Monthly Archives: September 2014

Writing Prompt: Talk to a Stranger

Earlier this week I was walking my dog when I crossed paths with a stranger on the sidewalk. It was one of those (awkward) moments when my dog was really determined to sniff a particular parcel of grass so I was standing stiff as the man approached me head on. Here’s what happened next:

At first, I thought he was bald but as he came closer I realized his blond hair was cropped very short. His freckles creeped all the way across the top of his head. Although his clothes were clean and neat, they looked well-worn and possible picked up from the Goodwill a few blocks away.

“Shitzu?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

“How old?”

“She is thirteen years old,” I said proudly.

“Thirteen, really?” he said. “I would have guessed five or six.”

My dog, Ginger, deciding the new human was more interesting that particular parcel of grass, approached the man.

“May I pet her?” he squatted, revealing a shabby military surplus backpack slung over his shoulders as he held out the back of his hand to my 13-year-old dog I still consider a puppy.

“Uh, of course,” I mumbled, not immediately comprehending what he had asked.

“She’s beautiful.”

My dog has never had much interest in strangers and even less in other dogs. When we pass neighborhood dogs on our walks, their owners reeling in their leashes as the dogs bark, growl and buck on their back legs trying to get a sniff of Ginger, she gives them a quick look of curiosity and continues walking forward. So after a quick sniff of this stranger’s hand, she continues walking down the sidewalk. The man stands as I begin to follow my leash.

“Have an excellent day,” he waves an open palm at waist height.

“You, too.”

And that was that. But what if it wasn’t? What if my dog had instantly fallen in love with this guy and stayed to let him pet her? What would he have said next? What would I? Maybe we had a mutual friend or worked in different departments of the same large company. What if we discovered we lived on the same street and he invited me to a neighborhood BBQ he was having next week? The possibilities were endless and it made my mind spin like a child’s imagination when playing with an unlimited amount of Legos.

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So, here is the writing prompt:Think of an interaction you had with a stranger (or keep this in mind for the next time you do) and continue the conversation beyond the point that it ended.

So here is what could have happened, backing up before the goodbye…

“She’s beautiful,” he said.

“Thank you.”

“Do you live around here?” Ginger leaned into his hand, digging deep below her ear.

“Yes,” I said, almost saying the specific street but deciding against it, “do you?”

“Not really,” he said. “I live a couple miles away but got off the bus early to walk. The bus was stuffy.”

“Mmm, I agree its too beautiful a day to waste.”

He looked up at me from his squatting position—I couldn’t believe my dog was staying with him so long—she rarely lets me scratch her ears this long. His smile was quiet and genuine, showing no teeth. “I’m Jamison,” he said, standing up.

“Weird,” I smiled as I shook his hand, “I’m Tequila.”

After such a quiet smile, his laugh was louder than I expected. It was one of those rare laughs that you only come across a handful of times in your life, the type of laugh that makes everyone within earshot smile and everyone in on the conversation laugh along. And I did.

“In that case, I was thinking about stopping at El Loro on my way home, care to join me for a happy hour margarita, Tequila?”

I laughed again at his casual use of my made-up name.

“I actually have someone waiting for me at home.”

“Ahh, of course. You’re too beautiful and funny to be single.” Normally a comment like that from a stranger would have me running in the other direction, but the way he said it was so cool, and casual. It was not a threat, not even a flirt, but simply a compliment, and he did not pause before he continued, “And in that case, I’m having a get-together at my house on Thursday. Just a few friends and neighbors grilling in my backyard. You and your boyfriend should come, and bring this little girl as well,” he said, reaching down and giving Ginger one last scratch behind the ear. She was ready to go now, pulling on the leash I kept short.

“Oh, well, I can ask my boyfriend if he’s free that night.”

“Perfect,” Jamison said, “I’ll give you my address.” He pulled a small notebook and pen out of the cargo pocket on his shorts and scribbled down his address.

“Thanks,” I said, taking the paper he ripped from the notebook.

“Come anytime after six. I promise it will be really casual—bring drinks if you like—and a big enough crowd not to feel like an outsider. Maybe 30 people.”

“Okay.” I pocketed the paper. “Ready to go, Ginger?” and she galloped forward as I let the leash out. “Nice to meet you.”

“And you as well.”

And we both walked our separate ways, both wondering if we’d see each other on Thursday, or ever again.

ginger

My dog, Ginger

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One Summer by Bill Bryson Book Review

In One Summer, author Bill Bryson recounts an in-depth look at a single summer in American history, 1927. With an extremely wide range of topics, lots of backstory, and many follow ups to cover where the events of the summer led. I’ve decided a more appropriate title for the book would be One Summer Plus a Decade in Each Direction. The story doesn’t actually cover two decades but at times it certainly felt like it. It was, in turns, fascinating and deathly boring. The information is certainly overwhelming, especially on the topics that I knew little to nothing about. Yet, at other times (mostly in the second half) there were parts that really captured my interest.

Photo taken from Amazon.com

Photo taken from Amazon.com

Some of the Topics covered:

Aviation race and Charles Lindbergh

Babe Ruth, photo taken from babe-ruth.com

Babe Ruth, photo taken from babe-ruth.com

Henry Ford and the Model T

Babe Ruth and the Yankees

Famous murders throughout the 20’s, including murderer Ruth Snyder

Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly who sat atop a flagpole in Newark, New Jersey, for twelve days

Prohibition

Lead-up to the Great Depression

Jack Dempsey and the popularity of boxing

The rise of “talkies” and the “The Jazz Singer” was released

The creation of Mount Rushmore

Invention of death by electrocution (and its failures)

Uprise of television and popularity of radio

The Prose:

As an avid reader of fiction, this nonfictional account of history often threatened to lull me to sleep. As I listened to the book on audiotape, I can assure you that if I had been reading it on paper, I never would have finished it. There was simply not enough to keep me interested for the long run, not enough hints at what was to come and not enough cliff hangers.

I would have preferred the multiple story lines to interweave more throughout the plot, as they did in real time. The beginning consisted of large chunks of a single event and its backstory, which failed to keep me interested. Near the end of the novel the story lines do interweave more, but if Bryson had incorporated that throughout, I would have been more intrigued. I also never got a grip on what order these events occurred. Sure, we got a lot of dates, but unless I had made myself a timeline, I could not piece that together mentally.

The Newspapers

“So as July dawned on America, in the week that Richard Bird and his team splashed down in France, that New York suffered its first heat wave, that Calvin Coolidge celebrated his 55th birthday by dawning cowboy apparel, that Charles Lindberg took off for Ottawa, that Henry Ford’s minion prepared his apology to Jews, and that the world’s leading central banker was assembled in secret conclave in Long Island, the story that preoccupied the nation was how fit and eager Jack Dempsey was.”

Jack Dempsey, photo taken from latimesblog.latimes.com

Jack Dempsey, photo taken from latimesblog.latimes.com

This quote struck me because of one simple fact: same then as today, the media will focus on what the people are interested in, not what is most impactful on the world/economy/ect.

Bryson clearly gathered a lot of his information from newspaper archives as he often cited the large city newspapers. He often referred to what was on the front cover of the New York Times as well as took direct quotes from various articles. Newspapers are surely a good source of what is consuming the majority but its not always accurate or objective and I tried to keep this in mind while reading Bryson’s account of history.

Recommendation

I would recommend One Summer to any and all history buffs, specifically people interested in aviation, Charles Lindberg, baseball, and Babe Ruth. Although the topic and writing style of the book were not of my particular interest, it was well-written and sure to be a big hit for individuals interested in said topics. 3 stars.

Charles Lindbergh, photo taken from online.wsj.com

Charles Lindbergh, photo taken from online.wsj.com

“Stephen King’s 20 Tips for Becoming a Frighteningly Good Writer”

Stephen King’s 20 Tips for Becoming a
Frighteningly Good Writer

This is an interesting post from Boost Blog Traffic. In a sort, it is a book review of Stephen King’s On Writing. The author of the post, Jon Morrow, takes King’s advice and spins it into advice to specifically target blog writing. The post and On Writing are both a great read for any and all types of writers.

 

Photo taken from Amazon.com

Photo taken from Amazon.com

“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair–the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.” -Stephen King in On Writing

Cameron Diaz’s The Body Book is a book every woman should embrace

The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body by Cameron Diaz is a book everyone, women especially as the book targets them, should not only read but embrace.

Before The Body Book, I had read a “self-help” book of any kind since assigned The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens in high school, but even I can tell this book is completely unique. It doesn’t lay out rules or diets or exercise plans. It informs the reader of the miraculous ways the body works, and how what we eat (as well as what we think and our activity level) affects how we feel mentally and physically. It explains the biological process of digestion in a way the average jane can easily understand.

cameron-diaz-the-body-book

The book is split into three sections; Nutrition, Fitness and Mental Health. Personally, I found the Nutrition section the most interesting because there is so much we don’t know about the foods we eat and the ways it affect our daily lives that I wanted to absorb every bit of it! All three sections were filled with well-researched information and intertwined with Diaz’s own healthy habits and suggestions that really make the ultimate goal seem reachable.

Going into this book with a neutral opinion about Cameron Diaz, I’ve come away with loads of respect for her. Her writing was unexpectedly smooth, informational and entertaining all at the same time. Her friendly, enthusiastic attitude is contagious throughout the entire book. It’s conversational and accepting, never making the reader feel inferior, a difficult thing to do when telling people how to improve themselves.

I read The Body Book in April of this year and I continue to think about the things it taught me on a regular basis. I have adapted some of Cameron’s healthy habits as my own and have a greater respect for my body and the miracle that it is. I am by no means the healthiest eater out there but I am much more aware of how individual foods affect my body and I strive to make healthy choice every day and there’s no doubt that I’ve improved. I have already recommended this book to a handful of friends and although the book clearly targets women, I encouraged my boyfriend to read it (but skip the part about the women’s reproduction system) and he loved it and learned a lot from it as well! Now I’m recommending it to YOU! This could be the first step in a healthier you!

Self-Reflection

The City by Dean Koontz

I am currently reading Dean Koontz’s latest novel, The City, and am absolutely loving it. I do not want it to end. The writing, the story, the characters, the magically dangerous mood, I love it all. If you’re looking for a great read, pick up The City.

Being able to put life’s undeniable, yet simple truths into a novel in a way that does not sound like pretentious rambling is one of my ultimate goals as a writer. Here are a few quotes from The City that I feel do just that.

Photo taken from DeanKoontz.com

Photo taken from DeanKoontz.com

“After you have suffered great losses and known much pain, it is not cowardice to wish to live henceforth with minimum of suffering. And one form of heroism, about which few if any films will be made, is having the courage to live without bitterness when bitterness is justified, having the strength to persevere even when perseverance seems unlikely to be rewarded, having the resolution to find profound meaning in life when it seems the most meaningless.” pg. 134

“When you keep a secret from those closest to you, even with the best of motives, there is danger that you will create a smaller life within you main life. The first secret will spin off other secrets that also must be kept, complicated webs of evasion that grow into elaborate architectures of repressed truths and subterfuge, until you discover that you must live two narratives at once. Because deception requires both bold lies of omission, it stains the soul, muddies the conscience, blurs the vision, and puts you at risk of headlong descent into greater darkness.” pg. 141

“After all these years, I occasionally wonder how my life would have been different if in that fateful moment I had followed my first impulse and had run. But I suppose that what we call intuition is just one of the may ways that the still small voice in our souls speaks to us, if we will listen, and that inner companion wants only what is best for us. If I had run, no doubt what might have happened to me would have been far worse than what did happen,  my losses even greater than they had been, my story darker than the one I’ve lived. And yet I wonder.” pg. 175

Quotes About Reading from Writers

Searching for a semi-forgotten quote is one of the most tedious tasks I have encountered. Thankfully I’m not easily frustrated today. But while I was searching for that semi-forgotten reading quote, I stumbled upon many new, powerful quotes that I am happy to share with you, so I suppose something even more inspiring came out of that lingering quote (that I still haven’t been able to find so please read my ** at the end and help me out if you can!). Most of these quotes came from 40 Inspiring Quotes About Reading from Writers and a few stranglers from other places. Enjoy! 

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“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” — Joyce Carol Oates

“You should never read just for “enjoyment.” Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick “hard books.” Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, “I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.” Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of “literature”? That means fiction, too, stupid.” — John Waters

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” — Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) I certainly don’t hold true to this quote but I find it intriguing because I really do carry my book (almost) everywhere I go and I feel that is a true rarity today. books

“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.” — Nora Ephron

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson  This is true for me and is one of the reasons I enjoy my blog so much. Even though I have only been writing book reviews since January, I already enjoy rifling through my archives and remembering what books I’ve already forgotten. 

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” — James Baldwin

“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.” ― Jane Smiley  As I am also one of these people, I always leave my book on top of my desk where I can easily look over at it and feel at home no matter where I may be.

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” ― Ray Bradbury

A good book has no ending. ― R.D. Cumming

 

**The quote I am searching for is along the lines of… “Some books are meant to be read, enjoyed and tossed aside without thinking too deeply about theme/writing ect.”   Please help me out if you have any ideas!! 

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