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 – 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
Exercise 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.”

Continue reading “2020 Reading List – so far!”

Short Story Challenge – “First Day of Work” – Marcy Erb

I meant to post this about a week ago, since NaNoWriMo is already 8 days expired. But the results for my personal version of it with short stories – NaShoStoWriMo – were good: I wound up writing 15 short stories and over 22,000 words. My goal had been 20 stories, so I fell short of that, but considering I started the month with a whooping zero short stories ever written, I’m very pleased with the challenge. It accomplished its goal, which was to inspire me to write short stories.

Holiday travel for Thanksgiving really put a monkey wrench into my writing schedule and I marveled at folks in the U.S. doing NaNoWriMo who were able to power through that crazy last week of November when so many of us are traveling or shopping or prepping or hosting or cooking.

Continue reading “Short Story Challenge – “First Day of Work” – Marcy Erb”

NaShoStoWriMo Story – and Galumphing submission – The Soldiers’ Return

I promised to post one of the stories from my NaShoStoWriMo challenge and I’m only a few days late doing that…this one was inspired by our Galumphing poetry challenge for November. The words were: glass, lake, soldier. This one came in at 713 words – so only a few minutes of your time. Comments and suggestions welcome – I thank everyone for their encouragement regarding my personal short story challenge.

The Soldiers’ Return

By Marcy Erb

When Carl saw the soldiers coming across the pasture in formation, he wasn’t that surprised. He’d seen this before as a child in Germany and so he knew he needed to remain calm. That way, if he was called upon to take any action or speak to the soldiers, he would be able to do so in a dignified manner. Plus, he remembered; nobody else in his family spoke German.

Continue reading “NaShoStoWriMo Story – and Galumphing submission – The Soldiers’ Return”

NaShoStoWriMo Week 2 Complete – with unexpected word count!

Well, week two of NaShoStoWriMo (my version of NaNoWriMo, but with short stories) is complete and I met my goal. I have 10 short stories written so far. Because a lot of NaNoWriMo revolves around word count, I felt compelled to tally up my word count so far for the 10 stories and…wait for it…16,438 words! Holy Toledo! I really didn’t expect it to be that high already. Some of my stories are under 1000 words, but most are in the 1000 – 2500 word range. One behemoth is 3200 words.

Continue reading “NaShoStoWriMo Week 2 Complete – with unexpected word count!”