List #3 of writing by association

Hi everyone,

Yesterday I chose WEEDS from List #2 to start my List #3. Here it is.

List #3

From the 30 possible writing ideas on all three lists my favorite three are: honeybees, mud, and pond.

I can imagine writing about honeybees needing those blooming weeds we like to cut down for the nectar they need to stay alive. I know I could write a poem here. But I could also get into a nonfiction story (book?) about the honeybee. After all, it’s the most important insect humans encounter and the only one that produces food that we consume.

I can imagine writing about the many qualities and uses of mud: from pigs wallowing to riverbanks swarming with butterflies to women taking mud baths for their health. Hmm. Makes me think of the days when I lived on a farm and loved watching gigantic sows wallowing in mud, the air thick with flies and the gagging odors of uneaten slops. I might prefer those butterflies on the riverbank. Maybe a butterfly story.

But I can also imagine writing about a pond: bustling community on a summer day; covered with leaves in the fall; frozen over and skated on in winter; frog croaks of promise in spring. What about a story told by a pond describing its year? Or a 4-part poem? Or I could write a nonfiction story about the role ponds play on a farm. Or maybe get into the community that lives in, above, and around a pond. Wow!

What a decision! I just can’t decide right now. Give me another day. If you have been making your own lists, you may be struggling too. I promise to post my decision tomorrow. After that it’s going to take some time before I get back with you about what I wound up writing. If it’s a poem, I’ll post it here. Otherwise, the result will probably be between my agent and me.

Let the poems pour

Hi everyone,

So far this month’s word challenge, RAIN, has inspired a good range of very readable poems by Susan Bickel, Jeanne Poland, Linda Boyden, Mary Nida Smith, Bryn Strudwick, Cory Corrado, Jane Yolen, Susan Hutchens, Jesse Anna Bornemann, and Cheryl Harness. Am I missing anyone? When you post your poems under the box for Adult W.O.M. Poems, I can find them easily when I go searching for the month’s poets. When you post them under comments on a day when you’re ready, I’m likely to miss them when I’m summing up. It’s always your call as to when and where you place them, of course. I’m happy either way.

You have five days remaining in which to create rain-based poems to share with the rest of us. So far this month our number of participants is down a bit so spread the word to all laggards, sluggards, dawdlers, loafers, idlers, slouchers, indolents, and faineants with good intentions to hie themselves to their nearest pen and cozy up to their muses. One new poem each day would be lovely and two would be even grander.

Oh, the picture? That’s my friend Cory Corrado. We met in 2011 at my Highlights poetry workshop. She’s one of my favorite people and that’s one of my favorite pictures. My muse went crazy with all that wonderful material to ponder!

Thoughts from Lake Wobegone

Hi everyone,

During Garrison Keillor’s Saturday night performance at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, he gave the news from Lake Wobegone, one of his long running standards, and awarded the audience with one laugh after another. He went on for at least fifteen minutes without a hesitation and without a script or cue cards.

A key to his hilarious (apparent) ramblings is that he’ll start a story, wander off on what seems like a rabbit trail, and suddenly come back to tie in the older story to the newest one. I won’t remember them all but during the course of his news report he spun tales that involved (1) Babe Ruth who came through at the end of his career playing on a traveling exhibition team and hit a homer so hard and far it cleared the park and landed in a cornfield and town kids searched for it forever but no one ever discovered it; (2) his first girlfriend when he was 13 and she was 14 with whom he had a one-time fling; (3)a statue on the public square that suffered damage during a tornado that blew a bean pod into its left ear and the plant took root and started growing there; (4) a man who flew 41 missions during the Vietnam war but upon coming home fell on hard times and into hard ways, eventually became the town drunk and wandered over to the next community and took up with a woman who had an artificial leg, no hair, and an eye that popped out, which caused his wife to leave him, whereupon he took up serious drinking, lost his house to the bank, and moved to the woods where he drank and lived as a hermit; (5) his Scout master taking him and other boys to the woods in January and left them to camp out and “toughen up” in a tent in 30 degrees below zero weather and during the night he needed to go to the bathroom but came from a family that valued modesty so he walked so far from the tent that he lost his way. There was much more but you get the idea.

My guess is that when Keillor sits down to create one of his shaggy dog reports, he might start by making a list of half a dozen or so totally unrelated and equally implausible situations. In this case a partial list might be:
1. Babe Ruth coming to Lake Wobegone and hitting a homerun so hard that the ball was never recovered.
2. A “wrestling” match with his girlfriend that turned friendlier than he’d expected.
3. A statue with a bean sprout coming out of its ear.
4. A war hero who becomes the town drunk and falls for an equally unfortunate woman in the next town.
5. A wacky scout master who leaves boys stranded in the woods in a tent in the dead of a bitter January.

Now imagine tying every one of those improbable yarns together in some way by the end of your report. That’s the genius of Garrison Keillor. He may or may not tell the story the same way every time but he knows where he is, where he is going, and how he is going to get there. It’s a brilliant form of entertainment.

It is also a tempting writing prompt! I think I’ll try this sometime — start with a list of off-the-wall posits and see if I’m clever enough to bring them together. Not to try to be like Keillor. I don’t think anyone can do that or should. But as Ruth Culham says in her book, WRITING THIEF, we learn from masters and so we get better.

All I know is that I had a fine time at the Starlight Saturday night.