May 8, 2013

workshop 1: writing with focus.

Welcome to the first Little Things & Curiosities Writers Workshop!

To kick things off, we're going to ease into the process by sticking to a narrow focus. Sure, there's something to be said for that imaginative, discover-as-you-go sort of writing, but some of the greatest, simplest truths come from writing within boundaries. A tip I try to follow? Find one small phrase that inspires you and let that guide the rest of the piece. This week, in honor of Mother's Day, we're taking a look at motherly love, and the phrase I had in mind was "over-the-top kind of love."

Prompt: Pick one specific thing that fascinates you about a mother in your life, whether that's your mom, a friend's mom, a grandma, an aunt, a sister, a neighbor, whoever. Let the writing flow in a natural direction, but keep that one special thing in mind as you go along.
The way a person handles birthdays says a lot about their character, and my mom, there's nothing she does better than a birthday. Confetti runs through her veins. She loves to celebrate the people she loves, and over the years, I've adopted that same attitude. I live for birthdays, mine and everybody else's, and I always thought the rest of the world felt the same, too. But, well, not so much.

It was the sixth grade when I met my first anti-birthday friend. "Birthdays are silly," she said. "They're childish." Twelve years old and hoping to be anything but childish, I pretended to agree. "Yeah," I said. "Birthdays are lame." 

Her feelings sat with me for days. Silly? Birthdays? What's not to love about cake and candles and celebrating life with the people you love most? Didn't she appreciate the balloons, the parties, the trick-candle wishes? Didn't she — gasp — appreciate a good theme party?

I've met many a birthday hater since then, and my first thought is always the same: 
You don't like birthdays? Well, you must not know my mother. 

You must not know that the best way to celebrate is with a breakfast cookie and a first-thing-in-the-morning present. You must not know the value of everyone you know wearing matching t-shirts and surprising you at a friend's house. You must not know that there are catalogs with cheesy birthday gear you can personalize for the whole group to wear: rings that glow, hats with streamers, yo-yos and candies and anything you could ever imagine with your name on it. Because, well, why not?

Birthdays should be wildly, exceptionally cheesy — this I know for sure. My mother has gone to extraordinary lengths to show me the power of a rhyming birthday poem, a cake with your face on it, a mantle lined with an entire aisle's worth of Hallmark cards. She's perfected the small get-together and the giant birthday roast and, really, what could say "I love you" better than a neon shirt and a birthday pun?

My mom believes in a lot of things. She believes in God and loyalty and the value of a kind neighbor. In showing up, in letting go. In chocolate. And if you asked her, my mom would say she believes wholeheartedly in birthdays because, if you let them, they carry a certain kind of magic — a Christmas-like magic, the kind of magic that can only come from a cheesy, over-the-top kind of love.

When I turned four, there was a homemade cowgirl costume. At eleven, our house turned into a game-show paradise, a different game in every room. Two years later, my first surprise party, and with sixteen, another. For eighteen, nineteen, and every birthday since, my mother's done whatever she had to do to be part of my birthday. Each year I find her standing on my doorstep with a bundle of balloons, a box of homemade cookies, and the kind of knowing smile that etches itself in your memory.

Through the years there have been small, cozy birthdays and big, extravagant bashes, and it didn't matter where we were celebrating or who was there or what she said, but on every birthday, my mom's managed to make me feel like a little kid again. Like I'd wake up to a birthday miracle, a bedroom somehow filled with decorations — her favorite trick, as if she were a birthday fairy.

And you know what? Maybe she is. Maybe my mom's a birthday fairy, and maybe that's why she knows without a shadow of a doubt that we all deserve a day — one wonderful, magical, adventure of a day to remind us each year that we're loved.

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If you decide to participate, share the link to your work in the comments section so that the rest of us can check it out! Have a question about the writing process? A tip? Hoping to connect with other writers? Ask me here or join the dialogue on Twitter and Instagram using #LTCWorkshop.


Allie said... [Reply to comment]

I love this so much, Laura! Made me tear up a little... I definitely consider myself a bit of a birthday fairy. My biggest question about the writing process is planning. I've never been one to plan anything that I write (like you mentioned at the beginning).

As I become more interested in fiction, though, I'm thinking planning might be an important part of the process... I'm just not sure how to start.

Niken said... [Reply to comment]

that's the most simple but really helpful tips. One of the basics to write, i helps a lot to have a focus on what we want to write. i always have a notebook, where i write any idea, any center of topic about things that i want to write.

and I did the prompt!

Maura said... [Reply to comment]

this is so sweet! I'm with your mom, I love birthdays!!!

here's my thing with writing: staying motivated. i guess every writer has that issue but what do you do to get through writer's block?

And I did the prompt:

Laura Marie Meyers said... [Reply to comment]

@Niken Love it, Niken! Sweetest!

Benlovesting said... [Reply to comment]

So lovely! X

Hannah said... [Reply to comment]

I love this idea! One of the things I struggle the most with as a writer is motivation, but this will certainly help!

Here is my interpretation:

Laura Marie Meyers said... [Reply to comment]

@Hannah So beautiful — especially the idea of "love spilling over" :) Thanks for sharing!

Katie said... [Reply to comment]

I really enjoy your blog and I also really enjoy writing, though don't do it often enough. The structure of your workshop is great motivation. I'd love to participate! Here is the link to my essay:

Thanks for this neat opportunity!

Hope Johnson said... [Reply to comment]

Gorgeous post about birthdays. What a lovely lot of memories you have there. Loved how you wove in a depiction of your Mum through the prism of birthdays.

Here's a link to my blog post with the prompt:

Erin~Just*Grand said... [Reply to comment]

Beautiful post, Laura. And I think you're right, your mom is a birthday fairy. And Christmas and Easter fairy.. She finds ways to celebrate life's little and big moments and she instilled that in you, too! It shines through in everything you write.

janinejackson said... [Reply to comment]

Interesting that you say this. I have often come away from reading your posts feeling that there has been one particularly poignant line in there!

Kimberly @ The Simplicity said... [Reply to comment]

What an absolutely beautiful post! It inspired me to start putting some thoughts down on my mother's childhood. Is there a link-up button or banner. I would love to promote it in my sidebar.


The Recordologist said... [Reply to comment]

What a beautiful post! So well written it makes me wish your mother was my mother.

My family has never celebrated birthdays. Maybe your 6th grade friend didn't know what she was missing because she had never had it. Reading this changed my concept about birthdays!