Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Rise and Write: Prompts 50-56. Week 8

Happy October, writers! 

Welcome to the 3rd month of daily writing sketches! I am glad we made it so far! I wanted to drop it more than once, but thanks to you I see that it actually really helps - not only helps finding the time to write (I now am absolutely convinced that I can write anywhere, any time, on any given subject - which is, frankly, a huge part of being a writer, a huge part of craft). But I find that it also helps with the growth as a writer - it's like when you are a runner, there comes the time when you feel like you can't run any more, and then you catch second breath (or second wind?) - you find more new energy within yourself, and running becomes easy. I still have lots of things to learn about writing (English grammar and vocabulary would be a couple of such things), but I learned that I can catch my inspiration whenever I want to - I learned that I can write on demand. And this is HUGE.

Here are the new 7 prompts for your inspiration, and please do share what you've been learning during these past two months of intense almost-daily writing.

Prompts 50-56. Week 8

Write about fingers (or toes). Do they belong to your character? Are they lean and long “artistic” fingers, or short and chubby? All of them in place? What are they good at?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

Write about a queen. Is she a real figure in history or a fantasy character from your favorite fairy tale? Is there some thing about her you find admirable or enviable? Is there something that you dislike about her or her status?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

Write about a door – wooden, glass, heavy, tall, Dutch door, garage door or a magic door (Open, Sesame)…
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

Write about a village, real rural countryside. Do you idealize it as many writers and poets have done? Or, as Agatha Christie, see its dark side?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

Write about changing seasons, that very particular time in the year cycle when it is not Autumn yet, but already passed Summer…
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

Write about a suitcase. Is it a brand new thing from a department store, a charming vintage or a ragged old thing that saw the world? Describe its smell, shape, feel…
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

Write about feeling sorry for something you have done or something you have not done. Remember that you can always use your character!
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

#46 Chores; #47 Bird; #48 Wrinkles

Write about housework chores, such as vacuum cleaning or mowing the grass. Who did it in your childhood home? When you were introduced to this work first? Is it something you enjoyed doing or tried to avoid at any coast?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

You know what I want? I want to learn to love chores. I mean, truly, to stop resenting them and not just that, but finding poetry in doing them! It’s very hard for me. I am out of shape, that’s the reason number one – it is just physically very challenging to do housework for me. My head is full of creative ideas, and I’d rather be working on them than cleaning the floors, that’s another reason. And there are more, but the point to me is not in counting reasons why you hate doing something, but in finding a way to stop resenting and even finding a way to do them that will bring me joy. I know some people focus on the result – they look forward to the result (clean house), and it somehow makes it OK for them to actually do all the chores. I understand, but it does not do the trick for me. Other people just tell themselves that once it’s done, it will be over, and they will be able to enjoy whatever it is they actually want to do. Not a bad way, but again, somehow it's not helping me. Once I read a post by a woman whose approach to cleaning the house was the most inspiring of all – the most creative and I even want to use the word “artistic”! She lit candles, played relaxing music while cleaning her home – she took it as a meditative, creative, and truly cleansing process! It's hard to impress me when it comes to cleaning, but there I was really impressed. Cleaning your home, the sacred place where you enjoy being, enjoy sharing life with the people you love, enjoy creating whatever you love to create, can be actually such a beautiful process, similarly to cleaning your tired mind or exhausted soul, or aching body. It can be as beautiful as having a spa day. Banya for the house!

10 min

Write about a bird - the one you have (or had as a kid), or a magical bird from a fairy tale that you love, or a bird that visits your yard and teases your cat.
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

Excerpt from my fairy tale

Anya walked in the snowy wintry woods, feeling all cozy in her cute little coat and valenki*, wearing mittens and a long scarf which Chickenleg House made for her, when suddenly she heard someone coughing. She looked around and couldn’t find anyone, but then she heard it again… cough... cough, cough…
“It’s me, Anya, Snegir **, can’t you see me? Look up!”
“Oh hello dear Snegir, and I was wondering to myself, who is coughing? Did you catch cold, poor fellow?”
“There is that, a little.”
 Anya took the woolen scarf from her neck and handed it to the bird.
“Here, wrap it around your neck, that’s what mama taught me to do when catching cold. It will warm up your sore throat. You will feel better in no time!”
“Thank you, Anya, you are such a kind little girl,” said Snegir and wrapped the scarf around his neck.
“But wait a minute, take this bunch of frozen berries with you, they will prove being useful some day.”
With these words, Snegir handed a bunch of bright red berries to Anya.
“What should I do with them?”
“Just keep them in your pocket. Don’t worry, they won’t go bad. They are not just some frozen berries, but rather magic little things. They will keep till Summer and help you one day. You will know when you need them.”
And Anya did just what the kind Snegir told her. She put the bunch of bright red berries in her pocket and saved them until she needed their magic power.

* valenki - traditional Russian woolen (felt) boots.
** Snegir (from the word "sneg" which means snow) is a Russian name of Eurasian bullfinch, a pretty small bird with bright red tummy which is very visible in the snow.

10 min

Write about wrinkles - yours or on someone's face, or maybe your character's. What stories wrinkles can tell?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

A kind wrinkly face looked at her, and she sensed the open, wise spirit from its features, and even some sort of loveliness which is usually hard to describe, but one can feel it with their heart, or maybe with something bigger than a heart. It was as a choir of angels was singing from every little wrinkle passing through this lovely face which only a sleeping one could describe with this quick meaningless word – “old”. The silver voices sounded so harmonious – as if someone’s healing hands held her whole being, softly touching the very core of what was her soul.

5 min

#32 Number; #34 Reptiles; #42 Leaf

I looked up all the prompts we've done in August and September, and found out that I missed 8. I posted one earlier today, and in the evening I had a sort of writing marathon and wrote 6 more prompts while waiting for my daughter who was having a dance class. I post three here, and another three in the following post. So I am down to only one missed prompt, wahoo! It feels great to catch up like that! 

P.S. Later tonight, I will post 7 new prompts for the first week in October, so tomorrow we will be ready to start a new month!

Write about a number that is significant in your life. Maybe it’s your lucky number, or the opposite. Maybe you feel connected to a certain number and see definite patterns in your life (or your character’s life).
OPTIONAL: Work on your own fiction, without the connection to the topic. Share what you are working on.

I remember as a kid, my cousins and I used to pick favorites. Favorite color, favorite letter of the alphabet, favorite number – you name it, we categorized everything! Since this little piece of writing is supposed to be about numbers, I will only tell you that my favorite number since my childhood was 9. Why? I don’t know really, maybe because there is 9 in my birthday date. I think a bit later, when I learned about numerology as a young person, I learned that 6 is significant for me – it’s the sum of all other numbers of my name. And I have to say I always liked 6, probably because 6 as a written symbol is an upside down 9. One way or another, these two numbers are my favorite numbers, or my lucky numbers if you will, and the fact that one of the great songs by sexy Bryan Adams is called Summer of 69, does not hurt either.

5 min

Write about reptiles. Most people have very strong feelings towards them – either love or hate them. Which are you? (Or your character?)
OPTIONAL: Work on your own fiction, without the connection to the topic. Share what you are working on.

Not being a hater of snakes, I have to say it is still a little difficult for me to understand people who love snakes or frogs to the point they have them as pets in their homes. It is not difficult to understand that they admire the exotic beauty and mystique of snakes, and no, it is not difficult to understand at all when people adore cute little frogs or lizards. But to have a pet that I can’t really pet seems a little should I say "restricting" to me. I would definitely have more appreciation for reptiles as pets if they were fluffy and fuzzy as kittens are! We just took our kittens to a surgery, and their poor little tummies were shaved, which makes them so vulnerable, a little snake-like really. I can’t wait when they grow all their fur back, and we don’t need to be extra careful about petting their thick, soft fur again.

5 min

Write about a leaf turning color. Is it still up on the tree or did you find it under your feet? What’s its journey?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

The most gorgeous leaf turning color I’ve seen was a huge maple leaf fallen from a giant maple by our beach house. Those leaves were truly amazing, reminding me of paintings made by artists. Their size was also quite remarkable. They were bigger than our then 6 years old daughter's head who liked to gather a bouquet of the giant artistic maple leaves to bring to school to share with other kids and teachers. The leaves bigger than a little girl’s head in all hues of yellow, orange and red all at once, as if they were the palette of an impressionist, are one of the brightest memories I have about our living in the tiny hut on the beach.

#33 Happy Day

Write about a happy day from your childhood. Where are you? With whom? What’s going on? What made this day so memorable?

OPTIONAL: Work on your own fiction, without the connection to the topic. Share what you are working on.

It is not easy to choose a particular happy day from my childhood - there were so many of them! But maybe the correct thing to say would be that I remember rather many moments of my childhood, and not whole days. I remember lots of laughter and light. I don't know why but when I think of my childhood, despite some challenging times, I do remember mostly how absolutely happy it was and how it was filled with light. Mama, Papa, Andrei and I taking walks - long walks in the fields and sometimes woods near our small town, because that's what doctor prescribed for mama's health condition.  Mushroom hunting with papa - he is such a mushroom hunter, and I went to many all-day hunts with him. Mom likes to add that she would fill papa's backpack with food, so I wouldn't get hungry - when he hunts alone, he never takes food with him. Papa taught us, Andrei and I, to never tear off a mushroom with its roots, only very precisely cut the stem, or the leg of a mushroom, with a small pocket knife (he would give each of us a knife and make walking sticks from the branches he'd found in the woods) - so we never destroyed whole families of mushrooms growing under the earth, as the individual mushrooms are connected with each other... I remember how I absolutely adored my brother and wanted to play with him endlessly. He was and still is such an inventor with wild imagination and a great and very kind sense of humor. When I faced the "real world", the world outside of my family, I was struck by how many people see humor in cruel or insensitive jokes or comments. Even later yet, I realized that the family I grew up in is one of a kind, I still did not see any family like mine, except for the one Justin and I created together. It's not to say that they don't exist, but that they are extremely, extremely rare... Sometimes I think that I must write only because of this unique vision of life that I got growing up in my family.

9 min

September Make-up Link-up (I will try to link up more today, even if they'll be short and diary-like... I have 7 prompts that I've missed in August/September.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fork in the Road - Write and Link #5

Rowan Leaves and Hole by Andy Goldsworthy (born 1956) (source)

Fork in the Road
Short Story by Natalia Lialina

Linked up with Write and Link #5

Someone knocked at the door – first quietly as if they were apologizing for an inappropriately late disturbance, then louder, with impatience and even a tone of demand. Melanya got up from her warm spot up on the Russian stove.
“Who is it at such a late hour?” she asked cautiously.
“Forgive us, dear sister, could we please stay overnight?”
The voice which asked for shelter sounded like no voice Melanya had ever heard before – in the intonations of the stranger there was something calming, something promising peace. The night was blustery, and Melanya had a tender spot in her heart for travelers who were far away from their familiar bed. She lit a candle and with very little hesitance opened the door. Two pilgrims appeared in front of her. One was tall, skinny, with big gray eyes which had a strange light in them as if they were illuminated by a magic lantern. The other one was short and a bit chubby, with small brown eyes that seemed annoyed or maybe just tired. Both were wearing long black cassocks which Melanya knew unmistakably were monk’s habits.
“Good night, dear sister, and thank you for being so kind to us exhausted strangers,” said the tall monk. “I am brother Timofei, and this is brother Dimitri.”
“Come in, have a seat, take a load off your feet,” said Melanya closing the heavy door behind them.
She opened a woven basket in which was half of the day’s loaf and offered the bread and some water to the monks. They broke the half-loaf in equal parts and ate it quickly, drinking water from the copper drinking ladle.
“Thank you, dear sister. We haven’t eaten since yesterday morning,” said brother Dimitri as he looked around the humble hut.
The home was clean and small, almost tiny, though enough for one person to be comfortable. Other than the warm spot on the top of the Russian stove, it only had two hard wooden benches to accommodate the sudden visitors. As they finished the late supper, they washed and wiped off their faces with a clean towel that Melanya offered them, and thanked the woman. Melanya snuffed out the candle that had made a dim light in the otherwise dark hut, wished the monks good sleep and went to bed. Sleeping in one room with the monks seemed somehow both a little strange and at the same time very peaceful.
“God, forgive me,” she whispered and fell deeply asleep.  

This year's had been a long and unusually hot summer, and the farmer's job had been far more difficult to complete than in years past. But as the leaves started turning yellow at the end of August, it had become stormier and colder, as if Mother Nature had finally awakened and remembered that it was time to cool down and to bring some rain to both the fields, exhausted by heat and drought, and the farmers, exhausted by heat and work. It seemed Mother Nature knew it was time to give the earth some long awaited relief from the fires that had killed so many crops and woods in the neighboring villages. As the long delayed rain cleansed the air, the villagers had danced in the showers and stretched their hands up to the sky, crying and laughing with joy, tears on their faces, both from their eyes and from the merciful forces of nature.

“Do you live here alone, sister?” asked brother Dimitri in the morning.
“All alone, brother, I’m a widow,” said Melanya.
“And how big is the village?”
“A dozen houses.”
“How-come yours is so far from the rest?”
“My husband, God forgive his sinful soul, liked to live by himself, mind his own business.”
“Say, dear sister, what happened to him?” asked brother Timofei.
“Got drunk, as always. Drowned in the river. It was a hot summer.”
Melanya pressed her lips tightly together, and brother Timofei stopped questioning her any further.
“Do you mind, dear sister, if we stay here one more night before we continue our long journey again?”  
“There is enough room, stay if you like.”

So the two monks stayed one more day and one more night, helping the young widow with her small farm, cutting and putting away firewood for the stove and even cooking a hearty dinner.
“I see they teach you everything in the monastery – you are not afraid of any work, not even ashamed of women’s jobs,” said Melanya as the three of them sat down to have some rest and a well deserved meal.
Brother Dimitri only grinned.
“There is no such a thing as a woman’s job,” said brother Timofei. “Not when you’re a monk. Work is work. It’s all the same in the eyes of God.”
They continued their meal in silence, and after cleaning the dishes off the chunky wooden table, Melanya, as always, scraped the surface of the table with an old knife. When Brother Dimitri left the hut, his fellow monk said to Melanya,
“Say, dear sister, what happened to you? I noticed you have deep scars on your right arm. And please forgive me for saying so and don’t get angry, but there is a rip on your pretty underskirt, as if you cut a part of it.”
A dark cloud fell over Melanya’s pretty face as she shifted her thick eyebrows together. Was brother Timofei who seemed such a kind soul only pretending to be a monk, God’s servant, while in fact he was like any man in the village, looking at her underskirt? A wolf in sheep’s clothing?
As if brother Timofei read her mind, he rushed to say quietly,
“Forgive me, sister, I see that my words offended you. I will not speak of it again.”
After the long day filled with work, Melanya prepared a steam bath, a good old Russian banya, to honor the unexpected helpers. With birch brooms prepared by her late husband that summer, the monks had a proper steam bath and a good night's sleep. Only Melanya could not fall asleep. The tall monk’s words sounded in her ears, not letting her fall asleep peacefully, as she usually would after a good day of work and a good rest in banya.
The monks got up with the first roosters. Melanya offered them a loaf of freshly baked bread and a jug of milk for their journey. How far they would travel, how many days or weeks - God only knew. When the young widow again had a moment alone with brother Timofei she said, “Come with me first. It’s not too far from here. Then you’ll continue your journey."
Walking through wind-fallen trees they arrived at the edge of a river. The water, which flowed slowly where the small wooden houses of the village decorated the lower banks, here, at the high bank, moved rapidly and almost violently. There, on the tall white birch, quite naked after all the rain and storms which autumn brought to the land, brother Timofei spotted a piece of white fabric. From the uneven shape and torn lace, he recognized the missing piece of Melanya’s underskirt.
“I did not take it off the tree,” said the young widow. “He was drinking as he always was, all the five years we were together after our wedding in the church. But this past summer, it got worse. I thought it couldn’t get worse. I thought…”
Melanya covered her face with her hands and cried as freely and loudly as a wounded animal would cry, not afraid of being heard in the thick forest.
The fast river, the piece of an underskirt, and the animal cry of a beautiful young widow, brought the mosaic together. He stretched his hands towards her.
“There, there, sister...”
“I know I’m a sinner. There is no forgiveness, I know it, I know. What will happen to me, brother?”
The monk looked so young to her, so pure in the early morning light there by the vigorous river. The monk could have been her brother, the one who disappeared in the smoke of the last war where hundreds and thousands of soldiers and officers had vanished. Her husband could have been one of them, disappeared or killed as her older brother had been, an older brother who stayed forever younger than her. The monk could be one of them, lost as so many men were on the fields of war. But his cassock had saved him just as a deep wound had saved her husband. They had survived. 
Brother Timofei held her cold hands in his, waiting as she cried out all her tears which swept down her face, shimmering on her cheeks.
“There are many roads here on earth, dear sister. We pick one and follow it. When we see a fork in the road, we again pick one road and follow it. Then we see another fork, and another one, and another one. There are many roads, sister, more roads than you and I can know. And even more forks.”
When the monks had gone on their way, Melanya returned to her hut, put all her modest belongings into a big woolen shawl that her late mother had given her on the day of her wedding, tied it, closed the door behind her and left the village.

September 28, 2015

Saturday, September 26, 2015

September Make-up Link-up!

Hello fellow writers,

Before we begin daily writing in October, I offer you a place to link up any missed prompts, re-writes, or simply the pieces of writing that you have been working on your own and would like to share. (Please note that we do not practice critiquing each other's writing, unless you specifically ask for it.) Feel free to write for 5 minutes or longer on any given topic and link-up whatever you have in store!

To review the prompts we did in September, from 29 to 49, go to these posts:

To review the writing prompts that we did in August, from 1 to 28, go to these posts:

Week 1

PS Want more writing challenges? Make sure you don't miss my other creative writing link-up which I host once a month on In The Writer's Closet (click HERE to participate).

Monday, September 21, 2015


Hello writers,

I'm taking a break from Rise & Write.
I love this brainchild of mine,
and I love your wonderful company,
But I feel like I need time for walking alone now -

Time to wander,
Time to explore freely,
Time to write without given challenges
(Even if they are self-given),
Time to simply be.

Much love & See you soon!

Friday, September 18, 2015


it's only a moment
it doesn't last long
someone smiles at me
someone says a kind word
my whole world
is changing
i feel that my wings
are ready to spread
to soar

it's only a moment
it doesn't last long
someone ignores me
does not say a word
my whole world
is changing
i don't feel my wings
just empty and lonely
just sore

and they
grow up
will ya?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Questioning Your Own Creativity

I still sometimes question myself whether I need to continue with this series of daily writings or not. After all, I am not the fanciest wordsmith in the world. I will never be the next Brodsky, Pushkin or Shakespeare. My passion for writing is probably not even based on my love for language. I used to be so very picky about language - I am not any more. Nit-picking is great for being a proof-reader or editor, which is definitely one skill any writer needs. But when you're trying to give a birth to your own creative self, to give a chance to create freely, without obsession over the mistakes you make along the way, that very skill is in your way. Yet that critical, super critical voice is always there, inside of me. It does not go away completely.

Yet here I am, still posting my impromptu writing, unpolished, unfinished pieces, sometimes only glimpses of ideas, sometimes only wobbly experiments, in hope that I will break through my own insecurities some day. And maybe, hopefully, it will also help someone else to overcome their insecurities. We all are mostly taught to be "good girls" and "good boys" - meaning responsible, reliable, trustworthy. Being creative, being free, play like a child... well that is reserved for children, and for very little children at that. As soon as you enter school - you enter the adult world.

We hear a lot about protecting children from abuse, from bullying, from all the unkindness that there is in the world. We hear a lot about feeding those who are hungry. About donating clothes or money to those who are in need. And that is all very much needed in the world, and not only in the third world countries - there are still plenty of hungry, suffering, abused children in wealthy countries as well.

But there is something that is as important as feeding people and giving them physical support, physical security - and that is helping them to see their own uniqueness in the world, their own worthiness. It is supporting actively their interests, their passion for life, for creativity. Life IS creativity. Ever changing, ever developing, ever growing. So many of us grew up repressed either by a political system (as in my case) and a harsh history that caused people to be afraid of everything that does not fit in a prescribed box, or by strict religious rules, when again you must fit in a box that is designed for you - or else. So many of us, despite our talents, only dip our toes into creativity from time to time, constantly looking for the approval of so-called "authorities". So who are those "authorities" anyway? I find that the artists who are the most free with their own creative flow never ever criticize others - rather, they are supportive and encouraging, always able to find a few kind words to say to those who are only beginning their creative journey. Harsh critics are usually analytical types who are not comfortable with their own creativity, who are stifled by a bunch of rules which they themselves came up with, based on what they see in art. Artists do not come up with rules - critics do! It's their job, it's their bread and butter to come up with rules for art. Artists might use rules and might not - they are free to choose the tools which suit them for a particular task or project, or a period of their creative life. The brightest of critics, those who are more in touch with their own fire, recognize that. The rest of them just continue earning their bread and butter by ridiculing anything that does not fit in their boxes. That stuff which doesn't fit will later be called "a breath of fresh air" or even "genius". Later, when both the artists and the critics who criticized them, are long gone.

Children are like artists - they don't play because the rules of the game fascinate them. They play because it's fun! And some games work out, while others don't - it's all just parts of the process, the creative process. It's later, when children enter the world of education, that they will start questioning themselves, doubting themselves, as pretty much all that school education does is measuring everything in order to fit the box. Rare teachers recognize that it's what's outside the box - that's what is truly fascinating. Those are genius educators, as rare as genius critics. As for both professions, you really need both, the analytical mind and an open creative mind and heart, to be genius. As well as for artists, it also helps to develop both, but the openness and playfulness and experimentation always comes first.

What I'm trying to say here is, without rough drafts, without walking in darkness, as a blind person, trying to feel his way, there is really no creativity. If all we have as our tools are the list of rules and the critical analytical mind, then there is simply no art. We need to let children play, without criticizing them for it, shaming them, disciplining them. We need to provide them a safe environment not only in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense as well. We need to tell them how amazing they are, each of them, over and over again. And we need to tell ourselves that too - because children will learn not from the words we say, but rather from the attitude we have. And if our attitude towards our own creativity is critical, then that's what children will pick up from us - they will start doubting themselves just as we doubt ourselves. We all need encouragement, children and adults.


#45. Words for Dark Times

45 (Sept 17)
Write about a wise word that helped you (or your character) to go through dark times.
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

When I sit down to come up with new prompts, it never takes longer than just a few minutes - maybe 5 or 10, or 15... I did not measure this time, but I just know the themes come easily, and all I need to do is to write them down. Some of them come from outside of my window, while others come from deep inside of me. I never suggest themes that I personally feel like I am eager to write about, no. But some themes are there because they mean a lot to me. Like this one.

I, as many others, as everyone, really, did have my share of dark times. Dark times are not necessarily dark because of an outside event - they can be totally self-inflicted, pretty much any trip within is dark as we don't know what we'll find there. It is what scares us and at times stops us from going deeper, but if we push through this initial fear, we realize that there is really nothing to fear.

The words that helped me to get through one of the darkest, wobbliest times in my life were the words one wonderful, amazing old woman told me. They weren't her words, but she kept repeating them because those words saved her in her own dark times. Libby. I still can't bring myself to writing about her. There are stories that I know I want to share very much, and Libby and her story is one of them, and yet at the same time I feel I am not ready to write freely just yet - maybe still too much grief that I haven't processed yet, after her sudden passing away. But her words I am ready to share - I think I only shared it with two or three people before. They are precious.

It's always darkest before the dawn.

I was saying these words to myself over and over again.
It's always darkest before the dawn.
It's always darkest before the dawn.
It's always darkest before the dawn.
Until their true meaning sunk in for me.
It's always darkest before there comes the light.
It's always the scariest, the most unsettling, the most devastating before you are able to see the first gleam of light.

It's always darkest before the dawn. But dawn always arrives. Always, no exception.

10 min
Rise and Write 43-39

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

#44. Walk in the Wilderness (Excerpt)

44 (Sept 16)
Write about a walk in the wilderness - on the beach, in the woods, a mountain hike. Is it a walk for pleasure or because you ran out of gas, or is it an emergency, and you need to find a phone?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

In one of my early fairy tales, a little girl named Anya goes on a journey to search for her wings. She has friends who help her at the early stages of the journey, but at some point they have to leave her, so she can continue her journey alone. That's where I pick up the story today to write about Anya's walk in the woods - I am not translating it from Russian, rather I'm taking my character and seeing what happens.

Anya started her walk bravely and rather merrily, because really, what was there to be afraid of or to make her hesitate? The sun was shining brightly, the birds were singing cheerfully, and the trail was winding down between beautiful tall trees and bushes blooming with flowers of all colors and sizes. Anya was greeted by pretty butterflies and her old friends - lightening bugs.

"Oh hello there," Anya said. "Isn't it a wonderful day?"
"It is, it is," her friends agreed with her. "And where are you going on such a wonderful day, Anya? Still looking for your wings?"
"I am actually. But I really think I'm close now."
"Don't forget to call for us if you need help."
"I won't. Thank you, dear friends."

As soon as Anya started feeling hungry, a big open field filled with wild strawberries, her most favorite berries, appeared in front of her. She stopped there for a brief rest and yummy snack, and then moved further.

By the time the sun was going down to the horizon, the magical forest got darker, and instead of cheerful bird songs Anya was hearing scary animal noises, and in place of colorful flowers, she was seeing faces of unknown creatures who'd smirk and giggle looking at her, echoing one another.

"What a silly girl!"
"What a silly little girl..."
"I heard she's looking for her wings..."
"Hehe. Everyone knows girls don't have wings!"
"Girls are not birds! Girls don't have wings..."

Unfriendly words and laughter and rather annoying echoes almost made her cry, but she put on a brave face and continued walking. The trees were getting taller and taller and hung above Anya like giants, covering the quickly darkening sky. The bushes were getting wider and wider, with branches stretched out in all directions, whimsically distorted. It was getting harder to walk on the trail as the branches scratched Anya's legs, and soon Anya realized that she somehow had gotten lost. She was not in the friendly magical woods anymore, but rather in the scary witch forest instead. A huge owl flew right over her head, screeching loudly, and as if that was not enough, lightning glared and thunder rattled, and a it began raining cats and dogs. Anya started to run, but the trail was so slippery that she fell and rolled down the hill into a gully. A little mirror in a carved birch bark frame, the mirror Mama gave to Anya before she started her journey, fell out of her pocket and broke into hundreds of tiny pieces. Anya burst into tears and cried until she finally fell asleep.

Rise and Write 43-49

#43. Smile (poem, multimedia)

43 (Sept 15)
Write about a smile. Is it a happy open smile, a mysterious Mona Lisa kind of smile, or a smirk?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

Rise and Write 43-49

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

#35. Peace (Poem)

Write about feeling peace. What brings peace to your inner state? Is it being in nature, or being alone at home? Describe a particular situation when you are (or your character is) feeling at peace with yourself and with life.
OPTIONAL: Work on your own fiction, without the connection to the topic. Share what you are working on.


Peace is something that is always there,
But we don't notice it -- peace is peaceful.
Peace is quiet, it has no movement.

Take anger and fear out of the picture --
And you'll be left with the picture of peace.
Peace is invisible, it has no image.

Stop making noise, stop screaming and crying.
Stop listening to those who make noise, who scream and cry --
And you will be left with the silence. Peace is silent.

Maybe that's why people feel so peaceful near water.
Water moves, yet stays still.
Water has presence, yet it's clear.
Water makes no noise, but a sound.

Linked to Rise and Write 43-49

#31. Anger (Poem)

Write about feeling angry. What are the sensations in the body? What’s happening with the thoughts? Write a scene when your character feels angry. Do they want to punch someone? Will they?
OPTIONAL: Work on your own fiction, without the connection to the topic. Share what you are working on.


Angry cloud in the air
Covers me from toes to hair.
Anger is better than despair.

Can't think straight,
Can't look up.
Angry cloud eats me up.

Angry as a little kid
Throwing angry little feet.

Thoughts are angry,
Angry face.
Angry feelings, angry space.

Teeth are grinding,
Fists are tight.
Ready for an angry fight.

Kindness escaped,
Compassion's gone!
Words are sharp as a knife, 
Fast as a gun.

Anger is drought 
That dries me out.

Breathing deeply, sip by sip,
Angry cloud,

#42. Turning Color (Poem)

Write about a leaf turning color. Is it still up on the tree or did you find it under your feet? What’s its journey?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

Turning Color

I often think that hair turning color
Is similar to leaves turning color.
After a warm season,
Filled with breeze and sunshine,

We are winding down, getting ready to rest,
Getting ready for a slower pace of life,
Which is not less, and maybe even more wonderful 
Than hot days of summer.

Less hectic, less chaotic, less stressful,
More peaceful, more organic, more cherishing --
Cherishing life, every little moment that passes:
The crisp coolness of the air,

The golden rays of sun shining low,
The earth cooling down, ready to sleep...
We all are winding down, getting ready to be quiet and observe,
Rather than yelling loudly: look at me! no, no, look at me!

People turning color,
Just like leaves turning color.
We all are winding down, 
People and leaves.

5 min

Rise and Write 43-49

#41. Drink

Write about a drink – either the best you had in your life, or the most bizarre, disgusting, etc. Use your character if you prefer.
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

When Favorite Becomes Not Favorite

I'm taking this prompt as an opportunity to capture this moment in my life when my taste in drinks is changing radically. I discovered the world of wine, actually, not very long ago. We'd already moved to the PNW from the Midwest, and along with our exotic living in the tiny beach house, we also found out that there are all sorts of grocery stores around about which we've never dreamed back in Ohio. One of them was close to home, a local chain called Metropolitan Market. It was based on the founder's experience traveling the world. Both Europe and Asia were the inspiration for starting MM in this area. One word: foodie. This was a store for foodies. You could find pretty much anything there - artisans bread and baked goods, different kinds of milk and meat, produce from local farmers and a huge department for cheese lovers - I mean, really, huge. But other than that, there were also all sorts of events (like cheese and wine tastings) and free cooking classes for anyone (surprisingly, not very big crowds gathered for classes). Justin and I took advantage every time they announced their free classes and wine tastings where we could learn about food and wine from both local producers and from around the world. I found myself in love with strong, aromatic, full-bodied red wines (Petit Sirah and Malbec would be a good example of my taste) and for a few years that was all I wanted to buy. I loved red wine as a compliment for lunch or dinner, as a drink I enjoy in the evening for a quiet relaxing time, as a celebratory drink with company... Until very recently when I found myself still purchasing my favorite wines and opening bottles, and then... not drinking them. It has never been the case before - I would have a bottle or sometimes two per week, and I would never let a bottle go to waste. Well, I don't remember when it started, maybe a year ago or so, but more often than not I would not finish a bottle (sometimes I would cook with it - it's good for pork or beef dishes, though I rarely cook pork and almost never cook beef, we are mostly chicken and fish people here). In summer, I would get white wine instead - crisp and light for hot days. But even white wine did not replace that passion for red wine I used to have for a few years. I still enjoy the taste of wine, but I dislike the heavy feeling in my head that wine (especially red wine) leaves. So to my huge surprise, I am rapidly loosing interest in this wonderful drink, and I really used to love everything about it - the taste, the smell, the feeling in my mouth, the color, the idea of it, the experience, the light-headedness after all. Not anymore. Not sure what to do with it, as now I simply don't have a favorite drink. Juices are too sweet for my liking, beer too bitter, and hard liqueur is just not my cup of tea. So I drink coffee or tea, and rarely still have a glass of wine, but more as a habit, really.

7-8 min

Rise and Write 43-49

Rise and Write. Week 7. Prompts 43-49

Hello dear fellow writers, and welcome to the 7th week of daily writing!

WOW! We've gone a long way, haven't we? I hadn't realized that our previous, 6th week, had come to an end already! I though that we still had one day to go. Well, I was wrong. So I just wanted to remind you that all the prompts that you did not have a chance to share yet, can be shared at any new link up. I have two prompts from week 6 that I am going to link up to week 7 - and please don't hesitate to do the same! At the end of each month, I also will open a "make-up link-up" where we can share any prompts we've missed, or share something new using the old themes.

And here are the new 7 prompts for the new 7th week of daily (or nearly daily) writing. (The dates are helping me to be on track with starting a new link-up, they don't matter much for the process of writing.)
Happy writing all!

Prompts 43-49. Week 7

43 (Sept 15)
Write about a smile. Is it a happy open smile, a mysterious Mona Lisa kind of smile, or a smirk?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

44 (Sept 16)
Write about a walk in the wilderness - on the beach, in the woods, a mountain hike. Is it a walk for pleasure or because you ran out of gas, or is it an emergency, and you need to find a phone?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

45 (Sept 17)
Write about a wise word that helped you (or your character) to go through dark times.
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

46 (Sept 18)
Write about housework chores, such as vacuum cleaning or mowing the grass. Who did it in your childhood home? When you were introduced to this work first? Is it something you enjoyed doing or tried to avoid at any coast?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

47 (Sept 19)
Write about a bird - the one you have (or had as a kid), or a magical bird from a fairy tale that you love, or a bird that visits your yard and teases your cat.
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

48 (Sept 20)
Write about wrinkles - yours or on someone's face, or maybe your character's. What stories wrinkles can tell?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

49 (Sept 21)
Write about being wrong. Is it easy for you to say "I am sorry, I was wrong"? Is it something you do or try to avoid doing? Write about someone else being wrong, or about your character being wrong.
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

* * *

Monday, September 14, 2015

#40. Feet... or Hands

Write about feet – yours, your character’s, or some weird feet you’ve seen.
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

Oh my! the Where do I get the ideas for my prompts? I know, I know - sometimes even little details can bring out such wonderful stories out of a writer. But nothing really comes to mind right now, other than back in July I painted my toe nails in beautiful red and did not remove that nail polish ever since - I just cut my nails short thinking that eventually they will overgrow the red completely. I could make a little comedy scene out of it, but I am just not in the mood for a comedy this very moment. 

May I write about a hand instead? Justin, Anya and I went to a live theater this past weekend. It was over all the best performance I've seen - in both professional and amateur theaters around here. Everything, the music, the humor, the live orchestra, the story, the songs, the costumes, but above all the fact that it was a youth theater and all the roles were played by children (the oldest actor was 20, a few were 17 or 18, and the rest of the cast were kids between 8 and 13) - all of it made the show exceptional and unforgettable. I watched it in amazement and almost disbelief - rarely I see and feel such fantastic energy on the stage. It was an outburst of energy! No wonder the whole audience burst with standing ovations at the end of the performance. (And it was not a tiny auditorium - it was a 800 seat hall, and pretty full, not completely, but it almost never happens during shows put on by community theaters or, as in this case, a youth theater.) Honestly, I don't even know how they do it, it's like the whole company was singing in unison. How is it possible to get such a large group on fire? But I wanted to write about a hand, or rather about a missing hand. I noticed in the opening scene where the full company was on the stage that one of the actors did not have one hand. It was noticeable because they were singing and dancing and their hand motions were visible, and he obviously missed one hand. He had one of bigger roles in the play, and one smaller one too, so we had a chance to see this wonderfully gifted young actor a lot that evening. And I was thinking to myself, how many people would hide behind their disability, making it an excuse for not living a full life. Much lesser things than a missing body part stop us, people, from pursuing our dreams. Especially such daring dreams as getting into such a profession as actor, where they often make it all about appearance, where it is definitely about being visible, being in front of people, being vulnerable. How many people would instead find something more reasonable, more "sensible", more out of sight, rather than pursue their dreams of being on the stage? How many people never even start, even though they have everything in place? What is it that gives one person this incredible courage and true inner confidence, not a bravado, but authentic confidence that comes from within, to go for their dreams and not let anything stop them, even such an obvious thing as a missing body part? This is what gets me every single time - people who follow their heart and go for what they are dreaming about, overcoming their own losses, insecurities, doubts and let alone inconveniences... people who just do what they love, those people eventually find their bliss.

12 minutes

Rise and Write 36-42

* * *

#39. Grandma

Write about your grandma. Was she a good cook? Did she tell you stories of her life? Did she yell at you or spoil you rotten?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

I've only known one of my grandmas, not counting two of my great aunts that I've also met - two sisters of my other grandma whom I never had a chance to meet, as she passed away at the early age of 45, having only seen one, the eldest of her grandchildren, as the next twelve, me included, arrived later.

Babushka Tonya, or as I called her, simply Babushka (grandma in Russian) was my father's mom and spoke with a unique and funny to me, as a child, accent. You see, they moved to Siberia from  central Russia where around the basin of the Volga River, in the north of Russia, people speak the so-called Northern dialect. I learned about dialects later, when I was in my second year of the university where I studied languages and literature as my major. Back in my childhood days, I did not know that, and the only person I knew who spoke with that funny accent was my babushka, since dedushka (granddad whom I adored) died when I just turned seven, and I don't really remember him all that well. I remember that once (I was about 13 or so) babushka's sister Olya came for a visit from Kazakhstan where her family relocated from their original home in central Russia, and she looked so very much like babushka, and spoke with absolutely the same accent. It was an experience out of the ordinary for me, for sure. 

I remember I have asked babushka about her youth, her family, and written down her answers into a thin school notebook, thinking that some day I will have all the information for my family tree, at least on my dad's side. But that notebook somehow disappeared, and even though I know where all my other journals ended up, I could never locate that one.

"Were there pretty women in your family?"
Of course, what other questions a young girl could possibly ask her grandma.
"We were red-headed."
Red-headed traditionally was not considered pretty in Russia - as it often means your skin has spots, and it just all looks too different. Not many traditional cultures recognize beauty in different. Beauty lies in tradition to them. The unfamiliar becomes the thing to fear or ridicule, or both. And Russia is extremely traditional.

Grandma was a great cook. Growing up with my mom, a very creative, strong individual (and a great beauty, by the way), who never took any interest in cooking, I got used to bland tastes. But grandma's food was always exceptional. She was a simple woman with only one year of basic school education - then she had to help her family with housekeeping and the farm they had (they were successful farmers, up to a point when the new government in my country decided that successful means bad and confiscated all or most of what hard-working, successful people had). So babushka learned how to work hard since early childhood. And cooking was definitely one of her gifts. 

I remember her reading a children's book, which to me, back then a university student, was unbelievable. But that was something she could understand easily, my grandma. Papa told me that at some point she read a biography of Boris Yeltsin and was very impressed by him - she had a great respect for this guy. And I was rather impressed by my babushka, who only had very basic reading skills, for her accomplishment.

We did not have an especially warm relationship, rather distant. I think my mom, my brother and I were a bit of an enigma to her. Papa would bring babushka for a long stay (a few months) from the town up north where she lived with her other kids and grandkids. We were somewhat city kids to her. She even treated our cat differently - I remember she once said that she wanted to cook and needed potatoes, but our cat was sleeping on the box with potatoes, and she did not want to bother him. That's exactly how she put it - "bother him." She called him an "intelligent cat", as you'd expect to hear about people, meaning "intelligentsia".

Babushka knew how to do it all - sewing, knitting and even yarn-making (spinning). Papa made special wooden hand-spin tools for her, and my cousin came to take lessons from my grandma - but I did not learn, thinking that it was so absurd in the modern world, as you could just buy the yarn in the color you wanted, instead of spinning lamb's wool which stunk. City kid!

I spent a lot of time with both of my grandparents when I was little, and babushka loved telling anecdotes from my childhood, but they are probably a subject for another writing session.

25 minutes

Rise and Write 36-42

#38. The Age of Choice

Write about the age you are now. How does it feel? Better or worse than you expected?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

I've written so much about how I feel about the age I am - in my other blog (see here) or in comments to my friends' blogs. I think it boils down to two ways of looking at age and aging. One, the most common, is purely physical way. Yes, yes, mother nature created us, alive creatures, so that we look cute and attractive to the opposite sex when we are young. There is no sense denying it - it is just simple facts. Our skin looks fresh and smooth (after we stop struggling with the teenage pimples), and many of us have no troubles remaining in good shape when we're young - we are healthy and strong, so again, we can work, have children and take care of them. We just look so darn adorable, most of the time - there is no need for much effort to look good, practically get up in the morning and go, cute as ever, even after a sleepless night or two. 

But in exchange for all this cuteness, our heads are full of uncertainties. Who we are? What are we here to do? Which way to choose in life? Questions, questions. I sort of relive it again with my teenage daughter now. She is on the edge of becoming an adult, and she knows - her childhood is ending, and in a few short years she will have to be fully responsible for her life. While it excites her, it at the same time feels overwhelming. I remember I always wanted to grow, to get older. As a kid, I wanted to start school as soon as possible. Then I wanted to become a pioneer, as soon as possible. Then a member of Komsomol. Then I wanted to graduate from school and start university, as soon as possible. Then finally, when I graduated from the uni (and I truly loved those years), I felt like I was flying. Like nothing can ever stop me - the whole world is in front of me, open with possibilities, and I sure will have an extraordinary life. That feeling that I will have an extraordinary life, was there as long as I can remember myself. And I always, always wanted to be older than I was. 

By the age of 40, I realized that I had reached that point when I finally was as old as I wanted to be. I know, it sounds like a paradox to most people. I was out of shape, I went through a huge personal crisis, disappointment and grief, I felt like something big and wonderful had finished, and it was... the end of the age of innocence for me. Not a physical one, but an innocence of my soul. I think they also call it naivety. I also realized that a lot of people go through this crisis somewhere around 40, a bit earlier, a bit later, and it is what's called a midlife crisis. It's the point when I realized that it is up to me to either let the disappointment win and leave its deep stamp on my face, or lose the naivety as a kid disease and grow further up, over the disappointment, up, up, and up. It was up to me to grow further up or stay in the stagnation of disappointment with the stamp of disapproval of life, as I thought many people do, and that is why they are afraid of aging. This other way to look at age, the non-physical way, is all about the beauty of our soul after it lost its innocence, its "cuteness". It became more mature, it had some serious work to do, and it took the whole responsibility for whatever happened to it before, whatever is happening now and whatever will happen in the future. This is the age I am now, the age of choice, the age of taking the responsibility for the beauty of my soul, with a little more effort on my part than the purity, or naivety of youth. And if along the way I will also decide that my physical beauty is pretty much up to me too, with a little more effort than just get up in the morning and going, then I'm fine with that. In my world, the physical follows.

20 minutes