100 Words #424 - Smooth

I found this short essay by E.B. White in E.B. White, Writings from the New Yorker: 1927-1976. It captures perfectly the mind of a writer and that keen sense of the fulsomeness of the mundane. Everything is beautiful. Everything is melancholy. It just needs to be written down. 

EB-White-Unwritten-Quote-on-Writing

Your word prompt from this essay is: 

Smooth


100 Words #423 - Reverence

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. 

La Via Del Te Florence

Or rather, when in Florence, do as the British do - afternoon tea with scones and clotted cream. 

We were several days into our trip, my feet had officially blistered, and A (my daughter) and I were officially lost. We were looking for the book café Volume, and had walked up and down the street the GPS was insisting it was on, but there was nothing. 

At last we pieced together that it was just closed and there was no street facing sign. We had walked past the entrance at least three times. 

Discouraged, tired, and probably a little hungry, we walked in the direction of "quiet" without a clear plan of where we were now going to rest our feet and get a little chill time. 

We nearly walked past La Via Del Té with its elegant, but unassuming entryway. It was A that noticed the tea shop through the window, and as we peered in deciding whether we were in a shopping mood, the tables came into focus. 

We spent the next hour and a half tucked into a corner in the inner courtyard, sipping the expertly brewed teas, talking about writing, storytelling, the Joni Mitchell rite of passage, and life. 

It was perfect. 

"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future."  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Your word this week is: 

Reverence





100 Words #422 - Graceful

I was gone for two weeks, and needed nearly a full week to recover.  Traveling between three countries and six cities in two weeks - let's just say, it ain't for sissies. I've got the blisters and the jet lag to prove it. All I wanted to do after this "vacation" was to curl up in bed for a good solid week of "staycation". 

Devil in the White City

Just before the very last leg of our journey - a train from New York City back home - as I prepared mentally for the familiar but distant responsibilities of home and work, I bought this book, Devil in the White City, and another by the same author for Mr. Verbosity so we could read together on the train. Once home, I knew I could fold into bed with it, excusing myself from unpacking on the spine of a good tale. 

Devil in the White City details the making of the Chicago's World Fair and a serial killer who used the fair as both cover and hunting grounds. It claims to be history that reads like a novel. That description stretches a little, I think, but for those interested in history, it does entertain while filling the mind with all sorts of interesting trivia about famous architects, their inventions, the study of the criminal mind, and the politics and manners of Chicago in the late 1800's. 

Have you read it? Let me know what you thought of it in comments. If you haven't read it, check it out. And when you're ready to write your 100 Words, scroll down and add your link. The word prompt is: 

100 Word Challenge #422

Graceful


100 Words #421 - Misbehave

Loving this quote from Oscar Wilde on the mind of a writer. Except that bit about "his". He couldn't help the times he lived in.

Oscar Wilde Quote on Writing

Don't forget this is the last 100 Words prompt until May 4th! Happy writing...

100 Words #421

Misbehave

100 Words #420 - Indulge

This 600+ page volume is both my current relaxation companion, and an indispensable guide. 

A Gentle Madness Nicholas Basbanes

A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books

It opens, "With thought, patience, and discrimination, book passion becomes the signature of a person's character. When out of control and indulged to excess, it lets loose a fury of bizarre behavior." 

Nicholas Basbanes provides plenty of juicy words in that opening we could use as this week's prompt, and I choose: 

April 7 2015 Writing Prompt 100 Words

Indulge

**VACATION NOTICE  - 100 Words will be on vacation for the weeks of April 20th and 27th. I'll be visiting my daughter abroad!


100 Words #419 - Shelf

This week's writing prompt is inspired by a visit to the Whately Antiquarian Book Center.

Whately Antiquarian Book Center

Multiple rooms, and multiple floors stacked floor to ceiling with books of all kinds. Bibliophile heaven. Your word is: 

Shelf 

If this is your first time here, click the typewriter image for guidelines on the 100 Words Challenge, a weekly writing prompt.

 

100 Words #418 - Witty

I picked up this delicious gem at a book sale over the weekend. 

Book about Dandies | Rise & Fall of a Regency Dandy

From the description: 

Scrope Berdmore Davies, descendant of generations of sober English clergymen, was a dashing nineteenth-century dandy of epic proportion.  King's Scholar at Eton, Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, imbiber, duelist, crack tennis player, accomplished swimmer and boxer, womanizer, ornament at aristocratic house parties, witty conversationalist, and close friend of Lord Byron and his circle, Davies was also a compulsive gambler -- which proved fortunate for posterity. 

In 1820, after years of high living, Scrope's luck ran out, and he fled to the Continent a broken man, leaving behind one trunk stashed in the vault of Barclay's, his London bankers. It survived there intact, unclaimed and unopened until 1975. When Barclay's opened it with care and curiosity, they found a literary and cultural gold mine: previously unknown Byron and Shelley manuscripts, letters from Byron and friends, paid and unpaid bills, odds and ends -- even a recipe for gooseberry wine -- that portray an extraordinary man in an extraordinary period of English history.

100 Word Writing Prompt #418

WITTY

Have fun with this one word-nerds! 


100 Words #417 - Vicious

"Writers, like elephants, have long, vicious memories." ~ William S. Burroughs 

Elephant Bookends

A reader wrote in to ask if I could name the post title to reflect the prompt word. Giving that a try this week. In other words, it should come as no surprise that this week's word is: 

Writing Prompt 100 Words

Vicious


100 Words #416 - Gently Mad

Sometimes you know yourself before you know yourself.  This past week, in a somewhat desperate hunt for my passport, I went through some boxes that were in storage. 

In a box of books, I found a copy of Among the Gently Mad: Strategies and Perspectives for the Book Hunter in the Twenty-First Century by Nicholas Basbanes. I don't remember buying this book, but I must have. I know I didn't read it when I did buy it, and so can only conclude that I bought it well before my recent foray into the book collecting and selling business. However it came into my hands, I'm enjoying it now.

Among the Gently Mad Nicholas Basbanes

Some part of me knew the future I was building toward before I consciously knew it. 

Writing is like that. Sometimes you know exactly what you want to write and how it will end before you sit down, but often you have no idea what will happen. Yet, some part of you does. You just channel it. 

Speaking of writing, I have a list the length of my arm of things I need to get down on paper (or into the computer). Not enough hours in the day, blah blah blah. How long is your list? Tell me in comments, and then maybe one of them will line up with this week's prompt, which is: 

 

 

Library 

 



100 Words #415 - Empty Your Cup

Greetings from the mountains of Vermont, from the 500 acres of snowy land, from the meditation center I've frequently called home away from home. I found vintage contemplative treasures in the library. From Zen Flesh, Zen Bones.

"1. A Cup of Tea 

NAN-IN, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. 

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring. 

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!" 

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?" "

Zen Flesh Zen Bones

When we write, our cup is overflowing, and writing is the act by which we empty the cup. The words spill over in our heads and we write to give them release. 

The Book of Tea

From The Book of Tea: 

"Teasim is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life."

Here, too, we can see the parallel to writing. If writing isn't a worship of the Imperfect, I don't know what is. 

Vintage Zen Books

How will you empty your cup, begin fresh, and celebrate the Imperfect? Your word this week is: 

100 Words #415

 

 

Cup

 

 

 


100 Words #414 - Writers are Great Lovers

In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg says, "Writers are great lovers". 

Natalie Goldberg Quote

She is, specifically, speaking about the interweaving of reading and writing - of how a writer reads, and uses what they love to inform their own writing. 

"They fall in love with other writers. That's how they learn to write. They take on a writer, read everything by him or her, read it over again until they understand how the writer moves, pauses, and sees. That's what being a lover is: stepping out of yourself, stepping into someone else's skin. Your ability to love another's writing means those capabilities are awakened in you. It will only make you bigger; it won't make you a copy cat. The parts of another's writing that are natural to you will become you, and you will use some of those moves when you write."

Who are your favorite writers? Who do you draw inspiration of style from? 

Your word for the #100words prompt this week from Writing Down the Bones, is: 

100 Words #414

 

 

Umbrellas

 

 


100 Words #412 - What Do You See?

"I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, "Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again."  --Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass. 

Snow Shovel

The snow has been extra loving to the trees and fields these last two weeks. This quote (lovely, isn't it?) is a reminder of the many flavors of mood one can lay over the simple events of life. Last week we saw Emerson's take on snow - cathedral, majestic, harsh, and impressive. Here, from Carroll, an animate and gentle thing. 

Have you ever ever tried to write one topic from multiple angles? It's good exercise.

Years ago I took a class with a photographer who had spent an entire year taking photographs only in his own small backyard. After classical training and years as a landscape photographer, he came across a photo series by a Tibetan Buddhist teacher that stopped his mind. They were simple, zen-like, but incredibly potent, and he was utterly baffled by them. What was the technique? He sought out the Buddhist teacher to find out and after many teachings realized it was the difference between setting up the shot according to all the rules, and simply experiencing sight and awareness before filters. He hadn't learned to see before he learned to frame.  

Writing is a form of seeing, and we can learn much about the craft by getting out of our own way through the practice of returning again and again to the same spot with fresh eyes. 

Try it sometime, and tell me about it. 

You could even try it with this week's #100words prompt (winky face): 

Writing Prompt

 

 

QUILT

 

 


100 Words #411 - The Poetry of Snow

Monday I raced down the long stretch from Northern Vermont to Massachusetts, aiming to beat the coming storm. For some, it would be a blizzard. Signs on the interstate warned me to "be prepared". 

Once home, I happily settled in, ready for the kind of silence, timelessness, and peculiar magic only a snow storm can bring to the world. This poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson captures that unique mood of a New England snow storm. 

The Snow Storm

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,

Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,

Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air

Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,

And veils the farm-house at the garden's end.

The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet

Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit

Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed

In a tumultuous privacy of storm.

 

Come see the north wind's masonry.

Out of an unseen quarry evermore

Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer

Curves his white bastions with projected roof

Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.

Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work

So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he

For number or proportion. Mockingly,

On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;

A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;

Fills up the farmer's lane from wall to wall,

Maugre the farmer's sighs; and, at the gate,

A tapering turret overtops the work.

And when his hours are numbered, and the world

Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,

Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art

To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,

Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work,

The frolic architecture of the snow.

I did, in fact, gather near to a radiant fireplace and enjoyed a not so tumultuous privacy of storm. The cats slept while the fire churned out its fierce sphere of heat all day. 

Storm Juno 2015
Winter fireplace

Your word for the 100 Word Challenge this week is from Emerson's poem: 

 

 

Radiant

                          

100 Words #410 - It's All So Peculiar

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is, as expected, an unusual book. Author Ransom Riggs used his collection of found photographs to weave a tale that includes time travel, strange powers, magic, mystery, and monsters. The writing is sharp and the photographs haunting...magnetic. Not in the category of high literature, but its entertainment value kept it on the NYTimes bestseller list for a good long run. 

 

Miss Peregrines Home For Peculiar Children

From the pages of the book, your word for this week's 100 Word Challenge is: 

100 Words 410

 

 

FEASTING

 

 

A couple of admin notes! 

First thing. Many apologies for the recent lateness and spottiness of the 100 Word Challenge. 2015 has decided it wants to be my busiest year ever. Children flying off to Europe for study abroad, clients popping out of the woodwork to start their marketing new year off with a bang, the ramping up of volunteer work, upcoming speaking gigs, and my usual assortment of side projects that I can't seem to live without. 

Second thing, I FINALLY got an email from Squarespace informing me their engineers believe they have fixed the commenting problem. Please give it a go and see if it works for you without fuss now. 

And now, back to the challenge. Linky tool below. 


100 Words #409 - Cold and Warmth

January in New England. Cold, dark, and perfect for curling in with a book by a fire, or hunkering down with a hot drink by a keyboard to write.  

My current pleasure is the latest edition of The Paris Review. From the opening of Letter from Osterlen by Karl Ove Knausgaard:

"I'm feeling low. The feeling fades when I write, and that's why I write, to escape from myself. Even if I write about me. Something happens when my thoughts meet words and sentences, a space opens up, a space beyond any thought or sentence." 

What follows is a beautiful, melancholic musing on life, reading, and writing over the passage of a few dark, cold, winter days. A few days ago, we witnessed hundreds of black crows gathering in the woods behind our house, coming in from over the valley below. We stood at the windows, mesmerized. Knausgaard describes a similar experience near the end of the letter:

"I decided to go for a drive instead of writing. I took one of the narrow lanes, flanked by snow-covered fields, with large drifts here and there and more coming in veils of white through the air, exactly as if I were high in the mountains. On reaching the coastal road, I turned left and drove alongside the hills, enormous, dark gray clouds rising up behind their ridges. After a few hundred meters, I saw that one hillside was completely black, and as I drew closer, I realized it was birds. The same black crows that usually perched in the tree behind the house. Now they were on the ground, an enormous flock of them, numbering perhaps six or seven hundred, in the lee of the slope, sheltering from the sea wind. I had never seen anything like it before and pulled over to the side of the road. It was an astounding sight. The massing clouds, filled with sun at their clefts and gaps, the sea, hidden from view by the steep snowy hillside, the wind coming over the crest and the flock of birds appearing utterly lost, as though in the wake of a catastrophe."

Your word prompt for the challenge this week, from the above passage, is: 

100 Word Writing Prompt #409

 

 

Sheltering

 

 


100 Words #408 - Happy New Year!

It's a new year folks! New words to be written, new words to be read, new books (I got two for Christmas), new friends, new goals, new aspirations, new, new, new. 

And yet, there are traditions that must span the years, carry through...like the 100 Word Challenge. 

The first challenge of the New Year of 2015 comes from one of my gifts - Jack Zipes' (renowned academic expert in fairy tales) new translation of the first edition of The Original Folk & Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.  Actually, "new translation" is misleading. This is the first ever translation of the first edition of these fairy tales. 

Jack Zipes Brothers Grimm

The very first story is The Frog King. or Iron Henry, and starts in classic fairy tale fashion, "Once upon a time...".  Your first challenge for 2015 shall start equally as classic. Your word is: 

 

 

Once

 

 


100 Words #407 - Christmas Reading

It's been a crazy week on the road, prepping for the holidays, and getting things ready for the holiday onslaught at the flower shop. But I love this season, so I find my ways to carve out quiet time. For me, that's reading. Reading with hot chocolate, even better. 

A Christmas Carol and Hot Chocolate

Good ole' Scrooge. Your prompt for this week's 100 Word Challenge is from the page pictured above where I've marked my spot: 

100 Words #407

 

 

Chimes

 

 

Don't forget, we're taking next week off as I anticipate you'll all be busy with family cheer! And I do hope you find some cheer and warmth over the holiday. See you again on the 29th! 


100 Words #406 - It's Beginning to Look a lot Like a Literary Christmas

It's been All-Christmas-All-The-Time over here. I got involved in some local planning for holiday events, and then there's the three family Christmases to prep for. One tree is up and decorated, and this weekend I'll work on the second. Christmas cards will go out soon (email me if you'd like to be on the list and don't think I have your address). The only thing missing is my Christmas books. 

I haven't been able to locate them since the move last year. I'm sure they'll turn up eventually, but a little part of me is panicked. Two strays were located because they never got packed up and lived in my daughter's closet. 

The Polar Express

The Polar Express, one of our favorites.

Charles Dickens Christmas Books

And a 1968 copy of Charles Dickens' Christmas Books including A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man. 

The Cricket on the Hearth is charmingly divided into chapters titled, "Chirp the First", and so on. It opens: 

The kettle began it! Don't tell me what Mrs. Peerybingle said. I know better. Mrs. Peerybingle may leave it on record to the end of time that she couldn't say which of them began it; but I say the kettle did. I ought to know. I hope! The kettle began it, full five minutes by the little waxy-faced Dutch clock in the corner, before the Cricket uttered a chirp.

I find Dicken's style of narrating as though speaking directly to the reader both sweet and mischievous. Your word this week from the paragraph above is: 

100 Words #406

 

 

Kettle

 

 

 

Thanks for hanging in last week! Heads up that there'll be no challenge the week of the 22nd since I anticipate most of you will be busy and spending time with families. Until then, happy writing! 


100 Words #405 - Finger-Spitzengefühl and This Week's Obsessions

I have some more writing topics I want to cover, but this week I'm obsessed with three things.

Art Nouveau books and desk accessories, like this vintage ink tin in "Peacock Blue" (coming soon to the shop).  

Art Nouveau Ink Tin

Peaky Blinders style, particularly the desks.

Peaky Blinders Thomas Shelby Desk

And the partner autobiography of Leona Rostenberg & Madeleine Stern, rare book sellers.

Old Books Rare Friends

The authors, particularly Leona, talk about Finger-Spitzengefühl - "the art of evaluating antiquarian books by handling, experience, and instinct".  But it was this from the prologue that piqued my interest: 

The electrifying alertness to what is unusual or important in an early printed book has been given the name Finger-Spitzengefühl. When Finger-Spitzengefühl is coupled with serendipity, the gates of paradise open for the dealer in old and rare. 

I'm familiar with that "electrifying alertness". Leona describes her early experiences with the feeling while building the inventory for her business: 

My Finger-Spitzengefühl had only just begun. It operated especially well one day when I was studying a catalogue just received from the English firm of McLeish & Sons, located on London's Little Russell Street. Mady was deep into Louisa Alcott's grand tour abroad in 1870; Chimpie was dozing on the frong porch; I was turning the pages of the McLeish catalogue, which had just been forwarded to me by my temporary secretary, my mother. I had been uninterested in most of the items listed until my eye lighted upon number 188. Then the Finger-Spitzengefühl became an electrical conductor. My scalp pricked. And I shrieked aloud. 

And the humble beginnings of the hunt: 

Since we could not prowl or book hunt along Piccadilly or Charing Cross Road, we prowled in the neighboring villages of Maine...we ventured to Berwick and Biddeford, Kennebunk and Kittery, Sanford and Salmon Falls--to the House of the Thousand Chairs and the Old Grange, the Crow's Nest and Grandma's Attic, exploring jumble and dust, mustiness and broken crockery, armless dolls--and books.

Thrilling, no? Ha. Perhaps not, unless you've experienced Finger-Spitzengefühl. A few years ago I heard about a nearby book auction and decided to go, simply out of curiosity. I had no particular intention to buy, and certainly not to sell at that point. I just liked being around old books and was curious to see what kinds of specimens would be at an auction. 

The style of auction was a "pick" auction, meaning buyers picked from piles of books to create stacks of up to 10 that would then go up for official auction later. Any remaining unpicked books would be sold in table lots. I had no idea what I was doing, but soon found myself absorbed in the process of picking, pulling books out of piles based on what caught my eye..what I liked or found interesting. 

After a while I noticed two chaps hovering nearby wherever I went. Finally, one said, "where's your store?" 

"Oh, I'm not a seller", I said. 

Two pairs of eyebrows raised as the two looked at each other and then back at me. 

"Well, you have a very good eye." the first stated firmly. 

Like Leona and Madeleine, I never predicted I would begin selling books (and other vintage/antique literary items). But that first flush of Finger-Spitzengefühl while book picking that dayand the nod from a couple of professional dealers - the momentum had begun. I sold my very first book from the small stack of books I bought at auction that day.

I toyed with the idea of giving you Finger-Spitzengefühl for your word prompt this week, which I imagined could be applied to all kinds of stories, but it still seemed limiting, so instead, I'm giving you another word from the Old Books, Rare Friends excerpts:

 

Jumble  

 

 

 

Besides writing, what are your obsessions? Let me know in comments, and remember to get your 100 word entry in by Saturday at midnight. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!