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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #359

It’s Time for a Vacation

We are long overdue, my wife and I, so this week we are going away for four days, starting tomorrow, off to a town called Leavenworth in our state, a Bavarian-themed tourist town. It’s been ten years and we are finally going to leave the homestead and do the tourist thing.

I mention that because I might be a bit slow about responding to comments. I don’t plan on taking a computer with me so I apologize, in advance, for responding so slowly.

And, with that, it’s time for the Mail to be delivered.

The Mail Room!

The Mail Room!

More on Spoken Word Poetry

From Linda: “I've never tried to write poetry, but I wonder if spoken word poetry is like entertaining children by reading a story or doing voice-overs for radio add? Sometimes the female voice does not sound pleasing in a recording. Lowering the pitch, bringing it down half an octave can help (unless you naturally have a deeper voice).”

Linda, I think many of the same problems are true when comparing spoken word poetry with reading a children’s story, or really any other spoken recording. Preparation is a key. Memorization would be very helpful. Practice, practice, and more practice. Very few people are “gifted” enough to do a great recording in one take, no matter what it is they are recording.

Thanks for mentioning that!

Missing Emotions

From Mari: “I read a short story you had written a few years back, I don’t remember the name of it, but it was about two homeless people, one a soldier, the other a woman, and they meet each other and start traveling across the country with each other, and I swear I was weeping after the first chapter. How do you do that? How do you tap into emotions like that, put them into words, words which make other people emotional? I don’t get it!”

Well, Mari, thank you so much! I know the story you are talking about, but I’m having a hard time remembering the name of it . . . “The Sun Never Rises” was the name of it, and I really enjoyed writing that novella, and I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

How to tap into the emotions of readers? I tap into my own emotions. I remember the tough times. I remember the gut-wrenching feeling of hopelessness. Been there, done that, cried myself to sleep at night, woke up knowing my life was a dead-end, hope taking the morning train to nowhere, the hours of the day dragging on in miserable slowness, taunting me, laughing at me . . . been there, done that, ain’t going back, thank you very much.

Tap into your own emotions. Don’t be afraid to open up to your readers. Don’t be afraid to show your humanity. If you can adequately describe how you felt in love, or hopeless, or whatever, your description will tap into the same emotions of your readers.

Be very specific with word choice. Cliches are useless and highly-overrated. Find the perfect word or phrase which describes what you are feeling.

Make your characters likeable. Make them someone your readers would like to meet. Make them someone your readers can invest in emotionally. Make them real!

That’s all I’ve got for you on that question. Good luck! Email me if you have more questions about that and I’ll try to walk you through it.

Describe the Barn Scene

I issued a minor challenge last week, and three of our community took up that challenge. I posted the photo you see here, and asked writers to write a description of the scene. This is what we have to marvel at.

From Peggy:

The rounded silo crowning at one end of the steep-sloped, weathered, cinnamon-colored barn roof points towards the cloudless, multi-hued sapphire sky. Surrounding that gated scene, with another farm building in the near distance, is a wild frenzy of weeds growing with abandon.

From Brenda:

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This dilapidated, wooden red barn sits in an empty field just like her lonely memories of yesterday.

As she stirs in an old rocking chair, forgotten and lost down a lonely path."

And From Sha: As if regurgitated from the belly of the Devil's Lair, the ancient barn loomed over the landscape emitting a horrific stench as its walls pulsated with the breath of pure evil. What started out as a leisurely trek on a breezy Spring day was about to turn into a nightmare.

I am always in awe of the talent found on HP. Even though the HP staff doesn’t always seem supportive, know that you all have a big fan in me. I think you are all the cat’s meow!

The Barn Scene

The Barn Scene

How About a Mini Challenge?

Right here, right now, this photo, write a description of it, or a scene based on it, using ONLY fifty words total. Respond to the challenge in the comments, or email them to me at

Describe this scene

Describe this scene

More on Song Lyrics

From Lydia: “Last week you shared with us some of your favorite lyrics from Billy Joel, and pointed out some of your favorite lines. You mentioned that subtle changes in word choice can be so important. Do you have any other examples from songs we all might know?”

Oh yes, Lydia, I’ve got about a million other examples. LOL

This from Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender”

I'm gonna find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we'll fill in the missing colors
In each other's paint-by-number dreams

Incredible! Instead of saying “we will fulfill each other,” he writes “we will fill in the colors in each other’s paint-by-number dreams.” That, my friends, is exquisite writing.

Or this simile, from Joni Mitchell’s “A Case Of You,” about a troubling love:

Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet
Oh, I could drink a case of you, darling
And I would still be on my feet

Show, don’t tell, is this lesson for this day.

Goodbye for Four Days

A very short Mailbag this week, but that’s fine. We are all busy, we all have things to do, and that’s just the real of it. Have a great week. Remember, if you have questions for the Mailbag, include them in the comment below, or email them to me at

Thanks, all of you, and remember to do all things with love this week.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 10, 2021:

I'm really happy to hear that, MG. That was the purpose of this series all along, to help each other. Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 10, 2021:

Lora, I am so sorry for your loss. My childhood dog was my best friend for seventeen years. I know that pain all too well. Hugs coming your way, my friend. I hope the sun shines on you and lifts the depression soon.

Thank you for taking up the challenge. I love it! Short and powerful!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on May 10, 2021:

Bill, another of your fine I feel fine write ups which I almost missed. Your real mail bag has always something interesting for me and I really love reading it frankly it also gives me a lot of ideas.

Lora Hollings on May 10, 2021:

Hi Bill, I loved your mailbag this week. I hope that you and Bev had a wonderful vacation! It has been a difficult time for me as my dearest friend has passed on; my little terrier, Herbie, who I had for 16 yrs and was just like a son to me. It really bummed me out for the last year and a half, especially with all the restrictions of covid too.These two things put me in a state of deep depression.

Anyway, I decided to participate in your challenge. This is what I came up with: In the waters of an ancient stream, I see a reflection of you in me.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 09, 2021:

Thank you, Denise! We had a great time. I hope that computer of yours is working properly soon.

The Sounds of Silence....brilliant song lyrics...I could name ten of their songs which have superb lyrics. Talent shows no matter the medium, don't you think?

Take care, my friend, and blessings always.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 09, 2021:

Thank you, my friend! We had a wonderful time. It's exactly what we both needed. Thank you for asking!

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on May 08, 2021:

My computer has been (and still is) in the shop for repair so I've been "away" for the week as well. Not as fun a vacation as yours obviously is but there you are. Short or not, it's a good mail bag. I think I will spend the day pondering the description of the photo you posted. I'm not quick with witty words like you great writers are, but I should be able to eventually come up with something.

As a side note, my youth was filled with either Mom's classical music (Mozart, Brahms, or Rimsky-Korsakov) or Dad's Western (Sons of the Pioneers, Marty Robbins). I wasn't allowed to listen to popular music of the day, rock, or ballads, etc. My first exposure to contemporary music was when our English teach played Simon and Garfunkel's Sound of Silence. He thought it was great poetry and I was very impressed. I still think about that first time hearing it in a high school classroom. That's great poetry!



EK Jadoon from Abbottabad Pakistan on May 08, 2021:

Welcome back, Bill. How was your vacations?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2021:

Thank you, Venkatachari M! Our journey was refreshing and restful.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2021:

Thank you, Linda! We had a marvelous time!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2021:

Sha, I wrote not one word in four days. That might be a record for me. Now I'm ready to go.

Happy Mother's Day, dear friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2021:

Thank you, Devika! We had a wonderful time and I am refreshed, as is Bev.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2021:

Thank you, MIebakagh! Surfing we did not do, but we spent quite a bit of time in the hot tub. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2021:

Well come on, Alyssa! Where's your response to the mini challenge???? lol Thank you and Happy Mother's Day.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2021:

Well done on the challenge, Brenda. I was quite certain you would weigh in with your own response. Thanks for always being here.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2021:

Thank you, Floursish! I might do an article on the history of the town, and how it turned into a Bavarian-style village. It's a fascinating history about truly motivated and visionary people.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2021:

Thank you, Peggy! I've been there maybe ten times, and it hasn't changed at all. It was lacking tourists when we were there, that's for sure. People are evidently still hesitant to travel with COVID. We got great service for sure.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2021:

Thanks, Liz! I don't know why some articles disappear in the feed. I think HP has some fine-tuning to do with their site. As for the vacation, it was wonderful, thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 08, 2021:

Thank you, Pamela. We had a wonderful time. It was just what the "doctor ordered," total peace and relaxation.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on May 05, 2021:

Wish you both a happy journey, Bill.

This mailbag is very interesting with those "Barn" descriptions and beautiful poetical songs/lines. I enjoyed it all.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 04, 2021:

Thank you for creating an interesting and enjoyable article, Bill. I hope you have a great vacation.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 04, 2021:

I'm thrilled to hear you and Bev are finally taking a vacation, Bill! Will you actually be able to not write for four days? You can do it! I have faith in you, my friend.

Take lots of pics tho, and write about your trip when you get back.

Enjoy yourselves!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 04, 2021:

Wow! A break sounds great. Enjoy! You should be refreshed for a another writeup. Your work is outstanding! Informative and for all writers.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 04, 2021:

You got it right...and a pass mark from me. Bill can go surfing with his queen!

Alyssa from Ohio on May 03, 2021:

oooo a little mini challenge! I love it! I hope you and Bev enjoy your much-deserved time away. :)

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on May 03, 2021:


Have a fantastic vacation!

I think you two deserve it.

I was hapoy to read more about spoken word poetry. I am still trying to get it down.

Thanks for including my response to your challenge.

Here is one for your picture today.

I remember feeling so alive and energized as walked the trail in the wee hours of the morning. The time my dad thought was prime for baiting a hook.

The smell of damp moss lingering in the air watching as Dad untangled the fishing line I feed to the tree.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Thank you Mary! I hope you have a wonderful week, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Thank you Chitrangada Sharan! I am certainly looking forward to getting out of town for a few days.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Thank you very much, Miebakagh! I'm sure we will have a wonderful time, my friend.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 03, 2021:

You should do a travel article while you’re there, Bill. Enjoy your vacation! I liked the variety of skilled and poetic responses to your mini-challenge.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 03, 2021:

Enjoy your time spent in Leavenworth. We only spent one day there many years ago. You will think that you are in a European village. I'll look forward to your report of your short getaway vacation. Maggie and Toby will miss the two of you!

Liz Westwood from UK on May 03, 2021:

This article took some finding. I was waiting for it to pop up on my notifications, but it didn't. I tracked it down on my Hubfeed. I long for the good old days when commenting was so much easier.

As ever, you have put together an interesting selection of discussion items. From spoken word poetry, tips on how to put emotions into writing, song lyrics and picture challenges. You have got your own weekly writing workshop/magazine going here.

I hope you have a great vacation. You certainly deserve it.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 03, 2021:

This mailbag might have been shorter than usual, but it was very interesting.` I am glad I could find this mailbag in my Feed as that is often not the case. I do not remember seeing your challenge photo either.

I really enjoyed reading the 3 uniquely different descriptions of the picture. Linda's question and your answer was very interesting as well. I am glad to hear you and Bev are taking a vacation. I hope you both have a wonderful time, Bill.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 03, 2021:

Bill, I am so happy for you and Bev. Enjoy your vacation and continue to make precious memories.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on May 03, 2021:

Hello Bill!

Happy Monday! I am really very happy to know that you both are going for a vacation, which was long overdue! I wish you both a happy journey, happy stay and happiness always!

Many takeaways from this edition of the mailbag! Yes, a successful writer makes the readers cry, laugh, and all that! Your suggestions are noted carefully!

Thank you for sharing and have an enjoyable and relaxed week!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 03, 2021:

Bill, this is a short read. I understand you're saving time to prepare for the holiday. When the day comes enjoy the beach.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Thank you Misbah! I appreciate your kind words and best wishes. Have a wonderful week!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Business as usual, Linda, today. We leave tomorrow morning, and it takes me all of ten minutes to pack for four days. lol "See you" this weekend! Enjoy your week!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on May 03, 2021:

Bill I sincerely hope that you are NOT reading this moments after I hit the "submit comment" button. Thank you for again and again sharing the creative process with us. I pray you and Bev have safe travels and a much well-deserved rest. Fill your pockets with sunshine over there and bring back a bit for us over here west of the hump.

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on May 03, 2021:

Happy Monday Mr. Bill. Once again, it's a happy mailbag.

It's always good to take a break and give some time to yourself and your loved ones. You have made a good decision. I hope to see you back very soon with an energetic smile on your face. I wish you the very best on your vacation.

Blessings always

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Ann, thank you for the wonderful entry on the challenge. As always, your work is a pure pleasure to read.

As for vacations, I think most Americans would agree that four days is not really a vacation, but when you haven't had one in ten years, any port in the storm, you know? :)

I will catch you down the road next week. Thank you, as always, for your friendship and your mentoring.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Thank you Dora! I am sure we will have a wonderful time. I know I'm going to love using the hot tub.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Thank you, John! We will have a blast on our mini vacation, as will the dogs. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Mr. Happy, I hear ya! Four days was all my wife could manage away from her job. Struggling for the legal tender. My friend, I did that for decades. I'm done with it now. It's time to enjoy life.

Peace to you, my friend. See you next week!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Thank you so much, Gyanendra! I appreciate your caring and kind words. Blessings to you always!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Vicki, I loved your response. Excellent! Thanks for giving it a try!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Oh my, Bill, I can't believe you never stopped at Leavenworth during your travels. You have to do that next time, buddy.

Have a safe trip to Florida!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Thank you, Mary, for the well-wishes and for the question. I'll save your question for the next Mail Bag but yes, I do think there will be an increase in audio books.

Ann Carr from SW England on May 03, 2021:

Have a great four-day break, bill! You're wise not to take a computer with you. They're difficult to ignore if they're right there!

That scene: 'Pale willow behind verdant blades, mirrored in cool ripples of a sleepy stream, refreshes the disturbed soul, mops the brow, lulls the breaking heart. Grey shale on blue, a dappled dog loping towards its destination, describes images of what's to come, destination's reward or the ruin of the perfect plan.'

I enjoyed doing that! I somehow missed the barn challenge, sorry. No idea why or how!

Emotions are difficult to do but you're so right that you have to draw upon your own experience. So does that mean that many people, younger ones, have difficulty doing that? I guess so, unless you've had the misfortune to have had a terrible childhood in one way or another.

Another great mailbag. With reference to Mr Happy, 'Going away for a few days' (or four) is exactly what I'd say. I'm European and it's the equivalent of 'just for a short break' really. A holiday, or vacation, to me means a longer time. Funny how language is interpreted, isn't it? It shows our individuality which is a good thing.

Enjoy your week, bill! Have a breeze!


Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 03, 2021:

Congratulations on your decision to take a vacation. For four days, you get some extra time to focus on yourselves and on each other. Be refreshed!

Thanks for sharing yourself under Missing Emotions. As always, I appreciate all your answers.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on May 03, 2021:

Glad I caught the mailbag in time. Great examples of fine writing in those songs by Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell. Thanks for sharing those. Wonderful responses to you photo challenge too. I hope you and Bev have a wonderful time away.

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on May 03, 2021:

"we are going away for four days" - I do not mean to be harshly judgemental here but that's such an American thing to say: going on vacation for four days. I'm European first and so, I'd say: take a couple of weeks at least, maybe a month. Do You live to work? Haha, who am I kidding? Yes, most Americans in my opinion do live to work.

Never heard of a "novella" so, thank You for that. I can now go back to bed even though it is just 10:30 am. The idea being that every day I need to learn something new. Having covered that with your help, my day is done. Haha!! ; )

"been there, done that" - That's basically how I like to write. I just put experiences on paper. If the experience had suspense, or an outburst of emotions, that gets recorded. Otherwise, I'm not going to write a story about me sitting with my fishing rod in water for six hours, catching nothing. If we live a fully engaged life and have rich experiences, we can just note those down and there You go: a book, or a story.

"Be very specific with word choice." - So very important!!

"Make them someone your readers would like to meet." - That's where I stop. I portray experiences and it's up to the reader to decide what they think about the experience. I do no try to make the reader like anything in my stories. If one likes the truth, that's fine, if they do not that's fine again. Haha!!

Here's a comment about that "Pretender" song (thanks for sharing it, never heard it before):

"I was a teenager in the 70's and didn't really understand 'The Pretender'. As I'm staring 60 it's so apparent. I've spent my whole adult life struggling for the 'legal tender'. And for what?"

All the very best to You and La Familia! Do make the most of your tiny vacation!! : )

gyanendra mocktan from Kathmandu,Nepal on May 03, 2021:

Wish you and your dearest life partner a fabulous four days fill with joy and happiness for being together for years and years. May God add more years with abundunce of love and care.

Thank you.

Vicki Carroll on May 03, 2021:

Challenge Response:

Thick brush along the still river made the bank unnavigable. It was as wild and untamed as a feral horse, yet it called to me. A perfect mirror image of the earth lay before me on the water’s face like a freshly painted Monet. I moved not but I was moved.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on May 03, 2021:

A vacation, what’s that? Good for you for taking a well-deserved break. We are off to Florida again on Wednesday. Not really a vacation as it’s to care for my mother in-law. But, it will be a break from the norm. Have a great time in Leavenworth, we have never made it out there so will look forward to your experience.

Mary Wickison from USA on May 03, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I hope the two of you have a wonderful break.

The variation in the barn photo description is fascinating.

Interesting question from Linda. I do wonder if the rise in self publishing will also lead to more authors doing their own audio books. What are your thoughts on that?

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