Aicha Zoubair

Jessica Bell

Friday, August 30, 2013

Mark LaFlamme – Curing Writer’s Block With Strawberry Shortcake

Curing Writer’s Block With Strawberry Shortcake

by Mark LaFlamme

The evening was a disaster from the start.

It was midnight and I’d just sat down to write the final chapters in my novel “The Pink Room.” I was writing in my usual spot, but the snow globe was nowhere in sight. It wasn’t on the shelf where I’d left it, it wasn’t on the desk next to my keyboard.


Panic rising, I searched the house, eventually turning to ridiculous spots like the refrigerator and the toaster oven. Astoundingly, the snow globe wasn’t there.

I woke my wife, desperate like a junkie looking for his stash.

“Code red! The snow globe is missing! I repeat …”

These are the household emergencies wives solve without waking all the way up. There was no problem here. A niece had been playing with the snow globe, a little pink number featuring Strawberry Shortcake smiling atop a piece of fruit. I was directed to the living room where I found it on the floor.

Crisis averted. Back to work.

A good therapist would have a field day with my writing ritual. I surround myself with trinkets, simple items that have come to represent various works of fiction over the years.

There’s the heavy metal cog I turned to while writing “Worumbo.” There’s the fabric flower with the demented smiling face that served as avatar for “Vegetation.” There’s a baseball, a bottle, a box shaped like a book, and a stuffed chickadee that makes realistic bird noises when you squeeze its belly.

Trinkets and treasures – stuff that would fetch a combined five dollars at a flea market and yet to me they’re priceless. Without those items, I’d freeze at the keyboard, my hands hovering over the letters, the page blank white, until someone comes to cart me away.

It’s superstition, no different than a baseball player pulling on the same crusty pair of socks before game time. I sit down to write, touch the item that represents the book du jour, and I get rolling.

And yet, it’s more than that. When I touch that slightly rusted cog – or the stuffed bird or the tiny plastic shovel that represents my fourth novel – it’s like pressing the “on” button. Once that simple act is behind me, I know it’s time to write. Permission has been granted, a few thousand words are demanded before I can leave my desk again.

As a cure for writer’s block, it’s unbeatable. “Well, I don’t feel like writing today, but I already touched the (your item here) so I better get to it. It would be bad juju not to.”

When other writers ask me how to fight back against dry spells, I advise them to get a trinket. It doesn’t have to be much – a little something out of the 99 cent bin will do. Keep it nearby, touch it when the words won’t come and bam! It’s go time.

By the time you have a few books under your belt, you’ll have an impressive collection of souvenirs to mark your time. Your writing room will look like the “win these prizes!” booth at the carnival. It’s a beautiful thing.

Get rid of the crusty socks, though. Those things are starting to reek.

Jack Carnegie has developed a head for numbers – a true savant who was just an average teenager a day before. Jack Deacon builds things, from self-propelled drones to goggles that can see through walls.

Jack Van Slyke awakes with an ability to speak a half dozen languages.Jack Gordon discovers he is a master of the martial arts, just when he needs it most.

All over the country, young men are finding that they have special skills, areas of expertise that appeared out of nowhere. They’re confused. Baffled. Maybe even dangerous.

And they’re all named Jack.

After experiencing adventures on their own, the Jacks will come together in the deserts of Arizona. There, they will set out on the quest to find out what has happened, becoming a multi-talented task force with not a single clue why.

But answers are coming – chilling revelations about their own minds and about new terrors that imperil the world. Together the Jacks will have to make a decision: drift apart and return to being careless teenagers? Or band together and fight a rising evil that threatens not just the Jacks, but the world.

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Genre – YA / Thriller

Rating – PG

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