Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Will Your Writing Live or Die on the Page?

Amaryllis in Robert's Jacksonville, Florida Yard
Photo by Carol Newman


In Jacksonville, Florida a couple of weeks ago, I was amazed to see amaryllis blooming around all the trees in the front yard of my host, Robert. Who doesn't love amaryllis and, here in Kansas, coax a couple of blooms from a potted one at Christmas time? But blooming by the dozens --outside? 

I've been to Florida many times, but never had I seen this.  

I had arrived late in the afternoon, and too soon the sun was setting. 
Robert seemed to watched in mild bemusement as he tried to carry on a conversation with the others in our party as I dashed back and forth among the amaryllis.

Back home, I was still raving about the amaryllis thriving outside, to someone who has lived in the Jacksonville area. "Oh yes," he said quite calmly. "They do well there."

Of course, I know about planting zones and that plants that flourish in some areas will wither and fail in others. It was just that the blooms were so big and beautiful.

Ah yes -- big and beautiful. Just like the phrases I read in the first draft of a friend's story for children. On the first page some of the words were: matriarch, procrastinated, effervescent, and coif. Great words, but maybe not planted in a story for children. 

I had the same problem with a whole paragraph in a story. Young Advisor read the story. "What's this paragraph doing here?" she asked.

"Oh, I like those lines. They're my favorite. The words are so pretty," I said.

"The paragraph has nothing to do with anything," she said. "It makes no sens."   

She was right. I did a little wilt of my own and removed the paragraph. Dug it up. But I did save it to be planted somewhere else, somewhere more suited, where it can thrive.

Like amaryllis planted outside in a Kansas winter, it doesn't matter how big and beautiful my words were, if  planted in the wrong place, they could not survive. Our words have to fit the audience for which we're writing, the overall toneof the piece, and the type of piece it is -- casual or clinical. 


It is tempting to give the prompt:  Bloom where you are planted. But I am weeding that out because it is a cliche, as is my next thought: Big and beautiful. Instead, let's try this: I dashed back and forth.
Give it a try. Send me what you write, and I'll share it with our readers.

CHOCOLATE INKWELL  These Chocolate Mini Dessert Burgers are really cute and easy to assemble. They look just like little hamburgers, but the "buns" are vanilla wafers. Good to make with children or for a birthday or slumber party activity. This recipe is from

Chocolate Mini Dessert Burgers


1 box (12 oz.) vanilla wafer cookies*, divided
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 teaspoon water
3 drops green food coloring
Red and yellow decorating gels (for ketchup and mustard)

1 teaspoon melted butter (optional)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)


RESERVE 48 wafers for bun tops and bottoms.
PLACE remaining wafers in large resealable bag. Crush into small pieces using a rolling pin. Combine wafer crumbs (about 1 1/2 cups) with powdered sugar and salt in medium bowl.
MICROWAVE morsels and milk in medium, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on HIGH (100%) power for 45 seconds; STIR. If necessary, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals, stirring just until smooth.
POUR chocolate mixture into wafer mixture; stir until combined. Cool for 10 minutes. Line baking sheet with wax paper. Roll mixture into 24, 1-inch (about 1 tablespoon each) balls. Place each ball on prepared sheet; flatten slightly to form burger patties.
COMBINE coconut, water and green food coloring in small, resealable plastic bag. Seal bag and shake to coat evenly with color.

PLACE 24 wafers, rounded side down on prepared baking sheet. Top each wafer with 1 burger patty. Top each burger patty with 1 teaspoon colored coconut. Squeeze decorating gels on top of coconut. Top with remaining wafers. Brush tops of wafers with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.
* A 12-oz. box of vanilla wafers contains about 88 wafers.
• Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.
• Cut apricot fruit rollups into small 1/2-inch squares to create cheese for the mini burgers.

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