Category: Prompts

Today we started with Deryl’s handout on humor and a video clip on David Sedaris reading on Letterman’s snow.

The basic techniques in Deryl’s handout were:
Word play and puns
Tweaking cliches
Satire and Parody
Awkward situation
Strange settings

He had us try to write a humorous piece in the 10 minutes or so we had left. I think he was the one who handed out “Waltzing the Cat” by Pam Houston, which we were to read for tomorrow.

Rob discussed the writer’s view of himself and gave us two handouts: “Borges and I” by Gorge Luis Borges and “Updike and I” by John Updyke. He also read us “Rob and I” from his own writing. Home Play? Here’s the handout.

Rob Davidson  FSAF Summer 2012

 Authorial Self-Reflection

As we have seen with Borges and Updike, writers have been known to use themselves—or their public personae—as material for literature.  Indeed, the idea of “textualizing” the author and/or the creative process presents a writer with a unique set of possibilities.  By textualizing the creative process and turning the lens of creative writing onto itself, we are invited to reconsider: how readers negotiate a creative text; the construction of authorship; and the reflexive nature of all creative expression. (And so much more!)

IN-CLASS ASSIGNMENT: Write a 1-2 page character sketch in which you examine yourself as a creative writer, confront some issue of substance related to creative writing, and/or textualize the creative process.  Some questions to help get you started:

  • Who is it that sits down to write?
  • Why does that person write? (Be honest.)
  • What style or manner of writing does that person create? Why?
  • Does that person have any goals as a writer? Does she want to save the world? Destroy it? Or does she just want to create pretty objects to decorate book shelves? Perhaps none of the above?
  • Has your writing ever offended anyone? Pleased anyone? If so, how did that make you feel?
  • And so on…

Jeanne had us discuss “Snowy River Visions, by Paula Bohince in pairs, each pair coming up with ten things about the poem, which we were to organize as “How to write a Paula Bohince poem,” and email the list to her: bellestargang at gmail dot com. She also handed out “Thirteen ways of looking at a Blackbird”.” Jeanne, you didn’t put the author on that one.

Accordion PlayersThe noon Lunch Bites included a large group of accordion players playing together, some with button boxes and some with keyboards, which is apparently rather unusual. As I understand it, the button boxes are designed like a harmonca: they give different notes depending on whether the bellows are being compressed or expanded. Something new I learned at Festival!

It was also a day for readings. Rob read “Walter: Six Meditations” which combined six short pieces with slides, at lunch bites. Later, in the afternoon session of creative writing, all three of our instructors read from their own writing. Makes me nervous about reading from my own work at lunch bites tomorrow!

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The sun will rise this morning at 8:08 am and set at 6:00 this afternoon for 9 hours 52 minutes of daylight. The sun even shines on the floor sometimes! We’ve had several days of light snow – scattered flakes falling vertically from a barely cloudy sky – but less than 3” total. My driveway does have a little buildup over the plowed surface, but the main thing I notice is the berm where the road was plowed. By next week I’ll be able to say that the sun rose instead of will rise, as this post goes live at 8 am. It feels like spring, though the temperatures are supposed to go right back down.

The snow festoon tore loose completely sometime Tuesday. Once that tear opened I guess it was just a matter of time.

I can now go to afternoon events; in fact I went to the symphony yesterday. I got to hear Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture and triple concerto, and Brahms’ Tragic overture. But I could only stay for the first 10 minutes of Brahms’ concerto for violin and cello — the program started at 4 pm and in order to get home before dark I had to leave at 5:45. It was a nice change to have the sun shining on the campus during intermission. The temperature was close to freezing, and the roads were fiendishly slippery. Luckily after 48 years in Alaska a feather touch on both brake and accelerator is automatic.

This week OLLI classes start, so I’ll be busy with classes 4 days a week, Platform-building Campaign, and WriteMotivation. I’ve already achieved one of my March goals: the first Campaign challenge was a prompt to write a piece of flash fiction. I posted mine last Thursday. Next Challenge is supposed to be out March 5. I still haven’t figured out what the pictorial clue is supposed to represent, but it’s supposed to be harder. Wish me luck!

500+ posts is too many for me to keep track of, and quite a few are “reference” posts, such as the ones on planet building or horse coat color genetics. So I’m putting in a new feature, an index page that links to posts linking to the posts on a given topic. (Sound confusing? Try doing it!)

These indexing posts start today (see below) and will appear occasionally until the reference posts are all indexed. After that I’ll just be updating the index posts, which will be accessible from the Index tab above.

With 550 posts as of today, I’ve started to have problems remembering what I’ve already put on here. This is particularly a problem with posting existing content such as poems, short pieces from the Summer Arts Festival, or science explanations originally written for the Alaska Science Forum. I can’t remember which books or DVDs I’ve posted reviews on. It also is starting to be a problem when I want to link to a previous post and can’t remember when it was put up or what the title was. And there are posts on this blog that have permanent information, like the series on planet building and the one on horse color genetics, or the book and DVD reviews. I want to make it easier for my readers as well as myself to find things.

I made a start some time ago by adding an index page, which can be accessed from the menu at the top of any page. Right now, the only links are to index pages on my author site. This takes you out of the site and sometimes back in, which is rather clumsy. The index list is also incomplete.

I’m going to start posting an occasional entry which is strictly an index of past posts on a particular topic. These posts will be linked from the index page, and will link forward to the individual blog posts. As it takes a while to find all the posts that belong together, this will be a slow process—probably extending over the next few months. The first in this series, on DVD reviews, is already queued for January 3. Others will follow, most on Thursdays.

I probably won’t be indexing every post. Some, like those early posts which were simply glossary entries for my books, are on the author site and really belong there. Others, like the regular Monday updates on North Pole weather starting in November 2010, can be found easily enough just by using the calendar on the site. But I hope that by the time I have finished this, older posts of interest will be easier to find.

This was a Summer Arts Festival assignment, to write a poem about writing and inspiration, using the word “swipe.” It wound up as my contribution to Feathers, hence the embellishment.I’ll probably have another post, later today, announcing a contest.

The assignment, from Summer Arts Festival 2009: Take lines from one or more existing poems and rearrange them to form a poem of your own. The result?


A hawk high in the soft sky,
Silly with light
As the trumpets of Mahler
Is only a smudge of motion.

And the clouds moved,
And the grass growing fast below,
And the volcanoes haven’t yet awakened,

And so on the long day of the summer solstice,
For their small Chinese brushstrokes arrowing blue
She dances messages.

(There’s a bit of wishful thinking today, with the days becoming rapidly shorter.)

Writing Prompt: Games

I don’t usually give writing prompts, but one occurred to me recently, one that I’ve used in my own writing.

Invent a new sport, game or competition.

I have three in Homecoming.

One is obstacle racing, a horseback riding sport involving elements of steeplechasing, cross county, competition trail riding and a dog obstacle course.

The second is a mental sport, pattern chess, which involves rearranging colored tiles with the mind alone. (Not much use if you can’t teleport objects, but there is a version for non-espers.)

The third is imagined as a replacement (given the technology) for soccer or American football: plasmaball. The game is played in free fall, and the “ball” is artificial ball lightning. This is a very physical sport, with teams competing.

As an example of pattern chess, here’s the scene from Homecoming when Coryn is teaching Roi the game – and gets a bit of a surprise:


            Roi did try to say his thanks that evening, but Coryn was playing a board game with Ander and simply waved him toward the computer interface. “Get your homework in,” he ordered, “and then we can talk.”

That didn’t take long, as Roi had already worked out what he wanted to enter. He glanced toward the older students when he’d finished, confirming that they were both still engrossed in their game. Pattern chess. He went back to the computer briefly, checking what information it had on snow, and then turned back to watch the game. Pattern chess was almost as prestigious a sport among the more intellectual students as plasmaball was among Xazhar’s group, and Coryn was one of the best players at Tyndall.

“Gotcha,” Coryn said at last, and Ander leaned back and rotated his neck, eyes closed.

“You can’t give me enough of a handicap to make it an even game,” he said. “Hey, Roi, why don’t you learn? Give me a break from getting beaten. Maybe we could even double up against him.”

“Why not?” Coryn grinned. “Finished putting in your homework? Come on over, then. I could use a review of the basics, and you’ve got the abilities.”

Ander pulled back the thing he’d been sitting on, and Roi moved his float chair into its place. Cory had shoved most of the colored tiles into a loose pile, and picked out two red and two white pieces. “We’ll start with a level one game,” he said as he arranged the pieces in a square, the two red tiles on Roi’s left, the white ones on his right. “This is the starting pattern. We each have a goal pattern, from rearranging the starting pattern. Yours is to have your lower left and upper right red, and the other two white. Mine is the opposite. It wouldn’t even be a game in the non-esper version, with alternate tile swaps—the first player would always win. But in the esper version you don’t touch the tiles except mentally, both players go at once, and you have to hold your pattern for three seconds to win. The struggle is strictly for control of the tiles—you can’t contact the other player’s mind directly. The computer will give us an audible starting tone. Got it?”

Roi reached mentally for the tiles. It sounded simple enough—hold down the two tiles closest to him, interchange the other two. “Got it,” he repeated.

When the computer gave its starting ping, Roi shifted his tiles as he had planned, hardly aware of opposition. Coryn cleared his throat and said, “That’s good. Now let’s try a level two.”

Levels two and three—four and eight squares on a side, respectively, went the same way. Coryn looked stunned, and Ander had both hands plastered over his mouth. “Did I do something wrong?” Roi asked uncertainly.

“You’re about an order of magnitude better’n either of us expected, that’s all,” Ander chortled. “Sure you’ve never played before?”

“I don’t think so,” Coryn said. “He feels like he’s learning as he goes along. But he’s strong—well, I guess he’d have to be, working through the suppresser field. Roi, let’s try a real level four game, with the computer figuring the starting and goal patterns. It’s pretty hard for a person to set up the patterns—unless they’re as simple as the stripe-check we’ve been using—so they come out with equal moves for both players, but the computer’s set up to do it, and put the tiles in their starting positions. Can you handle a two hundred fifty-six tile grid?”

“I can try. How long do I get to study the patterns?”

“Five minutes.”

Time enough, Roi thought. He identified the teleports he would need to make, felt out the tiles, and set the jumps in his mind. When the computer beeped, he got all but eight of the tiles where he needed them on the first try. The remaining eight seemed glued down, and he had to pry them away mentally to put them into place, exchanging only one pair at a time. When he raised his eyes again, Coryn’s mouth was hanging open, and Ander was in the recliner, doubled up in silent laughter.

“I haven’t been beaten that thoroughly since the last time I played my father,” Coryn said.

“Maybe the two of you together could beat him,” Ander managed to choke out between fits of laughter.


Granted these are all played in science fiction, but games could be invented for other genres as well. Try to write a scene with an invented game.