5 Fandom Friday: Character Names


Welcome to another round of "Fandom 5 Friday," a writer's-block-busting initiative to build community among geeky female bloggers, spearheaded by The Nerdy Girlie and SuperSpaceChick.

"The basic idea of 5 Fandom Fridays is to write a weekly Friday blog post in the form of a top 5 list based on a predetermined topic. It'll give your readers a deeper insight into your fandoms and your blogging personality. It's a great way to avoid bloggers block and sleep well knowing that you have at least 4-5 planned posts for the month."

Today's topic is "Characters I would name my kids after." Being of a certain age, my child-bearing days are behind me. I already have two kids, both juniors this year - my son is a junior at Fordham University in New York City, and my daughter is a junior in high school. But I can still play along with this topic, because we did indeed name our first-born after a character.

I actually included the story of his name in my book, The Star Trek Craft Book (p 33):

When I was pregnant with our son, my husband wanted to name him James Tiberius after his favorite Star Trek captain. I suggested Thomas as a middle name instead, thinking I would protect my son from relentless teasing in school. (Plus, it was a head nod to William Riker's middle name, as well, so the Trek reference was still there.) Even though we did name him James Thomas, my argument was apparently wasted, because my son became such a Trek fan that he told me in grade school that he wished I had allowed "Tiberius"!

These days, my naming aspirations would be relegated to the pet variety. And just the other day I did come up with a character name idea:


Plus, pet names offer a little more leeway - you don't have to worry about lasting psychological damage like you do with a kid. Other pet names I would consider:

  • Data (from Star Trek: The Next Generation)
  • Doctor (Who, of course)
  • Jayne (Cobb, from Firefly/Serenity)
  • Adama (from Battlestar Galactica)
  • Apollo (from Battlestar Galactica)
  • Starbuck (from Battlestar Galactica)
  • Sookie (from Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series/True Blood)

What name(s) would you choose?

Making Matters: Crafty Confessions

I recently signed up for Jennifer Priest's (of Hydrangea Hippo) latest project called Making Matters. She is offering a weekly email newsletter intended to inspire people to make and create, with ideas covering everything from "creating a space you love to make in to shopping for craft supplies in a different way to challenges to make from the resources you already have."

The first prompt arrived today, and I thought I would blog about it. The theme is Crafty Confessions: "this week is all about being super truthful with yourself about what your biggest challenges are when crafting...Whatever things interfere with your ability to be creative, identify those and write them down."

  1. While I do create projects for my Etsy shop, and did make a few things for Christmas, I still struggle with feeling like I'm letting my "crafting superpowers" go to waste. I let the fact that I work full-time, have a family, and want to exercise take precedence over being creative. 
  2. Working full-time seriously cramps my crafting time. I mean, I have to go to work EVERY DAY and stuff. Bummer.
  3. Speaking of my Etsy shop, I let crafting for profit overshadow crafting for fun. I often feel like the time I do spend crafting should be "productive" (read: profitable).
  4. I let my perfectionist nature dictate whether I even try new techniques or crafts. If I don't think something will turn out well, I don't do it. Which is ridiculous - there are so many crafts I really do want to try. But because my time is limited, and reason #2 (wanting to feel "productive"), I often stick with things I know I'm good at. In 2015, I want to try more new things and feel ok when they don't turn out great at first, and not worry about "wasting" supplies on trying new things.
  5. My craft room is my personal dungeon. I hate even going down there. I have too much stuff and feel completely overwhelmed by what to do with it. I know I have bought multiples of things because I couldn't find the first set. It's very hard to feel inspired to create when your creative space zaps your mojo before you even start a project! So often I have been sorely tempted to just donate everything without even looking through it, just to clear the space. Seriously - here's a picture I should be ashamed to share, but maybe you can relate:

    Cluttered craft desk

  6. Related to #4, I think I have hoarding tendencies. I have so much product still from when I was teaching scrapbooking, over 10 years ago now. Product never opened, but held onto because I'm sure I'll *need* it at some point, and how would I feel if I needed it, and didn't have it?? How could I possibly go on? I need to let go of that mentality AND the STUFF. I did make strides in that direction a couple of months ago when I donated two huge totes of scrapbooking supplies to a support group for 10- to 12-year-old boys at a grieving center for children and families - now THERE'S a good use for those supplies gathering dust in my dungeon! I've already prepped a bag of punches to donate next.
  7. I am currently struggling with The Next Big Thing. I've written four books, traveled around the US to teach classes, even gave a keynote to 1500 people. But I'm not sure what's next for me. I know I love crafting, and I'm good at it, but don't have a clear purpose or path. And it weighs on me. But I do know that I am open to possibilities.

I haven't always subscribed to (or followed through with) the One Little Word movement, but maybe this year's One Little Word should be "open" - open to letting go, open to trying new things, open to making messes and mistakes. Open to possibilities. Thanks to Jennifer and Making Matters for *opening* my eyes to that!

  Be open frame

Digi-scrap credit: Aug20 Freebie frame 1 by Leora Sanford; Fonts: Toreador & Amertype

Writers' Group Prompt: When it was nice outside...

This prompt was to begin writing with the phrase, "When it was nice outside...", and to free-write for 10 minutes.

My results:

When it was nice outside, I would walk home with my friend Vanessa. Sometimes her mom would drive us, in their aging station wagon with the wood panels and the rear-facing back seat. But since her mom never let us sit back there anyway, we figured we might as well walk. That way we could tell our stories -- the stories that just kept building on each other. Our brains just worked good together, I guess, each feeding on the imaginings of the other. Our feet knew the walk so well that our minds were left free to leap and create -- the most wonderful stories. Where there were dragons and damsels and absolutely NO little brothers.

There wasn't any fighting either, unless it was a grand hero with a jeweled sword. Nessa had enough fighting at home, that we were careful to avoid it, though not by any spoken agreement.

Most often, we didn't even pay attention to our surroundings - the way from PS 192 to our apartment building was straight enough, you could stick your arms out like a zombie, shut your eyes and just walk and you'd get there. (We knew that cuz we tried it once. Till old Mr McNeely at the butcher shop yelled at us to watch where he was spraying the sidewalk.)

So we kept our eyes open, but our heads down, as we continued in story mode. Our story that day took us to the dunes of an African desert, where it was so hot, we imagined our feet were singed by the sand. It was while we were hopping around in our imagined torture that we first saw it. Everything was always so the same on our walks, so that same that we almost missed it. 

It was an ordinary thing. We must have seen 50 of them that day, at least, maybe 100. Fat, thin, tall, short, covered, naked, you just don't think anything of it. Till you trip over one on your way through a scorching desert. As Nessa did. And when she did, she stumbled, and whirled around to give the offender an earful. But her words died a little in her throat, her deeply in-drawn breath puffing up in her chest, then choking up against the words.

Her hand rose to her mouth just as I jumped up behind, ready to rib her for her fall. She turned to me, her face the strangest color I've ever seen, even stranger than when she had the chicken pox and a 4-day fever. She opened her mouth to tell me, to warn me, to somehow share the burden of her discovery, but nothing came out. Nessa, my friend with the golden storytelling tongue, was struck dumb.

For how do you tell a story that isn't yours to tell? Certainly there was a story here. Just as certainly it wasn't of our making.

Writers' Group Prompt: The Alley


PROMPT: Describe an alley. Write for 5 minutes.

My results:

It was dark - the kind of dark that you just knew was unfriendly and unwelcoming. Hardly a place to linger if your business led you somewhere else. A streetlight across the street shone indistinct light across its mouth, casting shadowy teeth over the moist walls. Crumpled bits of newspaper blew down the passage, then disappeared in the dank darkness that seemed to swallow up all sound - sucking in everything near, like a black hole. Even the street people walked past quickly, seemingly afraid to even hazard a sideways glance. A couple of bony mutts trotted down the sidewalk, sniffing at doorways and passersby, but quickened their pace as they skittered past the dark alley.

Photo credit: Bertron8

Writers' Group Prompt: Images

Matthews Farmers' Market 1

This Writers' Group Prompt was interesting - it wasn't a single prompt, but rather a selection of words from which to choose to form a piece.  Here's the list we used, then did free-writing for 10 minutes:

  • overalls
  • silk
  • High School Prom
  • a scream from the next apartment
  • wedding
  • house slippers
  • clothes drying on the line
  • a crib
  • 3rd grade
  • honey

Here are my results:

He wore overalls every day of his life, from the very day he first wore clothes. It's what they all did. It was better that way - you always knew what to wear, you looked like everyone else, and you always knew where to find your hammer and gloves. No tellin' when you might need one or t'other. Fences worked loose and calves got stuck in the mud. Shoot - don't even think about tryin' to pull a calf out of the mud without your gloves. That's just pure stupid. Might as well try to catch a pig loose in a pit of honey.

A man knew where he stood when he wore overalls - knew what was expected of him. Knew it was time to be about your work, long as the sun was up, and sometimes a bit after it went down. A man knew his family counted on him to get up and get the work done and to do it again the next day. It was just the way things were and it worked just fine for him.

But this. This was not working for him. Partly because he wasn't working - he was waiting. And he didn't wait so good. Not when there was work to be done. Which there always was. But not today, Thelma had told him. Today was the wedding and they were all going. It rubbed him raw, much like the collar currently chafing his neck. He didn't see why his niece couldn't just wait for the preacher to come through town, have him over for coffee and to say a few words and be done with it all. Just like everyone else.

Photo credit: mshutch Michael Hutchinson

Writers' Group Prompt: The Box

wooden box

Here's another piece from a recent writing group session. 

The prompt: Free write about "The Box", as a symbol, for 10 minutes.

My results:

She knew better than to open the Box. Hadn't she seen for herself what it could do? Hadn't her mother told her their family's sacred duty and trust? The power that only the women of her line could hold and contain? And only within the walls of the Box?

It was such an ordinary looking box, with its rough-hewn seams and coarse cuts made by tools from another time. The Box alone was not enticing, or even remarkable. It sat quite unassuming on the mantle. But the weight of its presence was so very heavy -- it seemed to draw all the energy from the room -- sucking the very will to move from its occupants. She was always, always, aware of its presence, could always see it out of the corner of her eye. Though that was to be expected, as she was rarely out of this main room in the simple house. They took their meals here, repaired ripped clothing, and told stories in front of the fire. And of course someone always had to stay -- it wasn't like the Box could be left unattended. The one time it has been - the one time in all those long, lonely, dutiful years...well, she couldn't think about that.

The memories of that night still shrouded her thoughts, looking for any opportunity or excuse to crowd in, to surge against her carefully constructed walls, bringing with them waves of grief and shame and guilt. Because of that night, and all that they had lost - that all of them had lost - she should have known better than to open the Box.

But she was yet young, and there was still hope in her heart. Hope that she would be the One that could reign it in and wield the Power.

Photo credit: bballchico

Writers' Group Prompt: The Wicker Love Seat

Earlier this year, I was invited to join a writers' group that meets monthly. Feeling neglectful of writing for myself, I dove right in. I've attended several meetings, and have really enjoyed it. We chat about writing related activities, give impromptu reviews of events and books, and write to several prompts. I've been really pleased with nearly all of the writing generated from the prompts, so I thought I would start sharing some here.

For this first piece, we were supposed to start with the following sentence, and free-write for 10 minutes:

"We saw it on Friday on the road to Thompsonville, the wicker love seat, right out there, straddling the center line."

Here are my results:

We saw it on Friday on the road to Thompsonville, the wicker love seat, right out there, straddling the center line. It seemed so odd to see it sitting there, in the middle of a dead town, where leaves scuttled down the empty boardwalks and any sounds were drowned out by the endless scream of the cicadas in the trees bracketing the street. We stopped out car in front of the love seat and just looked at it. It was worn, the white overwash flaking off on the arms, obviously a well-loved piece of furniture at one time.

Who could count the number of hands to have caressed the arms, to have found a moment's rest and the peace of comfort in visiting a friend? The seat belongs on a wrap-around porch somewhere, or maybe a screened-in sunroom.

The fabrics were cheery once upon a time, too - a red bandana print on the cushions, now fraying at the seams and piping. The yellow polka-dot pillows were still plump, if faded from too many hours in the sun.

The seat was obviously home to countless stories, though we only wondered about the one. How did it come to rest here, in the middle of Main Street, at the crossroads of Nowhere and Not-Yet-There? We weren't even really shure where we were going ourselves, only that we needed to not be where we were.

New Series: Things to Be Thankful For

I recently read a post by GeekDad at Wired.com on 10 Geeky Things to Be Thankful For. I thought I would 'blog-lift' the idea, and put together my own list(s), but on a variety of topics, with the goal of a post on a different topic each day this week, in honor of Thanksgiving on Thursday (here in the US, anyway). 

Here are the topics I've chosen:

  1. Sunday: Scrapbooking/Crafty Goodness
  2. Monday: Geeky
  3. Tuesday: Kansas City
  4. Wednesday: mom
  5. Thursday: Family
  6. Friday: blogs/social media
  7. Saturday: books
Anyone care to join the challenge of creating a different topical gratitude list post every day this week? An ambitious goal for a holiday week, to be sure, but just the thing to get those blogging juices going!

Teaching Legacy Book Classes at a Senior Center

Kim Branson recently left me a Comment with the following request for advice:

...I was wondering if you have any tips or input on getting the elderly to talk about their pasts?

I have been given the opportunity to lead a crafting class twice a month at our local Senior Center. One of the projects I would love to work with them on is a mini-legacy album. My own Dad (who is almost 72) will often share some fascinating tidbits from his childhood or the early years of his marriage to my Mom, brought about by seeing an old photo or hearing a phrase from long ago.

It's easy to get my own father to open up, but I am wondering how to do this with strangers? I realize that many of your journaling prompts from the Book of Me and the Book of Us would be useful, but was also hoping you might have some other tips for me?

Good question, Kim!  If I were in the same situation, I would probably pick a theme for each class, like Childhood, Young Adult Years, Jobs, Friends, or Travels.  I would open the session by discussing the theme, and try to encourage some discussion to get the "memory juices" flowing.  Ask leading questions -- start with, "Does anyone have any stories to share about a trip you took?  What was your favorite vacation?  Where is the most exotic place you've visited?" 

You might notice these "leading questions" are basically journaling prompts.  Look through The Book of Me or The Book of Us for appropriate prompts before each session, so you'll have some idea where to lead the discussion.  You can also just brainstorm your own conversation-starters, just by focusing on the theme, and seeing what questions pop up in your mind. 

Often when people start sharing stories and memories, other people in the class will get a vicarious jumpstart to their own memories.  So, if no one feels like sharing right away, you should consider having a few of your own stories to share to get things started.

After you've discussed the theme of the session, describe various craft applications (layouts, framed art, altered memory boxes, etc), and show some examples.  Then set them loose.

As they work on their projects, walk among them.  If someone seems to be struggling to tell a story, sit with them for a few minutes.  Ask them to show you their photos.  Ask questions to lead them through telling you the story.

  • Who are these people?
  • Why are they all here?
  • What happened after that?
  • What was it like when it happened?
  • What did you think about that?

You might also try playing some Oldies music before the class starts.  Ask what scents, sights, sounds, and textures come to mind when the students think of that day's themes.  Sensory descriptions are very effective for bringing scrapbook journaling to life.

I hope these thoughts and tips have helped a bit, Kim.  If not, just comment here, and we'll try to get you the resources you need!  Anyone else have any suggestions for teaching Senior Center scrapbooking/journaling classes?

Still time to Get Started Quickly with Scrapbook Journaling!

My next Writers Online Workshop, "Getting Started (Quickly) in Scrapbook Journaling" starts tomorrow, and I just found out there's still time to register.  Through midnight (Eastern) tonight you can sign up online at WritersOnlineWorkshops.com, or through Friday at 5:00 by calling 1-800-759-0963.

The class is based on One Minute Journaling, by Joanna Campbell Slan, who also wrote that article I posted a couple of days ago, "Journal the Hurts, Scrapbook the Highs".  Quality stuff.

ANNNNNND, if you use coupon code AP2006, you get 15% off registration.  Sweet.