Friday, May 16, 2014

Treasure Map

Want a fun way to bend your mind’s elbow?

Treasure map your childhood!

Start with a large sheet of paper and plot out your old stompin’ grounds. 

Visual artists may have an easier time with this part, but nobody should sweat it. We’re not going for accuracy here — we’re after STORY. 

Aye, for there be the treasure, Mateys!

Be sure to draw the home place the way you saw it back when you were less than four feet tall…

And remember, when you were that small, lots of things were probably BIG and SCARY.

Add labels that bring to mind specific childhood memories — those places and events that tell the tales of your adventure in the Land of Little.

Here are some of the map markers on mine:

Frog Catcher’s “Crick”

The Attic Bats

What is THAT?

Fossil Ridge

The EVIL one-footed Rooster!

Crawdaddy Falls

The CREEPY Basement (Why was that lonely light bulb always swinging?)

Roly-Poly Hill

The Kite-flying Field

The Kite-eating Tree

The Little Room (Haunted for sure)

And of course, the spot where I found the neighbor’s marijuana grow operation… 

When you’re 7 years old, NOTHING starts a conversation faster than bringing home one of those leaves!

PROMPT: Have fun making maps today! It’s surprising how the dual process of drawing and writing unleashes those tales that live in your skin. 

Begad! YOU’RE chock-full of treasure!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Truth Wins Again

Are you plumb out of plot?

Would an interesting character give your story a kick-start?

Well, then head on over to Flathead County!

The Flathead Beacon’s Police Blotter by Christie Burns is sure to do the trick.

Here’s a compilation of actual reports —

7:39 a.m. A 4-year-old in the Whitefish area called 911 to advise law enforcement that both his mom and his dad were home. His dad confirmed this and stated that all was well.

9:20 a.m. A balding man in a trench coat stole some candy from a local store. He was last seen pedaling away on his bicycle.

9:22 a.m. Bunnies are loose in the neighborhood of Third Avenue West.

9:26 a.m. A bookkeeper at a lumber yard on Highway 2 West reported that man with a "creep factor of 100" stole a power saw the day before.

9:38 a.m. A man with "sketchy eyes" got out of his truck and yelled obscenities after driving into a building on Electric Avenue in Bigfork.

9:51 a.m. A pair of horses was seen strolling together down Prairie View Road.

10:21 a.m. A Columbia Falls woman called in with additional information regarding the mysterious Tylenol tablets she found on her floor.

10:35 a.m. A handful of runaway mules were spotted on Church Drive.

11:09 a.m. A man on Freckles Road accidentally called 911 while playing with his phone.

1:00 p.m. Someone called in and reported that cows in a pasture off of Highway 206 were standing in the mud. An animal warden found that the cows were indeed standing in the mud, but were not stuck and had access to non-muddy areas.

1:15 p.m. A Kila man reported that someone stole his train picture last year.

1:24 p.m. "Everyone" speeds down Four Mile Drive.

2:39 p.m. Reportedly, a wolf hybrid has been terrorizing the chickens of Coram.

2:49 p.m. A young man in a cheap black suit was seen fighting an older man on Second Street West. They were split up and counseled regarding their bad behavior.

3:47 p.m. A Bigfork woman reported that her uncle, who has a history of bad behavior, drove by her house and flipped her off.

4:33 p.m. Three goats were seen traveling southbound down Highway 93 South.

4:36 p.m. A Kalispell woman called in with a list of names and recommendations for future arrests.

4:38 p.m. Over the last few days a Dawn Drive resident's change has gone missing.

5:11 p.m. Four loose goats were seen standing perilously close to highway 206. They were rounded up and reunited with their pen.

5:49 p.m. A Kila resident reported that the neighbor dog is loose again and harassing his goats. The dog owner denied that his dog was involved in such a thing.

7:18 p.m. A Marion resident reported that the neighbor man was outside Army crawling through the grass.

7:24 p.m. A Marion man claimed that a "hillbilly" threatened not only his life, but his dog's as well.

7:49 p.m. An intoxicated man took a short break from flipping off drivers and took a nap in the middle of Willow Glen Road.

8:59 p.m. Reportedly, a woman stole hygiene products from a Kalispell resident's home then fled the scene in a white pickup.

9:08 p.m. A Bigfork woman reported that a strange man in flip-flops knocked on her door and asked directions. She thought he was weird.

10:12 p.m. A woman reported being startled by the guitar toting, bearded man she encountered when leaving a building on Second Street West.

10:16 p.m. A man in an old pickup was seen "flying in and out of driveways" on Airport Road.

10:28 p.m. A Columbia Falls resident thought he heard an ominous pounding of drums coming from a neighbor's house and worried that something bad had happened.

11:08 p.m. A man on Highway 35 in Kalispell claimed that he brought a stray dog into his apartment because it had been howling outside. The dog, however, continued to deny the man the peace he desired and howled once inside.

Well, there you have it — A delightful day in Flathead County...

I’m thinking it’s less of a Blotter and more of a Plotter.

PROMPT: Every one of those Flathead events has got a backstory — it’s up to you to tell it. Or come up with a blotter of your own… for The Fairytale Times, perhaps?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Time for You to Fly

In my family, the nuts don’t fall too far from the tree…

Especially the writing nuts.

So, it should come as no surprise to you that my daughter whips out some of her own writing prompts now and then.

She shared one with me about a week ago that I thought would be perfect for our What If Wednesday

What if you had wings?

What would they be?

Albatross wings for long journeys,

Hummer wings that dip and dance,

Or owl wings for silent flight?

Would yours be beetle-ly, protected by patterned shells,

Dragon wings bejeweled with iridescent scales,

Or jet-powered robotics, making damage-repair a breeze?

Wings of Fire,



Or Light?

Wings with branch bones and feather leaves from trees…

Or do you have wings that nobody sees?

PROMPT: What if? Pick a pair for yourself, then explore what your main character would choose.

Write… and fly… on!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Open Up and Say Om

We've all heard the news that meditation can reduce stress.

You know the drill — a daily dose of “om” can quiet the mind, reduce blood pressure, improve sleep, and blah, ba-blah, blah, blah…

But have you heard that meditation gives your creativity a super boost?

I didn't think so.

Because you’d be doing it right now!

Our friends in the field of psychology have discovered that “open monitoring” meditation can amp up creativity. Apparently, those who practice “o.m.” generate a greater number of new ideas than those who don’t.

Trust me, when you’re working on plot possibilities that kind of boost can certainly come in handy!

These research results were so compelling, that many corporations (Shell Oil, Google, and General Mills, for example) have begun using meditation to help their employees bring new ideas and solutions to the table.

By the way, “open monitoring” meditation means that you observe without judging. To do it, you simply sit, breathe, and remain open to all thoughts and sensations without focusing attention on any one of them. In other words, you think of those thoughts and sensations as pretty puffy clouds just passing through.

I’m thinking that open monitoring meditation sounds like a great excuse to get my butt into a lawn chair and call it work…


I mean, Ommmmmmmm.

PROMPT: Would you like to give your creativity a super boost this week or take a chip off the old writer’s block? Then give this technique a 5, 15, or 30-minute whirl. Follow it up with a brainstorm of plot possibilities, and you’ll be rocking without blocking in no time!

Monday, May 12, 2014

It's Children’s Book Week!

Yes, I realize that you might be all wrapped up in the fact that May is Volcano Awareness Month — but HEY, this is Children’s Book Week!

Rest assured, these two national events are completely unrelated.

Anyway, Children’s Book Week began way back in 1919 — a very good year for me. It just so happens that 1919 was also the year of my grandfather’s birth. Remember him? He was the one who went to school with that dreamy Professor from Gilligan’s Island…

But I digress.

If you are a parent or happen to write for children, you probably spend a lot of time reading children’s books as a grownup. But stop for a moment and consider those books you read as a child…

Which one was your favorite?

What made it special?

As for me, Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder was my most beloved book. We read it in my 4th grade class, and I still remember those particular school days as wonder-filled.

I must have talked about it nonstop at home, too, because very late one night I was awoken out of a deep sleep. My dad had just returned from a business trip to Vermont, and he had something for me to try.

It was maple sugar…

just like Laura had enjoyed long, long ago in the Big Woods.

I thought I had died and gone to Heaven.

PROMPT: Find your little piece of heaven by getting a copy of your favorite childhood book and rereading it this week. I know I’ll be pulling out my dog-eared copy of Little House in the Big Woods. It’ll be a nice break from all of this Volcano Awareness, after all — Ma and Pa Ingalls are pretty much mum when it comes to ash clouds, cinder cones, and molten lava.