In considering “playing with Words,” I have to consider what play means.

When described in concrete terms, play looks different to different people.

For example, one child likes to put on a cape and belt, and stuff a wooden sword and a plastic vile with an imaginary potion into her belt. She next jumps about, swinging her sword and running up and down the stairs. When asked what she is doing, she may say, “I’m fighting orcs!”

Another child enjoys sitting quietly with a massive sheet of blank paper. It is butcher paper–a light brown shade, and it unfurls from a roll. At his elbows are markers, crayons, chalk, and sticks of charcoal. The girl thinks he is utterly boring and she knocks against the table as she rushes past, upsetting the supplies onto the floor.

The artist quietly picks them up, fetches a cup to corral the supplies. He also fetches tape and attaches his paper to the wall, then welcomes her to “play,” too. The girl is interested because she can move around while she adds to the creation. They are “playing” together, or at least at the same time using the same piece of paper. He has found a way to include her. She has found a way to participate. If the creation is never sold or displayed in a gallery, they will still have played and enjoyed it

In flipping through a textbook recently, I came to this definition: “Play is characterized by the absence of fear. We can describe play as pleasant or fun and as boring or a waste of time.” (1)

I love the idea that play is devoid of fear. Different sorts of play will appeal to different sorts of people which is why it may be enjoyable and fun to one, but seem to be “boring or a waste of time” to someone else.

As a writer, when I play with words, I write primarily to please myself. When I write as play, it is fun and satisfying even if the result is never displayed publicly or published, and it can never be boring or a waste of time. At least not to me. I do not fear correction from a professor who has their own ideas about what I should be writing, and I do not fear rejection from an editor of a publishing house or publication. I am not asking for their approval. This is playing.

Write without fear– write as play.


Install a chalkboard, whiteboard, blackboard, or a framed sign for magnetic letters or words. Play around with words.

I have blue and white magnetic words on our black fridge. My family creates short poems or silly sayings. If nothing else, it brings a smile. My daughter has a small light-box which came with letters. We occasionally change what is says. (2)

Would the above sentence work if it said “Stay close to people who feel like a cloudy day”? What about “Stay close to people who smell like toffee”? What about “Look for frogs who smell like liquorice”?

However you play with words, try unlikely combinations and enjoy the result.

  1. Priest, Simon, PhD. and Gass, Michael, PhD. Effective Leadership in Adventure Programming. University of New Hampshire press. 2005.
  2. Images – Unsplash.
P.S. - You may find errors on my blog posts since I do this for fun, not grades. 🙂

Naming Characters & Plot in Summer North Coming

There are several books which I have read a gazillion times to my children that did not have named characters. A few examples are: Goodnight Moon, Jamberry, and several Dr. Suess books, like Go Dog Go.

Naming in most stories is important. Names hold meaning as far as origin of name, connotations of name, and social understanding of a name. A whole character may be summed up with their name, such as The Grinch.

In Summer North Coming, Winter North Coming, I chose not to name the characters. In a story without named characters, the story becomes universal and any child may relate to the story.

Without names, the story is about the location, the movement, activity, the seasons, the experience, the overall tone and mood of the story.

What about plot?

The plot in this book is not typical. It doesn’t have a stated story problem, or a definitive conclusion. However, the story has the unstated problem of bored children, not knowing what to do. So, the answer is to get outside and do something fun in nature! Or, have some family and friends over for a special occasion. Rather than a sharp ending, the story is cyclical just like the seasons and years in life. The conclusion states off-camera that we will continue to have fun and thrive, no matter what the circumstances in life.

With a poetic story like Summer North Coming, lyricism is at the forefront. The story can almost be sung. Additionally, the story sets-up the expectation that when summer comes, these are the things we will do. In the second half of the book, Winter North Coming enfolds the same style, rhyme scheme, and lyricism, which sets up the reader to anticipate all the fun things to experience during the winter.

In this story, the focus is not on the naming of people, but on pulling the reader outside of self to experience the brilliance of nature, the joy of gatherings, and the beauty of language in poetic form. That is a satisfying conclusion in what can be an uncertain world.

photo credit: Eugene Golovesov
Book Event, family fun, Family Read-Alouds, Literature, Poetry, story, Writing Life

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 Summer North Coming  read & signed by the author

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