pile of homework on her nightstand, discarded mini-skirts and dresses lying rejected on the floor, and makeup containers strewn across the dresser.  All of them reminders of last night and the garbage that she had become.  
Flecks of rain began to tick on the window beside her bed, each tiny tap intensifying the thudding inside her head.  Slowly sliding her feet onto the shag rug, Beth wobbled her way to her bathroom, using the wall as both a guide and support.  A crack of lightning illuminated her reflection in the mirror as she perched in front of the sink.  Streaks of mascara and smeared red lipstick punctuating the sickness erupting from inside.  As the thunder cracked loud and close, she lurched over to the toilet and heaved.   Her only thought, her only reprieve, Maybe Dad won't hear my shame over the raging storm outside.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Morning Warm-up 7/9

Today's Warm-up via Jo Knowles:

My favorite place:  My writing nook

Flip flops underneath
Drawers filled with stuff
Bulletin board
Piles of papers
Empty file folders
A tissue from my sneezes
Empty boxes for trinkets
Rainbow pens
Boxes of books
Bags filled with books
Piles of books
New bookcase waiting to be filled
Love seat
Unfolded Laundry on top
Piper, my pup, taking a nap

Now here is the story of my writing nook:

I love my husband with all my heart.  We share just about everything.  For most of our marriage, we shared an office space.  From a converted attic to a rarely used dining room, our combined home workplace has evolved over the last 18 years of marriage. While I was home with three little ones, this worked out well.  My turn during the day, his turn at night.  
Later, when I went back to school to get my M.Ed., we invested in my little MacBook laptop, which I still use today.  Still, I did not have a place of my own to research, write, and work.  So, my laptop followed me to the kitchen, dining room, even on my bed as a surface to spread out and create.  Being a flexible person, my mobile office was sufficient most of the time, but I'll admit that I did some office hogging towards the end of my practicum to finish up case studies and reports.  My husband, ever obliging, understood my acute need, and happily supported my office siege.  After the waters calmed and I made my "pomp and circumstance" procession, however, there was a noticeable shift in our office partnership.  With my mobile Mac, I was no longer a co-owner of the space, but a sometimes visitor.  
When we moved two years ago, our lovely home came with a real-live official office, but still, I was a guest in this place.  Agreeing that I needed a domain of my own, to write and create and be, my desk, my lovely writing abode, with its piles and mess, was created.  Some may see this separation as a negative, but this desk is the most cherished gift that he has given to me.  He knows what I need.  A place to grow and dream, the most loving gift of space.  It is my writing nook sanctuary.  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I Believe in Words

From Kate Messner's blog post on Thursday 7/5:  Today’s Thursday Quick-Write is courtesy of guest author D. Dina Friedman
This week has been an emotional one, for many reasons, and I feel like my barometer is slowly rising from the depths.  With the range of emotions running inside of me, you would think that I would have plenty to say through my writing.  However, the opposite is true, because I'm afraid that opening up myself to my feelings will create a storm of tears that I'd rather keep tucked away in my little blonde head.  I know that I will continue to stall and stick unless I try to get something out, so maybe a poem will be my alcove in which to hide while the rain passes through.

I chose to begin with "I believe..."
Untitled by K. Bispels

I believe in words.  
Connecting with one look
Known by two alone
Communication without sound.

I believe in words.
Listening to the little things
Urgent in their brevity
Significant and everlasting.

I believe in words.
Joyful solitary singing
Joined by a loving chorus
Laughing and applause.

I believe in words.
Spoken and unspoken
Living fully in the moment
Fleeting are those temporary

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tuesday Quick Write on Thursday 7/5

I know that I shouldn't stress over this, because I write every day.  However, I always seem to be a day late and a dollar short with these Quick Writes!  In this case, I'm two days late.   Click Here to read the prompt from author Kristy Dempsey.

Putting aside my tendencies towards perfectionism and propensity against promptness (two opposing forces that cause me daily internal conflict), I think that Tuesday's prompt is helpful for me.  In my story (WIP), the main character has already lost something.  More specifically, something was taken from her and spewed throughout the courtyard at her school.  Already upset that her backpack has been stolen from the library, those feelings don't compare to the loss Beth feels when discovers that her journal is gone. 
Here is the last paragraph from my previous post regarding point of view (in blue).  Today, I will add to the story using the prompt from Tuesday.

Wait.  I know it was here, next to the printer by the door.  Where is it?  A wave of panic rushes to my head, and I can feel it compressing a black clamp between my eyes, making me lose my balance.  My journal.  My life.  My bag.  WHERE IS IT???
I drop the book back onto the return desk and race out into the hallway.  I can feel the clamp tightening between my eyes, and I force the onset of my imminent migraine away.  I cannot lose it, not now.  Breathing in, I force the yellow stars back from my eyes and blink to clear my head.  Exhaling, I know that it has to be here somewhere.  I wasn't in the library that long, and we still have the afternoon.  It has to be somewhere in the building.  It has to turn up.  I have to find it.
In the corner of my eye, something white flashes and I see it.  More like them.  Notebook pages from my Language Arts binder are fluttering through the air in the slight spring breeze of the open air courtyard.  Late-spring paper snow, they rise and drift downward, then up again as if caught in a slow moving blizzard.
Once inside the courtyard, the contrast between the bite of the spring breeze and warmth of the sun through the ceiling-less room causes me to pause as I survey the damage.  Despite the binder explosion, relief passes through me and I can feel my heartbeat slow and steady to a normal rate.  My backpack, tossed on its side, is next to the picnic table, and I jog over to begin to reclaim my belongings.
David must have noticed the paper storm as well, because he is suddenly at my side to help me pick up the pieces.   Why does he always appear out of nowhere?  He hands me my World Cultures textbook.
"Hey David.  Um, thanks," I scramble over to catch a stray page before it lands in the FFA built fish pond.
"Whoa, Beth.  What happened?"
"My backpack exploded.  No biggie."
How can I get him to leave, seriously? I don't like how he is always here, trying to get into my head.
"I mean, really, Beth?  This didn't happen by accident.  I just found your planner over by the vegetable bed."
"Seriously, David.  It's not a big deal.  Thanks for all of your help, but I really have to go.  I'm going to be late."  I take the planner from his big hairy ape-hand and scan the courtyard for any other stray items.  Nope.
I can barely hear his goodbye as I sprint down the hall and find a quiet corner to survey the inside of my bag.  I can feel the thudding in my head increase as I frantically sort through my stuff.  My journal.  Where is it?  I know I picked up everything from the courtyard.  It wasn't there.  Where is it?  Who has it?  Who knows?  Who KNOWS?  
The yellow stars are back in my eyes, and I don't even feel it when my head cracks into the side of the water fountain as I fall to the ground.   

Monday, July 2, 2012

Story Stew- Monday Morning Warm-up

As a part of Teachers Write!, Jo Knowles provides a weekly Monday morning warm-up.  Today's exercise is called "Story Stew."  Here is the assignment from her blog:

This is what I cooked up:

"Nana, what's taking so long?"
"Hush little one, we've only been waiting for an hour."
"But I'm being very patient.  Daddy said to be patient."
"Yes, you are being very patient, lovey, but babies are unpredictable.  Sometimes they come fast, sometimes it takes a while."
"It is taking a long, long, while, Nana.  I'm tired of being patient."
"Let's take a look at your Fun Bag, sweetheart."

Nana picks up my bag from the shiny white tiled floor, almost too bright to look at under the flourescent glow of the waiting room.  Mom and I had packed my Fun Bag after I discovered her Baby Bag by the front door.  Hers had tiny socks and an outfit for my new brother, a one-piece minty green suit with a google-eyed frog jumping off a lily pad after a smiling dragonfly.  It said, "Ribbit!" on the front, and I picked it out as baby William's coming-home outfit.  Mom had also packed other stuff, like slippers and nice lotion and some clothes for herself.  It was her idea to pack a Fun Bag for me, too.  I guess she knows all about waiting for babies to come, because she always tells me the story of her 10 hour labor when she had me.  Even though I always act embarrassed when she tells the story of my birth-day, it makes me glow inside each and every time hear her tell it.  My Fun Bag has all of my favorite things.  Silly Lily, my rag doll, that I should probably be too old to carry around, colored pencils and a sketch pad for drawing, cards so that Nana and I can play "Old Maid," some books to read, my walkman and headphones with a few of my favorite CDs, and my lucky rock, smooth and shiny from all of the wishing that I've done.
I decided to pull out a piece of paper from my sketch pad, each little tug making a pop pop sound as I rip it out, bits of confetti scrap flying as I tear.  My new colored pencils are perfectly pointed and sharp, and I run my fingers across the tips as I decide which color to use.  I pull out the dark green and begin drawing a lily pad like the one on baby William's jumper.  I don't even notice that the doctor, still wearing that funny blue hat-thing, has entered the waiting room until I see Nana stand up suddenly from her seat.

"Beth baby, stay here a minute while Nana talks to the doctor, ok?"
"Did the baby come?"
"I don't know, love, just keep drawing here and I'll be back."

My heart hops like a frog, and I can't keep my feet from swinging back and forth in my chair.  He's here!  He's here!  I put my drawing aside, unable to concentrate on anything else, straining to hear what Nana and the doctor are saying.  Nana's shoulders slump, and I see her sway back and forth.  The doctor puts his hand on her shoulder and nods, his face flat, and I can just read the words, "baby" and "problem" as he mouths them.  After he walks away, it takes Nana a few minutes before she turns around and comes back to where I am sitting frozen in my chair.  Her eyes are rimmed red, and tiny tears collect at the corner of her eyes as she breathes in a long, heavy breath.

"Beth baby-love, it's going to be a while before you can see your baby brother."
"He's here?" I ask, wanting to be happy, but instead feeling like I've just fallen off the monkey bars, the air sucked out of me as I crash to the ground.
"He's here.  The doctors just want to take him to a special room for a little while.  He's going to have to stay there for a few days or so."
"Where's Mom?  Can I see Mom?  I want to see Mom," my heart starts racing, like I've ridden my bike up a big hill at top speed.
"Mom's just fine, lovey, but no, you can't see her.  She needs to rest right now."

I can't stop the rush of tears that bursts into my eyes that washes my face like a sudden thunderstorm.  My brother.  My baby brother.  What is wrong with baby Will?