Monthly Archives: April 2013

closing time

Giant news! Today’s a big day in the Smith household.

In BOTH of them! That’s because today we became homeowners.

We’re psyched, obviously, but one of the reasons I’m especially excited is because now I can document a whole bunch of renovations that we’ll be embarking on in the coming months. This writer is about to revise a house.

More to come! I’ll be back in regular business tomorrow – so check in then!

Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 2.45.31 PM

5 things friday: athletes who overcome the odds

There are thousands of stories swirling around the Internet as Boston becomes a post-Marathon world. One of them is detailed in this article about Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a dance teacher at local Arthur Murray Studios, who lost part of her left leg in the aftermath and has a positive attitude going forward.

Perspective, people.

I’m guilty, as we all are, of sometimes having a fuzzy perspective. Anyone who knows me on a personal level knows that I’ve spent a solid 20 months of my life on crutches due to three pretty major sports medicine surgeries. From fifth to sixth grade, I was on crutches for 9 months in a row. I’ve shattered bones, snapped ligaments in half, and had my own ankle bone betray me by spontaneously disintegrating when I was 10. It was tough, and I spent some time pretty angry as a teenager.

I consider myself to be very lucky because I’m still able to train through (years, now) of pain, physical therapy, and setbacks. And that puts new meaning into the phrase “pales in comparison” with what Haslet-Davis must be feeling. I can only imagine a fraction of the frustration and anger she’s feeling, but I find her determination and drive so inspiring.

Athletes everywhere will connect with what Haslet-Davis told CNN. She says that dancing “is the one thing that I do, that when I do it I don’t feel like I should be doing anything else.” She’s also planning on running the Boston Marathon in the future.

Todays Five Things Friday is pure admiration. Athletes with prosthetics. It’s dedicated from one dancer to another. We’re in your corner, Haslet-Davis.

5. Dancer Miranda Cochran (age 12 at the time of this video) was born without a left foot. This a 15-second clip of her tapping is so brilliant and well-executed.

4. Pictured here is Marine veteran Cpl. Sebastion Gallegos at the 2013 Marine Corps Trials. He lost his right arm while on deployment to Afghanistan in 2010.

Image by USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment, via Flickr

Image by USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment, via Flickr

3. Australian Olympian Don Elgin, who, according to Wikipedia, “was born without a left leg and a left thumb, with small toes, and webbed fingers on both hands; his malformed left foot was amputated shortly after he was born and he had open heart surgery at the age of three.” Check him out from the 2000 Sydney Paralympics.

Image by Australian Paralympic Committee, via Wikimedia Commons

Image by Australian Paralympic Committee, via Wikimedia Commons

2. It’s unclear who this is, but it’s a pretty amazing shot.

Image by s_mestdagh, via Wikimedia Commons

Image by s_mestdagh, via Wikimedia Commons

1. Last, and certainly not least, is this ridiculously inspiring ballet, “Hand in Hand,” performed by Ma Li and Zhai Xiaowei: a man with one leg and a woman with one arm.

For more on Adrianne Haslet-Davis, read: here.

#bostonstrong

first impressions

In addition to the writer/dancer hats I wear, I’m a proud and happy online professor for what I consider to be quite the innovative university. We’ve got a new term start on Monday, which means that it’s key time for first impressions.

In person, every first impression requires an innate interpretation of body language. When I meet new people IRL, I smile, do a self-check on my posture, and adjust handshake to try to match the other person’s strength. So many things go through my mind that outside of the every single time I meet someone new, something terrible happens.

I can never remember his or her name.

By InverseHypercube (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By InverseHypercube (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Facts facts about first impressions:

  • NYU researchers found that eleven major decisions about one another occur in the first seven seconds of meeting.
  • According to the Missouri University of Science and Technology, it takes around two-tenths of a second for a first-time online visitor to a website to form an initial opinion of a company brand. 
  • A staggering 80% of a woman’s first impression of a man has to do with the way that he carries himself.
  • Tufts professor of social psychology Nalini Ambady found that students could predict how “good” a professor was based on viewing brief (I’m talking very few seconds, here) silent clips of each teacher and rating them on different variables, which she then compared with the professors’ end-of-term ratings. 

On Teaching and First Impressions:

Teaching college classes in person required much less thought process when it came to first impressions.  Inevitably, I dressed as professional as you’d expect for a professor to dress on the first day of school. I’d arrive with my syllabi printed out and ready to distribute, explain my expectations, crack a few terrible jokes and gently remind students how much I hate late papers. Then, the rest of the class time was spent with direct one-on-one discussion between me and each student so that the class could relax and start to get into a good atmosphere (which, I’ve found, produces much better learning).

Online, though, is a different story. How might a student judge a professor’s teaching style, effectiveness, and general feeling of whether a student feels, when odds are that they’ll never meet that person?

I’ve found that it’s extremely important to humanize myself. Pre-interaction, students have already got an idea of a professor based one what they’ve posted. Upon the first discussion, it’s vital to be social. I’m interested, and I have to convey that. I’m married; they might be. I’m from the Boston area; they might be. (If not, inevitably, there’s a weather discussion!) I’m approachable. I get back to students immediately. I’m all kinds of things.

What about you? What do you think conveys a first impression in an online setting?

 

wowchallenge contest winners

Today’s blog post announces the contest winners!

Sometimes it pays off to wait until the end… as evidenced by last night’s Hail Mary entry, “Rooted,” by Melinda T. Falgoust! Read Melinda’s story in the first wowchallenge comments section. Congratulations, Melinda. Please e-mail me a good mailing address for you, because you’ve won:

Prize 1: A copy of Q & A A Day: 365 Questions, 5 Years, 1,825 Answers. This book was published by the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. It’s been a lifesaver for me in terms of writing, teaching, deep questions, and truly just thinking.

For those of you who were curious: the two pictures from the first Week of Writing prompt were taken in New York City and in Barcelona!

As for Prize 2, congratulations to e-mail entry contestant Bob M. from Santa Fe. Bob M. wins a FULL edit of up to 10 pages of his writing, double-spaced. (My credentials include two stints as a editorial board member, 18 months as a copywriter for LivingSocial, a Creative Writing M.F.A., a number of published works, two novels in the running, and five years as a professor.) Contact me for details, Bob M.!

Congratulations to both winners. This contest was a lot of fun. Stay tuned for the next one come fall. Until then – keep writing and living well, everyone.

#wowchallenge recap – last chance, romance

It’s not a beautiful day here in Boston, even though tomorrow is supposed to be 70 degrees. Coincidentally, that means it’s a great day to sharpen your writing skills (no matter where you are!) and enter the #wowchallenge before tomorrow (the last day to enter). Unplug yourself for a little while and use this to clear your mind and get something accomplished today.

Below is a full rundown of the 5 writing prompts that you can use. Enter by posting in the comments section, or by emailing me at joan@jfsmithbooks.com if you’re too shy to post.

For a full rundown of each prompt – including prize details – click on the numbered #wowchallenge link. Remember that you can use these prompts for any kind of writing: nonfiction, fiction, poems, short stories, screenplays, essays, expository… whatever strikes your mood.

Until then: happy writing.

#wowchallenge 1: Opening & Closing Lines
First, come up with an alluring opening line based on this picture.

Hint: this brunch photograph was taken on a late September morning in a major U.S. metropolitan city.

Then, come up with your closing line. You can choose to either: 1. Come up with a line based solely off of the first picture/what might happen there, or 2. Invent an entirely new line based off of the picture below, and use your creative magic to get from A to B.

Rooftop Pool

 

#wowchallenge 2:  Extra, extra – Read All About It
Skim through your local newspaper, favorite online news source, or a stray magazine. Don’t read the stories, though – just look at the headlines. Pick a headline at random (or, really, whichever strikes you). Then, write a brief poem or flash fiction based on the direction that the headline sends you.

#wowchallenge 3: Dream On
Ask a couple of people about a dream that they’ve had recently, or their most distinct/weirdest dream ever. Choose any or all of the following options.

  1. Use one as inspiration to write a poem, microfiction, or short story.
  2. Use one to write a fake book blurb.
  3. Think about – and develop a character who would be in one, and fill out the 25 questions.

#wowchallenge 4: Bite Sized
Write a poem, flash fiction, or short story only using words that have 5 letters or less. 

#wowchallenge 5: Art as Inspiration
Craft a creative piece that is inspired by a work of art. Writers find inspiration everywhere: coffee shops, within their personal relationships, the frenetic energy of a city, the calm tranquility of the countryside. This time, you’ll compose something based off of an image. You can choose one of your own (if you do, please post the link!) or use Robert Longo’s “Gretchen” as inspiration.

 

This is our print of Gretchen. She hangs out in the entryway to our home.

This is our print of Gretchen. She hangs out in the entryway to our home.

A close-up of Robert Longo's "Gretchen"

A close-up of Robert Longo’s “Gretchen”

Contact me with any questions that you might have. Enjoy!

wow challenge 5: art as inspiration

This post published itself before I could get here to alter it. Recent devastating events in Boston have alternately left me at a loss for words versus bursting with writing power. This contest is still in place until April 24, but I will be republishing this on Monday. Please peruse it now if you’re looking for something to do. Until then: #bostonstrong

Welcome to the fifth installment of the “Week of Writing” (WOW) challenge! Please scroll to the bottom of today’s writing prompt to view the full contest details.

Today’s #wowchallenge: art as inspiration.

In the movie adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, we meet Patrick Bateman — a character unlike any other character in the world.

By JBBStudio (Flickr: Bret Easton Ellis), via Wikimedia Commons

By JBBStudio (Flickr: Bret Easton Ellis), via Wikimedia Commons

Robert Longo’s Men in the Cities series, which are shown in
Guggenheim Museum

Craft a creative piece that is inspired by a work of art. Writers find inspiration everywhere: coffee shops, within their personal relationships, the frenetic energy of a city, the calm tranquility of the countryside. This time, you’ll compose something based off of an image.

You can choose one of your own (if you do, please post the link!) or use Robert Longo’s “Gretchen” as inspiration.

This concept isn’t new. William Butler Yeats composed “Leda and the Swan” after seeing Paul Cézanne’s oil painting; Samuel Yellen wrote “Nighthawks,” inspired by Edward Hopper’s classic; even Anne Sexton wrote “The Starry Night” based on van Gogh’s famous artwork.

Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The #wowchallenge Contest Rules:

Based off of the feedback I receive after this full week of writer’s challenges, it has a high potential to run again in the future.

Basically, how it works: there will be 5 challenges (Monday through Friday of this week.) Writers who submit one finished product in the comment section (of any 5 challenges) will get their name in a hat. If you submit two finished products, then you get your name in said hat twice. Three, three times. That said: you have up to five chances to get your name in the hat by submitting your writing.

What do you win? One of two prizes!
(If you don’t want to be considered for one of the prizes, then please make that clear in the comment section.)

Prize 1: A copy of Q & A A Day: 365 Questions, 5 Years, 1,825 Answers. This book was published by the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. It’s been a lifesaver for me in terms of writing, teaching, deep questions, and thought inspiration.

image (6)image (9)

Prize 2: I’ll do a FULL edit of up to 10 pages of your writing, double-spaced. (My credentials include two stints as a editorial board member, 18 months as a copywriter for LivingSocial, a Creative Writing M.F.A., a number of published works, two novels in the running, and five years as a professor.) This does not have to be the one that you submit for the challenge. It can be ANY story or poem, a college essay, an email… anything.

Winners will be picked from the hat and announced on the blog on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. When you submit your comment, please submit with the understanding that a collection of my favorite entries will be published in a special blog post, with full credit given to you.

Happy writing! Be sure to post your work in the comments section to be considered for the #wowchallenge contest.

wow challenge 4: the bite-sized brain

Welcome to the fourth installment of the “Week of Writing” (WOW) challenge! Please scroll to the bottom of today’s writing prompt to view the full contest details.

Today’s #wowchallenge: bite-sized brains.

This challenge is a tough one, but it requires some background.

Have you ever heard of the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease and Grade Level tests? They are a pair of readability tests, run by Microsoft Word, that judge the comprehension difficulty of your writing. Both tests are computed by assessing word and sentence length, although they’re weighted differently. Essentially, if your work scores a 6 on the Grade Level score, then it should be at a sixth grade reading level.

Without going into specifics, according to Wikipedia, if a document has a “Reading Ease” readability score of 0-30, it is best understood by university graduates; if it has a score of 60-70, then it could probably be understood by students ages 13-15, and if it’s up in the 90-100 range, then it’s best suited for 11 year old students.

Logic would follow, then, that if you’re writing a young adult book, then you should aim to have a readability of 67 or so, with a Grade Level of, say 8.2, right? And if you’re writing adult fiction, perhaps aim for a lower readability, and a Grade Level of 10.0 and up?

Wrong.

An analysis of popular fiction has a high readability, and most importantly, a score of 6 or below on the Grade Level Score.

This is in addition to a number of other common traits, including: short words and sentences, and the use of an active voice (He ran, not: He is running).

Some publishers rely on these scores, some publishers don’t – so take them with a grain of sand. Politics aside, here is one interesting fact.  Obama’s 2010 State of the Union addresses rated the fourth-lowest Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score in history, at an 8.8 – especially surprising, as compared to George W. Bush’s 10.4 score. Again, politics aside, the majority of Americans rate Obama as a great public speaker. Food for thought.

Speaking of food… this brings us to the actual challenge!

By Brownretail, via Wikimedia Commons

By Brownretail, via Wikimedia Commons

Your job, today, is to write a poem, flash fiction, or short story all while using words that have 5 letters or less. 

Got that? There can’t be a single word in there that’s six letters long.

Take, for example, a big wedding cake. While it’s admirable to look at, it’s hefty to tote around, ridiculously expensive, and cumbersome to cut and serve.

This compared to the ease with which a simple cupcake can be baked and served in a matter of minutes.

By Arnold Gatilao (originally posted to Flickr as Pink Velvet Cupcake) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Arnold Gatilao (originally posted to Flickr as Pink Velvet Cupcake) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Something that’s easily digestible and fun – that’s your goal today. Try not to get too cute and serve two meals in one, though.

By Janet Hudson, via Wikimedia Commons

By Janet Hudson, via Wikimedia Commons

The #wowchallenge Contest Rules:

Based off of the feedback I receive after this full week of writer’s challenges, it has a high potential to run again in the future.

Basically, how it works: there will be 5 challenges (Monday through Friday of this week.) Writers who submit one finished product in the comment section (of any 5 challenges) will get their name in a hat. If you submit two finished products, then you get your name in said hat twice. Three, three times. That said: you have up to five chances to get your name in the hat by submitting your writing.

What do you win? One of two prizes!
(If you don’t want to be considered for one of the prizes, then please make that clear in the comment section.)

Prize 1: A copy of Q & A a Day: 365 Questions, 5 Years, 1,825 Answers. This book was published by the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. It’s been a lifesaver for me in terms of writing, teaching, deep questions, and thought inspiration.

image (6)image (9)

Prize 2: I’ll do a FULL edit of up to 10 pages of your writing, double-spaced. (My credentials include two stints as a editorial board member, 18 months as a copywriter for LivingSocial, a Creative Writing M.F.A., a number of published works, two novels in the running, and five years as a professor.) This does not have to be the one that you submit for the challenge. It can be ANY story or poem, a college essay, an email… anything.

Winners will be picked from the hat and announced on the blog on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. When you submit your comment, please submit with the understanding that a collection of my favorite entries will be published in a special blog post, with full credit given to you.

Happy writing! Be sure to post your work in the comments section to be considered for the #wowchallenge contest.

WOW challenge 3: dreams

Composition Notebook

Welcome to the third installment of the “Week of Writing” (WOW) challenge! Please scroll to the bottom of today’s writing prompt to view the full contest details.

Today’s #wow challenge: dreams.

After a series of really crazy, vivid dreams, I began thinking about keeping a dream journal by my bed. I recently posted about dreams that my friends have had, and how I use them to sharpen my writing skills.

For example, I woke up this morning after having a dream where my husband told me to go out on a date. I went out with someone named Leonard, who took me to a restaurant where a child asked me: “Mommy, can I have some orange juice?” When I said I didn’t have children, Leonard kidnapped me for seven years, but then I “woke up” in the dream (it was a dream-within-a-dream wake up) and I had only been gone one night. I think I need to lay off the sleeping pills.

my copy of MY FRIEND LEONARD, by James Frey

book cover of a copy of MY FRIEND LEONARD, by James Frey

Hence, today’s writing challenge.

Ask three people about a dream that they’ve had recently, or the most distinct/weirdest dream ever. Or use my dream – whatever works for you!

  1. Use one as inspiration to write a poem, microfiction, or short story. 
  2. Use one to write a fake book blurb. 
  3. Think about – and develop a character who would be in one, and fill out the 25 questions. 

 

Here’s a copy of what I did a couple weeks ago:

One friend – we will call her Louise –  had a dream that her dad was killing people. She figured it out and wasn’t sure if she should report him.

What if you turned this into a book blurb (also called a jacket summary, or a book synopsis – it’s the writing on the back of a paperback, or on the inside of a hardcover)? This one is particularly funny, because her dad is a junior high science teacher.

“When people in her sleepy town begin dying, fifteen-year-old Louise is just as scared as everyone else… until she figures out who the killer is: her father. Funny, charming, and smart, Mr. Ridge is every student’s dream science teacher. Could he instead be the town’s worst nightmare? How do you love someone who might be evil? And, most importantly: can a daughter turn in her father to the police?”

And now, it’s a young adult mystery book blurb.

Science Teacher Serial Killer

Another friend – we’ll call her Marie – said: “A few weeks ago, I had a bad dream about me starring in a horror movie with Jamie Lee Curtis. But in the dream, I knew what was going to happen because I had seen the movie before, but then all of a sudden, we were in a scene that I didn’t recognize and the killer was about to murder me. Then I woke up.”

By Josh Hallett at http://www.flickr.com/photos/hyku/ → http://www.flickr.com/photos/hyku/4700190029/  via Wikimedia Commons

This movie-within-a-dream trick isn’t new (Inception, anyone?). In fact, it’s fodder for a pretty good fantasy dystopia.

In a world where… (kidding.)

“Marie has had a pretty normal life, until one morning, when she wakes up – or doesn’t. She’s become trapped in a dream world, where she knows what’s about to happen… and she doesn’t like it. Marie fears she’ll never get back to reality. The only thing that can get her out? A drastic, dangerous plan that relies on the help of a mysterious stranger named Jamie. Can they succeed?”

Sure, they’re not the best written or most intriguing book blurbs around, but they’re fun to use as practice. What about you? What’s the strangest dream you’ve ever had? Do you ever use it in your writing? (Stay tuned for a writing exercise about this coming up in a few short weeks!)

The #wowchallenge Contest Rules:

Based off of the feedback I receive after this full week of writer’s challenges, it has a high potential to run again in the future.

Basically, how it works: there will be 5 challenges (Monday through Friday of this week.) Writers who submit one finished product in the comment section (of any 5 challenges) will get their name in a hat. If you submit two finished products, then you get your name in said hat twice. Three, three times. That said: you have up to five chances to get your name in the hat by submitting your writing.

What do you win? One of two prizes!
(If you don’t want to be considered for one of the prizes, then please make that clear in the comment section.)

Prize 1: A copy of Q & A a Day: 365 Questions, 5 Years, 1,825 Answers. This book was published by the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. It’s been a lifesaver for me in terms of writing, teaching, deep questions, and thought inspiration.

image (6)image (9)

Prize 2: I’ll do a FULL edit of up to 10 pages of your writing, double-spaced. (My credentials include two stints as a editorial board member, 18 months as a copywriter for LivingSocial, a Creative Writing M.F.A., a number of published works, two novels in the running, and five years as a professor.) This does not have to be the one that you submit for the challenge. It can be ANY story or poem, a college essay, an email… anything.

Winners will be picked from the hat and announced on the blog on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. When you submit your comment, please submit with the understanding that a collection of my favorite entries will be published in a special blog post, with full credit given to you.

Happy writing! Be sure to post your work in the comments section to be considered for the #wowchallenge contest.

 

 

wow challenge 2: extra, extra

Composition Notebook

This challenge is meant to stimulate your brains into writing something – nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and more – into a new direction. I came up with this post pre-bombing yesterday. It is too true that these tragedies bring out media in droves, which makes this prompt all the more relevant.

*

Welcome to the second installment of the “Week of Writing” (WOW) challenge! Please scroll to the bottom of today’s writing prompt to view the full contest details.

Today’s #wow challenge: Extra, extra – read all about it.

Skim through your local newspaper, favorite online news source, or a stray magazine. Don’t read the stories, though – just look at the headlines.

Pick a headline at random (or, really, whichever strikes your fancy). Then, write a brief poem or flash fiction based on the direction that the headline sends you.

Need inspiration? Here is a screenshot of the Boston.com homepage, for example, from one week ago today (April 9):

Headlines galore!

Headlines galore!

“Mayday Mayday: A True Story by the Man Who Fell” – um, amazing.

Here’s an example of one I wrote about seven years ago. (And now, I feel old.)

“Spare Dreams”

He perches on the city street. His haunted eyes
peer over his colorless beard. I think
a worn, tattered coat even adorns his shapeless body.
Gritty and pale, his hand shakes a battered cup.

“Spare dreams? Can you spare some dreams?” I deposit
one of mine in his cup. It was an old one, anyway,
that I’d given up some time ago.
He won’t know the difference.

The #wowchallenge Contest Rules:

Based off of the feedback I receive after this full week of writer’s challenges, it has a high potential to run again in the future.

Basically, how it works: there will be 5 challenges (Monday through Friday of this week.) Writers who submit one finished product in the comment section (of any 5 challenges) will get their name in a hat. If you submit two finished products, then you get your name in said hat twice. Three, three times. That said: you have up to five chances to get your name in the hat by submitting your writing.

What do you win? One of two prizes!
(If you don’t want to be considered for one of the prizes, then please make that clear in the comment section.)

Prize 1: A copy of Q & A a Day: 365 Questions, 5 Years, 1,825 Answers. This book was published by the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. It’s been a lifesaver for me in terms of writing, teaching, deep questions, and thought inspiration.

image (6)image (9)

Prize 2: I’ll do a FULL edit of up to 10 pages of your writing, double-spaced. (My credentials include two stints as a editorial board member, 18 months as a copywriter for LivingSocial, a Creative Writing M.F.A., a number of published works, two novels in the running, and five years as a professor.) This does not have to be the one that you submit for the challenge. It can be ANY story or poem, a college essay, an email… anything.

Winners will be picked from the hat and announced on the blog on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. When you submit your comment, please submit with the understanding that a collection of my favorite entries will be published in a special blog post, with full credit given to you.

Happy writing! Be sure to post your work in the comments section to be considered for the #wowchallenge contest.

 

wow challenge 1: opening and closing lines.

Composition Notebook

Welcome to the first installment of the “Week of Writing” (WOW) challenge! Based off of the feedback I receive after this full week of writer’s challenges, it has a high potential to run again in the future.

Basically, how it works: there will be 5 challenges (Monday through Friday of this week.) Writers who submit one finished product in the comment section (of any 5 challenges) will get their name in a hat. If you submit two finished products, then you get your name in said hat twice. Three, three times. That said: you have up to five chances to get your name in the hat by submitting your writing.

What do you win? One of two prizes!
(If you don’t want to be considered for one of the prizes, then please make that clear in the comment section.)

Prize 1: A copy of Q & A a Day: 365 Questions, 5 Years, 1,825 Answers. This book was published by the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. It’s been a lifesaver for me in terms of writing, teaching, deep questions, and thought inspiration.

image (6) image (9)

Prize 2: I’ll do a FULL edit of up to 10 pages of your writing, double-spaced. (My credentials include two stints as a editorial board member, 18 months as a copywriter for LivingSocial, a Creative Writing M.F.A., a number of published works, two novels in the running, and five years as a professor.) This does not have to be the one that you submit for the challenge. It can be ANY story or poem, a college essay, an email… anything.

Winners will be picked from the hat and announced on the blog on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. When you submit your comment, please submit with the understanding that a collection of my favorite entries will be published in a special blog post, with full credit given to you.

Today’s #wow challenge tackles opening and closing lines. It’s in the spirit of John Irving, who always knows his closing line before he begins writing a book. According to Irving at a recent J.F.K. forum, his working closing line for his upcoming novel is: “Not every collision course comes as a surprise.”

Today’s challenge is a two-part one. You can use it to bracket a poem, short story, or even a novel, if you’re brave.

First, come up with an alluring opening line based on this picture.

Hint: this brunch photograph was taken on a late September morning in a major U.S. metropolitan city.

If you’re curious: this brunch photograph was taken on a late September morning in a major U.S. metropolitan city.

Then, come up with your closing line. You can choose to either:

1. Come up with a line based solely off of the first picture/what might happen there, or

2. Invent an entirely new line based off of the picture below, and use your creative magic to get from A to B.

Rooftop Pool

This picture was taken on a late August morning at the top of a hotel in a relatively minor European metropolitan city.

BONUS: If you can guess both cities, then you get your name in the hat one extra time. (Your writing doesn’t have to be set in either one, but the pictures should serve as inspiration.)

Happy writing! Be sure to post your work in the comments section to be considered for the #wowchallenge contest.