38Write Peregrination: The August Writing Workshop Launches Tomorrow

38Write—my [new-ish] global writing initiative—is a monthly series of online writing adventure workshops for place-passionate, culturally curious writers around the world. Each writing adventure focuses on one particular aspect of craft or the writing life (for example, writing kick-butt descriptions), and during each 38-hour adventure, writers connect with me and 38Write writers around the world via a Twitter hashtag and a group Pinterest board. Lots of good work getting done.


Tomorrow—Saturday, August 25—#38Write | Peregrination launches! This is the third-ever writing workshop in the #38Write monthly series, and I can’t wait to see what the writers put forth on the page. Sixteen writers in 8 countries will be walking and writing:

  • Australia
  • Turkey
  • Chile
  • U.S.
  • U.K.
  • France
  • Belgium
  • S. Korea

Since using Pinterest in the workshop worked so beautifully during the July workshop, I’m using it again, and #38Write writers are already pinning on the group #38Write | Peregrination Pinterest board. (Check it out here.)

Looks like we’re ready to go. Walking shoes are polished, and pens all around the world are poised to write. If you’re curious about #38Write, you can check out the conversation among writers this weekend using the Twitter hashtag: #38Write.

Happy writerhead!

Mojo Monday: Tips from Midge Raymond on How to Be an Everyday Writer

It’s Mojo Monday, and as always, I’ve got a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


Give it up for my guest blogger today—the wildly talented Midge Raymond—who has recently published a terrific book that all you writers should be reading every night before bed: Everyday Writing: Tips and Prompts to Fit Your Regularly Scheduled Life. (And yup, if you’re scratching your head and thinking “Midge Raymond, Midge Raymond, I swear I’ve heard that name before,” you’re right! Midge was featured on Writerhead Wednesday nearly a year ago for her award-winning collection of short stories Forgetting English.)

How to be an Everyday Writer (even if you don’t have time to write every day)

As writers, we’re often told that we must write every single day. I’m the first to agree that having a daily writing practice is invaluable—but I’m also the first to admit that I’ve never had one. And I’m guessing that most writers—i.e., those of us with families, day jobs, and other responsibilities that make it hard to fit in our creative time—aren’t able to write every single day either.

But this doesn’t mean we can’t be accomplished, happy writers. We just need to be a little more creative about it.

This is why I wrote Everyday Writing: Tips and Prompts to Fit Your Regularly Scheduled Life.

My goal with this book is to offer tips on how to be an everyday writer even without every day, as well as to offer prompts to help you keep your projects moving forward when you’re short on time. Remember: Writing isn’t about sitting down somewhere and typing—it’s about gathering ideas, noticing details, and seeing stories in the world around you … in other words, it’s about thinking like a writer.

So here are a few Mojo Monday tips and prompts to get you started off toward a fruitful week of writing. (Note: It’s best to have a notebook accessible at all times.)

Tip: Take a good look around. All too often, I find myself using my idle time to check email on my phone or to text someone about something that’s not really very important. I’m guessing I’m not the only one. Instead of turning to a device, look upward and outward; check out what’s going on around you. The following prompt will give you an idea of how to train yourself to use this idle time in a more writerly way.

Prompt: The next time you’re waiting in line at the post office, or at the grocery store, or at the hardware store, take a look around. Choose two random people you see and imagine them as a couple. Imagine how they met, where they live, whether they have kids and how many—create an entirely fictional backstory for these two people. When you have a chance, write down all that you envisioned and use your observations to start a new story, to write a poem, or to inform a scene in your novel. Let this exercise take you wherever it wants to go.

Tip: Open your ears. Some of my most successful short stories have been inspired by little bits of dialogue I’ve overheard. Eavesdropping isn’t always a bad thing, and it’s even better when you don’t hear quite enough of a conversation; filling in the blanks with your own imagination is the best part. The next time you’re out and about, prick up your ears and see what you discover.

Prompt: In a café, in your cubicle at work, or waiting in the lobby at the doctor’s office, jot down bits of conversation you overhear. Don’t worry about accuracy or context; just write everything down as you hear it (the more random and open to interpretation, the better). Later, when you have time, go over the dialogue and create a poem, story, or scene based on a couple of these lines.

Tip: Just say no—to Facebook. I know I’m not the only writer on Facebook with a slight addiction. (It’s so much easier to hang out on Facebook than to write the eighteenth draft of the same difficult scene, isn’t it?) Yet I also know that this doesn’t do my writing any good, and every once in a while I ban myself from social media for a few days—usually with wonderful, creative results. Give it a try at least one day this week.

Prompt: Write about a day in your life without Facebook (you can write about a real-life, pre-Facebook day in your past, or create a fictional non-Facebook day in your future). As part of this exercise, consider how social media has changed your life in ways big or small, whether it’s changed how you interact with friends and family. Is there anything about your use of social media that you’d like to change? And if so, how might this affect your writing life?

I hope these help get your Monday off to a good, writerly start. Wishing you a great week of writing!

BIO: Midge Raymond is the author of Everyday Writing: Tips and Prompts to Fit Your Regularly Scheduled Life, as well as the short-story collection Forgetting English, which received the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. Her stories have appeared in TriQuarterly, American Literary Review, Indiana Review, North American Review, Bellevue Literary Review, the Los Angeles Times magazine, and many other publications. Her work has received several Pushcart Prize nominations and received an Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowship. Midge taught communication writing at Boston University for six years, and she has taught creative writing at Boston’s Grub Street Writers and Seattle’s Richard Hugo House. She currently lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest.

 

 

38Write: Worldwide Writing Workshop Launches Tomorrow

38Write—my new global writing initiative—is a series of online writing adventure workshops for place-passionate, culturally curious writers around the world. Each writing adventure focuses on one particular aspect of craft or the writing life (for example, writing kick-butt descriptions), and during each 38-hour adventure, you’ll be connecting with me and 38Write writers around the world via a Twitter hashtag. It’s new. It’s different. It’s mad fun! (For more info, click here. To sign up, click here.)


38Write | Description launches tomorrow! Sign up today!

So far, 10 writers in 6 countries!

China

India

the United States

England

France

Australia

Click here to join in the fun and make your writing sing! La la la la!

 

Expat Sat: Writing Prompt

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writerhead. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and thriving to expat writers around the globe.


LOST/FOUND

 

Go! Start writing. Get thee to writerhead!

 

Expat Sat: Writing Prompt: There’s Nothing To Write About??!!

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writerhead. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and thriving to expat writers around the globe.


Earlier this week a writer said to me, “But there’s nothing to write about.”

NOTHING TO WRITE ABOUT!!!!!!

Holy crap-a-majoli! Nothing to write about? Nothing to write about?

(short pause, while I sit down and breathe)

FOR PENELOPE’S SAKE, NOTHING TO WRITE ABOUT???

To help this writer and any others who have come to this desperate state, here’s a writing prompt to prove that no matter who or where you are, THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING TO WRITE ABOUT!

Now…get to work.

STEP 1: Go outside and hunker down on a corner. (Yes, I know “corner” will mean something different to each of you. If you’re in a cabin in the woods, go to a bend in a path or a river or a creek. If you’re in Mumbai, go to a nearby intersection. You know what I mean…)

STEP 2: Wait for something to happen. (drums fingers on knee)

STEP 3: While you wait, see what takes your attention. (Who’s pulling their gutchies out of their crack? Who’s smooching on the corner? What is that smell?! Have you ever, ever seen that shade of green before? How would you describe that old woman’s limp? And so on…)

STEP 4: When something happens (AND IT WILL!), go somewhere and write. Get it all down. The whole hot sticky spilling-over-the-sides mess of it.

STEP 5: When you’re done, post a few lines of your piece in the Comments section below. I want to see what’s happening around the world.

_____

P.S. I know, I know, a few weeks ago I made a big promise. I sent out a “Save the Date” for today. Ugh! My apologies for postponing. But stay tuned. It’s a’coming.

___

Image: sakhorn38 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Expat Sat: Writing Prompt #10: Kooky

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writerhead. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and thriving to expat writers around the globe.


This is #10 of 10 in a series of writing prompts for expat writers. So listen up, my nomadic pals. Then grab your keyboards and start writing. (Yup, the last one in this series. But don’t worry…there’s more fun stuff a’coming.)

__________

kooky |ˈkoōkē| adjective ( kookier, kookiest ) informal; strange or eccentric

I love the kooky stuff. The wacky stuff. The stuff that makes you whip your head around and say Huh?

When I first moved to China, nearly everything was kooky. The hospital patients strolling the neighborhood with their IV bags in tow. The frog-tying guy on Wulumuqi Road. The fish that escaped its basket and flopped as fast as it could down Anfu Road, trying (and failing) to escape from the cook who chased it. Expat rants. Crazy-ass mannequins in shop windows. And so much more.

Assignment: What is the kookiest thing you’ve seen in your host country? What has made you whip your head around and say Huh? Write about it.

Tip: Put the kooky thing in context. Don’t leave it out there floating in space. Are there cultural reasons for this particular kookiness? Is there anything in your home country to which you can compare it? Did you tell anyone about this kooky thing at the time you saw it? Did anyone else see it? What was their response?

 

Have some fun with this one…and as always, get thee to writerhead!

_____

Image: Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Expat Sat: Writing Prompt #9: “Raindrops on Roses…”

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writerhead. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and thriving to expat writers around the globe.


This is #9 of 10 in a series of writing prompts for expat writers. So listen up, my nomadic pals. Then grab your keyboards and start writing.

__________

One of my favorite things about living in Shanghai was that I was constantly (constantly!) inspired to take photographs. In addition to writing, I’m a wee bit obsessed with taking photographs.

In Shanghai, I carried my camera everywhere. On the walk to my daughter’s preschool/play group. On the drive to the grocery store. To my fav foot massage place. To friends’ houses. To Pudong. To Xian. To Chengdu. Up the street to buy a pack of toilet paper. Down to the Bund. Along the lanes. To Dongtai Lu. Into the wet markets. To the Ambassy Club swimming pool in the summertime. To the Longhua Temple.

I was inspired by, well, just about everything: people, objects, transportation, movement, weird & wacky stuff in window displays, birds in cages, birds not in cages, noodles, the frog-tying guy on Wulumuqi Road, the ice delivery chicky-babe who could hoist a massive block of ice onto her shoulder and tote it down a lane as if she were carrying feathers, bamboo scaffolding, Chinglish, monks, temples, fish that escaped their baskets and flopped on down the road trying to find the sea, nametags, and oh, so much more.

I have a gazillion photographs (like the one up there in the corner) that in the end loop back to my writing. It’s all part of my creative process…my writerhead.

Assignment: Write about your favorite thing–okay, one of your favorite things–about living in your host country. What gets you up and out in the morning? What makes you say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I love this place”? What inspires you?

Tip: Be specific. Dig in. If you love noodles, tear them crazy-delicious noodles apart. Don’t stop at “I love noodles.” What kinds of noodles do you love? How do you like your noodles to be prepared? How many times a week do you eat noodles? Do noodles remind you of anything back home? Where did you first eat these life-changing noodles? Did you ever burn yourself on a noodle? Slip on one? Stretch one out to see how long it was? Take a noodle-making class? Watch a noodle maker at the market? From what do these noodles set you free (boxed ramen, perhaps)?

 

Now spend a little time thinking about your favorite things…and then, as always, get thee to writerhead!

Expat Sat: Writing Prompt #8: You & Her…Here & There…This & That

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writerhead. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and thriving to expat writers around the globe.


This is #8 of 10 in a series of writing prompts for expat writers. So listen up, my nomadic pals. Then grab your keyboards and start writing.

__________

Folks are often hesitant to do the old “comparison/contrast” when it comes to writing about their host country or their fellow expats. They’re afraid of offending people, stereotyping, etc. I get ya, but sometimes there’s nothing better than a little “us and them” to reveal truths, highlight key cultural differences, and maybe even make your reader laugh out loud. Believe me, you can poke a little fun at yourself, your culture, your fellow expats & their cultures, and yes, even your host country’s culture…all without being offensive. (And besides, not all comparison/contrast essays are funny. Many are quite serious. That part is up to you.)

Writing Assignment: You’ve got a couple of options:

1. Choose something aesthetic that you like: literature, food, movies, music, dance, art, clubbing, photography, architecture, etc. Then pick one example from your home country and one from your host country (for example, if you choose food, you could compare Chinese hot pot to good, old-fashioned American beef stew). Once you’ve narrowed your topic:

a. Explain why one thing is better than the other. For example, if you’re a fan of Chinese hot pot, explain why it’s better than stew back home in the United States. (In my mind, ANYTHING is better than stew.)

b. Reveal a little something-something about both by doing a side-by-side comparison. For example, hot pot and stew are both delicious but each reflects certain aspects of its culture. (Both are comforting, cold-weather dishes but stew-eaters are lazier than hot-pot aficionados. Stew-eaters like their dish to arrive ready to eat whereas hot-pot aficionados like to participate in the cooking.)

2. Compare and/or contrast two groups of people: taxi drivers in your host country and taxi drivers back home; store clerks in your host country and store clerks back home; bosses in your host country and bosses back home; mothers in your host country and mothers back home (yep, been done by Amy Chua, I know) ; etc.

a. Explain why one is better than the other. For example, why taxi drivers in the U.S. are way better than taxi drivers in your host country.

b. Reveal a little something-something about both by doing a side-by-side comparison. For example, taxi drivers in both countries USUALLY get you where you want to go, but both have their quirks.

Tip #1: Figure out what your purpose is. Are you explaining your two subjects…saying both are good (or bad), just different? Or are you evaluating your two subjects…saying that one is better (or worse) than the other?

Tip #2: Before you start writing, make lists. (Always a good time to make a list!) List the characteristics of both subjects that you will compare. (For example, make a list of hot pot characteristics and beef stew characteristics. Then also characteristics of people who eat each of these dishes.)

Tip #3: Keep your audience in mind. Imagine someone reading your piece in the next edition of “Best Travel Essays.” Make sure you give that reader all the info she needs. (Perhaps this poor reader has never had the privilege of eating Chinese hot pot!)

Un-Goal: This is not a rant. Your goal is not to mock or make fun. There’s a fine line between funny and making fun. (More on this in a future post.)

 

Now…get thee to writerhead!

_____

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Expat Sat: Writing Prompt #7: Fear

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writerhead. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and thriving to expat writers around the globe.


This is #7 of 10 in a series of writing prompts for expat writers. So listen up, my nomadic pals. Then grab your keyboards and start writing.

__________

Fill in the blanks in the following statement:

Before I moved to ________ [host country], I was afraid of ________.

Come on, come on…don’t be afraid to admit your fears, however unfounded. Fear is a natural reaction to the unknown. And as you well know, packing up your life and moving to a new country is rife with unknowns.

To help you out, I’ll start…

Before moving to China, I was afraid that I would never learn to speak Chinese, never be able to communicate, and as a result, get stranded in some remote part of Shanghai during a wayward taxi ride.

Ha!

Little did I know that even AFTER learning to speak Mandarin and AFTER being able to communicate fairly well in China, I’d still get lost in remote parts of Shanghai during wayward taxi rides.

There were a couple doozies, too, including the taxi ride during which we drove backward on the highway because we’d missed our exit.

So what about you? What scared you?

  • The boogie man?
  • Getting sick?
  • A new job in a new country?
  • Tossing your kids into an international school?
  • Learning how to use a squatty potty?
  • Living in a Muslim community?
  • Curry?
  • Language barriers?
  • Learning a new subway system?
  • Camels on your street?
  • Fat, juicy spiders sneaking into your bed at night?

Writing Assignment: Pick one of the fears you had about moving to a new country. Own it. Explain how that fear felt…how it manifested itself in your daily life. Then tell how you’ve worked through (or not worked through) the fear now that you’ve actually lived in your host country.

Tip: Back to one of my writing mantras…thou shalt not pussyfoot around. Tell it like it is.

 

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Image: federico stevanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Expat Sat: Writing Prompt #6: Giving Directions

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writerhead. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and thriving to expat writers around the globe.


This is #6 of 10 in a series of writing prompts for expat writers. So listen up, my nomadic pals. Then grab your keyboards and start writing.

__________

In retrospect, the first time I was able to give directions to someone in Shanghai was no big deal. I was crossing Wulumuqi Road at Anfu Road and a bewildered Scottish bloke needed to get to the Ambassy Club on Huaihai Road…just a few blocks away. (Granted, I gave him directions in English. The first time I successfully gave directions in Chinese is another story, another Expat Sat.)

Anyway, I realized as I gave the guy directions that I knew my neighborhood really well. I told him he’d pass the frog-tying guy and possibly (checking my watch) the ice-block delivery woman in front of the fruit/veggie shop. I also explained that once he passed the Iranian Embassy, he’d be fairly close to the intersection of Wulumuqi and Huaihai roads, where he would need to turn right.

When you get down to it, giving directions isn’t really about knowing where to turn left or right. It’s about knowing landmarks and points of interest. It’s about knowing what catches someone’s eye and knowing your own digs. And so, your writing assignment for the week…

Writing Assignment: Open a guidebook or a newspaper for your host city/town. Pick a popular destination. Then write out the directions you’d give to a bewildered Scottish bloke who needs to get from your house to this destination. (Remember, the Scottish bloke is a newbie to your town. He’s clueless.)

Tip: Write in 2nd person point of view…you  know, the “you” point of view. (for example, if you’re in Ireland, “When you get to the third castle, you know it’s time for a pit stop in the pub.”)

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Image: anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net