Wednesday, July 25, 2007

RW: Fruit, Strange & Otherwise

My editor sent me this promo info on my latest publication:

"The New Writer’s Handbook 2007 is the inaugural edition of a new annual collection of articles to refresh and upgrade any writer's skills, with advice on craft and career development. It offers an eclectic mix of expert how-tos, short pieces on creativity, marketing, and professional issues, and other insights on being a successful writer today."

[Note: You see how he doesn't specifically mention my topic. Understandable. When you're marketing a new how-to writing book, the last thing you say is "Oh, and there's this thing about mutant grapefruit by that multi-genre chick with 486 pseudonyms."]

He continues:

"The 63 selected articles mostly are drawn from pieces published in 2006–early 2007. Contributors include winners of the National Book Award, Newbery Medal, and other honors, along with working journalists, writing instructors, authors with books on bestseller lists, editors, literary bloggers, and more."

[I believe I would be in the "and more" category here.]

Sections include:

• Creativity, Motivation & Discipline
• The Craft of Writing
• Pitching & Proposals
• Marketing Your Work
• Internet Skills
• Literary Insights & Last Words

Seriously now, it's really a lovely book, and in addition to my adventures at the pack-n-ship in town contains a lot of interesting advice from some very experienced, successful writers. But as always, you don't have to take my word for it.

In comments to this post, tell us about something strange or odd that inspired you in some way (or if you are feeling uninspired of late, just throw your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Friday, July 27, 2007. I'll draw three names at random from everyone who participates, and send the winners a signed-by-me copy of The New Writer's Handbook 2007. Giveaway open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

79 comments:

  1. Something strange or odd?? Well, I write romantic suspense, but I wanted to venture into the armed forces..say like my hero being a war veteran, and that was something I'd never really read about, so I picked up Dale Brown's Chains of Command..and absolutely love it. A roller coaster of suspense with ton's of action. I want to write like that!

    Oh and BTW...I love signed copies, (snort!)

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  2. Not strange or odd, but I've been finding inspiration in some blogs I've been reading. This one (and no, I'm not sucking up) inspires me. I usually find inspiring posts over at Murder She Writes and Good Girls Kill for the Money, too. I get inspiration from seeing people succeed in this business, and from hearing about their achievements. =o)

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  3. *G* A Magnet.

    It read

    You, Me, Whipped Cream and Handcuffs... any questions?

    Four hours later, I was done with a cute little short story titled whipped cream and handcuffs

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  4. We stopped at a Stuckey's on the interstate. It was in nowhere special, like a lot of places in this country, a windswept hillock bare of trees, and when no cars passed, you could stand outside and watch the grass wave and hear nothing but the wind in your ears.

    A Stuckey's. A gas station. Across the bridge, the Waffle House where the truckers ate. Nothing else.

    And I wondered: who would work here? Where did they come from? There weren't any houses nearby. Nearest town was 20 miles in each direction. What if someone lived out here, in a trailer nearby. This was their whole life [this was before the Internet, of course]. Would they know the other workers? How would they live? What would they think?

    Kinda had the same feelings recently, walking through the Wal-Mart supercenter at 3 a.m. There were employees and customers (more than I expected), and it seemed like this self-contained community, a city of its own. And I wondered: what if zombies attacked?


    There were no

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  5. Name in the hat!

    I'm trying to get the will to write BACK after it was smashed by a teacher who spent a year making me hate myself (not for anything writing related, just in general). Interestingly enough, throughout that time yours was the one site I managed to keep track of, and one of the reasons I kept writing at all.

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  6. I have been totally uninspired for the past few days. Don't know what is wrong with me. I also find when I read books, I get even more uninspired, because I so wish I could write like that, and then I beat myself over the head with self-doubt.

    The strangest thing that has ever inspired me was cold grapes.

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  7. Something strange that inspired me? I was once inspired by finding a medallion on the ground. It was a worthless medallion that came out of a box of serial, but that one medallion spawned 3 short stories with a complex (for a middle schooler) mythology. Oh, and once I was inspired to write a story because my alarm went off, and the lights were all dark when a car spun its tires in front of my house. That spawned a story about a man running from a group of hitmen.

    Oooh! Even if I don't win, I'll have to pick this book up!!

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  8. My strange thing? Only takes three words: Italian hospital system. Don't ever deliver a baby in Italy if you're not mentally prepared for what it's like.

    And like Valerie, I liked signed copies, too. :)

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  9. Feeling completely uninspired right now, so I'm just throwing my hat in.

    *mutters* flippin' British summers....

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  10. I developed a story idea during a document management training session at my day job. That was pretty odd.

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  11. Reading "writing how-to" books. I actually generated most of my current plot while reading a book on characterization. I'd read for a little bit have this idea pop into my head, grab my handy dandy notebook, scribble it down, and turn back to the book. Usually the ideas have nothing to do with what the book is talking about. I think my mind tends to wander while I'm trying to ingest non-fiction. Please drop my name in the hat.

    Amanda F.

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  12. Well, there's this demon that lurks in the upstairs bathroom that wanted me to write about him...


    Okay... I'll just throw my name in the hat, then.

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  13. Not feeling especially inspired today, but I'd like to throw my name in. Thanks.

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  14. A rather large seagull decided to come visit a few days ago. It stood on the balcony and looked in through the open door, regarding my two cats with a rather baleful eye. The cats, Horus and Bastet, sat and stared right back at the bird. The three of them were locked in a staring contest for about ten minutes when our puppy woke up and came galloping over, wanting to know what was going on. He scared the other animals and the inter-species meeting to an end.

    It made me laugh and gave me an idea about a political aspect in my current novel. :)

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  15. Airports and watching some Germans grope each other in the passport control line last January when I went to Munich. Working on a book that involves a lot of traveling around now...

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  16. Sometimes I get ideas from the History Channel or the newspaper. Some of my more strange ideas come from reading stories that don't work for me. I ask myself what would make them work for me. The more mundane the story, the more bizarre.

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  17. It happened one summer vacation when I was a teenager, on a visit to relatives in Lancaster, California. I went out for a walk fairly early in the morning. All of a sudden the front doors to the houses on both sides of the suburban street opened up and people came out. I stopped and stood on the sidewalk watching. They didn't talk to one another. Each man or woman walked to their cars, got in, and then they all pulled out into the street and the whole chain of cars drove away leaving me alone again.

    To me I immediately thought of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It made the world seem to be a very strange place.

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  18. It seems like lately everything from the sun after a rain to the purple gel wrist support on my desk is inspiring me. The most striking thing lately though are other words. The word "typity" spawned a viable romance idea, and "blood myth" is a growing short story. (They conveniently serve as working titles, too.)

    As an aside - I heard "Angel Eyes" in the grocery store yesterday. :D

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  19. Bridget Medora8:21 AM

    Throwing my name in. Thanks PBW. =)

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  20. I'll just throw my name in the hat...

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  21. Both space shuttle crashes occurred when I lived in Texas. When the second went (nearly ten years to the day, if I remember rightly) I thought, "What if it was the result of some bad karmic mojo of one person that caused that timing?" It's in my To Be Written file.

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  22. I looked out my window the other day and my eyes were drawn to a large knot in the tree outside. It instantly made my think it was a child's face and that the tree had eaten the child. It has inspired me to write a fairy tale along that theme. Should be a bit of fun, even if I do say so meself!

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  23. Many times, billboards will give me an idea to run with. The disadvantage? I can't write the idea down while I'm driving! All I can do is hope that I can remember it when I can stop.

    I keep promising myself to buy a small recorder to dictate into, but I don't remember that until I get home from the store! One day I'll forget my head....Or maybe I already have!

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  24. Also tossing my name into the hat, thanks : )

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  25. Anonymous9:39 AM

    I'm plodding through a writing project inspired by the death of Yukio Mishima: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seppuku#Seppuku_in_modern_Japan

    I don't know, I just find something blackly comic in the fact that his second was so incompetent with a sword.

    -tia

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  26. I'm throwing my name in feeling like either strange things don't happen to me or aren't inspiring to me or something. I'm feeling quite ordinary. So I'll give you that I was really hungry and didn't get up to fix something because I was supposed to be working, so my heroine started finding various ways to liken her sitch with the hero to cake while her internal voice argued Cake Bad.

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  27. Hmm, "inspired" doesn't really describe me at the moment, but I do remember something that happened a few years ago. We were riding in the buffet car behind a miniature steam locomotive, and I was watching some oil slop around in a plastic container on the back of the tender. When I got home, I wrote it into a scene with a steam lorry as a small detail. This was shortly after reading a how-to book about word painting, which I should probably dig out and read again!

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  28. The last thing that got me writing was when I watched "Music and Lyrics", and while they were writing lyrics for a song, one of the characters said something about their song that got me writing my own lyrics. Struck me as very odd.

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  29. Christine9:57 AM

    I have no shining or even grubby inspiration, so... *name in hat*

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  30. The Cinderella story has spawned three shorts to date. I don't know why I like to play with it so much. Another short came out of my experience of several years of pleasant blurry myopia and the shock of getting glasses and being able to see the world in focus (it wasn't all that pleasant--who knew how harsh and garish and full of blemishes the world is?).

    Tossing my name in the hat...

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  31. Name in the hat please. (And if it is a swan hat, I'm cool with that, too.)

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  32. I'm all out of strangeness for the moment, so I'd like to throw my name in the hat. Thanks.

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  33. Well, there was the day when I was writing a POV nervous breakdown while my youngest son was after me to make character voices for his video game. It bore a striking resemblence to self-induced multiple personality syndrome, which led to a whole 'nother interesting chain of thought.

    Tossing my name in.

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  34. Many years ago in a grocery checkout line I saw a tabloid headline: "I Was An Alien's Love Slave!" I howled. I could not stop laughing. Every time I thought of it, I cracked up, no matter how much time passed. Finally, I wrote a story to go with the headline and sold it. The anthology will be in bookstores Sept. 21. Bwaha.

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  35. Inspired? Hmm...I guess that finishing Deathly Hallows counts. Not the content of the book itself, necessarily, though that was amazing, but more the idea of finishing that big a series, that long-standing a phenomenon...well, whatever it was, it switched on my writer's brain and I pulled a chapter out of a hat last night. A longish, fast-paced chapter that doesn't make me want to die when I look at it. Fantastic.

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  36. Toss my name in the hat. :) I'm always looking for ways to improve the craft.

    The strangest thing that has ever inspired me to write was an NPR radio show. I was listening to some dry, monotone discussion of Georgia landmarks, when one that wasn't even mentioned gave me the idea of a local paranormal mystery.

    My brain is always working in strange ways. Seeing an orange might lead me to thinking horse fur, through a convoluted train of thought that goes from orange => Florida orange tourist stop => interstate driving => local candy producer => national fair in same town as candy producer => last time not seeing the budweiser clydesdales => How soft and clean they were when I DID see them, and how soft their fur was.

    That's just the way I think. :)

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  37. Not particularly inspired of late. I'm putting my name in the hat because I could use some mutant grapefruity advice.

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  38. SandyW11:51 AM

    Most recent inspirations:
    1) An online comic called ‘For the Wicked’ really made me think about Little Red Riding Hood and how traumatized she would be after the whole run-in with the wolf. That thought is currently becoming a dark urban fantasy about a woman who had an incident with a skinwalker when she was a child.

    2) One of the cinematic scenes in the final credits of a video game – Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. We’re watching Sweet Pea beat the game and the Man of the House turns to me and says, ‘No fair. How come he never gets the girl?’ Good question…

    Let me take this opportunity to thank you (and your various volunteers/draftees) for the whole series of Left Behind workshops. I’m still working my way though some of those ideas and exercises.

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  39. One morning, while getting ready for work, my husband turned on the news. The story being broadcast at the time was about trees harvested from the bottom of Lake Superior. They'd sunk many years before, in the old days of moving timber by floating it along, and hadn't disintegrated because the water was so cold. The wood was being used for musical instruments, and they were reportedly of finer quality than any other instruments of similar make. I sat there, thinking for the longest time, and ended up coming up with an idea for my first (trunked) novel.

    I find all kinds of funky ideas from listening to/reading the news.

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  40. Word Nerd12:19 PM

    No inspiration lately, other than the routine plugging away on the WIP. But maybe the book would help!

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  41. My latest inspiration came from an article I read (maybe off the scenes post you did a couple of weeks back?) Anyway, it talked about a method of writing wherein you craft a section (sentence/paragraph) about external events, then follow with internel events. The article had a name for it, but I think of it as action/reaction. Something happens/or the MC does something, and then reacts to what just happened. External, then internal.

    It sounds very rigid, but I started reading books to see who follows that general notion and it's there in a number of places.

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  42. Anonymous12:46 PM

    I work as an attorney for a psychiatric hospital. The way these patients act and some of the stories they tell in open court range from the hysterical (the little old lady who flirted incessantly, advising me, the judge, and every other male in the room that we were all "very pretty"), to the unnerving (the cold-blooded killer who constantly stared at me, an evil grin on his face, throughout the commitment proceeding), to the heartbreaking (the mentally retarded and mentally ill man who just wanted to go back to live with his sister "so everything will be ok"). You can't help but be moved emotionally and inspired creatively.

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  43. Something odd? A butterfly deciding to land first on my toes and then change location to my index finger in a public open-air pool. Apparently found me that attractive it didn't want to leave for about 5 minutes.
    Inspired me to continue a romantic story I started to write half a year ago and couldn't finish 'cause of a lack of ideas...

    I'd like to toss my hat into the name... ;)

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  44. I've been mostly uninspired of late, but my writing group had a 20 min exercise in response to a writing prompt that turned into a short story I rather like.

    The prompt was 'In a room full of strangers' and somehow that got me to a retelling/re-imagining of a selkie myth in modern day.

    Throwing hat in ring.

    :)

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  45. I wrote a Guess-The-Plot for the title "Demon Tamer" on Evil Editor's blog, just for giggles...my expansion of the GTP is now 76k and almost done. Evil indeed.

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  46. I'm always inspired by Chuck Palahniuk. Every time I read something of his, I suddenly have a very creepy story idea running through my head. Stuff that in the normal swing of things would never even occur to me.

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  47. Hmm. I think my strangest inspiration was a combination of reading a comment about Evil Overlords and what kind of professions would a world have if magic was common. I ended up with a short piece about the EO going to a psychiatrist for help. It made me laugh. I have no idea what use I'll make of it, but it's out there now, winking at me.

    Throwing my name in the hat. Thanks!

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  48. Just in time, I got two bursts of strange creativity this week. I've been hunting for a subplot for my novel for a couple of days- it's very short, 50k, so it'd be pretty much unsaleable if I couldn't lengthen it up. So, I was pouring myself some ceral, and thinking about the map I had made for this novel's world on that very spot, and how one of the characters had been in a war there. Then I realized that same character was going to go back there and beg them for help. Subplot accomplished. :)

    My second wave came while I was toiling on the first. I needed to know a bunch of stuff about this other country, and was laying out the basics to a writer friend in an email. It soon morphed into a 1227 word discussion of my main character's parents. It was the most I had written all week, and by accident, too.

    Your book sounds fabulous, PBW.

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  49. Nothing strange or odd. But I continue to be inspired by all the authors who blog and offer so much of themselves to aspiring writers like me.

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  50. I'm not sure if this is strange but it is my inspiration lately.

    I am an index card a holic(half size index cards work fantastically for this). Lately i've been carrying blank ones around with me and looking for words, random interesting words i hear in conversation or on signage and writing them on the cards. Nouns, verbs, adjectives. Words only no phrases.

    Then when i get stuck i'll shuffle the cards and pull out a few and see if they relate to the story or bring up an idea or maybe just describe a character, place house ect. I think of it like word tarot

    i've also used this to jog ideas for a new story.

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  51. Sometimes I get inspired by a movie trailer or short caption about a book's plot or comics.

    I don't know if those are weird, though, so throwing my name in the hat.

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  52. Something strange or odd that inspired me...it's not strange or odd, nor did it inspire any written word, BUT this morning was beautiful and I had the perfect white peach as part of breakfast. This was followed by walking straight into a wall because I wasn't looking. It made me rethink a couple decisions in my life and for some reason there's just a more positive vibe--at least for today. Guess you really do need a knock in the head sometimes ;)

    -applejacks

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  53. Driving home one night, I passed a low-rent apartment building. For some reason, one of the residents used a red light bulb for their porch light. Was it a mini red light district? A part of some network of safe houses? By the time I arrived home, I'd already created a skeleton of a plot for a story about an underground vampire railroad.

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  54. Anonymous5:10 PM

    Can't type... been moving stuff at the museum all day. Put my name in the hat, please!

    gigi
    Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

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  55. The ocean inspires me...is that wierd?

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  56. OOh! I want!

    Throw my name in the hat please.

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  57. My visit to White Sands and then Roswell provided me with an interesting topic which turned into a short story.

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  58. Today was hot and dry as usual. But love the summer. Have been enjoying this blog greatly.

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  59. A lot of my ideas come from my dreams - I get very strange dreams!

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  60. Anonymous7:40 PM

    Please throw my name into the hat!

    Thanks,

    Terri W.

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  61. Great inspiration from a mature gorup I hang out with and walk.

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  62. Throw my name in the hat, please.

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  63. Strange and inspiring? My ex-father-in-law introduced me to my current wife (during a time when he wasn't yet an ex) who is an artist. We accidentally fell in love as she shared her drawings with me and I my stories with her. Don't feel too sorry for the ex-wife; we weren't ever right for each other. But I do feel sorry for the ex-father-in-law. Oh Bob, did you even know what you were doing? Knowing how inadvertently happy you made me, would you do it all over again?

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  64. I was inspired by a gathering of geese near my office. They looked like tiny Russian diplomats, ready for a summit.

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  65. Throwing my name in the hat.

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  66. Throwing my name in the hat...

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  67. Something odd? Well. Let's see...

    My father and I were eating a late dinner at McDonald's, at around 9:00 PM. The place was empty, excluding us and a couple wrapped up in their own little world.

    Then a guy with a bike came in.

    He dragged his bike into the restaurant, looked around suspiciously, and rolled it through to the bathroom. After about five minutes, he came back out and left McDonalds without even ordering anything.

    Yeah. That was pretty odd.

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  68. *notes the amount of comments* aww damn.
    Well i'll say my bit anyway. I once got inspired crossing the road in the rain. Strange but true.

    It turned out to be a pretty good story too.
    (throws name in the vague direction of the hat and hope it hits)

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  69. I'd like to throw my name into the hat, please....

    Catherine

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  70. I become inspired by my daughters whose ambitions motivate me to produce creations of artwork.

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  71. I become very inspired when I know that I will be traveling to an exotic destination.. Sounds appealing.

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  72. If the heat would EVER get below 100 F (or 85 at night) I might have an inspired thought or two. I might. But lately I have no way of knowing.

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  73. I really, really hate to admit this, but I usually get really inspired by topics I oughtn't want to write about. It's like I just want to see if I can.

    And suddenly, poof! There's a plot!

    Case in point: don't ask me how, but we got to talking about strippers at work, and one of the girls said she liked the stripper name Roxy. Another lady thought she said "Retard", and after we all felt bad about laughing at the image, in popped an instant picture into my head of a retarded stripper pole-dancing when the pole breaks. It will be in my current work in progress, I'm sad to say, and it's exactly the scene I needed for a thorny spot that I didn't quite know how to write around otherwise.

    Salvation in the form of a mentally-challenged pole dancer. I am so going to Hell for this one.

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  74. A really bad dinner at a restaurant inspired a poem, and I think I'll include it as a setting sometime in a story.
    Throwing my name in!

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  75. Feeling completely uninspired of late, but please throw my name in the hat. Thanks!

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  76. I have too much stress in my life right now to be inspired, so I'd just like to throw my name in. Thanks!

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  77. Just throwing my name in, no inspiration lately. Been working to much covering for other people's vacations.

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