Writing 101: To Whom it May Concern

Writing Challenge: Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What jumps out at you? Start there, and try a twist: write in the form of a letter.

A letter to Joy

Dear Joy,

I found you on page 29 of a book. The writing challenge, “To whom it may concern,” was the map that led me to you.

Can I connect with you outside of page 29? You are needed everywhere and in every heart.

Word on the street is that a Carpenter has you in an unlimited supply. One of His family members, a half-brother from His mother, even encourages us to think of the trials of life as occasions for joy.

Is such a mindset possible?  Is perspective the key to locating you outside of the boundaries of page 29? Umm… I think I need to reflect on this more.

Also, do you know anyone who can tell me where to find the Carpenter? I would appreciate any help you can provide.

Sincerely,

E

Writing 101: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!

The Daily Post Writing Assignment: Today, be inspired by a favorite childhood meal. For the twist, focus on infusing the post with your unique voice — even if that makes you a little nervous.

My favorite meal from childhood? Fried green plantains and dried fish sautéed with onions, eschallot,  and tomatoes come to mind; however, I am having difficulty remembering if it was a childhood favorite. One factor in the struggle to remember is this meal has been one of my favorite meals for decades. As such it is easy to assume this love affair began in my childhood.

Let us consider if there is any supporting evidence. I could ask my siblings but since plantains are a family favorite, they will likely have the same difficulty. I cannot recall a family gathering in which this meal was not on the menu. We have joked at times that our family has a plantain gene that we have passed on to the next generation, for even children who were born in other countries also love fried green plantains.

One of my favorite plantain stories is of one of my nephews, who was no more than four years old when the story unfolded. He was visiting from Canada and woke up one of my sisters and requested fried plantains. Mind you, his request was made during the pre-dawn hours. She, being one of the most sweet-spirited persons I know, did as he requested. I was told he asked to stand on a chair so that he could watch the cooking process.

After they were cooked, she cut up the plantains into bite size pieces, cooling them in the process, so that he could enjoy the treat. Next, she placed the plate with the pieces on the dining room table. As she was about to turn on the light, he informed her that he did not need the light. He ate the entire portion in the dark and returned to bed.

It is very likely that he has no memory of the experience. All the same, the next time I see him, I will ask if he was dreaming of plantains, much like the children in, “Twas the night before Christmas,” who “were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.”

plantains

salt fish

Writing 101: Death to adverbs

The Daily Post writing challenge: Go to a public location and make a detailed report of what you see. The twist of the day? Write the post without adverbs.

He rules the courtyard, talons curled, wings outspread, perched atop a base composed of one layer of iron and the second of stone. A fountain gushes from the middle of the base.  One spout aims for the top of the base but, failing in its endeavor, falls and slips into the circular pool below. Another spout trickles over the left side to join the first in the pool.The sound of the water energizes more than soothes. Four boulders crouch in the pool: two paired and one on each side of the couple.

The six foot, charcoal colored, iron eagle gazes down at the pool but seems oblivious to the surroundings. His visage is fierce as if his thoughts are on matters that will require force and precision. As if there is an enemy who had dared to challenge the eagle’s authority and has to be annihilated. His curved beak rests on his chest.

The courtyard has eight benches, including the one on which I sit. The seat of each bench appears rusted but the finger I swiped across the seat bears no evidence of rust. The frame of each bench is black in some areas and a mixture of grey and black in others, where the elements have taken a toll. The benches are also in pairs with varying distances between each partner, as if the partners share different levels of intimacy.

The benches are on the border of a path composed of embedded river pebbles, framed by a combination of red pavers and brick.  A garbage can is housed in a container constructed with the same river pebbles as the path. Its half dome-shaped, light grey plastic cover has a front opening.

Shrubs and plants of different kinds, reside in beds covered with light brown mulch in the middle, and edged with small rocks.

The blazing heat of the midday sun and the end of my lunch break bring this writing episode to an end. Their combined powers boot me out of this courtyard and order me back to my office.

The Daily Prompt: Litmus, Litmus on the Wall

The Daily Prompt from The Daily Post: If you had to come up with one question, the answer to which would determine whether or not you could be friends with a person you’ve just met, what would it be? What would the right answer be?

“The Question

One question that will determine if we will be friends?

Such an operating system seems destined to produce a premature outcome

For friendship is a journey of discovery

Initial impressions may not be representative of the person’s character

A character that, with exploration over time, I may come to value dearly

Or discover one that matches the scariness of a Dean Koontz novel

The first question opens the door

Subsequent questions guided by open hearted curiosity and good listening skills

Bring me further into the house and rooms

What I find in the process is what determines whether a stranger will become an acquaintance

An acquaintance become a friend

I have no litmus question

Writing 101: Give and take

Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else. Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue.

“How was your day?”

“You look worn out, Babe,” John noted as JoAnn dropped into the passenger seat with a sigh that seemed to come from her toes, and give him a perfunctory kiss on the cheek. “Tough day?”

JoAnn, eyes closed, head and neck wilting against the back of the seat, moaned, “Try hellish!”

John gently squeezed her left shoulder and murmured, “What happened?” his eyes fixed on the road as he attempted to merge onto the 405 S freeway.

His touch and sympathy seemed to revive JoAnn. She opened her eyes, turned to face him and began venting. “Do you remember that presentation that I was scheduled to make today to the team visiting from our head office in Chicago? The presentation I worked on for two weeks and emailed to Carla on Monday  so that a hard copy could be included in the folder of documents for each team member?

“Uhh,” John replied, slightly distracted.

JoAnn continued,”This morning, seconds after I sat at my desk, Carla buzzed me and asked me to come to her office. Immediately after I shut the door, she informed me that there had been a change of plans and she would make the presentation to the team. I was stunned and could only stutter, ‘Excuse me?’ Without missing a beat and looking me dead in the eyes, she stated, ‘This presentation is very important for our office and knowing that you are a team player, I knew you would not mind if someone with more experience made the presentation. Of course you will receive appropriate credit for your work.’ With that she turned to her computer and began typing. I stood in front of her desk, feet rooted to the carpet. She looked up and with eyebrows arched, as if surprised to see me still standing there, asked, ‘Is there something you need?’ I muttered, ‘No,’ and returned to my office, where I passed the morning in a daze. It was not until Susan asked me about the presentation during lunch in her office, that the daze vanished, consumed by blazing indignation. When I eventually calmed down, I agreed with Susan that I needed to do something but neither of us could come up with a plan that did not hold the risk of JoAnn exacting her pound of flesh in some manner. I am tired of thinking about it and am so glad we are going away for the rest of the week. I think I will choke her if I had to see her smirking face right now and you know, bright orange is not a flattering color on me.  Anyway, enough about me. How was your day?

John replied, “The usual.”

“What do you mean, ‘the usual?”

Shrugging, he replied, “You know. Meetings. Reports. Phone calls. Lunch. You know. The usual. Do you want us to pick-up dinner on the way home?”

JoAnn, feeling too drained to push for more details as she typically did, sighed, “Sure. Sushi?”

Writing 101: Be brief

You discover a letter on a path that affects you deeply. Today, write about this encounter. And your twist? Be as succinct as possible.

“Sarah Elizabeth, It does not matter. I love you. Please come home. Papa.”

Who was Sarah Elizabeth? What did she do? Did she ever receive the letter? Did she go home? The words and questions had spun around repeatedly in my mind from the moment I read the letter, a week earlier.

I looked at it, held upright by a vase on my mantle place,  trying to decide once again what to do. Returning it was not an option. No address. And I could not bring myself to discard it. Sighing, I turned away hoping that inspiration would come soon.

Writing 101: Serially Lost

Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

(I opted for a fictional approach).

“The woman was crazy. No other explanation. How else could you explain,” M.J. muttered to herself, “that she could be so ‘tore-up-from-the floor-up’ and be so serene and, for heavens’ sake, happy! Smiling as if she had a million dollars in her raggedy pocket book.” Recalling a story she heard on the news once, M.J. cautioned herself, “Then again, you never know. She just might.”

Although some of the details of the story escaped her at the moment, M.J. remembered that, upon her death, it was discovered that a seemingly destitute, homeless woman had thousands of dollars squirreled away in bags and other containers in her grocery cart, and even on her body. “Umm. I am sure I can find the facts if Googled it,” thought M.J, unaware of how much time she had invested in thinking about the story and that woman, Suzanne.

At first, M.J. was startled, then deeply offended, when the then nameless woman, head looking like a birds nest, at least in comparison to M.J.’s smooth coiffure, had walked up to her, introduced herself, and then had the nerve to sit next to her on the park bench. “This is what I get for acting on the impulse to pull into the park on my way back from that awful business lunch,” she had grumbled silently. “Me, the guru of life planned to the second. Okay. Okay. Fifteen minute intervals. Good heavens! Why am I arguing with myself? I must still be more rattled that I realize by the encounter.”

Not only had Suzanne introduced herself verbally, with a serene look on her face she had extended her hand to M.J. After quickly scanning it, thankful that the nails were short and dirt free, M.J. had shaken Suzanne’s hand. As an impressionable 10 year old, she had heard a story once about people entertaining angels unawares. Since then, she had been careful to be polite, although not overly friendly, to strangers. From her “it is better to be safe than sorry” perspective, being rude to someone who could be a divine messenger in disguise would never be a good choice for anyone. She was pretty sure God had struck someone dumb once for not believing what an angel told him. “Was it David?” she wondered. “No, his punishment had gone far beyond temporary loss of speech after taking another man’s wife and murdering the man to cover the affair. His dirty linen had been hung out to dry in ways newspapers like the Enquirer would envy. And, why are these old stories I know I have outgrown coming back to me now, anyway? Goodnight! My last visit to church was almost 4 years ago to see then 5 year old, Montgomery Jackson, in a nativity play.” Montgomery, her beloved nephew, would die 6 months later of complications from a ruptured appendix. Thoughts of him still pierced her heart like a red hot poker. “Will the pain never go away?” she sighed, brushing tears from her eyes.

After shaking Suzanne’s hand, M.J. had started gathering her belongings in preparation for the most rapid retreat in the history of unplanned encounters in a public place. Remembering her intended action, M wondered, “Did they have records of such escapes? Probably. Someone seems to keep record of the strangest things.” Suddenly, she realized she was, as she had done several times recently, taking another mental trip down a ‘rabbit trail.’ “What is wrong with me? Am I developing adult onset ADD? I had better check with my doctor on Friday.”

Turning her attention back to the encounter with Suzanne, M.J. remembered Suzanne’s soft but clearly spoken words, which had frozen her in place. “God knows you are still hurting over the death of Montgomery Jackson. He knows that you blame yourself for not recognizing immediately that the tummy ache he had complained of while staying with you overnight, was not just a tummy ache. It is true you would have given your life for him but you could not possibly have known what was wrong.” Suzanne, eyes full of tears and compassion, then walked away. M.J., thoughts of escape forgotten, had dropped to the bench, eyes fixed on Suzanne’s back until she vanished from her sight around a curve in the path. The persistent chiming of her cell phone had reoriented her to time and place, and the tears streaming down her face.

Now, days later, M.J. acknowledged that her contemptuous mental attacks on Suzanne were a rouse to distract her from her experience and the question it birthed: With the loss of Montgomery, she had also lost her spiritual moorings but God had sent a messenger to her. How was she going to respond?