Tag Archives: writing prompts

135 Journals Interview: Meet Kid/YA Author Timothy J. Bradley!

4 Nov
Timothy J. Bradley

Timothy J. Bradley uses illustrating as a way to get a feeling for the books he writes.

Recently, I reviewed a quirky and entertaining book called Infestation. (check out: https://135journals.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/135-journals-ya-and-kid-book-club-infestation-by-timothy-j-bradley/) This book made me realize just how much I didn’t know about huge mutant ants–a shameful knowledge gap, I know! Writing the review gave me the opportunity to communicate with Infestation’s author, and he kindly agreed to answer some questions about how he writes (and illustrates) and what inspires him. Read the interview below to learn more.

Infestation cover

Infestation (cover design by someone else) is about Andy, a boy who is sent to a very strange reform school with an outsized insect problem.

  1. It seems in the book as if each of the main characters has a weakness that turns into a strength. For example, the main character’s roommate’s love of blowing things up comes in handy. Is that true of all the characters? Will it show up in future books?

Yes, I tried to give each of the characters some kind of talent or interest that ended up being a benefit to the group of boys in some way. I think that people in real life are like that—we all have hobbies or interests, and it’s fun when we get a chance to put that part of our personalities to good use. In Pyro’s case, it’s probably the only time in his life that blowing things up could serve a constructive purpose! I definitely would want those character attributes showing up in future installments, and more as we find out more about them all. Right at this point in time, INFESTATION is a stand-alone adventure, although I certainly left the door open to possible future books (I’ve thought a lot about what would happen in those, and they’d be a blast to write and draw). INFESTATION has been nominated for the 2014-2015 Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (I’m pretty sure it’s the only book with giant, mutant ants), which might spark some interest with a publisher.

  1. How did you get the idea for Infestation?

I was a big fan of monster movies when I was a kid, especially the “giant bug” films, which were made in the 1950s and 60s. When I started writing fiction, I thought it might be fun to write a story that was an updated version of one of those 1950s “creature features”. One thing I knew I had to do is to come up with a logical method for actually making a bug really huge—in real life, bugs can’t grow beyond a certain size because their muscles wouldn’t be able to move their limbs. Muscles attached to an exoskeleton aren’t as effective as muscles attached to an internal skeleton (like we have). Once I thought of a plausible way to accomplish that, the rest of the story just fell into place.

  1. How long does it take you to write a book, and how do you do it? Do you have a special place where you work or a special schedule?

Typically, what I’ve done is to let things percolate in my brain for a while before I actually sit down to start writing. I also spend a couple of weeks nailing down the plot and significant story events, sketching up lots of thumbnails of things from the story. Once I actually start writing, it might take 2-3 months to generate a first draft. Then I send it out to an editor, and usually do several rounds of rewriting and revising.

I have a studio at home that I use to write and draw, but I can be creative anywhere—it’s something I had to master when I worked as a freelance artist. I don’t have a set schedule—I’ve always been pretty disciplined about taking advantage of little bits of time here and there to write. I usually spend a lot of time during the day thinking about the part of the story I’m working on so that when I am able to sit down and write, I know pretty much what I want to accomplish.

Soldier Class ant illustration by Tim Bradley.

Soldier Class ant illustration by Tim Bradley.

  1. You said you liked horror movies from the 50s. Can you tell us more about that and what they were like? What interested you about them?

My favorites were the ones that at least attempted to have a thin layer of science attached to them, along with the explosions and destruction. I also really disliked if the “monster” was obviously just a guy in a rubber suit (like “The Thing From Another World”). I really liked any kind of dinosaurian-type monster (like the original “Godzilla” movie), or stop-motion animation creatures. But my all-time favorite monster movie is “THEM!”, which was about giant ants in the New Mexico desert, mutations from the original atom-bomb tests. The creatures in the movie were life-sized “robotic” ants that looked pretty good—remember that this is waaaaay before computer graphics had been invented. Not only were the creatures great, but the story was well-written and very compelling. So when I decided to do an updated version of a monster movie, I put in plenty of nods to that movie (the setting is one of them).

  1. Did you study bugs in high school or college? Were they a special interest for you? Are the facts about bugs in this fictional story accurate? If so, why did you think it was important to be factual in a fictional story? If they are accurate, what kind of research did you do? And was doing research fun or was it torture?

I’ve always been fascinated by bugs—they’re so different from us, yet, if you go far enough back in time, there is an ancestral creature that gave rise to both arthropods and us. I have always found that mind-blowing. Although I never studied insects in any formal way, I did do a lot of reading on my own, and I watched the bugs that lived out in my back yard when I was a kid.

The insect information in INFESTATION is accurate—I’ve always enjoyed stories where the adventure aspect is balanced with a helping of actual science information, sort of what Michael Crichton was so good at. I had written a nonfiction book called PALEO BUGS: Survival of the Creepiest, which contained information about prehistoric insects. The research I did for that book involved traveling to the London Natural History Museum, and having a paleontologist walk me through their amazing fossil insect collection. All that information helped when I was writing INFESTATION. I also read a bunch of book from my local library, and did some research on the internet. I actually find researching a book a tremendous amount of fun—I end up learning so much about a topic as I go.

Illustration of a running mutant ant by Tim Bradley.

Illustration of a running mutant ant by Tim Bradley.

  1. Did you also like to read when you were a kid? What are some of the books that influenced you most? What about as an adult?

I was a voracious reader when I was a kid, and I discovered many of my favorite authors at the little library in my town. The books that influenced me most were Rendezvous With Rama and 2001: a space odyssey, both by Arthur C. Clarke, The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury’s collections of short stories. I still love to read as an adult—my favorite authors now would be Connie Willis and Robert Charles Wilson, as well as Michael Crichton.

  1. Do you have another job outside of writing, or is that your full-time job? How did you break into publishing? I know it’s a tough field!

I do actually have a full-time job—I am the in-house illustrator for Teacher Created Materials, an educational publisher in Huntington Beach, California. I write at night and on weekends, for the most part. Getting a book published is a challenge, for sure, but I think what I have in my favor is that I’m pretty disciplined about getting things done, I’m not afraid of putting my work out there (my years spent as a freelance artist made me used to doing that), and I’m pretty tenacious. I don’t give up on something easily, which is good, because it can take a long time to break in. I’ve been pretty fortunate so far, and it’s been a tremendous amount of fun. Breaking in was just a matter of continually knocking on doors—sending out queries, following up, all the nuts-and-bolts that have to be done in order to get a publisher to read your work.

  1. If you were to offer kids advice about how to become a writer, what would you say? What helped you?

I would say to go for it, but realize that writing, (or art, or music, or any creative endeavor) is a lifelong journey. It’s more important to enjoy the work itself (and it is a tremendous amount of work), and not worry about making it big as an author. It’s a very competitive field. Patience and perseverance are essential qualities for a writer. Also, I think it helps to read a lot, and try to figure out why a particular author’s work appeals to you.

  1. What are some other things that fascinate you?

Anything with a high weirdness factor. Zombie ants, parallel dimensions, black holes, prehistoric animals, other planets, future spacecraft, robots…yikes, there’s a lot of stuff. It’s all great source material for the type of stories I liked as a kid, and that I write now.

10. Why do you like writing for kids?

I think I enjoy writing for kids for 2 reasons. I think there’s a part of my brain that has never matured past the age of 8, and “8 year-old Tim” still gets excited about some crazy science story in the news. The second reason is that I remember vividly how awesome it was to discover a book that really reached me. I still enjoy finding a great book as an adult, but the sense of having these huge ideas that I had never thought about leap off the pages of a good sci fi novel was a very powerful force when I was younger.

I have the third book in my “Sci Hi” series, called TIME JUMP, coming out in November [ed. note: It just came out on November 1], and I have started working on a new middle-grade, illustrated, sci fi novel called EXPEDITION, which mixes my interest in natural history with my fascination with robots. I am very excited about it—I think it’s going to be a fun read (and I can’t wait to work on the illustrations!).

Covers that Tim designed for some upcoming books

Covers that Tim designed for some upcoming books.

(Oh,  I also forgot to ask where you live, at least in a general sense, and if you have kids, and if so, if they like reading your books). Are you familiar with the Southwestern setting because you have spent time there, for instance?)

I grew up on the East Coast, north of Boston, but I currently live in Southern California (I love the sunshine and palm trees!). I have a wife and a college-age son who is interested in a lot of the things I am, which is really fun). I use both my wife (who also writes for children) and my son as “sounding boards” for my ideas. My wife is great at spotting where I need to add description or character development, and my son has a nicely warped sense of humor, which can lead to some interesting points of view. I couldn’t have accomplished the work I’ve done so far without them.

Writing Prompt: Did you get any ideas from Tim to spur your creativity? What inspires YOU?

Art Journaling: She Presides Over Death

9 Sep
Art Journal  selection: She Presides Over Death.

This page is from one of my six or seven (or eight, can’t remember) art journals, from a free book I got called Packing Regulations by Stanley Sacharow in 1978.

As I have become more interested in the world of art journaling, I have started more journals. After all, once you get the paint out, you can only do one page at a time, then you have to wait until it dries and you’re just sittin’ there–it’s like watching one of those hideous T-ball games that seemed to go on forever when my children were young. So why not use the paint on six or seven journals while you’re already making a mess?

My problem is that I get really interested in the subject of the books I’m using. So one of the books I found for journaling was a nice hardcover called Packing Regulations. Laugh at me if you will, but Mr. Sacharow took his job seriously and he wrote about the world of packing regulations with care. If you really think about it, how food and other items are packaged is really quite an important subject. It’s a sort of unseen until it calls itself out to you, something hidden in plain sight. It’s easy to understand on an esthetic level. Don’t those little orange-shaped Orangina bottles make the drink taste even better? But it’s also important for reasons of safety (it’s not desirable to have harmful chemicals leaching into your food), and even just for mailing things in a way that is economical yet will minimize the chance of squishing your precious Oreos or bottles of wine. It’s also important that food items conform to certain standards.

Still, it was kind of sad to see this young lady working with rows of dead chickens on a line. Yes, please someone, inspect my meat. But for a moment, I look at those corpses and they look like babies to me, plump-tummied, headless babies. So the subject of the book inspired me to make me use the picture. Which is kind of ironic, because that means I used the contents of a book about packaging to discuss contents of a package which is in the book, which means . . .well, you get the idea, it’s a bit like the Land O’ Lake Butter girl, going off into infinity.

Writing Prompt: What is one kind of packaging of a product that you admire?

What Were They Thinking? Crud From Craigslist, Part 4

1 May



Used Oil: Free to Good Home.

Without further ado, may I present items that you may get for the fine price of FREE from Craigslist?? Surely you have a burning need for one of them.

  1. Bargainistas, just think of what you can do with these fine containers of USED OIL (above)! That’s right. It’s out back–help yourself. But if you come, you better pick up all 30. That’s the deal. The imagination reels at the possibilities, so you’d better move fast.



2. Would you like a piping hot cup of coffee to start your day? Well, you won’t get one out of this coffeemaker. It’s broken. Should you care to pick it up its only function now is to torment you with the dreams of cups of java you might have enjoyed if only it worked, and to go out into the world in a hideously undercaffeinated haze.



3. Get in your car and DASH, because this household is giving away a teeny little cord to something. I’m sure it’s worth the price of the gas money to drive over and pick whatever the heck it is.


4. Who doesn’t need 570 pounds of glycerine? Especially Kosher grade glycerine. Personally, I need it like a luch in kupf, but for somebody who’s fresh out of 570 pounds of glycerine, what a mechiah! (okay I cheated a little with my Yiddish: http://www.pass.to/glossary/gloz2.htm)




5. Miscellaneous lighting parts. Do they go together? Who knows. I mean, they go together in the sense that they were all thrown into the same BOX. But if you’re up for untangling this mystery, these babies are all yours.


Writing Prompt: What did you get for free today? A smile? A kitten on your feet? A good piece of gossip?




135 Journals Book Club: The Secret Miracle: The Novelist’s Handbook, Edited by Daniel Alarcon

9 Apr




The award-winning Edwidge Dandicat (Krik? Krak! and other fiction) was just one of the novelists interviewed for this book (David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons)

The Secret Miracle is an excellent book for any budding—or working–novelist to read. It comes out of the 826 Valencia Project, which is related to Dave Eggers and the McSweeneys writer’s collective. At 826 Valencia Street in San Francisco, at least up to the time of the writing of this book and no doubt continuing on today, there are monthly interviews with a wide variety of novelists about exactly what it is they do, how they do it, what inspires them, and even what “a good writing day” is. The editor has compiled and arranged answers to a number of questions that are of great interest in ways that both humanize the writers and reassure the reader.

One of the great things about this collection of questions and answers is the astonishing variety of accomplished writers who share their thoughts on the craft and the writing life. From Paul Auster, Michael Chabon, Edwidge Dandicat, Jonathan Lethem, Yiyun Li, Claire Messud, and Gary Shteyngart—oh, and Stephen King— the virtual panel that answers the questions in the book show a great range, and are also some of the most celebrated writers of this generation.

The authors answer such questions as “What do you look for in a novel?” Roddy Doyle, for instance, says, “surprise and reassurance,” while Jose Manuel Prieto says “A different way of looking at the world, one that expands my way of understanding it . . . with a new philosophy, a new grammar of existence.” When asked how many books the writers read each month, most answered that it varied, but many seemed to read about three novels a month—not a huge number, but an understandable one. When asked how much they write a day, answers were all over the map, from lying on the couch thinking to 500 words to five pages a day. Michael Chabon was perhaps the strictest in his approach. “I try to get a thousand new words every writing day, five days a week. Fifty-two weeks a year. Try.”

It was interesting to me that most of these writers either don’t outline: Colm Toibin said he only outlines in his head, while others , like Daniel Handler, “outline lots and lots and then ignore most of it,” or, as Jennifer Egan does, she only outlines after the first draft. ” Rick Moody disdains the outline entirely—“Books that are outlined often read ast though they are outlined,” while others, such as Yael Hedaya wish they could, “But I have the attention span of a two-year-old.”

I was fascinated to see how much most of these authors “winged it” with their books. Many of them did the bulk of their research during, not before, the writing of the book. Others couldn’t figure out who the protagonist was until the book started unfolding, and also, often changed from first person to third person or back again. One thing that all the writers urged, repeatedly, was patience. That writing a novel was a process of discovery. You could think all you wanted about a character—and should—germination time is important. But that a lot of what made a character work or not , what made them come to life, was actually writing scenes in which they had to make choices. And that almost all of the writers spent a considerable amount of time revising their work, once they saw what they had created in their first drafts.

As I read this book, I felt an increased respect for these writers. It is probably not coincidental that they have won so many literary prizes, given their willingness to avoid formula and to trust in their individual voices and techniques. It helps me to be reminded that every aspect of a novel—from structure to character to setting and dialog—is up for grabs and experimentation. I felt more willing to sit with the process of drafting my own fiction, to loosen the reins of structure a bit and allow my main characters to be the powerful young women they are.

Oh, and a note: The proceeds from this book benefit 826 National, which helps K-12 students develop their writing skills in cities around the U.S. with the help of volunteer tutors. To learn more, check out http:www//826national.com.


Writing prompt: What qualities do YOU enjoy in novels?


100 Words About Cheese

22 Mar

100 Words About Cheese

Young chef prepares Italian dish called Rustico with several types of cheese.

So, the husband, with his very delicate palate, is very partial to the most expensive and exquisite, i.e.; smelly cheese. If possible, he wants to be introduced to each cow personally, and make sure that she’s consented to being milked, and would like to inspect the grass she feeds upon for its balance of Omegas 3 and 6. And for the composition of the soil. Cheese is a much discussed topic in our house. So, it came to mind for me to try to come up with 50 words about cheese. And I came up with 100. When I did, I realized that I could probably come up with 100 more. As a writer, it reminded me of how sometimes, it is much easier to write small to large than large to small. If someone said, “Why don’t you write 100 words about food, the task would feel somehow more daunting, more mind-scattering. So here, for no reason at all, are 100 words about fromage, queso, what have you, a food that at the moment seems strangely central to my life and maybe yours.

1. smelly
2. powdery
3. holes
4. gjetost
5. chives
6. feta
7. wedge
8. slice
9. mold
10. volcanic ash
11. reamy
12. humboldt
13. creamy
14. cracker
15. rind
16. rennet
17. veins
18. orange
19. spread
20. sheep
21. cave aged
22. wine
23. melt
24. cheddar
25. goat
26. empanada
27. queso
28. Huntsman
29. Gloucestershire
30. Omelet
31. Wheel
32. Milk
33. Croton
34. Cheeseburger
35. Gouda
36. Camembert
37. Brie
38. Party
39. Pepperoni
40. Whey
41. Curds
42. Poutine
43. Pepperjack
44. Mascarpone
45. Cheesecake
46. Tiramisu
47. Crumbly
48. Grilled cheese sandwich
49. Baguette
50. French onion soup
51. Cubes
52. Laughing cow
53. Mozzarella
54. Pont Leveque (sp)
55. Bite
56. Croque monsieur
57. Paris
58. Oppressive
59. Heavy
60. Romano
61. Italy
62. Leicester
63. Pale
64. Morbier
65. Cheeseboard
66. Wedding gifts
67. Thick
68. Fatty
69. Lumpy Colby
70. Dijon mustard
71. Fig jam
72. Tacoes
73. Spaghetti
74. Swiss cheese
75. Butter
76. Salt
77. Ham and cheese sandwich
78. Cigarette
79. Cream cheese
80. Farmer’s cheese
81. Blitzes
82. Sour cream
83. Remorse
84. Luxury
85. Hickory farm
86. Samples
87. Butcher paper
88. Grayson
89. Greek yogurt
90. Aroma
91. Salad
92. Frilly toothpick
93. Wisconsin
94. Apples
95. Explorateur
96. Kitchen
97. Mild
98. Picnic
99. Ploughman’s Lunch
100. Turkish breakfast

Writing Prompt: Can you come up with another hundred words about cheese?

10 Things to Do with Baking Soda. Not Good Things Necessarily. But Things.

3 Mar


Area man says, “Now that’s what I call a lot of baking soda!”


I know how readers of this blog are very concerned with the fine points of grooming and huswifery (and husbandry), so I knew that an article offering 10 things to do with baking soda would be an astronomical attention grabber. So pause for a minute, go to the cupboard, get that little orangey-yellow box, and we are ON.


  1. When you put clothes in your drawers, sprinkle it liberally on top of each layer to remove odors. Yes, it may leave some powdery residue, but it will just make you look cleaner to those in the know.
  2. Have a tea party. On a tray, arrange a plate of scones, a teapot, milk and sugar, plates, and a dainty little bowl of baking soda. Conversation starter!
  3. Pour 2 tsp. of baking soda in your little brother’s cereal in the morning. When he says his milk tastes weird, tell your mother he’s a little liar as usual.
  4. Make a paste of baking soda and water and pat it onto your face. Now you’ve got that “put together” look that’s perfect for the office.
  5. One word: Bakingsodatini.
  6. If your house catches on fire and becomes a blazing inferno, toss some boxes of baking soda at it. Might not help, couldn’t hurt.
  7. Addicted to expensive Frappucinos or Lattes at those pricey places like Starbucks? Add a tablespoon of baking soda to curb those cravings.
  8. If you’re taking a bath with a jellyfish, stinging CAN be a problem. Add some baking soda to the water to tame the “ouch” factor.
  9. If you want to make a dramatic entrance at a party, simply prepare 1 cup vinegar to ½ cup baking soda. Pour into head-sized papier mache “volcano” taped to your head just before you enter.  You’ll make a splash.
  10. Sharing a cubicle with a stinker? Simply build wall with 10-20 boxes of baking soda for a combination fortification/subtle hint.



I’m sure that I’m not the only one with awesome ideas for baking soda. Because those manskanks over at Lifehackery.com (yeah, I’m talking about you, “Marvin”)
 apparently have 75 hints for b.s. http://lifehackery.com/2008/07/22/home-4. Damned showoff.

But I’m sure my readers can come up with better ideas.


Writing Prompt of the Day: What are your most exciting baking soda ideas???

The Lonely American in England

18 Feb
Customers enjoying afternoon tea

My idea of England: customers having a nice spot of tea, probably whilst rereading Winnie the Pooh or Beowulf. (from 1942, Lyons Tea House, London, Wikimedia Commons)

I was the most alone during my year abroad in England. My romantic ideas of England involved tea cozies and bookish people—my kind of people. I thought that because I had read so many books about the Sceptred Isle, from Beowulf to Virginia Woolf (old cliché) but especially Victorian novels, that I would find an echo of that England when I got there. It’s true,  I did find tea. And eventually I found some friends—one of them still an extremely dear friend today—but I also found a shocking amount of prejudice against Americans.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand perfectly well that Americans can act like fools abroad. I cringed whenever I heard a loud American voice demanding better service or complaining about the admittedly dismal food. And I certainly found England a fascinating country with all kinds of people. When I took the quaint trains with their separate compartments,  I would be amazed by the beauty of the countryside. But although it was a beautiful (sometimes) and even magical (occasionally) country, in another place, it was not at all magical. British people were not “smarter” than Americans as far as I could tell. My classes were not any more challenging. If anything, the British students seemed far more passive than the American ones—perhaps because, especially at that time, British students paid far less for their education than Americans did for theirs. University was only for three years, and students had to leap right into their majors without having a chance to noodle around for a couple of years before settling down to theirs. I have to say I thought the American system was better in this way.

One of the difficult things about living in England, especially at that time, was that the particular form that liberalism took (and I myself am a liberal, which made it all the more painful) was just perfect for treating Americans with the kind of contempt and prejudice that people of a liberal temperament are supposed to abjure, but no one actually does. People would say, “Are you from the part of America that’s near Canada? Because I can’t stand Americans,” or (from a teacher): Next week we start reading Gawain and the Green Knight. Americans can read it in translation.” While not wishing to be an apologist for my native land and its many deep sins (many of which happened under English rule, let’s face it), I began to get disgusted with many Britons’ highly elastic sense of time. In arguments in pubs, people who would hear my accent would practically leap over tables to start asking me about slavery, which to their eyes ended about three years ago, while taking no responsibility for the massive clusterf***** of their adventures in imperialism which ended, in what, 1960 (Nigeria?). I had no desire to get into debates with a crowd of nationalists who thought that they were nothing of the sort—on their turf. But I wouldn’t back away, either, because that’s not how I roll. I was not going to say America was better and I wasn’t going to say it was worse. The longer I lived in England, the more I felt as if places are places and people are people. You can meet idiots in a castle and geniuses in a council flat, slum, suburban development, what have you.  And if you meet me, you’ll find a sharp-tongued, well-informed, stubborn hands on hips arguer, and I will probably know the answer better than the person I’m arguing with. Not that it matters sometimes. d

However, on some level, the constant assault of being condescended to on the one hand for coming from a country of “stupid” people and on the other for coming from a country of “ingenious imperialists,” wore me down. I never knew where the next attack was coming from—the teacher who wanted the American point of view on something incredibly awkward or the stranger on the train—made me feel awkward and tongue-tied.

I developed a terrible insomnia. Every night, I would be up until three, four, or five o’clock at night, wasting the expensive electricity (to my flatmates’ bitter complaints), reading novels, writing in my journal, praying for sleep, feeling as if I were in the wrong place. I was geographically dislocated by 3,000 miles from the right place. Oddly, I had lived in California the summer before and felt the same way. I can’t blame this on the English in any way. It was just geography.

Ironically, the only book that reflected this intense sense of loneliness that I ever read was an English one—Charlotte Bronte’s brilliant Villette.

Writing Prompt: When did you feel the most lonely?


Seven Questions From Yahoo Advice

30 Jan

Seven Questions From Yahoo Advice

Joseph Martin Kronheim (1810-1896) (Public Domain US, thanks, Wikimedia Commons!)

In my quest to become an Advice Auntie, a lovely new friend of mine recommended that I take a look at some of the real-life questions on Yahoo Answer (since none of my real life friends want to be victims for my helpfulness). I found some touching questions for future use, but today, I would like to share some of the more, let’s just say eclectic, unusual, and odd questions that people asked. Today’s challenge is to you, dear reader, to answer any or all of them. And if you log in to Yahoo, I believe you can even answer the right person if you click on their names in this post (could be wrong about this). So: Seven Questions:

1. Do you have to buy food at a restaurant?
• Ixo My friends want to go to a sushi restaurant for my friends birthday. The restuarant only serves sushi and I’m pretty disinterested in buying the food but i still want to go out with my friends. Is it acceptable that i accompany them but make no purchases?

2. How to start a story?
• skylar
My story’s about a teenage boy who’s a demon and he’s been trapped in a secret laboratory because he’s a demon and then eventually the demon hunters kidnap a girl demon and the boy and girl grow a bond and eventually escape how should I start this off

3. Should I be a preschool teacher or nail teacher? Help?
• Michelle Denton

4. Negative description of the mall?
• blahblahblah
I need a negative description of the mall. Make it sound like it’s a place with lots of people and chaos.

5. How many colleges has in Forks, WA?
• Rebeca
I need this for an English assignment. Thanks!

6. Why does a person ignore in a text msg?
when you write to someone and that person doesnt reply at all, whats that suppose to mean . annd its always not sometimes. && what should i do about it?
asked by Barbie in Chicago

7. Who is the author of this weird book i barely remember?
Cody Wright
• I’m trying to remember all of this from about 5 years ago so I can’t give much information but i’ll try my best. I’m almost certain that the title of the book is RAT just one word and the entire book is centered on the sad brutally morbid life of a rat. The book is very realistic and at times just plain wrong which is why i like it so much. I remember the cover of the book being all black with just a rats face with glowing red eyes. I do remember that the authors name was very foreign definitely not an enlish name.

All I can say is. Wow. My answers (briefly.)
1. YES, you have to buy food in a restaurant. And you have to tip.
2. Begin the story in the middle.
3. Nail teacher. Definitely. P.S. What’s a nail teacher?)
4. (The mall one definitely deserves some time to expand upon. I love that the writer is outsourcing his/her own creative writing assignment, however.)
5. I think they have two. One is Werewolf Jr. College and the other is Vampire U.
6. A. What’s IN the text message? B. Oh to hell with it we all know the answer—He’s Just Not That Into You.
7. Is this Willard? All I can say is that this sounds like one awesome book.

Writing Prompt: Write a scene about a horrible day at the mall.

The Thirty Years’ War and Our Composted Knowledge

16 Jan


A stupid battle where the Swedes unsuccessfully battled somebody for something in Brno during the 30 Stupid Years War. (Wikimedia Commons).


Since I have actual things to do, an irrelevant thought struck me: What was the name of that Swedish guy in the 30 Year’s War? And who was that guy on the other side—Wallington? No. Wallenberg. And what was that stupid war about anyway?


One of the luckiest accidents of my life is discovering that I like to write for young people. And so I have. Most of what I have written is non-fiction, though I am working on my second novel. But like most of the working writers I know, I have had the good fortune—and the necessity—to learn about all kinds of subjects very quickly. One day, it’s the history of Seattle. Another day it’s Ancient Egypt. Another day it’s Forces.


One of my most useful jobs was as a book editor, putting together books for young people and adults that were created from an encyclopedia. Different bits and pieces of the encyclopedia were melded together in a sensible way to create a usable book for someone who didn’t want to leaf through 26 or so heavy volumes. Every week or other week, I had some subject that would be vastly different from the last one. And usually I was juggling 5 to 7 books at once on various subjects. I might be working on an outline about Ancient Chinese art while editing a book about mathematics and finding photos for another book about mammals (with a few more thrown in). I had a wonderful boss at that job. She and I marveled at how passionate we would be about a subject when we were working on it, but that after the book was gone, all of this hard-won knowledge of the Jurassic Era or the biochemistry of mushrooms or whatever would just disappear. She said, “Actually, I think it gets composted.” This is a much more comforting idea and I agree. I think that the things we learned are still there, even if they are crushed down by other knowledge and other things that require much more immediate attention—like the spaghetti sauce that is about to burn if I don’t stir it. One way I know that the knowledge is still there is because I have a general sense of when things are wrong. For instance, with history in particular, about which I have done a LOT of writing, I feel as if I have a giant grid in my head. My sense is that I generally know what happened before something else major.


That is not to say that I can always remember the details of the 30 Year’s War (without checking, I think it was basically about whether everyone in a certain political unit should have the same religion as its ruler and that it was in the, um, 1680s? Or was it 1580s? It was definitely after Martin Luther’s time because one of the aspects was about the battle between Protestants and Catholics for supremacy. But it was before the 18th Century and its “Age of Reason.” There was a Swedish king who was a powerful force in this war for a long time but Sweden was never a world player after he got killed . .. and maybe it had something to do with the Siege of Vienna, which was the time when the Ottoman Empire started to decline, but wait, that was 1648 I think, and a lot of the war took place in Germany, and it had different phases, and Okay, now I’m going to check.)


Here’s what Wikipidia has to say. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty_Years%27_War

“The Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) was a series of wars principally fought in Central Europe, involving most of the countries of Europe.. . . Initially, religion was a motivation for war as Protestant and Catholic states battled it out even though they all were inside the Holy Roman Empire. Changing the relative balance of power within the Empire was at issue. . . rulers of the 224 German states could choose the religion (Lutheranism or Catholicism) of their realms according to their consciences, and compel their subjects to follow that faith (the principle of cuius regio, eius religio). .  . the Swedes, led by King Gustavus Adolphus, had successfully invaded the Holy Roman Empire and turned the tables on the Catholics. . .”


Okay, so I got the dates wrong, but the idea kind of right. I did remember the idea of the “cuius regio, eius religio,” which means, more or less, “His realm, his religion” because I thought it was one of the most pathetic ideas about how to find a way to make room for both Protestants and Catholics in a new world that had both that I could imagine. It certainly made a mockery of individuals’ rights to worship according to their own consciences. But of course the reason I can sit here on my high horse feeling morally superior to the fools who came up with that not-worth-30-years-of-brutal-bloodshed nonsense is that people back then figured out (in the worst possible way) that it didn’t work. That’s one idea we can put aside forever and ever, I hope. It was at least a step in the direction of individual human rights. And we are all the beneficiaries of that. I can’t help wondering what wonders the world could have achieved if they could have turned all that destructive energy into something more positive, just let everybody go to whatever church—or synagogue—or whatever—they wanted, and lived in peace.


Writing Prompt: What is some piece of knowledge you’ve “composted?” Think of what you might have learned in a college course or at a job or even elementary school. Without peeking, just write down what you remember. Especially try to remember “the main idea” of what you learned. Then check an encyclopedia or other sources and see if what you remember is right.


How to Journal #21: What’s Your Cup of Tea?

8 Aug
journal picture: tea cup

From an old journal of mine: Some prefer a proper cup and saucer.

I remember one day when I was making a cup of tea for my friend Karen and she said, “Oh no I can’t drink out of that cup. I never drink out of cups with logos.” I laughed. I found it quite enchanting that although she is one of the calmest, accepting, and patient people I know, the idea of a cup with a logo on it just bugged her. But then again, I noticed that different people like drinking their morning coffee or tea out of all kinds of different containers–some like chunky mugs, some like tiny ones, others are Venti all the way, paper, styrofoam . . . and that’s just cups. I like large, smooth cups with white insides (so I can see the color of my tea). And then I (sometimes–guilty truth)  fool around on line reading random articles about weird science facts, medicine, news, and of course, wardrobe malfunctions. Then I open my journal and begin to write.

Writing prompts section: #21:  if you’re like most people, there is something unique about what kind of tea or coffee cup you prefer. What is your favorite kind of cup and why? Why not draw a picture or take a picture to add to your journal?