January 14, 2013

Monday Short And Sweet - Saying It Without Saying It

Good Monday, my friends!

After a really long time... seriously, I can't remember the last day we did this and that is only partly because of the memory lapses due to my advanced age :)... what was I saying?

Just kidding :)

It's a Short & Sweet day!
badge created by Loni Edwards
And today we're going to play Writer's Taboo, a fun new game I just made up right this very minute!

Here's how it works:

For your Short & Sweet you have to describe, in a few sentences, your choice of a setting common to childhood, or a common childhood experience or milestone (don't worry, there's a list!) without using the words most commonly associated with it!  And you have to do it well enough that we can guess what it is!

That means you have to crawl out onto the creative limb a bit and stretch your descriptive skills.

As writers, we focus a lot on words - choosing just the right words to say what we want to say.

But sometimes we take the easy way out.  We know, for example, that if we mention Valentine's Day our readers are instantly going to think of pink and red construction paper hearts, white lace doilies, chocolate candy with red foil wrappers, and those little Conversation Hearts that look and taste like chalk :)  So we say it's Valentine's Day and leave it at that.  (Okay, I'm oversimplifying a little, but you get the idea :))

The point is, don't go for the obvious or the easy.  Try for something a little fresher and more interesting.  If you do it well, your reader will feel transported and far more delighted than if you say something the same way it's been said a thousand times before.

Here are your choices:
(for those of you who like randomness or have trouble making decisions at this hour Monday morning, pick a number between 1 and 15 and go with whatever you get :))

You may not use the words of the thing itself (e.g. birthday and/or party for Birthday Party) or any of the 5 words listed after it in your description.  And I recommend you write your own description before you read the others in the comments - there are only 15 choices so it will be fun to see how alike or different they are but it will be really hard to do if you've read someone else's before you try to do your own.  Just write your description - don't tell which one you picked or what words you're avoiding.

1. Birthday Party: cake, present, balloon, candles, guests
2. Losing First Tooth: wiggle, loose, tongue, gap, pillow
3. Playground: swing, slide, sandbox, jungle gym, run
4. Picnic: basket, blanket, ants, lunch, grass
5. Doctor's Office: nurse, scale, needle, stethoscope, thermometer
6. Fourth Of July: firecrackers, barbecue, parade, bonfire, American flag
7. Getting Dressed Up: tight, itchy, hate, uncomfortable, stiff
8. School: book, teacher, classroom, recess, pencil
9. Tree House: ladder, rope, high, trap door, boards
10. Camp: summer, poison ivy, bunkhouse, swimming, arts & crafts
11. Riding A Bike: learn, wobble, two-wheeler, helmet, training wheels
12. Field Trip: bus, partner, bag lunch, museum, walk
13. Halloween: costume, jack o'lantern, spooky, candy, trick-or-treat
14. Getting A Pet: new, dog, cat, bowl, responsibility
15. Fear Of The Dark: scared, monsters, nightlight, shadows, black

(If anyone has a great idea of an item to add to the list, email me and I'll add it in so there are more choices - and of course I will credit whoever's brilliant idea it is!! :))

Here's an example.  I'll use an item that is not on the list so as not to ruin any of the 15 on the list for you.

The classroom smells like sugar and worry.  On each desk sits a box, made in art last week.  Ms. Rousseau, the art teacher, said we couldn't use the usual colors and shapes to decorate - she said we had to think outside the box.  Then she laughed at her own joke.  I painted mine rose (so there, Ms. Rousseau!) and pasted arrows cut out of lacy white doilies all over it, flying every which way, all of them missing the mark.  The boxes have a hole in the top so that kids can drop cards or small candies in.  I sneak a look around the classroom.  Dave Hannigan stuffs a football into the hole on top of his box and looks like he's getting ready to punt.  Missy O'Haus's is so full that little folded cards are spilling out the top.  Be Mine, says one with a cherry tootsie pop taped to it.  I'm afraid to pick my box up.  It looks empty.  What if it's empty?  Whose idea was this dumb February 14th holiday anyway?

Gosh!  It's surprising how hard it is to talk about something without using the words you most want to! But the idea is that it makes you reach for more - different sights, scents, sounds, tastes, emotions, experiences, and descriptions so you can hopefully come up with details you might not have otherwise.  Can you guess what mine was?  (And I will tell you I avoided the words red, pink, chocolate, heart, love.  Can you hear me sobbing that I wasn't allowed to mention chocolate?  Oh, the cruelty! :))

I think it's fun (even if I don't do it all that well) - but then you know how much I love games and puzzles and this is sort of like that :)

I hope you all enjoy trying this!  I can't wait to read your descriptions and see what you come up with to beat around the bush! :)  Remember, don't tell which one you're doing or what words you're avoiding!  And actually, if you're not up for the full challenge, if you even just want to write a setting/milestone/experience and the 5 things you can't use to describe it (as I did for the list above), that is helpful too - it gets you thinking about what the most obvious choices are, which is helpful in trying to avoid them!

Looking forward to what you all have to share, whether list items or creative descriptions!

Have a great day, both writing and otherwise! :)


  1. There you go again, Susanna- coming up with another great idea!

  2. Thanks, Iza :) I'm not sure how good it was though... so far no one has tried it :( But it's early... and it's Monday... :)

  3. "Okay, it's time to go, kids. The place will open soon, and we want to be first in line. I haven't bought our tickets yet for the exhibit."

    We pile into the car. We are looking forward to learning more about the Egyptian culture at the Oriental institute. We've heard this center of ancient history has many artifacts from all over the world.

    When we enter, we notice a musty smell in the air. An odor of old magazines, dusty shelves and abandoned buildings. We wander through the aisles, looking at mummies (wrapped and unwrapped), papyrus writing, gold jewelry, and other ancient reminders of a long extinct civilization.

  4. I'm so impressed that you come up with such fun ideas like that (*snaps fingers*). So hmm . . .

    I sat at my desk, drumming my fingers, watching the clock. Would this day never end? Ms. Grump squeaked the chalk across the chalkboard, listing the billion or so assignments we'd have to complete over the weekend. Not that I planned to do them. Homework is for brown-nosers!

    Okay, there's my best shot in the AM of a Monday. :) Hope you have a great day!

  5. Here goes. This is fun! Thanks, Susanna!

    It's my favorite place. I can spy on everything up here, tucked away in the leaves. Dad built it for me. "Every kid should have one," he said. I like to imagine when I'm here. My dog, Jake, sits below, watching me. He's my faithful guard, protecting my castle. I look at the clouds and I'm sailing in a hot air balloon. Then suddenly I'm soaring on a magic carpet. Mrs. Addlecromber spots me as she's watering her garden. She frowns. She worries about me. "My nephew broke his arm when he fell out of one of those things," she told my Dad. He just nodded. He understands. This is my favorite place. Up here, I can be anything.

  6. This is FABULOUS Cheryl! I love it! :) And I know exactly what you picked (though I won't say and spoil it for those reading after me! :)) Great job :)

  7. Excellent, Janet, for Monday morning or any time! I know just what you picked! I'm glad you thought it was fun :)

  8. This is GREAT, Jarm! You did such a good job of choosing evocative details and not saying the words! I know exactly what you chose :) Thanks for joining in the fun :)

  9. “One, two, three…toss,” said Kallie.
    Up went the bread.
    “Nice catch,” said Klaire.
    “Again,” said Kallie. “One, two, three…toss.”
    Up went the peanut butter.
    “Nice catch,” said Klaire.
    The tossing and catching continued, and then Klaire climbed up to join Kallie.
    “It looks like the robins and squirrels had the same idea we did,” said Klaire.
    “Yep,” said Kallie. “But I’m sure glad we aren't eating worms and acorns.”
    The girls laughed, as they began their lunch with a beautiful bird’s-eye view.

  10. I LOVE this, Penny! I can feel the rhythm of the movement as they toss and catch perfectly! So cool that you chose the same place as Cheryl, and your descriptions are so different, right down to the gender of your characters. Excellent job! Thanks for joining the fun! :)


    The preparation lasts longer than the event sometimes. You feast a while then run off to play. Sometimes nature tries to spoil what mom prepared, but familiar tastes in unfamiliar places sure is fun!

  12. Wonderful, Catherine! And one nobody else has done yet! This was a tricky one to do, I think, and you did a great job!

  13. The moment I hopped onto the bus I knew I had made a mistake. The girls were already forming cliques. Their whispers were as loud as bees humming in a hive. Giggling and finger pointing prevailed during the long and bumpy ride. I felt invisible on my green leather seat. I hugged my gear close. Two weeks at a run-down dump in the middle of nowhere was not going to be a picnic. I pulled out my notebook and pen and began writing "Dear Mom and Dad..."

  14. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as my grandmother, wearing a light cardigan and sensible shoes, unpacked the hamper and spread a clean cloth over the uneven boards of the roadside table.

    She and Aunt Edie deposited food down its midline ~ ripe yellow bananas, crisp red apples, celery packed with peanut butter, sliced oranges, carrot sticks for dipping, sandwiches wrapped in wax paper, small bowls of pretzels and chips, plates of fresh baked cookies.

    "Come on, kids. We're ready."

    We dropped the jumprope and raced to the table. We stepped across the built in benches and sat gingerly to avoid splinters.

    Grandpa manned the thermos, pouring milk into opaque plastic cups. Edie passed around the sectioned plates . . . in all colors of the rainbow. No two plates the same.

    "Edie, can I have the turquoise plate?"

    "May I."

    "Sorry. May I have the turquoise plate . . . PLEASE?!"

  15. Gee been awhile since I attemped one of these....... :)

    I bury my face further into your soft silky fur and think of
    the box I have waiting for you. Placed beside my bed at home, with a warm blanket and a ball of wool. Later when you are more settled you can sleep on the bottom of my bed, Mum said. I am so excited to have you as my friend. I love how your whiskers tickle my face when you attempt to lick my nose, as if you are reading my thoughts.

  16. delores @ thefeatherednestJanuary 14, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    When the time came to leave, you had to find me first. No matter how sick I felt the fear would drive me to new heights in deception. They always found me. Always. I hated the smell of that place. I would sit and shiver in my cotton undershirt awaiting God only knew what horrors while all the hard, sharp cold things mocked me from their shelves and drawers. A sucker when it was all over did NOT help.

  17. Why do they want me to sit on a table? Crinkle. Crinkle. And why is there paper on the table? I wish I had some crayons and not this book called, A Magical Journey Inside Your Stomach. But Mom is here with me. A nice lady dressed all in blue walks in and gives me a smile. Then she wraps something around my arm and tells me to hold still. It's hard to sit still. I really want to play with that springy looking thing on the wall, but before I know it she's done. And the nice lady gives me a sticker.

  18. AW! I totally knew it right away! You had me at "soft silky fur" :) This is wonderful, Diane, and I can feel just how much this child wants that kitten/cat! Thanks so much for joining in, and SO GLAD you can comment again!!!! :)

  19. Ooh, good one, Delores! And I didn't guess it until the last line about the sucker! I sure could feel the fear! Well done - thanks for joining in :)

  20. This is excellent, Pat! You totally pegged it with "the girls already forming cliques." And haven't we all sat on those green leather seats! I could feel how much she wanted to go home. Thanks for playing along - great job! :)

  21. Wow, Nancy! What are you, a writer? :) This is fabulous! I love all the details! I can see Grandma and Aunt Edie spreading out the food - funny, Grandma looks exactly like my grandma who did this so often when we were kids at the same splintery wooden tables, usually at Donner Lake. I so enjoyed reading this - I felt like I was there! Thanks so much for Short & Sweeting :)

  22. This is so great, Hannah! Love the onomatopoeia! I knew instantly where you were! And you made me laugh out loud at A Magical Journey Inside Your Stomach!!! :))) Excellent job :) Thanks so much for joining in!

  23. Sue @Kid Lit ReviewsJanuary 14, 2013 at 3:49 PM


    It was a strange sound to hear for my sister and I. We were sitting on the dewy grass playing checkers. We looked around and saw a line of small trees we could barely see through. We went to investigate. I loved the manicured grass, the white chalk neatly spread out, and the bags set apart at equal distances. I found out those bags do not always break-away like they should, but today it did when the kid dove for it head-first. Bleachers ran up both sides of the field so otherscould watch the kids take their turns facing the whiz on the mound.

    “That's one!” Yelled Blue. “And another.” The kid at home stepped out of the sandy box, then took a deep breath before re-entering. Down two he was in a tough spot, especially for the lead off guy. His sole job is to get to that first bag. The kid on the mound took his wind-up. The kid at home shifted his weight and swung hard.


    The kid made it to the first bag, the second bag, the third bag, and then he stepped on the plate. What a day for him and what a day for us. We started out playing a simple game of checkers and ended watching the deceptively simple All-American favorite summer game.

  24. My grandma has a party every summer and I get to drink pop and eat potato chips. I never get to do that at home! I stuff my face with hot dogs and macaroni salad, too. I like the food and all that but I don’t like when her friends squeeze my cheeks and say, “such a handsome boy!” It's the same cheek-pinchers every year. I eat all day until my stomach almost bursts and I get all sleepy. I have to pinch myself to stay awake until night when grandma gives me a glow stick so I don’t disappear into the darkness. Then, the sky explodes with streams of color and beams of light. Everyone is happy. I can't wait to do this again next year.

  25. We bumped up and down, up and down. If I was taller, I might
    have hit the ceiling. We turned left, and Joseph yelled, “I see a cow! And a horse!”

    “I see a piggie!” Amy squealed. We all squeezed against the
    window to see for ourselves. “Line up!” Mrs. Shepardson called. We bumped, shoved, and jostled our way into the aisle. Our teacher led us down the steps, and paired us up. “Don’t forget to hold hands,” she said. I looked over at Dynell. He was grinning at me, holding out his hand. I really didn’t want to hold his hand. He wasn’t big on washing his hands after art, and we might get glued
    together. I could barely tie my own shoes by myself. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to do it with Dynell’s hand stuck to mine.

    Over the entrance was a huge sign that said “Old MacDonald’s
    Farm.” My friends must have seen it too, because a few of them started singing.

    We chased the ducks. “Old MacDonald had a duck.
    We watched the sheep. “A baa, baa here. And a baa, baa
    We petted the dog. “Here a woof, there a woof, everywhere a woof, woof!”

    It was so much fun to see all of the animals. They seemed to
    like our singing, too. I was just thinking about what a perfect day it was, when I stepped in some animal’s poop. Oh well. Once my mother sees these sneakers, I won’t have to worry about tying them anymore. They’ll be heading straight for the trash.

  26. Oh Susanna...this is wonderful! I love Short and Sweet...this writing prompt really does encourage creativity and thinking 'outside' the box.
    Here is mine:

    We hold hands...the long windowless hallway seems to go on forever.

    "You're squeezing my fingers!" I try to loosen my grip. "Sorry."

    A cloud covers the faint sliver of the moon as we enter our room and stumble our way to the beds. My sister dives into hers...blankets rustle as she covers her head.

    At the edge of my bed, I hesitate. "Can I sleep with you?"

    "Do you have to?" comes the muffled reply.

    A sudden rush of air tells me she has flung back the covers. "Alright...but stay on the edge and don't move around!"
    Arms outstretched, I shuffle over and crawl for morning to come.

  27. This is a great game and what a great exercise for showing. I've to try this out on my WIP. :)

  28. I love this, Vivian! Somehow I read it on your blog first before I saw it here - it's wonderful! My favorite part - "a sudden rush of air tells me she has flung back the covers" - so good! There's no doubt in my mind which one you chose :)

  29. Let me know how it works for you, Stina! I was just trying to think up something that was part fun, part writing exercise, part game and would accomplish something helpful :)

  30. I love this, Katie! It's terrific! What a great job you did of letting us know they took a bus without ever saying the word! And I know exactly which one you chose :) Love the details about not wanting to hold Dynell's hand and stepping in the poo - totally things a child would notice - and how she won't have to worry about tying her sneakers after her mom sees them :) Great job - thanks so much for playing along :)

  31. Terrific, Kim! I know exactly what you picked (and you're the only one who did it so far! :)) My favorite part is "The sky explodes with streams of color" - vivid description that is just right for what you're saying without saying :)) Thanks for joining the fun!

  32. Wow, Sue! This is great! I love that you picked your own and challenged yourself! This says "baseball game" clear as day to me even though you never said baseball, bat, catcher, pitcher, diamond - did I miss anything? I especially love how you used the sound "CRACK" to avoid using the word bat, and it works so well! Great job! Thanks for joining in and giving us another topic!

  33. It seemed like sitting in the last seat of the last of row was the right spot for me. Since I was the only student in Mrs. Mc Cane's second grade class that didn't have a jack-o-latern smile. Everyone was talking about how it happened to them. There was the thread tied to the doorknob technique. One parent just used their bare hands. When was I going to feel that scary but intoxicating experience everyone was talking about. Oh, and then to make it even more enticing, there was talk about a fairy coming to visit and how she would make it all better.


    It seemed like sitting in the last seat of the last of row was the right spot for me. Since I was the only student in Mrs. Mc Cane's second grade class that didn't have a jack-o-latern smile. Everyone was talking about how it happened to them. There was the thread tied to the doorknob technique. One parent just used their bare hands. When was I going to feel that scary but intoxicating experience everyone was talking about. Oh, and then to make it even more enticing, there was talk about a fairy coming to visit and how she would make it all better.

  35. This is great, Nancy! And you picked one no one else has one yet... and did it so well! Just hearing about the thread tied to the doorknob and the bare hands made me shudder with memory at how I had this experience! Well done! :)

  36. These are all so imaginative! This was a lot of fun and a great exercise.

  37. I know! Aren't they great? Everyone did SUCH a good job! Glad you enjoyed it, Cheryl!

  38. This is a great exercise, Susanna! I'm giving just the tip of my description because I've got a full poem in the works for this. So thanks once again for the inspiration!

    How sweet to eat in the green outdoors

    with the trees as my cover and the flowers as my floor.

  39. Given that much I think I've narrowed your choice down to two possibilities, Renee, but it's absolutely lovely so far and I will look forward to reading the rest when it's published! :)

  40. Seriously, these prompts ALWAYS lead to full poems for me. They're practically the only things that get me writing these days. I love them!

  41. Well I'm really so glad to hear that they're helpful! Wish I could write something worth reading... last ms I sent my agent she said "Didn't wow her"... sigh... I wonder if they need any new cashiers down at Stop & Shop?

    Renee LaTulippe wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    Seriously, these prompts ALWAYS lead to full poems for me. They're practically the only things that get me writing these days. I love them!

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  42. I REALLY hate the office, so drab, so boring, so HORRIBLE! The blue walls with the baby elephants, who are they kidding? They look like Wild Boars!! And the secretaries, they won't even let you talk in a voice ABOVE a whisper! I can see the older one wears a Blonde wig, and the other dyes her hair a Purple-Yellow. Really gross, right? And the people behind the terror - they are the worst, despicable, inconceivable ( ;) ), horrible people! They disgust me, they are revolting, they are... Oh boy, it's my turn, I hate it when people get near my mouth... I BITE!!! :D

    Do you like it? Do you know what it is? :)

  43. I DO like it! And I know EXACTLY what it is! And I also bite - not kidding! I was literally thrown out of a place such as this when I was 5 for biting the person in question so hard I drew blood - he was not amused... neither was my mother! :)

  44. Ugh. Sorry to hear that. I can barely cobble five poems together for a submission. Sigh.

  45. *snort* *oatmeal flies everywhere* Poor guy... ;)

  46. He should have known better than to tell a 5 year old, "This might hurt" :)

    This Kid Reviews Bks wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    *snort* *oatmeal flies everywhere* Poor guy... ;)

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  47. Yes, this is not a career for the faint of heart :) Good luck with your poems - I KNOW they are wonderful!

    Renee LaTulippe wrote, in response to Susanna Leonard Hill:

    Ugh. Sorry to hear that. I can barely cobble five poems together for a submission. Sigh.

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  48. Love this, Nancy...brings back so many fond memories of family ******'s and mini-ones with my best friend in East River Park which was across the street from where we lived...can you believe our parents let 2 five-year old girls walk across the FDR Drive (there was an overpass, but still) to ****** by themselves in the park right next to the river? That would not happen today, for sure.:)


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