Thursday, June 14, 2007

Guest in Progress: Bonnie Neubauer

I met Bonnie Neubauer very briefly on the last evening of the Sea Glass Writer's Conference last spring. We chatted in front of an elevator for approximately ten minutes, but in that short time I felt as though I had met someone who—literally—was filled with ideas. Bonnie crackled with energy and enthusiasm. I had heard about her all day long from various satisfied conference participants: she was running creative, exercise-filled get-togethers that got everyone revved up for writing. It’s no wonder that Writer’s Digest is going to publish a second book of her writing exercises.

And here’s where you come in. She has been kind enough to offer us a sample exercise, one she’s considering including in the new book. So try it out and let her know what you think. You can reach her at And, if you’re looking for more exercises, you can buy her great book Write-Brain Workbook, or check her website. She’ll definitely get your creative juices flowing! Here's her challenge for today:

Any Guinea Pigs Out There?

I am a lover of word games, an avid player of solitaire, and a writer who enjoys a thought-provoking, warm-up creative writing exercise. I figure there must be at least a few other writers out there who share this handful of interests. With them in mind (okay, I confess, with myself in mind) I created a writing exercise that I have titled Solitaire, Anyone? I’ve tried it a couple times and have found it challenging, fun, and even a bit addicting.

I am wondering if any readers of this blog might be willing to be guinea pigs and give this new, hot off the presses exercise a try. It will only take ten minutes of your valuable time and, as a bonus, will prime your pen for the rest of the day. If you like this exercise, please let me know ( and I will include it in my second book of writing exercises titled Take Ten that I just sold to Writer’s Digest. If you don’t like this combo word game/solitaire challenge/writing exercise, or have a suggestion on how to make it more to your liking, please let me know that, too.

Here goes: Solitaire, Anyone?

In this ten minute free-writing exercise, your goal is to use as many words as possible that contain a given pair of letters - while making sure you write something that makes sense. Each time you write a word containing the given letter-pair, you score 1 point. Try to amass as many points as possible.

Of course there’s a catch – as is always the case in word games. You can only score a word once. If, for example, you are using the letter-pair US, you would score 1 point the first time you use the word us and no points every time thereafter that you write the word us. Variations such as plurals and past tense are all considered new words and you may score them the first time you use them. Proper nouns and acronyms also count, so Susan and USA would each net you 1 point each. Words that use the pair more than once get 10 points. To keep score, either underline or circle these words as you write them (which takes away from your allotted time) or go back after you’re done writing and hunt for all the letter-pair words at the end (my preference). Then add up your score.

An example of words using the letter-pair UR that would all score 1 point in your ten minute writing: purple, urgent, urgently, urology, urologist, occur, occurs, occurred, occurring, URL, Uruguay.

Now pick a number between 1 and 10. Write the number or on top of the page so that next time you do this exercise, you will know to pick another number. Look for your number below and next to it you will find the letter-pair that you have to include in as many words as possible in your writing.

1. OR
2. UP
3. AR
4. IR
5. UR
6. AP
7. EP
8. IP
9. OP
10. UD

Set a timer for ten minutes….

Start your writing with the phrase, Like most lovers of…

Write as fast as you can, trying to use as many words that contain your letter-pair as possible, while making sure your writing makes sense! Good luck! ~~Bonnie Neubauer

About: Bonnie Neubauer is the author of Write-Brain Workbook, 366 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing and the forthcoming follow-up book of ten hundred creative writing exercises titled Take Ten. She is also the creator of Story Spinner, a handheld tool/toy for writers that generates millions of creative writing exercises. There are lots of freebies for writers on her website, such as Story Spinner Online which generates gazillions of creative writing exercises at the click of a mouse button. Bonnie runs playful, funny, and motivational writing workshops up and down the East Coast. In addition to writing, Bonnie also loves inventing games and creative ways to make every day fun. Currently in-progress are two books: Picnics for Romantics where couples experience that 'early dating' feeling again, and Punny Costumes, no-sew costumes based on word plays that elicit groans rather than shrieks. You can try on both of these books for free at


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.