16 October 2007

Nanowrimo Prompt

from lizshine.blogspot.com:

Prompt for the week of Oct 15-21

Research week! If you're doing nano, make a list of topics that you could know more about regarding your novel idea. Place the story is set? Main characters profession or hobby? Research all the things on that list. Post here what you researched and how many pages of notes you took.


1. List of Topics I Could Know More About
Regarding my Novel Idea:

Artificial Intelligence
Milton's "Paradise Lost"
Goethe's "The Sorrows of Young Werther"
Stem Cell Research

2. Place the Story is Set?

Either the Pacific Northwest
A Remote Area of Alaska.
Probably both.

3. Main Character's Profession or Hobby

Dishwasher (profession)
Cooking (hobby)

15 July 2007

Body Image Prompt

Annika didn't have a body image problem, because she didn't have a single body image. What she had were several fragments, several pieces of body images--if they could rightly be called that--that intersected at various curves and points. They were all part of her, but no single one could ever be a true image of her self.

When she was a girl, Annika kept the secret of these fragments. The other girls around her knew exactly who they were and what they were here for, even if it changed from day to day. She was never sure. In fact, most of the time she felt like a visitor here. Not quite alien, but not quite a native. She suspected there was nothing wrong with her, or the other girls, but that she could see something no one else could. She could see the fragile, slipping, shifting segments of souls.

Annika didn't tell anyone. Until she was fifteen. Until she had her first real kiss. Until she felt safe enough to tell someone things weren't quite what they seemed.

Something happens when we kiss someone. Sometimes it's disgust, for the other person, or ourselves. Sometimes it's a rocket-rush of pleasure. Sometimes, and this is how it was this first time, this first kiss, with this person, for Annika, sometimes it is out of this world. She dug her fingers into the worn fabric of the sofa, clutching for something, anything, to ground her to earth, to keep her holding on.

"You okay?" he asked.


"You sure? You look a million miles away."

"I'm fine. It's just. Well. Um, do you ever feel like you might come apart?" she asked him. He would have laughed but for the sincerity in her clear, steady eyes.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"Just sometimes do you feel like if you don't hold on tight, all the million pieces of yourself might up and fly away?"

"Kiss me again."

Annika kissed him. The feeling had passed. With relief, and a tinge of disappointment, she let go of the couch and put her fingers in his hair. It was thick hair, and cut short so that it resembled the bristles of a hairbrush, but it was not without softness. It smelled like soap. And something else. Something sweet. Strawberries at the beach. Or the folds of a baby's ear. Or the particles of air in some barely remembered meadow far, far away.

02 July 2007

Liz's Fireworks Prompt


There are summers where I feel young, where the sun slips through the branches and lands on several blades of grass, where a butterfly is flitting across the clover, wings fluttering. A sad sort of happiness springs up inside me, awe at being alive, a glimmer of what life means. This isn't one of those summers.

I feel old. I feel like the Roman candle purchased by a little boy at the local fireworks stand. It's the first time he gets to light his own firework, with help from Dad, and he's excited. They set the Roman candle in the large block of concrete. They aim it away from the house, toward the stars. Dad lets him light the wick all by himself. They run away. The little boy squeals. He jumps, elated. Then stands very still, watching, waiting. The wick burns slowly. The flame moves down through the tube. Smoke gurgles out. And then nothing. No pyrotechnic star shoots from the tube, like a bullet from a gun. It's a dud.

This summer has no charge. It's heavy. And slow. I wander from place to place, trying to fill in the gaps of being awake with little things. Washing dishes. Watering roses. Weeding through e-mails. Looking for little wonders in the blades of overgrown grass.

14 June 2007

Surf Buddha

Surf Buddha
by Matthew Lippman

There is a sandalwood Buddha on the desk that has my stomach
and I don't suppose to call myself a Buddha
or even pretend to know much about Buddhist whirlings
but Rachel gave me the thing and it's got my belly
the one my father has got
and the one his father had
and I know this bulge the way I know my name,
and can't believe I've become the language of fat
that the boys in my family have kept quiet.

So I encourage my stomach out into the world,
rub it on a daily basis and think
that if I ever become a religious man
there would be god and glory to find there,
my rib cage distended,
my love of ice cream as sweet as my love of Rachel

who put the Buddha in my palm a month after we met and said, have this,
and I said, I already have this,
my hands in motion around my belly button and then today
noticed for the first time that the little bastard has got some serious nipples on him,
thank god, and breasts too,
he's the perfect kind of godlike statuette
even if I am a Jew

but the days have been glorious and people die in truck crashes
and men beat their wives and flowers bloom purple
and the cardinal I've named Jack always comes around my way at this time,
4:40 in Baldwin on the Island,
Wes Montgomery on the Sony
and I don't know if it's his song Cariba or the wind on my swollen toes
that makes me pick up the little guy, stick him in my mouth,
swirl him around between teeth and cheek,
place him on the edge of my tongue and let him surf there,
through the neighborhood of my white heat,
on the curl of my pink waves.

29 May 2007

The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman

I finished The Troublesome Offspring... last night. I enjoyed immensely, even more so than Correlli's Mandolin (which is saying a lot).

I read some lame review of it at the NYTimes on the Web site that concluded with, "What we have here is the age-old fight between good and evil. Which is which? Taking more than a page from Gabriel Garcia Marquez (who has obviously taught him a great deal), Mr. de Bernieres, who has lived and worked in Colombia, comes down hard on the side of good times and fornication. Along with the buffoonery and the wildly comic inventions, he tells us that there is simply no institution we can trust. The message of this wondrous novel is: Leave us alone and we'll manage. Not only that, we'll probably have a lot of fun along the way."

Yeah, okay, I can see that, on the surface. But this is magical realism we're talking about here. You can't just say, "What we have here is the age-old fight between good and evil." Cut. Dried. Pat answer. This is a story about The Other, or in this case The Others. Weird People. Amazing people who must make sense of the less-than-amazing world some of us live in and its less-than-amazing government.

-----------I'm not done here...I'll be back---------------

Okay, I'm almost done with "Good Omens" now and I realize I'm never gonna say everything I want to say in this post. But let me say this, I'm so tired of reading generic reviews of books that could apply to just about any compelling novel. Not only does it do an incredible disservice to the reader, it slights the author and banalizes the characters.

Oh, and one more thing..."Mr. de Bernieres, who has lived and worked in Colombia, comes down hard on the side of good times and fornication. Along with the buffoonery and the wildly comic inventions, he tells us that there is simply no institution we can trust." Well, duh. When was the last time you read a great novel that was on the side of the government, the establishment, the institution? When was the last time you read a great novel that sincerely put trust in the government, the establishment, the institution? When was the last time you read a great novel that said, "You know what? The bold (replace adjective with any of the following: bohemian, adventurous, etcetera) life should be replaces with one more rigorous (replace adjective with any of the following: structured, status quo, etcetera)? Of course the author was against the rules and silly crusading of the government and the religious do-gooders! Geez!

Bottom line, this is a great book. Read it.

What I'm Reading Now

I'm just finishing up Louis de Berniere's The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman and getting ready to start Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman...

26 May 2007

21 May Writing Prompt


I drew a roadmap for peace
complete with oceans and valleys,
mountains and streams,
even pine trees in miniature,
their needles no larger than a rosemary leaf.
I made a house for me,
well-built, wearing modest grey-blue,
but inside things turned--
the way things always do--
and the roadmap for peace
struck a blow.
First it was the cat,
I named him Ink because
he rubbed himself against me
in long, fluid strokes.
When I bent to pet him
he purred and seemed content--
until I turned my back--
and then he pounced on the bread dough,
he scared away the birds,
and when I went to erase him
he nearly flew across the room
where he landed, claws first, upon my back.
And then there were the books
of every shape and size,
the books I tried endlessly to organize,
but every time I had a method, a plan that seemed just right,
a little voice would whisper yet another way to categorize,
until it was books, books everywhere:
they scattered in piles across the floor,
they took over the kitchen table,
they wound around corners and into my bed.
I decided I could do without books
and I burned a beautiful fire,
but all those books came back as words
that flicker through my mind,
and I find myself reciting whole passages
when I've had a little wine.
But the thing that really ruined
my roadmap for peace
was the thing I never could find,
it wasn't something I put on the map,
it was nothing I could see,
but it lurked in every corner
desperately hungry for me.
I tried my best to avoid it,
I plugged my ears
and closed my eyes,
I tiptoed even in the daytime
and tried to make no sound at all,
but eventually it found me--
the way it always does--
when I forgot to watch for it
and smiled at a rose.
It sunk it's teeth in slowly
so I scarcely felt the pain,
by the time I knew it had me
there was no escape.
That thing, it fed upon me
until I finally gave up,
and I admit I begged it to finish me
as quickly as it could,
but it dropped me quick from its drooling jaws
and left me broken on the ground.
And now I'm re-drawing
a roadmap for peace,
maybe this time I'll get it just right,
because when the dark thing
makes its way onto my map--
the way it always does--
it will show no mercy to me
and have no regard for love,
and I will have to fight it,
human against beast,
and I know the odds are not on my side,
but this latest roadmap is full of hope
and hope can turn the tide.

03 May 2007

Response to April 29 Prompt

Sixteen Candles

I left roses on your windshield,
slipped chocolate in your pocket;
you took it as a desperate plea for a wedding ring
but I just wanted somebody to take me home.
You colored me a picture of a turtle
on the kids' menu at the burger joint,
twisted my hair around your finger,
gave me a cupcake with a candle for my birthday;
it was just enough.
But every time I called you,
you had dishes to wash,
leaks to fix,
engines to rebuild;
I found contentment in a bottle of wine
and a late showing of "A Room with a View,"
but you showed up at two in the morning
hungry for my manicotti,
I lit white candles
and pretended this was something I knew how to do,
I wore perfume,
put on lipstick,
I even wore pink.
The last time I saw you,
you made me take out my poetry
and read you every word,
then you leaned in close--
my stomach was a brick
and it was in my throat--
but it never happened,
you leaned back on the sofa,
crossed your arms in front of your chest
and asked me why my poetry was so sad.
I stopped leaving flowers
on your windshield,
stopped slipping treats
in your pocket,
I had a bottle to drink
and a bus to catch.

21 April 2007

Response to April 17 Prompt

it happened one night

sleepless in seattle,
i enter an all-night theatre
filled with the usual suspects,
a streetcar named desire
lounges across two seats in the front row,
feeling up the bride of frankenstein,
hey, some like it hot.
the elephant man
's in a trenchcoat in the wings,
swallowing milk duds and touching himself,
features twisted in the heat and glory.
outside the apartment,
i'm one of these reservoir dogs,
alien to happiness,
the best years of our lives
spent in movie theatres,
for kicks,
to sweeten the grapes of wrath,
to calm the vertigo of these modern times,
'cause in the silver screen
it's a wonderful life,

20 April 2007

Just Posting these Here to Keep Track of Them

Until I can put them in my notebook. I have organizational problems, to say the least. :)


They’re doing construction across the street,
Large men in hats with even larger trucks,
Surrounded by huge concrete cylinders,
The whole scene covered in mud.
She pulls the peppery-smelling star-shaped stems off,
Plunges the tomatoes under water,
Rinsing off the dust and dirt.
Their trucks grumble, rattling the house,
She hones the blade of her knife,
Matching their industry with her own kind of purposefulness.
Then comes the shout of the jackhammer,
The orange-vested operator leans against it with his body weight,
With the assistance of gravity he tears up the road,
Drinking glasses rattle in the cupboard.
She leans into the tomato with her knife so as to make an even, clean slice,
You can see she doesn’t like disruptions, is frightened by loud noise,
Her shoulders set just a little too high, tense,
As if they might climb high enough to cover the swirls of her ears,
Seashell-shaped to help capture sound.
She removes a blue glass bowl from the cupboard,
You can tell it is her favorite bowl because she holds it up to the light
Streaming in from the kitchen window, she admires it,
She slides the sliced tomatoes into the bowl,
It shakes just a little on the counter before settling down.
It’s five o’clock, she thinks, they should be going home now,
Hoisting themselves up into their big trucks,
Turning up their radios so loud she could sing along
If only she knew those kinds of songs.
She pulls a handful of parsley from the little glass jar in the refrigerator and chops it,
Lets the leaves fall in a green cascade from her hands,
She anoints the tomatoes with olive oil,
Cracks sea salt over the bowl,
Stirs gently with her wooden spoon so the tomatoes retain their structure.
From across the street come the sounds of revving engines,
Deep voices and laughter echoing off the rocks and concrete,
and someone’s radio, Hey! You! Get off of my cloud!
She sets the tomato salad on the table, then moves it slightly to the right,
She places the palms of her hands against her warm cheeks.
As the last truck pulls out of the construction site,
The tension leave her, it slides off like a piece of silk lingerie,
And you can see she is waiting for someone, a child, a lover, a husband maybe,
You can tell she needs the quiet to concentrate on those slick tomatoes
Bitten between her beloved’s lips.



Peggy has to go to confession

Because she read the newspaper

She watched the five o’clock news

Now she can’t stop saying, “God-damned America”

Because she read the newspaper

They don’t print poems in the newspaper anymore

Now she can’t stop saying, “God-damned America”

Too much ravaging and raping for poetry

They don’t print poems in the newspaper anymore

Peggy loves to hear the fiddle

Too much ravaging and raping for poetry

All the boys want to dance with Peggy at the hoe-down

Peggy loves to hear the fiddle

David danced before the Lord, but them baptists don’t like it much

All the boys want to dance with Peggy at the hoe-down

Peggy likes the way her body shakes and shimmies

David danced before the Lord, but them baptists don’t like it much

They’ll ban dancing in America next

Peggy likes the way her body shakes and shimmies

They outlawed morphine and marijuana

They’ll ban dancing in America next

Peggy doesn’t know she’s got a tumor

They outlawed morphine and marijuana

Confession makes her feel better, but dancing makes her feel real good

Peggy doesn’t know she’s got a tumor

She watched the five o’clock news

The doctors don’t find it ’til it’s too late

Peggy has to go to confession.


07 April 2007


I loathe the expression "What makes him tick." It is the American mind, looking for simple and singular solution, that uses the foolish expression. A person not only ticks, he also chimes and strikes the hour, falls and breaks and has to be put together again, and sometimes stops like an electric clock in a thunderstorm.
- James Thurber

04 April 2007

Difficult Tasks

Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it
consists principally in dealing with men.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)

Language by W.S. Merwin

by W. S. Merwin

Certain words now in our knowledge we will not use again, and we will never forget them. We need them. Like the back of the picture. Like our marrow, and the color in our veins. We shine the lantern of our sleep on them, to make sure, and there they are, trembling already for the day of witness. They will be buried with us, and rise with the rest.

02 April 2007

Strawberry Jam

Post one of the first poems that made you fall in love with, or hate, poetry.

01 April 2007

Liz's Prompt for the Week of March 25

Color-Coded Dreams

In a dream I see my sister
in a bowl of cobalt glass
filled with water,
a bowl held up
by elegant silver feet,
a coffee table adornment
were it not for the drowned body
of my sister lying inside it,
green eyes closed.
I wonder how she managed
to fit her woman's body inside,
where all her hair has gone--
shocked not to see it
fluttering down behind her
like the lustrous, elongated feathers
of some mythological raven--
why her wrinkled, ringless hands
are open, palm up, reaching
(for what?).

I dial her number
as soon as I wake up,
an electronic voice
encourages me to leave a message,
promises she'll call me back.
I have nothing to say
that I know how to put into words,
nothing but,
Let me fill your hands
with my own plump heart,

nothing but,
Let me comb your shiny black hair
with my comb of silver stars
given by a raven I met
in the last dream I had of you,
nothing but,
Let me play a game with you,
Say, say, oh playmate,
come out and play with me,
in a forest that is safe from bears
and beasts and grown men
intent on touching your silver-white skin,
just two sisters, laughing,
a canopy of pine trees
reflected in your green eyes,
the cobalt of matching quilted jumpers
reflected in mine.

Waking Up in Somebody Else's Dream

Somebody's already dreaming a heaven,
a home for people like me,
where ragged hand-me-downs are burned
for velvet robes of emerald green.
Somebody's heaven
for all those bodies
that ran twice as hard
but never reached the runner's high,
for all those hearts that ached
for true love forever
but got blisters and a broken heart,
all those minds that wound and leapt
for brilliance and perfection
but barely managed,
for those who didn't have the guts
to be a sinner
or the fortitude of a saint.
Somebody's heaven
where there are no big sisters,
no middle children, no progress reports
or evaluations,
no such thing as a tag-along,
no trading shame for knowledge.
Somebody's heaven
where you can live for the laughter
and sunlight and green grass
of Easter egg hunts,
not peeking out windows (cheating)
or counting how much,
where you can dip your finger
in the blue frosting
of a Holly Hobbie birthday cake
and not get sent to your room,
where you can love
the cellophane crinkle
and curling bow of a gift
more than the sneaking under the tree
to open carefully and re-wrap,
more than the counting how many,
more than the price tag.
Somebody's heaven
where there are no separate bedrooms,
no places off limits,
Get out!
Get out!
Get out!,
where music is together--
with dancing--
not sisters
rocking back and forth
with headphones on,
Go away!
Go away!
Go away!,

where funny is a virtue
and there's room made for silly
in your NY Times crossword puzzles,
inside jokes in your pencil drawings
of fingers, eyes, noses in spiral sketchbooks,
clowns in your coveted,
leather-bound masterpieces
of English Literature,
Be Quiet!
Be Quiet!
Be Quiet!
Somebody's heaven
where there is no more reaching,
just this falling back
into a lake of cobalt--
pretty enough--
with silver stars
in my eyes.

24 March 2007

Liz's Prompt for the Week of March 18

Had a difficult time with this one. Yeah, well, it is what it is.



The nurses enter my room,
not necessarily in white
But no less crusaders,
Trying to corner a minotaur,
Pills rattle in their pockets like bones.
You haven't noticed much difference
(not that matters anyway)
Between the times you swallow
And the times you pretend,
Hiding the pretty colors
Beneath tissue boxes in the pink plastic bin.
It's just that sometimes
You're the princess on a throne,
Your body swathed in silver,
People come and go,
Kissing your sandals, burning herbs,
Adorning your fingers with emeralds,
Your arms with torques of silver and gold.
And that sometimes
You really are the minotaur,
Ferocity growing with every needle poke,
Every sonograph, electrocardiogram,
Magnetic resonant image,
Every sunshine voice attached to cold fingers
That promises this will just take a minute.
The doctors must be somewhere,
In the VIP lounge,
Driving a fast red car with top down,
I never see them.
Just these nurses,
Who enter the labyrinth
Of my room, clenching their teeth
Just a little, before steeling themselves
To face a princess, a demon.
Just swallow.

19 March 2007


Nick Flynn

Father Outside

A black river flows down the center

of each page

& on either side the banks

are wrapped in snow. My father is ink falling

in tiny blossoms, a bottle

wrapped in a paperbag. I want to believe

that if I get the story right

we will rise, newly formed,

that I will stand over him again

as he sleeps outside under the church halogen

only this time I will know

what to say. It is night &

it's snowing & starlings

fill the trees above us, so many it seems

the leaves sing. I can't see them

until they rise together at some hidden signal

& hold the shape of the tree for a moment

before scattering. I wait for his breath

to lift his blanket

so I know he's alive, letting the story settle

into the shape of this city. Three girls in the park

begin to sing something holy, a song

with a lost room inside it

as their prayerbook comes unglued

& scatters. I'll bend

each finger back, until the bottle

falls, until the bone snaps, save him

by destroying his hands. With the thaw

the river will rise & he will be forced

to higher ground. No one

will have to tell him. From my roof I can see

the East River, it looks blackened with oil

but it's only the light. Even now

my father is asleep somewhere. If I followed

the river north I could still reach him.

Copyright © Nick Flynn