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Posts tagged writing contests

Crayon in Hand — Create a Colorful Poem

National  Poetry Month and

Our Poetry Contest Continues

If you’ve ever sat to color with your siblings or your own children, you’ll notice that they usually grasp the brightest color on the table. They start with youthful enthusiasm.

Then, depending on their age, they pull back on the light glowing in their eyes and they

crayon color choices

Does Your Poetry Feel Like Pudgy Fingers Holding a Stubby Crayon?

become more thoughtful, more aware of their choice of color and where they use it. They also become more self-conscious of what they are doing in front of you.

Do they ask what color to use? Do they sort through them to find a better one? Do they find the challenge of getting the crayon to stay inside the lines? Do they give up because it’s too hard?

Simple Structure

These decisions are mostly made by the environmental influences of how others are perceiving them. Freedom of creativity is only free in your mind. We have too many other influences that can redirect us from our poetry goals. Choose your colors wisely and determine what message you are trying to convey. Stay focused and choose the form that works for you. Stay inside the lines but don’t be afraid to experiment, too.

Do you feel awkward and clumsy when trying to write a poem? Maybe it’s because you haven’t felt you could create something  worthy of calling it a poem. Poems come in all shapes and purposes. We place meaningful restrictions on ourselves — for no apparent reason. We demand better of ourselves, even when we don’t know why. It’s no surprise that so many writers don’t become poets. Crafting a poem is different than writing a story — even though they seem so similar.

This reminds me of my favorite Haiku poem in grade school. First, let me explain that Wayne (not his name) was a clown in class and always tried to get everyone to laugh out loud so they would get in trouble — not him. But when it came to the new stuff like Haiku and poetry in general, most boys whined but Wayne hunted for his best victim to taunt into laughter. Wayne was a brat.

Haiku, as an easy Oriental poem structure, has a simple form of three lines with five syllables in the first and third lines, and seven in the middle. It forces young minds to see a form and it offers shortness to adhere to their creativeness without beleaguering it.

Easy and Fast

So with our assignment in hand, we were told to come back the next day with a Haiku poem and the best five would be read in front of the class. Wayne sulked in the back of the room. He didn’t like the assignment or how the students were showing so much interest in a stupid poem. He couldn’t bait anyone to start giggling.

The next day our teacher announced that she had never seen such wonderful Haiku poems in all the classes she ever taught. She told us how much she enjoyed reading them and specifically she wanted to share her favorite right away.

This is a Haiku from Wayne:

Dum De Dum De Dum

I’m not the creative type.

Dum De Dum De Dum

Even though he thought he was being clever and silly, he accomplished what all of us wish to do — become memorable 50 years later. He fulfilled his assignment, and I love him for that, wherever he is.

Please consider entering our annual poetry contest, (Go to Contest Page above) whether you are a pro at contests, or if this is your first time, half the fun is sharing what you’ve created from within yourself.

And maybe you’ll be memorable 50 years  from now.

Rusty LaGrange

Memoirs & Ramblings – High Desert Blogging Writers Contest Second Place Winner

Alyssa Penman photoMemoirs & Ramblings by Alyssa Penman won second place in the September 2013 writing contest. Congratulations, Alyssa!

Autumn… Fall… a time of transition, of anticipation, or preparation.

I think that fall has always been one of my favorite times of year. I loved going back to school (for a few weeks at least!) and the clean slate of a new year. New ideas, perhaps new friends, a chance to transform into the person I wanted to be. I’m something of an optimist, always keeping in mind Tolkien’s words in The Hobbit: “Where there’s life there’s hope.” As long as I’m breathing, this new season could be the season that changes it all! Hope springs eternal for students with the chance to try new classes, new teachers, new personas. It is actually a little sad that we don’t get that opportunity for self-reinvention as adults.

Although fall is associated with the harvest and trees shedding their leaves, preparing for winter, it still feels like something wonderful is about to happen. The change means progress. This year has been a challenging one for me on several fronts, but that subtle shift towards winter feels instructive. “Learn to let things go, Alyssa! Take it easy and rest. Dig a little deep to restore yourself so you can come back stronger.” So much of the summer is just surviving the heat! Fall seems to say, “Ok, relax and savor life.”

I always know that first day of real autumn weather. It isn’t exactly cool out, but it is like something in the atmosphere has relented. There’s no oppression in the heat. There is even a bit of bite in the coolness. This year it happened in mid-September, after weeks of unbroken heat waves with more humidity than our desert is used to. Then one magical morning, I open the front door and there it is, ready to greet me like a surprise visit from an old friend. A strangely familiar nip in the air.

The temptation is to just immerse myself in pumpkin-flavored coffee and snuggly sweaters, but of course those days are weeks away. (I do admit I indulged myself with a pound of pumpkin coffee from my local roasters, Tonyan Coffee. Mmmm…) In the desert, the nights start cooling off enough to sleep with blankets on, or brew a pot of decaf while the windows are still open. How heavenly if it hits 65 degrees at night!

And here, at the beginning of October, it feels like those cold nights with the threat of snow are still a long way off, but they will be here before I know it. Already the stores are carrying Christmas decorations, right next to Halloween costumes. We have holiday sales planned for the bookstore that we have been working on for weeks. Soon I’ll be bundling my son into a snow suit for a once-a-year trip up to Wrightwood to see snow. I know that it is physically impossible that time is speeding up as Fall goes on, but I would swear it does.

The sun is setting sooner, so it is dark by the time the bookstore closes. Cole’s Halloween costume is all picked out. We have our plans for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday (but we haven’t figured out Thanksgiving yet!) and we have even started planning for Christmas. I will make sure I find some time to sit, savor a warm cup of pumpkin coffee, snuggled in a sweater, dreaming about what I can become before this magical season is swept away.


Alyssa has a passion for the small business community. She is Owner at, Co-owner and Marketing Director at Hi Desert Book Oasis Used Books, and Owner, Community Builder at – Victorville, CA.

Making Fall – High Desert Blogging Writing Contest Winner

photo 1Making Fall by Cristen Velasquez won third place in the September 2013 writing contest at Congratulations, Cristen!

Making Fall


Seasons haven’t always brought me warm and fuzzy feelings. They’ve brought other things, though. Winter in Houston means a nice marriage between humidity and cold. It buries itself in you no matter how many layers you might be wearing and stays there until you take a hot shower. Spring brings rain, and bugs follow the rain. In Texas, we get water bugs. They’re like roaches, but bigger and they fly at you. Summer brings heat that always breaks a record or two, and for a fair-skinned person like me, a good burn or two comes along for fun. Then comes Fall.

Fall isn’t really a season around here. It’s more like two and a half weeks where the acorns make dents in your hood and you find small leaves and flowers blown onto the floor board. Scorching heat goes further south and you start risking the outdoors without three layers of sunscreen. The humidity fades away for a moment and you start wearing boots for fun, since you’re technically still using the air conditioner, but want to look the part anyway. If you have the same level of baking skills that I do, you’ll buy the pre-made cinnamon roll dough at Trader Joe’s and let everyone believe you made them yourself. Water, a couple cinnamon sticks and an orange peel make a wonderful simmer pot and make an apartment feel a little more like home.

Sometimes, I forget to really enjoy the seasons. Life passes me by all the time and I often wonder where it went. My newborn daughter turned into a sweet natured ten-month-old who knows how to crawl and get into Mommy’s things now. It’s easy to bypass the pumpkin patch by year after year until one day you realize you haven’t been to one since you were a kid. The first year of marriage goes by, then the second, and then halfway through the third you notice you’ve never even decorated before. I’ve decided recently to slow down. I found simple recipes and ideas on Pinterest and I’m actually doing them. I’ve decided to start making memories.

As I mentioned before, simmer pots are perfect for challenged homemakers like me. You throw a couple things in a pot and suddenly it smells like a holiday is on its way. Marshall’s has beautiful crystal vases and decorative platters that are perfect for fall foliage. If you’re into do-it-yourself projects, making your own decorative foliage is simple – find dried leaves, pine cones, acorns, and anything else that you think fits, add an essential oil that you like, and you’re all set! Homemade wreaths are actually quite easy and fun to make and I’ve even been paid to make extra ones for friends!

Spending money on fall decorations, even inexpensive ones, can seem frivolous to a family on a budget, but it’s worth it. We don’t see the trees change color or feel the breeze pick up speed. There isn’t a crisp chill in the air. The atmosphere completely relies on what you make out of it, even if you do happen to live in a place where nature is more declarative of the seasons. We choose to create Fall. I want my children to have good memories of every season, even the one that lasts for two and a half weeks. I want my daughter to remember kind words spoken over Trader Joe’s cinnamon rolls. We will wear scarves, even if the air conditioner is on. There will be tantalizing Halloween candy just low enough for her to sneak some when I’m not looking. The cookie jar will be full. Hot chocolate will happen. If we don’t do it for them, no one else will. Yes, it’s definitely worth it.

Happy Fall!


Cristen is married and mom to a one-year-old daughter.  Having a passion for making a difference in the lives of youth, she writes and also speaks at youth and women events.

photo 4

Blog Contests and Giveaways

Pumpkins for autumn comfort food

Pumpkins for autumn comfort food

Congratulations to Desiree who won the Starbucks $10 gift card from! The contest ended at 6:00 p.m. PST on Saturday, September 21st. Desiree shared her favorite Pumpkin Bar recipe that a family member makes every year.  It’s a specific pumpkin bar recipe by Betty Crocker called Pumpkin-Spice Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting.

My favorite season is fall. I love the crisp air, comfort foods, holidays, and the seasons’s colors. Pumpkin falls within the comfort foods and holidays categories, and I wanted to introduce the fall season at with a pumpkin recipe contest. It’s a joy to offer the $10 Starbucks card to our reader Desiree. Thank you, Desiree, for following our blog.

If you follow this blog, you know that there is another contest happening – a writers contest. The great thing about it is that cash prizes will be given to first and second place winners, and a Starbucks gift card will be given to the third place winner. To enter the writing contest, write a nonfiction article of 500-1000 words about autumn and submit it to The contest rules and directions can be found on our Contests and Giveaways page. There is a small fee of $10 per entry, and three entries per person are allowed. Other than the top three winners, honorable mentions will also be included. All who enter will have a good chance of winning or at least possibility of publication (see more about this on the Contests and Giveaways page listed above).

Perhaps you can’t afford to enter more than once when there is a fee for writing entries in contests. Consider entering a writing contest three or four times a year. Submit articles to writing contests, magazines, and writing websites like and (Hint: new contests that are offered on sites may not be widely known yet – good way to become a winner!)

Look for other contests on the Internet. One I like that I discovered today is the Sun Photo Contest. The prize is an Almanac suncatcher.

Keep writing. Submit your articles. Offer to write guest blog posts. Continue to enter contests. Your article or blog post could be the next one chosen. You could be the next winner.

Wannabe Bloggers and Writers, Enter Contests and Join Groups

High Desert Bloggers, Bodacious Bundts, Hesper

High Desert Bloggers,
Bodacious Bundts, Hesper

Have you ever thought about writing a book? I’ve often heard people tell me about their experiences and say they could write a book about them. The wannabe writers. The dreamers. It’s okay, you know, to be a wannabe writer that dreams of writing someday. But do more than dream it. Plan it. Make it happen. Look around your community for writers groups and events. Join the groups. Attend the events. Become involved. Write. Writers, wannabe writers, published authors, and bloggers in the High Desert  of Southern California have access to amazing writing groups and opportunities. The Apple Valley Library, 14901 Dale Evans Parkway, Apple Valley Ca, 92307, hosted a grand re-opening ceremony on Monday, September 9, with activities for the children, food for everyone, and music to boot.

Apple Valley Library, newly renovated

Apple Valley Library, newly renovated

Friends of the Library, Apple Valley Library, Grand Re-Opening

Friends of the Library, Apple Valley Library, Grand Re-Opening

Writers love and need libraries. The High Desert Branch of the California Writers Club (HDCWC) meets at this same library in a spacious meeting room every second Saturday at the Apple Valley Library from 10:00 am until 12:00 noon. The HDCWC keeps an exciting agenda going continually for its faithful members and is planning a conference in October. If you don’t have anything like this in your area, start one.

HDCWC President Dwight Norris (on the left) and Bob Isbill, Former HDCWC President (on the right), Apple Valley Library Grand Re-Opening

HDCWC President Dwight Norris (on the left) and Bob Isbill, Former HDCWC President (on the right), Apple Valley Library Grand Re-Opening

Enter the writing contest this month held at This contest will give cash prizes and publication and will run through September 30. High Desert Bloggers Meetup group is having a blogging workshop September 28, donation only. This gives bloggers a great opportunity to network with other bloggers in the community. Again, if there isn’t a blogging group where you live, start your own. That’s what the problogger, Bill Belew, told me to do. I couldn’t attend his blogging meetup group. He said, “Start your own.” I did. It became High Desert Bloggers Meetup. If you want to blog and write a book, you should do two things consistently: meet with like-minded bloggers/writers and blog/write. A blogger can network with other bloggers all day for seven days a week but accomplish nothing if not sitting down at a computer, blogging. On the other hand, it is important for a blogger to get out and meet people face to face. Getting away from the computer also helps to get the blood flowing. Meeting people causes motivation and inspiration. This applies to writers as well. Looking up writing and blogging topics on the Internet can be inspiring. Need some inspiration to accomplish your writing goals? Read about people like Linda Formichelli (The Renegade Writer) who knows about starting out as a wannabe writer and becoming a successful freelance writer. I came across Linda’s post of her writing experiences and the tools she used to become a successful writer, and I’m inspired. One thing a writer must never do is never give up. I know we hear that phrase often, but it’s true. If you want something enough, you won’t give up until it becomes a reality. So keep dreaming. Write, and become a successful writer. Blog, and become a successful blogger. Make it happen.

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