Monthly Archives: March 2014

Last Call for Photos

Fire's Candle FlameOkay, peeps, last call for photo submissions.

Midnight is the deadline for photos acceptance.

This timely reminder was brought to you by a writer with a mission and a dwindling weekend. 🙂

Have a great week, all. I’ll be back tomorrow with a post and questions. But then, I always have questions.

At Home Endings

Western Montana

Endings come in all sizes and shapes. An unraveling, a fracturing, and sudden stop. Months peter out and projects come to a close.

The end of the month is only two days away and I still have no entries for the photo challenge. The window closes at Midnight on Sunday, March 31st. If anyone wants their photo selected, please attach it to an email to me at

Okay, let’s do some housekeeping here. I have no specific agenda for April for this site, other than doing updates on my activities, and perhaps a few tips here and there on chosen writing topics. The reason for that is simple.

I am attacking the Script Frenzy challenge in April, with anticipated work on National Picture Book Month as well. That one, however, runs for only a week, so I can do it without too much difficulty. I’m not planning to do National Poetry Writing Month challenges, but one never knows what wild hair will capture my attention on a given day.

Along with these activities, I’ll work on my present novel. I need it finished by the end of the month, too, so that it can go into the final revision and submission process. Behind it is the women’s novel that I put on the back burner a few months ago.

You see. Lots of projects. Of course, these don’t include my course studies. I keep plugging away at those, too. Writers are constantly in “learn” mode, exploring new genres, new techniques, changing standards, and new technologies. The writing jungle keeps evolving.

Tell me, what’s on your writing agenda? What projects are waiting for completion? Which ones keep you awake at night, going over plot elements and twists? If you’re not a serious writer, but enjoy jotting down stories for your own benefit or those of your children, what keeps you working on those stories?

Take the time to share your thoughts and aspirations. Comments are always welcome here.

I’ll see you all on Sunday for the last day of the challenge. Enjoy your weekend, peeps. BTW, are any of you joining me in script frenzy this year? Let me know. We can panic together at the end of April.


At Home—Shifting Gears Mid-Stream & A Personal Challenge


We’re moving into the last turn toward the homestretch on the photo challenge and still no photos have come in. It’s sad really. I thought at least one would have shown up, but there’s still time and hope for someone to send a pic in for consideration.

Oh well, on to other things.

You might wonder from the title what gears are shifting.  For one thing, tomorrow begins my class for the Screenwriting Challenge coming in April—otherwise known as Script Frenzy. Each year, one of our resident screenwriter’s offers a 4-6 week class to help move writers through the challenge process. It works like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month,) with the same sense of hurried plotting and harried writing.

I took the Screenwriting class last month.

I’ve not done the Frenzy before, which means that this year I must forego the April Poem-A-Day Challenge over at Poetic Asides. I’ve done the PAD Challenge each year since 2009 and will miss it. Fortunately for me, I’ve learned how better to pace myself in the spring. I won’t do the NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month Challenge,) either.

I will probably do the National Picture Book Writing Week in May over at Paula Yoo’s website for that Challenge of creating a picture book project each day for a week. That’s a really fun endeavor.

When I speak about shifting gears, more than subjects and challenges are involved. I’m actively writing on one novella, a few short projects (or at least trying to,) and skewing my mind to take in the fact that most of a script is direction and settings, with less than three thousand words of dialogue in the average 120 page script. Think of that.

I always think in pictures and they’re what I use when I write poetry. Photos of places I’ve visited help jog the memory. How much of that experience must I dredge up to create the script’s set notations? How much of the script’s character can I influence with the setting?

And what about that dialogue?

I’ve done a script before, but a documentary. The dialogue was purely voice-over. This time, the speakers will be in view, as in a novel, but more immediate.

You take my meaning, I’m sure. A different mind-set entirely from that of a novel. The script is far more concerned with setting and action than with characters’ words.

That’s where those photos come into place. I have hundreds to choose from. Yet, here’s the rub. For a script, description is kept to a bare minimum, as concrete as possible and little extra. Colors don’t particularly matter, unless it’s critical to a character’s motivation, etc. No flourishes are necessary.

All that’s necessary is: where are you, who’s there, what bare-bones props are there to flavor the setting, and what time of day is it. From there, the writer deals strictly with action. Motivations are irrelevant in the scene set-up. The reader is given motivations only through dialogue.

Moving from novel writing to a script requires a new method, a new perspective, and a willingness to forego all of those little literary helpers than can prop up a scene.

So you see, I’m taking on a completely different challenge this spring—one the forces me to grow, change, and simplify. I look back on February’s Verb Challenge and see the foundation for my work in April.  I’ll hold onto the images I’ve been pulling together for myself this month, use them for set direction in the next, and pull my practice from February to guide both scene set-up and dialogue.

If all these consideration work as intended, the Frenzy will go smoothly, and I won’t have frantic days and sleepless nights. I find it funny that these last three months came together like they did to help prepare me for April.

Here’s hoping your coming month will keep you growing and moving forward. See you later in the week. And please think about sending in a photo.


At Home—Mixing Prose and Poetry by Image

Well, gang, I anticipated at least some photo entries, but alas, so far, no images have fallen into my inbox for this small challenge. Given how busy everyone is right now, circumstances could easily account for the lack of images waving before my eyes. I will, therefore, wait until the end of the month to call this adventure a dud.

Why? Because I have discovered too many of my own projects in need of attention. I have not spent as much time here as I should have. Too many other demands have prevailed.

That said; let’s move to a small digression from the last post, which discussed taking an image and deriving a full-blown story from it.

Today, I’ll discuss the Haibun. A Haibun is a combo poem. By that I mean the haibun combines both prose and poetry into one form. The first section is lyric prose that tells a story in 100 words or less. The second half of the haibun is a haiku poem which summarizes what was stated in the first half, but which—in true haiku fashion—adds a twist to meaning.

I’ll use this image for the haibun. You tell me if I have adequately performed the exercise.

DSCN0417 - Copy

Stillness shrouds noonday light as cloud scuds cross sky, leaving behind only promises of sun’s appearance and warmth. Water for glass reflects pristine reality, never hinting at scenes played out in previous darkness. Lily pads and blossoms, a fringe beard of tree and grasses, breathless ethereal wonder of idyllic fantasy spread from shore to shore. What of its inhabitants, those small creatures that swim or crawl? Does the idyll extend to seasons railing against winds and cold, or does it hunker down in its muddy depths, seeking anonymity and a promise of drawing no attention to itself?

Idyll reflection

Of world unseen, gone unknown

Real, imagined, life.


Ninety-seven words in prose to set up the haibun, followed by haiku—the deed is done.

The difference with this form is the mindset for the prose. For me, that mindset requires that I think in haiku while using lyric prose. Don’t mistake it. The mindset is different for the Asian poetry forms, and any prose that might be used with them.

Try your hand this one. Take a photo that you really like. It doesn’t matter what the subject of the photo is, really. Study it for a few minutes. Find its heart and write about it. Use your 100 words of lyric prose to explore the possibilities of that imaged heart and use them well. If you’ve done that, the haiku will follow without too much difficulty. Keep in mind that with haiku, you have only 17 syllables to work with.

Good luck with one. If you wish, post your results in a comment. I’d love to see what you do with it.

See you soon. And please, send me your photos for a chance at the prize. You have 12 days left.

At Home—Using Photos for Fiction Prompts

Courtesy of BJJ Photography

Courtesy of BJJ Photography

I’ve talked about making poems for posters, which are inspired by the landscape, etc. of the photo image. Today, I’m going to show how to take something from a photo to create short fiction.

The photo above shows an actual sign from the town of Phillipsburg, Montana. Every striking feature could inspire the writer to create a compelling story line, serious, satirical, or humorous. Let’s look at its elements.

The features for use

  • Question: are they serious? Well, can anyone be sure? At this point, the sponsored club could be used for science fiction or fantasy, conspiracy or thriller, parody or farce.
  • Actual address—the aliens have made it to Broadway. What kind of play could be wound around that idea alone? Playwright Gore Vidal had no trouble pulling together the alien element with a modern suburb to create “Visitor to a Small Planet.” If you haven’t seen this movie or read the play, give yourself a laugh and do so.
  • Purpose of the club—to promote patriotism, a good ride, and recreation. Where? In Granite County, nowhere else. Okay, are they really promoting patriotism for the county, the state, the nation, or a home planet of those aliens present? Or perhaps, the club promotes a new motorcycle species for that good ride.
  • Talk to author Mercedes Lackey about what species that cycle could fall into. She’s used such equipment to disguise “aliens” before. Okay, so she needed to disguise elven steeds. Same difference.
  • You can make up your own scenario about the recreation angle on this one. My imagination is on fertile mode right now and I have too many possibilities within grasp, and not all of them nice ones.

Putting together a scenario

What if we get obvious with the details?

  1. Aliens infiltrated the town back in the early ’40’s or ’50’s and lived there, disguised as humans from that point on. Why were they there? Maybe they were refugees from a galactic war and needed a quiet planet with comparable atmosphere and climate on which to live. Our little backwater rock, with its unsophisticated and backward intelligent life proved the perfect spot.
  2. The aliens discovered that their small ships could be turned into a vehicle not unlike what they saw zipping up and down the road that had two wheels, an engine, seat, and handlebars.
  3. Each ship could provide parts and pieces for several motorcycles, but these vehicles are different. They’re quiet, very fuel efficient, and sold only to very select humans.
  4. More refugees come to the town, having followed a beacon to get there.
  5. They don’t try to blend in as locals. The aliens flaunt their “alien” status, since the word means foreign-born resident. One problem they must overcome is correct “papers” to allow them to stay in country.
  6. They must develop livelihoods—what jobs would they do and why?
  7. What happens if the townspeople discover that these are real “space aliens”? Will they believe it? How would the humans discover it? Would they accept it and the aliens as the friends they’ve always had or denounce them? Will they find a way to protect their out-of-town friends from notoriety?

The scenario can grow to as large as the writer wants or can imagine. Silly situations are possible, along with dangerous misunderstandings. And all because of a sign placed near the entrance to a western mountain town.

Can you devise a piece of flash fiction to accommodate this scenario in the next few days? Think about. If you can, post it on your blog or website and leave a link to it here in a comment. Take the picture and make it into a small story. For this flash fiction, try to only 500 words. That’s plenty for a small story. I’d love to read whatever stories come out of this.

Until next time, have fun with words and see what you can do with a simple image. Share your ideas here with all of us.

At Home—Easy Poetry for Posters

Now that you have a photo for your poster, what will you do with it? Poetry? Flash fiction inspired by the image? What?

For those who wish to do poetry on their photo poster, both length and form dictate many of the writer’s options. The busier the image, the smaller the poem needs to be.

Poetry forms exist which use few lines and few words.

Take this image as an example. We’ll go with something in a landscape. Japanese forms tend toward the pastoral/nature subjects. Haiku and its cousin, Tanka, fit a busy image well.



 Paths wind around life,

Stirring nature’s attention,

Blessing man’s soul search.

 As you can see from the image below, the poem’s 17 syllables fit easily onto the boardwalk in the image. Three short lines—5, 7, 5 syllables. No title. How easy is that? The positioning of the lines may take practice, but it isn’t technically challenging in MS Office Paint. 

DSCN1302 - Copy

If you prefer a different look, separate the lines, give them different font sizes, have them march down the boardwalk like a scrolling movie lead-in.

Begin wherever you choose and make it march, with a progressively larger font as you move down the image.

This treatment emphasizes each line as a separate entity, while tying it to the others in the progression. The look creates drama.

DSCN1302 - Copy (2)

Now that you’ve figured out how you want to place your words on the photo, consider the color of the font you choose. You have loads of fonts available and dozens of color choices. This step presents a real challenge.

If your color choice is a close complement to the primary color in the photo, it won’t show up clearly. Blending in isn’t the idea behind poem posters. Subtlety is fine up to a point. From there on, you may want to think “in-your-face.”

You’ll notice that I chose stark white for the font. With such a dark and smothering background, the font needed to be as opposing as possible. And that’s what I chose. It gets your attention on the words, but it also requires that you see the image as well. At least, that was my intent.

So now you’ve seen how I put together an actual poem poster. Next time, I’ll deal with taking the image and working a flash STORY from it.

See you all on Sunday. Until then, play with your images, your words, and see what you come up with. If you’d like to share them, feel free to do so in a comment.

Have a great weekend, everyone.






At Home with Posters

You don’t have to be a professional or published poet to create these worthwhile posters. Countless people create memes with photos to express a philosophy or attitude.

For instance, take a simple quote that you like and which aligns with your personal thoughts or philosophy and make a poster with it.

The following is a quote from Oprah Winfrey.

“It’s all about dreams. If I had to attribute my success in life to any one thing it is this. I believed in my dreams, even when no one else did.”
~Oprah Winfrey

Find a photo which can tie to the quote in a pleasing way and attach it.

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Let’s assume that this picture epitomizes a dream of success or accomplishment. What now? Why, add the quote, of course.

Adding words to pictures is easy in MS Office 2010 Paint.

  1. Bring up the photo
  2. Go to task bar and click on OPEN
  3. When the menu drops down, click on PAINT
  4. When the photo opens in paint, you will need to shrink the image to work on it. Go to the slide bar in the lower right-hand corner and hit the “-” a few times to get the image down to a workable size.
  5. Now you’re ready to go. Your image is now in the upper left-hand corning of the work space.
  6. Go to upper task bar and click on SELECT. When menu drops down, click on Transparent Selection.
  7. Go to the Tools on the Right of Select and click on “A” for Text
  8. Take your cursor down to the body of the photo. Choose the space you want your text to occupy and left-click and hold as you move the mouse down and across the photo space where you wish the text to go. When you are ready, let go. You’ll see your dotted-line space ready for words.
  9. At this point you must select size of font desired. Keep in mind that you’re shrunk your image. Your font will need to be as big as you can manage for the size of the image. You can always adjust from there. I begin with font size 48 or 72 for the main body of the text. Size 24 or 36 will suffice for designated provider of photo (if necessary)
  10. You must also choose the font color which best suits the photo. This all depends on the background colors in the image. Color choices are on the upper right-hand task bar.
  11. Once you have typed (or copied) text onto photo, DO NOT hit the ENTER key yet. Make all changes or additions that you intend to make before you hit that key. Once you enter, the text box closes and you cannot make any changes.
  12. If you’re satisfied that you have everything the way you want it, close the window and you’ll be asked whether to “save” it or not. If you like what you’ve done, “save” it. Otherwise, don’t save and begin again.

Play with your choices. The best way to see what you can do comes with experimentation. In our case here, the meme comes out as:


This closes the class for today. Play, practice, and take chances. Take some of your worst landscape photos, make copies of them, re-size or crop as you choose. Play with the copies. See what you can come up with.

I’ll meet you back here at the end of the week with a poster and poetry. Have a great week.

At Home—Thought Verbs Call for Photos

Fire's Candle Flame

Welcome back, all. Our thought verb challenge has ended. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do another post before the end of the week due to personal technical difficulties.

I trust (yes, that is a thought verb) that those who chose to try this exercise in concrete writing have come through with sanity intact and learned something about their use of words and meanings. For me, the conscious use of verbs became more focused. I saw myself use less figurative meanings, except in specific types of poetry. The lesson proved well worth the effort expended.

With February flowing into March, I’m ready for this month’s select challenge to begin. I get to reap my reader’s photographic talents. Those of you who take photos of places and people you enjoy should jump on this bandwagon easily.

Poem posters show up frequently on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. every day. Memes have taken over personal inspiration expression. Have you looked closely at the photo behind the words? Do you see a connection between the two?

That connection is what we’re going to look this month. My Poem Poster Photo Contest flung open its doors this morning. If you’re an amateur photographer and you like taking pics that speak to you and hopefully someone else as well, this is your chance.

The Rules:

  • Photo must portray a setting—this setting could be used for a poem poster or even a short story. People aren’t allowed in the shot. The setting could show any season, any place, not peopled. And no actual poetry writing should appear on the photo either.
  • This theme of setting assumes that the photographer strives to capture a scene which tells a story, makes an emotional impact on the viewer, and which lingers in the mind.
  • Attach photo to a regular email as a jpeg (no larger than 2MB) file and send it to me at: You don’t need to go through my contact page here.
  • In the email’s subject line put “Photo Contest” so that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle
  • Contest will be open to all readers and will close at Midnight MST on Mar. 31.
  • On April 1st, judging will commence. Our judge is Betty Jo Jones, the creative mind behind BJJones Photography, who will also create the prize for the winner—a professionally printed 8 x 10, ready for framing, along with a digital copy for the winner’s use.
  • The announcement of the winner will go out on April 10. At that time I’ll make arrangements with the winner for shipment of his/her prize.

While you’re all deciding whether you’ll enter a photo, I’ll work on my own word settings. I’ll show you poem posters, which I’ve created over the past many months, to illustrate how some of us select photos for poems. Of course, the same photos could easily form the core of a story setting as well. That’s the beauty of them. Twice a week, I’ll show a different poster, with a different mood and setting.

Above all, please enjoy this challenge. Allow yourself to stretch. Stretching is good for a writer. It keeps the mental body flexible and strong. To get your Muse juices flowing, here’s your first example.