Writing 101: Day FIVE: Be Brief

And this is another take on the same prompt, ‘Be Brief’ with the ‘finding of a note/letter) . Enjoy!

VOICE'nVIEWS

Today’s Prompt:You stumble upon a random letter on the path.You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

None of us will ever know the whole story in other words. We can only collect a bag full of shards that each seem perfect.

— From100 Word Story‘sAbout page

Brevity is the goal of this task, although “brief” can mean five words or five-hundred words. You might write a fifty-word story, as writer Vincent Mars publishes on his blog,Boy in the Hat. Or you might tell your tale in precisely one-hundred words, like the folks at100 Word Story— an approach that forces you to question every word.

For writers who tend to write more, a longer…

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Writing 101: Day FIVE: SHORT FICTION

Writing 101: Day Five: Be BRIEF

Today’s Prompt: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

None of us will ever know the whole story in other words. We can only collect a bag full of shards that each seem perfect.

— From 100 Word Story‘s About page

A Cry for Help : The Note

I was sitting in the park, immersed in my book when a piece of paper came fluttering in the breeze and fell near me. I would have ignored it, but there was a red skull-and-crossbones drawn on it with crayons and a straggly ‘help‘ written across the page. Curiosity piqued, I picked it up. On the bottom left hand corner was scribbled, ’23 F, Longview Road‘. It seemed like the handwriting of a child. My mind filled with images of little ones being abused or tortured, I looked up towards the apartment buildings next to the park. They were all on Longview Rd. and they all looked the same. Which 23 F could it be ? No harm in taking a look, is there ? I walked towards the exit gate of the park and I saw an open window with pink curtains, facing the corner I had just vacated

Luckily there was a lift. I reached floor F and there was 23 — locked! Curiouser and curiouser. As I turned to go down, I heard the sound of a sniffle, a child sobbing. My heart thudded with apprehension, was a child being held prisoner? Was it kidnapped? Should I call the police ? As I stood uncertainly, wondering what to do, about to knock on the locked door, the lift opened and a middle-aged, harried looking woman got out. She stared at me, while inserting a key to the locked door. ‘Excuse me, do you live here?’. She nodded, her arm filled with groceries. ‘Who is inside? Is it your child ?’ She nodded and then frowned at my questions, a little puzzled, but no sign of guilt, whatsoever. ‘Seasoned,’ I thought to myself. ‘Why did you lock your child in ?’. She looked scared now. Aha, now I’ve got her. She advanced near me and asked in a dignified manner,  ‘Are you the Social Services lady?’ I gave her a vague nod that could mean either a ‘yes’or a ‘no’. She started explaining, ‘I have to lock her in when I go out to buy groceries and medicines because it’s just across the corner and no one will baby-sit her for that short while. Please try and understand.’ Hmmm. That sounded reasonable. ‘ I can hear your child cry’, I told her sternly. ‘Oh that’s because of Priscilla, she must have got out of reach again. Come in and I will show you.’

There was a small girl with two pigtails and big glasses sitting on a bed, her legs thin and bony. Next to her was a window and pink curtains fluttering. Beside it was a small ledge and there I could see a small kitten, stuck at an odd angle, neither in or out. ‘That is Priscilla,’, the mother said, as though it explained everything. It did actually!

© Lakshmi S. Menon & SEAMLESS WRITING

 

Writing 101: Day THREE: Songs and Commit to a Writing Practice

Writing 101: Day Three: Free Writing

Today’s Prompt: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

Today, try free writing. To begin, empty your mind onto the page. Don’t censor yourself; don’t think.  Just let go. Let the emotions or memories connected to your three songs carry you.

Today’s twist: You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.

“The basic unit of writing practice is the timed exercise” – Natalie Goldberg

Those were the Days: a slice of the 90s

I let my mind loose, allowing it to pick out from memory some favourite songs, and one after the other they showed up, unexpected, almost forgotten but precious still. So here I am with 3 singers, rather than 3 songs 🙂

Karen Carpenter singing Top of the World, Masquerade and Hurting Each Other

Jim Reeves belting out those old, old ‘goldies’ in that crisp, no-nonsense voice. Heartbreak Hotel, I Love You BECAUSE and others with their unmatched quaintness !

And hmmmm . . . 

Kishore Kumar, that eccentric genius of Indian pop, film and light music on whose songs a whole generation of music lovers grew up. Most of the superstars of Bollywood were picturised with his voice in the background.

Though he died in 1987, there aren’t any (in my opinion) among the newer crop of singers to match his versatility even today. Here is a sample of some romantic, nostalgic classics in Hindi ! For those who don’t understand the language, do listen, the melodies and ambience are FANTABULOUS 🙂

Woh Shaam Kuch Ajeeb Thi (On that Mysterious evening )

Ghungroo ki tarah Bajta hi Raha Hun Mein (Like an anklet, I keep being played and shifted from foot to foot)

Rimjhim Gire Saavan, Sulagh Sulagh Jaaye Mann (Pitter Patter falls the rain, the mind resonates but where from comes this warmth of fire?)

These songs, romantic and somber by turn, take me to a time when life was light and carefree. Still studying,  I was yet to step into the real  world of responsible living, though I had had my fair share of ups and downs. I had finished my undergrad. and for an interim year or so, was doing a Training course for Teaching, called B.Ed in India. This was the decade of the sleepy 90s and the place was the placid and peaceful city of Trivandrum, in picturesque Kerala, the tiny, southernmost coastal state of India

I used to go for classes at the teaching Institute, with two of my friends and on the way back, we would invariably stop at a small books-cum-cassette store called Paico (when I last checked in 2012, the shop was being demolished for a mall, taking with it a part of my carefree life, into the oblivion of dust and time). There were no CDs or computers, pen drives or IPods then, there were just these cassettes that we used to buy with our modest ‘pocket-money’ and jealously guard from borrowers! 

That beautiful, half-empty shop (empty of people) with the room full of the promise of music where a boy would allow you to test the quality of the cassette and the three of us friends, browsing and drooling over the melodies we could not buy — well, you can’t buy a whole shop even if you visited it almost everyday! As you can see, the songs that I listed are heavy on nostalgia. Karen Carpenter’s rich, husky voice crooning lovely, soulful songs with a blend of pain so real, that it used to catch my breath, the hearty baritone of Jim Reeves that uplifts your mood everytime and the evergreen musical genius Kishore Kumar, who could sing any song with aplomb.

When you can speak five languages and read and write four ( a phenomenon common in India), you can’t ever have a list of three favourite songs !! 😉

© Lakshmi S. Menon & SEAMLESS WRITING

Day TEN: An ‘abcderian’  poem

Day TENNaPoWriMo 2015

Our resource for the day is Entropy, an online journal of literature that, besides its many fine articles and poems, also hosts great posts on submission opportunities, a small press database, and more.

And now for today’s prompt (optional, as always): Today I challenge you to write an abecedarian poem – a poem with a structure derived from the alphabet. There are a couple of ways of doing this. You could write a poem of 26 words, in which each word begins with a successive letter of the alphabet. You could write a poem of 26 lines, where each line begins with a successive letter. Or finally, if you’d prefer to narrow your focus, perhaps you could write a poem which focuses on a few letters, using words that repeat them.

A Diet Chart

Alongside butter churned

Delectably everyday from goats’-milk,

Healthy, invigorating juice keeps light 

My nutrition options !

Placidly quirky, refreshingly sumptuous,

This utter variety, wholesome (e)xtras,

Yield zest !

© Lakshmi S. Menon

  

 

Day Eight: a PALINODE

Day EIGHT: NaPoWriMo 2015

Our poetry resource today is Michelle Detorie’s hilarious #whatshouldwecallpoets tumblr, which provides animated .gifs to express all your most inexpressible poetry-related emotions.

And now, without further ado, our prompt (optional as always) for Day Eight: today I challenge you to write a palinode. And what’s that? It’s a poem in which the poet retracts a statement made in an earlier poem. You could take that route or, if you don’t have an actual poetically-expressed statement you want to retract, maybe you could write a poem in which you explain your reasons for changing your mind about something. It could be anything from how you decided that you like anchovies after all to hocold, wings, soarw you decided that annoying girl was actually cool enough that you married her.

The Quirks in Love

I loved with all my heart and soul

And wept when my love left me cold,

I yearned to have it all come back

My days were bleak, my nights were stark.

New love gave me wings to soar

My heart beats to a different drum roll;

Old love that betrayed, good it left

There’s space in my heart for true love to nest!

© Lakshmi S. Menon

  

 

Day Seven: A poem on ‘MONEY’

Day SEVEN: NaPoWriMo 2015

And now our (optional!) prompt: keeping to the theme of poetry’s value, Wallace Stevens famously wrote that “money is a kind of poetry.” So today, I challenge you to write about money! It could be about not having enough, having too much (a nice kind of problem to have), the smell, or feel, or sensory aspects of money. It could also just be a poem about how we decide what has value or worth.

 Money’s Worth

All the wealth in the world

I’d trade,

In a moment, for a life of love;

All earthly treasures

I’d save,

To  exchange for a tryst with love!

Sans love,

Life is a desert vast

No joy, nor that throb of pain;

This life, 

That I live but once,

O fill it with love’s full refrain!

Nothing in this world entices,

Nothing beckons nor redresses

The pangs of the heart, the sighs of the soul,

 ‘Tis love, not lucre  that consoles.

© Lakshmi S. Menon

  

 

Writing 101: Day TWO: Description of a SETTING

Writing 101: Day TwoA Room with a View

Today’s Prompt: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

The spaces we inhabit have an influence on our mood, our behavior, and even the way we move and interact with others. Enter a busy train station, and you immediately quicken your step. Step into a majestic cathedral, and you lower your voice and automatically look up. Return to your own room, and your body relaxes.

“A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.”– Joan Didion

Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

Today’s twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.

A Writer’s Reverie: The Retreat

I close my eyes to the merciless sun and the relentless summer heat. This arid, sweatless heat sucks out all my vital energy and I’m reduced to a hollow, mirthless mass of skin and bone, gasping for revival. The woes of the parched earth find an echo in the sighs of my parched heart. I long to be whisked away. Somehow.

I breathe in gallons of the fresh mountain air that set my organs chiming again and my arid heart swinging to distant refrains. Distant, blue, snowy mountains ringing a verdant valley and that little cabin in the woods. The stream gurgling nearby, that musical alarm that wakes me up each day whose cool fresh water stings my senses awake and I’m more than ready for the day. There are not many people around except for some neighbours a little further away. We greet each other with a wave from a distance, content to be nodding acquaintances. 

Small animal noises and the chirping of the birds keep me company, as I go about the very minimal chores that demand my attention in this mountain retreat. I have come here to write, true, but it is also to cool my fevered brain and to get away from the frenzied pace of a routined, hectic life. The long walks and the crisp air refresh my numbed mind, as nothing can. The sight of the distant, silent mountains fill me with a wonder — how majestic and yet how silent in their imposing humility as they allow the vagrant clouds to skim their peaks. So far removed, I muse, from the pompous chatter of small human minds, that revel in noise and bedlam, since afraid of silence. Why do we fear the deep ? Why are we so scared of our own silences that we strive to fill it with the cesspool of meaningless activity ? I stop. For now, I’m grateful, thankful for these brief moments of respite, for the refreshing coolness that percolates into my mind and loosens it up.

Even if — my sojourn to the hills happened in that same space, my mind — I wake up from my reverie, refreshed. Heat rushes to embrace me, like a long-lost, co-dependent companion! But within, it is cool.

© Lakshmi S. Menon 

 

Day Six: Aubade: A Morning Poem

DAY SIX: NaPoWriMo 2015

So, we’ve learned about memorizing, reciting, and recording poems. Let’s give ourselves a bit of a break – Mondays are hard enough as it is – and settle into simply listening to some poems. Poetry podcasts have exploded over the last few years. Swing on over to iTunes and you’ll find a plethora of them. But I’ll point out a few to get things started: The Lannan Foundation’s podcast, the Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Off the Shelf series, and the podcast series of the Scottish Poetry Library. Listen to some poetry next time your out on a walk, or during your commute!

Today’s (optional) prompt springs from the form known as the aubade. These are morning poems, about dawn and daybreak. Many aubades take the form of lovers’ morning farewells, but . . . today is Monday. So why not try a particularly Mondayish aubade – perhaps you could write it while listening to the Bangles’ iconic Manic Monday? Or maybe you could take in Phillip Larkin’s grim Aubade for inspiration (though it may just make you want to go back to bed). Your Monday aubade could incorporate lovey-dovey aspects, or it could opt to forego them until you’ve had your coffee.

Morning Musings: A HAIKU

early morning thoughts

seize them before they depart

butterflies elude.

© Lakshmi S. Menon

 

 

 

 Writing 101: Day ONE: Stream-of-consciousness writing

Writing 101: Day ONE: Unlock the mind

Today’s PROMPT:

“So welcome to Writing 101: Building a Blogging Habit. In these twenty days, we’ll dive into the elements of storytelling, help you cut through writer’s block and — as Natalie Goldberg teaches — access the pure thoughts and ideas of your wild mind. To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write. Keep typing (or scribbling, if you prefer to handwrite for this exercise) until your twenty minutes are up. It doesn’t matter if what you write is incomplete, or nonsense, or not worthy of the “Publish” button. And for your first twist? Publish this stream-of-consciousness post on your blog.”

When Time meets Words:

It’s past midnight, and so it is tomorrow actually, though it feels like today still. Till I go to sleep and get up bleary-eyed and weary after around five hours of sleep (on my lucky days), it won’t officially be tomorrow ! Most of the time while writing, I plan how the idea should pan out. While composing a poem with a definite structure, I put a lot of thought and research (on the form) into it. And I like these mental exercises ! After years of free-versing and random writing, it fees good — all this structuring. YET, often what happens is that something else suddenly takes over. It is as though another part of the mind that was watching the deliberate workings of its counterpart suddenly got impatient and decided to step in. And then my writing begins to flow along some unplanned, uncharted lines, and usually, such passages turn out to be the best of the whole. You can check out an example here, especially the last two paras. Totally unplanned !! And now, am going to myself in — to sleep ! Good night all.  Or is it ‘good morning’ ? Will depend on your time zone. And that is what I also love about these challenges. Even if I procrastinate, I might still be ‘on time’ 😉


Day Four: A poem on LOVE, without cliches

Day FOUR: NaPoWriMo 2015

Yesterday, our featured resource was an app to assist in memorizing poems. The practice of reciting poems is enjoying a resurgence in schools, partly due to the great efforts of the Poetry Out Loud program, which organizes recitation contests. At their website, you’ll find teaching resources, tips on how to organize contests, tons of wonderful poems, and more.

And now for today’s prompt (optional, as always). Love poems are a staple of the poetry scene. It’s pretty hard to be a poet and not write a few – or a dozen – or maybe six books’ worth. But because so many love poems have been written, there are lots of clichés. Fill your poems with robins and hearts and flowers, and you’ll sound more like a greeting card than a bard. So today, I challenge you to write a “loveless” love poem. Don’t use the word love! And avoid the flowers and rainbows. And if you’re not in the mood for love? Well, the flip-side of the love poem – the break-up poem – is another staple of the poet’s repertoire. If that’s more your speed at present, try writing one of those, but again, avoid thunder, rain, and lines beginning with a plaintive “why”? Try to write a poem that expresses the feeling of love or lovelorn-ness without the traditional trappings you associate with the subject matter.

LOVE by the Meditation Tree

Sitting on a small hill-side,

The rocks gently leaning over

The trees bending towards them

In a perpetual , touchless embrace !

The leaves and the shrubs — still — in a waitingness

Different shapes, coalescing, separating 

In a silent harmony,

Anticipation without the anxiety.

The flowing out of peace to the beings around–

the ants, the birds, the bats and the humans

All done, without the need for acknowledgement.

Is this the embrace of true kinship?

Where you BE and allow others to BE

Where inner quietude is shared; in non-judgemental awareness

When the little things of life

— small joys lived in the moment — are LIFE!

And afterwards you walk away,

Unfettered by your own giving

Naturally replenished, 

since just a viaduct for Source.

© Lakshmi S. Menon