Practicing the Craft

I read an article today about 40 blog post ideas for writers. You’d think, as writers, that our brains could create dozens of blog ideas, but yes, we do get stuck. That’s why I picked #1 on the idea list – writing about a vacation. I choose a trip along the Santa Fe Trail to Bent’s Old Fort in Colorado.

You see,  Bent’s was a famous landmark on the Santa Fe Trail, visited by just about everyone who traveled the area – from trappers and traders to soldiers and Indians. I went on one of their Living History weekends because I love talking to reenactors. The slide show above is just a sampling of the folks I chatted with over the weekend.

By the way – if you write any kind of history, either fiction or non-fiction, – you won’t find people more informed about the period than reenactors. These folks pride themselves on the authenticity of their costumes as well as their knowledge about the period in which their “persona” lived.

mind mapp

Yesterday I wrote about  creating a mind-map in preparation for a flash non-fiction piece. Today I’m inviting you to do the same. (If you write fiction, please join in!)

If you’ve never done mind-mapping, I’ve included links below to a few quick guides.  I have mind-mapping software (Simple Mind) but I prefer using pen and paper. My technique is a simple one: I begin with a central idea, which I circle, and then (like spokes on a wheel) begin free associating outwards from the central hub. In my example from yesterday’s mind-map, Fort Robinson was at the hub of my mind-map, from which I added other ideas/observations (black butterfly, wind, elms, cottonwoods, officer’s row, bluffs, sky,etc).

flash non-fiction

The Art of Extraordinary Writing appreciates this contribution by Jane Castellanos. Jane was a teacher, intuitive, traveller, currently living in Devon, seeking to reconnect. 


I don’t have a desk, but I do have a room. The windows are plastic, not allowing for squirrel or bird feeders to be attached. It is forbidden to throw things out of the window. So I do at night for the birds. I’m on the second floor corner flat. The room is light and clean. The view over a rather tacky back street allows the rising sun to reach me over the roof-tops. Daisies have implanted themselves across the way in the guttering and gulls are raising their numerous, raucous families sheltered by chimneys at my eye level.

What means most to me here? It’s difficult to say with so many precious things around me.  I have chosen first a small foot- high driftwood chest of drawers that I couldn’t walk away from at a Penzance street market many moons ago.  It stands on the window ledge. The sea-bleached pine is soft to touch, smooth of line and has no jagged edges. Swept by tides on deep turbulent seas and lulled by sparkling clear days off the Cornish coast, then racked onto rocks by a wild storm, stained by