The Essence of Summer: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt #25 Revisited

I’m back, renewed and refreshed. It’s been a tough year and I must admit, until this last week, I hadn’t really felt as though I’d had a summer. However, a peaceful time with my mom in Sonora, California, finally gave me that old, summer feeling. And so, on this our last Play With Your Words day of summer I wanted to revisit the Essence of Summer haiku prompt.

I found just the right words for summer at Mom’s, and even words for reentry into daily life when I got home. I’ll share them here. Then, you review the steps for the Essence of Summer haiku and write your memories or farewells to this sweet season, or perhaps your welcome to the new school year and fall.

When you are done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share here as a comment. Compliment one another on the strengths of your word  choices and turns of phrase you particularly like. Together savor these last flavors of summer.

 Mom’s Hummingbird Feeder

Wings thrum. Warriors
Battle in miniature.
Sweet nectar feeds strife.


A book, a breeze, a
Mountain lake; sunlight sparkling
Off water—Summer


Normal life. The words,
Sweet upon my tongue, speak of
Peace, beauty, and home.

Please share your summer reflections.


Literate Lives on Summer Hiatus

I hope you are enjoying these last weeks of summer!

I apologize for today and Friday’s missing exercises. I got knocked down by a summer cold, and still am not feeling well. Therefore, I have decided to take a summer hiatus. (However, there is not much summer left, so don’t worry, it won’t be long.)

On Friday, August 31, I will resume blogging with our last, summer Play With Your Words Writing Prompt. Then off we’ll sail into a new, academic year.

Enjoy these last, sweet, sizzling days. (And if you never wrote your summer haiku, go back to the August 3 Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt and give it a try.)

Wishing you wonderful, long, lazy summer days!

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent: Best Book of July

The Magicians and Mrs. QuentIt was difficult to choose a favorite book for July, because I very much enjoyed all three of the books I read (Mansfield Park Revisited, by Joan Aiken, I, Coriander, by Sally Gardner, and The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, by Galen Beckett). However, “Best Book” is about best books, and for July 2012, The Magicians and Mrs. Quent  takes the honor.

One of the things I loved about this novel was that it was a complex and artful mix of three of my favorite genres: Jane Austen style regency, gothic mystery, and high stakes fantasy. What’s not to love?

It was interesting how Beckett not only used the three, but focused on one each (with bits of the others woven in) for each of the three parts of the novel. The Magicians and Mrs. Quent has a Jane Austen start, complete with three marriageable age daughters. Part two moves into a brooding Jane Eyre mystery—including, of course, a lonely setting and a widowed boss. Then part three pulls all the strands together with evil plots, narrow escapes, and magical interventions to save the known world.

I highly enjoyed The Magicians and Mrs. Quent. I think you will too.

What Would You Do? Reading Response Exercise #97


Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes.


Think about what you have read.

  • How would you feel if you were in the main character’s situation?
  • How would you react?
  • What would you do?


Write either:

  • a journal entry from the main character’s point of view (if you are the journaling sort)
  • or a dialogue between the main character and his or her best friend.


Read and discuss your responses with your reading partners, or post your responses here on the blog. Remember to share the title and author of the book you are reading, so others can be inspired to give it a try.

Preschool Literacy


Enjoy a picture book with your preschooler.

Stop at some point after the plot problem has developed and before it has been solved.


Ask your preschooler what he or she might do in the main character’s situation. Discuss what might be the outcome of the story is its main character chooses this solution.

When done discussing options, read the rest of the story. After its close, discuss how the author chose to resolve the story and how different or similar the author’s approach was from you and your child’s.

Scary Times Narrative: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #71


  • List times in your life when you have been frightened.
  • Rate your list from the least frightening (1) to most frightening (10).
  • Pick one of the most frightening experiences and brainstorm details (you can web or list) that align with each of the senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.


Choose a point-of-view:

  • first—I, me, my…
  • second—you, us, we…
  • limited third—he or she; choose one viewpoint character and stay in his or her head all the way through.
  • omniscient third—he or she, however, you can head-hop from one character’s point of view to another. This is the hardest point-of-view to write convincingly.

Choose a timeframe:

  • Past
  • Present
  • Future

Now write a narrative account of you chosen experience. Remember to weave in your sensory information that will ground the reader’s experience in a setting and within an individual point-of-view character.


When done, read what you’ve written to your writing partners or share as a comment. Compliment one another on how well the story sucks the reader into the narrative experience.

Preschool Literacy:


  • Talk about times when your preschooler might have felt scared.
  • List words that describe how he or she felt.


Guiding your preschooler by asking him to tell you what happened then asking “What next” until the story is complete, write down his description of the scary event.

Talk to your preschooler.

If the situation lends itself, ask her what she could do next time that would make the situation less scary.

If your child has recalled an event that is rightly frightening, talk together about how such a situation could be avoided or dealt with in the future.


Get out dolls, animal puppets, or Lego men and role-play with your preschooler a positive way deal with the frightening situation.

Willamette Writers Conference 2012 Report

I had a great time at Willamette Writers annual conference last weekend. I learned a lot, pitched my novel to professionals, and came home recharged for a new writing year.

Willamette Writers offers some great classes for writers of any genre and any level of experience, from beginner to pro. I attended workshops ranging from the quirky (Put Shakespeare in Your Writing—taught by Jimmie Moglia), to how-to (Book Design for Print and eBooks—taught by Jennifer Omner), to outstanding writing craft workshops (taught by Eric Wichey, Larry Brooks, and Hallie Ephron). If you ever have the opportunity to take a class with any of these authors, particularly the last three, I highly recommend you take advantage of it.

I pitched both my novels at the conference. The Swallow’s Spring was invited for review by the two agents I pitched it to, and Set in Stone, was invited to be submitted by the two publishers I pitched to. I am excited to this week’s normal work out of the way so I can focus on conference follow-up.

And I’m excited for a new writing year. The experience has cleared my head, enabling me to look objectively at my daily and weekly routines and rethink the way I approach both daily responsibilities and my writing life. I’m doing some reprioritizing, moving writing and personal health up the list a couple of notches. I’m looking forward to an awesome writing year.

How about you? September is coming. (As first a student, then a mother, and finally a teacher, September has always felt like the true beginning of a new year.) What practices and priorities are you looking forward to implementing in this new year?

Plot a Timeline: Reading Response Exercise #96


Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes.

Reflect and Create:

  • Think about what you have read.
  • Make a timeline of the passages you have just read.
  • Create symbolic “icons” for five of the events in this passage
  • Place the icons on the timeline accompanying the mark for the event they represent.


  • Show your timelines to your reading partners.
  • Discuss the icons and the events they represent. How effectively was each icon in reflecting each event?

Post your timelines as a comment. I’d love to see them. Remember to label them with the title and author of the book you’ve read. You might inspire someone else to give the book a try.

The Essence of Summer: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt #25

Capture the essence of summer’s outdoor world by writing a haiku.


Think about several of your outdoor experiences this summer. Select 3 –5 of these settings and jot them down on a piece of paper. For each, web or brainstorm:

  • How it looked—what was there? What was the light like? What colors were prominent…
  • How it sounded—What did you hear? Animals, wind, people, water…
  • How it felt—What was the temperature? Was the air moist or dry? Was there a wind or was the air still? Did you touch anything? What did it feel like?
  • How it smelled—Was it briny like the ocean, or moist like a rain forest? What were the natural smells of the environment?
  • How did it taste? I know, you probably did not go walking around tasting everything you saw, but smells have a taste element to them as well.

Look over the information you have collected and choose an image to focus on in you haiku.


The most simplistic American haiku form is the 5-7-5 pattern we were all taught in school. (5 syllables for the first line, 7 syllables for the second line, 5 syllables for the last.) However, these are only guidelines. You can choose to vary your syllables and their spread over the three lines, as long as you maintain a balanced pattern and keep the haiku under the total 17 syllables. The key is to reduce your haiku to the least number of syllables possible without losing its impact or meaning.


Read your haiku to your writing partners or post it here on the blog. Compliment one another on the spare beauty of your poems.

And please, again I encourage you to share here. Asthma, allergies, and job hunting have kept me indoors too much this summer. I would be so grateful to sample summer’s natural world through your wonderful haikus.

I’m Going to the Willamette Writers Conference

I am preparing to attend the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon this weekend. (It actually starts Friday morning, so after today, I have just one more day to get ready. Yikes!) I am terribly excited.

I have appointments to talk to three agents and two editors, one from Tor Books and one from Cool Well Press.

I am planning on pitching my two completed novels:

  • A historical fantasy, The Swallow’s Spring, about Iseult, a ninth century princess of Ireland whose life is unraveled by the death of her uncle at the hands of Tristan of Lothian and Lyonesse. This is the first book of the Song for a Winter’s Night series.
  • A fantasy, Set in Stone, about Johann who, after quarreling with his family, returns from working out in the fields of his medieval village to find parents, friends, and neighbors turned to stone. The lone survivor? His little sister with whom he doesn’t get along. With no one to guide him, he must find a way to reverse the stone-setting curse.

I am also looking forward to the classes. Much as I realize a function of the conference is to make contacts with agents and editors, I confess my favorite part is the classes. I love learning more about writing, honing my skills, and coming home to apply what I’ve learned to my stories.

And I love having a full, three-day period of time to focus on nothing but writing, writing, writing.

Did I mention I love to write?