Monday, October 27, 2014

Ugly Wallpaper or Good Writing

Mr. D, The Wallpaper Guy, makes quick work of stripping my ugly, ivy wallpaper.
(Photo by Carol Newman)

If you have ever thought the details of your life were about as interesting as watching Mr. D, The Wallpaper Guy, strip ugly wallpaper, take a look at this link  everyday life in old scrolls to an article about scrolls from the 1300s recently discovered in Russia.

The reader cannot help but want to know more about how things worked out for the father requesting items and the man planning to propose marriage.

Here is the important thing to note: in both scrolls there was something at stake for the writer. The father's need for the items seemed urgent. The man proposing was risking his future. Both men were longing for something.


Look back at your life. Make a list of times in your life when something was at stake. Maybe it was your happiness, maybe your view of your future, maybe it was your health or safety or home.

For example, when I was in college we still had curfews. Without my parents' permission, I had spent the weekend in another city with friends and waited until the last minute to begin the trip back to school. If I didn't make it back before curfew, my parents would find out I had been away.

But then the stakes suddenly got higher. I was driving the maximum legal speed of 70 MPH on the highway by an area of truck stops and diners. Because of all the lights, another driver did not see my car, left the diner driveway, drove across the median and directly in front of my car.

It isn't necessary to use the words "at stake" as I did in my example. Just tell the story and it will be apparent.


Oh for goodness sakes. Even I do not need a chocolate recipe this week -- Halloween week. Rip into some of that trick-or-treat candy and call it done.

Today's Writing Tip and others can be found on page 26 of Write Your Life Story Workbook available at

All rights reserved 2014 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®

Monday, October 13, 2014

Does Standing On Your Head Help Your Writing?


Feel as if you have tried everything except standing on your head to make your story interesting, but the words are just sitting on the page like a big blob?

Trying to Write a Good Story
(Photo by Carol Newman)

Here is the reason why.

A list of events, no matter how artfully created, does not make a story. The list of events has to mean something. It has to mean something in your life; it has to mean something in the life of the reader.

That's it. That's all there is to it.

Great. How do I do that? Try the Launching Pad.


List  at least three important or life-changing events during the time of your life. You might think of these as turning points. Turning points may be large or small.

For each turning point tell how you were changed, what led up to this change, what life situation were you struggling with, what solutions had you tried that didn't work? What was at stake?

For example, a turning point in my life was when in college I changed my major from business to English. It changed how I thought of myself, how I saw my future, my friends, and my sense of happiness. Before, I hated my classes, hated college, hated the future I saw for myself, and couldn't relate to the other people in my classes. I tried studying harder, not studying at all, cutting class, and piling on my class load. Then one day I slipped into a large lecture hall where a famous play was being discussed. Oh now, this is what I want to study, what I want to read about and think about. But, I was still at an age where I did what my parents told me to do and my mother would be furious if I changed my major from the one she had picked for me. Still, I saw my future in a room with twenty typewriters teaching sixteen-year-olds how to type and I knew I could face my mother easier than I could face that.

Maybe your turning point was starting a business, loss of a loved one, an illness you suffered, or a crisis of faith or renewal of faith.

How did such events change you and the course of your life? How did your life change for the better. Even though the event may have been something like loss of a loved one or loss of a job, think about the people or groups who helped you through it. Think about how you grew in character as a result of your suffering. Write about those things.

HERE IS THE KEY TO MAKING THIS WORK: In your final draft, reverse the order of all the above. First, show the reader the problem, then let us see you struggle, trying one thing after another, then let us see your aha moment and finally, show how you were changed. And, maybe let us know what you learned -- but DO NOT say "This is what I learned."

Write with turning points in mind and you will have readers immersed in your story as they read to find out what happened next. 

You may even discover a few things about yourself and feel affirmed and strong.

Don't mess with me. I am strong enough to claw your eyes out. But I am also strong enough not to want to.
(Photo by Carol Newman)

Look how strong and confident you feel now. You felt all upside down and beaten by life events; but you honestly wrote through it and came out the other side.


Brownie Bowls

I am unsure if Dryer's brand of ice cream is available in the Kansas City area, (We have Bryer's - is that the same?) but since it is their recipe and their photos and it looks so good, I am including the brand names. If it is available where you live, give it a try.

Dreyer's Super Sundae Brownie Bowl

"Here's an easy way to push your already extraordinary Dreyer's ice cream sundae over the top – a fresh-baked brownie bowl. And the best part? You don't have to wash the bowl since you get to eat it!"

You will need:

DREYER'S GRAND NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Cookie Dough ice cream or SLOW CHURNED® Cookie Dough light ice cream

Brownie batter (made from your favorite recipe)
2 muffin tins
Cooking spray
Chocolate sauce

Follow the directions for your favorite brownie recipe to make the batter.
Spray cups of a muffin tin with cooking spray, and add brownie batter to each cup until they're about two-thirds full.
Spray the second muffin tin with cooking spray and place on top of the first tin of brownies.
Place in the oven and bake, following your brownie recipe's directions.
After the bowls are completely cool, add a scoop of ice cream, top with chocolate sauce and sprinkles, and enjoy!

Note: I am thinking about pumpkin ice cream for Thanksgiving or peppermint for Christmas. Or coffee ice cream for any old time.  How good would that be! 

Today's blog post is adapted from page 25 of Write Your Life Story in Eight Weeks Workbook - Second Edition.Write Your Life Story Workbook

All rights reserved 2014 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®Write Your Life Story Workbook

Monday, October 6, 2014

What To Do If You Are In a Parade


What on earth is going on in this picture?
Photo by Carol Newman
Where are we? Who are the people? What are they doing? Where should we look first? How many people are in costume? Is that traffic light important? What about the child in the red shirt? And the woman in the Smokey the Bear hat? Is that a costume or a uniform? Why is she with this group?

This photo is like your life story. There are many elements. It is up to you, the writer, to explain, describe, and sort them out for the reader.

Who or what is most important to the story? Which elements cry out for more detail? What elements are distraction?

What is the meaning of this photo? Do you have an emotional or intellectual reaction to the photo? Why are these people doing whatever it is they are doing?

Ask the same questions of your story.Stand back. Examine the elements. Expand, eliminate, and make a story.


This Launching Pad reminds me of the picture puzzles in Scholastic magazine: hidden pictures in the picture.

From the above photo choose one element to be most important.

Choose two elements to remove.

Add two more elements of importance.

Now write a practice story.

I think I would keep the Native American woman dancer on the far left and the Native American woman on the right who is walking. I would also keep the child in the red shirt. I would write a story about past and present lives and dress of Native Americans and how they feel about parading in front of this child. I would tell about the dancer's tribe and her dress and that it was sewn by her grandmother.I would tell how she learned a traditional dance. The young woman in jeans on the right would be her sister who doesn't like the "old ways."  No need to include the fact that they ate lunch at Subway or walked through the intersection when the traffic light on the yellow was red.

See how that works.

Now do the same for your own story elements.

Chocolate Inkwell

This cake could not be easier, and it has the magic ingredient -- chocolate chips. I actually saved this from Facebook from a few weeks ago. The source for the recipe and photo is Today's Mama.

Lazy Cookie Cake Cookies:

1 box yellow or white cake mix 
2 eggs beaten 
5 T melted butter 
2 C mini chocolate chips

Mix together,  Put in a greased 9×13 pan or glass casserole and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. 

Note: Looks as if chocolate chips are sprinkled on top but the recipe doesn't mention that. Maybe they just arrange themselves that way. Another thing to love about chocolate chips -- they try to be helpful.

Click to buy  Write Your Life Story Workbook

ll rights reserved 2014 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What To Do If You Were Married to Michael Jackson


The first day of fall is a perfect time to begin or continue your memoir project. After all, what is a life story but a series of changing seasons? Time passing.

Like the begonias and hamlin grass pictured above, you still have plenty of color and energy. You can use it to write about the passage of time.

How can you indicate the passage of time in your story? Here are a few ways:

1. As you read other memoirs, notice how the writer indicated time passing. Use that method in your memoir. However, don't limit yourself to observing memoirs. Perhaps even more useful are the techniques used in novels, poems or nonfiction pieces. For example, I just finished reading a novel whose chapters were named for dates and years in which the events occurred. You can do that too.

2. Use transition words and sentences. Here are some examples: Since moving to Cincinnati, I had felt a new exhilaration. OR - After my promotion, I felt more secure financially. OR - When my birthday came, I knew I was ready to make a change.

3. Describe your changing feelings or appearance or mode of transportation. Here is an example: Now that I had a car, I suddenly felt like a free woman. OR - With my husband's departure, I realized I was on my own -- and that I liked it. 

4. Within individual chapters, passage of time can be indicated by extra spaces between paragraphs or by extra space and three asterisks or some other symbol.

5.  Give your readers credit for their good reading ability. They will be able to follow your story even if you jump around in time and place.

In Ann Joyner's memoir, Not Worth Saving: How a Severely Handicapped Boy Transformed Lives, she begins with her pregnancy with Matthew. Chapter Two takes up the story when Matthew is fifteen. The chapter begins: "The funeral we planned in 1984 did not take place. Matthew lived."

Are we lost or confused in the story? No, we know exactly where we are and we are turning the pages as fast as we can read. We want to know what happens next and what happened in the intervening years. She has us hooked.

By the way, Ann's book is available in the bookstore at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, 13720 Roe, Leawood, Kansas, 66224. It is published by Nazarene Publishing House.  To order -


Make a little mind map of the times of your life. Just list a few. This is just for practice. To make a mind map draw a circle in the middle of a page. Inside the circle, write the words Times of My Life. Then make other circles around the center circle in which you list life changes. Draw a line from the center circle to surrounding circles. Surrounding circles may have other circles shooting off from them.

For example, a simple mind map might have Daughter, Wife, Mother in surrounding circles. Or it might have Elementary School, High School, College. Another possibility is Secretary, Manager, Vice President.

Now, just for practice, write a paragraph in which you take us from one to the other of the times. For example you might write: "I was sick of always being Elvis Presley's daughter. I was ready to be Michael Jackson's wife. However, it was not what I expected. Later, I looked back and wished I had stuck to being Justin's mother. It was fun in many ways."

And there you go. You are Justin Beiber's mother and telling us about your life at that time.


And now for an extra simple chocolate recipe because you need to use your time for writing.

Chocolate Layered Cupcake Pudding Parfaits.

The version of this I saw in The Kansas City Star had multiple steps with multiple from-scratch components. Basically, just cut a cupcake in half horizontally. Save the top of the cupcake for the top of your parfait. Layer pudding, cupcake, and whipped cream in a clear straight sided glass instead of a parfait glass. Top layer is cupcake top.

The Star version did not include this but the parfait could be embelished with a small cookie or cherry stuck into the top.

Pretty enough to serve to your mother-in-law yet quick and easy enough that you won't feel you wasted your time when your husband or kids inhale it and it is gone in a flash.

To purchase your own copy of Write Your Life Story Workbook, visit

All rights reserved 2014 There's An Angel In Your Inkwell®

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

It's Not What You Think


A couple of weeks ago, I was in Estes Park, Colorado on vacation. While there, Gentleman Friend and I spent a couple of hours watching the Hunter Jumper Horse Show. The arena has a small grandstand which held a smattering of other riders, horse owners, and friends and family of the riders.

Riders and horses were of varying skills. Some proceeded around the course at a slow pace; a few didn't try some of the jumps; and some, like the horse and rider pictured here, managed the jumps pretty well.

Photo by Carol Newman

Then a horse and rider entered the arena at a more lively pace than previous entrants. They galloped around the course making the jumps quickly and easily. They looked like sure fire winners. Then they came to the last jump. Something spooked the horse; he stopped, turned from side to side, put his head down, backed up and reversed direction.

At first the rider held the reins, but then his right foot came out of the stirrup and he slid down the horses neck and side. Still he held that inelegant posture until finally, as the horse became more agitated, the rider fell. He tumbled and rolled away.

Now riderless and facing away from the jump, the horse calmed.

The rider gathered the reins as the announcer proclaimed how many points the rider had lost. There was silence among the small crowd.

Then the announcer said, "But there is good news, the rider is up."

At that, the spectators applauded briefly.

And that is what struck me. It was apparent that a rider who falls and is uninjured and able to get up is applauded.

There was no shame in trying and failing miserably. That the rider was able to stand and remount was, in itself, honorable. Was an accomplishment in itself.

Of course, it reminded me of writing. Sometimes the muse balks, even for an experienced writer. Then we have a spell where the writing just doesn't happen. Sometimes what we write is a miserable failure.

When those things happen,  writers sometimes beat themselves up, and sometimes even quit writing.

Don't do it.

There is no shame in failing. There is no shame in creating graceless writing. Keep trying and applaud yourself for the effort. Applaud each other for the effort. Tomorrow is there for you to try again.

It's more than just getting on the horse again. It is applauding yourself and each other for the effort.


Write something about horses in your life.Here are some examples:  horse books you have read, horse movies, a horse you had when you were a child. Horses you have seen in a parade. Did you like cowboy movies when you were a child? Who was your favorite cowboy? Write about his horse. Or her horse. What about Dale Evans? Do you watch the Kentucky Derby? Go to a Derby party and drink mint juleps? Write about that.


Today's recipe is Baking Bites Cherry Chocolate Chip Bread from a cooking blog that is full of really great ideas.

Now I don't know what to do. I had planned to take Judy's delicious strawberry bread to a meeting, but now I think I will try this recipe. After all, it has chocolate. Hmm, how about chocolate chips in strawberry bread?

Cherry Chocolate Chip Bread
Photo courtesy of  Baking Bites Cherry Chocolate Chip Bread
Cherry Chocolate Chip Bread
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup milk, any kind
2 tbsp Kirsch (optional)
2 cups whole or halved sweet cherries, fresh or frozen
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease and flour a 9×5-inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, vegetable oil and egg until smooth. Whisk in vanilla and almond extracts, as well as the Kirsch, if using.

Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk.

Stir in the remaining flour mixture, mixing just until no streaks of dry ingredients remain. 

Stir in the cherries and chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow loaf to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Read more:

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