When you spend several days sitting in a hospital room, you look for interesting reading material. I found the 2014 OLD FARMER’S ALMANAC. Talk about an education!
If you’re interested in the weather forecasts for 16 regions of the United States (with apologies to our non-American friends), or information about the sun, moon, stars, and planets, or articles on beeswax candles and natural pest control, The Almanac is your go-to publication.
Here’s some quaint gardening advice reprinted from 1892 folklore.
1) To make a plant grow, spit into the hole you have dug for it.
2) Never plant anything on the 31st of any month.
3) Plant corn after the first woodpecker appears.
4) Flax will grow tall if you show it your buttocks.
5) It’s time to plant corn when your wife comes to bed naked.
At our Colorado Springs altitude of 6,100 feet, it’s risky to plant anything before Mother’s Day…even if you show the crop your buttocks or come to bed naked. If you decide you’d rather go fishing, here’s how to know if it’s a good time: watch cows. If they’re up feeding, fishing is good. If they’re down resting, don’t bother.
If the folklore printed in the Almanac isn’t strange enough for you, maybe this writing contest will do the trick. THE WRITER MAGAZINE and Gotham Writers Workshops are sponsoring a “Tell It Strange” Essay & Story Contest.
Annie Proulx won the Pulitzer Prize for THE SHIPPING NEWS, and wrote other highly successful novels, including CLOSE RANGE and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Writers should respond to one of Proulx’s quotes, using it as a prompt to get you motivated.
“We’re all strange inside. We learn how to disguise our differences as we grow up.” ~ this is from THE SHIPPING NEWS. “There’s something wrong with everybody and it’s up to you to know what you can handle.” is from CLOSE RANGE.
If either of these prompts inspires a strange story or essay idea, the contest deadline is May 31, 2014. Prizes are $1,000, $500, $250. You can submit online, and WRITERS FROM EVERYWHERE are invited to submit, as long as you’re not affiliates of THE WRITER or GOTHAM WRITERS. 1,000 words max. For full details go to
Spitting in holes might be great planting practice. Writing contests are definitely great writing practice. You can enter the contest; you can write for the contest but instead of entering it, submit it to an anthology, a magazine, an online publication. Making yourself think, plan, write, edit and meet the deadline is excellent writing discipline. Can’t think of a “strange” writing idea? Really? Go back and read #4 and #5 above. Or just pay attention to what’s going on around you. The world is strange enough to give you plenty of writing ideas.