Friday, July 31, 2015

Rise and Write Link-Up: Daily Writing Sketches 1-7

Dear fellow writers, here are the very first seven prompts (ideas of sketches) that I offer you to write this week. The link-up will be open for 7 days, and you can either write all 7 sketches at once and link them all together, or write one daily, or 2-3 at once, then take a break... do whatever works for you! I like the idea of writing both fiction and non-fiction - feel free to write either about yourself, or about your fictional characters. Don't think too much - they are supposed to be impromptu! You may link as many posts as you want - one with all prompts or seven (one prompt per post).
Happy writing!

Write about the first thing you see when you open your eyes in the morning. Is it something in your room? Is it a photograph? A cat? A person? The world outside of your window?

Write about the first bouquet of flowers you received (or gave to someone). What flowers they were? Do you remember their smell? Were they from a garden, field, market? You may also write about the flowers you did not receive (or gave) – of a disappointment. A friend of mine said to me once that it was her idea that when she gets married, she would wake up on her birthday, and there would be flowers on her pillow. She never told her husband that dream of hers, but was really surprised to wake up to no flowers on her pillow, and was deeply disappointed. You don’t have to write a true story – invent a character if you like.

Write about your first visit to a dentist – or the most memorable one. Do you remember the dentist’s face, voice, the smell of the office? Do you remember your pain, fear, or a pleasant feeling of knowing that you are taking a good care of your teeth? You don’t have to write about yourself – write about your child’s visit, or about your character’s visit.

Write about a tree (or another plant) that you see from your window. What kind of tree it is? How tall it is? Does it bear fruit or berries? Is it a home to birds or small animals? If not, could it be a home to mythical creatures? What would you think of it as a child?

Write about an act of kindness that made you look differently at what kindness is and maybe look differently at life. What was the situation? Maybe it was in your childhood, or maybe it happened last week. Maybe you were the person who was being kind, when someone needed it the most, and maybe did not expect it. If nothing comes to mind, invent!

Write about your favorite dish as a child. Do you still remember the taste of it? The smell? The texture? Who was cooking it? What ingredients they used? Did they say anything while cooking? Where it was? How old were you?

Write about your morning ritual. You wake up… then what usually happens? Write about how your body feels, what you think about, what you like to do, to eat or drink the first thing in the morning. It does not have to be about you. Write about your character if you prefer – what is their morning routine?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rise and Write: Daily Writing Sketches

I find myself more in the writing mood lately, than in the creating outfits mood. Good! After all, I started this journey about two years ago with this particular goal, or better say, dream in mind - start living the life I've been dreaming of for many years, a writing life. In many ways, I've done it. Now, looking back at these two years, I can definitely say that I've done it. I started with reading books about writing (I might make a post about them in the future) - encouraging books, kind books, books that became not only my mentors, but also my friends. I've been writing stories (mostly in my native language). And I also started writing in English - a language that I do not know very well, as I am basically self-taught in it, and it was a huge leap of trust to just dive in and start writing my first blog in English. I remember when Justin mentioned the possibility for me to write a blog in English, I thought he went mad. Me? Writing in English? Never! And yet, now, almost two years later, I write in English practically every day, still with errors, of course, but getting stronger with every post - and most importantly writing with true joy and freedom, and that's exactly what it's all about... about liberating your soul from fears. And as another leap of trust, I started writing fiction, short stories in English, and even initiated a link-up that is going very well. At first, I worried a little about the idea of limiting myself with an "opening phrase" for each story. But in the end, I find that it actually helps and I have no problem at all to start writing, to feel inspired, to work with the particular phrase, let it tell me a story - the story that would probably not happen, if not for that phrase.

So all of my almost two years of experience of becoming a writer (in English - because I've already been a writer in my native language, writing since a very early age, and published since the age of 12) lead me to a new idea. One of the things I've done in the past, in one of my Russian blogs, was daily writing sketches (or exercises, if you will). Initially, I wanted to do them every day for a year, but in the end, I've accomplished a little over a month of such daily sketches (34, I believe). Some of them became short stories or flash fiction, others became essays, while still other remained simply that - sketches. The idea behind them was to get in the habit of writing daily, and I still consider that project a success, even though I did not complete the whole year of writing them. But they did their job - after a long period of not writing regularly, they brought me back to my true love of writing... After that, I found a book by Barbara Abercrombie called Kicking In the Wall - A Year of Writing Exercises, Prompts and Quotes to Help You Break Through Your Blocks and Reach Your Writing Goals. Again, I've completed over a month's worth of prompts, and it helped me to keep my pencil sharp. I love the main idea - keep your exercises 5 minutes short! If you happen to want to write more, then go ahead and do it, and if not - then that's it. Do not stop and edit yourself, write for the whole 5 minutes - that's Barbara's approach. Some of your 5-minute exercises will lead you to creating essays, stories or even novels - who knows where they'll take you. And others, well, they will be just that - exercises.

So I've decided to combine these two ideas, my old idea of daily sketches, and Barbara's idea of 5-minute prompts, and start a new link-up here, on the blog that I started last year for this particular reason, to get into a writing life. The rules are simple. Every morning, I will offer a theme (prompt), most probably random, borrowed from the outside world, from my dream, from a dictionary or a random book on my bookshelf, and post it here on this blog. If you, like me, want to get into writing habits and feel that such exercises help you, by all means, create a post in your blog, write for 5-10 minutes whatever comes to mind (you can edit it after all, but not during those few minutes of writing a sketch) - and link it to my post. I also will write and post my sketch on the same day. So we can share, encourage and hopefully help each other. I call it Rise and Write - meaning, get up, have your first cup of coffee, and somewhere between that cup of coffee and brushing your teeth, sit down to write. Just for 5 or 10 minutes. I think we all can manage it, can't we? And if you don't find my prompt inspiring (it happens!), then come up with your own, or change mine to the form that inspires you - and write. Only 5-10 minutes, no more. Don't worry about it being perfect, finished or polished. They are sketches! They are not meant to be finished or polished - they are meant to be improvisations, free form, imperfect! We'll take it a short block at a time, not the whole year (seems like forever when you  think that you'll be doing it for 365 days in a row). We'll start on August 1st. Deal? :)

PS And Justin and I paid for participating in the Writer's conference today - two full days of classes in October!

Fish Wish. Write and Link #1

Book illustration by Nikolai Kochergin, 1974 (source)

For this and the previous post, I'm copying my two stories written in English for my creative writing (short fiction) link-up Write and Link which is open to all writers on my other blog, In the Writer's Closet. I've decided that it'll keep things more straightforward if I publish all of my fiction on this blog. This one was written for Write and Link #1: I Opened My Eyes. It Was Pitch Dark Around Me.

Flash drama by Natalia Lialina

Pitch dark and very quiet.
The smell of oak,
sounds of squeaky wood,
waves and seagulls in the distance.
Yemelya and Liz, a guy and a girl, 25-ish.

WOW! It’s pitch dark…

Yep! I opened my eyes, but it’s like I didn’t.

And what’s with the smell? It’s so stinky… I can’t breath…

It’s just oak smell, babe. Ouch!

Sorry, didn’t mean to poke you! Is there any light here? Ouch!

Sorry! Guess I stepped on you.  No, it’s always dark here, babe.

Stop calling me babe. Where did you get that?

Movies. Cool guys always call their girls babe.

The Gypsy. Write and Link #2

Gypsy by Konstantin Makovsky (1839-1915). Oil, date unknown (source)

For this and the next post, I'm copying my two stories written in English for my creative writing (short fiction) link-up Write and Link which is open to all writers on my other blog, In the Writer's Closet. I've decided that it'll keep things more straightforward if I publish all of my fiction on this blog. This one was written for Write and Link #2: When Suddenly I Saw.

The Gypsy
Story by Natalia Lialina

It was the last day of my short European vacation. The weather had turned blustery. I was walking down the gray stone steps that lead down the embankment to the Vltava River, when suddenly someone patted me lightly on the back. I turned my head and saw an old gypsy woman, wearing ragged clothes. Colorful mismatched layers (as we’d call them these days): a raspberry shirt, a vest with torn lace hanging down freely as fringes, a jacket which has known better days, a tiered long skirt and a couple of brightly patterned scarves – one on her head, another wrapped around her wide hips. Yellow gold earrings, bracelets and rings – such rich yellow gold as is not known or praised much by most of us Westerners. Her face was all wrinkly, her hair was pitch black, but what really drew me in were her eyes – they were stark blue, spooky blue. “I had no idea Gypsies could have blue eyes,” I almost said to her, but didn’t. There was something both appealing and intimidating about her, and I just stared at her face, not able to say a word.

The Essence. Write and Link #3

Bathing of a Red Horse by K. Petrov-Vodkin (1878-1939). 1912 (source)

The Essence
Story by Natalia Lialina

Part 1

It was one of those endless summer days in the middle of July when the city was melting – the asphalt pavement became liquid from the heat, and many busy citizens left the stone jungle in a hurry – family trips to the sea, to the river, to the lake or to the nearest pond green with algae, frogs croaking cheerfully, declaring their rightful ownership of the place.
Ivan Petrovich was sitting on a chair in the middle of his little narrow kitchen, more reminiscent of a corridor than a room, dressed only in his muscle shirt and boxer shorts, called in his native tongue “family trunks”, though Ivan Petrovich did not have either a family, or any significant other, neither did he have any significant muscles, and his life was as far from boxing as one’s life could be. He was sitting on the old wooden chair in the middle of the narrow kitchen, with the window wide open, street noise filling the small apartment, which also contained, other than the oddly shaped kitchen, a small living room and an even smaller bedroom. The forth room in the apartment was the smallest of them all – a bathroom, which was practically useless now when it was needed the most. While the only thing that could save Ivan Petrovich from the exhausting heat of his little corner of the stone jungle was a refreshingly cool shower, as it was so accustomed to doing in his homeland, the hot water was blocked on this day due to maintenance in preparation for the cold season, for a whole two weeks, and Ivan Petrovich really did not feel like an icy cold shower, despite the fact that his neighbor Pyotr Ivanovich highly recommended that he do precisely this, at least twice a day, once in the morning, and once again just before bed time – ‘good for the body, good for the mind’, as he repeated with enviable regularity. Ivan Petrovich had not noticed what good this ritual had done for Pyotr Ivanovich body or mind though – as they both lived in similar apartments right above one another, went to similar offices to shovel similarly boring mounds of paperwork on a daily basis, and received similarly humble paychecks once a month. The one difference between them would be that Pyotr Ivanovich did possess some sort of muscles, but that fact was probably more due to his highly disciplined custom to move around weights in the sweaty and loud gym that had opened in the basement of their apartment building a couple of years ago. Which did not save Pyotr Ivanovich from catching the flu last winter, and did not save Ivan Petrovich from running to the pharmacy on the corner to get some flu medicine and vitamin C for his less fortunate, though highly disciplined neighbor.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Солнечное сплетение

Вера Васильевна работала в школе учительницей – вела литературу у ребят в средних классах. Она была покладиста, добра к окружающим, отзывчива к чужим бедам, умела порадоваться за других и всегда была первая в общественно-полезных обязанностях, которые с облегчением скинули на ее плечи сослуживицы без тени сомнения – конечно, что же еще делать Вере Васильевне, как не заниматься общественно-полезным трудом в свободное от работы в школе время? Семьи у нее не было, жила она одна и стремительно старела, особенно, как казалось им, в последние пару лет. Вера Васильевна была незлобива по натуре, и хотя коллеги по работе никогда не озвучивали мысли в ее адрес вслух, она читала их как по ладони. Вот вы бы обозлились, если бы на вас, мой читатель, свалили общественно-полезный труд, считая, что ни на что большее вы все равно дано уже не годитесь? Наверное, кто-то бы и обозлился. А кто-то бы и нет. Вера Васильевна нет. Свободное время у нее все равно оставалось – оно у всех, в общем-то, остается после всех дел, общественно полезных или не очень. В эти драгоценные часы она читала. Когда-то давным-давно, в советские еще времена, ей досталась по великому счастью, можно сказать, что в наследство от нежно относящейся к ней такой же одинокой соседки, полное собрание Библиотеки всемирной литературы. Вы помните, наверное, томики ее можно было достать, после того как сдашь энное количество макулатуры, ну или, что называется, по блату. У Веры Васильевны и ее соседки Нины Андреевны никогда не было столько макулатуры, чтобы собрать мировую литературу – но ей хватало, чтобы приобрести томики советских писателей. Блата у нее не было – какой там блат в самой обычной советской школе, что вы – да вы и сами все понимаете. А у Нины Андреевны блат был – была она уже давненько на пенсии, но в свое время служила секретарем у зампредседателя местного поселкома. А это, и вы, наверное, тоже понимаете, большое место – нет, не секретарское, конечно, а зампредседателя. И зампердседателя была на редкость раполагающая, можно даже сказать, душевная женщина, и привязалась к Нине Андрееевне, которую иначе как Ниночка не называла, как к родной сестре. Поэтому можно сказать, что блат был, а можно, что связи были, а можно, что просто очень повезло Нине Андреевне, а можно, что она попала под крылышко к хорошему человеку – как вам больше нравится, так и считайте.