Try 101

Practice — Process — Projects

Month: October, 2012

Writing Exercise: Word by Word

by ajanefountas

Amy Hempel once said: “Writing conducted at the sentence level has always made perfect sense to me….There’s no method. There’s no formula. If you really proceed a sentence at a time, if you pay attention to the sentence you just wrote and look to it for the clue for what to do to the next sentence, you can inch your way along to what may be the story….You can call up emotions with the sound of words, no matter what the words mean. You can really get under someone’s skin that way….’Wear your heart on the page, and people will read to find out how you solved being alive.’ That was Gordon [Lish] twenty years ago, and that’s what I’m still trying to do.”

Gordon Lish once said: “Every word has to be married to the word before it and after it.”

Gary Lutz once sort-of said (meaning this is a paraphrase): “Look at writing as an unnatural act rather than an organic process. Determine what words to put next to each other. Don’t go for a thesaurus. You can often find the word you want in the other words in the sentence. Look into the surrounding words.”

All that said, here’s the writing exercise, made up by me: 

Choose a noun and a verb. Construct a sentence around these two words. Let the next sentence be informed by the one that comes before it. Take risks. Don’t self-censor. Continue, word by word, sentence by sentence. Write slowly, carefully. This exercise is the opposite of freewriting.

Feel free to post your results in the comments section.

Quotes to Write By: Jeffrey Skinner

by laura didyk

From Jeffrey Skinner’s wonderful, strange, inspiring book The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets:

Don’t write about what you know—write about what has made you ill with interest, what has infected you.

Call for Submissions: Send Us YOUR 30 Things

by tjbeitelman

Last week’s communal 30 20 Things WE Love Right Now was so fun, we thought we try something new.

We’re now in the market for guest posts of 30 Things YOU Love Right Now. If you’re game to be featured in this space articulating your 30 Things, zap an email to [tjbeitelman at gmail dot com] saying, “Yeah, I’d love to guest post!” We’ll work out the scheduling logistics from there…

I’ve done this one other time before elsewhere and it was a blast for everybody involved.

So. Yes. Join the party! Won’t you?

Look, See: The Registry Room

by ajanefountas

Registry Room, Ellis Island
This is a window, and its reflection, in the Registry Room (a.k.a. the Great Hall) at the Ellis Island Immigration Station. I photographed this window two days ago. My maternal grandmother was likely to have looked through this window in 1928. I wonder what she thought as she gazed upon and through this window after having emigrated from County Mayo, Ireland. I will keep wondering this and possibly even dream up an answer.

Quotes to Write By: Henry David Thoreau

by theyogaofcake

“Be resolutely and faithfully what you are.”

Henry David Thoreau

30 Things WE Love Right Now: An Invitation

by tjbeitelman

Okay. So:

And so here’s the question:

  • What’s ONE thing you really love right now?

[Thinking, thinking, thinking…]

It can be a big thing or a small thing. Profound or mundane. Tangible, intangible. Animal. Vegetable. Mineral. Etc.

Got it? Nice. Now share it with us in the comments section! I’ll start…


PS: Can we get to 30? I don’t know. I do know this: we don’t have to stop at 30!

PPS: …and you can damn sure post more than once! Whenever the spirit moves you…

PPS: …and don’t worry about doubling up. If you love something someone else loves, that’s like a double bonus of love and that’s awesome.

PPS: …that said, everybody loves coffee. (What’s not to love?) So maybe pick something else?

Quotes to Write By: John Ashbery

by tjbeitelman

I thought that if I could put it all down, that would be one way. And next the thought came to me that to leave all out would be another, and truer, way.

White space. Block. Silence. “Not the truth, perhaps, but — yourself.” — J. Ashbery

Pilgrimage: NYC

by ajanefountas

When you read this (that is, if you read this the day it’s posted or soon thereafter), I will be on a pilgrimage. I will be in NYC on a research trip. I will be researching domestic servants in the early 20th century; County Mayo, Ireland; and the New York Foundling Hospital, to name a few.

I like this word: foundling. According to the dictionary on my Mac, a foundling is “an infant that has been abandoned by its parents and is discovered and cared for by others.” I wonder where this word and my research will lead me.

During my pilgrimage, I will stand in front of a building on Madison Avenue and wonder if the Irish servant who lived with the Black family when the 1930 census was taken was my grandmother. Perhaps I will be standing in front of that very building, wondering that very thing when you read this.

During my pilgrimage, I will leaf through books at the New York Public Library and sort through boxes at the New York Historical Society. I will take a ferry to Ellis Island. I’ve never been to Ellis Island, but I have ancestors who landed there by ship: the Samaria, the Olympia, the Athinai. Each of my ancestors were on a pilgrimage, too, I imagine.

When I return from my pilgrimage, I will try to turn facts into a fiction inspired by the historical documents I lay my hands on.

Look, See: Signs for Yes, Signs for No

by tjbeitelman

Writing Exercise: Single-Syllable Short

by ajanefountas

Write a 250-word short-short story, of the fiction or nonfiction variety, using only single-syllable words. Take on an abstract subject — such as love, freedom, or truth — but use concrete language to bring this abstraction to life. Concrete = palpable: bread, jump, rock, flip.

Some starting points, should you need one:
A memory from childhood.
These words: Love is a drug.
Your day yesterday.

Remember to use single-syllable words only and to edit your story down to exactly 250 words. And to have fun!

Please post your single-syllable short-short in the comments section. Thank you.