Excerpts from an interview with writer Joan Wickersham

I came across this interview on one of my favorite writing websites. A few of the lines spoke clearly to me…


  • “When I am home I tend to become preoccupied with laundry.”
  • “But that boggy, ploddy, stage of blah writing or no writing is just about unbearable while it’s going on.”
  • What’s your advice to new writers?
    “Keep going, and one day you’ll be an old writer.”


10 Writing Prompts for July 27

  1. “Cool! A key to the executive bathroom!”

  2. “You got the career I always wanted. Now hire me back.”

  3. We had no clue what was going on in his head…

  4. “Trust me, I am not worried about the soul of the person standing in front of me.”

  5. “Don’t you understand why you’re here?”

  6. “Of course, I’m capable of meeting my obligations! Here, take a look!”

  7. “Do you regret any of what just happened?”

  8. “Is talking about this upsetting you?”

  9. “What are you thinking about right now?”
    I could keep this date going and lie. Or I could be honest.

  10. Anyone would shut down from something like this.

If you were your character…


Today, I will address rule #15 of Emma Coats’ 22 Rules of Storytelling.

If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

In Something Different This Year, I would feel disregarded and disrespected. I would feel like directing loyalty toward myself and my teaching approach, rather than the school system’s. And I would, in my perfect world, want to do just what the teacher is planning to do— undermine ‘conventional wisdom’. To that character, wisdom comes from knowing her students and what she thinks they need and what she thinks would keep them engaged and interested and willing to invest themselves in their own learning, rather than play the role of robots.

In Stealth Students, if I were to witness the same loss of teaching and learning time, I would be just as frustrated as they were. Would I be taking those steps that they were taking? Probably not, because as a student, I tended to try to work within the system. In a way, that is what they are doing, at least to the point of still completing their assignments, but when given the chance, they work outside the system and bend school rules. Not in a hostile or malicious way, but in a way that feeds their need to maximize their time at school.

I would want to join these students. I would follow them to see what they were up to. I would see that they were on to something interesting and valuable and so if I were excluded, I would at least follow their example. If I were included, t’s possible I might be a little annoying to them. I would be supportive of all that they were doing. And I would ask a lot of questions.

In my foreign student story, I would at first feel intimidated. As a newcomer both socially and culturally, I would want to get a lay of the land. I would probably be overly vigilant about what I said and did, especially if I faced the bigotry that Anand faces. In a more perfect world, he would ‘play within himself’ and deflect the hatred and bias directed toward him, and lump the teacher’s childish bigotry in with the bullies.

In my Lisa G story, if I were her, I would probably, as in Stealth Students, try to stay below the radar. But I guess I’m discovering that half the fun of writing the stories is letting the characters pull off what I probably never would have pulled off.

I like her independence and her ability to shut out all the distractions, preferring to remain in her own little bubble of curiosity and creativity. She doesn’t seem fazed by the disapproval and, at times, even toys with characters like Mrs. B and Heather.

In Zucchini, I would probably react like Beth and I’m not sure if I would ever come around, despite the obvious enjoyment and fun her dad is gaining from their adventure. I would possibly be too self-conscious and too wary of being discovered by the other kids in the neighborhood.

In Bubbe and Bubba, I would, like the main character, enjoy serving as a bit of a promoter, especially considering there was good cooking involved.

10 Writing Prompts for July 23

  1. “I swear I heard you use that argument with your own mom.”
  2. “Clearly you all planned this.”
  3. Here was a thought: Could I divorce my whole family?
  4. “Congratulations, you’ve turned your mother into a monster.”
  5. “It’s not so easy being the one who’s always right.”
  6. “You two never show me any appreciation!”
  7. “Let’s just say you’re off our Christmas card list.”
  8. “Lights! Camera! No! No! No!…”
  9. “There’s a problem. We stink..on ice.”
  10. “Maybe she won’t notice…”
    How I might use these prompts: Numbers 1-6 offer built-in conflict that could shape a story.


Curation Saturday: Gems from other blogs

1. Alex Markovich shares the products of his photography skills.

alex markovich


2. Virginia puts life in perspective with her Roses in the Rubble.
Quote: “What does it take to stop you? There are all sorts of crutches that keep us from moving forward after our spills (splat) on the pavement of life: bruised egos and empty pockets, tears and fears, maybe sprained hearts too hurt to love anew.”


3. Shape Shifter Fitness keeps me on the culinary straight-and-narrow. Well, he tries to.
Quote [about turmeric]: “The difference it’s made in the quality of Stella’s life by adding it to her dog food has been amazing, and I’ll always be a huge proponent of its benefits for that alone.”


4. Cristian Mihai shares his views and expertise on blogging.
Quote: “Accept that you have to add value.”


10 Writing Prompts for July 20

  1. “I can’t go back to the way things were.”
  2. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to need a lawyer.”
  3. “Come on, George, we both know all that stuff was just talk.”
  4. “Oh, sure, we threw away our future today, but we still have enchiladas!”
  5. It made us feel like kids again. And we couldn’t stop…
  6. “You really never believed in me!”
  7. “I’m calling today, ‘Launch Day’!’”
  8. “I’m afraid I’ve hit a creative roadblock.”
  9. Her mother…coming up the walkway. There had to be a place to hide…
  10. I sensed tension. Lots of it. I looked to Barkley for relief…

Note: These prompts only starting points and might–and probably will–elicit entirely different characters, settings, dialogue. If so, mission accomplished!

#9. Her mother…coming up the walkway. And my wife miles from the house. There had to be a place to hide. If only I could vaporize my car so the ‘nobody home’ message would ring loud and clear.

But nothing was ‘loud and clear’ to this woman. Except when she screamed at PBS commentators. That was loud and clear.


10 Writing Prompts for July 18

  1. “No matter what happens, this is how I want to remember my time here.”
  2. “Darn it.  I think we have a future together!”
  3. The Ferris wheel seemed to be as good a place as any…
  4. “As I’ve always said, never judge a book by its table of contents.”
    My brother and I looked at each other and cocked our heads.
  5. “This might seem a little narrow-minded, but I’m pretty sure the only real solution is to get a dog.”
  6. “Make sure you stop over and say bye to the kids.”
    “Oh, yeah,
    that I’ll do for sure.”
    I didn’t like the sound of that one bit.
  7. “Can you take this call?”   The only right answer was ‘no’. And yet…
  8. “Isn’t she the absolute perfect bride?!”
    We stood in the back and chuckled. How long would it be before…
  9. “I can’t do this anymore.”
    “This? What do you mean ‘this’?
  10. She had finally figured out who she was. How unfortunate for all of us.

Photo by tanialee gonzalez on Unsplash

Curation Tuesday: More from Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing

From Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You

  • “Do not, for money, turn away from all the stuff have collected in a lifetime.” [For many of us, it’s time to put all we’ve amassed to us.]
  • “Do not, for the vanity of intellectual publications, turn away from what you are—the material within you which makes you individual, and therefore indispensable to others.”  [For me, this requires a daily pep talk. Sometimes, I’m all in. Other times, out of resistance, I drift toward other projects.]
  • “To feed your Muse, then, you should always have been hungry about life since you were a child. If not, it is a little late to start. Better late than never, of course. Do you feel up to it?” [I think Ray would suggest you dive into your closet of notebooks and half-finished works and see what is inches away from being revived.]

I hope a few of Ray Bradbury’s thoughts speak to you as a writer/creator.

Added on September 4, 2018:

Here is blackwings666’s post about Ray Bradbury.

Be open to inspiration. Write on!

10 Writing Prompts for July 16

  1. “So THAT’S why she was following you! I knew she wasn’t that socially desperate.”

  2. “Hey, everything I do is above board!”

  3. “My job is to put away bad guys.” It was impossible to not roll my eyes.

  4. “You’re not exactly playing by the rules.”

  5. “I’m just not following your point.”    
    “Your obtuseness—so convenient.”

  6. “If that phone beeps one more time, you’re going to need it to be surgically removed.”

  7. “I understand that you’re doing your job, but do we really need to be frisked? And twice?”

  8. “Why don’t we team up on this?”   It seemed like a good idea. But my gut said otherwise.

  9. “Sure I’ll testify against him. But I need some reassurances.”

  10. “Everything he claims? Baseless. Absolutely baseless,” he said as he backed his way out the door.

Photo by Nick Herasimenka on Unsplash

Curation Saturday: Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing

From Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You

Excerpt 1:

“I needed that approval. We all need someone higher, wiser, older to tell us we’re not crazy after all, that what we’re doing is all right. All right, hell, fine!”

Yep, I guess that, along with the daily accountability, is why the My 500 Words Facebook group is one I’ve stuck with and visited daily.

These folks are in the trenches with me, many/most of us writing to explore, writing to reflect, writing to release, and sure, some folks are writing to publish, which is certainly just as valid and definitely exciting.

And so Ray B [easier to type than ‘Bradbury’…I think it’s the combination/sequence of the letters] found that validation from a revered 89-year-old art historian, Bernard Berenson.

While I’m not a famed art historian, I hope that my comments and content can provide some validation to fellow writers.

Excerpt 2:

“But it is easy to doubt yourself, because you look around at a community of notions held by other writers, other intellectuals, and they make you blush with guilt. Writing is supposed to be difficult, agonizing, a dreadful exercise, a terrible occupation.”

With this excerpt, Ray B draws the contrast between himself [“I believe one thing holds it all together. Everything I’ve ever done, I’ve done with excitement, because I wanted to do it, because I loved doing it.”] and many other writers.

As I write this post, as I consider my age, as I think about how I am not overly enthused by rewriting, followed by rewriting, followed by rewriting…and then marketing, I wonder if I’ll ever get anything published. This is not a ‘woe is me’ proposition. It’s just a moment of self-reflection, of revisiting [probably daily] what is more important to me when it comes to writing.

More from this book next week when Ray B addresses the muse…