These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

On Saturday, the WRW had yet another amazing meeting, this month featuring fabulous guest host Barbara Samuel. She presented us with two workshops–one before lunch, and one after our official meeting–about voice and the heroine’s journey, respectively.

For the voice workshop, Barbara ran us through a series of times writing exercises — sprints, if you will — that were less of a challenge to do first thing in the morning than you might think.

Since I don’t really have any other plans for these tidbits, I’ll be posting them here on my blog for the next week or so. Nothing should go to waste, right?

I challenge you as well to take each of these prompts and a timer (set your phone, or the microwave, it’s not tough) and see what you make of them. If nothing else, it’s good warm-up for your brain and reminds you that you CAN get some decent writing done, even if you only have four minutes.

The first exercise I’m going to share with you is one I call “Your Favorite Things.” In about 90 seconds, jot down your 10 favorite things. Don’t make a list that you think everyone else will read & be proud of — be honest with yourself. Whatever comes to mind. Just do it. If you have a little more time, go for 25 — we didn’t have the time, but Barbara said she likes to go to 25 to get a bigger picture.

What she’s looking for is what we spent the whole morning on: our voice. Look at your list as if you were a psychologist asking about your mother. Are you writing true to your own voice, or are you fighting against yourself? If you’re having trouble writing a certain scene or story, this could easily be the reason why. It’s a very interesting little personality test.

Got your timer set? Okay…GO!


So here’s my list:

1. Rainbows
2. My teddy bear, Charlie
3. My laptop
4. Black-eyed Susans
5. My best friends from high school
6. My books
7. Phone calls from my sister
8. The stories my dad tells
9. Mom’s moussaka
10. Magic

I went a little over and jotted down a few more things, since I knew 25 was usually the goal:
11. The ocean
12. Sunsets
13. Joe’s devious smile
14. Four leaf clovers
15. The Milky Way

Barbara had some of the women volunteer to read their lists aloud. She then asked them what type of fiction they wrote, and we could see how that was (or wasn’t, but in most cases was) reflected in their list. Most lists had things like children’s laughter, or food, or vacation spots. I heard each one of these women and kept looking down at my own list.

I finally leaned over to Mermaid Carlene and whispered, “My list looks like a twelve year old wrote it.”

Most people might have been embarrassed by such a list, but not me. I know exactly which things I value in this life–they are things that make me smile. I hunt down those things and surround myself with them. When I moved to TN I had a series of evacuation dreams. The house is on fire! What do you grab? It was always Charlie and my laptop, without exception. When the tornadoes hit, it was Charlie and me and the laptop in the bathtub.

When I was at my most depressed, I told someone about the prism my mom always hung in the kitchen, and how it used to make rainbows everywhere. I loved that thing. It always made me smile. So I bought a ton of crystal prisms and hung them all over my house. I even have one hanging from the rear view mirror of my car. I am rarely without rainbows. They are very important to me.

I am proud of my list. It’s very me, and very true. And yeah, it maybe looks like a twelve year old wrote it. But so what? I write picture books and young adult fairy tales full of magic and large families and storytelling and true love. I call myself a princess and wear tiaras in public. I know my voice, and I am very comfortable inside it.

So…what’s your voice like?