Writing in-scene is one of the best things a writer can learn.
Here is a terrific exercise for writing in-scene using sense and want.
- Write the alphabet down the side of the page
- Write your own autobiography by choosing one NOUN for each letter of the alphabet. The noun should somehow signify one part of your life. For example, — what’s the name of the street you grew up on, or what is one of your favorite hobbies?
- Circle five of your nouns.
- Make sure your noun is specific. For example, if you wrote dog for D, make it specific by telling us a kind of dog, like poodle mix J. At this point, you may be changing the first letter of the noun, and that’s fine!
- Write one sentence for each specific noun. (A sentence that describes or explains the noun).
- Now circle two of those sentences.
- Write a paragraph for each of those sentences. The paragraph should use at least two of your five senses to elaborate on the explanation or description of the noun.
- Put yourself in that scene. Give yourself something you want and define something that is in the way.
- Poodle Mix.
- I have two poodle mix dogs, Millie and Peanut. Peanut doesn’t like Millie and Millie couldn’t care less.
- I have two poodle mix dogs, Millie and Peanut. Peanut doesn’t like Millie and Millie couldn’t care less. The rain is steady and they are in the yard digging up buried sticks. I call them inside and they race and stumble inside, tracking their goodtime-paws all over the rug, reminding me how much I love them, and how love can smell like mud and wet fur, all mineral damp and dirty. Millie barks to be let out again, and scratches at the door, making a ruckus that syncopates with the rain, a kind of primitive music that plays in my head as I open the door and watch them dart between the drops. (sound and smell).
- I let them do this before we go to the vet. It’s Millie’s last chance to feel grit in her nails, to feel superior to the irritating Peanut who will soon have the house to himself.
I can’t commit to things I’m not committed to.
I heard myself say this recently while giving a talk on Feeling Good Even When Totally Stressed at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Women’s Leadership Conference.
I’d never uttered these words before but an audience member asked, “Why do I have so much trouble staying on a diet? What is the harm of quick fixes with short-term results?”
I answered: “The thing about quick fixes is that they don’t “fix” anything. The quick fix implies short term behavior so it stands to reason that we get short-term results.”
Then I said, “If we want long-term results, we have to engage in long-term behavior.”
Ann–this is not news.
I KNOW. I KNOW it isn’t news but let’s look at why?
Maybe we optimistically engage in this short-term behavior in the hopes that we will keep it up, that this time, it will turn into a real long-term change.
So many hearts are broken with this kind of thinking. So many dreams dashed.
Think of that gorgeous boy you dated who was in a band and drank too much. He was some quick-fun wasn’t he? But, you didn’t commit, did you? (wait, if you did, message me with the details).
We break up with our quick-fix because it doesn’t work for us. read more…
I learned a bunch of stuff this month. 6 Things to be exact.
I hope you didn’t notice that I missed the January email. On the other, I kind of hope you did. Maybe you missed a word or two from me.
Many of you know my dad died very unexpectedly and we moved my mother to hospice. He was wonderful, difficult, loving, complicated, beloved, devoted and I miss him very, very much.
My father’s death although abrupt did allow for some time together in the hospital. I was lucky to have that time and I posted about it on Twitter and Facebook. I couldn’t believe he was so ill and I needed help.
Here’s what I learned about being out there with my grief.
- I learned how to be a better friend.
- I learned to reach out more to people in pain and that the effort is worth it
- I learned that even the smallest of thoughts across the e-verse are helpful
- I learned that people know what to say when you’re grieving because they too have been sad and,
- Lastly, that if you let them, people will help ease the burden of grief.
My long-time friend literally moved into my house to help me and without her, I might have just wandered around and never been able to go back to teaching on time.
She said, “Would you like me to come?”
Instead of bucking up and brushing her off I said, “Yes please.”
And that week I cried but also laughed. A lot.
Every day I learn how to be a healthier, better person. Thank you all so much.
I wrote about my dad here. Yes, he was difficult but I sure loved him. http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/10-ways-hook-reader-reel-good
No more secrets you guys.
You know how they say if you’re not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem?
Well, I’m part of the problem. So, no more secrets.
What’s your problem this month, Ann? (that’s my negative self-talk chiming in. She’s not very nice sometimes.)
I was on Instagram @anngarvin_ looking at everyone’s photos and feeling bad about my living room, my backyard furniture, my lame ass kitchen table and the lighting in my bathroom.
Then I examined the faces of all my peers and decided that I needed to start a skin regime like YESTERDAY and would have googled Botox injections when I happened upon a garden photo that made my Hibiscus plant feel really bad about herself. I made the mistake of showing her the organic food abundance, and we had to do some affirmations about lone blooms and the value of wallflowers. We talked about getting a rototiller and building a sustainable co-op, but then I saw my friend’s photos of Italy and thought maybe I should sell my house with its shitty kitchen table and move. read more…
We should talk. Don’t worry we’re not breaking up.
Many of you know I teach stress management (ok dad, stop laughing).
I spent my career studying anxiety and depression so, it stands to reason that I have it pretty much figured out.
(Dad, what did I just say?)
But, sometimes when you’re standing at the Redbox waiting for another man who can’t make a decision, your body kicks-in and all hell breaks loose (no I’m not writing from jail).
Then, your dryer stops working followed by your washer, water softener, and water heater.
Hospice calls and says your mom isn’t sick enough to be in hospice anymore and everyone in the world knows that this is what the term ‘splitting hairs’ means. Alzheimer’s is a one-way ticket to ‘sick enough for hospice’-street, which Google Maps says is at the crossroads of I’ve Forgotten Everything and For The Love of God Don’t Be Stupid Medicare. read more…
Who are the Tall Poppies and Why You Should Care?
I was interviewed by my crabby brother, Ray, about who the Tall Poppies are and he cleared it all up for you.
Ray: So, Ann – what is this flower group you put together and why do you spend so much time on it? I didn’t know you like gardening.
Ann Garvin: The Tall Poppy Writers did a very un-American thing. We decided not to compete against each other. As authors, we believed if we were going to make it, we had to hold hands and stick together. We had to get organized and help each other. Tall Poppies is an author cooperative that works to help female writers find readers – and to support literacy-related charities.
R: Why don’t you just hire someone to do this for you? Haven’t you made it big already?
AG: Making it for a Tall Poppy Writer isn’t about making payments on a beach house bought with best-seller royalties, or making the rounds on the talk show circuit. Making it for me and the authors who compromise the Tall Poppy Writers is being able to keep writing stories, finding readers, interacting with them, and working every day. Oh, and making some money. We like to eat.
R: Wouldn’t it be easier if you just did it yourself without all these other people?
AG: No, Ray. *eye roll* The Tall Poppies believe a rising tide lifts all boats and we want to lift our voices so that others can be heard as well. We sing each other’s praises and work together week after week even when we’re sick, overwhelmed, or injured. We are like relay racers on a track team; when one person takes a rest, the others grab the baton.
We want readers to find us so we can entertain them with our stories now and in the future. We want our readers to help us raise money for Room to Read to help girls in third world countries get education so that they can get jobs that are not part of the sex trade.
R: I mean, that’s kind of cool. But why do you think other people should care? People are busy.
AG: Because I think people care about women and girls. I think you care about smart, kind, talented writers who sincerely want to bind people with the humanity of storytelling. Because we think you will like our stories and if we work hard enough, maybe we can understand the world a little better together.
R: But you’re all women? Why no men in your group?
AG: Because women have a hard time in the entertainment fields. Women writers don’t get the respect and reviews male writers do. The movie industry prioritizes stories by and for men even when women are the majority. Because women are busy and we all have to go to the grocery store, work all day, and still be kind to our families. As writers we do all that and try to bring good stories to the forefront as well. Because the voices and opinions and experiences of women matter and we don’t get heard enough.
R: Why you, though?
AG: The only way I could figure out how to keep writing without getting burned out, quitting, or yelling at the older man driving too slow in front of me was to put together a group of authors who would work together. I like people; they give me energy and a purpose. I love meeting readers and writers and my nest is getting empty. I had to fill it up with friends. Why not me?
R: I really think you should calm down. You’ve always been a little intense.
AG: Ray, don’t ever tell a woman to calm down.
Night Moves: How my mom tricked Alzheimer’s by visiting me in my dreams.
My mother is probably a lot like your mother: older, loving, and not her younger self. I know when you look at your mother you see the eyes from your childhood, the wrinkles created by her familiar smile. When I look at my mother, I see her high cheekbones and the crooked incisor that reminds me her parents didn’t have money for braces. But, her Alzheimer’s disease is like an overlay of thick fog she can’t emerge from and we can’t see through. She’s there, I know she is, but she can’t get out.
Yesterday, my daughter said my mom came to her, whole and well, in a dream. She said my mom held her and they spoke about how they miss each other.
At least once a week, I dream about my healthy mom too.
In my dreams, we are deep in conversation before I realize that she is entirely well. We stand in the living room and she is the woman from 2008 when we visited New York together. The last time I saw her whole.
I do not say, “How is this happening?” Nor will I proclaim, “You are better!! YAY!” I am too afraid that her skittish mind will go back to playing hide and seek and I will go on having a mother, but also not having one. That’s how dementia is: you get to keep your loved ones but the person you loved is nowhere in sight.
My dreams are an exercise in the game: Don’t ask don’t tell. My mom isn’t aware that she yanked a handful of my hair while I helped my dad change her bed and I certainly don’t mention bring it up. I also don’t mention that my dream-mom is the mom of ten years ago. Twenty years if you count the ten years of slow decline; the dissolving 7,300 days before she forgot everything. Even me. (I did a Listen To Your Mother performance on that here).
You might think being yelled at and forgotten is the hardest thing about having a mother with Alzheimer’s. But, It’s not. The hardest thing is to see the woman who was a professor of nursing, who spoke in Washington DC for the rights of Nurses, who I called for help with parenting, can no longer do even one thing from her past.
No, wait, I am wrong. She has kept one thing from her past. Her ability to fold towels.
I wonder if my dreams are my mother reaching out across the fog. I don’t think so though. Not because I don’t believe in that sort of thing but because she would not be happy like she is when we speak in the middle of the night. She would be furious about this towel-folding.
“Towel folding,” she’d say with pointed disgust. “Why not ironing, grocery shopping, or even sweeping?” If you’re going to put me in hell why not put me all the way in? Give me all your domestic chores.”
My daughter and I both want to believe my mom is coming to us in our dreams. We want it because otherwise what is the point? She must be in there holding on to her life, folding towels for a reason.
So, here’s what I’ve decided. My mom has figured out how to trick Alzheimer’s. Every day in effect, she says, “Sure, I’ll fold your towels, I’ll undergo the indignities of having a full-time caregiver, of losing memory and choice and self. I’ll play your Alzheimer’s game but when everyone, even the disease sleeps, I will make my midnight visits.
I will use the fact that my body won’t give up. I will transcend the boundaries of understanding. I’m going show my people I love them even if it’s only in their dreams.
“So,” she says, “You horses-ass of a disease. I am going to sit here and fold towels until I can’t. When that skill goes away, it won’t matter one bit because you can’t take away my night moves ”
And, off she will go to visit another love.
I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around is a funny and sad story about the people we love even when disease makes it hard.
No, and Yes Live Together in The House You Build for Yourself.
When I was younger I could say no without guilt, worry, or fear.
In fact, at least once I not only said “no”, I also made a deal out of that ‘no.’
It was during my short stint on the track team where I ran the mile run, now called the 1500 meter run (which is not the same but that is a different battle).
I lost every single race I competed in.
Every. Single. Race.
I didn’t know how to train, nor was I genetically gifted and while I liked being on the track team the mile was not the race for me.
In my senior year, the track coach said to me,
“Please don’t run this season.”
This was before Title IV and before anyone cared about a kid’s self-esteem. The coach’s name was Roland Antilla, and he went on to say, “It’s painful to watch you and what’s the point anyway?” (*side note 1: I LOVED him. He was brash and taught history and I actually miss him to this day…you know but still Roland, give a girl a break).
I’m sure I was embarrassed, but I knew I was slow. (*side note 2: I can run forever but I just can’t do it fast.)