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Writing Prompt: An Exercise in Perspective

public-domain-dragonOne of the best things about being writers is that we get to play with reality. When we craft fiction, poetry, and even creative nonfiction, we can bend and twist the boundaries of our identity, the identities of our speakers and characters, and even the world around us.

Of course, there are varying degrees of reality contorting. One could tell the first-person account of the life of a three-winged dragon in the fictional land of Ingatek, or one could write a poem that relays a factual account of an observation but simply tell it from the perspective of a different person.

“Playing” like this can be fun, exciting, and it works the creative muscle in our writers’ brains that makes us stronger writers. Even hardcore nonfiction writers can benefit from the cross training taking on different perspectives provides. Being able to see the world and events from another’s point of view forces us to notice different details, make different interpretations of events and relationships, and possibly reconsider our own place in the scheme of things.

So today I offer a simple writing exercise in perspective. Use it as a quick warm-up for the day’s writing, or take it and run with it as far as your imagination (and time) will allow.public-domain-child

Exercise:Consider a locale you frequently visit – it could be the library, a bar or restaurant, a park, or even a neighbor’s house. Create a list of at least twenty-five descriptive words associated with that particular place. Write fast and try to complete your list in 3 minutes or less. Using your list, write a short story or poem about being in the place from the perspective of a young child. Keep in mind appropriate vocabulary, how children relate to adults and other children, how a child’s breadth of experience (or lack thereof) might impact what/how he or she experiences in the same place as adult. And have fun with it! You never know where a writing exercise might lead…

Do you often write from different perspectives? Is there a specific process you use when “getting into character” that helps your writing feel more authentic? I’d love to hear about your method in the comments! And if you try the writing exercise, let me know how it goes!

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NaNoWriMo: Create-a-Book-Cover Tutorial

NaNo-Shield-Logo-WebIt’s October. Which means next month is November. And for many writers, November = NaNoWriMo, or for the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month.

This year, I’m busy as usual. I’m hosting a write-in every Friday on top of my weekly Shut Up and Write meeting. I’m also serving as Cupertino Poet Laureate, which means I’m teaching several workshops and attending various events… on top of my usual freelance writing work and my work at the local community college.

Did I mention I have four kids and husband? And am hosting Thanksgiving?

So with this busy schedule, I need all the help I can get … and that extends to writing motivation. Little things can get me pumped when I’m feeling intimidated, so this morning instead of focusing on the writing, I thought I’d focus on something easier:

Creating a book cover for NaNoWriMo.

I have no plan when it comes to NaNo. I don’t plot – as much as I want to be the writer with the outline, character sketches, and full-blown plan for novel writing, I am a pantser through and through. In fact, I don’t have a clue as to what this year’s NaNo book will be about. Or at least I didn’t until I started making a cover. It’s one of my tricks up my very tricksy sleeves. I force myself to complete the first step, and the rest follows. Eventually. And if I change my mind or the Muses gift me with another story? I’ll change the cover. Easy as Thanksgiving pie.

So for anyone who would like a nudge in the pants(er), here is a quick and painless way to create a NaNoWriMo book cover to display with pride (or any other emotion you choose) on your dashboard…

(1) Log in to Canva.

Canva is a free, online site that comes fully loaded with easy-to-use tools that make it possible for everyone (well, maybe not my mother but she still can’t figure out her email) to design graphics, presentations, social media bling, headers, buttons, and yes, NaNo book covers. For free. Just register with your email address and you’re good to go!

(2) From your Canva dashboard, click “Use custom dimensions” and enter 230 x 300 pixels. It will look something like this:

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You’ll then end up on the layout page with a blank slate, like this:

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(3) From here, you can get as creative as you’d like OR keep it as simple as you like.

Simple cover – For a crisp, clean cover, simply add a background color and lettering, like so:

canva-step-3

All I did here was select existing text from the left sidebar and edit it. For the author’s name, I used “Add a little bit of body text.” You can change the colors, size, etc., by simply selecting the element. Playing around and experimenting is the best way to find what you like.

Fancier cover – Or add photos (choose from free stock photos, pay $1 to use protected images, or upload your own photos), graphics, fancy fonts from your personal library, and other elements. Here’s an example using a free stock photo:

canva-step-3-and-a-half
I selected “Elements” from the left menu bar, picked “Free photos,” then entered “train” in the search box. To make the photo fit the cover, I dragged the corners until the image filled the 230 x 300 pixel template. Then I added text as above.

(4) After you’ve played around and are happy with the cover, click “Download” from the top menu bar and save the file as a JPG or PNG, the forms compatible with NaNo.

canva-step-4

(5) Finally, all that’s left is to visit your author dashboard over at NaNoWriMo and upload the cover!

I promise this is a very easy process and was actually faster than the time it took to write this post! I created my 2018 NaNoWriMo (working) cover this morning. And while I didn’t know going in what my book would be about, the creative process got the juices flowing and an idea sparked. Now let’s hope it catches!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Let me know if you create a NaNoWriMo cover! And if you have a different technique or use different software, please feel free to share in the comment section!

Poetry Prompt: Horoscope Poetry

Cupertino Poet Laureate

Some people swear by the messages in the stars, some find them amusing and harmless, and others find them offensive. No matter your take on horoscopes, you can use the daily messages as a poetry prompt, either refuting the message, writing a narrative poem that explores the hidden story, or taking a word or two as a jumping-off point for further poetic explorations.

Here are today’s horoscopes from The Mercury News (September 25, 2018). Try your hand at writing a poem based on or in response to your horoscope, and if the stars are with you (or even if they’re not), send me what you write! I guarantee your poetry will serve me better than my horoscope! 🙂

HOROSCOPES – September 25, 2018 (The Mercury News)

    • Aries (March 21-April 19):
      Consider your options before letting your emotions take over. ★★★
    • Taurus (April 20-May 20):
      A change will do…

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Collective Poem: Building a Voice Together

Yesterday, at Sonic Boom, the first session in my Sound and Sense workshop series, our warm-up exercise was to collectively write a poem. Each participant contributed one line, but to ensure some cohesiveness and pattern we voted on three things each line must have: each line had to begin with “You,” contain a type of weather, and showcase a feeling. Each writer then read his or her line aloud, one after the other, and it was often serendipitous in word choice, emotion, and weather.

Here is our collective poem (unedited):

All that You Are

You set me on fire in this stormy sea.
You, my dear storm-torn sea,
abcdeplease show me the joyful white tops of your waves.
You look so blue; could it be the last thirty days of rain?
You open summer rains to water my joy.
You make me feel the sunshine when it rains.
You tearfully rain down on my fretful life.
You and your melancholy are the humid summer air,
abcde
choking my love into lifelessness.
You love blustery winds.
You bluster along in a most annoying way.
You look out over the crowd,
abcde
feeling the queasiness that comes before a storm.
You are a drizzle of calm in my fear.
You shiver when gentle raindrops stroke your nose.
You create a hurricane of anxiety in my soul.
You are lost in fog,
abcdefeeling forgotten.

14494858_1052448421529899_6375380712797709368_n Kaecey signature

Speaking at Monument Unveiling: Celebrating Our Sister City – Toyokawa, Japan

toyokawa sister cityForty years ago, Cupertino joined into a partnership with a city 5,317 miles away – Toyokawa, Japan. Toyokawa become Cupertino’s second Sister City, and the partnership has blossomed over the past four decades. Perhaps the most widely celebrated aspect of the Cupertino-Toyokawa friendship is the annual Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival. And another integral piece is the annual student delegation exchange. “In September 1979 the first annual student delegation of six middle school students from Toyokawa visited Cupertino. The first delegation of eight Cupertino middle school students visited Toyokawa in 1983. Over the years, the size of delegations has grown. The delegations of today are typically 12-16 students plus chaperones. Each autumn, a delegation of middle school students from Toyokawa travel to Cupertino with their adult chaperones”  (Cupertino-Toyokawa Sister City website). 

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On the morning of July 11, 2018, this forty-year relationship was celebrated and commemorated with the unveiling of a new monument outside Cupertino City Hall after the recitation of a celebratory poem written and performed by the current Cupertino Poet Laureate, Kaecey McCormick. Representatives from both Cupertino City and Toyokawa City governments were in attendance, as was the Japanese General Consulate from San Francisco and numerous other delegates from Toyokawa who all shared remarks and commentary on the special occasion. A video recording of the hour-long ceremony can be watched here.

 

Writing Poetry with Warm Ups

A great way to improve your writing – warm-up exercises!

Cupertino Poet Laureate

writing exerciseThere are many parallels between writing and exercise. With both, it can be challenging to get started. We’ll swear tomorrow’s the day we get going, we’ll do it every day for at least an hour, and we imagine grand results in record time… only to quit after a day or so. We worry we’ll look foolish next to the “experts” out there. It can be hard to find a routine that works for us, especially with the constant demands from work, family, and friends on our time. We hit plateaus, and physical or mental obstacles can set us back or derail us.

It’s no wonder many people who have always wanted to try writing (or exercise) shy away or give up when their first draft (or workout) is less than stellar (hint: almost all first are less than stellar!). In teaching writing, I’ve found one mistake new writers make is…

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National Poetry Month: Poem-a-Day

Check out my latest post regarding National Poetry Month and the Poem-a-Day program from the Academy of American Poets!

Cupertino Poet Laureate

poets.orgNational Poetry Month ends on April 30th, but you can keep the feeling going strong by signing up to receive a poem by email from the American Academy of Poets, the folks responsible for starting National Poetry Month in 1996.

I signed up for Poem-a-Day back in 2014, which means I’ve read and received hundreds of poems over the years. Some days I skim the poem and smile, then move on with my day. Other days, the poem resonates deep within me and shifts my perspective for the rest of the day, following me like a shadow. Either way, receiving a new poem to read each day has been a wonderful way for me to grow my knowledge of the body of American poetry.

You can join thousands of others who have discovered the pleasures of a Poem-a-Day by visiting the Academy of American Poets page here

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