Exercise 3 Part 2: Short and Long

Keeping up my goal of a post every Monday by the skin of my teeth and thank you for those 3 extra hours I get by being on the west coast! This is the second part of Le Guin’s exercise for Chapter 3 – the chapter on sentence length and complex syntax.

And this one is the first one that has flummoxed me. The instructions are simple:

Part Two: Write a half page to a page of narrative, up to 350 words, that is all one sentence.” Steering the Craft, Page 32.

I tried a couple of times with two different topics – but I didn’t get close to half a page to a page or 350 words. More than that, I think my long sentences are pale imitations of real long sentences – just lots of sentences joined together by semi-colons or em dashes (tried both and wasn’t happy with either).  And despite trying to channel my best A Tale of Two Cities opening sentence “It was the best of times…” I would say this was the most difficult exercise so far for me. Maybe it’s the fear of run-on sentences that my English teachers so carefully cultivated…

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Exercise 3 Part 1: Short and Long

I’ve been keeping up with the writing exercises in Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin and so I am onto the next one. I’ve realized that I had mis-numbered them for the posts – exercise 2 should have been “1 Part 2” since Le Guin numbers them with the chapters, so I went back and fixed my past posts.

This exercise also has two parts and is from Chapter 3 “Sentence Length and Complex Syntax.”

Part One: Write a paragraph of narrative, 100-150 words, in sentences of seven or fewer words. No sentence fragments! Each must have a subject and a verb.” Page 32 of Steering the Craft

Here it goes:
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Exercise 2: Am I Saramago

Steve’s post last week on his progress towards his goals was very inspirational. So I confess: I’ve never been good about setting writing goals. Partly because I have abysmal time management skills, but also because in the past I would write in fits and starts. I would plunge into a story and write for hours, day after day, and then when something would come up or the plotting/story would get hard, it would be weeks or months (or never – okay, pretty much never) until I would come back to it. I no longer have the luxury to write for hours on any day, let alone any sort of marathon burst of creativity. Life has forced me to write a little each day (only other option: none at all) and actually, this has served to turn the unsustainable torrents into more of a reasonable trickle. Circumstance-enforced discipline, I suppose.  So maybe it is time to retry Writing Goals.

One goal I have had in the last month is to post here on Mondays – and so to keep achieving goal number one, here is the next exercise from Ursula Le Guin’s Steering the Craft book. This is from Chapter 2, the chapter on Punctuation and Grammar. She calls this exercise a “pure consciousness-raiser” about the value of punctuation.
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Exercise 1 part 2: A strong emotion

The last week has been so weighted, so heavy with sorrow and yet growing with hope too. With current events still in the front of my mind, I’ve tried to resume some artistic activities. So, a day late, but here it is – the next writing exercise from Steering the Craft.

Background: I’ve been working through Ursula K. Le Guin’s excellent Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story. Always glad for feedback or comments! (And if you feel inspired to join in – even better!!)

From Chapter 1: The Sound of Your Writing
Part 2: In a paragraph or so, describe an action or a person feeling a strong emotion – joy, fear, grief. Try to make the rhythm and movement of the sentences embody or represent the physical reality you’re writing about. ” -Steering the Craft, Page 9.

This one definitely didn’t come from personal experience – no lotto jackpots here!

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No words, no art

I had planned to post the next exercise in Le Guin’s Steering the Craft, but it doesn’t feel right today.  The death of George Floyd and outpouring of grief and pain and rage in the last week makes writing exercises seem, well…something that can wait. I will just refer you to my post today on Illustrated Poetry, my main blog.  No other words, no art.

Please please stay safe and healthy.

Exercise 1 part 1 – Being Gorgeous

I’ve been working through Ursula K. Le Guin’s excellent Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story. I’m on chapter 3 now and I highly recommend it. I’ll be posting my responses to the short exercises she proposes here. Always glad for feedback or comments! (And if you feel inspired to join in – even better!!)

“Chapter 1: The Sound of Your Writing
Part 1: Being Gorgeous – Write a paragraph to a page of narrative that’s meant to be read aloud. Use onomatopoeia, alliteration, repetition, rhythmic effects, made-up words or names, dialect – any kind of sound effect you like – but NOT rhyme or meter.”  – Steering the Craft, Page 8.

Right after high school I volunteered at our municipal zoo – I used to conduct evening tours for groups spending the night. We’d leave the group at the “sleepover safari pavilion” and then had to walk to our cars through the empty zoo…

Nighttime at the Zoo

Nighttime is the absolute best time in a zoo. And I’m not talking about one of those nights the zoo simply stays open late. No! The magic only conjures forth when the zoo is closed. One has the space and time to enjoy the sights and sounds of an assemblage of animals found nowhere else on Earth. The silhouettes of dozens of different animals against the darkening sky or illuminated by the warm red glow of their heat lamps. The monkeys lean against the chain link fences of their enclosures, tufts of tawny tails sticking through at odd angles: they pause in grooming the silky black hair of their babies and take a good long look at the sunset smear of pink and orange. The smell of exotic manure – not plain old horse manure – but manure aroma with the hint of something extra. What exactly depends on the ungulate: extra moisture, extra miles down special serpentine guts, extra regurgitations, who knows? The elephants fart with abandon, the decibels of their farts echoing across the empty visitor plazas. Nothing stops you in your tracks like a sustained reverberating bluuuuuurph from an elephant bum.

The bats hid all day, wrapped in their thin leather bathrobes, caring not a fie for the surges of disinterested visitors or the sinister suspirations of strollers squeaking towards the orangutan exhibits. They are now active, lurching wing claw over feet on the ceiling of their cage, tipping their heads back to assess the selection of fruit on offer. Ever see a southern wombat do anything but sleep, Buddha belly rising and falling, stubby toes pointed firmly at the sky? Come to the zoo at night and the wombat will be upright, nose in its food bowl.

The wildlife isn’t all contained either. The peacocks scream eiiiiiiiiiiii triumphantly from their roosts high in the eucalyptus trees. Skunks waddle down the deserted paths with purpose, like assistant zookeepers. “Business to attend to, whot whot!” they seem to say. It is not recommended that you attempt to interrupt them; a blast from a skunk butt will make you not want to be with yourself. No one else will want to be with you either, the sulfurous compound lighting lesson-teaching fire to every mucus membrane it meets. Best to let the wild skunks get to their meetings unhindered; even the great cats, the lions and jaguars and tigers, leave them be, knowing the skunks are the perfect bureaucrats of the nighttime zoo.

2020 Reading List – so far!

This is my first post in a very long time – so thank you to Steve and Jessie for letting me sneak back into the show! This year for the first time I decided to actually keep track of how many (and what) books I read. I consider myself a fairly prolific reader, but have no quantification of what that means. I am hoping to read about 20 books this year. We are almost halfway through 2020 (yikes) and so this seemed like a good time to check in with my list and see where it is at. This list only includes books that I finished. I admit, I abandon quite a few books partway through: those don’t get to be on “the list.”

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