Friday, June 6, 2014


Seventy years ago today, my adopted “Goompa” was on his way to Caen, France.

He was piloting a B-17G with the moniker “Cocaine Bill.”

It was his 16th mission.

Fortunately, he lived to see 26 more.

After the war, he returned stateside and became a teacher of English Literature.

Twenty-odd years after that, he and his wife folded a young couple with a towheaded baby into their family.

I was that baby.

Goompa, this is my thank you for your service…

and for giving me a love of all things wordy.

I miss you still.

PROMPT: Does your family have a WWII story? If so, today would be a great day to get it on the page.

If not, check out this list of WWII novels for children and get inspired.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

There’s No Escape

Did you know that June is National Accordion Awareness Month?

Be aware!

You can never tell when one of those accordions will sneak up on you.

Trust me, I would know — I grew up attending weddings in Pennsylvania. 

At those festive events, you could never be sure if somebody was going to bring alcohol for punch bowl spiking, but you could bet the farm and your bottom dollar that someone would smuggle in an accordion.

And the next thing you knew all heck would break loose, and folks would start bustin’ their moves to the (big surprise) Pennsylvania Polka.

Of course, one accordion ditty was never enough, so there was sure to be a Hop-Scotch, Licorice Stick, and Hoop-Dee-Doo jam.

As the night wore on, the Beer Barrel Polka was unavoidable  quickly followed by at least three encores of In Heaven There Is No Beer (that’s why we drink it here).

Yep, I have “enjoyed” them all.

In fact, whenever my sister and I hit the floor, nearly everyone stopped to watch. In truth this had nothing to do with our dance skills, and everything to do with our interpretation of polkas…

as, well…

roller derby without the skates.

Accordions make people crazy like that.

Just ask The Who.

They wrote a song about this phenomenon way back in 1975…

Well, they said it was about accordions.

PROMPT: Ironically, the word “accordion” is derived from the German word “akkord” meaning “agreement or harmony.” Today would be a great day to add a touch of irony to your tale. You could also think about what your main character’s favorite musical instrument might be. Then again, you could just listen to The Who’s Squeeze Box and enjoy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Hey, Old Dogs...

What if you spent this summer learning something new?

I’ll bet there's something you've always wanted to know how to do…

Spin wool
Perform nuclear fusion, perhaps.

Well, now is the time!

Learning something new is a terrific way to jump-start the brain’s creative engine.

And hey, there's a bonus feature to this one...

You can always give your newly acquired skill to one of your book’s clever characters.

PROMPT: Start planning now! Buy that book, make the call, or sign up for a super summer class today. For free online courses from 109 different universities, check out Coursera. Yeah, you saw that right FREE!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Things That Make You Go Hmmm...

Would you take a job that paid less than 2 bucks an hour…

or less than zero for the wrong hair, nails, or makeup?

What about a career that enlightens you to the fact that jiggle tests have nothing to do with JELL-O?

Me neither.

But plenty of folks out there have chosen this track cheerfully.

Yes, I’m talking about NFL cheerleaders.

So, what does this have to do with writing your great story?

Bottom line —

People do not always act rationally.

They make boatloads of decisions AKA head-scratchers.

They make crazy, “never in a millions years” choices…

For reasons known only to themselves.

I know I have.

I bet you have, too.

So, don’t forget to make those characters of yours real.

Give ‘em a head scratcher or two…

And, of course, a fabulous backstory that makes it all perfectly reasonable in the end.

PROMPT: Two, Four, Six, Eight! Who do we appreciate? Well-rounded characters with just a touch of crazy. Add some hmmm… to yours today.

Or if you’d rather, write a cheerful backstory. What’s her reason this football season? JELL-O Jigglers are optional.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Not Half Bad… Really Bad

Here at the Mind’s Elbow, I spend a lot of time worrying over words and fretting over phrases.

Not today…

For I've got less than a month to create the worst sentence of my life!

Why don’t you join me?

Admit it, you've always dreamed of entering a contest that rewarded bad writing for a change.

Well, dream no more.

All you need is one agonizingly long, painfully poorly-written sentence by June 30th.

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, put on by the San Jose State University English Department, has been going strong since 1982.

Their website describes it as a whimsical literary competition challenging entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.

For inspiration, look no further than the contest’s namesake.

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton is the guy who penned this famous line back in 1830 —
“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents —
except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

If you have a headache right now, you are not alone.

So, get your wretched writing game on and check out last year’s winners here.

By the way, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton is also credited with this famous line —

“The pen is mightier than the sword!”

And with killer sentences like his…

I don’t doubt it one bit.

PROMPT: Hmmm… It was a shark and stormy night… Yep — Sharknado: The Literary Edition.

Write (poorly) on!