Friday, August 27, 2010

Sitka Writing Workshop

I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at the Sitka Center for Arts and Ecology on Monday.  It is a tranquil and inspirational spot to learn, share and create.  The Sitka Center is located at Cascade Head on the Oregon Coast.  From several places set about in the stunning  landscape you can see the ocean.  It is surrounded by protected lands that include a  nature conservacy preserve, the cascase experimental forest, the salmon river estuary, a united nations biosphere reserve, and the only scenic research area in the world.  (

My workshop was  Writing for Kids: A Sense of Place presented by Kim T. Griswell, a senior editor for Boyds Mills Press and the Highlights Foundation. The eight of us in the class were sent out into the forest to lose ourselves in the senses of the place, and to write about it.   The spot I picked was on a carved bench at a high point in the forest where I could see a pie shaped sliver of the ocean in the distance.  There was a sculpture in my view that was a six sided wheel with a hole in its center, sitting atop a tall stone pillar.

Sitka Senses

A carved bench
Unforgiving in its hardness
Is worn smooth
By countless poets and bards

The eye of the wheel
Frames a picture beyond
Of the magnificent ocean
Horizon's edge hazy, gone

Tranquility and light
Sets my mind to calm
Warm smells of green forest
Fills my soul with its balm

The breath of the wind
Stroking my face
It's ebb and flow strength
Mirrors ocean waves in space

Sitting atop the world
Enveloped in sounds of trees
Storing memories of this place
That will never leave

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Captain Nolan the Sandbender Saves the Ocean

(My 9 yr old grandson picked out this picture from our trip to the beach during their stay and asked me to write him a story about it.  Below is Captain Nolan the Sandbender Saves the Cold Ocean, for Nolan).

Nolan grabbed his blue bucket and shovel and raced to the ocean, filling it with sea water to build the biggest sand castle ever. Again and again he filled his bucket as his sand castle rose towards the sky, two then three stories tall with towers, walls, a drawbridge, and a moat. He carefully set pieces of shells, sand dollars, driftwood, and stones into the sides of the castle as armor.

On his last trip to the water, Nolan noticed the ocean had changed color to a dark black blue and this time his bucket felt heavier. As he turned towards his castle, a wave crashed behind him with an angry loud clap. Water raced ahead of him as he ran to protect his castle.

Luckily the moat captured the sea water and his sand castle was safe.

When Nolan dumped the bucket of water into the center courtyard of his castle, out fell a lobster and a large shell of an astonishing iridescent purple-blue-pink color.

The ocean gave another loud roar that caused Nolan to drop his bucket and shovel, close his eyes, and clasp his hands over his ears.

When he opened his eyes, he was surprised to see the lobster frantically waving his claws trying to get Nolan’s attention. He stared as the lobster began to speak.

“You must help us. I am Lord Lobster and this is my Lady Sand Crab. We are the Rulers of the Cold Ocean. Evil Earl the Moray Eel is the Ruler of the Warm Ocean and he is trying to take over our territory. He has destroyed our home, threatened to eat us, and has all the creatures of the Cold Ocean living in fear.

Nolan looked at the other people on the beach around him. They didn’t seem to see or hear the talking lobster.

“But how can I help you?” asked Nolan.

“We see you have built a magnificent sand castle that meets all of our needs as Rulers of the Cold Ocean. We want to move in,” said Lord Lobster. Lady Sand Crab sat atop Lord Lobster’s back as he climbed to the top of the castle and set her on the highest tower. “This is a place fit for your beauty Lady Sand Crab.”

“This suits us perfectly, young man. Now, if only we could send Evil Earl the Moray Eel back to the Warm Ocean, we could get back to life as usual.”

Before Nolan could answer, the sky turned dark. The air smelled of rotten eggs and sent tingles up and down his arms. He looked up to see a sky full of ferocious-looking black winged creatures flying in battle formation.

“Oh no, they have found us! We truly do need your help. Lady Sand Crab, it is time to give super powers to our rescuer,” Lord Lobster said as he pinched Nolan on the big toe. Suddenly Nolan’s bucket became a shield and his shovel a magical sword.

“You are now Captain Nolan the Sandbender. You have the power to push, pull and shape sand to use it as a weapon against Evil Earl the Moray Eel and his band of black attackers.

Captain Nolan the Sandbender took a few practice swings with his sword. It sliced through the air, bringing up clouds of sand that swirled and opened into shapes he could only imagine. The sand flowed upward, and then spread in the air like fireworks, making arrows, balls, missiles, and giant clouds.

He flung his sword towards the sky and sand particles flew towards the black formation of creatures at great speeds, knocking them sideways and ending their attack. They scattered in fear for they had never seen such power in the sand before.

One of the larger flying creatures at the front of the formation swooped out of the sky towards Lady Sand Crab. Captain Nolan the Sandbender instinctively jumped in front of her and flung another sand missile at the creature. It fell to the ground screeching and clawing its way toward Lady Sand Crab.

As it moved toward her, it changed shape into Evil Earl the Moray Eel. It gave a scary evil grin as it slithered closer, its mission to destroy them. But Captain Nolan the Sandbender was not going to let that happen. He knew he had to try everything in his new power to defeat Evil Earl the Moray Eel and return the Cold Ocean rule back to Lord Lobster and Lady Sand Crab.

Captain Nolan the Sandbender waved his sword and created balls of sand that flew towards the eel catching it and hurling it out over the ocean. The last sand ball hit it directly and it gave a cry of defeat as it fell helplessly to into the Cold Ocean, never to be seen again.

“Thank you Captain Nolan the Sandbender. You have defeated Evil Earl the Moray Eel and his band of black winged creatures. Now Lady Sand Crab and I are safe and we can restore order to the Cold Ocean,” said Lord Lobster.

Captain Nolan the Sandbender waved his magic sword and the sand flew in the air in a swirling flowing spray that covered the sand castle. When the sand settled, the sand castle was magnificent again. The drawbridge was open to receive Lord Lobster and Lady Sand Crab. Grand towers rose from each corner and the walls surrounding it were decorated with sea shells, sand dollars and sparkling agates of beauty.

Lord Lobster lifted both claws and clicked them loudly. Suddenly a Legion of Lobsters came from the Cold Ocean and surrounded the sand castle. At his command, they lifted the castle from the beach and slowly moved it towards the ocean. Waves broke over the castle, but it remained in one piece as they disappeared into the depths of the sea.

Captain Nolan the Sandbender watched them leave with pride. He had defeated Evil Earl the Moray Eel, protected Lord Lobster and Lady Sand Crab, and built them a glorious sand castle to replace the one that had been destroyed. All would now be well with their Cold Ocean Kingdom.

He turned back to the beach. Gone was the glorious sand castle he had designed and built for Lord Lobster and Lady Sand Crab. In its place was the sand castle he had started to build earlier in the day. His shield and sword were again a bucket and shovel. He began to notice the sounds and smells of the beach and the warmth of the sun. He saw Grand Poo Bah and Grand Poo Mah sitting in chairs just a few yards away.

A flash of color from the middle of the sand castle caught his eye. He dug into the sand and found a large perfectly shaped iridescent purple-blue-pink shell. Lady Sand Crab must have left it for him.

He picked it up and walked towards Grand Poo Mah. “Look at what I found in the sand! And you won’t believe who it belonged to.”

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sir Tyler Digsalot and Professor Adelaide's Great Treasure Hunt

(My 7 yr old grandson picked out this picture from our trip to the beach during
their stay and asked me to write him a story about it.  Below is "Sir Tyler
 Digsalot and Professor Adelaide's Great Treasure Hunt", for Tyler)

Sir Tyler Digsalot was on a mission to discover treasure under the sand. He and
his trusty helper Professor Adelaide dug deeper and deeper in the sand close
to the surf.  They dug so deep they both disappeared from view. Sand flew up
over their heads and out onto the beach. And as they dug they got smaller and
smaller. Soon they found themselves standing in front of a clear blue pool of
water. It looked like a window to the mystery of the deep.

Suddenly a huge crab came into view. He had a very large crown on his head
and was clearly in charge. He motioned for them to come through the water
into the sea creature's world below.

Sir Tyler Digsalot and Professor Adelaide, being an adventurous duo, dove
through the water into the world on the other side.

King Crab spoke. “I can see that you are very curious indeed and want to know
more about our world. What would you like to know?” he asked Sir Tyler

“I want to know if you have any games to play under the sand,” he said.

King Crab replied, “Of course we do. We have the Sand and Surf Arcade. But it
requires whole sand dollars to play. Do you have any?”

Sir Tyler Digsalot and Professor Adelaide dug into their pockets and found
only pieces of sand dollars, not whole ones.

“Well, that’s okay. We will make them work for your visit. Follow me,” said King

Sir Tyler Digsalot and Professor Adelaide followed King Crab into a room full of
activity. There were shrimp sitting around large open shells playing card games,
jellyfish dancing to music played by a quartet of sand crabs, starfish showing
off their climbing skills on a towering piece of coral, clams competing in a
squirting contest, and sea worms and snails playing all sorts of arcade games.
The games looked like fun, so Sir Tyler Digsalot and Professor Adelaide played
each one until they had used up all of their sand dollar pieces.

Finally, King Crab said, “There is one special game you can play before you
must return home.” He took them to the back of the Sand and Surf Arcade to
the Sea World Race Track. Waiting in race stalls were sea horses with saddles,
bridles, and reins.

Sir Tyler Digsalot and Professor Adelaide each picked a sea horse to race. Sir
Tyler Digsalot picked one named Toohey and Professor Adelaide picked one
named Roxie. As they raced their sea horses, the other sea creatures cheered.

First, Sir Tyler was ahead, then Professor Adelaide took the lead. Finally in the
last stretch, they were neck and neck. Their sea horses crossed the finish line
at the same time.

“You are both winners,” said King Crab above the cheering crowd. “But now
it is time to go,” he said motioning them towards the pool of water.

Sir Tyler Digsalot and Professor Adelaide thanked the King Crab for letting
them play the arcade games at the Sand and Surf, and race the sea horses.
They then dove into the pool and found themselves back on the other side.
They looked up and could see the beautiful blue sky of the beach above

They returned to their normal size as they climbed out of the hole they had
dug. They brushed themselves off and laughed together. “What an adventure,”
Professor Adelaide exclaimed. “But no one will believe us when we tell them.
We have no proof.”

Suddenly Sir Tyler Digsalot felt something in his pocket, then so did Professor
Adelaide. They each pulled our two perfectly whole sand dollars. “Now we have
proof,” said Sir Tyler Digsalot. “We have whole sand dollars. King Crab must
have put them in our pockets before we left.”

The tide was starting to come in and the waves were coming closer and closer
to their dig site. Finally one big wave completely covered the top of it. When
the wave went back, their hole was gone.

“It’s time to go,” Sir Tyler Digsalot said. “We need to report in to Grand Poo Bah
McMann and tell him about our great adventure.

“Yeah, and show him our cool treasure,” said Professor Adelaide.

They carefully put their whole sand dollars in their buckets and walked back to
the house.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ann's Latest Oiuja Poetry Challenge

 Ann has issued the following oiuja poetry challenge.  She asked us to create a poem from the prompt she has provided:

Ann's prompt:                                   My attempt:

Fjew jr;lsa/                                         Just a few years ago

Dkjr s                                                  Dark lonely years

Eoighbvnmcnxo9eng                       Erin had been immersed in pining.

Xndn f                                                She couldn't find

Enfkkdan ek;anc oaeh g4 ajf           Enough friction or energy to go for it again.

D aekvne                                            Does she ask for intervention?

Asken cog                                         Ask for courage?

And wog,                                           Then work

Adsktw;ioxnss                                  At starting to find happiness again?

Check out her blog for other creations:  (

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Out of the mouths of kids - 4 flash 55's

(Two of our grandsons, ages 9 and 7, and one granddaughter, age 9 have been staying with us this past week.  Because of this, I haven't been on the blog writing or watching, but I have kept a pencil and paper handy to jot down fun things they have said and done.  Here are 4 flash 55's from their visit.)

The boys race into the house, slamming the door.

“Grandma, we’re bored,” they say in unison. “We used up the caps in our cap guns.”

“Why don’t you ride your bikes?” I ask.

Tyler replies, “Grandma, my feet are too tired. After all, they’ve been walked on every. day.  for the last seven years. "

In the downstairs bathroom, the shower curtain kept getting pushed to the side.
After pulling it back in place a number of times, only to find it pushed aside again, I finally realized it was the potential of  boogeymen hiding behind it that was causing Tyler to open it each time he used the bathroom.

Unbeknownst to me, Cris jokingly told the youngest grandson, “Grandma falls
asleep when she drives, so you had better help keep her awake if you ride with her.”

I wondered why he talked to me the whole 30 minute ride home.

When we pulled into the driveway he said, “Good job Grandma. You didn’t fall asleep once.”

We had Chinese food for dinner tonight that included rice, noodles and a couple of chicken entrees.

The oldest grandson was quietly looking at his plate, then announced, “I’m gonna do something no boy should ever have to do.”

He put a piece of broccoli in his mouth, made a face, and started to chew.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Jobless in Seattle

The first paragraph is a writing prompt from Ann Linquist, my Beginning Writers Workshop instructor.  We were asked to complete the story. (Thank you for the title idea, Walk.)

The dratted bag was heavy. Her arm ached. Gretta saw a locker and decided it was worth the 2 bucks to store her burden. She could pick it up later when it was time to meet Mr. Stanley. For now, she needed to take a break and time to think about whether she wanted to continue with the plan.

Sitting at the train station in Seattle was not where she thought she would be after college graduation. But here she was, traveling with a back pack and her portfolio, to the big city to interview with Mr. Stanley for a job. Seattle seemed too big, too fast paced and too scary to her. She was more comfortable in her small home town. Did she really want to move so far away from home?

When she began her studies in Visual Communication, it was the up and coming design career path. She was smart, talented and at the top of her small graduating class. But it was 2010, and there were no jobs for college graduates. “No jobs for just about anyone, for that matter,” she muttered to herself. Her hometown definitely had no prospects. She had sent her resume to major companies with job openings in all the big west coast cities. And now she was here in Seattle.

Her portfolio was her pride and joy. All of her projects were showcased there. It was not only the weight of the portfolio, but the weight of her future that caused her to stash it in the locker. It was too heavy to carry for now.

She looked at her watch; 8AM. She was six hours early. She had planned to arrive early to wander around the wharf and people watch for awhile before she got ready for her interview.

Mr. Stanley himself had called to set up this interview. “I was impressed with your resume and college activities. I would like to review your portfolio with you next Wednesday at 2PM. We have a new position that might be suited for your skills and a mentor who would help you grow in this new area.”

Wow, she thought. Me, in a big city, with a big job. How cool was that! But, was she ready? With no friends or family close by, she would be on her own. That wasn’t the plan she had in mind. But she needed a job.

Out of the corner of her eye she watched an awesomely good looking young man with dark hair and gorgeous dimples walk out the door of the station. He had been seated in the same car with her and she had caught him looking at her a number of times. They had made their way to the canteen car for coffee at the same time, but had only exchanged a brief greeting. She felt her heart jump wildly in her chest when he had said hi to her, but he had quickly returned to his seat and his computer.

She took a city walking map from the kiosk and made her morning plans. She would walk to the Pike Street Market; it didn’t look too far from the station. She wanted to see the famous fish throwers and have something to eat at one of the waterfront caf├ęs before her 2:00 PM meeting with Mr. Stanley.

As she wandered the waterfront she tried to imagine herself living in Seattle. She would take one step at time. The first step was a job and it was time to return to the train station, retrieve her portfolio, and change into her interview clothes.

At 1:50PM she presented herself to the receptionist at Mr. Stanley’s office. At 2:00PM, she was escorted into a meeting room with a large round oak table. She was studying the room and the paintings on the walls when a well dressed older gentleman entered. He extended his hand as he said, “I’m Gordon Stanley, Miss Matthews. I’m delighted to make your acquaintance.” He sat down and continued, “My son will join us momentarily. He is the one with the idea for this new department and will be guiding its development. I would like him to explain the details to you.”

She removed her portfolio from its case and as she placed it on the table, the door opened. “It’s you,” they said in unison. The handsome young man she had traveled with on the train sat down at the table and leaned toward her, grasping her hand.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A New Challenge

I follow Ginny Wienhardt's Fiction Writing site ( and one of her challenges this week was to write a 100 word story composed of only one-syllable words.  I took my friday flash poem and used it as the basis.  It was really difficult to write a story using only one-syllable words - try it if you want.  Here is what I ended up with:

She’d grasped hold of it last night. It had been spot on. But in a flash it was gone to who knows where. It should have been dealt with when she thought of it then. But now it will have to wait, ‘cause it’s just not there. Where did it go, that flash in the night? To a dark space in her brain, to a blank slate in her mind, or to the void in her soul? She does not know where they go or how to call them back, these thoughts that fly in and out of her head.