February Sky

Don't let this clear blue fool you -- March is practicing its lion's roar.

Like Scrambled Eggs Over Easy

The new Fifty Words Challenge is up -- week two is all about figurative language. It's not one of my strong suits, which is one of the reasons I picked it. I also chose it because it seemed like something anyone could do. You don't have to be a poet to use figurative language. Whether you write about politics or movies or what you ate for breakfast this morning, you can always sneak in a simile or two.

The illustration for this week's Fifty Words prompt came from A Dictionary of Literary, Dramatic, and Cinematic Terms (Sylvan Barnet et al). It's a great book--I would have been lost trying to teach Language Arts without it. But more importantly, how awesome is it that the entry on figurative language starts on page 50?

Some Dreams

(Here's my entry for this week's Fifty Words challenge, "Monkey Mind." I did the freewriting for about 10 minutes, and was surprised at how quickly my hands got tired. I didn't change too much, though I did clean it up a tiny little bit after the fact. I didn't change the superhero section, because I thought it was pretty funny that I could only think of two powers, and then had to start making shit up. Seriously, what superhero can walk through walls?)

Some Dreams

I never wanted to be a ballerina or a cowboy or an actor or President of the United States. OK, maybe I wanted to be all of those things. But only for a minute.

I always wanted a pet monkey. I always thought I would get one for my birthday. When prompted to guess what I was getting for my birthday, I always said, “Is it a monkey?” I always thought that this time I would guess right. I never did.

I always wanted to be invisible. I always thought that would be the best superpower to have. I never wanted to be able to fly, or to deflect bullets with my silver armbands, or to walk though walls, or do any of the other things that super heroes could do. I can do all of those things in my dreams, anyway.

I always wanted to be on the Tonight Show. I would practice my interview in the bathroom in front of the mirror. “When I was a kid, I always knew I would be on the Tonight Show,” I would tell Johnny. “I practiced what I would say in front of the bathroom mirror.” And Johnny would ask me, “What would you say?” And I would smile and say, “I always said, ‘When I was a kid, I always knew I would be on the Tonight Show…’” The audience would laugh and laugh. I never doubted that they would.

I always wanted to have 12 children. What made me pick the number 12? I must have read it in a book somewhere. I always latched onto things I read in books. I always thought I would meet Prince Charming, who would be carrying a size 12 glass slipper and when it fit my size 12 foot he would ask me to marry him and have his 12 children. I never did that, either.

I always wanted to be a writer. OK, maybe not always. But for a pretty long time. At least since I learned to read. At least since I learned to write. At least since I wrote that book report in the 8th grade about the symbolism of the rose bush in The Thorn Birds that got me a C because the teacher said it was just a plot summary. She never believed that I was a good writer. I always knew that she was wrong.

(A reminder: Today is the last day to submit entries to Fifty Words. I'll post a new challenge tomorrow morning.)

Mood Lighting

The last of the lamp photos. Maybe.

If You're Up For It

Oh, I am.

Love is the New Hate: Cannon.

Writers are Nice People

The Fifty Words entries have been coming in slowly but steadily. Everyone seems to have approached the assignment in a slightly different way, which makes them all the more interesting to read. What's more, if you follow the links to the entries you will see that they all have really thoughtful, supportive, interesting comments on them from other participants. What, you thought that writers would be mean to each other?

If there is anyone out there who was thinking about participating, but is holding back for whatever reason, just go for it. And remember, if you don't have a web site, or if your site doesn't seem like an appropriate space to post your writing (hello, my photoblogging friends), you can submit up to 200 words for this week's challenge and I'll post it on the site in its entirety. I guess if you were being a really big scaredy-cat, you could submit your writing under "anonymous." Don't worry, your secret would be safe with me.

Making The Light Decision

I wouldn't normally choose a sepia filter -- but it seemed to work in this case. Click the picture to see the original and tell me if you think I made the right choice.

Indoor Lighting 2

Click the picture for a larger, clearer image.

Same lamp, different view.

Indoor Lighting

Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image.

I have a lot of lamps. Taking pictures of them turned out to be a good activity for a cold, snowy afternoon.

I didn't have to do much shovelling because my neighbor has a new snowblower and her son was psyched to use it. He excavated the whole block, and even dug out for the guy at the end of the street who owns his own snowblower.

[macroday: light]

For J9

Fire Cat by Bob Giolla.

Fifty Words is Here!

Yay! The first Fifty Words challenge is up! Check out the first writing prompt. I hope people participate. It could be really fun.

I still have some work to do on the site. I'd like to make it so that you can see the beginning of each post and then click to see the whole thing. I'm not sure what you call that or how you do it. But my tendency to write long has made the top page of the site difficult to slog through and there aren't even any entries yet. I'm going to put some links to other writing memes, too.

Meanwhile, I'm a little sluggish today, which I'm guessing has something to do with the three mimosas I drank yesterday morning.

Music Musings

I was reading Robert’s blog yesterday and I came across this. This is how I spent my morning writing session today, so some of the answers are a little long (sorry).

What is the total number of music files on your computer?
None – my 8-track tapes don’t fit into the disk drive.

The CD you bought last?
It was probably Norah Jones' Come Away With Me. But it might have been Beatles 1.

What was the last song you listened to before reading this message?
I know it was Paul McCartney. I think it was “Maybe I’m Amazed.” That was, like, an hour ago. How am I supposed to remember that far back?

5 songs you listen to often, or that mean a lot to you.
1. Any song from Abbey Road – The Beatles were my first love, mostly because that’s what my mother listened to. I used to come home from grade school and rock out to Octopus’s Garden and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. The music that I grew up with – the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Carly Simon, James Taylor – I still love it all.

2. Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” from the Rune album – I was kind of an outsider growing up. I got beat up a lot. Even the nerds would have nothing to do with me. Finally, in about the 9th grade I managed to make friends with the juvenile delinquents. One of them lived right across the street from the school. We used to skip our E-block electives and sneak over to his house to smoke pot and listen to Led Zep, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC. I was so freakin’ happy (in an angst-ridden, teen-aged kind of way).

3. Any of the songs from the early days of MTV – When MTV first came on air, they played the same five music videos over and over and over again: The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science,” the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me,” Squeeze’s “Black Coffee in Bed” and that one with the girl in short shorts and roller skates. I can't remember what it was. They played on an endless loop, and yet we watched for hours on end. Those 80’s anthems are serious crap, but they all remind me of being in high school and thinking that MTV was the coolest thing that was ever going to happen to music.

4. Joplin’s “Me & Bobby McGee” – I bought Pearl when I was in college, in preparation for a paper I wrote comparing Janis Joplin to Scott Joplin. I love to sing/shout/scream this song at the top of my lungs. Very cathartic. Other college loves included Tracey Chapman, Elvis Costello, the Clash, The Cure, The Spin Doctors, and John Adams’ minimalist opera, “Nixon in China.” Yeah, I know.

5. “No Such Thing” by John Mayer (from his album Room for Squares) or “100 years” by Five for Fighting (from their album The Battle For Everything) – My post-college tastes are a little more subdued. These days I mostly listen to whatever’s on the local classic rock radio station. At home, I have CDs from all of the above eras and when I do buy CDs, it’s usually to replace a record or tape that I owned in the past. Modern additions include folks like Harry Connick Jr., Diana Krall, and Norah Jones. Kind of soothing, Sunday morning music, you know? But I’m not dead, for crying out loud. I do hear new songs occasionally. And these two songs got under my skin the minute I heard them.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?
If any of the three persons who are reading this want to participate, feel free to leave a comment with a link to your answers.

Fifty Words is Coming Soon

I've been working on my new weekly writing meme site, Fifty Words. I posted some details and answers to anticipated FAQs here and I've written the first prompt, which I will post Sunday morning. Anyone is welcome to play and I hope lots of people will join in.

I'd love some help coming up with a great tag line for the site. If you have an idea, leave a comment. If I pick your suggestion I'll give you props and post a link to you on the new site.

Wanna Shake Your Tree

Thought this was a good one for Valentine's Day.

[Photo Friday: Luscious]

Miniature Music

This might not look like a macro shot. But it is. What you're looking at is a miniature harmonica, about the size of the tip of my pinky, attached to the end of a swizzle stick. It works, too.

[Macroday: Music]

Tastes Like Chicken

This week's lesson from the Photo Friday link viewer: If you are going to take a picture of food and call it "luscious," you better have the lighting spot on. Otherwise, it looks like shit.

A Happy Accident

You know how sometimes you take a picture of something and you're disappointed with the result, because the photograph doesn't reflect what you saw when you snapped the shutter button? Well, when I took this picture I was trying to do the Photo Friday "distorted" challenge. I was trying to capture the reflections in the shop window and the reflections in the mirror on the back wall of the shop, hoping to get a distorted double-image of the street. But it wasn't working. Katie was just standing there, waiting patiently while I tried different things, and I snapped a few pictures of her and her reflection. And the picture came out better than it looked in real life. I haven't done anything to it--the blues and the pinks and the soft spots of light from the street lamps and traffic signals--it was all just a happy accident.

Blogger's Got a Brand New (Comments) Bag

OK, you should really check this out. Blogger has redesigned their comments system. *

The new system lets you read the post *and* other people's comments, which is helpful when you are responding to a previous comment (before you could only read the post). Also, comments from registered Blogger users have little profile pictures next to them, which is kind of fun.

But the *best* part is that you no longer have to choose between having a Blogger account and posting as anonymous. Choosing the new third option, "other," allows people without Blogger user names to enter their signature and a link to their web site (if they have one). No Blogger account necessary.

In fact, if you *do* have a Blogger account, but prefer that your name link to your web page instead of your profile, you can do so by choosing "other" and putting your Blogger user name and the URL of your blog in the form. No picture that way, but at least your link doesn't go to the profile pages, which haven't been updated since Blogger turned off the stats collection feature in October.

One last thing--I'm going to try to change my template so that clicking on the "comment(s)" link on the main page takes you directly to the new comments system. For now, to see the changes, you have to click on the "comment(s)" link first, then scroll down and click on "Post a Comment." That will bring you to the new page.

Anyhoo, I think it's easier. Leave a comment and let me know what you think or if you have any problems. Tell me what book you're currently reading -- I'm always looking for suggestions.

* This link should take you directly to the new comments page.

Does This Picture Make My Nose Look Big?

This (past) week's Photo Friday challenge was "distorted." I tried a bunch of different things and took some good photographs but this was the only one that even came close to fitting the distorted theme. I'm not completely happy with it, which is why I'm posting it so small.

People who come here from Photo Friday only look at the one page and move on. With hundreds of entries each week, who can blame them? But I still feel like I need to let them know I could probably do better. I just need more than one week.

Next week (the week that is coming up next) the challenge is "luscious."

And More Details

Two more photos that go with the one I posted yesterday.

I just rearranged my bedroom to accommodate a leaking pipe and ended up with a huge blank wall where a tall bookcase used to be. I'd like to get some photos printed and framed but I am totally broke right now. I'm also not always happy with the quality of prints from the online services. Ofoto seems to be the best of them, but it's hit or miss. Skin tones, especially, are terrible. I wonder if it's worth it to get a CD burner in order to bring them to the local photo place?

Details, Details

(Click on the photo for a larger, clearer image.)

I'm in a picture-y mood again and since I'm working on two writing assignments, both due in the next few days, I'll probably be in a picture-y mood tomorrow and through the weekend as well. Luckily, I have plenty of recent photographs that I haven't posted yet.

The bad news is that I think my camera is on the fritz again. I took a bunch of pictures last night and the focus was off on all of them. If I have to give up my camera for an extended period like the last time this happened, I am not going to be a happy camper.

Man, the comments over at Quarlo have gotten nasty. Todd Gross is a fabulous photographer, shares his work with the general public for free, and has archives that could keep you occupied for days. But when he stops for a while his so-called fans start demanding new posts, calling him names and saying his work isn't that good, anyway. Yikes.

There's a funny article on the Editor & Publisher site on the possible identities of Deep Throat (see yesterday's post). Rehnquist has taken the lead in the poll that accompanies the article. (Click here.)

[Lensday: "red"]

I Can't Help It - I Want to Know

OK, I don't want anyone to die, for goodness' sake. But the prospect of learning the identity of Deep Throat, a mystery for 30 years, is kind of exciting. John W. Dean, former White House counsel and author, writes in the L.A. Times that "Bob Woodward, a reporter on the team that covered the Watergate story, has advised his executive editor at the Washington Post that Throat is ill. And Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Post and one of the few people to whom Woodward confided his source's identity, has publicly acknowledged that he has written Throat's obituary."

[via MediaBistro]

L.A. Times: Should We Jail Deep Throats? (Stupid, stupid login required.)

Has anyone checked George Bush the elder's pulse lately?*

*Oops, mom says he was at the Superbowl yesterday. So maybe Chief Justice William Rehnquist? (This link is old, but the section on Rehnquist is pretty funny when you read between the lines.)

Hey, maybe it's the Pope!

Lessons in Abstract from Baltimore

These photos are way different from my usual style. I vividly remember learning about abstract art in high school. I liked the idea of it. I just had trouble doing it. And so, after that week's assignment was handed in, I turned my back on the whole concept. I decided that I don't do abstract.

This week I was doing the Baltimoreans' most recent assignment, "utensils," arranging my pretty silver in pretty poses in pretty light. I had an antique creamer. I had blueberries. I had a linen cloth embroidered with birds. And then these photos happened.

Now, I'm not saying they're the best photos I've ever taken. But they are a reminder of how important it is to try new things. To learn from others. To look at their work and be inspired. It's also a reminder that you don't stop learning when you leave high school or college. That you never get so good at anything--be it writing or photography or butchering, baking or candlestick-making--that you can't learn something new or do something better.

Or at least do something different.

Fifty Words

Well. As an ex of mine used to say, "That went over like a lead fart." More great comments in Thursday's post. But no answers to my meme questions in Saturday's post. And I blew 100 Blog Explosion and Blog Clicker credits yesterday, to boot.

Maybe I should be more direct.

I have an idea for a writing meme called Fifty Words. Here's the premise: Each week there’s a new writing prompt. You post your response to the prompt on your site, with a link back to the meme site. Then you send me fifty words from your post and I put them on the meme site with a link back to you.

What do you think? Is this something you would participate in, either as a writer or as a reader? Any questions as to how it would work? Do you see any problems? Do you have any suggestions?

Hello? Is this thing on?

Visiting in frames? Click here to open Gienna Writes in a new window.

Screaming Memes

There's an interesting conversation going on in the comments section of Thursday's post. Feel free to contribute your two cents there. But I'd like input on something else, as well. As you may or may not have guessed, I'm toying with the idea of starting a writing meme. But I'm trying to figure out how to make it work. How to make it really great. So that it is a source of inspiration for both writers and for readers.

There are a lot of different kinds of memes out there. One type is Photo Friday, which has a new challenge each week and links to the contributors' web sites via frames. It's pretty elaborate. One Word is an example of a writing meme in which the contributions are published on the site itself. It's a pretty simple site. You can check out some of the responses to recent challenges here and here. Other memes are even more low-tech. Someone starts a thread and others reproduce it on their own site, linking back to the original. An example of that would be the "three pictures" meme that went around a few months back. Jen Garrett did it on her site. You can read the explanation here and see her results here.

Some memes work and some do not. That's where you come in. Tell me -- what makes a meme great? What captures your attention and makes you want to participate? What elements are most important? Is it the quality of the challenge? The extra traffic it brings to your site? What makes you want to look at others' contributions? And what turns you off?

Remember, anyone can comment on Gienna Writes. You don't need a Blogger account. Just click on "or post anonymously" on the login page. If you are having trouble commenting, try right-clicking the link and choosing "open link in new window." You can also email me at giennawrites (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks in advance for what I know will be your brilliant and helpful feedback!

Photo Friday: Youth

This week's Photo Friday challenge was "youth."

I've also been working on the Baltimoreans' current assignment, which is "utensils." VisuallyMinded has already set the bar pretty high. I particularly like this one.

Word Search

Why is it that there are so many great photography sites out there, but great writing sites are so hard to find? There are so many wonderful photoblogs, photo memes, and photo resources that you could never look at them all. But the writing sites--well, so many of them are just cheesy. Or they lack clear organization and useful purpose. Or no one participates and they die. Or worse, they're almost certainly some kind of a scam.

I have come across some good writing resources, and have found some talented individual writers, but I can't seem to find the same quantity and quality of online communities that photographers have created for themselves. And I have yet to find a really good writing meme that would compare to, say, Photo Friday.

Is it because photography, as a visual medium, is so much more suited to the Internet than writing? Is it because writing is that much more subjective than photography? Is it because there are so many crappy writers out there? Or am I missing something?

And, if so, what am I missing?

I'd like to hear your thoughts. Also, I'm compiling a list of good writing web sites, which I plan to post here soon. Do you have any to add to my list? As always, you can leave a comment (remember, you don't have to have a user name to comment -- just click on "or post anonymously" underneath the login screen) or email me at giennawrites (at) gmail (dot) com.

Everybody Loves Sadie

(Click on the photo to go to my Flickr photo stream. If you want to, I mean. It's not like I'm going to force you or anything. The worst I would do is give you a look, you know?)

Gienna Writes has been kind of depressing lately. How 'bout some cute dog pictures? That should cheer everybody up. It turns out my dog is very popular. Don't tell the others, but we like Josie and the other Sadie best. Belties (Beagle-Sheltie mixes) are the best dogs.

Hey, I told you I had way too much time on my hands.

And thanks again to everyone who left comments and sent e-mails over the last two days. It really did make me feel better!

It's Not Really About the Lipstick

I read a bunch of blogs yesterday. Maybe it was because I was reading them through the filter of my own strange mood, but it seemed like a lot of people were feeling down. I found Robert fretting that his life is half over and wondering is this all there is? And J wrote about a run-in with his son, who told him to go to his stupid work and never come back. Katie's post of the day only had one exclamation point in it. Even sweet Penelope was fighting the winter blahs.

I have mostly snapped myself out of my own strange mood. And I did it by forcing myself to work even though I didn't want to. Yesterday I did some marketing and searched the freelance job sites looking for leads. And this morning I was looking for places to submit my work and I found a link to this writing contest sponsored by Glamour magazine. Something about the topic inspired me and I ended up writing a whole poem about my first kiss. I submitted an excerpt because it was longer than the 50-word limit. The prize is a $400 box of lipstick. Which is pretty funny if you know me.

Anyway, life goes on and the blahs and the bad moods come and go. You have good days and bad days. And Mondays. I guess you just have to keep working despite the fact that you're pretty sure you totally suck. Despite the feeling that your life is half over and you're not sure that you actually even have a life. Despite the fact that your kids seem to like the X-Box more than they like you. Despite the fact that another month has passed and you're not sure what you've done with it. Despite the winter blahs.

And the reward? The prize for keeping at it, even when you don't feel like it? It's that unexpected source of inspiration that leads to something that makes you feel good again. And if you don't keep working, if you don't keep at it, you might miss it.

Because you just never know where the next $400 box of lipstick is going to pop up.