Ray Bradbury

All posts tagged Ray Bradbury

Here Comes the Sun

Published April 13, 2015 by Elsa Pla

I’ve been so busy with my job as school librarian and with growing my little online businesses, that time has flown by and I’ve hardly noticed. I can’t believe my last post was five months ago. Truth is I’ve been thinking and reading about writing during my bits of free time, but I haven’t been doing much actual writing. That said, the winter doldrums are over (yay!), and days are now longer and more productive, so it’s time to push forward and get some real writing done.

“Little darling, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here. Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say: it’s all right.” –From “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles.

Three books I’ve read about reading and writing:

Windows on the World: Fifty Writers, Fifty Views by Matteo Pericoli (A collection of  pairings of drawings of well-known authors’ window views with the authors’ descriptions and reflections on those views. “A perceptual journey through the world as seen through the windows of prominent writers.” –Amazon) This book makes us aware of the effect our surroundings have on our writing.

What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund (A fascinating metacognitive study of what we visualize when we read.) This book also leads us to imagine what readers see when they read what we’ve written.

Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Conversations by Sam Weller (Contains discussions on Bradbury’s creative influences and writing process.) Anything written by or about Ray Bradbury is educational and motivational to any writer. Here’s a quote from the book:

“People will always give advice to a writer to slant, to write for the money. Don’t do that. Don’t do that. You will sicken and die. If you turn away from you–who you are, what you are, what you dream, what you need–you are going to wind up so unhappy, so miserable. It’s not worth it. Being poor isn’t so bad as long as you have your imagination and what you are. Being rich for the wrong reason is a lousy business, You aren’t rich at all.” –Ray Bradbury

Thank you, Ray, for making me feel happy about being poor but true to myself as a writer. 🙂


Blogs and More

Published August 4, 2013 by Elsa Pla


Check out this photo: A Passion for Words

A few writing blogs you may find useful or inspiring:






And this jewel:


“As things stand now, I am going to be a writer. I’m not sure that I’m going to be a good one or even a self-supporting one, but until the dark thumb of fate presses me to the dust and says ‘you are nothing,’ I will be a writer.” Hunter S. Thompson

Repetition, Repetition

Published October 2, 2012 by Elsa Pla

Last week’s exercise was to search for powerful examples of repetition.

Here are a few examples from chapters 1-3 of Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

Somewhere not so far back, vast lightnings stomped the earth. Somewhere, a storm like a great beast with terrible teeth could not be denied.”

So much Will said, excitedly. So much Jim agreed to, silently. So much the salesman, running before the storm, but poised here uncertainly, heard looking from face to face.”

Some folks draw lightning, suck it like cats suck babies’ breath. Some folks’ polarities are negative, some positive. Some glow in the dark. Some snuff out.”

Nobody won. Nobody wanted to win. It was in their friendship they just wanted to run forever, shadow and shadow. Their hands slapped library door handles together, their chests broke track tapes together, …”

“Dad winked at Will. Will winked back. They stood now, a boy with acorn-colored hair and a man with moon-white hair, a boy with a summer apple, a man with a winter-apple face. Dad, Dad, thought Will, why, why, he looks … like me in a smashed mirror!”

I love this next one. Try reading it aloud. It’s brilliant.

“What’s the answer, he wondered, walking through the library, putting out the lights, putting out the lights, putting out the lights, is it all in the whorls on our thumbs and fingers? Why are some people all grasshopper fiddlings, scrapings, all antennae shivering, one big ganglion eternally knotting, slip-knotting, square-knotting themselves?”

And here’s an example of repetition in my work:

Artie braced himself as he joined the streams of students entering the building on the first day of the school year. He peeked at the crowd from under his gray hoodie. Everyone was wearing their mask, as usual, except that today the personas were brighter and clearer than on any regular school day. Jock, cheerleader, goth, punk, homie, geek, nerd, dork, emo, bully, etc. Whatever mask you or someone else had decided best reflected your unique style or personality. Whatever best suited your agenda. First impressions could make or break you. The pecking order had to be established early on. It was Survival of the Fittest 101 at the Funny Farm. Peck, peck, peck.

Those were some of the thoughts running through Artie’s mind as he weaved his way through the crowd. What mask was he wearing? Misfit, for sure. And like any other misfit, he preferred to fly under the radar, but sometimes circumstances interfered with his cruise control. His looks didn’t help either. He was tall and gangly with freckled pale skin and bright orange hair. Too tall and too orange to be inconspicuous. He was also too serious for his age, too young for his grade, too clumsy for sports, too shy around girls, and too smart for his own good. Too many toos, which is why he was what he was: a misfit.

Whatever, he thought.

That was fun.

This week’s exercise is to analyze the rhetorical devices and the sentence fluency in a notable picture book. 🙂

I’ll post again next week.

The Poetic Power of Parallelism

Published August 28, 2012 by Elsa Pla

The exercise for this past week was to do a sentence inventory for either a paragraph by a favorite author or your own paragraph. I did both.

First, a paragraph by my favorite author: Ray Bradbury.

From Dandelion Wine:

“A whole summer ahead to cross off the calendar, day by day. Like the goddess Siva in the travel books, he saw his hands jump everywhere, pluck sour apples, peaches, and midnight plums. He would be clothed in trees and bushes and rivers. He would freeze, gladly, in the hoarfrosted icehouse door. He would bake, happily, with ten thousand chickens, in Grandma’s kitchen.”

First Words ———–Main Verb(s)———# of Words

A whole summer ———to cross off—————12

Like the goddess———saw, jump, pluck ——– 21

He————————-would be clothed———10

He————————-would freeze————– 9

He————————-would bake————— 11

I chose this paragraph because it showcases the rhythmic power of parallel construction (the repetition of the structure of the last three sentences and the use of three items in a series). Repetition causes the writing to “sing.”  Notice how even the number of words of the last three sentences is similar. All this repetition works because it’s used as a special poetic effect. I love it. (There are more cool things happening in this paragraph, of course.)

Here’s my paragraph:

Ioúna awoke before the break of dawn.  He lingered in his hamaca, listening to the last sweet notes of the little brown frogs and to his mother breathing to the rhythm of the ocean waves.  Stirred by the sea breeze, the sun-dried straw on the roof of their bohío swished and whispered.  He rubbed his sleepy eyes with the palms of his hands and –  careful not to wake his mother –  rolled out of his swinging bed, picked up the small spear he used for fishing, and tiptoed toward the beach.

First Words ———–Main Verb(s)———# of Words

Ioúna————————awoke———————– 6

He—————————lingered——————— 28

Stirred by the sea breeze—swished, whispered——– 18

He—————————rubbed, picked, tiptoed—– 38

The paragraph has variety and flow, but after analyzing Mr. Bradbury’s use of parallel construction, I think I’ll change the end of the last sentence to “rolled out of his swinging bed, picked up his fishing spear, and tiptoed toward the beach.” By repeating the pattern of “his swinging bed” in “his fishing spear,” the sentence sounds more musical. It also shortens the last sentence a bit, which helps to balance the paragraph.

I’m going to stick to this exercise for a couple more weeks to see what else I notice about the way my favorite writers construct their sentences. I’m going to add a fourth column and title it “Special Effects.”

I’ll post again next Monday.

Writing is Survival

Published August 13, 2012 by Elsa Pla

The new school year is quickly approaching, and there’s a ton of things I need to do. The luxury I’ve had of blogging Monday through Friday is over. From now on I intend to post on this blog only on Monday evenings. What I plan to do is present an exercise I’ll be working on during the week (and invite you to work on it, too), then share my attempt the following Monday, as well as introduce the next exercise.

I’ll be working on my middle school website/blog (www.writecook.com) and my Juvenile/YA book reviews (www.elsapla.wordpress.com) throughout the school year, and I’ll continue to post on my personal blog (www.catchabutterfly.wordpress.com) as well.

Here’s the schedule I intend to follow:

Sunday – Season of Butterflies blog

Monday – The Write Town blog

Tuesday – Thursday – Write Cook website/blog and writing projects

Friday – writing projects

Saturday – art projects

First week of the month – The Reading Café blog

The new schedule starts today.

The exercise I’ll be working on this week is the continuation of Friday’s exercise from Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury:

“I began to run through those lists, pick a noun, and then sit down to write a long prose-poem-essay on it.

“Somewhere along about the middle of the page, or perhaps the second page, the prose poem would turn into a story.”

This, then, is the new exercise:

Go through your list of titles, pick one, write a reflection piece on it, and see where the muse takes you. 

I’ll share my attempt next Monday. Join me!

I’ll end today’s post with a bit more wisdom from Ray:

“What, you ask, does writing teach us?

“First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. […]

“So while our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.

“Second, writing is survival. Any art, any good work, of course is that.

“Not to write, for many of us, is to die.

“We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be entirely won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout. The smallest effort to win means, at the end of each day, a sort of victory.

[…] [And what if we don’t?]

“What would happen is that the world would catch up with you and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both.

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.

“For writing allows just the proper recipes of truth, life, reality as you are able to eat, drink, and digest without hyperventilating and flopping like a dead fish in your bed.”

Perhaps that’s your experience. I know it’s mine.

Talk to you next Monday! 🙂

The You List

Published August 10, 2012 by Elsa Pla

Here’s a fantastic exercise from Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.

“I began to make lists of titles, to put down long lists of nouns. These lists were the provocations, finally, that caused my better stuff to surface. I was feeling my way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of my skull.

“The list went something like this:


“Where am I leading you? Well, if you are a writer, or would hope to be one, similar lists, dredged out of the lopside of your brain, might well help you discover you, even as I flopped around and finally discovered me.”

I love you, Ray!

Here’s the start of my list:


Now you try it! 🙂

I will post again next Monday. Enjoy the weekend!

It’s alive!

Published August 6, 2012 by Elsa Pla

Before today’s exercise, I want to reflect briefly on what I learned about my voice and style after completing last week’s task.

1- I’m drawn to clever, creative, and poetic use of language. That’s why Ray Bradbury is my favorite author. (Here are a couple of gorgeous lines from Something Wicked This Way Comes: “Sunlight minted a last few oak leaves all gold. But the sun vanished, the coins were spent, the air blew gray.” ) One of my goals as a writer is to continue to develop the use of rhetorical devices. I like to have fun with words, and I want that to be evident in my writing.

2- My writer’s voice is sometimes dark and somber and sometimes light and playful. It’s like a coin with two totally different sides.

3- I like well-crafted stories full of meaning and significance and having a happy or hopeful ending. The genres that appeal to me the most are magical realism, dark fantasy, whimsical fantasy, and imagist poetry. These preferences influence my voice and style.

That said, here’s today’s exercise.

Stretching the Imagination (a “what if” exercise):

Look at a picture of a sculpture or painting of an animal, monster, or mythical creature (or better yet, go look at it in person), and imagine that it comes to life. Compose a story scene or a narrative poem describing what would happen.

My attempt:

The Nature of the Beast

(or What One Writer Witnessed from the Second Floor of the Hyatt Regency)

On the last day of the writers’ convention in Denver,

hundreds of master wordsmiths, student hopefuls, and

just plain hope-fulls are crossing 14th and California

in a rush to get back to their homes and computers and

start crafting glorious new poems and tales.

Elated and inspired, they push on,

cell-phones pressed against ears or fired-up hearts,

mindless of traffic, the blinking red hand, and the little white man.

Suddenly, the big blue bear that for three days had been

peering at them through the green glass building

turns and attacks them.

Stomping down the sidewalk,

like an elephant with an agenda,

she squashes the literary pedestrians,

one by one, crunch, crunch, oh, oh,

and then proceeds to eat them,

gulping them down into her hollow belly.

Everyone is too stunned to hide,

including the little person on the orange scooter,

the X-large lady in the yellow sweater,

and Michael C. and his Pulitzer hair,

who mouths, “I see what you mean.”

Now the rest of the writers,

unable to resist the allure of the monster,

the hallucinatory nature of the experience,

and the sacredness of it all,

pour out of the safe, glass building

into the clutches of the giant bear.

Squash, crunch, gulp, oh.

The warm sweet & sour smell of fear and blood and open bodies

seeps through the cool April air.

On and on it goes,

with much screaming and wailing,

with much blood and gore,

until hundreds upon hundreds

(including a few musicians who hadn’t been sure

what they were doing there in the first place)

lay either splattered on the gray and (now) red concrete

or crumpled and compressed inside the big blue beast,

until all writers lay dead, all dead,

except, of course, the one

whose hyper-charged imagination

ignited the tremendous slaughter.

Finally all voices are silenced;

the big blue beast is appeased,

and from the triple mural by Bubba Gump,

Teddy Roosevelt – that good old lover of bears –

laughs and laughs with glee.

Feeding the Muse

Published July 27, 2012 by Elsa Pla

Today’s exercise is about going out to gather thoughts and ideas that will inspire our writing.

My favorite day of the DWP Summer Institute was the day we visited the Denver Art Museum. We spent the morning observing artwork and writing. I found it to be an excellent writing exercise — one I intend to keep practicing as much as possible. Visiting museums and such is a great way to “feed the muse,” as Ray Bradbury used to say. The important thing to remember is to write down your thoughts then and there or as soon as possible.

Here’s some of the stuff I wrote during my visit to the Denver Art Museum:

1- Questions:

What are we searching for when we contemplate a river?

How do we get lost in a world so small?

How do we get found in a world so crowded?

2- Reflections:

-After looking at “Nocturne Fifty” by Keith Hale (a painting of the night sky over a city’s skyline):

If it were not for the velvety darkness, we would not appreciate the jeweled stars.

-After looking at a series of photographs of young women:

I want to see photographs that showcase the beauty of age, of mottled skin and wrinkles, of a life lived—photographs that evoke transcendence.

-Other reflections:

I study the faces in paintings and see questions. I realize that those questions reflect my own.

Details reveal the essence of things.

3- A poem:

Inspired by the painting “Release Your Plans” by Daniel Sprick:

release your plans

from the ligatures of life

the miniature tree

the white sheets

the heavy curtains

the final grin

capture your dreams

before they float away

the rose and the dish

the soap bubble

the motes of dust

collect the broken pieces

and treasure each bit

eggshell, glass, bone

put your glasses on

and see what I mean


Last week I visited the DaVinci Machines Exhibition at the Denver’s 16th Street Mall, and yesterday I went to the Denver Botanic Gardens. I took photographs and jotted down thoughts.

I ended up writing two haiku, each about a significant moment at one of these places:

A violin boy

casts a spell on the street mall.

Who’ll catch the magic?

The noon sun ignites

the colors of the lily.

The petals blind me.

The point is: Leave the house, visit an intellectually stimulating place, and “feed your muse.” 🙂

I’ll post again on Monday. Have a nice weekend!

Mining Your Surroundings

Published July 24, 2012 by Elsa Pla

The Simile

Today’s exercise is a simple and fun way to mine your surroundings for ideas.

First, a lovely and fitting quote by Ray Bradbury:

“Ideas lie everywhere, like apples falling and melting in the grass.”

Exercise: Take a moment to observe your surroundings. Write five unrelated sentences, each containing a creative simile inspired by your observations.

My attempt (I underlined the subject that inspired the simile):

1- The swarm of bees buzzed and circled like questions.

2- The black cat glared at me, her yellow-green eyes glowing like exit signs.

3- The wizard got up, his old bones creaking like a rocking chair.

4- The old woman was full of secrets like an ancient stoppered bottle.

5- Like a baby-blue blanket of velvety fleece, the summer sky stretched over the golden meadow.

I just love to play with words! Now you try it! 🙂

Found Poetry

Published July 5, 2012 by Elsa Pla

Writing found poetry is a lot of fun. “Found poems take existing texts [from any written source and any mode or genre, even poetry] refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. [A found poem is] the literary equivalent of a collage .” –www.poets.org




I was introduced to found poetry at the Denver Writing Project 2012 Summer Institute. Here’s my attempt at creating a found poem (written in honor of my favorite author, Ray Bradbury):

A Ray Bradbury Original

From “A Martian Joined Ray Bradbury and Me for Dinner in Paris” by Henry Fountain, New York Times, Tuesday, June 12, 2012.

He was a masterly writer,

a bit dressier than most

and so passionate about the subject.

That, it turned out, was no obstacle.

He wrote at least a thousand words a day,

and the wine kept coming.

A prolific signer of autographs,

funny, effusive, and genuinely friendly,

he carried around some felt-tip markers

just for that purpose.

So it didn’t really surprise me

when he knocked over his wine glass

on the white linen of the small square table

in a bistro on the Left Bank.

“My! That looks like a Martian!” he shouted

and opened his sport coat,

revealing five felt tips of different colors

lined up neatly in the inside pocket.

He added a couple of antennas

to the purple stain seeping across the tablecloth

and an alien face appeared—

A Martian in Paris.

He signed it and added the date for good measure.

It didn’t really surprise me

when a month or so later, I stopped at the bistro

and there was the tablecloth,

prominently framed on a wall

like a canvas from Picasso.