Monday, February 28, 2011

Oh, love of my life

Writing Exercise: Write a Haiku Poem. A Haiku usually represents nature and follows this pattern.
  • 1st line: 5 syllables 
  • 2nd line: 7 syllables 
  • 3rd line: 5 syllables that presents a surprise or a twist.
Below is a Haiku that I wrote for my husband.

Oh, love of my life
Like sweet dew at each dawn's break
Till sunset's last ray  

I Love You...

Writing Exercise: Write just to express your feelings.  Consider keeping a personal journal. Below is a poem that my husband wrote to me (I got his permission before sharing).

I Love You...
by Toby Hamsher

    I am at home thinking of you.
    I just can't seem to concentrate on anything else.
    You fill my thoughts.
    I miss you when you are at work.
    I wish you were here right now.
    I love just being near you.
    When you are sitting on the couch I just want to sit beside you.
    I love having you close.
    I love the way you look.
    I love the way you walk.
    I love the way you talk.   
    I love the way you write.
    I love the way you love me.
    I love you.
    I will say it again.
    I LOVE YOU...
    I love you with all my heart.
    I will love you always.
    I will love you forever.
    I will love you for an eternity.
    You are my best friend.
    You are my wife.
    You are my daughter's mother.
    You are my Love.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sticks and Stones

Writing Exercise: Write a Devotional.  Devotions have different formats depending on what the publisher wants.  For this exercise, follow this format:
  • Include 3 scriptures (listed or typed out)
  • Devotion should be 250-550 words
  • Include a "Life Application" and/or "Questions for Reader" section at the end.
My devotion below was submitted to "Write From the Heart - Devotions for Writers", a future e-book by Pam Williams.

Sticks and Stones
by Dawn M. Hamsher

Scripture Readings: Proverbs 12:6, Proverbs 16:24, Job 4:3-4

The girl handed a small folded note to her friend, who read it and snickered. She passed the note to a boy, who read it, whined, “Waaahh” and then slid it to another boy. He passed it to another kid, who passed it… Before the teacher took the note, the damage was done. I was labeled the cry baby of the 4th grade.

Never mind the fact that my mother had just had a nervous breakdown. We had to abruptly move back to the states in the middle of the school year; we had no home yet, so we lived with my grandparents; I had no friends; I was failing math. My young life was in turmoil.

Yes, I cried at school during math class and the note was circulated. Those thoughtless words, “The new girl’s a cry baby” defined and defeated me. Those kids didn’t know me. They didn’t know my situation - the stress I was under. They didn’t care. I felt alone, rejected. I got through the rest of the school year without crying.  In fact, I didn’t cry again for 13 years. That’s how much those words affected me.
The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is a lie. Most physical hurts, heal, but emotional ones tend to linger and inflict pain over and over again as the mind replays the scene.  And, it’s not just kids that do the damage. We’ve all blurted out comments without thinking.

As Christian writers, no matter what we write (whether it’s articles, devotions, fiction, or poetry), we have a responsibility to Christ. The Bible tells us to build others up, not tear them down. One way to accomplish this is to seek God’s wisdom before we write. 
·         What is wisdom? It is the ability to discern or judge what is true and right.
·         What does the Bible say about wisdom?  Proverbs 3: 21-22 says “My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck.”
Using wisdom as a guide to life means that we think before we speak and write. Because words have power, we should not use them carelessly, but be deliberate when choosing them, so that our words reflect Christ. If the world’s words are used to hurt, then our words should be used to heal. 

Prayer: Thank you, Holy Father for enveloping me in your love. Past hurts, written or spoken, no longer sting in your embrace.  You are the healer of my heart. Lord, help me to use my words in a way that will glorify you and encourage others.

Life Application Writing Prompt
Write about words that had a strong affect on you, either negatively or positively. It could be a hurtful word from your childhood, a note of praise from a teacher, or a careless comment from a co-worker.

When finished, consider these questions:
  • What can you learn from the words and your experience?
  • How can you use that knowledge in your writing?
  • How can your writing glorify God (re-read Job 4:3-4)? 
Proverbs 12:6 (NLT) The words of the wicked are like a murderous ambush, but the words of the godly save lives.
Proverbs 16:24 (NIV) Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Job 4:3-4 (NLT)
In the past you have encouraged many people;  you have strengthened those who were weak. Your words have supported those who were falling; you encouraged those with shaky knees.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Grumble Day

Writing Exercise: Write a poem to express your mood today. If you like, follow this poem's rhyming pattern for ending words (AA, BB) for each stanza.

Grumble Day
By Dawn M. Hamsher

It is a grumble day
I'm in a depressed way

I wish I weren't working
Could lay around just shirking

But, no, I'm staring at a monitor
And my mind is beginning to wander
There are things I should be doing
But I can't seem to get moving

I have a pain in my rear end
Sitting too long, it won’t mend
I think I’d better go home to rest
I really think that would be best

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Life Today Vs. Life Yesterday

Writing Exercise: Write a poem comparing two things. Write it in any format you like.  Feel free to get creative! The poem below compares the past and present.

Life Today Vs. Life Yesterday
by Dawn M. Hamsher

Life Today

immediate gratification
immediate gratification digital
immediate gratification digital information
immediate gratification digital information public
immediate gratification digital information public communication
immediate gratification digital information public communication virtual
immediate gratification digital information public communication virtual stimulation

gradual accumulation manual publication private conversation community situation
gradual accumulation manual publication private conversation community
gradual accumulation manual publication private conversation
gradual accumulation manual publication private
gradual accumulation manual publication
gradual accumulation manual
gradual accumulation

Life Yesterday

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Snow on the Tombstones

Writing Exercise: Write a poem about something you saw today. This is what I saw on my way to work this morning after a fresh snow. Also linked to Sunday Scribblings writing prompt on "Poetry".

Snow on the Tombstones
by Dawn M. Hamsher
Snow on the Tombstones
Blanket of white
Cemetery calm
In early dawn light

Stones all snow-topped
Stand up by the pines
heavy with powder
that weighs down their sides

All of the headstones
Placed in straight rows   
Are colors of grays
That slumber and doze   

I couldn't stop looking
So lovely a scene        
A feeling of peace
of resting serene

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What's in a Name?

Writing Exercise: Write down a list of 10 names and beside each one write a brief description of the person behind that name. Continue reading below for more on character names.

Character names are very important to stories. A name should fit the personality of the character. The sound of a name can cause the reader to associate a trait (ex. strength, weakness, silliness, joy, intelligence, etc.) with the name. Carefully consider the naming of a character, as if you were naming your own baby (because you are!).  Below are some names.  Say them out loud. What type of personality trait does each name evoke?

Abraham              Bubba               Cai                Daishiro               Elmo              Fabian                  Gabriela            Lulu             Mr. Reich             Lily               Walter                  Xavier               Johnnie        Higgenbotham    Miss Bless

One of my favorite character names is Arno Weed from Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer.  Leave a comment with your guess at what Arno looks like and what his personality is like.  Look for my comment under the post to find out Arno's real description.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Famous Quote

Writing Exercise: Write your own quote about writing. Look up quotes from famous writers and then decide what you would say about writing or being a writer. What words of wisdom would you want to share with other aspiring writers? Mine is below.

“On writing...I write my best when I bow before my Lord and acknowledge that He is the reason I can write; He is the reason I have any ideas at all.”                        Dawn M. Hamsher 

I also wanted to share with you the header that I have on every page of the book I am writing, as a way of keeping me grounded and humble. 

May God bless this work and guide my hand. Never let me forget this is His work and for His glory.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Double Dutch

Writing Exercise: Remember a sound and write about it for 17 minutes.

Double Dutch

By Dawn M. Hamsher 


I remember double dutch ropes slapping the black pavement. It was 1982 in the school yard of Bredgy Elementary School in downtown Philly. I was one of the few white kids in the school and I looked enviously at the girls who could double-dutch so easily, twisting and turning, signing and laughing, as natural as the day they were born. I wanted that rhythm. I wanted that freedom. 

I began to practice at home with neighbor kids until I could jump in and out without touching the rope.  Then the day came at school when I was ready. The girls eyed me up when I asked to join them, but nodded that I could try. I began to move with the rope, in - out - in - out, waiting for an opportunity to jump in. I was scared. Scared of messing up the rope, of ruining the jump.  But, then I was in!  My feet pounded back and forth, moving to the music of the ropes.  I didn't try any fancy turns or try to touch the ground, like they often did, I just focused on the rhythm. When the girls saw that my jump was good, they began counting.  1-2-3-4... And, when they yelled 100 and I jumped out. 

One girl, who I had wanted to impress, was absent.  I told her about my jump the next day, but she didn't believe me. She said, "White girls can't jump. I just smiled. It was OK. I knew I had done it. I had that rhythm, the rhythm of the city schoolyard. 


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Plugged In, Tuned Out?

Exercise: Write a Commentary or Editorial. Consider submitting what your write to your local newspaper. The article below is a commentary I am working on about how communication is changing due to technology.

The two teens sat side by side at the luncheon. Heads bent, they each held a cell phone. I watched their bizarre social interaction with initial amusement, which soon turned to concern for all humanity. The youth never looked at one another. Their fingers flew over keys, each texting the other. Every now and then the girl would nudge the boy with her elbow or the boy would say, “Good one,” and laugh in the girl’s direction. They were together, but not. It reminded me of the 2008 Pixar movie WALL-E, where humans zoomed around on automated lounge chairs affixed with virtual screens, each completely focused on a digital image of the person they were speaking to, yet never having a real face-to-face encounter. In fact, they did not know how to handle real life situations, having only lived in virtual ones.

Are we trading human relationships for cyber ones? And if so, what’s the cost?

This article is not yet finished.    

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Review: Pocketful of Names

Writing Exercise: Write a book review. To be a good writer, you need to be a good reader (and learner). Pick a book to read. Make notes as you go. What did you learn from the author that can make your writing better?  Below is a book review I wrote.

Book Review: Pocketful of Names
By Dawn M. Hamsher

I read Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer for three reasons. 1. It was on Holly Lisle’s list of “
396 Resources Writers Recommend to Kickstart Your Writing…”. 2. The title sounded interesting. 3. Reviews on the net raved about the author’s use of setting [Maine] and since I had vacationed there, I was eager to read the author’s description and compare it to my own memories.

First, I want to say that this is not the type of book I usually read.  The novel is about a woman who lives alone on an island. That sounded boring, but I was willing to try it and see what I could learn from the author.

The prologue did not impress me.  It tried so hard to describe the thoughts of a half-drowned dog that it was unbelievable. Past that though, I was pleasantly surprised.  The author’s use of setting was authentic. I could picture the rocky shore, the fishing boats, the smell of bait used in lobster traps. The author handles New England culture as well as the mechanics of commercial fishing with the ease of familiarity (or fakes it due to thorough research).   

The characters, even better than the setting, have excellent physical descriptions and mannerisms, but it’s their memories and stories that are pure genius. The author goes deep into the characters, revealing their past hurts, mistakes, and flaws to create very believable individuals.   

Though, I liked the book, there were a few things that bothered me. 

  1. The book had no chapters.  Instead, new thoughts were separated by page breaks. I struggled to find good stopping places.
  2. I had trouble following dialog. The author does not often specify who is speaking in conversation.
  3. Morally, I didn’t like the characters’ anti-Christian sentiments, the use of the Lord’s name in vain, and topics like premarital sex and unwed pregnancy.

But aside from these things, the book was very enjoyable.  I loved the basic story and ending.  The small twists and mysteries were an added bonus that kept me guessing.  I didn't want to put the book down.  I would recommend Pocketful of Names (with the moral warning) and rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

Favorite lines from the book:
“Their bodies [whales] were dark gray, black, blue black, the color of storm clouds.”
“She slid into her room like a drawer into a desk.”
"She could hear Arno snoring in the room above, a soft kind of flutter that reminded her of someone slowly buttering toast."

(Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer, Graywolf Press, Saint Paul Minnesota, 2005)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Garden

Exercise: Write about a place and use Dominant Impression. Notice in the story below how Dominant Impression is used in the opening, body and closing.  What is the Dominant Impression for this story?

My Garden
By Dawn M. Hamsher

The little unassuming 3'x20' garden sits in my narrow backyard. Its raised bed contained by weathered landscape timbers. The blanket of rich brown soil has waited two seasons to be tended to; has waited to be nurtured by loving hands, by my hands.

It is early spring. The snow has melted and my shovel makes “chhut” sounds in the heavy dirt as I mix in compost . I stop and pick up a handful of the dirt that I helped make. Chunks of eggs shells and bits of shredded paper mix with the unseen coffee grounds, orange rinds, banana peels; kitchen scraps that will feed worms and new plants. I feel connected to the dirt and to the cycle of life.

Later, I sit on the double-stacked timbers and lean in to breath in the smell of damp, fertile earth. I rake one tiny 1” furrow at a time with my rubber-gloved finger. Then I remove the glove and delicately take the tiny seeds in my cupped hand, a few at a time, and pinch several along the row, laying them to bed and then covering them up with soil. There will be lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, onions and snap peas.

Two and a half months later, little green heads emerge through the dirt and the ground looks like a baby’s bald head, just starting to grow hair. I notice a surprise amongst my carefully planted rows. Fuzzy shoots, that I did not plant, are reaching out curling tendrils. I had brought in extra compost from my father-in-law’s garden and rogue seeds were growing.  They looked so young and healthy; I didn’t have the heart to pluck them out, so I left them to grow behind and between the tomatoes, in a space that could not support the babies that would come.  Would they be melons, squash, or cukes? I was hoping for the latter.  Since there was no room on the ground for their future sprawl, I decided they would have to grow up. I lugged in a steel grid and leaned it between the plants and the fence. Then weekly, I carefully tied the vines to the frame with strips of pantyhose. Cucumbers were ruled out, as round fruit began to grow. I worried over them. Would they grow too heavy and rip right off their umbilical cords? I had to save them. I wrapped each one comfortably in a tan fabric pouch and fixed it securely to the steel.

At the end of summer, I took a break from harvesting and sat by the garden with a freshly sliced cantaloupe. Its tangerine-colored juice dripped down my cheeks and hands.  Beside me, in the grass, a large bowl full of tomatoes and onions sat. The onions still clung to dirt they were birthed from. I licked my fingers before washing them off in the rain barrel. Then I looked at the garden and smiled.  I loved this garden, in all its stages of life, like a mother loves her children.  I smiled again as I picked up the bowl.  I would take my children inside.  It was time for their baths.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dominant Impression

Tomorrow, I'll post an essay about my garden using the things I learned below.  

Dominant Impression Can Help You Write Better Description
When writing a description, the dominant impression (or implied main idea), created (through use of the senses, metaphor and other rhetorical devices) helps determine the purpose of your writing.  

Framework for Writing:

  • Opening: Clearly identify the place you are describing.
  • Include a statement that hints at a dominant impression.
  • Body: Use a variety of details (sensory, factual, and figurative)
  • Include thoughts and feelings.
  • Use either spatial order or order of importance.
  • Conclusion: End with a statement that wraps up your description.
    References: Element of Language, Third Course by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2001
    Pearson Learning Centre: Tips for Writers by Brad Hyde,

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Girl in the Photograph

Writing Exercise: Write about a B&W Photograph without using any periods until the very end.  Write for 15 minutes. This is harder than you think!

The Girl in the Photograph
By Dawn M. Hamsher


The girl in the photograph sat on the hood of the Riley, that was carried on a ferry boat, with her arms outstretched on either side of her to keep her in place on the car, a look of joy on her freckled face, while the warm Italian sea blew through her hair and she took in the rocky landscape that they passed; ahh, the memories of that summer when her father took her on adventure after adventure, which always ended in a little dark room, hardly bigger than a closet, but big enough for a father and a nine year old daughter to squeeze inside; a place that smelled like chemicals, but ended up making magic, and before the girl's very eyes, using only liquid and paper, the photograph was swished back and forth, images slowly coming into view in the dim red light of the room; the girl held her breath and asked, "Now?", "Not yet," he answered, but then a second later, the father quickly pulled the paper out with tongs and pinned it to the clothes line above their heads to drip dry, and then the two of them would look at each other and smile, for the memory was captured and the memory was me.

Photo by Jack D. Horner

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Painting

Writing Exercise: Observe and Write for 15 minutes about something in the room. Be descriptive.

The painting is the first thing you notice in the living room.  Its flames almost jump off the wall.  They crackle and dance under a star-filled midnight sky. The fire burns hot near its base with a brazen maroon smile that leaps higher before it fades to oranges and yellows.  The campfire scene warms the room in any season.  The canvas, painted by a joyful 5 year old and her mother, is mounted on a gold-dust colored wall above a white mantle piece that frames the real fireplace.  

Painting by Dawn and Gillian Hamsher