Writing 101: Assignment #20: Final: The Wrap-Up

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Primarily, I want to thank all of the bloggers who have been supportive of this blog throughout the duration of this course. Those who are regular PBS supporters and all of the wonderful new blogging buddies I have made. I do not have much for you this morning. Briefly, the prompts exposed me to some very creative ways to develop content. The method I enjoyed most was the story in a single picture exercise. I’m a visual learner, meaning I need to see it to understand it. That said my “Aha” moment if you will was discovering that I can develop a story just by looking at a single photo. This is definitely something I will be incorporating more into this blog and into my writing in general. Overall, the best thing about this course was the social interaction. I have gotten to know so many bloggers and have discovered so many blogs! In these four weeks I have followed quite a lot of you and I look forward to being enlightened by what you have to offer.

Below is a list of this week’s assignments. Usually I do this on Sunday but since today is the final wrap-up I will list them here. Also note that I have also created a page for my Writing 101 Assignments so that you can always go back and review them and so that new visitors can find them.

Assignment #16: Mine Your Own Material
Assignment #17: To Map a Purpose
Assignment #18: I SPEAK
Assignment #19: Round-Up
Assignment #20: Wrap Up

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Writing 101 – Assignment #18 – I SPEAK

“Mrs. Yes-ra-el?”

A woman tries to pronounce my last name.

“Ysrayl. Yis-ra-yell”, I tell her.

“Oh”, she looks confused. “Are you Jewish?”

I speak. “No ma’am.”

“Ya…”

She tries to pronounce my first name. I speak.

“Yecheilyah is pronounced e-see-lee-yah.”

She smiles, “That’s cute.”

I speak. “Thank you. It means deliverance and life.”

***

“Is that your real hair?” a man asks me on the street. I used to be confused before I went back to Chicago and discovered loc extensions were a thing.

I speak. “Yes. This is my real hair.”

“I like your dreads,” says someone else.

I speak. “Thank you, but I like to call them locs, not dreads.”

She looks confused. I speak.

Photo By National Library of Jamaica
Photo By National Library of Jamaica

“The term Dread Locs came from the war between British Colonists and the Jamaican Maroons, descendants of blacks who fought and escaped from slavery and established free communities in the mountainous interior of Jamaica. The Britain’s “dreaded” to see them coming down from the mountain because of their physical appearance. They wore their beards thick and their hair kinky. This hairstyle then became known as dread locs.”

“Oh”, she says, “I’m sorry.”

I speak. “Its OK. I’m not offended. This is just why I like to call them locs.”

“Are you Jamaican?” she says.

I speak. “I have been there but no, I am not Jamaican.”

***

My husband and I are at Denny’s. Sometimes we are just in the mood for breakfast we don’t have to cook ourselves. Its not a special occasion, its just our thing. And yes, we got tired of IHOP; we decided to switch it up. I order a delicious looking skillet meal. It comes back with melted cheese, potatoes, onions, bell peppers, egg, the works! It looks delicious but there’s bacon in it too. I call the waiter over.

I speak.

“This has bacon in it but I don’t eat pork.”

“We can fix that,” he says taking my plate back. “We have chicken sausage,” he says.

I love meat but somehow pork always finds its way in the meal. I play it safe with a vegetarian version of the plate.

“OK,” he says and takes my plate.

I really hate sending plates back but I’m not in a mood to be sick today. I have not eaten pork in seven years.

***

I’m visiting Chicago and I’m at my cousin’s house. We are about to eat. I say a prayer. I always pray before I eat. It is something my mom taught me when I was little and I have always done it. My cousin looks at me funny. He’s a Jehovah Witness.

“Ain’t no Allah up in here.”

My hands are outspread, palms facing the ceiling. My head is bowed. I finish my prayer.

I speak. “That’s good because I’m not a Muslim and I do not pray to Allah.”

He is silent. I eat.

***

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For today’s assignment I wanted to expose the quality of speaking. I talk a lot about the importance of being silent but if we are silent when we are to speak it can be just as damaging. In some cases, silence is not enough. We must speak.

Writing 101 Assignment #16: Mine Your Own Material – Speech

“Speech is basic. If you can’t control your words, you can’t control anything.” – Yecheilyah

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We’ve all been here. The orgasmic rush of an undisciplined tongue trying to figure out if it should spill the beans this morning. The aching necessity to feel our very own thoughts in our own mouths, and the satisfaction of these words sweet against the palate. It starts with the mind. A single thought gives birth to language, and a single scent of emotion strives to find its way on top our lips. Pay no heed to logic or common sense says this voice. Just the flavor of desire hanging on the edges of our hearts and waiting to fall like children from our mouths. Speech. There is no refund policy. Words cannot be taken back or traded or made invisible. Cannot be sucked like air back on top our lips, into our mouths and inside our chest. Cannot send its signal to the brain again and ask him to take them back. Speech can only be controlled. So dissect your mind and determine which thoughts are worthy to make it into the air or onto the page. Choose them like you chose your wedding dress. Carefully. Choose them like you chose your school. Wisely. Treat your words as if they are die hard criminals and you must release some of them for early parole. Which will you choose? Cradle your thoughts in your arms like an infant for words are just as fragile and vulnerable. Once spoken, like eggs once broken, they can never be repaired. The tweet I posted some time ago meant that the person, who cannot control the words of his own mouth, won’t have the strength to control anything else in his life. For his words are his. They come from his mind and from his heart. And we, why we cannot dig into his chest and choose them for him.

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Writing 101: Assignment #11 – Update Your Readers – If We Were Having Coffee Right Now

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If we were having coffee right now…I would not take you to Starbucks. Or dunkin donuts. I would instead invite you to my home where our voices would carry from the kitchen table to the living room sofa, where there are no TVs for a reason (you’d have to go in the TV room for that). And after coasting our mugs and dimming the lamp, which we don’t need much of because of the morning sun, I would bring my legs in and dig into the sofa. I’d probably grab the couch pillow and here we would begin.

If we were having coffee right now… I would ask you if you like the way I redecorated the blog. I don’t usually experiment with themes too much but I wanted to move the furniture to the right side of the room and make my pages more visible. I fell in love with this really cute peach and white button theme. If you’re a guy I would ask you why you just rolled your eyes.

If we were having coffee right now…I would ask you about your favorite post and if my quantity of posts annoys you. I think we’ll laugh about this for a while until you begin to annoy me and I change the subject. “What’s your favorite kind of posts? Poetry? Quotes? Short stories?” Speaking of poetry I really miss the Open Mic. I would like to go back to the stage sometime in the near future. You’re welcomed to come see me perform.

If we were having coffee right now…I would tell you how excited I am for my end of the year road trip. I’ll be visiting a mom of mine in Roswell New Mexico, a place I’ve never been. I will tell you that we’re planning a sleepover and that I’m very excited. I’ll probably start smiling really big because going to see mom means I have an excuse to be a kid again. You would probably smile before rolling your eyes because I am now reaching for the photo album. This could go on forever.

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you about the 3rd Installment of my short story trilogy called Stella, which releases in February. I would take you back down memory lane, passed the cotton fields of the first Stella and beyond the colored line of her granddaughter the second Stella and smack down in the middle of the road where we look at the life of Joseph McNair, Stella’s son. (Please see the home page to see what this book is about). I’m excited  to get my book over to the editor before I conduct my final proofread. I’m still trying to decide on a venue for the release party and book signing. Speaking of book signing, I intentionally decided to wait until after I finished the series to have one for Stella.  So I’m looking to do an event where I can discuss all the books. I’m really behind far as planning goes but I hope to have more event details prepared by next month. I’m also planning to attend the Black History Month Parade in Atlanta in February. So now I’m not sure if I want to release it there or here at home. In any event, I have to finish counting up the cost so I can start my fundraiser. I am also still working on my business plan. Time permitting I can get that finished by next year as well so I can get the ball rolling on looking into some grants.  We’ll see where that goes.

If we were having coffee right now… I would offer you a business card and thank you for hanging out with me and offer you more coffee before we wrapped things up. We stand, laughing like two college friends because your funny. We’d stroll over by the coat hanger and, if you’re a woman, we’ll both have our hands on our hips with our heads tilted slightly to engage in more conversation. By the time we do make it to our jackets we only just open the door. We’ll probably talk a bit more before actually walking through it. If your a man who is married to my new lady friend I’d ask you if you would mind warming the car. You’ll do it. We all know this could go on forever.

If we were having coffee right now… I would wave goodbye to my new blog friend who was so kind as to meet me in person, in my home, over a cup of coffee.

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Writing 101 – Assignment #10: Let The Scene Write Itself –Artificial Life

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I walked around the neighborhood for today’s assignment. Something I haven’t done in a long time. I did not rush or hurry back to this computer screen to publish my thoughts. I wanted to make sure to capture everything. But before I walked I decided to sit on the porch for a while and in doing so I ran into the sun. He was rude about it really. Everywhere I positioned my chair there he was, all up in my face. Finally, I gave him my attention.

“Hello there Sun.”

“Do you feel that heat?” said Mr. Sun.

“Yea, I do.”

“Go inside the house,” he said.

“OK,” Mr. Sun.

I walked back into my house and it was warm. But it was a different kind of warm. It was cool out this morning and my house was cozy, but it felt stuffy and artificial compared to the heat of the sun.

“Ah”, I said to myself. “I get it now.”

I walked back out and moved my chair so that the sun was no longer beaming down on me. There. Now I can sit and drink my coffee. After a while of silent sitting, I noticed that I could not hear the wind. The machines, garbage trucks, and electronics that power the buildings and apartment complexes were too loud. “Why can’t I hear the wind?” I thought.

“You have to concentrate,” said a voice.

“Where are you?” I knew it was the wind.

“Listen and you’ll find me.”

“OK, I said and I focused my eyes on the trees so that I can listen for the wind. I know that the wind blows the trees and I saw the wind blow the trees, but I could not hear her. And then, suddenly there was a soft whistle. I smiled a big smile. “There you are!” I can hear you! I can really hear the wind blowing over the machines!” This is not made up by the way. I really heard the wind, and like a chorus locusts and birds began to sing.

“Hey! Hey you! Over here.”

I turned to my right.

A dog was barking my way. I’m sure he was talking to me. He was all the way across the street but there was no one else around. Yes, I’m sure he was talking to me.

“Hey! Good Morning Mr. Doggy.”

“You see me? See? Hey you, over here.”

“I see you Mr. Doggy.

“Hey Hey! Hey you! See? You see me yet?”

“I see you,” I said.

I ignored the dog. He kept asking if I saw him. By now I was almost finished with my coffee and it would be time to walk about. I started to notice people leave their houses but there was something about them. No one said a word. They all seemed fixed on one thought. Getting to work.

“Hmmm,” I thought. I wondered what led each person to his or her location. A man walked up the steps to his apartment. “Hmmm”, I thought. I wonder what his life is like, what led him to come back. Maybe he forgot his wallet. No, he’s way too calm. It was something else. Maybe he was killing time. It was hard to tell. His face was expressionless. He didn’t sing like the birds. In fact, the people I saw weren’t interesting at all. Yea, it’s time to start my walk.

I recruited the company of my new friends. Mr. Sun proudly rose to the occasion, Ms. Wind was already in front of me and the insects said they would catch up later but to tell the other insects that they said hi. I promised I would.

As I walked, the people I saw were poker-faced. Vacant. No one smiled. No one spoke. No one sung. I suddenly wished I was back on my front porch. At least there was life among the elements. Most of the early risers just stared at me. They were not living. They just existed. They seemed to wait to me. To be told what to do. Waiting for someone to explain to them how to live. Meanwhile, I heard more singing from the insects and the birds.

“Hey, the birds back at the apartments said hi.”

They responded with a song. Wish I knew the words. I’d be happy to sing along. No, the people would think I’m crazy. I kept walking.

I saw a Chinese man trimming his grass. He waved.

“Good Morning” I said.

Never mind. I don’t think he speaks English.

Finally, I sensed liveliness in front of me. A woman was taking her daughter to school and the little girls energy reached me before she did. It was refreshing.

“How you doing?” said the woman. Her question was muffled and her downcast eyes ignored my response.

“I’m well, how are you?”

But it was too late, the routine courtesy was done and the woman had already moved on. Suddenly, her little girl turned around as they walked. Her smile dimmed the sun a bit. I’m sure he was jealous and would tell me about it when we got back to the porch. The little girl held up two fingers. It was the peace sign.

“Peace! Two peace!” she said as she skipped along.

“Hey!” I said.

I smiled big and kept walking. I decided to stop half-way down the next block and turn around. It was time to go back home. There is life in this world after all.

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Writing 101: Assignment #7 – Social Media Inspiration: The Best of Both Worlds

“Whatever”, Tasha spoke under her breath and logged out of her twitter account. It amazed her how exactly those few words had summed up her life. Technology was a trip.

Curtis
“Hello love”

Tasha
Not a good time

Tasha slid the smart phone under the covers as her husband entered the room.

“Hey babe,” he said planting a kiss on her lips. She watched him walk away. Completely compact with everything she’d ever wanted in a man. As he slipped out of his shirt she took the opportunity to admire the dark chocolate, toned physique of her child’s father. Standing 6’1 the man had beauty and brains and had swept her off her feet ten years ago and everything else had been storybook. In less than a year they were married, Carson was born six months after that and their combined salary afforded them the luxury of the two story house sitting comfortably between two large Oak Trees in Elmhurst Illinois. Tasha hated those trees. They had somehow become the mocking occasion of her perfect life. Attorney, wife, mother, and home owner and yet here she was, stuck between two men; both just as large and overwhelming as those trees. She’d have to remember to have at least one of them cut down. Their existence, how they mocked her very life, was too much to take.

“What time you getting off tonight?” yelled Anthony from the shower.

“Nine, this case is really kicking my butt.”

There it was. Another lie. It was her fourth lie this month. She knew because she counted. It was difficult at first, but whenever she thought about rolling around on the floor with her boss it became much much easier.

Curtis was nothing like Anthony and that reality was perhaps one of her greatest fears. More so than the betrayal, the lies, even more so than the sex was that these men couldn’t be any more different. It was that, their differences, that Tasha feared even more so than getting caught. She smiled wickedly. Why did the thought excite her so? She’d built trust with Anthony and now she capitalized on that trust. Taking advantage of their years she played the men like strings. Pulling and tugging on their position in her life and manipulating the occasion.

Tasha met Curtis when she was just an intern at Curtis & Law and he was well aware that she was married. Tasha preferred it this way and often beamed with satisfaction. If ever there was an occasion to sleep around she’d found it. If ever there was a secret to deceit, she’d cracked the code. Her life with Anthony was secure and she made it clear she would never divorce him. Curtis was OK with that and vowed that their time together was nothing more than a thing.

Curtis
Tash, you there?

Tasha scrambled to mute the text alert before it became noticeable. One downfall to cheating was extreme paranoia. Tasha was sure the muffled sound could be heard through the sound of the Shower and peeking down at the screen she rolled her eyes. This was starting to get old real fast. He knew he had no right to call her that. Only Anthony called her “Tash”. But Curtis had professed his love last night and somehow thought it gave him free reign to be the first man in her life. She thought she’d made it very clear that would never happen. “Maybe I should just call off”, thought Tasha. The dread of the workplace had become intense. Any occasion to which she had to see his face in public sent her cascading through mental turmoil and she felt she would explode.

“In our universe a star explodes and dies every single second..”

“Hmm,” thought Tasha, “Is this what death feels like?”

Anthony was her everything. Her love and her heart broke at the thought of what this would do to him if he ever found out and yet, the thought was quickly erased by another lie.

“Please, I’m tripping. Men do this all the time”, she told herself to soothe the bruise of adultery seeping from her pores.

Anthony walked out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his waist and another one he used to dry his hair. “Goodness, that’s a beautiful man.” Tasha said to herself.

Curtis
Meet me at the spot, 1 hour

Startled, Tasha scrambled to answer her text.

“Tell Curtis you’ll be late this morning”, smiled Anthony, seductively approaching his wife.

Tasha smiled a wicked smile. Poor Ant, he would never know. It amazed her how color had such an impact on the way people saw the world. Anthony would never suspect a culprit in the proper, brown haired, blue eyed Caucasian that is his wife’s boss.

Tasha
I need a few hours. (wink)

Curtis

OK love.

Who needed worlds? Tasha had both.

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Writing 101: Assignment #3 – One Word Inspiration–Choice (a poem)

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Created to choose good
we traded our crown for the right to understand evil
And stand now as soldiers in a time of war
load me down with breastplates and helmets
for we shackle ourselves to the decisions we make
There are many paths before us,
a starlight fantasy for our dreams
a playground for our games
and truths
and falsehoods
all candy coated to look alike
these paths unfold like red carpet occasions
judgment spreads its arms like a mother
beckoning for her children
inviting us into its chest
and there we feed on the free will
to choose our own verdicts
what kind of life will we live
and what will we trail behind
choices
we live on them
desperately
like the very breath we breathe
inhale and exhaling ourselves to the next step
what will become of this poem
will I dare to save a life
is it possible
that one can live on these words
desperately
nourished simply by the right
to choose
to read them

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