The Big Santa Talk

The key to spreading holiday joy is a jingle bell necklace.

December 2017
Our first Christmas back in New Jersey

My husband and I watch the family of elves walk into the coffee shop.  The three adults are dressed in festive holiday wear: red fur boa, red and green button-down tops, spotted green skirts, each carrying an LED lite up wand.  They are elves right down to the pointy toe red shoes.

The two young girls—I’d say 10 years old, but I’m terrible with ages—are really into it. They’re dressed in flouncy tulle skirts, elven helpers floating on frills.  Part of the excitement must be the dress up and wearing makeup, even eye shadow.  Perhaps part of it is helping mommy and being a big girl.  I like to think less selfish thoughts: they’re enjoying seeing the smiling faces.

They brighten up this stark yet hip and trendy coffee shop.  The floor is diner-white hexagons.  The white brick painted walls surround this cavern of white tables, square and just big enough for dueling laptops, phone and coffee cup. The shop is brightened by smiles carrying candy canes. It’s kind that the shop owners let them come in. Of course, they’re not soliciting or selling–nothing except joy–so maybe that makes it okay.

They pass out jingle bells necklaces, the good dollar store quality.  No pushing, nothing intrusive, just outstretched hands. I’m sure if you waved them away, no big deal.  Of course I take one.  Surprisingly, my husband does, too.

“Oh, very masculine,” he says, slipping it over his head, not fussing just smiling.  He notices the colors:  his is green necklace beads with a red ball while my necklace beads are red with a green jingle ball.  We match, but opposite.

I ask the mom what’s the deal?  Turns out she and her family–sister, aunt, goddaughter, daughter–have spread silly playfulness and jingle joy for three years.

“A few years ago, we had The Big Talk about Santa,” she tells us.  “We decided to turn it into something positive, that we’re all Santa’s helpers and we have good in our hearts.”

Is it just the holidays when we all feel good and happy and giving?

“Christmas,” she says, “It’s not just one person.”

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Are you the writer you were in 2011?

Today’s post is inspired by an email, reminding me of a writer I used to be.

Monday morning. Coffee. Egg sandwich. “Where are you now?” hour on NJ 101.5 streaming on my app. Empty planner pages with two appointments written lightly in pencil. Laptop asleep. I wish I was.

Open email, first time since last week. Perfect timing. This email from yesterday, Sunday:

> From:
> Sent: Sun, Sep 20, 2020 9:46 pm
> Subject: Your membership at ATCs For All – PLEASE READ
> Hi ScrapPea
> You haven’t visited the ATCs for All Forums in a year. Hope you are
> well and everything in your real life is OK.
> As soon as you are able, please log in/visit AFA, to keep your
> account intact.
> If you don’t have time to stay and play, that’s OK…just log in!
> We are in the process of updating the members list and anyone who
> hasn’t logged in for 365 days will be removed. If you are
> interested in keeping your membership intact please log in soon.
> Your Gallery and iTrader will also be removed at that time. We are
> not keeping a record of ratings. So if you wish to keep them intact
> please log in/visit as soon as possible.
> Thanks,
> Staff of ATCs For All

It’s been a year since I rejoined?!?

It’s been one year?

It’s been one year.

Once again, I felt the thrill, and the guilt, of the similar email I received one year ago.  At that time, I was reminded of the vibrant artist trading card (ATC) community in Michigan. Those who played with paper there connected me to online outlets, feeding my addiction to this tiny art.  I lost both my in-person and virtual interactions when I moved back to New Jersey.  I didn’t realize how much I missed it until one year ago, the memories resurfaced:

> From:
> Sent: Sun, Sep 29, 2019 3:47 pm
> Subject: ATCs for All needs your help…
> Hello,
> You may or may not be aware that our Site’s server fee is paid for
> by our generous members who have a paid subscription.
> The fee for our server is $449 a month.
> As of today’s date we have enough to pay for the October server fee.
> After that it will depend on, if we get enough donations to keep the
> site running.
> Please consider becoming an AFA Friend or renewing a lapsed
> subscription as soon as you can.
> You can find out how to here:
> If you have any questions, please let me know.
> The future of our Site depends on the generosity of our members….
> Thank you,
> Carole Cadek

I renewed immediately.  I am going to play with paper.  What’s new there? What’s familiar? Did these folks miss me?  I can’t wait to find out. I bookmarked the website on my phone.

Then I forgot about it for one year. Which brings us to today.

My ATC artwork was published last week in Issue 3 of Molecule.  Creating that artwork was the first time I picked up paper and glue in at least one year. A deep thrill creating the art, each detail planned to look accidental yet was exact to precise detail.

I want to do more of this, I told myself. Now I have an excuse: keep my account and my interactions alive.

I’m in, roaming the site, looking at new ATC swaps, familiar names and avatars.

What’s my avatar?  I have no idea.

Hey, I changed my password. Do I need to change anything else?

Oh, yes I do.  My profile. 

What I wrote and the way I wrote it…. The past me is not today’s me. I looked back and saw myself as the newbie on March 5, 2011. It’s a fascinating, quirky and embarrassing User Profile.

~ To be Continued ~

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Published a tiny bit in Molecule – a tiny lit

Being published is a good thing, so why do I feel a little bit?

Molecule is a bi-annual literary online magazine that publishes 50-word poetry and prose along with small-scale artwork.

It’s a struggle cutting down to a 500-word piece, but slicing to 50 words slashes to the most powerful.

My poetry and prose submissions were not accepted this time, but my artwork was. That’s a wet noddle slap in the face. I spent drafts and drafts and edits and word counts of my time to get everything where it should be.  Replace a three-word description with one active verb.  Remove every “very.”  I discovered how little the word “the” is needed?  After all my effort, it was my best, but that wasn’t good enough.

I’m a writer not an artist.

Yet, there I am: Issue 3, Page 49. I am both.

The artwork tells a story itself, written in ephemera on a Pokemon trading card canvas.  Chinese food inspired the art.  With dinner takeout from Ms. Lin in Millburn, I got a fortune cookie with an actual fortune on the fortune.  Reading it, the words sunk into me.  I got that feeling, you know the feeling, when something nags at you and won’t let go because it resonates with you.  I didn’t know what to do with it, so I propped the fortune on my laptop, which is not easy to do with a scrap of paper.  When I discovered the magazine, submission criteria and deadline, I discovered my fortune’s purpose.

A tiny bit of my tiny bit in lit

Just like choosing the strongest 50 words, every image is deliberate.  I rummaged through my ATC ephemera box and chose a few items to work with, determined to make them work.  Every piece is designed to look random but is not.  Every placement is precise, even the one item that stuck glued in an unplanned spot.  Precision and happy accidents.

Molecule caps the contributor’s 3rd person bio at 24 words.  Why?  Because there are 24 atoms in a molecule of caffeine.  See Page 78 for my tiny contribution to coffee.

What story do you read out of my Artist Trading Card?

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Questions from a fearful writer

My Montclair Memoir1 group Zoomed yesterday, and a comment at the end tugged me.

One of the members–I’ll call him John–is, of course, writing a memoir. The piece John shared yesterday was shorter than usual. The snippets we all share are typically 5-7 pages of either a chapter of our memoir or some part we’re struggling with. John’s last few submissions have been two pages of details and summary, written with a specific purpose in mind. Yesterday, John became self-conscious of that purpose.

“I want to use them as blog posts.  They’re not actual parts from my memoir. ,” John said.  “What do you think of using these as blog posts? Is it okay to send them and still be a part of this group?”

I can’t believe he asked us that question.

He doubted himself as a writer. John’s memoir is in that dreaded editing stage of revising per the editor, which is further along than I am in my current work. How could he think to ask us, to ask me, if he could still be a member in our critique group?

We gasped in disbelief: Of course!

How dare he think otherwise? John deserves to be there as much as any of us. We are fortunate to have found each other. Not everyone in our eight-member group is published now nor wants to be published now; we write our stories because we need to write our story.

Our group’s organizer has a mantra: If you write, you are a writer.

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Remember writing in #tbt for May 21

Another throwback Thursday, with more writing lessons learned.

What have I discovered?


I engaged Twitter a lot more than I do today.  Will I exercise that media more now?  Should I?  Am I missing something vital?  Did I get much out of it then?  Obviously not, because I’m writing and functioning without Tweeting my life away.  Will I get much out of it now?  Yesterday, May 20th, after I (re)posted a link to my Letter Q #AtoZChallenge post, I received one direct message and one retweet.  Not bad for an abandoned account.




I celebrated and shared my writing with other writers and journalists that day.  I won an award from Illinois Woman’s Press Association and received the award in Chicago.  Honestly, I don’t remember what the award was for or if my piece won First Place or Honorable Mention in the context I entered,  but I felt like a superstar.  I was an unexpected attendee.  It’s only 4 1/2 hours drive from Detroit to Chicago.  A solo weekend adventure was too good to miss.




What is Chicago without some personal writing time?  Sitting among bookstores and a shady fountain, a journal and a pink pen is all I needed.  It was a warm, sunny day, not too hot, not too breezy. I hit my step count walking along the river, on a path that may or may not be part of the local Chicago Riverwalk. It was a long stretch of cement, reminding me of a pier stretching out, feeling like I could fall into all that blue of Lake Michigan and float in relaxation.

And coffee.  Always coffee. But not coffee.

That’s the last thing I discovered, not surprisingly: drinking coffee.  Or tea.  The important thing was the coffeeshop cafe experience.  It still is.

Millburn is boutique town filled with clothing shoppes and Italian restaurants , a place where the only chain stores downtown are Dunkin’, Kung Fu Tea, Häagen-Dazs and Starbucks.  Yes, I drink coffee and tea there, sitting at the tables in the upper floor.  Four doors up the street is The Coffee Mill Roasters, a moody coffeeshop with hi-top tables for patrons to look onto Main St. and become one with the world when those wall-length doors are opened in warmer weather.  A perfect setting to enjoy the handmade pastries and food baked by the owner and his wife.

Now let’s combine those two: drinks and writing.  That was the Wednesday for our bimonthly Deadwood Writers meeting.  My beloved critique group taught me so much about me and my writing, making me a better writer by sharing their honest comments on the pieces I submitted for group review. Word choice, flow, dialogue, and the meaning of an “info dump” made me stronger.  Sitting among the heart of cooking books section–until new management placed another shelf there and moved us to the cafe–was soothing and creative.  The setting in the cafe was loud, sitting there next to the blender grinding iced coffee drinks, but there was still creative friendship.  We just had to yell down the table to each other.  I always got to the meeting early so I could claim a seat in the middle of the two or three tables we pushed together.

But wait!  There’s more.

As a bonus discovery, Timehop showed Swarm check-ins from 2001 at places long gone, almost forgotten. Remember these places?

I miss Borders.  That store was more comfortable and spacious to stretch out in.  Room to read, relax, sip coffee drinks.  From the balcony cafe, I looked down on the store, my magazine piles mingled with the music finds my husband shared with me.

Archiver’s was a deep, color-full craft store filled with every type of pen, marker, ink, thread, paint, canvas, adhesive and papers imaginable.  If I was stuck inside the store overnight, I would delight in the creativity all mine.  I’d only stress about the thought of having to leave when the store opened the next day.  

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Three techniques to move your exciting memoir forward

Have you ever felt that “ah-ha!”moment of satisfaction when a word or phrase clicks with your writing style like mine did today?

Today, my MWG Memoir1 group met via Zoom for our bimonthly critique.  We use the same critique format as our former in-person library meetings: each member reads his or hers piece, and then we take our turns commenting.

One member shared his piece about dealing with his mentally ill wife.  Afterwards, a member of our group commented that the piece had “forward momentum.”  That phrase struck me and stuck with me.  Forward momentum is what makes good writing.  That is what makes us want to turn the page to read more.  How do you get there?

Try a teaser at the end of a chapter.  The writer above ended the chapter  with this sentence: “I have no choice [but] to ask her for a divorce.”  That is a page turner.

Dialogue moves you forward because discussions have an end purpose.  This is not writing dialogue for the sake of writing dialogue.  I’m talking about specific dialogue between you and others, followed by either your short, punchy thoughts or the speaker’s specific question that you do or do not expect and anticipate.

Consider my example using the mentally ill wife piece:

“I have news for you about your wife,” said the doctor.

That tone of voice, those carefully chosen words, that’s never a good sign.  It’s the kind of emotional bomb dropped in sappy drama movies.

“The news is difficult,” he continued.  “Are you ready to hear it?”

I don’t want to hear it, but he’s telling me anyway.

A third way to entice readers is by using a timestamp to share increasing information.  This moves people with you as you reveal details about you and the story.  “Over the next few days” is a great setup rather than using a chunky paragraph of information brain dump.

Consider this:

Over the next few days, I learned a lot about him.  Monday, he charmed me with stories about his international military assignments.  On Wednesday, he shared the reasons why he re-enlisted, but he never asked me why I decided to quit my most recent job.  By Friday, I found myself staring over his shoulder while he talked about battles and medals.  The squirrel shimmying up the backyard tree was more exciting.

Of these three techniques, I find my writing often combines the first two.  I can struggle with dialogue, so I want my words to serve a dual purpose: blending teasers and questions gives my memoirs the push through my thoughts for details while asking questions gives the reader a moment to pause and ask themselves questions.  Powerful.

Are you ready to write with deliberate forward momentum?  Is there a technique that resonates with you to engage readers in your story?

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Zany end to #AtoZChallenge 2020


I wrote this before dinner. Just like grocery shopping, that was bad idea.

My dinner, however, that was a good one.

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X-ceptional haiku NOT using the word xylophone for #AtoZChallenge

I wrote an alphabet haiku using the letter X without the word xylophone.

Clever me.  *big smile*

My A to Z Challenge theme is alphabet haiku, with each word using the alphabet letter for that day. Who says the letter for each word must be the first letter of the word? Not I.  Oh, that’s a different haiku. So is A.  Oh, O is an earlier haiku, too.

I also created an adult-themed haiku.  Quite proud of that, but hesitant to add it here.  If I change my mind, I’ll make a note at the top of this post.  Do you want to read it?

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Updating apps and understanding life through #AtoZChallenge

Updating apps shows me even more memories I may or may not want to remember.

Looking at Timehop inspired me to scroll through my apps. Early phone pages should be filled with oft-used, important apps.  Screens 2 and 3 are cluttered with various text and photo editing apps, which surprises me. Why is this valuable real estate cluttered with apps I don’t use and skim over while looking for the app I really want.  They were useful at some point; now they are future experiments.  As I scrolled and studied, I could not find an app I wanted.

Ku, the app formerly known as Heyku, was space for people to write haiku and share them within the small community. This was one of those apps that autosaved images in a separate camera roll folder. My Ku has 64 images: text only, off-white squares with the upper right corner folded over to resemble a scrolling piece of paper. That was the beauty of Ku: words only.

This folder is proof that it existed.

My first Ku posted on August 29, 2014 and the final image was dated August 27, 2015. I’m not sure if that’s everything I wrote, because while I can access the app from my old, screen-cracked, iPhone6, there is nothing under my profile. This app closed down and deleted from the Apple App. Without the autosave feature Store.Without the autosave feature, these poems could have been lost forever.

I experimented with this Alphabet Haiku theme back then, because this is one of the Kus I created between 2014 and 2015, a poem touched up with effects from another rediscovered old new app Camera+ which I have to re-discover how to use. I wonder what else I’ll find.

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Travel back in time with #tbt and #AtoZChallenge

Thursdays are super scary days because of the #ThrowbackThursday or #tbt posts on your social media memories.

Unfamiliar with Throwback Thursdays?  It’s a hashtag highlighting photos of anything in your past: your deceased dog Bonner when he/she was still alive; you and mom at the neighborhood park when you were 8 years old; a gold ring today paired with a memory of 10 years ago; or your hairstyle from your 2001 high school graduation.  The possibilities are perpetual.

The embarrassments are endless.

Timehop is an app that automatically pulls a screenshot of that date from your linked social media. Each year’s image can be shared as-in on those same social media outlets.  You can also create a Then&Now image adding an current photo to that previous memory to compare and share.

My phone setting update apps manually because I want control over new versions. Updating apps also remind me that those apps exist.  I totally forgot this app existed.  I can’t remember that last time I did a Throwback Thursday post, nor the last time I used an image from Timehop.

Today is Thursday.  Today is a odd-date normal blogging day.  Five years ago, April 23 was a Thursday.  On that day, I tweeted about this A to Z Challenge.  Serendipity.  Today, I capture Thursday moments from Timehop.

Five years ago, the geolocation app I adore, Swarm, shows me checking-in at Three Days Gourmet Cafe after doctor-requested bloodwork. I went to my Starbucks at Ford & Lotz Rds. in Canton, MI.  In the comment box, I noted using my reusable Steelers mug for a Frappuccino.  I exercised at home afterwards.

Here’s where the A to Z Challenge shows up.  In 2015, I tweeted in an #azchat about a struggling and ultimately uncompleted attempt at this challenge five years ago.  I wonder if that chat is still around.  Is the hashtag still used?  You bet’cha I’m looking for that after finishing this post.

April 23, 2015 was Earth Day.  My Instagram post that day was a Then&Now Timehop photo.  Since that post was “1 Year Ago,” my memory that year was from 2014. However, since Timehop was a Then post from 2014, the memory actually came from 2013.

Oh, the things that happen when you unravel time travel.

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Sharing this anniversary on #AtoZChallenge

Stars aligned 10 years ago to create magic, so today I celebrate my website anniversary.

On April 22, 2010, I created my original Wolf Howlings blog at the Canton Public Library in Michigan.  That historical moment occurred in the 8-table media room stuck tucked in the back of the library next to the Secondhand Prose used bookstore, this site was born.  Happy Birthday!

Dinosaur years ago, blogs and websites were created on two main platforms: WordPress and Blogger.  Much like VHS versus Betamax,  WordPress was becoming more popular because the templates and design were easier to navigate.  I had no opinion about any hubbub; I was desperate to get a website going and the first class I found used WordPress. The class was free and the website was free.  Bingo!

My second row seat presented close proximity to the hear instructor and see projector screen yet far enough back to avoid any potential pointed on-the-spot questions.  Perfect.

The first hardest part was choosing my site name. Since that was was Step One or Two, we, the creators, couldn’t move forward without it. The name was permanent and everlasting, so we had to choose.  Wisely.

Here’s the background to that historical moment: Wolf is my maiden name, a cruel  name for relentless and brutal schoolyard taunts.  Years ago, I  embraced that word as a part of me–especially since I no longer had Dodgeball to scare me–and created an email address based on that, long before you had to add a string of numbers and letters at the end of any word.  Simple.

My friends were grouped in a sub-folder separate from my professional email contacts.  I named that personal distribution list my Wolfpack.  Get it?  Wolf.  Wolfpack.  Since I would be communicating to my friends en masse, it’s like I’d be howling at everyone.  A wolf howls.  Howls at the moon, sure, so why not across the wide world of webs?   In that moment of cleverness and glory, “Wolf Howlings” was created.  Satisfied.

Besides, I couldn’t think of anything else. The instructor was moving on to the next step, and I was on the spot.  Pressure.

Those two hours choosing designs and sidebars clicked by and poof! my free website was created. Completed. 

“Now,” my instructor said, “write your first post and hit the Publish button.”

This was the second hardest part.  It made sense, but I had no idea the purpose of my website blog.  What was on my mind?  What was my focus?  What did I want to write about?  Help!

April 22, 2010:  White

It’s so me.

Looking back, looking forward. Welcome (back) to this current website.  Getting to this point was completely different experience. This time, the name was easier to choose.

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Realizing why I don’t read books: an #AtoZChallenge post

Reading glasses must be a priority for me this month because I can’t read my comic books.
I’m too young to be one of those squinty people who say
“I need reading glasses” before buying an over-the-counter pair from those pharmacy store spinning racks. Let me specify: I need new prism prescription glasses that help my eye condition I can never remember the name.

You see it during your annual eye exam.  One twist, one tweak of that face machine and everything close or distant becomes crisp. “Oh, that looks so much better,” you say.  “I didn’t realize that,” even though you did.  Prisms add another layer of complexity for eye doctors adjusting my vision.  My current “distance” prism glasses are being fine-tuned; now it’s time for my “close-up” glasses to get a re-haul.

Last time I was in The City, I struggled to read the graphic novels in my beloved Kinokuniya bookstore.  I visited my town’s local comic book store–yes, they still exist–and learned there was a new ElfQuest series, but my eyes couldn’t appreciate the fine artwork by Wendy Pini.

I’m not reading books as much as I’d like to these days because tiny printed words scare me.  Yet no matter how many times I write it in my planner, I skip over it as an “I’ll get to it later” task.

Maybe I need glasses so I can read my writing.

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Quit procrastinating in #AtoZChallenge

The 20th way to procrastinate a writer is with Quizzes.

You know them; in fact, you’ve probably taken one or more. Women’s magazines were, perhaps still are, stuffed with “Is he the right boyfriend for you? Take this quiz to find out” articles.  The online universe barrages you with self-identifying factors.  Which Star Trek captain are you?  If you were a coffee drink, what would you be?   Find out the color of your inner soul.  What flavor of cake are you?  What living room object?  Which Brady Bunch kid are you?

Discover your spirit animal based on your McDonald’s order.

What is your superpower?  Which Disney princess/villain do you most resemble?  What board game best describes you?  Are your first date opinions normal or controversial?

The list continues.

Your writer needs to understand themselves, and the traits of their characters. This may seem superfluous, but quizzes offer deep insights.  Is your character even a Star Trek captain?  Does your character drink coffee?   Encourage the writer in you to take as many quizzes as possible.  Encourage your characters to take the same or different ones.  Quizzes are usually about 10 questions long, and that takes no time at all. What harm is there in taking one or two quizzes?

Except getting sucked into the next quiz.

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Ode to the future in this #AtoZChallenge haiku

Once order is restored, there is so much to do.
I will sip coffee with my husband at Track 5 in Cranford.

I will drive to Philadelphia to visit my in-laws and pet the puppy.

I will buy new clothes at the shops in Short Hills Mall.

I will get my nails done at my delicious salon, Nail Fitness, in Montclair.

I will get my hair styled at Avalon in Millburn.

I will meet my writing groups in person at the library.

I will drive down the street into tiny parking lot at Union’s County Zimmerman Park and spin the Pokestops.

I will see a movie at the AMC Theater in Aviation Plaza and eat salty popcorn.

I will eat lunch…anywhere.
I will hug my friends deeply, guilt-free and pure.

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Laugh with today’s #AtoZChallenge

all text above WHITE
Today is International Moment of Laughter Day, so find something that brings you delight.

I learned that tidbit of fun after I wrote today’s haiku feeling deep after watching The Pelican Brief last week.

It occurs to me that today is the birthday of my best friend from high school. She did laugh and was deliberate with everything she did. If homework was to write–as in, with a pen–one paragraph on something, the rest of us would scribble as fast as we could to finish the assignment. She slowly concentrated on each letter, making sure every word captured her signature style. Even today, I can picture her rounded loops with the curling flourish at the end of her Letter K.

Laughter is always and forever needed in the world, today and beyond. Thinking of her as I write this brings back memories of her teaching me Spanish. She taught me our code phrase él está [not] aquí meaning my high school crush was in school that day and not on a course field trip.  It’s a moment so ingrained that every now and then I hear myself saying that phrase for no reason at all.

Simple days when my whole self twisted between life or death based on that tall, skinny black haired guy being present, which gave me another chance for us to say more than “hi” to each other.  How silly.  How delight-full.

What’s making you laugh today?

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Insist on creativity for #AtoZChallenge

Today’s Alphabet Haiku is brought to you by the letter I.

Isn’t it interesting?




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GO get ’em on this #AtoZChallenge

I never, ever thought I’d say this, but I miss being dragged around to PokemonGO events.

For those unfamiliar: PokemonGO is a phone app game that encourages activity.  It was the first game that required you to play outside, not glued to a TV console. 

The app is based on the Pokemon card game and cartoon anime of years ago.  In PokemonGO, the Trainer (you) catches Pokemon (cartoon creatures; “Pocket Monsters”) with Pokeballs (catching device).  Your goal is to catch ’em all and complete your inventory (Pokedex). 

In order to complete that, you must GO outside to your local park or downtown area and meet other Trainers (players) because stronger, rare Pokemon are only found in Raids (group battles).  You all need additional players raiding together so everyone can catch them.  Together.

PokemonGO was the first immersive Augmented Reality (AR) game.  People unfamiliar with this type of gameplay were crashing cars into poles, trespassing in cemeteries and falling into ditches trying to catch ’em all.  Where’s the fun?

A guy at my local Starbucks in Michigan complained about PokemonGO for days; each destructive news report annoyed him more and more.  PokemonGO was evil, he said.  The game caused destruction and distraction. People became stupid and careless because they played.

Really, people who crashed and tumbled and trespassed were distracted and stupid and careless long before this game launched. This game gave folks another outlet to show their true selves.

Much like the world is these days.

He said the game was a bad idea.  It was dangerous, and the people who played were foolish.  He would never, ever download it. Never.  Ever.

His annoyance alone motivated me to download the game and experience this madness firsthand; or in this case, first-person.  I joined July 12, 2016, one week after the game launched. 

PokemonGO’s philosophy encouraged people to go outside and take walks, which was not a foolish idea to me.

Four years ago, AR was a curiosity.  This was PokemonGO’s ingenuity: you could catch Pokemon unexpectedly sitting on your kitchen table, jumping in your backyard or perching on your car dashboard. Taking screenshots showed your world, skill and creativity.  Remarkable.

Most players I know–myself included–now use the default game background because it’s easier to catch Pokemon.  Folks interact with Pokemon only through AR screenshots. As a scrapbooker, and thus a photographer, I create peculiar, fun and creative compositions.  

The perfect pairing is my husband falling love with this  madness two months after I began playing. 

Every time we went out, I said, “Pull into the Target parking lot; there’s a Pokestop here.”  Pokestops are places to interact with and replenish supplies of Pokeballs.  In-game, they look like geotag emoji where you spin the circle at the top.  In the world, they are common, peculiar and actual places to discover. 

The Pokestop here was not Target itself; the decorative metal sculpture along the edge of the parking lot was the attraction.  If I got out of the car, I could read the plaque in the ground about the creator, materials, inspiration for it.  

That’s the appeal: real places and real people in real life.

He was curious about my fascination with parks, fountains and Target parking lots, so he downloaded the game.  The game walked him through the introduction of creating his character and learning gameplay.  Ten minutes later, he became Level 3 and unlocked new features.

“What’s a Pokestop?” he asked.

We discovered players here when we moved back to New Jersey.  “Let’s go out,” he says most nights after work and on weekends to raid with our community of friends.

It’s a different world these days.  He and I play as we can, but I look forward to the days of seeing my community again.  He won’t have to drag me out. 

Let’s GO!

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Find fish and friends in #AtoZChallenge haiku

One fine way for a writer to procrastinate is with Fish.

Fish are Zen in motion. They go where they want, flip around in a different path at a whim. Writers identify with this path as they look for the directions to lead their characters. Writers must be deliberate in their choices while fish swim and sway in a random dance. Writers think and think and overthink events that move their characters forward. Fish stare at writers, maybe blink, and move on forward. It’s an indifference to make cats jealous.

Take your writerself to a pond, an aquarium or a Chinese restaurant where schools of fish scurry from reed to reef.  The writer follows their favorite fish in a playful hide-and-seek peek inside whimsical treasure chests.  Slide and glide through rock tunnels, mesmerizing color of coral buried in gravel.

That water, its own relaxing self, swirls in the trail of a fish’s tail. Writers close their eyes to savor the sounds of tank filter bubbles and burps. Their heart beats to the rhythmic gurgle-plop-gurgle of pulsing water. The writer returns home relaxed and soul soothed. The thought of sitting at a laptop or picking up a pen disturbs all thinking. The writer curls up in a chair or on the couch, the mind a pool of ripples that swirls in hypnotic memory.

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Encourage entertainment on the radio with #AtoZChallenge

Every Monday at 10:00am is the best start to my week.

NJ 101.5 is the New Jersey talk radio station whose hosts talk about everything entertaining.  Weekday morning commuting hours feature mostly news, politics and serious stuff.  The fun part of each radio day begins with the 10 am morning hosts.

Every Monday, Dennis and Judi ask the question, “Where are you now?”  They joke about how this question sets the tone to New Jerseyans in how the answers balance the mindset and creates the pulse of the upcoming week.

For me, this is true.

No matter how mundane something is, the hosts say, we want to know what that is because we all learn something about this great Garden State.  I schedule tasks and meetings around that hour as much as possible because it’s surprisingly true.

A person calls in saying he or she is on the parkway driving to the dentist.  Sounds pretty commonplace, right?  Why would a caller–heck, anyone in general–think that trip is talk show radio worthy?  The hosts ask  how the caller found that dentist. That answer leads to the caller’s biannual treat eating lunch at the diner down the treat, a restaurant favored by locals for the banana cream pie.

Listeners have just learned about a recommended doctor (dentist) and where to look for him/her (that small town).  If I want to try a new restaurant, I know one (diner). It’s a good diner because trusted people (locals) flock there for restaurant’s specialty (banana cream pie). One caller’s commonplace dentist appointment provided so much information about the state.

Because of that 10-11am hour, I know fishing techniques, cheese delivery, pizza in the town next to me, specialty shore towns, Meals on Wheels, au pare services, highway history, tree care, dancing, airport travel, yoga, car maintenance, libraries and dentists.

Where are you now?

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Dare: Are bloggers real writers? #AtoZChallenge

My name is Diana, and I am a writer.

I state that up front because despite my published articles, books and national writing awards, some people still raise eyebrows at the thought of writing being a profession.  You know, those people who speak in that quotation tone of voice. Now that anyone and everyone with an internet connection can expose themselves on a free website, what does that say about us as bloggers?  

Bloggers are writers, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

I’ve been writing since I was four years old, long before computers, so I guess that means I’m a writer who blogs. That gives more justification, I guess, but it’s a crappy deal that “bloggers” need to be distinguished from even “writers.” Like there’s a difference. Someone once compared writing to a coffeeshop. You’d never expect anyone to say, “Oh, you’re not a real coffeeshop because you’re just a local coffeeshop owner.”

That annoys me.  Worse, it offends me. 

Writers participating in April’s AtoZ Challenge attest to the fact that blogging takes work regardless if they write for personal escape or as a professional venture. Deadwood Writers Group–the creative people in Michigan who critique my work and make me a better writer for that–launched Deadwood Writers Voices more than six years ago as an place for members to have an online presence, regardless of any other writing they do or aspirations they have.

Some writers use blogging as an exercise towards publishing, be that traditionally or self-publishing. Sue Remisiewicz boldly states, “No matter what happens, I’m creative. I write. I’m a writer.”

So what if you “just” blog? Be proud of your effort. You are allowed to challenge yourself, if you dare.

Kelly Bixby writes essay-style blog posts, and says, “I try to make relationship issues, travel stories, grammar rules, and topics of faith each entertaining and/or inspiring,” she says. “The heart of every writer is curiosity, creativity and passion.”

Creativity is the key. “Quotation people” are afraid of creativity.  Perhaps they were told once that they weren’t creative. I am fortunate that others encouraged me to play with words. It’s never “just” blogging.

Karen Kittrell sums it up perfectly. “For myself, I write to connect. If I succeed, I define that as writing.”

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