Monday, January 25, 2010

WordPlay! WriteNet Week 2

Now that some of the rust has worn off and your hands are getting used to writing non-stop for at least ten minutes at a time, it is important to continue your new routine for at least two weeks to create a good habit. Here in Los Angeles, the rain has paused for a few days and the sun came out. The contenders of Super Bowl XLIV have been determined and Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints fans are dancing in the streets. The world responded to the Haitian Earthquake with donations during the Hope for Haiti fundraising telethon. Avatar was number one at the box office for another week. And I got up this morning and thought about the stories you can tell that we all deserve to hear,


(see Week 1 for details)

Observation Exerciise
Reading Report
Writing Journal

Weekly Exercises January 25, 2010

1. "I love to ..."
2. Write about the teacher you had in elementary school who had the strongest impact on your attitudes about learning.
3. What is the first animal that you want to see when you go to the zoo?
4. If you could only keep one item of clothing from your closet, which one would you choose (be sure to describe it)?

If you want to submit your exercises as part of the WordPlay! class, send them to me at Use Assignments as the subject of your email. I will gladly read your work and return it with comments. However, feel free to simply write for your own writing skills development.

There is no wrong way to do it: just write!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

WordPlay! WriteNet Week 1

Let's get right down to the real nitty-gritty! You learn to write by writing! Each week I will post new exercises here to get you jump-started. Instructions: get pen and paper or keyboard and start writing. Don't stop until the time (at least 10 minutes) is up. No editing allowed. There is no wrong way to do it: JUST WRITE!

Eternal Exercises (always available):

1. Observation Exercise
Sit in a public place and write down all your observations of the people around you: snippets of dialogue, physical description, sensory details (what you see, hear, smell, taste, and/or touch).

2. Reading Report
As a writer, it is essential that you read not just for pleasure but also to study writing. When you read, notice the writing. What worked? What made you turn the pages? What made you stop and think? What stopped or bored you as the reader? You can learn as much from "bad" writing as from good!

3. Writing Journal
Jot down ideabox snippets, things you want to work on in the future. Write about the process of writing: what makes it easier, where do you like to write (home, cafe, outdoors, anywhere?), dreams (literally and figuratively), unedited "daily pages," etc.

Weekly Exercises January 18, 2010

1. I would never ...

2. Describe a perfect day in detail.

3. Pick a number between 6 and 17. Write about the first day of school for a child of that age.

4. Wrie about lunch with your favorite book or movie character.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday, Monday!

For those of you who live in Los Angeles, this is the week that starts the WordPlay! class series. Every month, on the second Thursday, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm we will get together for the joy of writing in Leimert Village at Adassa's Island Cafe.

For those of you who either read the book Push by Sapphire or saw the movie Precious that was made of this compelling story, like the teacher portrayed by Paula Patton, I believe in every class participant's ability to tell an important story.

One of my favorite books is Grand Central Winter by Lee Stringer. A homeless addict living in the bowels of New York City's Grand Central Station, he discovered the joy of writing when he realized that part of his drug paraphernalia was actually a pencil stub.

What both these writers have in common is that neither imagined that they would become published authors. However, their stories were so compelling that a publisher realized that readers would benefit from the chance to absorb their work.

Among the many reasons I respect Oprah Winfrey is her creation of the book club. Because of it, loyal viewers who had not touched a book in decades started reading again. From weighty classical tomes like Anna Karenina to Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth to Pulitzer Laureate Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon and Beloved, Oprah has nurtured a rediscovered love of storytelling that began with young children listening to stories at bedtime.

One of my favorite quotations from Audre Lorde states, "what are the silences that we swallow day by day? If we wait to speak until we are not afraid, we will be sending messages back from the grave."

Rediscover your stories. Have the courage to tell them boldly. Take the risk, like Precious and Lee, to learn the skills that will allow you to engage readers with your words. Have fun with the process of creation and experience the delight of telling a good story. Come to WordPlay!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Announcing WordPlay! Writenet

This blog is heading in a new direction for 2010! Each week, there will be a list of daily writing prompts on the blog and responses can be emailed to

Class Philosophy

There is a proverb from Zimbabwe that says “if you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing.” I have always believed that homily and taken it one step further: if you can think, you can write. I speak from experience. I was told by a high school English teacher that I would probably never communicate effectively in writing. She made this discouraging pronouncement after I responded to an assignment to describe Harvard Square by writing as an extraterrestrial sociologist sending a report to his home planet. While my cavalier approach to her assignment earned me a failing grade, it liberated my inner writer and allowed her to express herself.
This class is NOT your eighth grade writing class. There are a few rules.
1. There is no wrong way to do it: just write!
2. Keep your hand moving!
3. Have fun!
I am not concerned with spelling or grammar as they can always be fixed later. In this class, your goal is to tell your story. Each person has a story (or two or a million) that only s/he can tell. I cannot unzip your brain and magically read what is there. Once it is on paper, in even the most rudimentary form, then I can help you to improve it.
Charles Barkley, the NBA sportscaster and former player, loves golf. However, he has developed a bad habit of stopping at the top of his stroke that ruins his shot. Stopping and starting as a writer has similar disastrous effects. I used to warn my students that they should write as if “letting the pen stop causes a guillotine to drop that suddenly your hand will chop.” Writing is the process of filling the page with words. If you keep your hand moving, it is a simple process to be successful. It is also a proven strategy to thwart the inner critic whose only function is to sabotage your writing efforts.
Even though your subject matter may arouse deep emotions, the process of putting the words on the pages is liberating.
Your goal should be to write for a minimum of 10 minutes per day. This is not the same as writing for an hour once a week. Writing is like a muscle that is toned through frequent and repetitive usage

If you want to participate as an ongoing class member, please send an email with "Registration" in the subject line and details will be sent to you. However, feel free to consider this a drop-in group where no longterm commitment is required.New assignments will be posted each Monday, starting January 18, 2010.