Thursday, September 12, 2013

Your Page Awaits

Question: What do the two previous posts have in common?

Answer: Kathryn Stockett

In 2001 Kathryn was living in New York City, and following the events of September 11, she had no phone service and no mail. In fact, she had no way to tell her family that she was fine…

Oh, and how she ached to hear those southern voices.

How she longed for home…

What to do? What to do?

Well, what any good writer would do, of course —

She wrote.

On September 12, 2001 Kathryn began writing in the voice of the maid she knew in childhood.

The rest is history.

Published in 2009, The Help spent more than 100 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list.

To date it has sold over five million copies.

Now that’s what I call overcoming.

PROMPT: What are you going to start today? Pick a voice and go!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One of Those Days

All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming. 
~Helen Keller 

Everybody has bad days.

That’s just part of this crazy little thing called life.

But then, once in a while there are those suffering kind of days that bad doesn't begin to cover…

The kind you think you might never get over…

The kind that change the shape of your heart.

Well, everybody actually has those, too.

And I know that this might be one of those suffering kind of days for a lot of folks out there.

But like Helen Keller, I believe in overcoming.

That’s one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place.

I believe that artistic expression heals.

And my good friend Science tends to believe that, too. For example, a review of the literature by Stuckey and Nobel (2010) found that music engagement, visual arts, dance, and written expression all affect mental and physical health in positive ways.

Art changes lives for the better.

Consequently, art can change the world for the better (Yeah, I have never been accused of dreaming small).

So get out there, get your creative groove on, and be artful today... yes, especially today.

And when life hands you lemons, DO NOT settle for lemonade!

Make lemon pound cake instead.

I’ll even give you my recipe…

Barb’s Best Ever(!) Lemon Pound Cake


1 cup salted butter at room temp. (that’s only ½ pound  practically fat free!)
1 cup sugar, plus 1/3 cup more
4 eggs (yes, 4  do not be a wimp and skimp)
½ tsp. dried lemon peel
¼ cup lemon juice, plus 1/3 cup more 
1½ cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
(By the way, this recipe still rocks it gluten-free and dairy-free — just use any GF flour blend and sub. canola oil and ½ tsp. of salt for the butter)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9x9 cake pan.

Beat butter senseless, then add 1 cup of the sugar as a goodwill gesture. Beat it some more.

Add eggs one at a time (without the shells). Beat. Beat. Beat. Beat.

Add the lemon peel. Need I say it? Yes, BEAT.

Throw in 1 cup of flour and the baking power. Mix (Yeah, you thought I was going to say beat, didn't you?).

Add ¼ cup of lemon juice and remaining ½ cup of flour. Beat.

Pour into your oiled pan and bake for about 40 minutes… maybe 45… sometimes 50 – this is art, you know, so it varies. Anyway, you’ll know it’s done when a knife inserted in the center comes out mostly clean (a few crumbs are okay).

Remove from oven, then mix your remaining 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice (you thought I forgot about those didn't you? Didn't. So there). And here’s the best part — pour the lemon and sugar mix all over the top and let it soak into the cake.

Let cool, if you can wait that long.

Best if enjoyed with a friend or a stranger you’d like to have as a friend.

Plates are optional.

PROMPT: Create. Bake. Share. Look, the world is a better place already!


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

An Old Maid

The summer before I headed off to the Midwest for graduate school, I decided to forgo my usual waitressing job and take up housekeeping at the historic Flanders Hotel in Ocean City, New Jersey.

My reasons for the job switch had nothing whatsoever to do with my desire to master the art of toilet scrubbing or crisp hospital corners — heck no.

I wanted the job because I could get paid for full time work, yet be on the beach by noon…

There I could spend the remainder of the day reading novels while working on the crow’s feet and laugh lines I enjoy so much today.

Ah, but I digress.

The whole point of this particular post is to inform you that this week is International Housekeepers Week!

And anybody who knows anything knows that housekeeping and writing go hand in hand.

Ask David Sedaris, who worked for years as a “maid” (his word, not mine) while he wrote National Public Radio essays and collected book deals the way sofas amass cat hair.

In an interview around the time his career began to take off, he commented on his housekeeping this way — "I can only write when it's dark, so basically, my whole day is spent waiting for it to get dark. Cleaning apartments gives me something to do when I get up. Otherwise, I'd feel like a bum."

Novelist Nancy Peacock has also spent many a day cleaning up after other people. Her book A Broom of One's Own explores the writing life via pens, mops, buckets, and paper.

And what about the awesome books that feature feather duster-wielding women?

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is fabulous, of course. Aren't you happy that Kathryn didn't give up after rejection number 44? I know I am.

And for the younger crowd, who can forget the delightfully literal Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parrish?

So, while Neil Young can warble on about a man needing a maid, clearly every writer needs one, too…

But only in our books, of course.

After all, if the house is clean, how will we ever manage to find a reason to procrastinate?

PROMPT: Get yourself a chambermaid, housemaid, or domestic, and give him a story today. By the way, is the male counterpart to cleaning lady cleaning lord? Inquiring Elbows want to know.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Get Your Weird On

Back in the year 2000, the folks of Austin, Texas launched a “Keep Austin Weird” campaign.

Apparently, everything is indeed bigger in Texas — including the weirdo population.

Then a splinter group (weirdos, I’m betting) decided to go national by decreeing that September 9th would be known forevermore as Wonderful Weirdos Day.

And that’s great news for us!

Weirdos make the best characters, after all.

Think of it…

Willy Wonka
Luna Lovegood
Tom Bombadil
The Phantom
Caractacus Potts
The Mad Hatter
Mr. Toad


Complete weirdos.

Of course, as writers and artists, we tend to walk on the weird side as well.

And that’s certainly wonderful, too!

PROMPT: Celebrate your own weird self today! Then create a quirky character and plot his or her (or its!) wild adventure. After all, who wants to waste precious life moments reading about “normal” people? I mean, that would be weird.