*Make writing experiments over a long period of time.

For example, plan how much you will write for a particular work each day, perhaps one word or one page.

It has been incredibly hard not just to budget time for writing lately, but feeling motivated to write. I suppose that happens when you have too many things going on at once. But I think that the days have seemed exceptionally long because I have a vacation on the horizon- I’ll be on the road and driving to New Orleans in three days. I was hoping to find a prompt that could correlate with travel writing and I’m actually excited that I found it!

Depressed about the notion that my growing workload that will undoubtedly greet me when I return in a week, I decided to organize my writing schedule for the trip. I’m hoping that inspiration will abound: lively people, beautiful weather, and music everywhere. I’ve come up with six “mini experiments” for my time in New Orleans to facilitate my writing, thus allowing myself to really immerse myself in my surroundings.

Here’s the plan…

  • Day One: Write a fictional backstory about strangers you see on the street.

My friends and I have had a condo located in the French Quarter on reserve for months; it will be where we lay our heads for five nights. It has two stories and more importantly, a balcony that overlooks the street. I plan on completing this exercise on a sleepy weekday morning or at dusk, while the street is teeming with people unaware of when and where their night will end.

  • Day Two: Visit a museum or historical landmark. Try to envision how it got there and why it’s important.

Each person in the group has their own itineraries, but we’re all collaborating to get the most out of the trip. For example, if someone wants to try absinthe for the first time, the group will work together to locate the perfect bar to set the scene. For me, I’d like to visit the Historic Voodoo museum and Confederate Museum. Each place has a long history in Louisiana, so it might be difficult to choose which one to write about.

  • Day Three: Pick up a newspaper. Choose a headline from the front page and write a plot.

Once again, I’ll probably be walking along the street one morning before anyone else is awake and I’ll pick up a paper to see what’s going on in the local scene. It will be interesting to see how different or similar New Orleans is compared to other major cities.

  • Day Four: Write your obituary. It can be in present-day or years into the future.

I thought that prompt was perfect because quite a few of us want to visit a cemetery in hopes of seeing a funeral procession. Strange? Probably, but we are a morbid bunch. Our condo is within walking distance to St. Louis Cemetery. I hope that walking around a cemetery provokes me to ponder my own mortality and envision how I’m going to exit this crazy world.

  • Day Five: Rewrite a passage from a book.

I’ve had a copy of The Great Gatsby that I’ve been dying to start and I think New Orleans is the perfect backdrop for reading this story. I read it first in high school so this will be my second time reading it, first time as an adult. I’m going to pinpoint a passage that “speaks” to me at that specific moment and try to emulate it with elements of my New Orleans surroundings.

  • Day Six: Sit in a restaurant or crowded area. Write down snippets of conversation you hear. Write your version of what comes next in the conversation.

This one almost goes without saying: perfect travel writing prompt. I remember going to Chicago for the first time and holding a table for dinner at a pizza place. As I sat there, I discreetly watched a couple at a nearby table. Their lips were moving, but their eyes were drinking each other in. I wondered what things they could be saying to each other to encompass such an intense gaze. I’ll be looking for these moments.

So, that’s it. I’ve laid out my agenda and when I return home on May 6th, I should have a lot more to write about.

NOLA

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*Address the poem to the reader

Yes, I know that it’s been far too long since I’ve updated with a new experiment. It’s called life, and “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

But the next experiment isn’t to quote Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, is it? It’s to revisit my creative writing roots and flash back to my Intro to Poetry class. Although writing it is painstaking for me now, I’ve always loved reading poetry. When I was thirteen, I had the prologue to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet memorized. Sure, Leonardo DiCaprio might have stoked my enthusiasm, but I voraciously read and was intrigued with Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter.

I have notebooks of poetry that I wrote as a teenager; most of it is actually pretty good. But I remember sitting in my bedroom for hours, whittling away at my words until they fit the poetic equation that I sought to answer. There are a lot of criteria and variables in poetry: couplets, tercets (or haiku), quatrains. ABAB, alliteration, slant rhyme, internal rhyme, similes, metaphors. Just the tip.

 

The first step of this exercise would be to consider my audience. I’ll be honest, whenever I write anything, I don’t really take into account who might be reading my work. I still get surprised whenever I see comments on this blog. But here it is, cranked out in an hour. Tentatively titled “Ode to my Readership.”

 

The words I think of tumble out of me,

no paper but type and font on a screen,

and you make the effort to read them all

even before knowing what they all mean.

 

Not that I speak in a secret language,

but I take time to craft the words I write

So that you can know what goes through my mind

and interpret their meanings as you’d like.

 

For the moment I write for you and I,

no unknown readers from what I can tell.

But if you are bored with my writing style

then you can go straight to another blog.

 

Three stanzas. Iambic pentameter. 

Bam.

Adolescent Guerilla Journalism

The rapidly approaching demise of print media and increasing usage of the word “paperless” has got me scuttling around, collecting my important documents. I wanted to make sure that I not only knew where my vital statistics, passport, etc. were, but had backup copies in case they were needed. When my sister gave birth to my niece, I asked my mother where she kept my original birth certificate. I knew that she had it in her possession because when I needed to get a copy of it for my ESL application for teaching in Seoul, she had it at her house. Of course, this was discovered after I waited my life away in the Butler County Clerk of Courts building and paid $25 (she found the actual document the day after I dropped the money). I gained possession of my actual certificate just this Easter.

While I have been scanning and saving documents just as important as my birth certificate to a USB, I remembered a long-lost publication that I haven’t thought about in years. In 1999, I was published in SPIN Magazine. As a teenager, I loved reading SPIN. One of my younger neighbors had been going door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions; he caught me on a day when my parents weren’t home from work yet. When I noticed that SPIN’s subscription was $8.95- cheaper than Rolling Stone’s $15.95- I quickly relinquished the cash that I’d saved babysitting that same kid who was now peddling magazines.

I was in eighth grade and loved music. My musical taste was greatly influenced by very important people in my life. Dad’s passion for classic rock introduced me early on to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, and Fleetwood Mac. My mom’s cousin Dani was constantly listening to the newest rock and alternative, which is how and why my first CDs were the Wallflowers and Ace of Base. My half-brother got me into DJ Shadow and Beastie Boys while most girls were salivating over Tiger Beat. I nurtured my interests by keeping current with SPIN. Sure, I had to explain the need for it to my parents every once in a while, especially when scantily clad, strung out musicians donned its glossy covers.

My peers at school were not as fortunate as I was. I was musically self-aware at an early age; a snarky prepubescent who judged friends’ CD collections before playing Pogs.

I was hipster before hipster was hipster.

When Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears began topping the Billboard charts, MTV stopped playing real music videos. I know, but it’s like, my opinion, man. Rage Against the Machine, Foo Fighters, and Fiona Apple were replaced with bubble gum, glitter, and TRL. I needed a soapbox- I turned to SPIN. Each issue featured a selection of smaller articles submitted by readers, something like Letters to the Editor. I typed a hormonally-fueled outcry that I believed spoke for musical non-conformists like myself. I sealed it in an envelope and sent it off to New York City. Weeks later, I had completely forgotten about it, but much like my writing process, I was relieved to have the weight of the matter off of my chest.

Months went by. My friends and I celebrated as we were about to leave middle school and enter high school. We believed that we were going to get cooler, more attractive, and definitely become better people all around. At my eighth grade graduation party, Dani and John, her future husband, surprised me with a ticket to Woodstock ’99: I would be accompanying them to the festival of the decade. I remember looking at my father and seeing a gleam in his eyes, perhaps excited to live vicariously through me. When I looked at my mom, I saw uncertainty and fear.

It wasn’t until after the Woodstock that I received a response to my letter. It was undoubtedly an intern who composed the letter asking for my permission to edit and print my submission in the next issue, but I was amped. I was going to be published! When the issue arrived in my mailbox, I had begun my freshmen year of high school. The cover was perfect for the publication of my letter: an interview with Kid Rock was featured in the magazine and his white trash potency radiated, reminding me of his energetic show at Woodstock (I wasn’t exactly a fan, but his minutes long introduction into “Bawitaba” before screaming “My name is Kiiiiiddddd, Kid ROCK!” had the crowd wired in a way that I hadn’t seen at a show before).

At the time, journalists were still speculating who or what had actually incited the riots at the festival. An older wiser me would blame dehydration- people were sick of paying $7 for bottled water. Dani, John, and I left early the third day and the only destruction seemed to be on the outside walls surrounding the grounds; I took a few photos with my disposable camera as we began our drive away from Rome, NY. I will never forget arriving back home to find my parents glued to the TV. as they watched news footage of people fighting and structures being burned down. Woodstock, man.

So, without further ado, here is the Google Books scanned copy of the October 1999 issue of SPIN Magazine. Leafing through the pages incited major nostalgia and almost made me long for a seemingly simpler time. You’ll find the letter on page 40, behind the ad featuring Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra.