Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Brevity of Lyrics

I was thinking recently about some of my favorite songs and how well they get a point across in very few words. For example, consider these words from one of our hymns:
There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin.
He only could unlock the gates
Of heaven and let us in.

I could spend an entire 45-minute lesson talking about the life and mission of our Savior and not come close to explaining it as well as these few lines do.

There are plenty of other examples in all kinds of songs. I suppose that's the beauty of poetry--it's ability to portray thought beautifully and succinctly.

I would suggest that studying lyrics and other poetry can help us tighten up our writing and eliminate unnecessary verbiage.

So, grab your favorite hymnal or poetry book and enjoy some creative, tight writing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Short Story - 2nd Place Winner!

To re-cap: I entered a birthday contest sponsored by Christine Bryant. She put a list of things she's gotten for her birthday over the years and challenged us to create a story using as many items from the list as possible in 1000 words or less. The following is my humble offering, which was awarded 2nd prize.

First, the list of items:
pink fuzzy bath slippers
.22 rifle
glass horse
sleeping bag
a journal
white bean bag chair
a kitten (Sheba)
a bouquet of flowers
a Barbie doll
Roller skates
a book (How to Draw Animals)
a 10-speed bike (white)
A stuffed alligator
A Donny Osmond poster (stop laughing)
a lamp for my desk
flip flops
a jewelry box
a cedar chest
a heart locket
a used stereo (with record turn table)

Barbie’s Dilemma
By Karen Dupaix

Barbie sat at her desk and switched on the lamp,. “If only I had some friends who could help me with my dilemma,” she thought. She wondered how to attract new friends to her home. Her eyes wandered to the bookshelf above the desk and scanned the titles of the row of books.

“Perfect!” she said, as she read How to Draw Animals. She pulled the book down and opened it to the first page and read:

“To attract animals to your yard, supply food that is attractive to the breed of animal you wish to attract.” Barbie replaced the book and turned to her kitchen with new purpose. She opened her refrigerator and peered in.

“No,” she thought, “I don’t think diet Dr. Pepper will attract animals. I need meat.” She dug a little further.

“Horse meat might work,” she said to herself, and then realized that the horse in her fridge was made of glass. She kept searching.

“Aha!” she cried, seizing a large package of bacon and a carton of eggs, “Who doesn’t like bacon and eggs?” She quickly got out a large frying pan and went to work. Soon the irresistible smell of frying bacon and eggs filled her small, cedar chest home.

A knock came at the door.

“Right on schedule!” said Barbie, “I wonder what animal I’ve drawn to my home.”

Before she could reach the door handle, another knock sounded on the door, loud and impatient.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” said Barbie, “Don’t get your feathers ruffled.” She yanked the door quickly open and let out a little gasp. There, on her front stoop stood a very large alligator and a little black and white kitten.

“Why hello there,” said Barbie, “What are your names?”

“I’m Ralph,” said the alligator

“Sheba,” said the cat.

“Won’t you come in?” said Barbie.

“Thanks, I’m starved!” said the alligator, his voice deep and gravely.

“Meow,” said the Sheba, “bacon and eggs are my favorite.”

Barbie ushered her guests into her kitchen and set out plates. The kitten settled on the tabletop in front of her plate. Ralph pushed aside the chairs and stood up to the table, which Barbie thought was extremely rude. She shoveled great quantities of eggs and bacon onto the alligator’s plate and a smaller portion for the kitten.

Ralph made growling, smacking sounds as he ate but the Sheba made very little noise. Soon, they were both finished and the kitten was licking the last remnants of eggs and bacon from her whiskers and paws.

“Would you like something else?” asked Barbie.

The kitten politely declined.

“No thanks,” said the alligator, “I’m stuffed. Couldn’t eat another bite.”

“In that case, said Barbie, “Please come into the living room. There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.”

Barbie and her animal friends settled themselves in the living room. Barbie fluffed up a plastic bag full of white navy beans and gestured for Ralph to sit on it.

“It’s the most comfortable seat in the house,” she said. Ralph sat there and Sheba curled up on a sleeping bag in the corner.

“I wanted you to come because I need your help,” said Barbie, “You see, my friend Chris is having a birthday soon, and I need to figure out what to get her.”

Ralph and Sheba nodded their heads.

“I’ve been thinking,” said Barbie, “that what she’d like is a visit from this guy.” She reached behind the couch and unrolled a large poster of Donny Osmond.

“Great idea,” said Ralph, “He’s got great teeth.”

“We should ask him,” said Sheba.

“That’s what I thought too,” said Barbie, “I’ve done some research, and I have learned that Donny lives right here in Provo!”

“Let’s visit him,” said Sheba.

“Yes,” said Ralph, “maybe if we catch him off guard, he’ll agree to be Chris’ birthday surprise.”

Barbie got out her laptop and Googled Donny’s address, then she and her animal friends walked out to Barbie’s garage.

“I’ll wear these roller skates,” said Barbie, taking off her flip-flops and pulling on the skates, “You can ride my 10-speed bike.”
She gestured to the bike, white and dusty, hanging from hooks attached to the beams of the garage roof, next to an old .22 rifle.

“Sure,” said Ralph, “Are the tires good?”

“They’re fine,” said Barbie, “Sheba can ride in the basket.”

In no time at all, the three friends made their way to Donny’s house, where they knocked on his door.

“Well, hello there,” said Donny, opening the door, the sunlight glinting off his teeth, “To what do I owe this great privilege?”

“We need a birthday present for Chris,” said Barbie.

“And you’re it!” added Ralph.

“Lovely. Perfect. Please, come in,” said Donny.

Donny led them into a comfortable living room.

“You know,” said Donny, “I did this once for a woman named Susan.”

Donny picked up his journal, which had been lying on the coffee table, and leafed through the pages. “Ah yes, here it is. I arrived with a big bouquet of flowers and sang songs to her. Would that work for Chris?”

“I think,” said Barbie, “Maybe you should bring a gift, too.”

“Sure,” said Donny, “Maybe a pair of pink fuzzy bath slippers?”

“Or a jewelry box,” suggested Sheba.

“With a heart locket,” added Ralph.

“Hmm,” thought Donny, “Chris is a big fan?”

“Oh yes,” said Barbie, “for years.”

“Then I think I might have just the thing for her,” said Donny. He walked to the hall closet, where he rummaged around several minutes before coming back with a large wooden box.

“What is that?” asked Ralph.

“It’s my old stereo,” said Donny, “It has a turntable on it so she can play her records.”

Barbie clapped her hands. “It’s perfect!” she said, “Problem solved.”

The friends made plans to meet and deliver the gift on Chris’ birthday, had a big group hug, and went their separate ways.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Crickets and Bees and a Short Story

Wow, who knew you could hear crickets by writing about bees? Not one response to my last post. I wonder if anyone read it. Maybe it's one of those things that is only exciting if you're the one surrounded by angry bees. Oh, well. Time to move on.

I have been writing every day lately, which is my goal. I am 18,435 words into my YA novel now. It isn't always easy and I don't always get a lot written, but I think overall it is getting a little easier, and hopefully better.

Christine Bryant is hosting an exclusive writing contest for AI members. She listed several items she's gotten for birthday presents in the past and challenged us to write a short story, 1,000 words or less, using as many of the items as possible.

I wrote my story yesterday. I can't reveal it until the contest is over, July 14, but I will post it here after that. In the meantime, here is the list of items she gave us to work with. And, I am proud to report, I used them all in my little story.

pink fuzzy bath slippers
.22 rifle
glass horse
sleeping bag
a journal
white bean bag chair
a kitten (Sheba)
a bouquet of flowers
a Barbie doll
Roller skates
a book (How to Draw Animals)
a 10-speed bike (white)
A stuffed alligator
A Donny Osmond poster (stop laughing)
a lamp for my desk
flip flops
a jewelry box
a cedar chest
a heart locket
a used stereo (with record turn table)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Beehive Tipping on the Fourth

Since it is close to the 4th of July, I thought I'd entertain you with a story from one of my most memorable July 4ths. Enjoy!

July 4, 2006 dawned bright and hot, with the promise of everything Independence Day should be: playing in the park, eating ice cold watermelon and grilled hot dogs, water fights, and fireworks. But first, there was work to be done.

My husband had risen early to help the scouts put flags in front of every house in our neighborhood. He came in where I was lazily sleeping in and reminded me that we were going to work the bees that day,

After a hasty breakfast Paul and I loaded our pickup truck with empty hive boxes and frames and the “bee box,” where we kept our beekeeping suits and equipment. We backed out of our driveway and made our way to Gary’s place in Grantsville.

Honeybees need two things to be good producers. They need a constant water source and a good supply of nectar. Gary had the perfect setup for bees. His land was next to an alfalfa field and included several natural springs. When he bought the property it was nothing but a swampy weed patch. Gary had turned it into a paradise. I was thrilled when he asked if we could put bees on his land.

Early in the spring we came with packages of Minnesota Hybrid bees, bred for their ability to produce large quantities of honey. Gary mentioned then that there were skunks in the area. Skunks like to eat bees. They will sit at the entrance to a hive and tease the bees out, then grab and eat them. They can destroy a whole hive of bees that way.

To prevent the skunks eating the bees, we asked Gary if he had some kind of bench or platform that was raised up about 18 inches that we could put the hives on. At home we used cinder blocks and small thrift store tables. Gary disappeared into his workshop, telling us he’d come up with something. We could hear him in there, sawing and hammering. He came out with two makeshift benches fashioned out of scrap lumber. I wondered if they would be strong enough to support the hives and voiced my concerns. Gary said he could brace and stake them as needed, and Paul said maybe we could switch them out for something better before the hives got too heavy. We put three hives on the first bench and four close behind them on the second bench.

Now, several months later, we parked down the drive from where our bees were located. We got out of the truck and put on our bee suits. I asked Paul if he wanted me to light the smoker. He said that we wouldn’t need it. We would just quickly switch the boxes and be on our way. The bees would hardly know we were there.

We approached the first hive from the back so we wouldn’t disturb the bees’ flight path. My husband pried off the lid and lifted a frame out of the box. To our surprise, the frame was full of capped honey. The bees had been busy and were taking full advantage of their ideal location. We smiled.

Our goal that day was to switch the order of the brood boxes, to keep the queen bee from laying eggs in the honey boxes. To do this, we would be switching positions of the bottom and second box, and then add a honey box, or super, to the top of the stack.

I busied myself getting the empty box ready with frames while Paul did the heavy lifting. A full honey box can weigh 50-60 pounds.

I looked up when I heard Paul say, “uh oh.” I saw the entire row of four beehives shift dangerously, my husband trying to steady them. I stood dumbfounded, with my mouth open as my husband wisely got out of the way and the bench collapsed in slow motion. The entire row of boxes, full of thousands of bees, tipped backward and fell against the second row of hives. Like dominoes, the second row of hives gave way and the boxes tumbled over to the ground and down into a ditch. Clouds of angry bees were flying everywhere, their homes completely upended and broken apart.

My husband and I looked at one another, eyes wide with shock. I decided it was a good time to leave the area, and I ran as fast as I could down the drive. My husband chose to stay and put the boxes back together as best he could. I watched him from inside the cab of the pickup. I gained a lot of respect for him and, shamed at my cowardice, eventually went back out to help him. Remarkably, we both came away from that experience without a single sting.

We managed to save most of the hives, and we came back with better platforms to put them on. We got a lot of honey that year, but those bees became the most aggressive hives we ever had. They never forgot us, and they taught their children to hate us.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Reading About Writing VS Writing

I have (too) many hobbies, one of which is knitting. Sometimes, when I really am too busy to spend a lot of time knitting, I find myself in a yarn store, buying yarn. In my mind, buying yarn is somehow productive and contributes to my knitting goals. However, all it really does is clutter up my storage space and make me more frustrated because the knitting isn't being done, but the yarn is accumulating.

I think sometimes as writers we do a lot of research about writing. We browse the internet, learning about others' successes in writing, learning new techniques, and "networking." This all feels quite productive and makes us feel like we're doing something about our writing projects. What we really should be doing, though, is actually writing. I'm as guilty as the next person in this. I spend much more time than I ought to on the internet rather than the word processor.

So, here's this week's challenge for you and for me: 1. set a time limit for how long you will spend on the internet. You can set an alarm on your cell phone or set a timer to help with this. 2. Allow a chunk of time for writing each day and stick to it. 3. Don't allow yourself to become distracted with networking while you are in your writing time.

Okay, ready...set..write!