JOURNAL WORKSHOP Words, words, words

Journal workshop

These are ideas for those participating in Journal Workshop, Millville Library, but if you are a journal writer any place and need ideas—help yourself.   These are ideas and topics I have gleaned over the years as a high school, teacher, then writing instructor and just fellow writer. When I know the source, I will quote it.

For Journal Workshop participants, choose one of these when that blank page stares at you.   Just start writing and see what happens.


“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”  Stephen King

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightening bug and the lightning.”  Mark Twain

Words are the tools of a writer.  Playing with words improves your vocabulary, gives you more tools to work with and adds to your    The journal prompts are playing with words.

  1. Use a thesaurus or dictionary and randomly choose five words. Choose words you don’t usually use.  See how many ways you are able to effectively use all in a sentence.

2.  Choose three clichés form a list ( Google clichés and you will find many) Revise each cliché in five fresh sentences.

3.  Flip through a dictionary and 10 words you have never used and didn’t know the definition before looking these up.

Find ways to incorporate them in your conversations throughout the next few weeks.  Write about how that worked.








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Journal workshop

These are for those participating in Journal Workshop, Millville Library, but if you are a journal writer any place and need ideas—help yourself.These are ideas and topics I have gleaned over the years as a high school, teacher, then writing instructor and just fellow writer. When I know the source, I will quote it.

Writing Rituals.

If you wait for inspiration, you will have many blank pages. A writer writes.  Sometimes only garbage comes out; sometimes pure gold flows from your pen.Just as baseball players follow certain rituals on game day and sailors have certain behaviors before setting sail, writers have rituals before they begin.

Historically, (and in some cases hysterically) classic/notable writers have rituals.Edgar Allen Poe wrote with his car on his shoulders. Collete (French writer) picked fleas from her cat before she wrote.

Virginia Wolfe and Ernest Hemingway wrote while standing up.

Franklin wrote in the nude.  Victor Hugo wrote in front of a mirror. Nabokov wrote first draft in pencil on file cards. Susan Wiggs writes all her first drafts long hand and stores her manuscripts in the freezer.

What is your ritual?  What things need to be nearby as you write?  Where do you write?



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Goodbye Roses Hello Fall Leaves

The party’s over….(This is a very old song. Couples usually shuffled together on a dance floor at the end of a party—I chaperoned many proms.)   Summer is slowly fading into falling leaves, endless acorns and cooler weather.img_1312

As I have stated in other blogs ( 8/27/16 and 9/1/15 ), I am a spring and summer person. As a gardener, spring and summer produce anticipation and pure joy of gardens brimming with colors and new smells. Just wonderful love of gardening and accomplishment when flowers do bloom (and bugs and disease don’t overpower the garden.) makes spring and summer the best.


Yes, I know the fall leaves and the mums offer bursts of bright colors.  But fall means my roses have their last hurrah—stunning rosy and pinks, fragile whites hanging down fences will disappear.  Soon, I will be clipping them back and protecting them for the winter’s blasts of cold.  Roses adorn every garden—we have a large corner lot and gardens encircle the back yard and provide borders in the front yard.  img_1324

This fall will keep me busy.  We cut down 12 trees in the front and installed solar panels.  (Yes, we still have 20 trees in the backyard.)   All my front yard flowers have been sweltering in the heat and shaking their heads—what’s going on, the sun is blinding.  Fall will be rearranging, planting and creating new garden in the now very sunny front.   Ah-h a challenge. img_1314 img_1318 img_1325

Most of the photos are the roses from this year.  I will miss their color and wonderful whiff of fragrance which floats around the porch or yard.  S-I-G-H, the party’s over. Byes roses, hello fall leaves.

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New Jersey Romance Writers Conference

I recently returned from New Jersey Romance Writers annual conference.  It is a weekend, I look forward to and return feeling rejuvenated and   about writing.  Spending a weekend with others who speak your language, have characters and scenes rattling around in your brain and worrying about the direction of publishing–now. The conference is informative, motivating, invigorating and just plain fun.

I learned a new term–  I am neither a pantser nor a plotter; I am a quilter!   I write in spurts of scenes and later weave those scenes together with transitional or narrative.

I claimed this habit during NJRW version of Book in a Month, our JeRoWriMo. I write scenes developing character and moving plot and conflicts.  I leave blanks in narrative, leave out words or write notes about what needs to be fixed and just keep going while ideas are flowing.  Then I go back and connect and re-stitch to pull everything together.  I like that term!

Thank you Anne Carrole, Kelly Kalmanson, Mandy Rauffer and Mary Grace Butler.  We met and worked together in Kathleen Gilles Seidel Preconference Workshop, “ The Goddess in Your Heroine.”  The workshop, was beneficial for me. I saw new sides to my main character in my WIP and will be adding and highlighting sides to her character.  The workshop was certainly a credit to Kathleen, but it wouldn’t have been as beneficial or as much fun without these four women.  We all are very different in what and how we write, but it worked!  I don’t want to lose touch with any of them. img_2498

One of best parts of the conference any year are the friendships among NJRW members as well as those who attend from all over the country and varied areas in world (Europe, Canada, South America) Every year, I help Nancy Herkness move tables before PUB retreat. It has become a tradition and through it, Nancy and I have become friends.  JB Schroeder and I take a picture together and usually ending chatting. Maine writers group usually attends as well and it is great reconnecting with them I love Maine, (see any of my vacation blogs.)


I always volunteer. Usually, I am the “cheerleader” in the waiting room—the room just before writers enter the agent/editor room and pitch their books.   I listen to pitches, listen to dreams, reassure them that agents and editors are just people like the rest of us, then push them into the room at their designated time.  This year, Leigh Raffaelle   grabbed me to help in the agent/editor room.

It is equally as tense and tough on the other side of that door.  Editors and agents are seated behind desks which are lined up in rows.(Picture speed dating rows—but with writers talking) No pressure there—just find the right person. The next bestseller could be walking toward them. Observing agents/editors  as they waited for the next person, how they handled the nervous, the verbose, the kept me occupied. How do they remember the people they saw and heard in the hour and a half? What distinguishes one from another? And when do you get to the point you want to run screaming from the room?

My job was to usher the writer to the correct editor or agent, then later walk down the aisle quietly and unobtrusively giving a 2 minute warning.  Then walk up and down, saying “time” very firmly and assuring that group exits the door in the back and the next person is seated.  After an hour and a half, I was ready to run out the door and I felt sorry for the editors/agents.  I couldn’t help myself, the last time, I skipped down the aisle singing, “Time after time.”   At least the editors/agents talking with me will know what crazy person they might invest in.

For those who have been following my debate-to tradition or to indie-on my blog, attending the conference and signing up for editor/agent spots might appear indeed crazy.  I wasn’t sure if I would go to NJRW this year and I wasn’t sure if I would participate in the interviews.  I did both and am glad. I talked with both Indie authors and traditional pub authors.

I spoke with two very different editors.  I greeted Tina Moss as she entered and found her spot.  This is City Owl’s first time at NJRW so I welcomed and explained about NJRW.  Tina is high energy and very interested in events and people around her.  I was her first interviewee as well.  Easy to chat with and great sense of humor, which put me at ease.  Working together would be easy and we would have fun. City Owl is small publishing house which has advantages of personal attention and collaborative venture for author and editor.  I have worked with small publishers before and like that.  But it is a very new house—will they last and what contacts do they have?

The other one was Tahra Seplowin from HQN.  Okay BIG house and how could you not be interested?  What really intrigued me was Tahra herself.  We chatted about book idea she tweeted about.  She laughed at right places as I described my book, nodded in agreement and asked questions— all those are good things. She is listening and she gets it about the book.   (I know as editors it is hard to maintain that intent, focused attention after listening to so many, but it is a boost as the author to know they understand what you are saying.)  O-h-h, I could work with her.

Working inside this room gave me a different perspective.  Tough to be on the other side of the entry door and listen to so many.  Fun working with Leigh and I made a new friend, Judy Kentrus. img_2500

I also talked with Stephany Evans, an agent.  I brought her tea during the interviews and later sat with her in the hotel café.  She described her latest endeavor—a 100 mile run!  Whoa, impressive. Her vivid description of that race had such visceral effect, I could feel the cold rain, hear and feel crunch of gravel beneath my feet and empathize with exhaustion and frustration when she finished the race.  Better yet, it gave me a different track to complicate a character in my TBW (to be written) and vaulted that book from 5th on TBW to 1st. (I am still pitching one and in the middle of WIP—Work in Progress.)  I enjoyed that talk. Learned something new and really helped the conflict of story 3.

NJRW is a phenomenal organization and over the years, I have made many friends.  The conference is my chance to catch up with many; I didn’t mention all in here. This year was productive and invigorating.




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Celebrate Millville’s Writing Community Publishes!

Celebration!   I moderate/teach a local writers’ group.   This week we celebrated two members publishing—one published two short stories in two different anthologies and one self-published her novel. Another member completed her manuscript and a third is having a photography exhibit.


Woo-woo.  Picture short blonde doing a happy dance.  The writing group meets at the local bookstore and core members have been together since 2008.  This year has been a banner year with many taking themselves seriously and not only finishing, but having enough faith and determination to send material out.

My role is to provide materials/ideas to inspire members to stretch and try new ideas to write about.  We also discuss, and then us in their writing—topics, such as, Deep POV, Dialogue tags, creating tension.  Topics are based what group needs or wants to explore.

I have taught creative writing courses in high school and in college classrooms for decades.  It is invigorating, inspiring and just plan fun to observe writers grow, improve and suddenly explode with determination and belief in their writing.  With these last, 32 of writers in my classes have published their work—mostly fictiI cannot take credit for any of that, I didn’t put the words on the page, I didn’t spend hours agonizing over the right word, punctuation, the characterization, plot twists or POV.  I am the cheerleader who provides a fertile space for writers to grow and to believe in themselves.  Having this group burst into creative garden of writers has been rewarding to experience. Sharing my passion for writing is always fulfilling—and just fun.

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Writer’s Journey- Passion and Creativity Abound

Today we ventured to Deer Isle and Stonington.  My former editor, Mary Murray, had taken us there once and we have wanted to return.  Scenery is stunning.


We did walk around Stonington.  Two women run a coffee roasting and brewing company and have a unique way of roasting.  I chatted with the two of them—learned more about brewing coffee.  One asked how I drank my coffee, when I drink and what kind of coffee I usually drink.  That gives them info to suggest a coffee for my taste.   I love the coffee there.  I drink coffee all day long.  I can drink and then go to bed 15 minutes later and sleep the nite.  I am fussy about coffee choices.  My coffee maker (not a Keurig!) grinds coffee then brews it.  I like fresh coffee!  Passion evident here.  The coffee shop is 44 North Coffee.  Check it out!

We also travelled to little shop called Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies.  The jams and jellies in themselves are worth the trip.  BUT the spot is decorated with a caretaker’s metal statutes.  The place is indescribable.  No really, I cannot possible do justice to the cacophony of images created by statutes.  Do look at the photos below.   It is whimsical, colorful and downright hysterical.Little kids would love to run through the “Storyland setup.”

In this case, pictures speak louder…see for yourself.IMG_1933 IMG_1937 IMG_1938 IMG_1943 IMG_1944 IMG_1945 IMG_1946

Creativity thrives here!  The jams and jellies are tasty, too.  Fun place to visit.



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Writer’s Vacation–Kayaking and Reflection in Maine

We have been kayaking daily if weather permits.  I can’t say this adds to my collection of people jobs or reactions.  But kayaking is both great exercise and relaxing. Both are good for the writer’s health.  Taking care of yourself—de-stressing is important.  The Maine vacation is always a calm-down time, a time to reflect, gather new ideas and get in touch—with my thoughts, with nature, with others.

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That guy–the good looking one– is my own romantic hero!

Maine is good for my writer’s soul.  My first published novel is set in Maine.  I started the first book of my WIP series in Maine.  I ‘got the call’ from editors while I was in Maine.

A pink granite rock beckoned me the day we arrived.  It was my spot to write, reflect and just enjoy the view.

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Relaxation, time to breathe and enjoy, time to count your blessings—all good.


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Writer’s Vacation-Races, Festivals, and Rangers

Today was a day writers eye candy.  So many places and people to watch and learn.

Our day began with Winter’s Harbor’s lobster boat races.  This is not an occurrence in NJ, but this event and the Lobster Festival has been going for 35 years.

Lobster boats from up and down the coast compete in this annual race.  Most are not working lobster boats with lobsterman who take the day off to race.  The boats are of competition and each race is set up by weight or class.   Clusters of people gathered to observe and applaud.  A fair number attending were like us and had no idea what was going on so we had to cull information from locals.

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Chatted with one man who was as clueless as we were.  A native Texan, he was stationed in Acadia National Park as a seasonal park ranger.  Wow, there is an interesting job.  So I encouraged him to describe his life.

He lived in Texas for six months a year and for the other he worked at National Parks across the country—Denali in Alaska. The Grand Teton, Olympic in Seattle and this year Maine.  He had never been to Maine before.  Prior to his ranger job, he had been an  engineer in the corporate world in Houston.  His company “granted him an early retirement.”(his words)  He left the harried, stressful corporate life behind a desk and applied for ranger job.  It takes a while to get a role, but that is his new role.  Interesting retirement. No rocking chair, no vacation spot, no golf dates. No, he is a park ranger who travels to a different part of the country every six months.

That is food for thought and may be useful in a story.

Another encounter:  I was examining a wild rose bush now filled with rose hips. If you have read other posts, I am a rose gardener.  Woman next to me asks if that is what rose hip tea is made from and how do you make it.  We took apart a rose hip to study the inside and googled a tea recipe on my phone.   H-m- what kind of person would make her own rose hip tea?   Boil, boil toil and trouble….a sinister character.    An all natural-food lover?

The Lobster festival was drenched in torrential down pour.  Those with outdoor exhibits or food tables valiantly tried to stay open and cheery.   Tough.   Crafters invest much money to attend.

Interesting observation.  A woman had a corner area with tall shelves line with pottery—bowls, mugs, candy dishes. Bake bean pots, flower pots.  Lovely stuff.   I browsed for another mug—which I didn’t need!   A customer purchased a baked bean bowl.  To look at pottery, she had to maneuver a stroller with a baby curled up inside.  Maneuvering so she didn’t disturb any of the woman’s display and didn’t leave her child in the rain.  She made a purchase, moved beyond the tent.  A loud splat and crunch followed by “Oh my God.”  let everyone know the result.

Before the mother could pick up the pieces of the fragmented bean bowl and lid, the crafter wrapped another in newspaper double bagged and handed it to the mother.  She retrieved the broken bowl and refused money for the second bowl.

Nice.   I bought a mug.  It wouldn’t give the potter quite enough compensation for the second bowl, but she deserved the sale.  The kindness of the potter will appear somewhere in a story

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Writer’s Vacation–Mornings in Maine

I love mornings in Maine.  Our house is on a bay and the sunrise and early morning light is breath-taking.  No morning is the same –colors, tides, water flow are different.

Morning glow IMG_2238This morning, I took my usual picture of the same spot to highlight the gentle changes of each morning.  I leaned down to photograph an odd glimmering mass of spider web and water and an eagle flew over me. I heard the wings flapping and felt the movement as he powered upward.

It was both exhilarating and frightening.   Had I reached up high, I could have touched him. That will definitely show up in a book! But I missed the photo opportunity

Mornings in Maine: Beautiful morning in Maine

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A Writer’s Vacation-Maine observations

A writer’s vacation – Maine observations and story ideas

Practice what you preach… In Writer’s Vacation blog (08/04), I stressed a vacation is an opportunity to store images, ideas and human behaviors to use in current or future stories.   Here are mine.Today we were out and about which meant lots of people watching and many conversations.

Northeast Harbor hosted an Arts and Crafts Fair. We attended to support a Maine artist we have become friends with.   A crafter displayed kitchen tools exquisitely carved from oak, teak, and others  Each had   swirls of grains and smoothness of tool created beautiful   to savor.

I chatted with the craftsman who obviously needed to talk.  He explained how he chose the wood, how important it was to him to feel the wood and its story as he carved.  He also worked and reworked to get the wood smooth to the touch.  He also talked about how therapeutic the work had been for him.    His passion about his work and wanting to share his talent was evident.

Two notable word choices.

Sign:  Triple Chick Farm.  Does that mean three women own the farm or does that mean they sell eggs and chickens?

Pickled Wrinkles Restaurant.   Say Pickled Wrinkles Fast three times! And just what is a wrinkle?  It’s a Maine seafood delicacy not a fold in clothing. It is a sea snail which live below the tide line and are often picked up with the lobsterman’s haul. Definitely a Maine dish. Yes, we did eat at the always packed Pickled Wrinkle Restaurant.  Good food, fun place, but alas no pickled wrinkles available.  Sigh.

Fine Junk     A sign along a road with many advertising antiques or “worn treasures”  But “fine Junk”  was just too funny and too true.  Just what do you have in your house that would fit that label?  We have wooden bed frames, odd china pieces….



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