Friday, November 2, 2012

Get Your Writing In Order

Here is what I should be doing.
But I also needed to do something about this.

Books always trump laundry so here is what I have been doing: sorting, discarding, and arranging some of the books in my office.

It's been great. I sit at the long folding table with a cup of tea, bring down a small stack of books, and flip through them. It's like revisiting old friends. The hard part is trying not to stop and read. I thought I solved that by making a stack of books to re-read. As you can guess, that didn't work. I edited that stack and gave a few books a MLB (most loved books) section of shelf all their own.

I have a big birthday approaching (Noooo, it is not 30.) so along with reviewing the books, I have been reviewing my life. I have to admit, there were a few days I didn't feel so good about the whole thing. But, eventually, after giving some hard thought, and some honest thought, to what I had really wanted from life, I settled into a place where I now feel pretty good.

When we get past the basics of food and shelter, or maybe even before those, what we all crave is love -- love to give, love to receive. The big things, of course: family, friends, good health. But the small things too: good books, a cup of tea, and a bit of order in our lives.

Is that a writing tip? I think so. Write with love. Write about what you love. And put the date on every little note you scribble to yourself. You will love yourself for it later.

Next time I'll have the orderly bookshelves to show.


Disorderly conduct. In what ways has your conduct ever been disorderly? Ever have a tantrum in public? Leave your clean sheets in the laundry basket until time to change the sheets again? Fast food wrappers on your car floor? Little scraps of notes of your life story scattered among various notebooks? I once received a warrant in the mail for my arrest. Is Albuquerque the only city that mailed warrants for too many traffic tickets. A court appearance improved my driving habits immediately. What about you? Where is or was the disorder in your life?


Wonderful hostess and dear friend, Brenda, invited a group of us to her house for a yummy lunch this week. She had prepared two favorites of every person on the planet: homemade chicken noodle soup and chocolate cake. Here's how great a hostess she is -- when I began doing a little dance in anticipation of chocolate cake, she offered to let me eat cake before soup. I might have taken her up on it except that I also love soup.

Here is Brenda's recipe. I think I may have shared this recipe before when my friend, Judy, told me about it. Brenda's cake was baked in a bundt pan and then sprinkled with powdered sugar. For some reason I had thought this cake could not be made in a bundt pan, but it worked fine and was very pretty.

Cherry Chocolate Cake

1 chocolate cake mix
1 can cherry pie filling
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Mix ingredients and pour into greased and floured bund cake pan. Bake about 45-50 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Note: Use your creativity in choosing any flavor cake mix, pie filling, or a teaspoon of flavoring such as almond or vanilla.

Want to be a part of preventing hunger among senior citizens? For every set of my photo greeting cards purchased, $2.00 is donated to Meals on Wheels. See the cards at Share the love.

All rights reserved 2011 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®

Monday, June 25, 2012

Come With Me

Come With Me

Thumbnail for version as of 22:31, 1 June 2010

Writing Tip

Does the building in this grainy photo look familiar? It's a bit fuzzy because I copied it from Wickipedia. Back when I was in junior high school in Lawton, Oklahoma, this was the junior high school building.

Now why would the building where I attended junior high look familiar to you? Because, while it may have some unique qualities, it also has some universal qualities that all school buildings of the period had.

Recently I was back in Lawton for a few days so I have been thinking about growing up there. Thinking about place.
In our life story writing group, Millie is writing a wonderful story of place -- Yellowstone National Park where she worked as a young woman. Millie was shaped by her time in Yellowstone, just as I was shaped by my time in Lawton, and you were shaped by any number of the places where you have been.

Looking for what other bloggers have to say about writing about place in memoir or life story, I turned to where I found the following article from June 9, 2012:
Journaling for Memoir: Writing About Place — Memoir Writing Blog. And, more recently, in her June 25, 2012 post, Matilda Butler writes about growing up in Oklahoma City and how she was shaped by place.

When you are writing your story, remember that it happened in a place. Tell the reader, "Come with me," and then take us along so we can experience your story with you.

Launching Pad

Here is an idea from the Journaling for Memoir post at Complete the following prompt ten times: "It was the kind of place where . . ."  This prompt seems to me to be a quick way to get to the essence of place. I'm going to give it a try.

1. Lawton was the kind of place where square dances were held on the city parks' tennis courts on hot summer nights.
2. Lawton was the kind of place where everyone went to The Old South cafeteria for lunch after church on Sunday.
3. Lawton was the kind of place where the librairians at the Carnegie Public Library would let an unaccompanied child wander in the adult stacks and even check out books from there.

Chocolate Inkwell

Eclair Cake Recipe

Eclair Cake

There is good news and bad news about today's recipe.

This is a great recipe for summer from because no baking is involved, No oven-heating required; however, it does have to be refrigerated for at least 4 hours before serving.   In a comment she wrote at www.allrecipes.comCathy Gordon says,  
"This is a very quick and simple no bake dessert cake. It uses graham crackers and a pudding mixture. It tastes just like an eclair, but there is enough for a crowd!! It is a great recipe for children who are learning to cook, there is no baking involved or any power kitchen tools. Just a bowl and a spoon!"
  • 2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 (16 ounce) package graham cracker squares
  • 1 (16 ounce) package prepared chocolate frosting


  1. In a medium bowl, thoroughly blend the pudding mix, whipped topping, and milk.
  2. Arrange a single layer of graham cracker squares in the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking pan. Evenly spread half of the pudding mixture over the crackers. Top with another layer of crackers and the remaining pudding mixture. Top with a final layer of graham crackers.
  3. Spread the frosting over the whole cake up to the edges of the pan. The frosting will be easier to spread if the cake is covered and chilled for about 30 minutes before spreading.
  4. Cover, and chill at least 4 hours before serving. 

For more writing tips, launching pads, or your very own workbook to help you write your life story, go to,

All rights reserved 2011 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Cliche You Should Use


A few weeks ago Gentleman Friend and I were in San Diego. We had not visited the city's famous zoo in years so off we went. I had forgotten how huge it is. We hopped on a bus to get an overview of the exhibits.

Later, when we were on foot, we stopped to admire an animal we had never seen, a red panda.

How are you liking the visit so far? Not very interesting is it? And why is that? Because you cannot really see anything. Remember the first rule writers learn: Show don't tell. I have told you we rode a bus and I have told you we saw a red panda, even presented a sign that tells about the red panda. Sheesh! What else do you want?  Oooooh, you want to see the real deal?

Alrighty then. Take a look at this.

And take a look at this. Better?

Yes, we are still using words in our writing, but we must use those words to paint a picture for the reader. Show us the fluffy tri-colored animal relaxing in a tree, four limbs dangling on either side of the tree branch. Show us that red open-air, double-decker bus. Let us hear the gentleman across the aisle, obviously a frequent visitor who knew the name of and esoteric information about every animal and exhibit.

Why is this so hard for writers, myself included? It is because we know the information so well, see it so vividly in our mind, that we forget our reader can't read our mind. Here's a little trick. I'm not sure how good it is for your mental health, but it will work for your writing. I think of it as splitting my mind apart. I stand apart and look inside. Then I write what I see there. Okay, this is sounding weird. Time to wind it up. Just remember to ask yourself: Are the details on the paper or just in my mind?


I felt like a caged animal . . .  What makes you feel trapped, closed in, unable to move? What makes you want to escape? How do you make your break?

CHOCOLATE INKWELL - Does this look like it will make up for last month's trick when you got puppies instead of cookies? This recipe is from and has all my favorite stuff: Marcha White muffin mix (yes, muffin mix), Eagle Brand condensed milk, buttah, pecans, and chocolate -- not necessarily in order of preference. That's what's so great about this recipe. You can have it all at once.

Turtle Fudge Chocolate Chip Cookies
Turtle Fudge Chocolate Chip Cookies
5 oz unsweetened chocolate
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 packages Martha White chocolate chip muffin mix
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup chopped pecans
48 chocolate-covered caramel candies (Werther’s or Rolo’s)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a glass bowl microwave chocolate and butter until melted. Stir together until smooth. Stir in condensed milk, then add muffin mix. Mixture will be thick. Roll into small balls and dip one side into chopped nuts. Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet with nut side up. Bake for approximately 8 minutes, or until edges start to look crinkled. Immediately press a candy into the center of each cookie and press down slightly. Once all cookies have a candy on top, go back and press each candy further into the cookie, allowing the chocolate to melt more. Cool completely before removing from cookie sheet.

Writing your life story is fun and life affirming. Get a group and get started. Write Your Life Story in Eight Weeks Workbook, Second Edition can help. Order it at

All rights reserved 2012 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Don't Let the Sun Set On Bad Writing


These three photos taken a few days ago near San Diego remind me of an essay I wrote last November and re-wrote in February. In my November versions, the tone was unclear and the point was unclear. The opening was too heavy, the second paragraph was too light, and the middle was a muddle. Just like this photo.

The left area of the photo is too light, the couple is too dark, and it isn't clear whether they are facing snow and mountains or ocean and clouds. Besides that, they are looking out of the picture. What's out there? Why isn't it in the picture?

In this second shot, the light parts are still too light, but we can tell it is probably ocean. However, I moved in closer so it looks as if they may have their feet in the water. He is still looking out there at something we can't see. She, meanwhile, has become an unrecognizable lump.

This next picture is both better and worse. The waves are again looking like snow to me, and just as I pressed the shutter button, she looked out of the picture again, and a tiny halo has appeared over her head. Also, they seem to have an odd number of legs. I want them to be "a couple" enjoying the sunset at the ocean. Not gonna happen. I can't move them. I can't move the ocean, the beach, or the sun. In fact, the sun has set.
Lucky for us as writers, we have control over our writing. I think my February version of my essay is considerably better since I gained better control of it.  I figured out I was writing about family and not just making some joke-y play on words that nobody but me even got. I quit expecting the reader to intuit what I intended. I came right out and said what I meant. I shortened that long, heavy opening. Added details so we know whether we're "at the ocean or in the snow." I was able to direct my reader, unlike my couple in the photo, where to look and what to see.

Have you clearly shown your reader the setting? The characters? Their relationship? Have you been clear about what you point you are trying to make?

Don't let the sun set until you have accomplished all those things.

Okay, well, honestly, sometimes it is many sunsets before we are able to accomplish all that. Keep working at it. It's worth it.


As the sun set . . . . It's a cliche but that's our task as writers -- to make something fresh and new from the same old truths. Give it a try. Write for ten minutes or more. Later, revise and rewrite. When you rewrite, you may find you eliminate the original phrase. Doesn't matter.


In case you are still trying to recover from holiday and Valentine's Day excesses, today's Chocolate Inkwell is guaranteed low-cal but with enough chocolate to bring a smile. This is from a calendar for sale at

Just Chocolate Lab Puppies 2012 Wall Calendar -

All other photos by Carol Newman -
There's An Angel In Your Inkwell ®

This is the year to write your life story. Make it more fun with Write Your Life Story in Eight Weeks Workbook, Second Edition, available at

Find more Writing Tips and Writing Prompts at

All rights reserved 2012 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Seriously, It's Not Always Easy

Fern Lake Trail - photo by Carol Newman

When Gentleman Friend and I were in the Rocky Mountains near Estes Park, Colorado  a couple of years ago, we set out on the trail to Fern Lake. We had finished a picnic lunch beside a stream and hadn't really planned on hiking; but, we saw a sign that said Fern Lake trail. "Oh, that sounds pretty," I said. "Let's hike." The trail was narrow and disappeared into the trees and brush. Gentleman Friend motioned me to go first to set the pace. Off I went. I carried a water bottle that was half full -- or half empty, as it turned out. For protection against sun and ticks, I wore a long-sleeved shirt over a tee shirt. The day was very warm. Not a breath of air moved through the looming trees. Soon I removed the denim shirt and drank all my water.

The trail became steeper and rougher. My pace slowed. My breathing increased. "I don't think I can go any farther." We stopped in the middle of the trail. Then we heard voices. "Oh, we must be almost there." We stepped out again.

Soon a several hikers came around a bend. They wore hiking boots, floppy canvas sun hats, shorts, light tee shirts, had several water bottles attached to their back packs, and carried hiking staffs. I stared. Good grief! They were prepared for a serious hike.

"Are we almost there?" I asked between panting breaths. "Oh, maybe half way. It's still pretty far. It's worth the hike.The falls are great." And then they were gone, talking and laughing as they disappeared down the trail.

I bent over, hands on my knees. "I don't think I can make it all the way." Gentleman Friend looked fine, but, because he is a gentleman as well as a friend, he willingly reversed direction. By the time we got back to the car, my hatless head felt fried , any cooling persperation had dried, and I felt light headed. I had some water from the extra bottles in the car and soon felt fine, but I realized how foolish it was not to respect nature and to set off without being prepared.

This memory flooded back recently when a woman interested in writing for publication told me about a writers group she had joined. "They are so serious," she said. "They go over the manuscripts line by line. They rewrite and move stuff around."  Annoyed at her lack of respect for writing as an art, a profession, and a business, I wanted to say, "Duh." Probably the same thing the prepared hikers felt like saying to me.

I'm looking forward to giving it another try this summer. At I learned that the Fern Lake trail is a "moderately difficult" trail, 7.7 mile round trip, and the elevation of the lake is 9530 feet. The first part of the trail closely follows the Big Thompson River but there are other wonderful sights along the way. This time I'll be prepared because, while I still plan to have fun, I'll take it seriously.

Like hiking, writing for publication must be approached with respect and preparation. It's the only way to make it all the way to the Fern Lake of writing -- publication.


Fern. What image does the word fern bring to mind? Have you grown ferns, are you old enough to remember "fern bars?" My across-the-pasture friend, Shirley, before she moved far far away to Alabama, had a beautiful fern she put outdoors in the summer. It stood on a pedastal in a corner of tall white lattice at the entrance to her beautiful garden. Also, although I have never seen ferns in a funeral home, I  think of them in that context. What is your experience, image, or memory of ferns?

Here's how to use the Launching Pad: write uninterrupted for at least ten minutes without worrying about punctuation, spelling, or grammar. Later, return to what you have written and edit, expand, and rewrite as many times as necessary to produce a polished piece.
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To our life story writers group book party in December, Sue brought a jar of homemade hot fudge sauce. What a perfect hostess gift! The following is not Sue's recipe; hers is so utterly fantastacilly delicious, she should be allowed to keep her recipe a secret forever so I did not ask for her recipe. However, I did find the following recipe at I seriously doubt this is as good as Sue's. In the Readers' Comments, one person said she added a bit of salt and one square of dark chocolate so you might experiment with improving it.. I thought about substituting sweetened condensed milk for the evaporated milk. Trader Joe's has an organic sweetened condensed milk. Look for it in a plastic bottle with the packaged milk.


1 6 oz pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 cup)
1/2 cup Pet evaporated milk

Melt chocolate pieces with milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan, stirring over low heat until chocolate melts.

Serve sauce warm over ice cream, cake or pudding. Store unused portion in refrigerator; may be reheated in microwave. Makes 1 cup.

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A friend of a friend is using Write Your Life Story in Eight Weeks Workbook, Second Edition to have conversation/interviews with her grandmother about her life and times. The friend is then documenting the stories in writing. You can do the same for family, friend, or yourself. Go to to order. It's fun. It's easy. It's life affirming.

All rights reserved 2012 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®