"Send me a new one, will you? While we're at it, make a green one."

(Overheard some time ago and written for safekeeping on an index card, authentically distressed with a coffee stain.)

Exercise: what's the rest of this conversation? Write it now.

May 4, 2005 in blockbusters, if in doubt, quote | Permalink | Comments (0)


Nonsensical Statement Involving Plankton

From Liz Lawley:

laughing out loud
Via Weez, a wonderful collection of IRC conversations guaranteed to make geeks fall on the floor and roll around laughing.

Aside from the obvious fact that these conversations are funny, you could work them as a springboard for a blockbusting exercise.

For example: write a dialogue or a narrative wherein someone makes a "nonsensical statement involving plankton" or even uses the phrase wholesale. I mean it: start writing.

April 12, 2005 in blockbusters | Permalink | Comments (0)


Fifteen Minutes

Not of fame, but of concentration. When I find myself scattered in too many different directions, I push myself to set a timer and spend 15 minutes focusing on just one thing.

Like now, for instance, I'm trying not to clean, file, cogitate on client work, design anything, eat, comb the spring sap out of the dogs' coats, or surf online.

Instead, for fifteen minutes, I'll push words along the screen. You know, hit those keys and all that. The cursor buzzes along the horizon like one of those hired airplanes you see on a day at the beach, a message trailing after it: Lisa has her butt in her writing chair. New words daily.

Five minutes left. I could deploy more planes. What's my message? I haven't the faintest idea. "How can I know what I think until I see what I've said?"

May 18, 2004 in blockbusters | Permalink | Comments (0)


Liner Notes

Yesterday was Don's 49th birthday, a matter, if you've been following, of great emotional charge. (I'm hoping he has 49 more.)

I was a bit disappointed in myself. I'd made the family's favorite chocolate pie (doubling the amount of chocolate the recipe calls for), but when we tried to buy him this red leather chair, he decided to wait until it was on sale. I also tried to buy him books, but nothing leapt off the shelves for him. So I had nothing, nada, zip, except for pie and love.

"Write something," he said. He knows I'm miserable when I slack off. "Write me something and post it on your blog."

Well, okay. I set the timer, a trick I use when I can't seem to focus, and wrote something about how he'd endured the inconvenience and irritation of wearing a Holter monitor over the weekend --11 sticky, itchy electrodes and a quarter mile of wire and a sinister black box (well, actually beige) recording his heart sounds for 48 hours.

That's jolly. Not.

While I wrote that, I had the Gin Blossoms going on iTunes and looked over at two stacks of CD jewel cases. I wrote:

I still like albums--vinyl ones, with 14-inch-square cardboard covers. There's more canvas for the cover artists and the type is legible. Jewel cases are just--okay. They fracture too easily and someone thinks they need to be packaged hermetically enough to protect (us? or the CDs?) from anthrax.

On the other hand, the name jewel case suggests something valuable must be in there. And you can stack them so you can read the artist names and titles without tilting your head, which is warp-city with vinyl...

And that's when I decided to brainstorm a found-poem using the artist names and CD titles I could read from where I sat. A poem that employed at least a dozen of these, used this found language in nearly every line, and was at least 16 lines long. And I couldn't change the grammatical contruction or break up any of the found bits (enjambments were permitted). Oh, and it needed to say something. That made sense, at least to the recipient.

So, here are the Official Final Draft Stats for "Jewel Case Chanson":

  • Number of possible sources: 30.
  • Number of found items used: 17.
  • Final number of lines: 20.
  • Number of lines with at least 1 found word: 19.
  • Initial time for exercise: about 30 minutes.
  • Total time for exercise, including tweaking: about 3 hours.

Extra credit: Can you identify all 17 references in Jewel Case Chanson? Remember, either the artist name OR the CD title was used.

February 10, 2004 in blockbusters, dailiness | Permalink | Comments (0)


Beginning without knowing what...

After an evening of listening to prepared words, I come to the keyboard to find it's time to write something, without knowing what that something will be.

This is often the hardest thing. I believe William Stafford called it, "starting a car on ice."

With the chilly, wet spring we've had, the metaphor almost fits but I find myself looking for a better one, more fitting for June, even if this June itseslf isn't fit to be called June.

It — the metaphor I'm looking for, because if in doubt a writer should a) quote, which I've already done, and b) produce a metaphor — the metaphor would have to be something about insects pressed up against screens, buzzing against the resistence. When this happens, as I'm sure you've noticed, the insects don't just bumble and bash against the screen, they actually grind off pieces of themselves. They leave their dust behind.

What gets through the interstices of the screen, finally, is not bug or even essence of bug. And this metaphor is both depressing and getting a bit silly. I'm sloughing off some undesirable bits, sure, perhaps hoping that if I keep milling, some better stuff will come through.

And it will, eventually, but there's always the question of how long people are willing to be dragged along, waiting for the interesting remarks to start.

Now would be a good time. Or now.

June 6, 2003 in blockbusters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


What to write when you have a headache

Headaches are an intractable malady when it comes to writing. A stubbed toe can be ignored, but the writer lives in her head. When it's full of migraine there's not much room for anything else.

One can attempt whimsy: while I considered and rejected a weak joke about how there might not be much in this writer's head at the best of times, I also began considering a simile of a mind as a furnished set of rooms... This at least was mildly interesting; enough so that I wrote it down.

I suspect on all days this mind is furnished rather eclectically, but today in particular it probably resembles a certain sort of English bed-and-breakfast hotel. A riot of mismatched carpets and Laura Ashley-inspired puffy curtains and Staffordshire china with bucolic scenes and a little metered heater that doles out puffs of heat for 20p for about a minute and a half.

The migraine itself would be some sort of hotel pet that is entirely fictional and out of place, like a Push-me-Pull-you.

May 10, 2003 in blockbusters, methods | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


One for the Copy Book

People are sometimes surprised that I actually do keep copy books. Today I felt I had to dig out this passage from Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings:

When I was young enough to still spend a long time buttoning my shoes in the morning, I'd listen towards the hall: Daddy upstairs was shaving in the bathroom and Mother downstairs was frying the bacon. They would begin whistling back and forth to each other up and down the stairwell. My father would whistle his phrase, my mother would try to whistle, then hum hers back. It was their duet. I drew my buttonhook in and out and listened to it — I knew it was 'The Merry Widow.' The difference was, their song almost floated with laughter: how different from the record, which growled from the beginning, as if the Victrola were only slowly being wound up. They kept it running between them, up and down the stairs where I was now just about ready to run clattering down and show them my shoes.

— Eudora Welty


I've copied this before. I covet it, just like as a child I coveted those chalk sidewalk landscapes in Mary Poppins that the characters were able to jump into. Welty's writing here carries the reader up and down those stairs along with the tune, and by the end its me running down the stairs. Those are my shoes.

May 3, 2003 in blockbusters, if in doubt, quote | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


If You Were A...

If you were a perfume, what perfume would you be?

April 20, 2003 in blockbusters | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


The View from Up Here

The challenge for the next issue of The First Line is up and while a little banal still has me thinking:

"The view from up here is incredible and makes me feel ________________."

Up where? Feel what? In case you're not familiar with the premise of The First Line, the editors say:

But what if authors had to share first lines? The purpose of this magazine is to celebrate the first line. ... How many different directions can we go in when we start from the same place?

In these times the possibilities seem espacially poignant.

What's the view from where you are?

Postscript: Best of the Comments

--from Pete:
It's a nice idea. More serious than http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/, though!

--Lisa replied:
I've had a few stories published in this one. It's a nice little market, and a fun writing challenge.

And I agree: Bulwer-Lytton is a hoot.

April 1, 2003 in blockbusters | Permalink | Comments (0)


Cricket's Index: January

Cricket herself
I advocate making lists as one of the most effective blockbusting techniques in part because lists themselves can be so interesting. The monthly stats in Harper's, where the juxtaposition and selection of facts often create startling new meanings, have long been a favorite.

  • Cricket's breed, as half poodle, half Schnauzer: "shnoodle"
  • Current age, in people months: 10
  • Current age, in dog years: 5.83
  • Average number of times she wants out, per day, measured in doorside  yips: 42
  • Average number of times she wants in, per day, measured in door  scratches: 420
  • Percentage of the family's stuffed animals she thinks are dog  toys: 100
  • Number of minutes to completely unstuff a plush toy: >2
  • Average area the innards of a plush toy will cover, in square  feet: 144
  • Inventory of non-food items eaten this month: plush toys, food  wrappers, rope fetch toys, Qtips, bottle caps, toilet tissue,  a $5 bill, soap, green binding on living room carpet, orthotic  insoles, a wicker basket, Mare's left shoe
  • Number of times she's vomited, this month: 14
  • Number of times she's vomited after eating a bar of soap: 8
  • Number one item we all hope she never eats again: soap

Postscript--Best of the comments--from Robin:

"My cat once threw up in my dress shoes after I'd been out all night with my (now ex) boyfriend.  She was making a statement. Ignoring her for this man was as inappropriate as shoe vomit.  She was right."

March 29, 2003 in blockbusters, indices | Permalink | Comments (0)