Monday, November 15, 2010

Word Party

We had a party this week to celebrate words and reading.

Sugar Snack helped me get ready while the girls were at school.
Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies cut into "sight words" = Yum!
He can't read yet, but he knows tasty cookies.

I drew pictures of things we'd have at a party,
labeled them along with some random descriptive words,
cut them out
and put them on the table in a big bowl.

We took turns choosing from the bowl and sounding out words.

Once read, we decided where our words belonged:
food and party fare ("cup", "cookie," "bread")
decorated our plates,
descriptive words like "red" and "shiny"
fancied up our paper crowns
and a few unwanted words like "grouchy" and "tired"
ended up on noses and chairs.

After a delightful afternoon filled
with games, tea and word cookies,
the verdict was in:

"This was the best day ever! Can we have a word party every day?"

Monday, November 8, 2010

Word Therapy for Time-Crunched Writers

If writing life is a garden, mine is in winter.
I love this glorious season;
but with twins in kindergarten, a babe in arms
and a toddler in everything else
- including water and bags of pancake mix simultaneously -
available writing hours are slim to none.

Why fight it?
I'm a writer; I don't want to be a frustrated writer,
so I'm turning my daily adventures into word therapy.

It's a lot like writing, only without the pen or computer.
Some might call it "thinking,"
only it's more purposeful than that.

How do you feed your hungry inner writer and artist?


Read to kids, read to your partner, read to yourself. Reading is research.
Compare books, outline favorite plots, take notes on what works and doesn't work.

Play word games.
Play with rhyme, rhythm, pacing, pig latin, word patterns, alliterations, Cockney rhyming slang.

Observe. Question. Listen.
Be Sherlock Holmes, focusing on minute details in speech, expression, landscape, emotion.

Play- at kid level.

Celebrate word and art in the commonplace.
This one is so fun for me that I'll visit it in later posts.

Box City

Box Castle

Here's to getting our brain-dirt nice and loamy so that when we plunk down our story seeds, they'll shoot up into brilliant oaks of word!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


sings to me in the night

croons of why
old as stones
the lullaby

of lost dreams
of treasured things
of unhindered oblivion

moon and milk my company

this small fist, tiny sigh
sweet breath

less sleep, yes,
but waking bliss

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I've discovered a similarity between
those fascinatingly compulsive artists of the bird world
pregnant women.

Or, at least,
pregnant women.

Here are pictures of my nest:

Art includes a few of my watercolors
and an original from my brother Jesse Joshua Watson on the far wall.

I found the crib second-hand and "aged" it
with crayons to blend in the scratches.

Ribbon scrap mobiles for "Sugar Snack"
and his newly arriving sister

Baby booties fashioned from old clothes

Bulletin boards for "Sugar Snack" and his new roommate

The nest is feathered,
my blog fingers are at low tide
as I wait
to meet
baby Pray...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

First Drafts

Sugar Snack finally made it through an art session
without eating crayons.

His sheer delight at his first masterpiece
reminds me
of how joyful it is to create.

Take a first draft, for example:
it's buoyed with hope,
unencumbered by revision slogging,
a fresh treasure chest of untapped potential.

I often find myself smiling
while scribbling at new sketches
or a new project.

We are made for this,
to leave a sparkling trail of creation behind us,
jewels of ourselves,
beauty for the world.

What accomplishments give you joy?

a beautiful meal, new sketches,
a clever light bulb moment,
seeds planted
... ?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Great Books!

After enjoying a delicious read in Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor,
I feasted on her second novel, Dreamdark: Silksinger.

Blackbringerpbcoversm.jpg picture by lainit

No wonder she's getting kudos all over the place for her work.
Lips Touch, Laini's latest book was a National Book award finalist.
It's a collections of three richly woven stories which
all hinge on a kiss.
Laini Taylor's books are clever jewels
set off with gorgeous illustrations
by her husband Jim Di Bartolo.

I promised to share notes from Laini's talk on plotting
at the SCBWI Western Washington conference this spring.

Better yet - she's posted it on her blog
(in three parts: 1, 2 and 3).

What are you reading lately?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Book of Names, Part I

I wanted to be a color-namer.

I mean, it's all in the packaging, isn't it?
Who wants to paint "off-white" walls when they could paint "frothy cappuccino" ?
When you're looking for the right crayon, doesn't
"moldy hay" speak to you more than "yellow"?

I started a notebook of names when I was fifteen.

It's scribbled with

gushy names I liked as an adolescent

and progressed to

names in various languages,

pages of name meanings


words to remember
(garish, torrent, celerity, behoove, hoopla, congeal).

I still use it.
When struck with a great color name, I jot it down in the Book of Names.
When on a name hunt for characters, I crack open the Book of Names.
And when a new storkling is on the way,
I frantically circle and cross out and make notes and panic over choosing the perfect name. Thankfully there are nine months in that process.
I'm horribly relieved I didn't have a child at fifteen when I was convinced "Opal Starlet" was the most fantastically romantic name ever (multiple underlinings and several exclamation points here).

How do you name your characters?

And since we haven't played word games for awhile,
why don't we throw out some
original color names?

My favorite color names today: Yellow teeth. Slaughterhouse. Rusty nail. Gangrene.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


It's been raining all week.
"Pip" declared she hated rain.

Hate rain?
This is the Northwest!
We're supposed to get rain - great drenchings of it.
That's why I live here. That's why it's green here.
Rain is practically my secret superhero power.
I think I was born under a storm cloud. I glow when it's gloomy out.

Being fully convinced that it's never too early to brainwash, I ordered everyone into boots and slickers, called for umbrellas, and marched the gang outside.

Nothing like a good splashy rain party
topped off by hot baths and cocoa
to foster a love for all things wet and soppy.

"Any child loves rain if it's allowed to go out and paddle about in it."
- C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

Monday, May 24, 2010

Writing Tips

Publication is only one of the reasons we write. We write because we are writers. We write because we love to write."
- Karen Cushman.

Here are more lovely morsels from that magical session with Newbery novelist Karen Cushman.

Karen Cushman's Tips For Writers:

1. Show Up:

Have a writing place and time. Keep showing up.

2. Pay Attention :

Read 100 books like the one you want to write.
Read what you love and ask yourself why you love it.
Read books, blogs, magazines, news.
Join a writing group.
Read your own work aloud over & over & over.

3. Tell the Truth :

Know your characters and connect with them.
Find the truth of your writing self, your view, your voice.

4. Ignore the Outcome :

Quiet your inner critic.
Write what you always wanted to read.

Write with passion, from your heart, to bring something to people.

Publication is only one of the reasons we write.
We write because we are writers.
We write because we love to write.

"I write what I can. That is my responsibility." - Flannery O'Connor

Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little." - Tom Stoppard
Along with all the rich advice, Karen urged us to go out and make our own rules.

What writerly rules do you live by?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shoe Houses

Chalk it all up to "getting to know your characters."

I had an amazing chance to hear Karen Cushman speak last week.
That is, twice Newbery-crowned lady of historical fiction, Karen Cushman of "The Midwife's Apprentice" and "Catherine, Called Birdy" shared her rules for writers.
Great stuff, indeed.
I felt my brain grow two sizes bigger as she drove home diligent concepts of
grace and flow in writing.

Inspired, I am hard at work...
or rather, I am in deep play with my characters.

I've discovered the Small family
is more complicated than I thought.
Think Jane Austen meets Dickens via modern paper dolls.

Remember the notoriously absent Mr. Small?
He took the train to work
the day after baby Ivy was born.
What with the Great Middlesborough Train Collision that very day on his line,
he is commonly thought
to be deceased.

The village of Dibbledip
is astir with eager gentlemen
all waiting for Millie Small to throw off her widow's weeds.

Boris Kerputnik, wealthy bachelor with ties to Russian royalty
lives nearby
in a silver Samovar.
He strolls by to hang over the fence
and chat about himself
while Millie hangs up her washing.

He does not do manual labor but has a wealth
of ideas on how Millie should tidy up the shambling yard
and shoe abode.

For her birthday Boris gave Millie a ruby necklace, fur cape and crocodile shoes.
With barely time to scrape herself off the floor at day's end,
Millie was not wooed.
She tucked his gift into the Pawn-pile to pay for groceries.


Writing advice I've heard from clever authors lately
that positively echoes with importance:

get to know your characters.

Get to know the main characters and small ones.
Find out what they eat, their favorite colors, their slang words, speech impediments, childhood heroes, secret fears, preferred methods of transport.

But how?
How do you get to know your characters?

We're trying paper-dolls and shoe-houses over here.

More Small stories later.

What are your secrets to knowing your characters?

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Smalls

In my daily writing quest,
nap time glows with promise.
It's a quiet blip in a long day of frazzle.
There aren't many quiet blips in my day,
so I try to collect them as carefully as eggs
and use them with frugal sense.
Imagine my crushing disappointment then
to find my two oldest cherubs suddenly done with naps.
In the desperate search for quiet activities that do not involve
tattoos, furniture rearrangement, knives or permanent markers,
I found a book that turns into a dollhouse.
As it lacked people, we spent some happy time inventing the Small family.
Millie Small and her brood of seven children:
Ellie, Ruthie, Kip, James, June, Dahlia and Ivy
live in a shoe.
Millie barely has time to shower once a week,
change diapers and slop porridge on the table.
More on the curious absence of Mr. Small
and Millie's many admirers
another time.
Hurray for the Smalls
quiet time!


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