Category Archives: Challenge

The Taste of Toasted Marshmallows


I’m participating (sporadically) in OctPoWriMo (October Poetry Writing Month). Here are some of my efforts:

hanna-morris-278272Day 3’s prompt was The Taste of Metal. I imagined shish kabob, which led to memories of toasted marshmallows:

The part of the barbecue I like the best.

I select a skinny branch on the tree and snap it off.
I peel off the bark, and I sharpen one end of my stick to a point, rubbing it against the concrete back porch steps.

I stick a marshmallow on my homemade skewer, and hold it over the smoldering coals.
There is an art to this: too close, and it burns; too far away, and it takes forever.
Just right, and the sugary white blob turns brown, like deep suntan, the innards sweet melty goo.

Day 7’s prompt was And Then I Went Too Far, which reminded me of a childhood incident I’d forgotten:

The Day I Ran Away

I can’t remember why I left
Some unbearable grievance no doubt
Running away seemed a reasonable response
And a marvelous adventure

maxi-corrado-140647Without any forethought
Without packing any provisions
I hopped on my bicycle
And pedaled till I grew weary

Two towns away I rode to the hospital
A nurse exited, her shift over
I approached her and said,
“I’m running away from home.
Can you help me?”

I expected she would see what I fine girl I was
And offer to adopt me
Instead, she sighed
And lifted my bike into the trunk of her car

Dashing my hopes, she didn’t
Take me to her home
Opting to drive me to the police station
And hand me over to authorities

Who weren’t interested in where I wanted to go
Or why I left
Only in calling my bewildered parents
To come pick me up.

My father apologized to the cop
And transferred my bike to his trunk
And said nothing to me beyond
“Get in the car.”

At home, my mother berated me
“How could you make us worry so?
What were you thinking?”

How could I tell her
It seemed a reasonable response
And a marvelous adventure

Day 9’s prompt was Tapping the Ash of her Cigarette, which reminded me of an anthropological artifact of my childhood:

The Ashtray

Photo by Amin.

In the 1950s and 60s,
An ashtray was an appreciated gift for a grownup.
We made them for our parents in school and at Girl Scout meetings.
They were ubiquitous.
Families displayed them on coffee- and end-tables.
Children emptied them daily as part of their chores.
(That’s as close to cigarettes as they were allowed to get—
Funny how our parents recognized their “coffin nails” were bad for children.)
My parents both quit smoking, my father only after a heart attack.
My mother-in-law quit the hard way: dying of lung cancer.

None of my friends smokes.
None of us have ashtrays.
It’s funny how times change.

Day 11’s prompt was Dancing. What follows is a true story:

The Epsom Salts Girl

The orchestra’s playing a waltz
And I can’t dance

Two weeks ago I landed on the side of my foot
And heard it crunch

My partner asked if she’d stepped on my foot
I said, “No, it was all me.”

Nothing broken, just badly sprained
My chiropractor said “Soak it in ice water.”

Are you crazy?
I’m a hot water and Epsom salts girl

Day 13’s prompt was Art:


The white canvas jeers
I smother it with inky darkness

Then I take my palette knife and scrape it off
Leaving gray areas behind

To counteract the gloom
I smear on aqua and yellow green
Shock it with pink
Burn it with yellow and orange

My brush blends the colors
As if the canvas were my palette
And a cityscape forms before my eyes
With sidewalk cafes and flower shops
And car headlights reflecting off rain slick streets

I graduate to thinner and thinner brushes
To add the people who live in this city
People with jobs and relationships
People with places to go and people to see
I step back and survey my world
I dip my pinkie in cadmium white
And dab it judiciously where light is needed

It’s not too late to jump in and write some poems of your own! If you’ve posted an OctPoWriMo poem online, share a link in the comments below.




Inktober Day 16: Facets

Inktober Day 16: Facets

I’m using the prompt from the Zentangle All Around Facebook group, facets:



Inktober Day 14: Flukes

Inktober Day 14: Flukes

Using the InktoberTangle prompt: flukes today. This is my second attempt at it; the first one was a little more creative, but a total fail.


Inktober Day 13

Inktober Day 13

For my Inktober drawing today, I chose the #InktoberTangles prompt: printemps.


Wordless Wednesday: Flower of the Day

Wordless Wednesday: Flower of the Day


Cape honeysuckle. Doing double duty today with Cee’s Flower of the Day.



For the Tuesday Photo Challenge:


The clock tower at Tempe Public Library.

#Inktober2017 Day 4: Underwater


I’m participating in #Inktober on a sporadic basis. It’s Day 4, but this is my first submission:


Wordless Wednesday: Revelation

Wordless Wednesday: Revelation

Bougainvillea has thorns! Who knew?


Doing double duty today with Cee’s Flower of the Day challenge.

Off the Beaten Track

Off the Beaten Track

Today’s post is doing triple duty. On Sunday I mentioned I was at a writers’ retreat, and I’d love to share my experience. Also, I took a lot of pictures while I was there, knowing I could use them for two of my favorite photography challenges.

This was my second year participating in the Arizona Dreamweavers retreat. (I wrote an article about last year’s retreat.) We stayed at the same location, the Breath of Life retreat house up in the mountains of Pine, AZ.

2017-09-30 09.45.41

The grounds have lots of little places to sit and relax, or meditate, or pray (click on the small images to enlarge):

Arrivals started at 3:00 pm, with bunk selection, followed by a craft and optional henna tattoo. Then dinner (the meals were spectacular! I had the shrimp), and a brief introduction meeting, including a 35-word pitch for a current or finished manuscript. The rest of the evening was free so that we could do what we came to do–for most of us, that meant undisturbed writing. Besides a good-sized meeting room, the retreat house has lots of nooks and crannies to write in.


That’s me in the center in the blue jacket.

The rest of the weekend was loosely structured around meals, with a few optional sessions to gather and talk or do stuff with the other writers. While writing Saturday morning, I felt restless, so I went for a walk with my camera and took photos for my two challenges. First, for the A Photo a Week Challenge, in response to the prompt Off the Beaten Track:

There was a walk scheduled for 3:00 that afternoon, and I had been looking forward to it, but my little photography walk convinced me to skip it. One, the roads were very steep. And two, I had to step carefully, because I’d injured my foot last Tuesday folk dancing. I’d have slowed everyone down.

These are my offerings for Tuesdays of Texture:

Another option for the 3:00 break was an idea session about queries, synopses, and any other writing-related topic of interest. I skipped it, because I was struggling with the project I was working on, and I wanted to push through. After dinner (I had the salmon), I participated in the Master Mind session on Building a Brand, then I wrote until 10:00, when I finished the outline of a middle-grade novel idea I’d journaled about in 2005. I was dead tired because I’d written until 11:30 the night before, and then not slept due to being in unfamiliar surroundings. I’m happy to say I slept much better the second night, despite the trumpeting of the local elk.

I got up at 5:00 the next morning, took a shower because nobody else was up, and drank five cups of coffee while checking in on my favorite blogs. (Candy, the owner of the retreat house had already prepared pump-thermoses of six different kinds of coffee!) Then breakfast was served (did I mention that the meals were fabulous?):


Blueberry French toast, with Canadian bacon and boiled egg.

After breakfast we wrote until lunch. I ate way too much lunch. And there was so much dessert left over from the other two days (this decadent thing made out of ice cream sandwiches and pudding; two different kinds of apple pie; muffins; and cake) that I was compelled to choke down a slice of pumpkin spice cheesecake.

After lunch the group convened for debriefing. My take-aways from the group discussions were:

  • An email newsletter is your #1 marketing tool.
  • An author website is more important for a writer than a blog. Hmmm. I have to think about that.
  • Scholastic and other publishers recognize the need for high-interest, low-reading-level books for Middle Grades and Young Adults, due to the large number of English Language Learners in our schools.

I went to the retreat with the intention of spending as much writing as possible. All I had was a title and some 12-year-old notes–and Scrivener, which I am just learning to use. I managed to create a full outline, 23 scene index cards, and the first 221 words of the manuscript. It was hard going, and at one point I thought I was going to have to abandon the project, but I kept working, and the ideas came. Remember: don’t give up.

I also renewed some friendships from last year, and made some new friends, too.

2017 Arizona Dreamweavers

How about you–are you able to get off the beaten track periodically and just work on something you love, whether it’s writing or quilting or scrapbooking or art? Please share your experience below in the comments.

#ALCGC2017 October Check-In

#ALCGC2017 October Check-In

It’s undeniably autumn! The year will be over soon. How are you doing on your creative goals?

I’ve made a few drawings this month, although I didn’t do one every other day as planned. I used photos as references for these (click on the smaller images to enlarge):

And I reinterpreted some of my favorite illustrators’ pictures:

And I entered a few  Zentangle challenges, posted herehere, and here.

I wrote four poems this month, and posted three of them, here, here, and here. (Yes, I know. I’m using the term poetry lightly. A couple of them are kind of prose poems.)

In October, I’m looking forward to participating in Inktober and OctPoWriMo. I know my limitations; I know I won’t make a drawing and write a poem every day. I’ll be happy if I do one or the other.

The last weekend of September I went on a writers’ retreat. (I’m coming home today!) I expect to start (in Scrivener) a project I journaled about twelve years ago.

I’m behind where I want to be on my blog. I have holes starting October 10 (though I have 90 posts scheduled between now and April 2). I keep telling myself the world won’t end just because I miss a day on ARHtistic License. I just like being dependable. I’ve posted daily for about two years.

I’m sending out queries to agents for my picture books. So far no nibbles. Sigh.


I’ve signed up to be a contributor for A Writer’s PathSo far I’ve submitted one post. If you follow me on Twitter and Facebook, I’ll let you know when it goes live.

On recorder, I’m continuing to practice the last 13 pages of the Sweet Pipes Recorder Book. I’m chicken to go on to book 2, because it looks really hard. I have another book that I used with my sixth graders when I was teaching that involved improvisation, but I can’t find the CD that goes with it. And so I’m procrastinating on moving forward.

On guitar, I’m up to page 59 in Essential Elements for Guitar. 


Now it’s your turn. How are you doing with your goals? Don’t be shy! If you’re keeping accountable on your blog, paste a link into the comments below. Or if you don’t have a blog, just tell us your successes and your challenges this past month. And remember to check in on November 1, 2017, to share your progress during October. I created the hashtag #ALCGC2017 for ARHtistic License Creative Goals Challenge for 2017. Feel free to use it to tweet about your goals and your progress.