These Are a Few of My Favorite Words, Part II

I can’t believe it’s been almost five years ago that I wrote a blog post titled “These Are a Few of My Favorite Words.”  I’d say it’s about time I add a few more words to my list!

My thought was inspired this morning when Steve read me a poem titled, “Aubade in Autumn,” by Peter Everwine. I realized I hadn’t heard the word “aubade” before. At first, I thought it might be someone’s name, but then I looked it up and found it’s a noun:

1. a piece sung or played outdoors at dawn, usually as a compliment to someone.

Isn’t that a lovely word?

autumnThe poem includes another favorite word of mine, “autumn.” Usually, I’d rather use the word “autumn” than “fall” in my writing. Maybe it’s because “autumn” is more poetic than “fall.” Or, perhaps the double entendre of the word “fall” makes me sad, especially when autumn is used as a metaphor for the later season of life. Or maybe it’s simply that the mix of letters in “autumn” is so much prettier than the rather dull F-A-L-L. All I know is, I like “autumn” better.

The same with the use of the word “sea” as opposed to “ocean.” Unless I need a two syllable word (as in attaining the proper syllable count in a haiku,) I’ll almost always incorporate the word “sea” rather than “ocean” in my writing:

she stares at the sea
hope washed away with each wave
she should have been there

And speaking of “aubade,” here’s another favorite of mine:

1. a poem or prose composition, usually describing pastoral scenes or events or any charmingly simple episode, appealing incident, or the like.

So here’s my new “Favorite Words” list:


What are some of your favorite words?

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A Letter from Mo

Signing the deal

This afternoon, I’ve been working on putting together a workbook based on my workshop, Creative Characterization.

One of the exercises involves writing a letter from a character to the author. I’ve done this several times in the past, because it’s a better method of drawing out story and character details than staring at a blank screen. However, I wasn’t able to locate any previous letters from my characters to me.

So, I thought I’d write an impromptu letter from a character in a story that I’ve had a hard time returning to, titled Mo’s Shadow. It’s a story I began writing a few years ago, based on tales a good friend used to tell me about his life on the lake.

My friend committed suicide earlier this year, and as you might imagine, writing that story has come to a stand still. I have no doubt that Mo, my twelve-year old character (who was based on a real little girl who also lived by the lake) is wondering if I’ll ever let her finish her story.

So, this afternoon, Mo wrote me a letter:

Dear Miss Morrill,

You probably don’t think I know that Mr. Dean is dead, though you should know that I know, because you made me up. Well, you made up parts of me, anyway. I also know that Mr. Dean used to tell you stories about me.

So, is that why you haven’t written anything since he died–because you can’t decide for yourself how this story ends if he’s not here to tell you?

Didn’t you make up the part about Bigfoot? He didn’t tell you that part. So, why can’t you make up the rest?

You know, Mr. Dean didn’t say goodbye to me either. He moved away from the lake without even letting me know. After all the apple pies we made together, I thought we were better friends than that. So quit feeling sorry for yourself that he didn’t say goodbye.

We will probably never know exactly why he left us. Nor will we ever know his whole story, no matter how much we wonder. So quit wondering and instead, write. I’ll tell you my story. And Miss Morrill, you never know what you might learn.

I have a feeling my story has changed now that Mr. Dean is gone.

Maybe you were afraid of Mr. Dean. I was at first. But my daddy always tells me, “Darlin’, you got to turn around and face your fears. They won’t be near as scary if you turn around and stare them straight in the eyes.”

It’d be a shame if you were too chicken to tell a story that needs to be told.

Your friend, (and Mr. Dean’s, too,)

I learned from this letter that the story will change. Mr. Dean will leave the lake and she will have to cope with that loss. Perhaps this will help her to see other characters in the story differently. Maybe the 800 lb gorilla I’d avoided while “Mr. Dean” was living will surface in the story.

For now, I’d say Mo is pretty smart for a little girl. I’m guessing that’s why Mr. Dean liked her.


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Steve and I recently joined a new writing group called Wholehearted Writing. It’s not a critique group, but a writing prompt-inspired group.

Last night, our theme was “balance.” Our facilitator, Lindalee, brought three different writing exercises. I especially liked the second one. On this exercise, she asked us to imagine our dominant side asking a question of our non-dominant side. In other words, the dominant hand (right hand for me) would write a question, and the non-dominant hand (left hand for me) would answer.

I took that to mean my “adult” would ask my “child” a question. Here’s a portion of what I wrote:


If you can’t read my non-dominant answer, here it is:

I’m not allowed to cuss, but this side of my brain doesn’t always listen, so here goes. How the heck do you expect me to create new stories when my mind and time is filled with dealing with the legal matters and emotions surrounding the deaths of my mother, uncle and friend? Geez.

My “child” went on to further chastise my “adult” for asking such a silly question, and finally said:

Maybe if you’d let me out more often, you’d get more writing done. But you’re a chicken shit.

Yes, my inner child can be foul-mouthed at times.

But it was a great exercise and I enjoyed hearing what many of the other members of the group wrote. It was interesting how something as simple as changing our writing hand could change/free so many of our personalities.

Give it a try and let me know what you come up with! What question did your “adult” ask, and how did your “child” answer?

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Art Theory According to Jan

Several weeks ago, a friend-who-shall-remain-nameless (you’ll understand the reason for her anonymity as you read on) came over for coffee. During our conversation about a variety of topics, she looked up at the painting that hangs above our fireplace. It’s a piece Steve painted in 2009.


I like abstract art because it makes me think about what I see in the painting. Today, I stared at it from various yoga poses and thought about what my friend said she saw and about what I see and what Steve sees.

That led me to a theory. But I need test subjects to prove (or disprove) my theory. Will you be part of my experiment? Here’s all you need to do:

Before reading further, write in the comments section what you see in the painting . . . if you dare.

This big black space is here to keep you from peeking.

This big black space is here to keep you from peeking.

Okay…did you admit write what you saw in Steve’s abstract art?

Now I’ll tell you what each of us noticed in the painting: my friend, Steve and I. As you’ll note, all three are different:

  • My friend-who-shall-remain-nameless sees phallic symbols. (See why she’s anonymous?)
  • Steve sees people talking on a merry-go-round. He titled the painting “Conversations.”
  • I see elves, laboratory flasks and a half-hidden light bulb.

Now, here’s my theory:

In abstract art, I think people see things that represent what they’re searching for. Here’s my interpretation of what appeared to each of us in the painting:

  • I happen to know that my friend is in search of physical intimacy, thus she sees phalluses.
  • As a licensed clinical social worker, Steve is in constant conversation with people who are often on a metaphorical merry-go-round. Sometimes it’s a challenge to guide them toward getting off the ride.
  • I search for play (the elves), for the courage to experiment (the flasks) and to reveal new ideas (the half-hidden light bulb).

What do you think? Did you see something you might be searching for in the painting? Or did my yoga poses send me into La-la Land?

Hmmm . . .

If you’d like to see other art by Stephen Vanek, click HERE.

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In Celebration of My Siblings

IMG_5388 (2)

I didn’t even know there was such a thing as National Siblings Day, but thanks to my cousin’s post on Facebook, I now know that April 10 is, according to Wikipedia, a holiday recognized annually in some parts of the United States honoring the relationships of siblings.”


Of course I’ve always loved my three sisters and one brother. They’re my siblings. But I’ve never been so grateful for them as I have been in these last few months, following the deaths of our mother and uncle.

26. Christmas 1973

Like typical siblings, we’ve had our differences. When we were little, we yelled, screamed, pulled hair, kicked, bit, pinched, punched, called each other names, locked each other out of the house, tattled, and on and on. As adults, there have even been times we’ve been so angry at each other, we’ve disowned our siblingship. Well, for a little while.

dad and kids

But whenever needed, we all pull together. We support each other, stand behind each other, do what needs to be done to hold our family up. As I look back, we did so even in our childhood. We dealt with the stresses of growing up with humor, even if it was between the yelling, screaming, punching . . . well, you get the picture.

I count my siblings as one of the greatest blessings in my life.

P1000030 (2)

Happy Siblings Day, Cyndie, Kim, Tami and Chuck.

I love you all!


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