Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Winner is . . .

. . . Tracy from Pink Purl!

I couldn't wake Scout up to do the drawing, Dill wants nothing to do with my silly nonsense, and Mr. Magpie wasn't home, so I resorted to Random Number Generator, which gave me 24, and Tracy left the 24th comment.  I'm thrilled that she won, because Tracy's blog has long been an inspiration to me, and she is one of the most creative and thoughtful people I've met in the blog world.  I've already gathered a few treats for her package, and now that I know it's for her, finding the rest is going to be an extra-special treasure hunt.

Thank you to everyone for your incredible comments.  It's an honor and a pleasure to know you, whether in the virtual world or the physical one.  You inspire and teach me every single day.  How lucky am I?  Beyond compare.

Here are the petals of a pink rose for Tracy, with the promise of more treasures to come!  xo g

Friday, February 25, 2011

Freewrite Friday: The Scent

Lavender evokes powerful memories for me.

"For the sense of smell, almost more than any other, has the power to recall memories and it is a pity that we use it so little."  ~Rachel Carson

"Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and associations are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channels."  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

This exercise puts our noses to work and, in doing so, triggers memories that can lead to good writing.  It also requires that you rely on someone else to help you with the first part.  If you have a writing partner or buddy, this would be a great exercise to do together, or if you belong to a writing group, you could adapt this to be a group exercise.

  1. Find someone you trust to give you a hand with the warmup part of this writing exercise.  Ask them to gather together three or four everyday household items that have a strong and evocative scent.    They can be food, beverages, plants, cigar boxes,  lotions, magic marker--anything that has a distinctive scent.  If you'd prefer that they don't include anything with an unpleasant smell, be sure to let them know this first.  They should gather the items without you seeing them.  
  2. Sit in a chair at a table and have your friend blindfold you before they present the items to you.  Once you are blindfolded, they can hold each item, one at a time under your nose, giving you plenty of time to smell it before moving on to the next one.
  3. While you are still blindfolded, be thinking about what images, memories, or thoughts each scent evokes for you.  Is there one that is especially evocative?  If so, that's your trigger scent.  It will be the thing you use as a prompt for your exercise.   Keep in mind that sometimes when people do this exercise they have a hard time naming exactly what it is they are smelling, and yet the smell still evokes memories.  This could be a good scent to write about for this very reason.
  4. Once you've decided on your scent, take off your blindfold and begin writing in your notebook.  It's up to you whether you look at the object or whether you have your friend take it away before you take off your blindfold and begin writing.  I think it can be useful to rely solely on the sense of smell as a trigger for this.
  5. As you begin writing, you may want to just try describing the scent itself, and then begin describing images and memories that you associate with this scent.  Does it remind you of a person or people?  Write about them, too.  Does it remind you of a particular moment or a period of time?  Let that come into the writing.  Try writing for at least 30 minutes, but go longer, if the spirit moves you!  If your friend wants to try the writing exercise, you can take turns helping each other out.  
  6. If you end up with something you like, be sure to share the link either in the comments or in an email to me so that I can post the link next week.
  7. This is an incredibly fun--and surprising--exercise.  I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you to everyone who offered prompts for last week's exercise!  What a treat to read the incredibly creative prompts as well as some of the pieces of writing that grew from the prompts.  Until next week's exercise, here are two wonderful links to inspire you:

If I forgot to include your Freewrite Friday link here, please share it in the comments!

A quick reminder: If you haven't entered the giveaway yet, you have until noon EST today (the 25th) to enter.  I'll be announcing the winner on the 26th, my two-year blogiversary.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Giveaway . . With Love and Thanks

The Magpie's Fancy will be two years old on February 26th!

More than 280 posts into this adventure, I am still delighted, moved, and awed every single day by the people I encounter and the talent I see on blogs all over the world.

Thank you for inspiring and challenging me, for encouraging my crazy ideas, offering support when I've been low, and for kicking me in the pants when I've needed it, too.  In the blog world we make amazing friends, often without ever meeting face-to-face.  As Archie Bunker once said, "I got a lotta best friends--some of 'em I don't hardly even know!"

To celebrate two years, I am hosting a giveaway.  Please leave a comment between now and noon EST, Friday, February 25th, to be in the running for the prize.  And what is that prize?  Well, in keeping with my magpie nature, it will be a collection of wonders and curiosities that I am gathering together.  It will include something that glitters, something to read, something handmade, something vintage, and any other delicious treats that capture my heart.

I will announce the winner on Saturday the 26th.  Please feel free to enter no matter where in the world you live, whether you're an old friend of The Magpie's Fancy or a brand new visitor.  I'm just happy that you all are out there, making magic, and I thank you from the bottom of my magpie heart.

xo Gigi

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Freewrite Friday: The Prompt

This week's exercise depends on all of you much more than it does on me. I'm going to ask you to offer each other prompts to write about. If you'd like to play along, please leave a prompt in the comments section below. Your prompt should be a 1-4 sentence snippet of an idea, and it should include the following:
  • a specific place
  • a person or people performing an action
  • a thought one of the people has 
  • the mention or description of a person's eyes, hands, or mouth
  • a tool, a piece of furniture, or a type of food or drink
That sounds like a lot, doesn't it?  I assure you that it's not hard.  I'll give you a couple of sample prompts, and then you can dream up one or two of your own to share.

Sample Writing Prompts:

"As Lila rounded the corner of the barn, she heard whistling--not a cat call, but a real tune.  'Singin' in the Rain,' she realized after a handful of notes, which meant Jesse was already there on the front porch, leaning too far back in the rocker, like always.  Her feet picked up the pace before she could stop them, and her hands rushed to smooth her hair, gone wild in the rain."

"Eddie can't remember the last time he stayed up this late--maybe never.  The light on his bedside table glows like a spaceship in the dark, and downstairs he can hear grownups' voices, sometimes hushed, sometimes growing louder when the phone rings.  Earlier in the night, one of the aunts brought him a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk.  He'd glanced up at her from his comic book, and her large, red-rimmed eyes had reminded him of the space alien in the story."
Leave a Prompt, Take a Prompt:

Once you've left a prompt, feel free to grab one by someone else and try using it as inspiration for a bit of writing.  It doesn't have to be a prompt that has anything to do with your own life.  In fact, sometimes these work well when they don't have much to do with our own experiences.

Once you've selected one, open your writing notebook, and write the prompt down at the top of a fresh page.  Start freewriting and see where it takes you.  Don't feel like you have to be a slave to the prompt. It might just be a starting point that leads you somewhere quite unexpected.  Or, you might find that you stick with those characters and that setting.  There's no one right way to do it.

Give yourself at least half an hour of uninterrupted time. You might find that you begin something you can't resist coming back to and working on more.  I often find that I write for at least an hour when a prompt has captured my imagination.   

We'll all be depending on each other to make this exercise work!  Please toss a prompt or two into the comments.  The more the merrier.  If you end up posting what you've written on your own blog, as always, send me the url, and I'll post a link to it next week. 

Speaking of links, here are a few to various people's takes on the Love Letter Exercise:

Relyn's letter at Come Sit By My Fire
Char's letter at Ramblins
Vicki's letter at Maple Tree
Jenner's letter at Jennerally Speaking

Thank you so much for sharing these letters and links!  You all make me want to keep doing the Freewrite Fridays.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Nesting Bowls from Terrain

Press Camera Makeup Bag from Anthropologie

I like cleaning products to look and smell 
like spa products.  
If it comes from an apothecary jar, 
just maybe I can trick myself 
into using it to do housework.

Incanto Ruffle Dinner Plate from Vietri

Or anything by Vietri.

Chan Luu Lace Scarf from Garnet Hill

Silver Heart from Willa Wirth

She's a local silver artist in my Portland neighborhood. 
Her shop is beautiful, and so is her website.

1908 Crazy-Quilt Pillow from Enhabiten on Etsy

I love this Etsy shop!

I'm in window-shopping-magpie mode, both physically and virtually.  Just thought I'd share some lovelies I've been spotting, in case anyone else is craving pretty things in silvery greys, creamy whites, and plummy pinks.

Monday, February 14, 2011

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
~Raymond Carver

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Love Letter, Part II

Hello,  friends.  Today's post is a follow-up to the most recent Freewrite Friday exercise.  I want to thank everyone who has emailed to let me know how the process is going for you.  Remember, if you post your exercise on your blog, let me know, and I'll share the link to it here.

I also want to say a special thanks to Georgie, who  shared her letter with me and gave me permission to post it here today:

To my dearest father,

How do I begin? You are a stranger to me, yet I hold you so dearly in my heart. When I think of you I imagine a young man, fit and happy and in love. I see you in charge of your polo crosse horse. I see your young family. I see you working hard, any job, to give us our future. I see me. But not for long. I remember nothing from our lives together only from our lives apart. Our paths split so early in my life and I search so desperately for something of you to hold onto that is mine, something other than photos I've seen or the memories of others.

My visits to you were always so brief. Beach holidays in cheap, musty houses; playing in your office while you worked, I was so proud of you to have 'Manager' on your door, I really thought you would be okay with that as your name; or a visit to one of your many flats. I still think of you when I have barbecue shapes or a sip of fruit cup cordial. They were such treats. I remember my last visit to you in that last flat. I remember how you greeted me at the door when we knocked. You nearly winded me with your embrace but, as strong as it was, I remember you trembling. I remember your arms, thick with dark hair, gripping my shoulders, not wanting to let go. I sat watching you smoke as I played with that one broken tile on the table top. I helped myself to a drink in your tiny kitchen, water was my only option. I was too young for any of that beer. How many calories of that amber ale did you burn thinking your dark thoughts? Oh my dear father, could I have said something? Could I have stayed longer? Could I have called more? Could I have saved you? But I was so young. I didn't know a grown up mind could give up. I thought I would be visiting you forever and playing with that broken tile wherever you lived. But that was your last flat. I see you now in the dark of night with that weapon in your hand and no life in your soul. Oh my dear father. What could I have done?

I weep for you still, 14 long years later. Hard, long, breathless sobs for all that we've lost. I was just 18 when Mum told me. I was just settled at university, just independent. Five years it took me to be able to tell my friends where you were without my hands shaking. He died was all I could manage before loosing eye contact. They asked nothing more. My pain was like an invisible finger pressing their lips to hush.

Your picture hangs in my home now. Your wedding picture. It's black and white and full of promise. How old would you be now? I'm not sure. I hold you in my heart as a young man with a young family, full of hope and future.

With love,

Your darling daughter,

G x

Friday, February 11, 2011

Freewrite Friday: The Love Letter

Richard and Arline Feynman

Dear Friends,

I've been anxious to write to you all week.  If you don't mind, I'd like to begin by sharing a letter from the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman to his wife Arline:
October 17, 1946
I adore you, sweetheart ... It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you — almost two years but I know you'll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing. But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and what I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you.
I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together — or learn Chinese — or getting a movie projector.
Can't I do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the "idea-woman" and general instigator of all our wild adventures. When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn't have worried.
Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true — you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else — but I want to stand there.
I'll bet that you are surprised that I don't even have a girlfriend after two years. But you can't help it, darling, nor can I — I don't understand it, for I have met many girls ... and I don't want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.
My darling wife, I do adore you. I love my wife. My wife is dead,
PS Please excuse my not mailing this — but I don't know your new address.

(Arline Feynman died of tuberculosis on June 16, 1945. The paper on which this letter was written is well worn, and it appears as though he reread it often.)
This letter--which floors me every single time I read it--can be found in the remarkable collection of Feynman's letters called Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track.   

I should mention, too, that Feynman did eventually find happiness again.  He and his third wife, Gweneth, were married until his death in 1988. 

I have been wanting to do a Freewrite Friday exercise about letters, and with Valentine's Day coming on Monday, now seems the perfect time.  However, because I am who I am, I would never just suggest that you write a letter and leave it at that.  There always has to be a twist.  Feynman's beautiful letter should give you a hint of what's to come.  Read on if you're up for a challenge, mentally and emotionally:

The Love Letter  

I don't have a warm-up for this one.  Just try diving in.  Write by hand a letter to someone you love or once loved.  The only stipulation is that it must be to someone who will never read the letter.  They may have passed away, as in Feynman's case, or they may no longer be part of your life for other reasons--or they may be someone whom you know very well in your present life, but to whom you would never reveal your true feelings.  This doesn't have to be a romantic love letter.  It could be to a parent or other family member or a close friend.  It just needs to be someone with whom you long to speak.  Freewrite at first, then revise it and take some time to craft it.  You may want to start out in your writing notebook, but you could even handwrite a final version on a lovely piece of stationery that you can tuck into your notebook, or a special book, or in with letters and cards you have received from that person in the past.

If you don't do another exercise from this series, please try this one.  Let me know what happens.

With affection,

P.S. When I'm finished with my exercise, and while I still have the special stationery at hand, I might just write a Valentine's letter to my sweetheart!  :)

P.P.S. Oh, and I have a piece of writing to share with you.  The fabulous Relyn of Come Sit By My Fire fame has shared her Picture Exercise:

Jeffrey asked me why I loved this simple painting so much.  I said, "It whispers a hundred stories."  He said, "Tell me one."

She lives at the cliff's edge in a house miles from town.  It's just a small house.  Really not much more than a bunch of old boards hammered together.  It seems to hunch over in the cold light of dawn; a girl with a too-meager shawl.  Aside from the view, the only remarkable thing about this place she's called home for so long is the curtains.  Lace.  Beautiful lace.  Those curtains always remind her of Mr. Dicken's description of the female Cratchits "brave in ribbons."  Her house was brave in lace.

She was going to miss that lace.  And the view.  And the sound of the surf that is so much a part of her, she breathes in time to it.  How can she leave?

How can she stay?

It's 1928.  Her father is in jail for bootlegging.  Each night her mother coughs blood into a lace-edged handkerchief.  Her brother has taken over the family business and spends most of his time in the woods.  Or on the run.  The government men often come around, asking questions.  A young, good looking one tried flirting with her the other evening.  As though big brown eyes and a nice smile could make her forget herself.  Forget what she owes her family.  

... It was a nice smile, though.  A little dimple at one corner.  Never mind.

She has dreams.  Big dreams.  And no time to waste.  She knows this is the moment.  She knows that if she doesn't leave now, she never will.  If she doesn't leave now, that editor will give her job to someone else.  Her mama will grow weaker and she'll find more and more reasons to stay.  She'll end up breaking the only promise her mama ever asked her to make.  And so she must go.

She places her father's old fedora on her head.  No jaunty angle - she's too nervous for that.  But the old hat warms her and somehow lends a bit of courage.  Her mother is sleeping peacefully for once.  Better not to wake her.  A gentle kiss on the brow and the goodbyes are finished.  She closes the door quietly behind her.

Without looking back, she walks away.  

By Relyn Lawson

Monday, February 7, 2011

Picture This

Edward Hopper, "Automat"

All weekend, in between hockey and sliding and ferry rides and gummi bears and yo-yo's (our nephew was here for the weekend :) ), I was thinking about words and images, images and words.  Photographs came to mind, but paintings, too.  Mostly paintings.  I'm an Edward Hopper girl.  One of my goals in life is to write a Hopper painting.  If you're a little bit of a loner like me, and you're stuck for inspiration for the Picture Exercise, perhaps you might Google Edward Hopper and see what happens.  

And remember the above painting?  I offered it this past Friday as possible inspiration for the Picture Exercise, and then over the weekend we took our nephew sliding on the truly monumental hill in our neighborhood.  I suddenly felt like I was in a Bruegel painting myself:

I edited this photo to give it a grainier, colder, and blurrier mood than the original shot, but it was a rather uncanny feeling to watch all those people moving against that stark landscape and those bare trees.  And, yes, that's the ocean at the bottom of the hill.  It only feels like you could slide right into it.  There's a large snowbank that stops you, thankfully.

I've had emails from several people who are doing the exercise, and it sounds like it's going well.  A couple of people even shared their own inspiration photos.  This first one is from Sarah.  She took this evocative photo in Yvoire, France:

And Diana-Marie sent this one, which she took in Brunswick, Maine, at the Joshua Chamberlain House. I love the idea of an inspirational photo that has no people in it, but that does have a dramatic architectural element to help create an interesting setting.  

As for me, I think I'll spend at least a part of tomorrow catching up on my own writing in a little coffee shop.  Too bad there's no more Automats where a lonely girl can go.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Soup for a Snowbound Night

Like many people in the US this winter, we're spending a lot of nights hunkered down, waiting out the storm.  What better thing to do on a cold, snowy evening than make a vat of soup to eat with toasted bread and cheese?  Something I may not have mentioned in a while is that I was a cook in a former life.  One of the many things I did every day at my job was whip up huge cauldrons of soup from scratch, usually at least three a day, almost none of them from a recipe, or if they were from recipes, they were usually ones I'd made up based on what looked fresh and plentiful in the walk-in that day.  I kept the recipes safe in the top-secret vault inside my head.

It has been a long time since I cooked for a living, but I still cook every day.  I don't keep my recipes secret anymore, though.  Life's too short and food tastes too good for secret recipes.

So, one of the soups I made most often back in the day was some variation of potato-kale.  It's a very basic soup, but delicious.  I don't eat meat, so I make this as a vegetarian soup, but one could easily make it with chicken stock and chicken meat.  You could even toss in a little turkey or turkey sausage.  It's a great recipe for using up things you've got, and it is very, very heart-healthy.  You'll notice I don't have a lot of exact measurements. I make soup by feel, smell, and taste.  I measure everything precisely when I bake, but never when I cook.

Potato, Kale, and Beet-Green Soup

In a stockpot over medium heat, saute in olive oil:
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced 
  • 1 or 2 shallots, diced
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 or 2 stalks celery, diced.
  • salt and pepper
Let the vegetables soften and begin to caramelize, being careful not to scorch them, for about 10 minutes.  As they're cooking, dice about 3-4 medium potatoes.  I use boiling potatoes for this, not baking potatoes.  You want ones that have relatively thin skin and less starch content so that they'll be nice and creamy.  I scrub the potatoes well and leave the skins on, then I dice them up and toss them right in with the other veggies.

To the veggies, add enough warm vegetable stock to cover, then add more stock until it reaches about 2 or 3 inches above the vegetables.  You can use homemade stock, which I usually do, or you can use store-bought.  A good store-bought brand is Pacific.

As the vegetables come to a simmer, prepare the greens:
  • 1 medium-ish bunch kale (between 10 and 15 stalks)
  • 1 bunch beet greens (I use greens that I've cut off the tops of beets I used the day before in another recipe.  Instead of throwing all those lovely greens away, I save them for this soup).
Cut the tough stems out of all the greens.  Discard the stems and then chop the greens roughly.  Wash them well.  I give them 2 or 3 good wash cycles, changing the water each time.  You don't need to dry them.

Toss the greens in with the veggies and stock, adding a bit more salt and pepper at this point.  Pop the lid on and let the whole thing simmer away for a good 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every ten minutes or so.  If it needs more liquid, ladle in more stock.  Taste a few times, too, and adjust the seasonings.  

Near the end of the cooking time I toss in a large handful of chopped, fresh, flat-leaf parsley.  You could add any herbs your heart desires.

The last step is to puree the whole thing.  I use an immersion stick blender, and I blend it until the greens are in small pieces.  The goal is to make a rustic soup rather than a perfectly smooth one.

It's great served as-is, but it's over-the-top with a little grated cheese and some croutons or toasted bread.  Tonight I had it with a grilled cheddar sandwich.  Heavenly. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Freewrite Friday: The Picture

Before we dive into this week's exercise, I thought I'd share a few inspiring links.  One is to Vicki Archer's beautiful post on writing.  She talks about being an "accidental writer," about fear, and about the practice of writing.  It's a great read.  A second link is to Kate Hanson Foster's new blog.  Kate is a former student of mine and a wonderful writer.  She tried her hand at the Rules of the Game exercise with fantastic--and truly funny--results.  The last link is by Sarah, a new blogging friend of mine.  At her wonderful blog Snippets, Sarah shares her take on the Color exercise.  

If you have a blog and feel like sharing your own exercise there, please email me with the url so I can share the link here.  If you don't have a blog, but would like to email me your exercise, I can include it in my next Freewrite Fridays post.  The more the merrier!

I designed all three of the exercises we've done so far--The Map, The Color, and The Rules of the Game--to get us dealing in specific, concrete imagery.  Think back to high school when your English teacher scrawled in red ink in the margins of your stories: "Show, don't tell!"  She or he was right.  Good writing is rooted in vivid specifics, in sensory images, and in details that reveal more than any abstraction ever could.  That's why in the color exercise I ask you never to say the color.  "Green" can be many shades.  It is too vague.  It doesn't let the reader into the writing.  But if you can show a particular shade of green through sensory images (using all fives senses), your writing will come to life.  I'm not saying that you should never use the word green (or pink or blue); what I am saying is that if you think of writing as something akin to painting, you'll start to pay attention to sensory images, and your reader will become more engaged.

I'll give you an example of telling a scene and then one of showing the same scene: 

When I write,

"An old woman sat on the green bench under a tree, and nearby a mother was frustrated with her son for getting dirty,"

the reader knows there was a tree, but not what kind.  She knows the bench was some shade of green, but it won't come alive vividly in her mind.  And she knows there was a mother and child, but doesn't really see them.  A good way to test if you're doing a lot of telling rather than showing is to count how many times you're using some form of the verb "to be," as in "the mother was frustrated."  This tells the reader she's frustrated, but it is far more powerful to show the reader this, as we see when m.heart writes,

"Beneath the spreading branches of an ancient Elm an old woman dozed on a park bench painted the color of fir trees on a gray afternoon, and a young mother tugged her toddler off the lawn by his soft, pale wrist, glancing scoldingly at the soiled knees of his pants as she hoisted him upright."  (read full text here)

The whole scene comes to life.  M.heart creates specific shades of green, she uses vivid images and strong verbs, and in doing so, she sets the tone and mood for the piece.  We feel almost like we are right there.

Often, when I'm teaching beginning creative writers, they'll say, "But I want to leave it kind of vague so that the reader can fill in their own details.  That way anyone can relate to it."  My answer is that we read a story because we want to be transported; we want to connect to those unique characters, that particular setting, and unique situation.  Vague writing doesn't transport us.  Vague writing sits on the page while our eyes skim over it, never really connecting, never really caring.  Every concrete detail the writer conjures, like that "bench painted the color of fir trees on a gray afternoon," weaves a tapestry of texture and detail for the reader--a kind of playground for the imagination.

The concrete detail is a powerful tool, indeed.  It's also one that writers never stop thinking about.  We work on perfecting this element of writing for our entire lives.

The Picture
The directions for this exercise are simple:
  • First, the warm up.  Find a picture that feels like it tells you a story.  It may be a photograph, a painting, an ad in a magazine, a newspaper photo, whatever.  It doesn't matter where you find the picture; it only matters that the image is compelling to you, and that it seems to hold the kernel of a story within its borders.  I've included a couple of my own photos in this post, plus a painting that I love by  Pieter Bruegel called "Hunters in the Snow."  But don't feel like you need to use them.  They are just images that inspire me to want to tell a story.  There may or may not be people in the image that you choose.  There may be a sense of movement or it might be quite still.  (If you're having trouble finding an image, think of looking at Flickr for inspiration.  Or you could even visit an art museum.)
  • Look closely at the image.  Really think about the details, the light, the colors, what's happening in the picture.  If it's a photograph that you took, try to remember what you smelled when you took it, what sounds you heard, what the temperature was like.  If it's an image that you didn't take (or paint), imagine these things from what the picture shows you.
  • Next, in your writing notebook, begin to jot down notes about the details in the picture itself as well as any you can remember or imagine based on what you see.  A good way to do this is to actually make five lists, labeling each one at the top: See, Smell, Taste, Feel, or Hear.  Try to include details from all five senses.
  • Finally, set the list and the picture aside, and write for half an hour (or more) about the picture.  What story emerges as you write?  Don't feel like you have to control the story.  Just see what happens.  Are there people involved?  Animals?  Is someone hurt? Lonely?  Happy?  Afraid?  Use sensory details to convey the mood of your piece.  If it ends up being more description and less story, that's okay, too.  Think of it then as an exercise in setting a scene and establishing a mood.
  • Most importantly, have fun with this!  Let me know how it goes.

Oh, and if you find any great images that you'd like to share with others for inspiration, feel free to email me jpegs by Sunday.  Just be sure that they're either your own images, are no longer under copyright, or that you have permission to use them.  I'll post any inspiration images I receive on Monday!