Author Archives: Admin

The word is…”east” — featuring Lyn Hopper

This is WordPlay — so why not revel in the power and potential of one good word after another? Today, explore “east” through the words of a featured WordPlayer and a custom-tailored writing prompt. 

Meet Lyn Hopper

Lynn Hopper

Lyn Hopper retired recently from a career in the public library field. She lives in the mountains near Dahlonega, Georgia, with her husband of 37 years and a spirited cat. Her poems have been published in Summerfield JournalGeorgia JournalHabersham ReviewPoetry of the Golden Generation, The Reach of SongThe Stonepile Writers’ Anthology, and other works. She is an active member of the Georgia Poetry Society and two writing groups. You can read more of Lyn’s poems here:

And/or visit her blog. In Lyn’s words, “Over many years, I have collected, and continue to collect, quotations that speak to me.  I began this blog in August of 2007 to share them and also to have a writing (and feeling and thinking and spiritual) practice”:


Featured Writing



Lyn Hopper


The dogwood shines in the early light,
practiced from a night of bright moon.
The yellow-breasted chat is back,
repeating its repertoire.
To the east a pale orange glow
lies across the hills like a promise.

While some make last-minute trips for eggs,
you will think of “the old man,” twenty-six,
flying over Poland that Easter, 1944,
the day that twisted his future into a new shape,
that made him the father you knew:
wounded, sober, uncomplaining.

He is falling, unconscious, thousands of feet
to a Danish beach,
ribs and ankle broken, and waking
to the mercy of strangers,
the offer of boxed chocolates
to make up for his missing arm.

Somehow he rises through all that dark
to find the stone rolled away,
an ordinary life awaiting.
Patient and peaceful, he abides
until his soul is freed, a calling shrike,
circling in the blue sky.

(This poem was first published in Poetry of the Golden Generation, Vol. IV, Kennesaw State University, 2008)


WordPlay Now! Writing Prompt

The word is… “east” 

Way out west, in Bryce Canyon, Utah, where I took this photo at sunrise in April of 2014, I was looking east. There’s something so hopeful, so promising about this simple word that rests inside the word Easter, don’t you think? Bryce Canyon Lyn Hopper’s poem “Easter” is a beautiful testament to her father-in-law’s new beginning when he was a young soldier, to the kindness of strangers, to a rising from darkness into the light of “and ordinary life awaiting.” Even the most ordinary life contains new beginnings — some that we choose to set in motion and some that arise of their own accord. Write about a new beginning — yours, a character’s, or anyone else’s — in any genre you choose. ______________________________________________________________________________

What Lyn says about WordPlay

All that is necessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration is this: Act as if it were impossible to fail. ~ Dorothea Brande “Everything you do is perfect,” insisted Maureen Ryan Griffin, my writing teacher at John C. Campbell Folk School last September. And isn’t that true for all of us? We are perfect just as we are, and we must strive to be better. Holding these two thoughts simultaneously has always been difficult for me. But I’m getting there! And the writing workshop moved me closer. What a warm circle writers create when they work together under the right conditions. And Maureen created just the right atmosphere. During the week, we learned to “Sprint,” to “Gather,” to “Sprawl,” to write dialogue, to ask questions, to list, to “Leapfrog” off another’s work, and much more. If you haven’t seen Maureen’s excellent book Spinning Words into Gold, check it out. It’s full of great writing advice and exercises. Thanks to Maureen and the other participants for making the folk school class so special for me. I am going now to plan my writing practice schedule for the weeks ahead. I’m sure it will be perfect. Adapted from a blog post September 24, 2013 from the blog “Only Moment: Mindfulness in Everyday Life” (

The word is…”bully” — featuring Lisa Otter Rose

This is WordPlay — so why not revel in the power and potential of one good word after another? Today, explore “rendezvous” through the words of a featured WordPlayer and a custom-tailored writing prompt.


Meet Lisa Otter Rose

Lisa Otter Rose

I love to be creative and that takes on different shapes depending on the season, year, etc… Whether I’m taking a picture a day for a year, writing, visual journaling, or participating in the Artist’s Way, I always need a creative outlet in my life. It is what gives my life depth and meaning.


And if you (and/or a kid you know) want to connect to her heroine, Jamie Ireland:




Featured Writing

An Excerpt from



Lisa Otter Rose

“Look! Here comes Freckle Brain! She’s such a freakin’ klutz!” Daniel Polk said to the entire bus. “Watch this!”

Jamie Ireland tried hard to make it past Daniel, hoping to get to her seat near the back of the bus before he tormented her again. Too late. This time he shoved her so hard that she stumbled down the aisle, almost falling into a second grader named Cody. She managed to land in her seat with a thud. Jamie’s throat tightened and her eyes stung, but she refused to cry. Instead she stuck her tongue out at Daniel.

“Nice tongue, Freckle Brain!” Daniel roared with laughter. “Thanks for sharing it with bus number two seventy-eight. Round of applause if you enjoyed seeing Jamie’s tongue today.” The bus fell silent. “That’s what I thought. No one wants to see your freakin’ tongue, Freckle Brain. You’re such a freckle-tard.”

Daniel Polk was the most evil fifth grader in the history of Westcott Elementary School, and he was out to get Jamie this year. She felt like punching him in his gopher-shaped head.

Instead, Jamie pulled out her binder and opened it up. She held it in front of her face. It helped her calm down. She read through all the nicknames she and Alexanna had thought of for Daniel Polk:

Putrid Polk

Gopher Head



Nothing about her — not her tongue, her freckles, or her brain — was anybody’s business, especially not Daniel’s.

School might be over for the day, but Jamie still had to endure four more stops on this nasty bus. To say fifth grade wasn’t going well was an understatement. Today, her language arts teacher, Mrs. Tenner, yelled at her in class for turning in another messy worksheet, and then made her rewrite it during quiet reading time. Plus, Mrs. Tenner had assigned another stupid book project. And now, Daniel had shoved Jamie and tripped her just like he’d done almost every day since school started three weeks ago. She didn’t know how much more of this she could take.

Daniel Polk was the only fifth grader who didn’t sit in the back of bus #278. He sat wherever he wanted. Jamie was convinced he did this so he could trip and torment her.

Dan-evil had always been mean, but since fifth grade started he had been on a mission to torture Jamie. It was all because Alexanna had moved away. Not only was Alexanna Jamie’s best friend and next-door neighbor, she was also the only one who had any power over Puke-Yell.

Alexanna knew karate. Near the end of third grade, when Daniel had pushed her too far, she gave him a puke-inducing kick to his stomach. Jamie and Alexanna watched him throw up in the bushes near the wagon wheel where she and Alexanna used to hang out. After that, Puke-Yell never bothered them again. Until now. With Alexanna gone, the rules had changed.

The bus ride lasted forever. Jamie put her binder away as soon as Putrid Polk got off the bus. Her stop was next. She couldn’t wait to be home and not breathing in the disgusting bus stench of rotting gym socks, potato chips, and Lysol.

When #278 pulled to a stop in front of her house, she stepped off, free at last. She walked up her driveway, and immediately her mind jumped to Oreos. One of the best parts of helping her mom with the grocery shopping on weekends was that Jamie got to pick out her favorite snacks. It gave her comfort to know that inside waiting for her was a fresh, unopened package of Oreos. Unless, of course, Jake got to them first. He was all right for an older brother, but he ate like a blue whale.


WordPlay Now! Writing Prompt

The word is… “bully” 

Lisa Otter Rose and Maureen Ryan Griffin 2014 001-2


I’m handing over the prompt to Lisa Otter Rose this week: “Write about the bullies in our lives that stop us from being creative, productive or whole. The ones that whisper in our ears and tell us we can’t.” Then write ten things you can say/do to stop those bullies in their tracks. Choose one and do it, whether it’s writing your inner bully an eviction notice, signing up for a writing class, or…(your creative choice).

Alternate/additional prompt: Write about a time you, someone you know, or a character, stopped a bully in his/her tracks.


What Lisa says about WordPlay

I’ve always enjoyed writing and have kept a journal since I was twelve, but it wasn’t until I moved to Charlotte that writing became an important part of my life.

I was new in town and saw a class advertised at CPCC in the continuing education program entitled “Write From the Heart”. It just so happened that a few weeks earlier I had printed the words “Write From” inside a large red heart that I had drawn on the cover my latest journal. It was the sign I needed and so I enrolled in Maureen’s class.

Ever since I was seven years old, I wanted to write and publish a real novel, not just the one I made in second grade. Maureen has fostered my creativity and has encouraged me every step of the way. In fact, many times she has pulled me out of the fatigue ditch, dusted me off, and gave me a firm, but loving push back onto the writer’s road toward a finished novel.



The word is… “beautiful” — featuring Savannah Stoner

This is WordPlay — so why not revel in the power and potential of one good word after another? Today, explore “beautiful” through the words of a featured WordPlayer and a custom-tailored writing prompt. 

Meet Savannah Stoner

Savannah Maynard

You’ve no doubt heard of the boy who cried “wolf.” But you have probably not heard of the little girl who called “Wolf” as she clamored after the big brother she was totally devoted to. That would be Savannah Stoner, a writer who, in her essay “Wolf” below, shares a “howl of affirmation” for the beautiful yellow eyes on her beloved wolf T-shirt. And below that, I share a “prize-winning recipe” for… wolf. Ha ha….well, not exactly! While I do share a recipe, and Savannah did use it to write about “Wolf,” you can use it to write about whatever (or whomever) you love — and find beautiful. Bon Appetit! Yes, this is a tip of the hat to Julia Child. Today would have been her 101st birthday. She was a writer as well as a cook, after all. And she was beautiful. I realize not everyone would agree. “Beautiful” in 2013 is a word that often has Botox behind it, a word that has everything to do with image, not substance. But beauty has always been “in the eye of the beholder”. What do your eyes see when you look at this photo of Julia Child at the Miami Book Fair International in 1989 at age “77.25”?

Julia_Child,_1989                                        from MDCarchives via WikiMedia Commons

Our best writing comes when we look deep, examine what’s under and behind the image, when we are willing to tell the truth of what (and whom) we find beautiful — and why. I have always loved Joe Cocker’s song “You Are So Beautiful” for speaking to this kind of beauty through those two little words “to me”, the kind of beauty Savannah finds in a faded graphic T-shirt, the kind of beauty you’re invited to write about in today’s prompt.


 Featured Writing



Savannah Stoner

Twenty-seven years after my brother Worth gave me this large, white graphic T-shirt inked with the black image of a wolf standing guard over a winter wood, I unfold it, my favorite, from atop a stack of other less inspired tees of basic white, pink, brown, and grey. You solid shirts must be jealous as you languish, knowing that I feel most myself when I wear my beloved wolf tee. Blessed be tees that provide, if not Gwyneth chic or Angelina cool, comfort and an unexpected smile from a stranger at the Farmer’s Market who, detoured from his Saturday morning search for the sweetest, plumpest strawberries, pauses, rapt by the piercing yellow eyes of the wolf, and lets out a howl of affirmation. I am not alone. Could my brother have known when he gave me this shirt how I would treasure it all these years? Did he think it in style, a trend, a fad, a joke? Or did he recall his little sister, clamoring after him, crying, “Wolf, Wolf,” her lips pursed, almost whistle-ready, her tongue too young to curl and flick against her teeth when calling her brother’s name, but her devotion too great to ever stop trying. Now, eighteen years after his death, could Worth ever have guessed how many Goodwill bags from which his gift would be spared? How many times its existence would be defended? You can always see it coming. My sister pulls into the driveway, catches me planting, willy-nilly, a patchwork of morning glories and tiger lilies around the lamppost. “You’re not wearing that shirt out of the yard, are you?” she asks. “What would it hurt?” “Promise me,” she says. “You know our mother raised us better.” But I can’t promise what I know to be a lie. My brother taught me better. Granted, I would not get married in this shirt: there is a tiny hole in the side, the wolf’s black nose has faded, his yellow eyes have dimmed with age. But I’ll never see the harm in wearing it to the gas station to grab a Dr. Pepper, or the grocery store to pick up paper towels, or the post office to mail a package for that matter. I tell my sister, “Don’t worry. It’ll be fine.” People love this shirt. I finger the hem and think words I dare not speak: if cremation ever loses its charm, I should be buried in this shirt.

(This essay appeared in the June 2012 issue of Sassee magazine.)


WordPlay Now! Writing Prompt


The word is… “beautiful” 

Savannah created her essay using a WordPlay “recipe” inspired by Rebecca McClanahan’s essay “Loving Bald Men,” which is also about finding beauty in something that other people often do not.  (If you read it carefully, you’ll find most, if not all, the ingredients listed.) And here’s the “recipe”:

 A WordPlay Recipe

  1. Read “Loving Bald Men.” You can read it online here.  (The examples from the parentheses are from this essay).
  2. Pick a subject to write about, something you love (quirky, and unexpected is good, but not necessary). EX: Loving sunrise walks at the beach, free samples, the T-shirt your brother gave you, etc.
  3. Gather these ingredients to use:
    • at least one “story” (the grandmother’s high school prom date)
    • at least one List (Gandhi, Yul, …)
    • at least one metaphor or simile (“Brailling his fate,” “bald as a plucked chicken”)
    • at least one “Hello It’s Me” (Address reader: “How can you not love men like that?”)
    • at least one question (“If bald means weak, how to explain….?”)
    • at least one bit of dialogue (“You’re getting there,” I say…)
    • at least 3 visual images (High, bare forehead, elegant bones of his skull, brownstone stoop)
    • Optional: add auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and/or tactile images

4. Take the “ingredients” and use them to “assemble” your essay. Note: At least one other Under Construction class member published her resulting essay. Sound too complicated? Feel a bit intimidated? It’s way more fun to begin your essay in a WordPlay class, and be able to share it when you’re done. You can find out more about Under Construction and other classes here. 


What  Savannah says about WordPlay

Up until a few years ago, when I first signed up for one of Maureen’s writing classes, I’d spent the better part of the previous two decades thinking a lot about writing, reading every book I could find on writing, fantasizing about how great it would feel to one day be a “real” writer. The trouble was (imagine a cymbal crashing here for effect) I spent precious little time actually putting pen to paper, and instead spent precious years blocked by anxiety and fear and self-doubt.

Thank goodness for Maureen Ryan Griffin! She is far and away the most amazing, generous writing teacher I’ve ever had. Her enthusiasm for words and the myriad ways in which they can be put together is contagious. Maureen cares so much about creating an emotionally rich environment in which her students can share their stories that she has helped me to shift my attention away from worries about how well my writing might be received and refocus my attention on the way I feel about the characters in my stories, the way the characters care about each other, and the way everyone in class supports each other and celebrates each other’s work. I’m constantly blown away by how everyone’s writing has blossomed. Several of us have had pieces published and/or have read them as commentaries on Charlotte’s NPR Station WFAE 90.7. Two of my essays, “The Fine Art of Singing Badly” and “Fried Lemons in Heaven,” were NPR commentaries; my “Fried Lemons” piece appeared in Imagining Heaven: An Anthology of Personal Visions of Heaven; and I was among several contributors to be invited to read my piece during the Sensoria festival at Central Piedmont Community College. Most recently, my essay, “Wolf,” appeared in the June issue of Sasee magazine. None of these successes and experiences would have been possible without Maureen’s guidance and encouragement, her writing prompts and recipes.

Even though my anxiety still sometimes gets the better of me, I’m so grateful for the other times when I can write in spite of my fears, and I relish the breakthroughs when all those old, nagging worries fall way. Thanks to Maureen and the community of my writing mates,I’ve been able to savor the writing process in a way that had too often escaped me in the past.