From the monthly archives: June 2011

Drunk Bunny

I’m fascinated by the 6 Word Memoirs over at Smith Magazine. I first heard about this project on NPR, then I saw some collected on YouTube. I haven’t figured out what my 6 Word Memoir will read yet, but I’m captivated by the idea of describing a character in one sentence. K.J. Parker does a brilliant job of it in this quote.

Segibert could best be described as a series of brief intervals between drinks. -K.J. Parker, A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong

Writing Prompt: Create a character sketch that describes the core of the character in one sentence.

Journaling Prompt: Write your 6 word memoir.

Art Prompt: Drunk

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Create a humorous message about your job, your family, your friends, your life – each one in just one sentence.

Photo Credit: Stuart Conneron Flickr


My mother worked in churches when I was little, so I grew up playing tag in sanctuaries. The concept of hallowed ground wasn’t introduced to me until I was older. Now I feel that sense of sacredness more frequently in nature than in buildings. Here is the story of one place considered hallowed ground by the natives of the region.

Kangchenjunga translates as “five treasure houses in the snow.” Tibetan mythology deems the mountain the sacred seat of the Gods and says it contains their five treasures: gold, silver, copper, corn, and divine books. Although climbers have traditionally gotten to within feet of the true top but out of respect stopped short of that holy ground, it has become increasingly trampled by climbers with little or no spiritual connection to the sacred surroundings who want to tag the true summit. For women climbers, simply avoiding the hallowed ground evidently isn’t good enough to mollify the Mountain Gods; local legend has it that the spirits don’t want women anywhere near the sanctified summit for fear they will “pollute” its purity. Many devout believe this is why women have had so little success on Kangchenjunga. -Jennifer Jordan, Savage Summit

Writing Prompt: Describe a place that will be considered hallowed ground in your story.

Journaling Prompt: Describe a place that is hallowed ground for you.

Art Prompt: Sacred

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience how to create their own sacred space.

Please share your story about hallowed ground in the Comments.

Photo Credit: Jakub Michankow on Flickr


What would you be willing to risk in order to get a big reward? What if you could take that risk knowing that you would never face any personal consequences?

Another root cause of growing inequality is that the modern world, by so limiting our downside risk, makes extreme risk-taking all too comfortable and easy. More risk-taking will mean more inequality, sooner or later, because winners always emerge from risk-taking. Yet bankers who take bad risks (provided those risks are legal) simply do not end up with bad outcomes in any absolute sense. They still have millions in the bank, lots of human capital and plenty of social status. We’re not going to bring back torture, trial by ordeal or debtors’ prisons, nor should we. Yet the threat of impoverishment and disgrace no longer looms the way it once did, so we no longer can constrain excess financial risk-taking. It’s too soft and cushy a world. -Tyler Cowen, The Inequality that Matters

Writing Prompt: Create a situation where a character must take a risk knowing that all the consequences will fall on another character.

Journaling Prompt: Are you willing to take a big risk if you know there will be no consequences for failure?

Art Prompt: Fat cat

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Talk/write about balancing risk and reward and give your audience a strategy for decision-making.

Take a risk and post a comment. No torture, I promise!

Photo Credit: Svadilfari on Flickr

crazy guy

My favorite madman of all time is Maxwell Klinger on M*A*S*H. He wasn’t really mad. He was mad with a purpose. The fact that Klinger’s plan never got him the Section 8 discharge he was hoping for, didn’t stop him from trying. I almost wonder if he had read the following quote:
Have in your madness reason enough to guide your extravagancies; and, forget not to be excessively opinionated and obstinate. -Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary

Writing Prompt: Create a character sketch for someone who is mad in a calculated way.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a time when you thought madness might be a viable option.

Art Prompt: Madness

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Base a speech or article on Voltaire’s quote. Make an argument as for why this is a viable lifestyle choice.

Will you be mad enough to leave a comment?

Photo Credit: Lamerie on Flickr

chess board

Humans have a tendency to put a great deal of importance on success and failure as opposed to looking for the growth and learning in every experience regardless of outcome. Here is a quotation from one of the greatest players in chess about a more enlightened way to move through life.

My argument has always been that what you learn from using the skills you have—analyzing your strengths and weaknesses—is far more important. If you can program yourself to learn from your experiences by assiduously reviewing what worked and what did not, and why, success in chess can be very valuable indeed. -Garry Kasparov, The Bobby Fischer Defense

Writing Prompt: Write a short scene in which a character learns something unexpected from failure.

Journaling Prompt: Write about a time when you learned something from trying something new.

Art Prompt: Chess

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Write about analyzing strengths and weaknesses in order to create personal growth.

Photo Credit: Muffet on Flickr


Sociologists believe that our society’s lack of ritual is part of what’s causing the breakdown of civilization. But not all rituals are positive things. Fraternity hazing is one negative use of ritual that we hear about in the states. Here’s an extreme example of a ritual used to create loyalty to a cruel regime.

Under Saddam, police loyalty to the regime was valued much more than detective work. At the police academy, Omar’s class was ordered to skin and eat a live dog. After that, his instructors believed, no order would be too repulsive to carry out. -Daniel Voll, The Hunter Becomes the Hunted

Writing Prompt: Create an initiation ritual that one of your characters must go through.

Journaling Prompt: Have you ever had to go through an initiation ritual? Write about it.

Art Prompt: Gross

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about why initiation rituals work to bind people to organizations.

Get a little down and dirty – share your work in the Comments section.

Photo Credit: Very Quiet on Flickr

team leaderWe’ve all met leaders, some good, some excellent, some execrable. The Leader is an important archetype in writing, so leadership is an important quality for writers to study. Here we have a very simple definition of one aspect of leadership that we can use in our writing.

Leadership is not something you do to people, but something you do with people. -Kenneth Blanchard, Leading at a Higher Level

Writing Prompt: Create a character sketch or write a scene about a leader.

Journaling Prompt: Write about your experiences with leaders who helped you grow as a person.

Art Prompt: Leader

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about a leader you have known that exemplified this quote.

Be a leader and post your work or a link to it in the Comments section.

Photo Credit: torres21on Flickr
popcornEach of us has personal quirks, but do you know anyone with a quirk so original that it has become a personal trademark? In this quote from Comedy Isn’t Funny by Chris Smith, we meet Lorne Michaels, the creative genius behind Saturday Night Live. He has a very interesting personal trademark!

Fresh popcorn heralds Michaels’s every entrance. Whether he’s about to arrive at his seventeenth-floor office at NBC, with its breathtaking view of the Empire State Building; the eighth-floor Saturday Night studio; this ninth-floor office overlooking the studio; or his handsome Broadway Video offices a couple of blocks west in the Brill Building, a blond wicker basket of warm kernels precedes him, usually delivered by one of several blonde female assistants in their early twenties. Cast members call these high-strung women the Lornettes.

Writing Prompt: Create a character with a personal trademark.

Journaling Prompt: What would others say is your personal trademark?

Art Prompt: Popcorn

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write a humorous piece about a friend with an “interesting” personal trademark. Or make fun of your own.
I can’t wait to see what you come up with, so post your work or a link in the Comments section.

Photo Credit: jessica.diamond on Flickr

My mother is one of the wonders of the universe. No matter how busy she is, she’s always got time for me. I remember a time when she cancelled plans, popped into her car, and drove several hours just to make sure that I was OK after an accident. I wasn’t, and I was so grateful to have her there with me. This quotation reminded me of my mother; perhaps it will resonate with you as well.

“When did you have time to make all that stuff, Mom? It’s wonderful, but how did you do it?” For years, Diana kept her mother’s answer buried in the furthest reaches of her memory. Now, it came back to her. “Love always makes time,” Iona had said. -J.A. Jance, Hour of the Hunter

Writing Prompt: Create a character sketch or write a paragraph about a mother.

Journaling Prompt: How has your mother embodied the ideal in this quote?

Art Prompt: Mother

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about your mother and how she has molded your life.

As always, I hope you’ll post your work, or a link to your work, in the Comments section.

Photo Credit: video4net on Flickr
Have you ever known someone who thought that if they had a new car, new house, new spouse, new laptop, blah, blah, blah, that they would at last be happy? If only it were that easy! Happiness is inside us. We make it happen. Here’s a simple quote about happiness from one of my favorite fantasy series.

There is never any reason for happiness. Yet it exists. -Kate Elliot, Spirit Gate: Book One of Crossroads

Writing Prompt: write about a character who learns this lesson the hard way.

Journaling Prompt: write about a time when you thought that you would be happy after you bought something or something happened. How did that turn out?

Art Prompt: Happiness

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about happiness – what makes you happy? When have you been happy even though there was no reason for it?

Photo Credit: River Beach on Flickr