I stumbled across an old memory today on Pinterest, check out these archived screenshots of my old haunt – The former AOL site was the brainchild of Dan Hurley, the original 60 second novelist, you can check out his book here on GoodReads.
Amazing Instant Novelist was affiliated with Chicken Soup for the Soul, it was filled with message boards for writers and readers alike. I found the site in 1997 and was hooked. I read and I wrote and I became part of my very first cyber family there. There were contests and prizes and tons of camaraderie, it was, for lack of a better word, fantabulous.
It wasn’t long before I was asked to join the ranks as NovlQwiet, and became one of their volunteer admins. I was rather brokenhearted when the site was acquired by some other entity and faded from existence. I still miss it to be honest. The years I spent there are treasured.
It was there I realized I had something to offer, something I didn’t need to keep to myself, buried in notebooks and journals . . . my words. They read them, they picked them up and they displayed them; they valued them. I was encouraged and applauded and it was good. So good.
I’d never been in the company of other writers, I wasn’t even certain I was one of them until they assured me I was. The other Novls embraced me, the writers who came there to write respected me, and the readers who simply came there to read uplifted me. It was kind of a beautiful thing and I’ll always, always be thankful I was a part of it.
Crystal R. Cook
I truly have no idea what I want to write. I suppose that’s not entirely true, I’ve too many things I want to write would be a far exceedingly accurate representation of my current situation. There are so many words inside of me, fighting to be set free. They seem to be canceling each other out in an effort to be given life.
Long kept memories, some good, some I wish could simply be forgotten, wrestle with the new, clamoring for release. Ideas and epiphanies stored in the recesses of my mind, stories and dreams and fantasies, ancient hopes and longings, emerging wishes, knowledge and insights begging to be shared. The cacophony of silent rumblings never seem to rest.
The tangled remnants of thoughts within me wrestle with emerging ruminations, which do I favor? How do I choose? I sit to write, willing one or the other to rise to the surface, making my choice clear, but I wait in vain. They can’t decide so I must choose, but the how eludes me. They taunt me, floating just below the horizon of conscious thought, knowing I can’t quite reach them there.
Sometimes I doubt their existence, call them tormentors and illusions, but that would mean I’ve gone mad without realizing I’d somehow slipped from realities grasp. No, they are as real as the pen I hold. They are unforgiving perhaps, slighted in some way because I did not release them sooner, I could not release them, it wasn’t their time. Perhaps it still isn’t.
Maybe tomorrow they will willingly come . . .
Crystal R. Cook
To rhyme or not to rhyme, if you choose to rhyme, you must rhyme well, for if you don’t it will sound like . . . Well, you understand don’t you?
From the Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce – RIME, n. Agreeing sounds in the terminals of verse, mostly bad. The verses themselves, as distinguished from prose, mostly dull. Usually (and wickedly) spelled “rhyme.”
When asked about English words without a rhyme, most will quite correctly say orange, purple and silver. There are actually many words in the English language lacking a partner in perfect rhyme.
If it’s true rhyme you’re looking for, you may want to steer clear of the words: anything, January, stubborn, apricot, dictionary and xylophone. Good luck with chaos, angry, hostage, rhythm, shadow, circus, crayon and glimpsed. Angst and empty, depth and width will be tough to rhyme, just like glimpsed and else and diamond and chocolate. Penguin and galaxy do not have any true rhymes, nor does elbow or engine, anxious or monster.
A perfect rhyme, sometimes referred to as true rhyme or full rhyme, is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language as; a rhyme in which the final accented vowel and all succeeding consonants or syllables are identical, while the preceding consonants are different, for example, great, late; rider, beside her; dutiful, beautiful.
Pure rhyme can be broken down even further. Words such as dog and log are single pure rhymes. Silly and willy would hence be referred to as double pure rhymes. An example of a triple pure rhyme would be mystery and history.
The longer the word, the harder it will be to find a perfect rhyme, this doesn’t mean they cannot be used in the context of rhyme however. Para-rhymes are defined as a partial or imperfect rhyme, often using assonance or consonance only, as in dry and died or grown and moon. This is also called half rhyme, near rhyme, oblique rhyme, slant rhyme or forced rhyme. This refers to words that do not completely rhyme, but use like sound to form the desired effect. A common example is the word discombobulate, to create a fluid sounding rhyme, three syllables must be utilized, populate would work well as a half rhyme in this instance. Hill and hell or mystery and mastery are examples of para-rhyme.
Masculine rhyme, or monosyllabic rhyme, is among the most common; this technique stresses the final syllable of each word, as in sublime and rhyme, or went and sent. Feminine rhyme differs in that the stress is on two or more syllables such as pleasure and treasure or fountain and mountain. Identical rhyme is simply using the same word twice.
There are various other examples of rhyme; eye rhyme is a rhyme consisting of words, such as lint and pint or love and move with similar spellings, but different sounds. Rich rhyme is a word rhymed with its homonym such as blue with blew, guest with guessed.
Scarce rhymes are words with limited rhyming alternatives like wisp and lisp, motionless and oceanless. Wrenched rhyme is the rhyming of a stressed syllable with an unstressed syllable as in words like lady and bee or bent and firmament.
Internal and external multi-syllable rhymes utilize the rhyming of more than one word, in this example, bleak and seek are internal rhymes; words within the body of the stanza, while night and light are external rhymes and fall at the end of a line.
So she found him
in the bleak of night,
lost on his quest
to seek the light.
Assonance rhyme is the matching of the vowel sounds, feast and feed, fever and feature. In syllable rhyme, the last syllable in each word is matching, pitter and patter, batter and matter. Consonance rhyme is matching the consonants in each word, her and dark. Alliteration is matching the beginning sounds of each word, often used in a series; perfect, poetic, personification.
Many people wrongly assume writing a rhymed poem is an easy task, until they actually try to write one, that is . . . There is much more to it than seeking words that rhyme, but we’ll discuss it at length some other time.
Crystal R. Cook
William Faulkner once said, “Read, read, read. Read everything trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out.”
Introducing children to the world of literature is one of the greatest gifts you can give them, regardless of whether or not writing is in their future. Before they can read, read to them, help them fall in love with words.
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Sir Richard Steele
Books captivate and spark imagination. Once they begin to read, they begin to learn, let the masters be their teachers. When I was six years old I read The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, I was enraptured by the tale and soon sat down to write a story of my own. Some children seem to be born with a story within them, just waiting to be told.
“The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightning and the lightning bug.” Mark Twain
Teach them to speak properly. If they are to write, they must know how to speak, and speak well. The proper use of words and a good vocabulary will only serve to enhance every aspect of their writing as well as their future relationships and employment opportunities. This is something you can do from the time they are babies, baby talk can be fun when it’s time to have fun, but I’m a firm believer that children need to be spoken to in the way we want them to one day speak.
Encouragement will foster confidence; too much encouragement can lead to disappointment, reserved honesty is sometimes best. I would never tell my children something was wonderfully written if it were not, instead, I would find the good in it, then offer suggestions for the parts that could use some attention. Read what your child writes and tell them you want to read more, your enthusiasm will fuel their own.
“There is only one trait that marks the writer. He is always watching. It’s a kind of trick of the mind and he is born with it.” Morley Callaghan
Teach them to see the world around them, help them become constant observers. Inspiration comes in many forms; sometimes the most insignificant of things will lead us to the most significant thought. It teaches them to be aware of themselves and all that surrounds them. It teaches there is so much more to be seen than most people realize, they’ll learn to see what others may not, they’ll experience so much more of life when they learn to look beyond the ordinary.
Two of my four children are writers, amazing writers, they are all avid readers and eloquent speakers as well. When they were young, one of their favorite pastimes was Mad Libs. Without realizing it, they were learning with each silly story. Before my daughter was five she knew what adjectives and pronouns were, she knew the difference between a verb and an adverb. They learned new words and how to spell them through family games of Scrabble.
I often sat with them, pen and paper in hand, and we wrote stories together, taking turns, paragraph by paragraph. Here they learned the proper usage of grammar and punctuation, they learned to be creative. They learned to show, not tell. They found their own voices within the words they penned to the page. Looking back on their earliest writing brings both smiles and tears, their innocence spilled upon page after page, they are some of my most treasured possessions.
“Advice to young writers? Always the same advice: learn to trust your own judgment, learn inner independence, learn to trust that time will sort the good from the bad including your own bad.” Doris Lessing
I encouraged them to keep journals, it’s important to have a place to write anything and everything. To me, it is in the pages of a journal where you learn the most about who you really are. There can be no self-expression without a sense of self.
I taught them to never throw away what they’ve written, even if they thought it wasn’t the greatest, I urged them to tuck it away and maybe someday revisit and rework, or at the very least, look back on to see how far they’ve come. One of my greatest regrets as a writer is the loss of work I deemed unworthy at the time.
As teenagers, I encouraged them to write often, offering critiques and advice along the way. Constructive criticism can be a difficult thing to take in the beginning; they learned to grow from it. They found online writing groups and sought out those teachers willing to take time and become a part of their journey as they wrote their way into each new chapter of their lives.
Now, as adults, they continue to write as they pursue other dreams and opportunities. Their ability to express themselves in both the written and spoken word is remarkable and rarely goes unnoticed. It wasn’t my intent to raise writers, my goal was to teach them the importance of words, language, and expression. The words we say follow us through life, they can open doors or they can close them.
I place great value on words, they are how we let the world know who we are, what we stand for, what we desire, need, and cherish in life. Their worth is immeasurable. Teaching a child the wonder of words, not just how to say them, but how to feel them and bring them to life, is as I said, a gift.
Crystal R. Cook
My favorite pen fits perfectly in my hand. Sleek silver shell, slightly cold at first until warmed by the words it will ink to a page. It has substance, not too heavy, not too light. It knows everything there is to know about me, it has written of my innermost thoughts and wishes and dreams. It’s shared in my heartache and rejoiced in my joy. With my pen in hand we waltz across the page, dancing with words to music no one else can hear.
It didn’t start out as my pen, it belonged to another, who, I have no idea. How I came to have it, or how it came to have me, I can’t recall. One day it was just mine, it became an extension of my soul. When I first touched it to a blank page, I watched the dark, black ink seeping into the stark white paper and I saw pure and perfect beauty. Never has a pen touched the page so softly, leaving such a smooth trail of elegance wherever it goes.
My children often try to take it; my husband seeks to steal it away from me. My perfect pen is wanted by all. I carry it with me wherever I go. I’m not the type to lie, but if someone asks if I have a pen they can borrow the only answer there can be is no. It’s not really a lie because my pen is so much more than just a pen; It’s my partner, my confidant and my friend.
I’ve used many others, but this one has something they did not, I know not what it is, but I feel it when I hold it in my hand. Some may not understand, I don’t quite understand it myself, I simply know it is a special pen. I wonder what hands have held it before. I wonder if they knew what a treasure they held. I wonder if they search for it still.
I hope to keep it always; I doubt I could ever find another good enough to take its place. Is it odd to hold such attachment to an ordinary object, one disposable to most, irreplaceable to me? My pen is my pen; I’ll care for and keep it as long as I can. It has many more words to put on a page.
Crystal R. Cook