Tag Archives: Exercise

Get Fuelled by a Workshop!!!!!!!!!

by Diane Attwell Palfrey

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Due to many circumstances this year, it has been very difficult for me to find time to write.  During those periods of wilderness, I feel like something is missing.  Words are pent up inside until I feel like I’ll explode.  But often the busyness of life prevents me from getting those words to paper.  If the sabbatical goes on too long, I feel stuck – my illusive muse is nowhere to be found.

A great way to break out of writers block and time constraints is to have some wilderness busters scheduled.  That way, it’s in your calendar and will get some attention.  One of mine favourite things to do is attend a workshop or a retreat.  There is nothing like a well-presented and interactive workshop to awaken creativity.  The quest for knowledge, information, or just being in the know has always been important to me.  So when a special invitation came my way, I couldn’t pass it up.  A select group of writers/professional communicators & bloggers were asked to participate in a trial run of “Timesketch” A Memoir Development Program.  This comprehensive program was created and facilitated by businessman and aboriginal rights advocate Peter Smith and cohosted by Crista Renner, Director of Communications, Juice Inc.

We only received enough prior information to pique our interest.  So when arriving at the Holiday Inn in Guelph, none of us had any idea how the day would develop.  Tables were covered in notebooks, coloured markers, crayons, cans of playdough and multi-coloured stress balls.  I knew right then that this was going to be a fun-filled day.

It had never occurred to me to write my memoirs.  Who would be interested in reading the foibles and drudgery of my journey?  But after hearing the numerous stories people shared throughout the day, I realized that everyone has something to say – something of interest – funny anecdotes or snippets of inspiration garnered by life experience. Black sheep people (and we all know who we/they are) may have more to say then others and it could be a lot juicier and a very interesting read.  If nothing else, it is a wonderful legacy to leave behind for families.  Consider examining where you’ve been and gather your timesketches.  Capture wonderful family stories and put them on paper before the older generation is no longer here to share it with.  In my spare time (not sure when that is anymore), I ask my mother about family history, attitudes and beliefs etc.  I have learned so much about my family that I never knew.  If you have the questions, someone has the answers or at least some of the answers.  And if no one ever reads your memoirs, it is still a great writing exercise.


Diane was born in Toronto and has lived in Cambridge for the past twenty-two years. She is a poet and prose writer. Diane is a member of the Cambridge Writers Collective and has poetry published by the Waterloo-Wellington CAA, Serengeti Press, Craigleigh Press, Hammered Out, The Ontario Poetry Society, Cruickston Charitable Research Reserve/RARE, & Ascent Aspirations Magazine. Diane is also the first place winner of the Cambridge Arts Festival Poetry Contest for 2009 and 2010.

A Poetry Exercise for Keeping in Shape

By April Bulmer

Creativity is like a muscle–it gets bigger and stronger with use.

Modern Mantras
Baron’s Educational Series Inc.

One way to practice a regular writing regime is to research the lives of historical, mythological or Biblical figures. Celebrating the achievements of such characters is an easy way to increase the weight of your poems. Their stories are often circulating in our collective unconscious and breathe with life. And they pulse with heart when we also exercise high-impact language and imagery.

I recently Googled the explorer Juan Ponce de Leon after experiencing a dream about him. I learned that he discovered and named Florida on a quest to bathe in the Fountain of Youth:

Ponce de León

At night, in the hull of the ship
I dream of the Fountain of Youth
in the mythical land of Bimini.
My body, a new root, blooms.
My face soft as orchid.
The waters wash the blue
from my heart.
It is a bulb, fertile and sacred.

Years ago, Serengeti Press published my chapbook “Oh My Goddess” which the poet and reviewer, John B. Lee,
described as a place where Freya, Norse Goddess of Love, Pilate’s Wife, Mary Mother of Christ, Elizabeth, Mother of John the Baptist, Cinderella or the Witch at Endor could delight in the roots of the earth-born soul and the needs of the body:

Elizabeth, Mother of John the Baptist

Gabriel’s perfect mouth a trumpet, a sudden tune: fear
not, Zechariah, your wife shall bear a son and he will
make ready a people prepared for the Messiah. My
husband’s eyes stuttered remembering my old breasts,
their abandoned croon. He would not believe, shouted no.
The angel’s anger a taut bow: Zechariah stumbled mute
from the temple. His tongue quivered, his hands too, still
dusty with incense. When he touched me he could not call
my name, could not touch and say Elizabeth, my wife
yes. My bones were slim canes, my hair thin as breath,
and my woman’s blood only a memory, a dark shadow in
the shallow valley of my womb. But I dreamed a pool of
water and the boy leapt in me–a weight we carried like
jugs from the river. When the waters shifted, I laboured
and brought forth. Days later at the briss, our son’s
name–John–fell like a drop of rain from Zechariah’s
dry tongue.

Why not increase your flexibility? Create your own list of significant figures and pump some serious weight!

Image: prozac1 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


April Bulmer has had six books and four chapbooks published. She holds three Masters Degrees in creative writing, religious studies and theological studies. She was born and raised in Toronto, but has lived in Cambridge for 15 years. Many of her books are available at aprilb(at)golden.net.

You Are a Writer Because You Write

by Jean Selinger

Notebook and Pen

Image: Paul / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s Friday afternoon and I am panicking. Marcie asked me a week ago to write a blog for the CWC website, something that would help other writers. AND send it to her by tomorrow. Holy Doodle!!!!! (Is that too many exclamation marks?) I have been busy for the last few months with work and a stay at home after surgery in April. I am not, at the moment, feeling at all creative. After this blog is finished, I am making cards for a couple of friends celebrating birthdays today. Now don’t go getting all “that’s creative” on me. Cards are something I do for the people I love, the same as taking pictures at parties and weddings. ‘Snaps of life, caught forever in 8X10” Sometimes I even put the pictures on the cards.

I also knit and crochet, wonderful pastimes, but not in the same bracket as writing “her knobby hands wove the crochet hook back and forth smooth as cream on the top of a milk pail”.

It’s not a wonderful day to be outside, so I am indoors, playing on my computer and wishing to God that I could write a poem, or have a short story hit me over the head.

The words above are commonly known as Morning Pages. You take five or ten minutes and write the first thing that pops into your head. The secret to this is to write. It doesn’t even have to make sense; it can be a wonderful inspiration of things to come. (Note the two quotes that if fixed creatively, could inspire poetry). While it probably won’t ever win the Pulitzer Prize, Morning pages can get you started on a writing adventure. And isn’t this what we all need. Whether you use, one of Julia Cameron’s help books, a box with tiny slips of paper emblazoned with words, or you see someone walking down the street and make up a story about where they have been or where they are going, it doesn’t matter. You are a writer because you write.


Jean was born at a very early age, in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. She immigrated to Lower Canada in the early seventies and never looked back. One of her proudest accomplishments was being published in Legion Magazine. They published a story she wrote about her father in World War 2. Some of her poems are published and some not, but she enjoys writing them anyway.

Writing Exercises for refreshing Observation, Imagery and Conflict

by Lin Geary

I haven’t written a poem in over a year, and I have to start this week to write a couple of new monologues for my one-woman show, Addie. I have a deadline, but the writing muscle has puddled, puckered and pudged over the past year. So, when Marcie emailed me that it was my turn to sit in the blog seat, I panicked and rooted around in back files and on-line sites for something I had written two or more years ago. Then it hit me. Marcie’s request had to be the turn-around point for any future writing of mine. And it had to be fresh from the keyboard, now. So, here are three exercises I am planning to use in my “monologue pre-writing” for Addie. If you wish, you can use them too for sharpening your observation and imagery and intensifying your conflict, no matter what your format.

  1. Have you spent any time recently listening to the way people greet each other by name? Or even the way you yourself greet others? Listen closely to the way the person’s name is spoken (or even omitted.) Sometimes you can tell that something is being withheld in the way a name comes off the tongue. Sometimes you can tell that there is a back-story. It’s in the tone of voice, the lilt or lack of lilt, the rise and fade, the semi-snicker, the effusion, or in the joy. It’s a very tiny moment of contact, but it can also tell you if the
    greeting is false or true. It may even tell you that a person comes from a specific culture where politeness and strictness trump open-hearted intimacy. Or it may tell you whether the situation is private or public, morning or afternoon, hurried or lingering. It may tell you if the relationship is taken for granted, or coming to an end, or on the other hand, full of the magic of budding romance. What’s in a greeting? Maybe everything.
  2. When Easter rolls around, my thoughts turn to colour and artifice…namely, Easter eggs. And I have often wondered what it was that made me glad Easter eggs were done up so beautifully in pastels, while I was doubly glad that the old flip-top boxes of Hexagon Crayons™ were noted for their deep, rich, jewel tones. After much
    thought, it seems to me that I craved not just the colour but the colour combined with a specific shape. The soft oval of the egg seemed perfect when dipped in a soft mauve dye. The perfectly-chiseled, dark, hexagon crayons came to perfectly chiseled points. I remember the moment I could colour between the lines, no longer enslaved to the broken, fat stubbs of rounded crayons, the ones that picked up colour from other crayons in the old cake tin. Intense jewel-tone crayons were just right for a cutting-edge job in grade two. And I fell in love with magenta and tangerine and teal, six sided and almost dangerous in their perfection. Even now, I have an association with silver that is strongest when I recall the flashing blades on white figure skates. What other shapes have that kind of magical association with colour in your memory? Can you enhance
    your imagery with those specific memories of where colour and shape, or colour and taste (Lifesavers™? Licorice?) have collided and fused.
  3. Lastly, my naturopath and I were having a conversation about conflict resolution. He made an observation that I am about to test out in my next Addie monologue. He said that any two parties can successfully resolve any conflict on their own if they make an honest effort. But when conflict cannot be resolved, always look for “the third party.” He suggested there will always be someone else who keeps the conflict percolating for their own purposes (known or unknown to themselves). Whether it’s the conflict in the Middle East that can’t be resolved, or it’s the in-laws’ constant “interference” in your otherwise perfect marriage, there will be a third party keeping it going. Sometimes you can’t figure out easily “who’s on third.” So in order to give more power to the conflict in short stories, plays, or novels, keep this trick in mind….when “yes-no” “yes-no” conversations are running out of steam, introduce that one other character who will benefit most by upping the ante. Make them appear helpful. Give them the opportunity to carry gossip or baggage. Make them down-right nice. But give them their proper space…and wonderfully sturdy conflict should be the result.

Lin Geary, a long-time member of CWC, will be working frantically for the next little while to get Addie back in shape. She currently is the AGM secretary for Haiku Canada, and she hopes to do more about her sad lack of poetry writing as the days grow warmer and Pinehurst beckons. You can find some of her writing on-line with Ditch Poetry, Haibun Today, and VCBF haiku. She will be accepting a Sakura award for her VCBF winning haiku this coming May.

A Pantsing Experiment

by Marcie Schwindt

photo by Lean Brooks - burningwell.org

Writing is a skill that cannot be honed by practice alone. To grow we experiment with and learn from the techniques, approaches and preferences of others. In that spirit, I gave “pantsing” (writing “by the seat of your pants”) a try.

A natural planner/organizer, I knew pantsing would be a real challenge for me.  The allure of this approach is the surprise. Not knowing what’s going to happen makes the piece exciting, some would argue addicting, to write and less predictable for the reader.

First I joined a brainstorming session on a subject I knew even less about—sports. The group developed a comedic short story about a young girl’s search for hockey equipment (women’s gear was virtually non-existent at the time) in order to play hockey with her new group of friends (all boys) on the local pond. Nearly three years later, I completed Hand-Me-Down Hockey.  As promised, the finished product was completely different than the idea I began with.

The lessons learned were mostly expected: I will never be a full-time Pantser. In my opinion, the tale took longer than it should have to complete, and I required more external validation than I’m comfortable with. I am not confident about the finished product, and, as much as I’ve been told not to, I know that I will rewrite it, again.

The approach does deliver for me, however, when I incorporate it into my planning process. By planning only the basic plot and structure of the novel and using the Pantser technique to fill in the blanks, I end up with an extended outline that falls just short of a first draft. And, as promised, the resulting story is exciting/addicting to write and less predictable for the reader. It also means that I can complete the story in only two or three drafts.

Are you a pantser or a planner? Have you ever tried the other way? If you have, what was your experience? If not, why not?


Marcie Schwindt makes stuff up for a living and loves every minute of it.