Sunday, October 31, 2010


I took a lot of pictures of this pumpkin stem before I captured the ringlets to my satisfaction. In the process, I learned something about the Creative Autofocus function on my camera and its depth of field adjustments. This picture was taken about 4:00 PM when the sun was slanting over the treetops.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Overheard #117

"A sequence of epiphanies eventually converged to what I think is the right answer."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

No Time to Think

Usually when I design the Write Night exercise, I post it in my blog, but last week I forgot. The idea for this one came from the skillful writing of two authors. Both Judy Blundell in What I Saw and How I Lied and Sara Gruen in Ape House let their protagonists uncover secrets gradually. After each discovery, the protagonist is faced with events so earthshaking that she doesn’t have time to process the new information.

I’ll post my exercise here. During Write Night, we only completed parts 1 & 2.

1. Think of an essential secret, clue, fact or tidbit of information that your protagonist needs to know in order to finish the novel. (You don’t have to tell us what it is – yet.)

2. Write a scene in which your protagonist discovers this secret. Provide a bit of setting, show how your protagonist discovers the information, and a hint of his/her initial reaction. Be sure you actually get to the discovery. (We can allow extra time if needed.) No limit on the number of characters.

3. Before your protagonist has time to process this information, make something happen. It has to be big, distracting and exciting. Consider the emotional, physical and psychological implications of this event on your protagonist. Write the scene.

4. Independent Study: (We probably won’t have time to write anything else.)
a) Will your protagonist be faced with further dilemmas before finding time to process the information?
b) How will your protagonist cope with the information once he/she has a minute to think?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Photos and Computer Woes

I hope to have a nature picture up on Sunday, but it all depends on the home computer situation. My new camera will not interact with my venerable computer, so I’ve been downloading photos onto my husband’s newer laptop. That worked until Sam’s laptop battery refused to recharge, and we learned the hard way that many online computer companies post false information or fail to ship ordered products. Sam and my husband have been sharing our one functional battery, but last week Sam took the battery to Ann Arbor so he could complete his midterm projects, and my husband borrowed a computer to give his lectures at State. I’ve felt that photos for my blog are a less important concern.

Sing along with me:

Four weeks of waiting
Three follow-up emails
Two insistent calls
And a dead laptop battery

I hope the situation resolves itself before we get to five – or at least before Christmas.

(There’s an excellent reason why I don’t write in rhyme.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Fall colors reflected in the Red Cedar River.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Overheard #116

"There should be a sarcasm font."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Stuck in the Middle

Don’t you hate when you’re reading a book that is absolutely riveting – and then the author runs out of ideas? Subplots fizzle, plot devices repeat, and each chapter seems endless.

The last thing any writer wants is for readers to start singing this song.

At some point, all writers get becalmed in a sea of motionless prose, and, like the sailors in that endless section of Moby Dick, we get desperate. Some writers try to move the story out of the doldrums by cranking up the action, but the new action must be essential to the plot. Adding random acts of violence, disconnected scenes involving bad people with bad manners or lengthy chase scenes won’t fix the problem. The story needs a big new idea.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Aphorisms on Experience

Learning curves always look steepest from the bottom. One of my physics professors used to say, “Everything is easy once you know how.” That was true of his homework problems, but my life provides many exceptions. The local high school has a prominently displayed banner that reads, “At first all things appear difficult – Chinese proverb.” As a parent, I was relieved they didn’t use the Russian version, “Even vodka is unpleasant the first time.”

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Overheard #115

"We’ll call in the experts then do whatever we want."

Note: I changed my overheard statement this morning. The first one was meant as a joke between two people who respect each other. However if taken out of context, it could appear mean spirited. There is no cyber bullying on this blog.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Quiet Mind

Every morning while I’m enjoying a cup of coffee, I open The Writer’s Almanac and read the poem of the day. It isn’t possible to read poetry when the news is on, so I turn off the clock radio first, but sometimes, even in the early morning stillness, I can’t concentrate on the poem. The day’s responsibilities hammer in my head, postponed chores clamor for my attention, and doubts whimper in the corner.

Writing is like reading poetry because it requires a quiet mind and total focus. Every writer has good and bad writing days. The less productive times are blamed on our muses, our jobs or our families, but I wonder how much of a bad writing day is due to the lack of a quiet mind.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lights, Camera, Action!

I’ve been recruited to make a music video for Jeremy’s band even though so far I’ve done only still photography. In my manuscript G&CBS (fka TAoCBS), Troy, the protagonist, makes a short film, and he has the entire novel to figure out how to do it.

I have a week.

Troy’s approach was to film everything in his life then cut, splice and edit a bunch of random footage into a video. Probably the band will want a more specific approach. I think practice is the answer – practice for everyone. Tonight, when Jeremy plays his guitar, I’ll start figuring out lighting and camera angles.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Happy 10/10/10!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Overheard #114

"‘Less is more’ doesn’t apply to education."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Musical High School

I heard on All Things Considered yesterday that the adaptation of Disney’s High School Musical in China has been a total flop. The part that interested me most was this quote:

“China's High School Musical wasn't actually set in a high school. It had to be transplanted to a college. That's because Chinese high schools involve such a huge workload, it would be impossible for students to take part in the singing contest around which the film revolves.”

Graduate students from the lab used to talk about the long hours they studied in high school. I’m glad that despite budget cuts and hard economic times, extracurricular opportunities are still available at my son’s high school.

Jeremy is particularly lucky because he is able to take private voice lessons at school, during his choir hour. He records the lesson so he can sing along when he practices at home. The other day during physics lab, he bumped his backpack and accidently turned on the digital voice recorder. His bass voice blasted out:
        me       me
    me                 me
me                          me

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Sunset pictures are tricky in this part of the world because you can’t see the horizon for the trees. Last week I managed to capture some clouds lit from below.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Overheard #113

"Think of the horror if someone did an incorrect citation."

Disclaimer: Overheard statements do not necessarily express the views of the management.