Creative Writing – Week 11 – The Extra Mile

In her book, “The Word: Black Writers Talk About the Transformative Power of Reading and Writing,” I enjoyed her interviews with many authors, including Wil Haygood, who writes his ass off! I’d been loving his Washington Post articles for years, and when I read his biography of Sammy Davis Jr., for a literary contest I was judging, I fell in love with the jazzy rhythms of his writing.


M.G.: What has your writing career given you?


WH: Writing has been my attempt to unravel some of the hardships of my past life. My mother was an alcoholic, my father was separated from my mother a month after I was born, divorced, you know, family members in prison, family members who were on and off drugs, all my life, you know? So, I came with a whole lot of turmoil in my stomach, a lot of pain, because there was always a lot of drama around. A writer can be a kind of inward-looking psychiatrist, almost, trying to go back, trying to assess the damage, trying to look for the light at the end of the tunnel.


Explore your reasons for writing. In 10 minutes – or more – finish this sentence, “I write…”


Creative Writing – Week 10

J. California Cooper (one of my favorite storytellers!) tells Marita Golden she loved telling stories with – and to – her paper dolls growing up.


M.G.: I read in an article that you played with paper dolls.

C.C.: Until I was 18.


M.G.: What did you like about paper dolls?


CC: You could tell a story. And that was that. The fact is, they were paper, so they couldn’t do it without you. It was the fact that you had somebody who could stand there and say, “Oh Howard, don’t do that.” My mother said you could put me in a room by myself and shut the door and you’d think a crowd of people were in there if you didn’t know I was in there by myself, because I talked to myself.


M.G.: And you were never alone when you were in your world of imagination.


C.C.: Right. That’s why when I was 18, my mother got scared and thought I was retarded or something….


I loved this book because it affirmed so much of what I knew, experienced, and felt as a writer, and because reading it feels like being in the company of a bunch of people who “Get it!”


Do you have a favorite book about writing or the writing life? If so, do share. And tell us why. 

Creative Writing – Week 9

“I had a notebook. You could buy little things from the canteen, and I bought a notebook and started writing things down. Prison ain’t exactly the best place to be telling somebody your deepest feelings, talking about your pain. So, I was writing stuff down. And I realized that it made me feel better, whatever I said, whether it was a paragraph or a page….”


(Award-winning author Nathan McCall tells award-winning author and master writing teacher Marita Golden in her book, “The Word”)


Do you have a writing routine? If so, for how long have you had it and what benefits have you gained from it? Is it time to rev. up your writing, take it to the next level? I’ve been journaling more than 15 years and this year I happened upon the book, “Creative Journaling,” which is helping me “monetize” this habit. It’s giving me ways to use this journaling habit to improve my craft and discover great stories – cha-ching!

Creative Writing – Week 8

Choose one of the five prompts and write to your heart’s content – but no less then 15 minutes. If you can make time in the evening or on the weekend, give yourself an hour or two to explore this prompt on paper.


1)   I give most of my time to….

2)   A letter to someone no longer in your life…

3)   The values I have chosen to live by…

4)   If I dared to say what I really think….

5)   The talent I would develop if I had half a chance is…

Creative Writing – Week 7

Go to your local library before the weekend is gone and check out a book about writing or the writing life. This assignment is two-fold. It gives you a reason to support your local library staying in the business of warehousing books and keeping them available; and it engages you in the book world – in a way.

Go and check out ay book about writing or the writing life.

Creative Writing Workshop – Week Six

Write about your worst habit. Twenty-minutes non-stop. Put it down. Plan to return to this assignment tomorrow for 20 more minutes. End this assignment by completing the sentence, “Now that I realize how (disgusting/or harmless) this habit is, I can…..”

Creative Writing – Week 3

Have fun. Take out a couple sheets of paper – or go to your computer – and do this: Trace a five dollar bill through five the lives of five different owners.

What was exchanged in the transaction? How much – or how little – did each transaction mean to the owner involved? Give yourself only 15 minutes for this exercise. It’s just for fun.

If the bill doesn’t make it through five people in 15 minutes, that’s fine. If you had fun with this you’re a success! (from the book: “The Writer’s Block: 786 Ideas to Jump Start Your Imagination” by Jason Rekulak)

Creative Writing – Week 2

Free associations and our five senses. Try this: wherever you are, something will have a distinctive smell. If not, stick your head out the window, close your eyes and take a whiff, open your refrigerator, or take a trip to a nearby coffee shop. What memories, thoughts, beliefs do the smells conjure for you? If you smell a foul body odor, for instance, you may remember your minister or Grandma saying, “Cleanliness is next to godliness!” Someone’s perfume may remind you of a favorite person or a memorable experience. The smell of incense, for instance, always harkens me back to my Muslim upbringing.

1)   What do you smell?

2)   What does it remind you of or make you think about?

3)   Is it a good or bad smell? Why

4)   Ramble on about this smell and see what stories – philosophies or insights – emerge.

5)   Before you finish this exercise complete this sentence: “The most surprising association of all was…”

Of course, you may do this exercise using any one of your five senses. What did it sound like? What memory did the sound (song?) generate? Have fun with this.


(From the book “Creative Journal Writing” by Stephanie Dowrick)

Creative Writing – Week 1

Wingtip Wednesdays – Tips for My Writing Friends

For the next ten weeks, I will share writing tips and inspiration I have thoroughly enjoyed the past two years. I worked on researching the publishing business and learning about the writing life. Here are things you can do to 1) establish a fun, daily writing routine (for pleasure, profit or both; 2) hone your craft; 3) develop literary products if that is your goal.

Choose one of the five writing prompts. Write for 20 minutes, none-stop. It’s ok if you get off-subject. Delight in where this writing takes you. Rejoice that you did it. Twenty-minutes non-stop. Go!


1)   My life as a five-year-old…

2)   I have everything I need…

3)   People expect me to…

4)   I give the impression that…

5)   I am sorry about…


Enjoy more writing tips at

“The Help” for the Newly Niggerized

After seeing the movie “The Help” on opening day, I couldn’t help think about a story I stumbled upon recently, another story that has not been told. I met a homeless white woman who lives out of her Volkswagon. She asked me to write her story and immediately I obliged. Then we got stuck on the word “nigger”. 

I met her one morning when I was out on my power walk. She asked me to help her into K-Mart so she could use the bathroom. I did not realize initially that she was homeless. I saw only an elderly, kindly, caucasian woman who needed help. I returned her kindness and she mentioned that she has lots of stories to tell and would like to write a book. I told her that I am a writer and possibly could help her get her stories together. Since I had time, we bought a notepad and pen there on the spot and I began taking notes. 

I was finding her story fascinating, insightful, at times witty, some parts wise, parts tragic. I ended up spending more time with her than I had planned. Traces of her story – her family history, current insights and observations – uncannily were similar to my own. Her story also seemed to me somewhat a cautionary tale. 

I was with her, feverishly writing as she spoke, excited about encouraging her to tell her story – until she mentioned the “N” word. Obama’s not a nigger, she said. He’s not even an American, because he’s from Kenya. She wants to move out of this country because “The Russians” have taken over. She went on and on until I interrupted.

“What is a nigger?” I asked. 

“You know,” she said, laughing. “My friends and I used to refer to you all as niggers. It’s a friendly term.” 

“It’s an offensive term. A very, very offensive term,” I assured her. 

Of course, I left her at the broken down car she sleeps in and returned to my comfortable home. I later thought about Dr. Cornel West’ statements about how middle-mainstream America is being “niggerized”, marginalized, ostracized. I’ll pray for the homeless white woman – and, yes, I’ll go back and help her tell her story. I know a compelling story when I stumble upon it. 

In one of the wealthiest counties in one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest country in the world, a white woman has been “niggerized.” 

What’s a nigger? The American Heritage College dictionary defines it as, “a disparaging term for a member of any socially, economically, or politically deprived group of people.”

What should we title this story?