First Friday Freewrite #60: “In cars…”

Welcome back to the First Friday Freewrite! 

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writing prompt, each first Friday of the month.

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild First-Friday-FreewriteMind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the post title to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “In cars…”

Happy Writing!

First Friday Freewrite #59: “Waiting…”

Welcome back to the First Friday Freewrite! 

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writing prompt, each first Friday of the month.

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild First-Friday-FreewriteMind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the post title to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “Waiting…”

Happy Writing!

Member Monday: Home by Jennifer Phelps

Yay! I’m featured on Member Monday again! Thank so much to this fantastic organization for supporting me and so many other writers….

Writers Forum

Welcome back to Member Monday.  It’s a pleasure to once again feature member Jennifer Phelps.  Welcome back, Jennifer!

Home

by Jennifer Phelps

This is a picture of my house – or rather, my yard – of which I will only show a small piece because I am stubbornly private. It’s a good house and, like all good houses, has held its share of pain as well as joy. Call it “seasoning.”

wpid-IMG_20131106_164243_419.jpgI like to say I’ll be here forever, which of course is just one of those silly things we tell ourselves when we love something and can’t imagine letting it go. Who am I to speak of forever? My existence is only a small blip on the radar screen of forever, here and gone in an instant.

My house, though, I love unapologetically: its wide windows that show me the rain, stars, and moonlight; the squeaky hinge on the bathroom door that…

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First Friday Freewrite #58: “Into thin air…”

Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! 

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writing prompt, each first Friday of the month.

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild First-Friday-FreewriteMind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the post title to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “Into thin air…”

Happy Writing!

First Friday Freewrite #57: “In between breaths…”

Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! 

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writing prompt, each first Friday of the month.

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild First-Friday-FreewriteMind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the post title to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “In between breaths…”

Happy Writing!

Freewrite Rewrite – FIRST Friday Freewrite (#56): “An Old Friend…”

No rules – Just write!

First-Friday-FreewriteOkay, that slogan may be a play on the words of an Outback Steakhouse commercial, thus making it a pun of highly dubious cleverness…but it really seemed to fit my approach to this “new and improved” Friday Freewrite, or Friday Freewrite Rewrite, if you will.

What’s New?

  • NO TIME LIMIT (unless you want one).  In the past, I have imposed a time limit (90 seconds).  This was put in place to unblock us as writers, not to limit us.  When “freewriting,” I have found it is important to write fast, ahead of our internal critics that tells us “wrong word,” and “that doesn’t make sense.”  A time limit forces me to get my words down as quickly as I can without pondering them, second-guessing myself, and crossing things out. What I’m hearing from others, though, is that the time limit is stressing them out and getting in their way…so, no mas!  The bottom line is, rules can help us stretch as writers, but as we’ve all heard, they were made to be broken. What’s most important is that we write, with regularity and with honesty.  The rest is immaterial.  So, if a time limit helps you, use one; if not, then don’t.  Let go, have fun, and write!
  • ONCE A MONTH.  The new Friday Freewrite will appear each first Friday of the month only.  This will remove pressure for those of you who feel you are freewriting constantly (you know who you are).
  • WHATEVER YOU WRITE IS “RIGHT.”  This isn’t new, but I want to emphasize that you can’t do the Friday Freewrite “wrong.”  Did you see the jump line ahead of time, and now you’ve thought about your response and it feels contrived?  Maybe you saw today’s topic, then decided to check your e-mail, burned a piece of toast,  let the dog out, and then made another piece of toast.  Should you worry that you’ve now had time to think about the topic?  Absolutely not!  Just keep going. The point is to write.  I write on the Friday Freewrite prompts, and I’m the one who’s conjured them up, so you know my responses aren’t totally organic.  It’s okay!  Just put pen to paper and keep going.  That’s it!  Remember:  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out. Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

With that said, welcome to the First Friday Freewrite!

Here’s how it works: I post a “JUMP LINE,” a short phrase that will serve as a writing prompt, each first Friday of the month.

YOU put pen to paper and write. (I’ll do it, too, of course.)  Don’t think.  Don’t cross out.  (That is wise advice borrowed from Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind.)  Just start with the prompt and see where it takes you.

Then POST YOUR RESPONSE as a comment.  (Just click the comment bubble  to the right of the post title to leave a reply.)

Today’s jump line:  “An old friend…”

Happy Writing!

Home

This is a picture of my house – or rather, my yard – of which I will only show a small piece because I am stubbornly private. It’s a good house and, like all good houses, has held its share of pain as well as joy. Call it “seasoning.”

wpid-IMG_20131106_164243_419.jpgI like to say I’ll be here forever, which of course is just one of those silly things we tell ourselves when we love something and can’t imagine letting it go. Who am I to speak of forever? My existence is only a small blip on the radar screen of forever, here and gone in an instant.

My house, though, I love unapologetically: its wide windows that show me the rain, stars, and moonlight; the squeaky hinge on the bathroom door that I could lubricate but somehow never do; the crooked corner in the living room that inspires speculation about drunken drywall contractors.

I love the way light winds its way into each room at a slightly different angle, the way the hall closet still smells of someone else’s candles, the too-sunny greenhouse window that cooks even the hardiest of plants to a pulp in the dense heat of summer.

Best of all, I love the garden, home to hundreds of Pacific tree frogs and numerous speckled, smooth, and mossy boulders – all of which I adore with shameless fanaticism. I love the neighborhood with its foothills for walking, its backdrop of dusky mountains, the way the wild pushes its brambled back up against my fence.

And I even try to love the neighbors – honest, I do try.

I fill my home with the things I love, the cobalt blue KitchenAid mixer that was a wedding present from my grandma, my mother’s bust of Mozart, the old rocking chair my parents carried me to for comfort in the wee hours, the pets I dare to love even though I know they will one day break my heart, and my special people, who share with me daily their truth, wisdom, and grace.

This house is and will be witness to the mundane, the profound, the astonishing.  It is witness to our lives.

Preserving the Moment – Wig Shopping

Recently, my penchant for capturing the everyday moments in life – the mundane as well as the profound – in my writing has been richly rewarded.  An essay of mine, Wig Shopping, was selected for publication in Blood and Thunder, a “medical arts” journal published by the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.  I am honored and grateful that this piece was chosen and am sharing an excerpt of it here.  The entire piece is available to read on my website, jenniferphelpswrites.com.

Wig Shopping

Published in Blood and Thunder 2013 ~ reprinted with permission

I drive while Mom rides in the passenger seat beside me. She looks smaller than usual Blood and Thundertoday and less sure, her slender body like a finely tuned instrument measuring all the effects of the newly begun chemotherapy. Impeccably dressed as always, she is statuesque in cleanly pressed, stylish white slacks and an expensive-looking black jacket. Keeping up appearances is important to her, but even her ankles look afraid in those tall, impractical high-heeled shoes she insists on wearing. Her shoulder-length blonde hair, which will most likely fall out from the chemo, is intact for now and displayed almost reverently, a solemn reminder of what is soon to be lost. When I look at it, I take a mental snapshot to treasure in the months to come.

I made the four-hour drive from Redding to Santa Rosa on Friday afternoon to support Mom through her first cycle of chemo. Having prepared myself for every possible combination of vomiting, fatigue, lassitude, and her stubborn and sometimes hostile brand of self-preservation, I was surprised and pleased to find my mother feeling relatively well on my arrival, about 24 hours after her first infusion. She is a highly sensitive person and talked about her keen awareness of the cytotoxic chemicals at work in her body, but we also chatted about my job and family, took a walk through her old, upscale neighborhood, and even went out for a pizza dinner. Because it was Halloween night, we retired early from the party atmosphere that was building outside on the street. We curled up on a couch in the darkened house sipping Diet Cokes, watching I Love Lucy DVDs, and hiding from the throngs of trick-or-treaters.

Click here to continue reading…

Member Monday: Cigarettes in the Volkswagen by Jennifer Phelps

So honored to be featured on Member Monday!

Writers Forum

IMG_20130719_162041Welcome back to Member Monday.  The Writers Forum board sends our sincerest congratulations to Writers Forum member Jennifer Phelps, who was recently published in the 2013 issue of the Santa Fe Literary Review.  The review selected her poem Cigarettes in the Volkswagen.

Cigarettes in the Volkswagen

by Jennifer Phelps

She found them between the front seats

of her mother’s old VW bug:

two dry husks of cigarettes, long forgotten,

discovered as she dutifully detailed the car –

a teenager’s task – cramming the vacuum

crevice tool into that awkward abyss,

sucking up tarnished pennies and old French fries,

the Volkswagen an accidental time capsule,

the Viceroys evidence of the free spirit

her mother was once, before she became wife,

Mom, perfectionist, tyrant –

maybe even before she became unhappy.

Back then she was just a kid selling records

at the music store on Fourth Street,

listening to Janis…

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Write With the Door Closed (or at least at odd hours)

I must write quickly, before interruptions scuttle through my open door like dry leaves on a breeze.

Stephen King says, in On Writing, to write with the door closed, in some sort of sanctified space, a basement or attic or laundry room – anywhere with a good solid door. 

Don’t people knock on his door and interrupt him?

“Knock, knock.”

“Come in.” 

Even that brief exchange belabors the interruption, in my opinion.  The interruptor may as well just waltz on in and get it over with.  My door is almost always open.

King’s advice is sound, though.  If writing is an act of honesty, an expression of my inner self, said inner self can be hard to settle into amid the hustle and bustle of a household.

It is ironic, though, that when I truly make time and space for myself, it’s hard to just “be.”  If I could write whatever I wanted to write, what would I say?

It’s often easier to write around things, to react.  Maybe that’s the real reason I keep the door open.  Not because I believe the interruptions are inevitable, but because I want an excuse not to get down to the real business of writing.  The self-discovery.  That kind of inner work can be uncomfortable at times.

I try, however.  In lieu of closing the door, I work late at night and early in the morning.  When people and animals are sleeping, there are no more excuses.  And in the dark and half-light, the deeper part of me, which I sometimes avoid during the day, feels more accessible.  I can set aside the necessary posturing of my outer existence, the one where I use all my energy to interact with the world.  The jumble subsides and I quiet myself in these times.  I can get in touch with what I’m thinking and feeling.  I can say what I want to say.

For more of Jennifer’s musings, visit. www.jenniferphelpswrites.com