Wanted: More Writing Prompts

The strange tale of a euphonium-playing animal-loving character named Tiffanie Brump captured the attention of Revolver‘s editors, who named me “Winner of WANTED 25.” Revolver called WANTED 25  “its most ambitious WANTED contest to date”.

My prize is three-month prompt-based SERIAL PROJECT on Revolver. I love writing prompts. They provide fresh inspiration, take my writer’s mind into new places I wouldn’t have thought of, and fresh, unexpected plots and characters always arise.

I think it’s going to be a fun assignment and have already received my first prompt. Watch for bi-weekly musings at Revolver, and while you’re waiting to see my  new serial, check out their other stories, poems, and projects. And watch for the next WANTED prompt. Always fun, whether you win or not!

Gardens Under Glass

 

43971923_fabe4c4ee5_zThe photo was taken almost ten years ago when my oldest son was first in Helsinki, and I thought of it this morning as I practiced meditative breathing exercises.

The beautiful flower bloomed inside the Helsinki Winter Garden, which is a place much like Saint Paul’s Como Park Conservatory: both transparent glass skins held together by metal bones, both housing carefully gardened ecosystems of  tropical plants and koi ponds.

There is nothing more restorative than a visit to one in winter.

You step inside such a place and, if you wear glasses, they are immediately fogged up, you become overheated but don’t really care, and the vibrant perfume of growing things saturates you in a healing way.

So it was the perfect day to visit the St. Paul Conservatory–especially now that we are in the thick of winter, experiencing one of the coldest days of the year. I needed the restoration it offered. I could imagine that many similar visits are being made these winter days in Helsinki – which can be even colder, and even darker than winter is in St. Paul

The Conservatory was the perfect place to practice my breathing exercises, by which I mean meditation –

Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in,

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

Nowhere are you more aware of the breath than when you are in such a place, so damp with the thick, wet breath of green things exhaling and inhaling.

As I walked through, occasionally pausing to sit and breathe–I thought how conservatories are much like our own bodies–fragile and resilient–in need of care in order to be remain balanced and vibrant. Beautiful.

I glimpsed a half-dozen gardeners working behind the scenes in staff-only greenhouses. Others stood watchfully in the bonsai room and elsewhere, making sure visitors kept a safe distance from the rarest plants.

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Now I am thinking of myself as both a winter garden and its gardener: I inhale and exhale calmly, protecting and maintaining the beauty within my fragile crystal skin and strong metal bones.

Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in,

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

Hello 2015

You lie asleep,

deep in dreams,

deaf to all our

whispered wishes that

somehow you –

the fresh babe of the New Year —

will deliver all we have been denied,

resolve all our sorrows

in the coming tomorrows.

 

We’ve tasked you with

rectifying bad habits,

sad outlooks,

bettering our butts,

improving our paychecks,

forgetting lifetimes of regret—

in short: affirmation, dammit

that we all deserve, right?

 

It’s a lot to ask

of a one-day old,

slumbering peacefully

in the dark.

 

We all kiss you at

midnight,

drunk in

your new baby smell

shouting you be

Happy New Year,

by which we mean that

you will do everything,

little one,

to make us happy,

finally happy.

 

Blocked?

“It was too big for him, that was the truth. It had never really progressed, it had simply fallen apart into a series of fragments.”

~ George Orwell

I thought I’d write about not having nothing much to say. An odd topic for a blog, to be sure.

But there you have it.

This wordless inertia is not the same as writer’s block, as I have plenty of ideas, I always do. More than one work in progress. I feel distracted, but always am; the world itself an unending distraction of unresolved problems, rising tensions, and I’ve often found writing is a good cure for distraction. Writing grounds me, it can be a form of meditation, an escape, I’ll admit.

It’s easy to throw some words on a blank page, fiction-up when reality sucks.

But those times of distraction, when I can get into a world-building mania and think 1398854_10205607049285182_6357952780868727952_oI’m onto something new, invent new characters who deserve to live beyond that initial chapter, tend to….fizzle.

But that’s not what is happening now.

It’s also not the same as giving the work a rest. Where you work like crazy, stuff the work in progress in a drawer, then come back to it with fresh eyes. This “resting phase” is part of writing, essential so you can read your work from a reader’s perspective. But I don’t feel like the writer in me is resting.

It really may be nothing more than the sad, cold, gray fog of November settling down all around. The naked boredom of trees, their leaves shed like playing cards scattered on the table at the end of a game. The players moved on to pretty much nowhere.

My writer’s brain has entered a phase of literary hibernation. To avoid a complete shut down, I’m spending lots of time looking at visual art, allowing my eyes to linger on color and form — day-dreams — instead of constantly world-wording. At some point, the visual fragments I’m collecting may reassemble themselves into poems or prose.

There’s no way to tell whether that will be a day from now — or several months down the road.

The World’s Least Magical Girl

Mae

Anyone knows that along with acne, menstrual cycles, and teenage angst, your magical power emerges no later than your 16th birthday. That is, if you are anyone but Mae.

Mae will never have a magical power, which means an uncertain and dangerous future, given her potential inability to defend herself from the criminal use of magic by others.

While her friends and peers become seers, invisibles, flyers, and other magically transformed teens, Mae learns the secret her parents have been keeping from her since her birth: she is the only known unmagicked girl her world has ever seen.

So how does a private recruiter learn about her secret? And why does he want her for an exclusive school no one has ever heard of?

Confused feelings about a boy, whose extraordinary power enables him to “borrow” the magical abilities of others, make Mae even more stubborn, more determined to go it alone, an increasingly difficult plan considering she is an unmagicked girl in magical harm’s way.

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That’s the idea behind my latest YA novel, The World’s Least Magical Girl (working title), which explores how being different can be the source of one’s greatest strength. I’m working on it while my unsold novel, Naming the Stars, looks for a home.

Like each novel I’ve written, this latest novel is a new challenge. I want each book to be better than the last, and stretch me while I write it. I think The World’s Least Magical Girl is doing that!

What They Never Taught in High School

Strange how nearly four decades have gone by, yet last night I recognized friends I hadn’t seen since high school and chatted with them as if it was only yesterday when we last spoke. As if nothing had changed.

We, a group of high school thespians from the 70’s, had a gathering to visit with our high school theater director, JB, and his wife, the high school art teacher, who were passing through town.

It looked for all the world like JB had stepped right off the stage of that last performance in the late 70’s, just the day before. His shirt, some commented, seemed straight out of the 70’s. (Or the bottom of our friend and favorite actor’s steamer trunk, lovingly preserved in the pages of his scrapbook.) His face had a few more wrinkles, for sure, but his eyes were still sparkling, his wit sharp.

35 or 40 years come and gone as if just one day passed.

Yet, far more has happened. Life has happened. We’ve married, split, remarried, (or never married), had children, some of us grandchildren. Some of us childless, by choice or not.

For others, it took those four decades to be legally allowed to marry the person they loved. Everyone knows how brutal high school can be to people who are “different” and theater kids are more different than most.

We’ve each had a share of happiness & heartbreak over the past, almost four, decades since high school. It seems to take about four decades to heal from that tumult of high school — to stop having the nightmares about forgetting locker combinations, the boys or girls we loved who didn’t love us back, or loved us for awhile and moved on to others, the dances we didn’t get invited to… all of that teenage stuff that – to be honest – doesn’t really end when we enter our 20’s.

Or our 30’s.

Last night was a graduation of sorts. We compared the wounds life gave us and the accolades we’d worked hard to achieve. We passed another test, and got rewarded for good results. It was a simple lesson that takes, ridiculously, three to four decades to learn: the greatest joy comes from the community of friends, the shared bottles of wine, the shared experience of art. As simple as that. You’d think you’d learn that in school, but you don’t.