Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The writing life: cats and phones, work and fun

I haven't been blogging much lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been writing.  I've actually been doing a lot of writing for a course revision project at work, and that's been interesting, though not quite as satisfying as personal, creative writing.  Life has been a bit stressful in the last while, too, and I've had a hard time focusing on larger pieces of composition.  However, I've spent more time working on my poetry and have found that both therapeutic and challenging.  I've composed three new poems in the past three months and have spent quite a bit of time revising them and, in the process, trying to find the poetic style that really suits me.  I also attended a poetry-writing workshop by local writer Helen Humphreys a couple of weeks ago; that session provided some useful tips and a good dose of inspiration.

At the biweekly meetings of the writers' group I'm in, we try to spend part of each meeting doing a writing exercise:  we take a phrase or word as a prompt and write spontaneously on it for ten minutes.  I've posted a couple of these attempts before -- here and here -- and thought I'd post a couple more today, just for fun.

For this piece, our prompt was just four words -- frown, green, light, and cat -- which we had to include in whatever we wrote.

So I'm standing at the corner, waiting for the light to turn green, when this guy comes up beside me and says, "You seen an orange tabby cat around here?"

I look around me at the skyscrapers and office buildings and the chaos of cars and buses and taxis streaming past and the mobs of pedestrians choking the intersection.

"Uh -- nope, haven't seen one," I said, wondering why the darn light didn't change and let me escape this nut bar.

"Her name's Snowball," the guy said.

Thank God, the light changed and I started forward, hoping to lose Mister "Named-My-Orange-Cat-Snowball" in the crowd.

No such luck.  He kept up to my pace.  I glanced his way, hoping the frown on my face would deter him.  But he kept walking along beside me.  "She usually comes when I call her," he says.

No way, I thought -- but yep, he started calling out, "SNOWBALL!  SNOWBALL!"

Screw this, I thought, and stopped abruptly, letting the guy go on walking ahead of me.  I pulled open the nearest door and entered what proved to be the ATM part of the CIBC bank.  And there in the corner was an orange tabby cat.

"Snowball?" I said tentatively.

A guy waiting for the ATM made a hunnhh sound through his nose. "That's the stupidest name for an orange cat that I ever heard in my life."

"Who the heck asked you?" I said.


For this second piece, the prompt was "Message on the answering machine."

When I checked my answering machine I heard a man's voice say "It's Dale.  Call me!  I've run out and I don't know if I can get through the night." {click}

I stand there wracking my brain, but I am 100% sure I don't know any guy named Dale.  It must be a wrong number.  Tough bananas, I think.  Dial more carefully next time, Dale

But the call haunts me.  What if Dale needs life-saving medication?

I press *69.  "The last number to call your phone was 613*555*1234."  I jot it down on the memo pad and then pick up the phone.  I'll just say, "Uh, Dale, I think you meant to call somebody else." 

But then I stop.  What am I doing?  Maybe Dale is a criminal -- a drug user -- and I'm phoning him because he dialed the wrong number??? 

I go back and forth for some time.  Then finally I call.  A guy answers.  "Uh--Dale?" I say.  "You accidentally called me and said you ran out and couldn't make it through the night."

The guy starts to laugh.  "Sorry, miss," he says.  "I was calling my mother.  She makes her world famous perogies for my restaurant and we've been really busy tonight and we're all out."

"Oh, I'm sorry," I say.

"No worries.  I wondered why she didn't call me back," he says.  Then he goes on, "Ever been to the East Street Grill?"

"I've heard of it -- never been."

"Come on down for supper tonight," he says.. "I'll give you a meal on the house -- for being so thoughtful.  Just don't order the perogies."

If you ever think you'd like to write something but don't know what to write, just try a ten-minute writing exercise like this.  You never know where it will lead -- and even if it leads nowhere, it's a lot of fun to do.


  1. Great job, Jeannie, but maybe that's because I love perogies. And even without perogies, I'd have taken the guy up on the offer of a free meal. Who knows, maybe his mom would have brought a second batch anyway.

    See how well you wrote? My mouth is watering and this is a piece of fiction!

    1. I don't know where the perogies part came from, to be honest -- I'm not sure I've ever even had one! Glad you enjoyed these pieces. They're a bit more complete than most of the things I write for this exercise, though -- to be more authentic I really should publish a few of the ones that ended in the middle of a sentence and had no plot!

  2. Oh Jeannie, you had me laughing out load about the Nut Bar with the orange tabby cat named Snowball. So funny. And what a great story about Dale! Great stories. Good for you on writing the poems. Poetry intrigues me, but I don't think I could write a poem to save my life. My daughter, on the other hand, just jotted off a brilliant piece in about 5 minutes the other day...I should get her to do revising work on it.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Betsy - when we do these writing exercises I always have the most fun if I try to make up something fictional. It's always amazing to see how very differently the 4 people in our group deal with the prompt we're given. I'm glad to hear your daughter writes some poetry! But yeah -- I've discovered poetry needs a LOT of revision. At least mine does!

  3. Jeannie, I loved this. Thanks! Judy

    1. Thanks Judy - I appreciate your coming by and commenting!


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