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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Launching Atlantis, May 2010

A wonderful writing coach, Paula LaRocque, publishes a remarkable blog where she encourages three attributes of good writing: accuracy, brevity, and clarity.

Lucky enough to participate in a meeting where Paula was the guest speaker, I learned about her “Five Letter Exercise” for writers. Here’s how you do it.
  • Pick a topic that you’ll discuss in one or two paragraphs.
  • Make sure the story has an actor and that the actor actually does something.
  • Use words that have no more than five letters, each.

Also lucky enough to witness one of the last shuttle launches conducted by NASA, I did the Five Letter Exercise on the topic of the launch. Here, below, is the result. 
I double-dog-dare you to do this exercise, yourself. 
You’ll be happily surprised by what you write.

The crowd mills like ants with one mind. In the midst, we find our spot on the grass and stake it out. Down go bags, shoes, and hats to nail it “ours.” Too wound up to eat, we still reach for a snack. We watch the huge clock, tall as a man, and wish to push the hands, to move the count from 10 to zero. Time seems to sleep, while I could never be more awake.

Then we begin. “O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave,” we renew our vow to the flag. Past the dull blue water, the tower still holds the bird, but only just. Tons of steam hiss and find their voice. The voice rises to a roar, and in a slow climb the bird pulls free of the tower. Now, with a burst, she flies! Waves of noise pound us, while my heart wants to leap from my body and fly, too. Tears flow. Arms hug. No stiff poses, today, for the image that will, for all my life, burn in my head. 

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