Friday, September 6, 2013

Zingers - Love or Hate?

There are things that are politically correct and things that are not. Over the past few decades we have learned the face of bigotry against different races, religions, gender, gender identification, and disabilities. For the most part we agree that we must be kinder in the way we treat people in these areas. The one area that we are still struggling is the way we treat fat people. It seems that it is still open season on us, despite the fact that the bulk of the country is overweight (pun not intended but appreciated).

There is a fine line between telling a joke and making fun of someone. A lot of people don't know where this dividing line lies.

First of all, for all of the idiots out there -- you don't need to point out our fat to us. We have already realized this fact from the sobbing sound the scale makes when we step on it. Also, don't think that humiliating us is what it will take to get us to lose weight. If that actually worked this would be among the skinniest on earth rather than the opposite. You also need to look in the mirror. You could be the pot calling the kettle fat.

There was a recent kerfuffle on line about a guy who took a woman's photo from her blog that showed her holding a sign that said "This is what a feminist looks like." He reposted it with a comment that it was just as he figured -- indicating that only fat women and perhaps women without the perfect airbrushed look would be a feminist. Yeah. Tell it to former Playboy Bunny Gloria Steinem. This kind of crap attitude is a large part of where feminism stems from. But I take this guy with a grain of salt. He is undoubtedly the loser he was accusing this woman of being. Hello! Pot, it's the kettle calling!

Oh, yes, you could be handsome and well-muscled as all get out. But inside you are small, gnarled, and distasteful, possessing the need to make others feel like less so that you can feel like more. Humor should not come at someone else's expense. You delude yourself by mistaking the desire to hurt under the mask of the desire to be funny. Shame on you!

Now, I can take a real joke. I love Gabriel Iglesias's five (and now six) levels of fat -- big, healthy, husky, fluffy, and DAMN!!!! More recently he added Aw, Hell No! to the list. Now I could delude myself into thinking I am any of the first three. I, like Gabriel, am fluffy. I have verged on DAMN!!!! at one point, but have lost a few lbs. to get back. I did not do it for vanity's sake. I did it to improve my health and mobility. Of course I still need to lose weight and want to, but it really is easier said than done.

Just recently I got into a fit of joke telling about my weight with a Facebook friend and fellow writer.  I was having a blast. I love being funny. So I copied my jokes and will share them here with you:

My figure is more like Jabba the Hut's than it is like Princess Leia's. The whole look worked better when I was younger and not so, ummm, spongy. (This was in relation to the fact that I have three Princess Leia costumes hidden away in an old suitcase.)

Last time I tried to wear a halter top in public five guys went blind. And that was with a jacket over it.

I thought of buying myself a tent to wear, but the sporting goods store didn't carry my size.

I didn't wear a costume for Halloween one year and everyone thought I was going as Miss Piggy.

I went as the Flying Nun and people took bets on just how high the wind speed would actually have to be to get me off the ground. An F5 tornado was the final consensus.

I tried to go down to the Mall one Halloween as a skinny person but the police kept trying to break up the crowd.

Last time I went to the beach some guy with a harpoon showed up. I had a whale of a time.

Last time I went to the beach some guy with a harpoon showed up. I had a whale of a time.

I went jogging without a bra once and gave myself a black eye.

People used to try to give me support by telling me to keep my chins up.

If you laughed, good for you. The intention behind these was good-natured fun. It was also done through a bit of self-deprecation. People like Gabriel Iglesias and I can do that  because we understand that we are pointing at ourselves and not others. In like kind, he will make jokes about Hispanics and I won't. Since I am not Hispanic I do not have the background to go there. I could, on the other hand, go to what it is like to date a Hispanic. 

One of the keys to being funny rather than hurtful is to make it accessible to people. Make it key into their experiences or the experiences of the people close to them. The power of intention also comes in here. My jokes are not intended to hurt anyone. I point the finger only at myself and hope that other people, especially the fluffy ones, can identify and maybe feel a little kinder toward themselves.

And to the poster child for feminism -- you go girl! Leave the jerks out there in the dust where they belong. For the guys who get it -- bless you for you are truly men. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

YouTube for Writers

There are many tools available to writers out there. One that you may not have thought of (but I hope you have) is YouTube. When you stop and say "what would it be like to do. . ." there is an excellent chance that someone did and filmed it. You don't want to use exactly what you are seeing, but use it as a seed you plant in your imagination and let it grow. Chances are that you will come up with something even better.

You can learn what it is like for people who own an exotic pet, how to build a variety of different things, cook, clean, be a jackass, and innumerable other things. Having these things as a visual reference can be much quicker than reading through pages and pages of text. Now is you need to do in-depth research and lots of precise facts you are better off with reading all those pages, but for a quick burst of knowledge a video is just the thing.

I am always hearing writers saying that they are at a loss for an idea for their next project. Another thing you can make use of YouTube videos for is story ideas. While I get the occasional idea for articles I write, it can also make great fodder for coming up with ideas for fictional stories. There is no guarantee that you will come up with a story idea, but think of all the fun you will have doing the research.

You can also scout locations this way. View a variety of world locations to prepare believable descriptions of where you characters live, work, or travel. You can research what people in China say when making a dog barking sound. Find out what it looks like to drive into a telephone pole, jump from an airplane, or descend into deep cave. 

A word of caution here, you can get mired down in looking through videos. Unless you are just browsing randomly for ideas, knowing precisely the sort of thing you are looking for can shorten you searching. Also knowing that you have been looking for too long means that you are on the wrong track can help. Bail on your search and try a different angle. Be sure to use plenty of key words to help narrow your search. It may take some time, but you will learn to tell when your search is going nowhere and stop yourself from wasting more time in fruitless pursuit.

Sometimes the best way is to do an overall Internet search for your topic and then zero in on videos that come up in that search. Along the way you might find other pertinent ideas and information that you may not have realized that you need.

At any rate -- happy watching!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I'm not really big on journaling. I know that many people swear by it, but I find it time consuming and I tend to devolve into a list of what I did that day. I can do that by just keeping my to-do lists from each day. When I was a teen they tended to be focused on the latest boy I had a crush on. While that served a purpose, it wasn't all that helpful to me as a writer.

However, there are three things that I do write down and keep a log of.

One of these is a diary of the odd things that happen in life -- big and little -- that don't fit in to the normal pattern of things. I can go weeks, months, or even years between such things. And I do mean odd. If you have been reading my blog you can probably tell what some of them are. For example, I will write about the time I saw a UFO, found a python in my bathtub, locked my keys in the car while they were still in the pocket of the shirt I was wearing, or was charged by a buck while raking leaves in the my yard. I will also keep track of the cat throwing a dead mouse in my face while I was still asleep in bed and of the past life regression therapy I went through. These things are an important encyclopedia of life.

I don't need to keep track of what I had for breakfast or what I felt about it at the time. I do want to capture those offbeat moments. They can even be the more sedate that getting stung by a wasp on the pussy while in my own bathroom. They can be about the day two friends and I went into the mountains and set my mother's ashes free to return to the Earth Mother.

My journaling is for the extraordinary moments of life. The real keepers. These are the moments I will return to when writing in the future. Those other moments happen daily and I can reach out to them at any moment.

Another thing that I will journal about are dreams. I am not into taking them all down, but the ones that stand out are important. I don't need to make a note of the dream where someone was watering my
piñata, but I will keep track of the one about a girl who lost her memory and was only healed by the appearance of the family cat. That is the stuff of literature. I will also keep track of ones that give me insight into myself and my relationship with myself and others. These can teach me not only about myself, but how to write a meaningful dream sequence.

A recent example would be the dream I had in which I had taken up cohabiting with Patrick Jane (The Mentalist, played by Simon Baker). My father (who passed away 14 years ago) was in our apartment having a fit at me for living with him and not being married. I defended myself to him (which was difficult in real life) and my right to be loved. He finally stormed off and I turned back to Patrick, complete with all of my own insecurities about whether it was really possible for anyone to love me. There was another woman somewhere in the picture so I finally asked him if he really loved me. He looked very deeply into my eyes for a long moment before responding "Yes, I do." I was thrilled.

I awoke from this dream with some warm feelings about Simon Baker/Patrick Jane that lasted temporarily. What was more important was that some part of myself that was represented by him had given myself a level of approval that I was desperately needing -- so much so that I shut down the negative voice (Dad). 

The third thing that I will "journal" is the story ideas that come to me. Sometimes they come fast and furious and other times not at all. This is a way to keep a well of ideas to refer to when I need a new idea. I don't need to worry about not having an idea because I have a large record of them. This is especially important with the approach of each November and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

NaNoWriMo is the annual challenge to writers for them to write a book (50,000 words) in a single month, Many of the writers who do this approach the month of November with trepidation for not having any ideas. This will NEVER be a problem for me. To all of those baffled Nanos out there -- yes, I am willing to share.

Some of these ideas can be kind of strange, but I catalog them all. I will undoubtedly never use them all, but they are there for me should I need them. I do a similar thing with article ideas, but that is recorded by bookmarks for websites.

You will never find me straight journaling about doing the laundry, but you might find me creating a humorous essay about it. That is a different blog post.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Weirdness Rules

People often call me weird. I take that as a compliment and wear it as a badge of honor. It means that I am unique, one of a kind, unusual, entertaining, and my own person. I walk to the beat of a different drum. I dance to music no one else can hear. I am me -- the only person no one else can be.

Most, if not all, my writer friends lay claim to the label weird and also wear it with pride. Some are weirder than others. When you are a writer you spend a lot of time living in your head (and heart) and that is bound to have an effect.

When we get together on Facebook we can get pretty strange. We have one thread with almost 32K comments that is about just about everything. The weirder the better. It started out normally enough, but somehow it took on a life of its own and has been going for almost two years. Some people will just drop by and type in a random word. Others drop in just to say hi. Some complain about their day jobs. It is where many of us compare our weirdness or declare our love of weirdness.

It doesn't all have to be weird. We also accept the labels of geek, nerd, crazy, freak, nut job, dork -- well, you get the point. So why do we accept these?

Well, first of all, few of us were among the so-called "normal" kids in school. We suffered the labels when we were young. We thought that they excluded us. It took us years to realize that those words really exalted us. It meant that we weren't average, boring, one-size-fits-all people. It meant that we had a lot more to offer the world than just joining the ranks of 9 to 5ers.

We aren't special. We aren't better. We are just . . . different. And we have learned to appreciate that about ourselves. It took some serious adaptation to get here though. Perhaps that is why writers have a reputation for being drinkers. I think now we are more likely to have other forms of medication. Like Abilify, Red Vines, and coffee. In my case I often go for the three P's -- Prozac, Pepsi, and popcorn. I would love to add pizza to the list, but then I would also need to add Prilosec.

But I digress. We watch too much television. We read too many books (is that really even possible?). We get into a Facebook thread and get caught up in playing silly word games with each other. Some of them are as simple as word association. Others are like the one I recently got caught up in. We started by discussing the word moist and how much people liked or disliked using it. (Now there is a hot button issue for you! ) The discussion eventually devolved into trading movie and television titles with the word "moist" replacing a word in said title.

As strange as it seems (and believe me it did get strange), we were actually working. Such games with each other works the mind, breaks down barriers, and leads to greater creativity. It is also a great ice-breaker and a way for us to get to know each other.

From there we get into the geek version of trading recipes -- we recommend books, websites, and writing tools to one another. This whole thing is unisex. It matters not the gender. We are writers and all equal under the pen.

As the character of Jenny said in the first season of Sabrina the Teenage Witch said, "But I like weird. I love weird. I bask in the glow of weird!"

Monday, September 2, 2013

Villanelle -- Writing to a Specific Form

Most of you have probably never heard of a villanelle. It is a 19-line poem composed of five tercets and a concluding quatrain. It is a rhymed poem with only two rhymes and two lines that repeat alternately throughout the poem. Sound intimidating? I assure you, it is.

 I know that the bulk of you reading this are never going to write a villanelle, or even poetry for that matter. I am just using this as an example for how your writing -- or anything else creative you do -- can actually be enhanced by having to work within  rigid structure once in a while.

Back in my poetry days I was faced with writing one (ultimately several) and I was a bit taken aback. How was I going to do this?

Having to write to a prescribed form is always difficult. You must take your creative genius, which is vast and wild, and cram a bunch of  into a little box that it doesn't seem to fit inside. It is kind of like learning to pack a suitcase with a maximum of stuff -- you have to learn a new way to fit everything together.

I struggled a lot with this. First of all was coming up with a topic. So I thought about my favorite things. I love rocks and once wanted to be a geologist. So I took that as my subject. Two rhymes only is tricky because you want to choose rhymes that will give you a lot to choose from if you can. So "rocks" was obvious for one and "stones" worked for the other.

This being settled upon I took a sheet of notebook paper and laid out the rhyme scheme I needed to follow:




and so forth. This helped a great deal -- like having a road map to where I was heading. It turned out that once I created the first tercet I realized that I had finished a good share of the poem because of the repeating lines.

I wriggled uncomfortably and twisted and turned many a word to get the lines just right. At times I felt like I was sweating blood. In the end I was amazed at what I had before me on the paper. It was far better than what I had hoped for.

Mother Ship (a Villanelle)

Here on our great starship of stones,
We oft forget the importance of rocks,
These are the mother earth’s skeletal bones.

The desert wind of the Sahara moans,
Blowing sands that scour pyramid blocks,
Here on our great starship of stones.

Boulders huddled like ancient, hunchbacked crones,
Gathered for one of their gossipy talks,
These are the mother earth’s skeletal bones.

Elegant towers of wind-carved sandstones,
That rise above shepherds tending their flocks,
Here on our great starship of stones.

Down charming streets paved with smooth cobblestones,
Up lichen-covered stairway walks,
These are the mother earth’s skeletal bones.

From the gold and lapis on royal thrones,
To pebbles lining the gullets of hens and cocks,
Here on our great starship of stones –
These are the mother earth’s skeletal bones.

This was my first time writing a villanelle. I entered it into the contest and won first place. When it was read out loud to the members of the Poetry Society of Colorado at the annual awards luncheon there was an audible "wow!" at the end. It made of the struggle worth it. 

By having to follow a tight framework I had had to amp up my creativity to a new level. I had to dig deeper, reach further. I found there the writer I was working to be, the writer I wanted to be. 

Gems and jewels are made from high amounts of heat and pressure. So don't be afraid  of the pressure and constraint. It is good for the writer's soul -- and you never know when you will strike gold.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Udderly Amoosing

Trying to write to a specific topic can be very difficult and challenging. It requires  some serious
lateral thinking. The example that comes to mind is from back when I was writing a lot of poetry and I was faced with writing a love poem. This was a baffling topic for me since I am not exactly a hearts and flowers kind of gal.

Each year the Poetry Society of Colorado would have their annual contests for members. There were twenty or so contests and I became determined to enter every one every year. Unfortunately for me there was a category for writing a love poem. I wracked my brain for days. Nothing was coming to me. I reread the description. ANY kind of love. Hmmmmm. I could work with ANY. What kinds of love were there? I didn't have to stick with the gushy, gooey romantic stuff that is ordinarily associated with a love poem.

So what was love to me? What examples of love did I note around me? Mother and child. Brother and sister. Father and tools. Humans and pets. My stepmother and housecleaning. I was getting closer. Having opened up alternate definitions of love was having an effect on me. From out the the blue I remember seeing a news story of a moose somewhere back east that had fallen in love with a cow.

Those gears in my head started grinding to loudly that the neighbors were complaining. I didn't need some saccharine tome to love. No indeed. I could go with my true strength in life -- humor! So I set to work. Boy, was this gonna be good. And it was. The resulting poem took second place in the contest.
Check it out here:

Opposite Attractions
©2000 by Laurie Kay Olson

The course of true love makes no excuse –
As was the case with a certain moose.
Though I can’t really tell you how,
He fell in love with a Jersey cow.
In the field where she placidly chewed her cud
He stood as though rooted in ankle-deep mud.
The townspeople tried to remove him in vain.
The harder they tried the more it was plain.
He watched his true love with adoring eyes
While she regarded him with mild surprise.
I’ve heard that those two are standing there yet,
As much in love as two species can get.
The moral of this story is simple and sweet –
Love may be found wherever two hearts can meet.

It is short, to the point, humorous and definitely falls into the category of ANY kind of love. I learned that I can write to just about any topic I'm given as long as I keep my mind wide open to the possibilities and don't just say "Oh, I can't do that!" The truth is that yes, I can. If I am really saying I can't I need to be honest with myself and say "This topic is so intimidating that I choose not to." 

Are there topics that I would choose not to write on? Well, certainly there are. I'm not into porn, Goth, punk, heavy metal and so on. I'm not taking some moral stance, I just don't have the background to go there -- not even with lateral thinking.

So before thinking that you can't write about something, take a small step to the right or left and take a look at the topic again. That may be all you need to see the subject in a different way and give you the inspiration to write something wonderful.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ten Things I Still want to be When I Grow Up

1.     I still want to grow up to be tall, willowy, and graceful. Oh, I know that this is a long shot since none of the women on either side of the family are built like that, but a girl can dream can’t she. We are all short and round – at best we might be described as Rubenesque; at worst we could be called Weight Watchers rejects. *sigh*
2.     I still want to grow up to be a famous author. When I was younger I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. It took a few years to realize that the world has already had one of those. What the world needs now is a Laurie Kay Olson. Look out world my Great (Redneck) American Novel is on the way.
3.     I still want to grow up to be a ballerina. Is that even an option? Refer to #1 and insert memories of the hippos dancing in the movie Fantasia. Yup. Even those ladies put me to shame.
4.     I still want to grow up to be a mommy. Okay, there are reasons that that ship sailed long ago. I have settled for mothering a constant stream of cats. Maybe I need to change that to I want to grow up to be a crazy cat lady. OKAY! I want to grow up to be an even crazier cat lady.
5.     I still want to grow up to be a great comic actress. It would also be great to play the ingénue, but that would be a REAL stretch. On the other hand, it would be great comedy. For now I will settle for the fact that my friend Jane is a wonderful comic actress. I will bask in her glow.
6.     I still want to be a supermodel. For how that is likely to turn out, once again refer to #1. Please make up your own joke. I’ve got so many of them that I can’t choose. Like – what if I fell down while modeling clothes? I’d break the runway. I’d set off seismic sensors. I’d knock out all the rest of the other models. . . you get the idea. Have at it.
7.     I still want to grow up to be a great chef and I refuse to let the fact that I don’t really like to cook get in the way. I’m also not the best cook as is. I can make a kick-ass pot of chili, but a friend and I have reached an agreement to always go out because we are both lousy cooks overall. We both cook well enough to feed ourselves quite happily, but the outside world has much higher standards.
8.     I still want to grow up to be a cowgirl. I shall ignore the fact that I am afraid of horses (because one tripped and fell on me once). I shall also ignore the fact that I am afraid of heights and the last time I tried to ride a horse they gave me a horse so big his name was “Tank.” Maybe I should rethink this one.
9.     I still want to grow up to be a painter. It would help if I had any real talent at this like my friends Briggs and Annie, but this one I want to do just because I enjoy doing it. The paintings I have done so far aren’t masterpieces, but they have pleased me. I suppose that is all that really matters. I just don’t want to have to explain how I ended up with splotches of paint on my socks and nowhere else.
10.  Most of all I still just want to be myself when I grow up. I used to try to imagine myself when I was all grown up. It was a vague, beige image. I always left out one very important factor – that I would still be me. So now I view myself as the crazy old lady I was always destined to be. And that, more than anything, is what I want to be when I grow up.