Saturday Story Starter

Can you believe it’s August already?  Summer is slipping away….

But not before one more Story Starter!

As those of you who have participated before know, Saturday Story Starter is purely for fun, just a way to exercise those writing muscles (think of it as Heather’s Literary Gym). There are no prizes, only the simple joy of putting words on paper (well, OK, computer screen). Also, I won’t be offering critiques, just brief words of encouragement, but I will read all your entries, that I can promise! (And if you’d like to read some of the earlier stories that have been shared, click here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here to browse to your heart’s content.)

Before we get started, though, I left you hanging last month with another picture that I promised had a story to go along with it. Here’s the picture:

Mistake House May 2014

And here’s the story:

Many moons ago, I was a student at Principia College. Principia is located in a breathtaking spot, high up on the limestone bluffs of Elsah, Illinois, overlooking the Mississippi River. The entire campus is a National Historic Landmark, thanks to Bernard Maybeck, the celebrated American architect who designed it. (Click here if you’d like to watch a short video showing some of his buildings at Principia College.)

Maybeck called the project his “favorite child,” and he designed the campus to look like an English village. (Swoon! Perfect place for Anglophile me!) This little building in the picture above is known as the “Mistake House,” and it was a sample building, enabling him to try out the various materials and techniques he would use in constructing the rest of the campus.

And it was here in the Mistake House that everything changed for me overnight.

I was an English major, set on becoming the next Jane Austen. It was spring quarter my senior year. I needed one more credit to graduate. As I was flipping through the course catalog trying to decide what to take, I spotted a class called “Children’s Literature.” I thought, “That’s sounds fun–and easy.” (Did I mention it was spring? Or that I had senioritis, and was eager to coast through to graduation and the “real life” that beckoned beyond?)

I duly signed up for the class, and on the appointed day I walked through the door of the Mistake House, where it was held. Can you imagine a more perfect setting for a course on children’s books? The teacher was a former children’s librarian named Marjorie Hamlin. She was and still is a force of nature.  Here’s a picture of her taken not so very long ago on a trip she took to Vietnam, when she was in her 80s:

Marjorie Hamlin on an elephant 2011

Isn’t she wonderful?  She just sparkles with vigor, curiosity, and vibrant life. And that’s what she was like as a teacher, too. Everyone should be privileged to have a teacher and mentor like Margie. She made the world of children’s literature come alive to her students, and it’s because of her class that I decided to write for young readers.

Many decades later, I dedicated THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB to her. Here she is the day I brought her a copy:

Margie Hamlin Closeup

You can see why I love her, can’t you?

And you can see why the Mistake House will always be special to me.

OK, onward to our Story Starter.  Here’s this month’s photo:

Magical Staircase

(If you click on it, the photo should enlarge.)

I came across this fabulous staircase on my travels earlier this year. (Some of you who live in the city where it’s located may recognize it–and even walk up and down it regularly!) It was late afternoon, and the setting sun shone on the small pieces of shimmering tile with which the stair risers are decorated, lighting it up with an ethereal glow. Pure loveliness!

Tell us about this staircase. Tell us its story. Perhaps you want to think about where it goes, and who uses it. Or perhaps you want to look at the makers–the artists who conceived and created this beautiful piece of public art. Or were they artists? Perhaps they were fairies or elves or other creatures who chose to grace this corner of the world with their particular magic…

Ready, set, WRITE!

 

 

 

Saturday Story Starter

Happy Official First Day of Summer!

That’s right, June 21st, also known as the Summer Solstice, is the longest day and shortest night of the year, and the gateway to fun in the sun. It’s that time of year when I happily open my backyard office (aka The Adirondack Chair, or sometimes, if I’m lucky, The Hammock), and move my writing work outside.  Oh yeah!

And this year, the Summer Solstice also happens to coincide with June’s Saturday Story Starter.

As those of you who have participated before know, Saturday Story Starter is purely for fun, just as a way to exercise those writing muscles (think of it as Heather’s Literary Gym). There are no prizes, only the simple joy of putting words on paper (well, OK, computer screen). Also, I won’t be offering critiques, just brief words of encouragement, but I will read all your entries, that I can promise! (And if you’d like to read some of the earlier stories that have been shared, click here and here and here and here and here and here and here to browse to your heart’s content.)

Before we get started, last month I promised you a real story to go along with May’s picture. Remember what it was?

Aunt Reb on Nantucket
This is my great-great-aunt Rebecca — or “Aunt Reb,” as she was always known in our family. She lived to the ripe old age of 105, all but the last bit of it on her own steam, in her own home. What a firecracker! She was my great-grandmother Sarah’s sister. They grew up, along with eight other brothers and sisters, on Nantucket island, off the coast of Massachusetts. Sarah and Reb were both redheads, and everyone on the island called them “those red-headed Smith girls.”

Rebecca was born in 1883. This picture of her was taken when she was about 16, right around the turn of the last century.  I love how feisty she was, even then. I can imagine that it wasn’t considered very ladylike to ride a bicycle in 1900, even on freethinking Nantucket!

I also love the local color in the background — the sailors, the boats with their resting  sails, and the American flag flying from the mast on the right. I can almost smell the salty breeze, can’t you? I love it that Rebecca is right in the thick of things there on the wharf, too. Her father, my great-great-grandfather, ran the livery stable on the island for many years. Maybe she’d ridden down from the family home on Center Street to visit him.

Tip of the week:  Family photos tell stories. YOUR stories, stories that are part and parcel of who you are. Old photo albums are treasure troves, especially if you can get a parent or grandparent or great-grandparent or great-aunt or uncle to tell you the stories that go along with them. Write them down!  And be sure and write down people’s names, dates, locations and tidbits on the back of old photos, so future treasure hunters will be able to piece the stories together, too…

OK, onward to our Story Starter.  Here’s this month’s photo:

Mistake House May 2014

Isn’t this a FABULOUS building? This is what I WISH my backyard office looked like!  (That’s me, lurking in the bottom right corner, vigorously wishing.) And yes, there’s a story to go along with this picture, but you’ll have to wait until next month to hear it.

Tell us about this house. Where is it located? Who built it? What does it look like inside? Who lives here? What do they do for a living?  What events has this house seen in its day?  Tell us its story…

Ready, set, WRITE!

Saturday Story Starter

Happy May!

And welcome to this month’s Saturday Story Starter.

As those of you who have participated before know, this is purely for fun, just as a way to exercise those writing muscles (think of it as Heather’s Literary Gym). There are no prizes, only the simple joy of putting words on paper (well, OK, computer screen). Also, I won’t be offering critiques, just brief words of encouragement, but I will read all your entries, that I can promise! (And if you’d like to read some of the earlier stories that have been shared, click here and here and here and here and here and here to browse to your heart’s content.)

I have a special photo for you this month:

Aunt Reb on Nantucket

I’m going to wait a bit to tell you its background, though. First, I want you to have fun with it. Who is this girl? What’s her name? Where is she? Where is she going? Tell us her story…

Ready, set, WRITE!

 

 

Saturday Story Starter

Welcome to the March Saturday Story Starter!  (Better late than never, right?!)

As those of you who have participated before know, this monthly feature on my blog is purely for fun–just as a way to exercise those writing muscles (think of it as Heather’s Literary Gym). There are no prizes, only the simple joy of putting words on paper (well, OK, computer screen). Also, I won’t be offering critiques, just brief words of encouragement, but I will read all your entries, that I can promise! (And if you’d like to read some of the earlier stories that have been shared, click here and here and here and here and here and here to browse to your heart’s content.)

OK, let’s get started:

Earring

STORY STARTER:  Pretend this earring was found on the sidewalk. Who might have worn it?  What did they look like? Were they young, old, in-between? Were they with someone, or by themself? Did they lose the earring, or throw it away in a fit of anger?  Did this happen yesterday, or a hundred years ago? Where were they coming from?  Where were they going?  What might they have seen, heard, smelled, etc., as they were walking (or riding) along? What will be the consequences of the loss of this earring, if any?

If you need a jumpstart, here’s a first line you can use:

My name is _________, and something terrible just happened …

Ready, set, WRITE!

 

Saturday Story Starter

Welcome to Saturday Story Starter 2014!

I’m hoping to make this a more regular feature of my blog this year, so check back often for new story starters, OK? As those of you who have participated before know, this is purely for fun, just as a way to exercise those writing muscles (think of it as Heather’s Literary Gym). There are no prizes, only the simple joy of putting words on paper (well, OK, computer screen). Also, I won’t be offering critiques, just brief words of encouragement, but I will read all your entries, that I can promise!(And if you’d like to read some of the earlier stories that have been shared, click here and here and here and here and browse to your heart’s content.)

What with the Polar Vortex (don’t you love that name?) we’ve been experiencing and all, I think we need a blast of summer to kick off 2014, so here’s this week’s photo:

Maui Toes

Yep, those are my toes, taken a number of years ago when I was researching THE EDUCATION OF PATIENCE GOODSPEED. Bliss!  Going on location for research is one of the perks of a writer’s job, and this was a particularly great gig, especially since I’d never been anyplace tropical before. I know it looks like I was on vacation, but seriously, I was working!  And now it’s your turn to get to work.

STORY STARTER:  Use this photo as a springboard to invent a character. What’s her name? Where’s she from? What is she doing on this beach? Describe her for us in detail. If you want to spin this into a story, go right ahead. If you just want to write a character sketch, that’s fine, too. It’s up to you. And if you need a jumpstart, here’s a first line you can use:

Her toes had never been this happy before…

Ready, set, WRITE!

Fan Art Friday

It’s my favorite day of the week — the day I get to turn the spotlight on YOU!

(I’m fond of Story Starter Saturday for the same reason.)

I’m turning over a NEW LEAF for 2014, and am going to try and not only get caught up with all my mail, but stay caught up with all my mail.

We’ll see how that works out, right?

Heh.

So to those of you patiently awaiting replies to your letters and emails, hang in there a little longer. I’m diving into my pile o’ mail even as we speak…

Meanwhile, I have a treat for you.  First of all, a glorious self-portrait of Miranda and Sofia, who were 11 when they sent me these pictures LAST SUMMER, and are probably, like, 27 by now. And have grown long, gray beards waiting for me to finally, FINALLY, post their pictures!Miranda & Sofia

Could they possibly be any cuter?  I don’t think so.

Isn’t this a great picture for a cold, rainy Northwest winter day (cold and snowy where many of you are)? Such a blast of summer! I’m keeping it here on my desk to remind me that warmer days are coming…

And here’s the drawing that Sofia did for me:

Sofia's artSimply stellar, Sofia!  (stellar: of or relating to the stars; outstanding — in other words, you’re a star, Sofia!)

Thank you so much, girls — your cheerful faces, lovely letter, and delightful drawing absolutely made my day!

Stop by tomorrow as we kick of the brand-new year with a brand-new Saturday Story Starter.

 

Saturday Story Starter

Welcome to the Saturday Story Starter!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one, and I apologize — we’re long overdue for a writing date together. Too many deadlines + too much travel = crazy life! I’ve so enjoyed all the stories you’ve shared so far (click here and here and here and read the comments field to check them out) — I just love the hum and buzz of collective creativity!

As you know, the Saturday Story Starter is purely for fun, just as a way to exercise those writing muscles (think of it as Heather’s Literary Gym). There are no prizes, only the simple joy of putting words on paper (well, OK, computer screen). Also, I won’t be offering critiques, just brief words of encouragement, but I will read all your entries, that I can promise!

Here’s this week’s photo:

Heceta Head

If you click on it, you should be able to enlarge it for a better look. It’s a great shot, isn’t it? ::pats self on back::  My husband and I spent a week on the Oregon Coast recently, which is one of my favorite places in the whole world. We hiked and read and ate fabulous seafood and napped and watched old movies. Bliss. One of our excursions took us to this beautiful, windswept spot. It’s called Heceta Head. The fog started to lift shortly before I took this picture, but it still has an air of mystery about it, doesn’t it?

STORY STARTER:  Write about this place. Maybe something happens, or maybe you just describe it for us. It’s up to you. If you need a jumpstart, here’s a first line you can use:

The storm blew out to sea shortly before dawn…

Ready, set, write!

Saturday Story Starter

Welcome back to the Saturday Story Starter!

Thank you all for the stories you’ve shared so far (click here and here in the comments field to check them out) — I just love the hum and buzz of collective creativity!

As you know, the Saturday Story Starter is purely for fun, just as a way to exercise those writing muscles (think of it as Heather’s Literary Gym). There are no prizes, only the simple joy of putting words on paper (well, OK, computer screen). Also, I won’t be offering critiques, just brief words of encouragement, but I will read all your entries, that I can promise!

Here’s this week’s photo:

Strawberries
Strawberries happen to be my favorite fruit. These are Hood Strawberries, which are native to Oregon, where I live. They are UNBELIEVABLY delicious! They rarely make it over the border because they’re too delicate to travel, and they’re best eaten within 24 hours of picking. (Ours barely make it home from the farm stand before we’ve already started digging in.) They make the world’s best jam, too. Ooo, and homemade strawberry ice cream? There’s nothing better in the world….

STORY STARTER:  Write about your favorite fruit. Be sure and tap into the five senses as you write, as this really helps breathe life into words on a page (or a computer screen!). In fact, using the five senses should be a primary tool in every writer’s toolbox. The more you as a writer engage your reader’s senses, the more present your reader will be in your story, and the more alive and real it will be to him or her. So now, with this story starter, help us vividly SEE the fruit, SMELL it, FEEL it, TASTE it.  (We may or may not HEAR it, depending on whether it’s crunchy or soft.)

You can simply describe your favorite fruit for us, or, if you’d like, you can turn it into a story. It’s up to you.

Ready, set, write!