Week Five: MFA Creative Writing Tips

Tuesday’s Writing Tips

What’s Free About Free Verse?

We are working on free verse, line length and risk this week. Ask yourself:

  1. How do the lines work?
  2. How do they begin?
  3. How and where do they stop?

Notice the word that sits on the end of each line. These words catch your eye…and tell your story.

Good poems are, on some level, a mystery. Where a line is broken creates part of the beauty and magic of the poem.

Since I am working on haiku, I am going to try and deviate from the 5-7-5 structure and experiment with line length and punctuation or lack of it.

Fear Haiku

are you afraid?
do your thoughts send shivers
she walks alone

This week, you may like to explore another poet. Pick one to focus on and examine their line length and free verse. Take a risk! Keep writing, reading and growing.

Most of the thoughts above are from my trusty Portable MFA. I hope you are finding some of Tuesday’s tips to be beneficial.

If you would like to look back on the last few weeks, here are the links:

  1. Week One
  2. Week Two
  3. Week Three
  4. Week Four

Have you explored new ways of writing poetry? I encourage you to deviate from your standard poems. 

Have a great Tuesday!


An Autumnal Sunset

I have been spending a lot of time outside because this happens to be my favorite time of year. And, I am trying to enjoy the gorgeous weather we are having before the snow flies, or the cold, dark days set in.

While on a run two nights ago, the sun was setting in the west, but rain clouds had settled in the east. It made for an intense sunset. Rather than letting the pictures explain, I wanted to Haiku this event. Yes, I just used Haiku as a verb…seemed appropriate.

An Autumn Sunset

Autumn sunset with cotton candy clouds

Intense autumn hues,
clouds stretching from west to east—
Whispy cotton candy.

If you noticed, I strayed from 5-7-5. In the last line I used six syllables—artistic license. I don’t stray from the rules of haiku often, but it was appropriate today.


MFA in Creative Writing

I picked up a book called The Portable MFA in Creative Writing about a year ago. I have been to school for several things. I have a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree and I also studied at an art school, but didn’t receive a certification. Anyway, I love school, but at this point in my life I simply cannot go back to school for one reason or another. Let’s just say money.

I have read all sections except for the poetry section. I started this yesterday and I wanted to share a few notes. It may seem obvious, but for those of us who are not only poetry writers, but writers of other genres, this tidbit is something to remember when searching for the perfect word(s).

“A good poem makes us sit up and take notice. A short story or novel may take us on a roller coaster of highs and lows, but is never as immediate as a poem simply because we expect to live in the world of the novel for the long haul. We settle in. We meander through.

In a poem every word counts, no matter how small, how seemingly insignificant. There is no filler in a poem, no transitional passage that works mainly to orient the reader to a shift in time or a particular setting.” Page 198

I’ll share more thoughts from my reading at a later date.

Does anyone have an MFA in Creative Writing? Was it worth the time and money?






Are You Ready to Publish a Book?

Wherever you are in the writing process, I have a podcast that may be of interest to you.

Several weeks ago, after I exhausted my interest in Ted Talks, I started searching for a podcast relevant to writers.

My search on itunes led me to the podcast produced by Ani Chibukhchyan from Armenia, she goes by the pen name Ani Alexander. Ani interviews authors who have been through the process of writing and self-publishing books. Her interviews include topics about the writing process in general, what inspires writers, book covers, editors, pricing the book, self-publishing books on Amazon and many other topics.

These podcasts are a wealth of information and I recommend any author at any stage to visit her podcast.

Ani Alexander is a best selling author, podcaster and storyteller. Her podcast is Write 2B Read.

Tell me what you think about the podcast Write 2B Read and Ani Alexander.


The Beauty in Whitewater State Park

Friday was a productive day. And though I haven’t had time to post any haiku poems in the last couple of days, I am ready to make up for lost time.

I left work at 1:30 on Friday and went to Cabin Coffee. I had a bowl of soup for lunch and wrote an article from the event I covered Thursday evening at the local elementary school. The event was Bingo for books. There were about 40 elementary school students with their families playing Bingo. The winners of Bingo were able to select a book of their choice. It was refreshing to see little bookworms so excited about reading.

I finished the article and cut lines for the photos and sent them to my editor. After a working lunch (which is how I spend most lunches) I went home and started a painting. I have another Wine & Canvas event coming up in October. Actually, I have two in October, one the first weekend in November and another one on December 12th. I finished the background of one of the paintings and decided a hike would be the perfect way to round out the day.

Since Whitewater State Park is close in proximity (and it’s gorgeous this time of year), I decided to hike the Dakota Trail. It was a beautiful fall afternoon. I wore a long sleeve shirt, but soon realized it was unnecessary.

The Beauty in Whitewater State ParkTHe Dakota Trail

The Beauty in Whitewater State Park

Although, the treetops were fiery shades of orange, red and yellow, there were already many leaves that were asleep on the trail. The curled leaves crackled and crunched beneath my feet and every so often there was one sad green leaf that didn’t have the opportunity to turn a warm golden or fiery red color.

The Beauty in Whitewater State Park

Overlook on the Dakota Trail

I wound my way up the rocky cliffs and followed many stairways, some as steep as ladders. The chipmunks put me to shame. Those critters scurried up the steep staircase like their tail was on fire. When I arrived at the top, I couldn’t resist taking more photos of fall foliage.

I took the shortest loop because it was after 5 p.m. I didn’t know how long the hike would take, plus I wanted to go to the Marnach house. The hike to the Marnach House was about 45 minutes round trip.

The Marnach House was my final destination. This building has been restored as a monument and tribute to all Luxembourg pioneer immigrants by the Luxembourg Heritage Society of America.

It was first built in 1857 by John and Nicholas Marnach. They were immigrants from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It’s masonry and architecture are typical of small Luxembourg farms of the nineteenth century.

Dakota trail at Whitewater State Park

And now, for the Haiku Challenge

The Beauty in Whitewater State Park Day 25: Haiku Challenge

Writhing snake-like roots
intertwined with earth and rock—
creeping and crawling.

Fall trees starting to turn colors

Day 26: Haiku Challenge

Minnesota hills
and the warm treetops embrace.
Good night setting sun.

The Dakota trail overlooking whitewater creek.

Day 27: Haiku Challenge

Like a bird soaring
high above the river, I
look, listen and breathe.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

How did you spend your Saturday?




The Tree of Life at Wine & Canvas

Happy Monday! (Is there such a thing?)

Friday, September 19th marked the second Wine & Canvas Event. Once again we had a great turn out. There were 12 spots that sold out within a week of the class being advertised. We even allowed two more to join because of the popularity.

Denise and I had everything set up by about 6:15 and had a little time to catch our breath. The painting we completed was the Tree of Life.

We painted the Tree of Life for Wine and Canvas


Everything is set up and we are ready for Wine & Canvas

Everyone arrived around 6:30 p.m. They poured their wine and hand-picked some of the delectable cheese and crackers Denise had purchased for the event. There was cranberry cheese and honey cheese and more…

For the painting, the background was a mixture of warm and cool color swirls, and once again, all the paintings were unique.

We started by painting cool colored circles mixing greens, blues and purples.

We started creating cool colored circles.


Wine & Canvas paints a tree...creating cool colored circles Wine & Canvas paints a tree...creating cool colored circles Wine & Canvas paints a tree...creating cool colored circles

Then, we moved on and painted the upper half of the canvas with warm colors—reds, yellows and oranges. After the upper half was completed, we painted our landscape and trees.

Wine & Canvas paints a tree and landscape

Wine & Canvas paints a tree Wine & Canvas paints a tree

And the finished product…

Wine & Canvas paints a tree Wine & Canvas paints a tree Wine & Canvas paints a tree Wine & Canvas paints a tree

Wine & Canvas paints a tree

The next painting coming up in October is Make a Wish! Stay tuned for details.

And now for the haiku challenge.

Day 22: Haiku Challenge

Blended colors pose
in the background while The Tree
of Life grows roots.

Have you been to a Wine & Canvas event?




The Place I Call Home

Last week, I offered a look inside of How It All Started for me as a writer. I wanted to give you a few writing samples that helped me obtain my first freelance writing assignment for Rochester Women Magazine.

This piece was written after a long, unhappy road in Corporate America. I was about to leave for South Korea to teach English hoping I would find what I was looking for. I spent a few weeks at home with my family prior to leaving the country. I wrote this one for my dad. Popps if you’re reading this, I love you. (note: I kept my last name under the name it was when I wrote this piece)

The Place I Call Home

By Nicole L. Heidbreder

It was mid-May of my 30th year, and I was still searching. My bare feet skimmed across the wooden planks with my father following one step behind me.  I felt the dried pollen and twigs snap under my feet and wondered if my dad felt the same prickly feeling beneath his bare feet.  We crept across the deck on the back of my parent’s house, the deck that had been feverishly nailed together, plank by plank, by my industrious father.  We stood together on the left side of the deck peering over its sturdy wooden rails.

The night was cool, but the air felt like a heavy woolen blanket resting on my shoulders.  A soft breeze swept the sweet and refreshing scent of lilac up from the back yard.  The moon hung low in the sky sending a mysterious glow into the night. I heard the double click of the yellow Lumilight flashlight. Light catapulted into the darkness.

The flashlight beam was as bright as an old lighthouse guiding ships into the harbor. It lurked around the perimeter of the yard and froze on a pair of peculiar, neon orange beads floating in the night. In a low hoarse whisper, my dad asked me if I could see the raccoon at the edge of woods.  His voice reminded me of the narrator on the hunting shows he watched on TV. The stalker who sat for hours without making a sound, waiting for his prey to come into the cross hairs of his scope, silent, just long enough to surprise the innocent victim. Then, in one piercing blast, the animal crumpled to the ground and expelled one last breath. I could almost feel the tension of a shotgun blast until I realized I was still standing next to my dad watching these particular critters who were now members of our family.  These small furry creatures were unafraid. They knew they weren’t in danger.

In the illuminated path of the bright Lumilight beam, I saw a momma coon hovering over a piece of bread.  She nibbled with her long slender nose and ripped the crust of the wheat bread away like a small, persnickety child unwilling to eat the entire peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She nibbled at the bread uninterested in the Hollywood spotlight that made her the star of our backyard.

My dad shifted the beam. He scanned the edge of the woods that framed the yard and I watched the floodlight illuminate the lush foliage and reveal two more beady eyes. A few feet to the right, two pairs of eyes floated just above the ground; another momma coon and two babies sat feasting on our leftover dinner. I realized how blind I had been, searching for a place to call home. What I thought I wanted was no longer what I needed.

I had been away, tackling life on my own for almost eight years, and although this was still my home, and would always be my home, in a sense, it really wasn’t my home at all anymore.  I had been living in several different cities, trying to settle into a peaceful environment that made me feel as safe as this place.  Now, I was standing in that haven alongside my father with my family inside. They were supporting me in yet another bold move into the unknown. I realized I was seeking to find this very place, but still looking in the wrong direction. I was about to make a decision that I knew was the wrong one, but I didn’t know what else to do.

The double-click of the flashlight brought me back to the present time. I was beneath the night sky and the distant glow from the moon.  The coons rested peacefully somewhere in the darkness as my father and I crept across the deck and back into the warmth of the home he had provided for my family, and for me. I knew I would continue to search, a relentless search, for a place I could call home.


And now, for my daily Haiku

I took this picture this past weekend on my hike to Chimney Rock.

A glimpse of Chimney Rock in Whitewater State Park.

A glimpse of Chimney Rock in Whitewater State Park.

Day 3: Haiku Challenge

Shadowy retreat;
guarded from sun, rain, snow, but
no place to call home.

Happy Wednesday!

Have you ever forced yourself to make a bad decision in your life because you didn’t know what to do next?


Creative Minds

Happy Friday! I would say finally, but the week went by fast and we have a three day weekend coming up. Woo Hoo! I see lots of writing and reading time in my future! Maybe a few pictures too.

A couple of weeks ago, I received my assignment from the editor of Experience Rochester. This is my third year with this publication and I always love the assignments. In the past, I have written about SEMVA art gallery and the Farmers Market.

This year is different, I am not writing an article per se, but I am collecting fun facts about two creative people from Rochester to compile into a summary. Wednesday, I had the pleasure of interviewing a young woman who had a small part in the movie The Wolf of Wallstreet that starred Leonardo DiCaprio. I spoke to Emily Tremaine and collected information about some of the roles she has played in, where she went to school and various other fun facts for the ‘Creative Minds’ summary in Experience Rochester.

Then, yesterday, I interviewed someone who works at the Mayo Clinic as a glass blower. He makes scientific glassware that is used for testing human tissues and many other things. Not only does he create scientific glassware, but he also creates blown glass Christmas ornaments and small decorative bottles. The only problem…I forgot my camera yesterday. Well, actually, I didn’t feel comfortable taking my camera. I wasn’t hired to take the pictures (which usually doesn’t stop me), I was hired to interview and compile information. I am kicking myself now. I was able to watch him in action. He did a couple of demonstrations for me and I left the interview with an original piece of blown glass. The whole experience was amazing!! I’ll post this piece in January when the magazine is released.

What’s scheduled for September?


I have an article coming out in Rochester Women called Pairing Women with Wine.

I have another piece coming out in The Wagazine, it’s called Happy Hounds.

Flash Fiction

I plan to post a flash fiction writing prompt once a week along with a 750ish word flash fiction piece. The first piece I will post is based on Tuesday’s writing prompt.

Haiku Challenge

I am also going to take the “Haiku challenge.” I have seen a few websites that have daily Haiku challenges and even contests. I am doing one that is slightly different, I will be taking several pictures throughout the month of September. Then, each day, I will create a Haiku to go along with an image and post it.

Wine and Canvas

In the month of August, I taught my my first wine and canvas event. It was very successful! We had ladies asking when the next event would be taking place. So, Denise and I scheduled the next Wine & Canvas event for September 19th! Stay tuned, I’ll give a few sneak peeks as I prepare for the next event.

Dessert Wine with the Girls

On the 13th, I’m meeting with several Rochester Women writers, editors, photographers and other staff members for another wine tasting event. This month it’s dessert wine. I am very excited for this event because I love sweet wines and ports.


I have four or five more pieces to edit and post. I am sharing these particular essays because I submitted these to an editor to land my first writing gig.

September Reading Material

The only book I have on the list right now is Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. I am sure this list will grow to at least one more.

How is your September shaping up? 


How it All Started

After I took my first memoir writing course in 2004, in St. Louis, Missouri, I began taking the thoughts from my journal and creating finished pieces. Those first few attempts at writing about my life landed me my first freelance position for Rochester Women Magazine back in 2011—yep, it took seven years to finally get published.

I decided to dig into the vault and share some of these stories with you. Before I give you a peek into my first few pieces (note: the last name has not been changed to my married name because I wrote it before I was married), I wanted to share words of wisdom from one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott. The following quote is actually by Flannery O’Connor, but it’s taken from Lamott’s book (one of my favorites) Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life.

“Flannery O’Connor said that anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life.”

~Anne Lamott

Embarking on Independence

By Nicole L. Heidbreder

I rolled over and peered through the morning haze plastered across my eyes. The glaring red light of my cheap digital alarm clock read 7:28 a.m. I laid there watching its numbers change a full two minutes until it read 7:30 a.m. I forced myself out of bed knowing I had a long day ahead of me. A new chapter was about to begin. I was scared senseless, but somehow had manifested enough faith in myself to move my life to Denver, Colorado.

My bedroom door stuck to the frame and then flew open when I tugged harder. The faint smell of blueberry muffins drifted throughout my childhood home.  In her cheeriest voice my mother sang out, “Rise and shine, sleepy head!” as if I were still her little girl tucked safely in my warm, cozy bed.  Her loving and familiar voice produced a golf ball sized knot in my throat.  I knew this would be the last time my mother would sing those words to the person I was leaving behind.

I entered the kitchen holding a pillow by one corner. My parents’ bright faces made the lump in my throat expand. My father had a flashlight, a blanket, and a gallon of water laid out on the kitchen table for my upcoming road trip. I set my pillow next to the items. I guessed that was what fathers were supposed to do under these circumstances…equip their child with the necessities for entering the big, bad world.

My mom asked arbitrary questions about my trip; questions we both knew had been answered. Her words sliced through me like a steak knife. “Do you have enough gas in the car? Do you have gas money? Are your friends ready for you to arrive tonight? Do you have their phone numbers? Do you have the number for Uncle Bob and Aunt Pam in Topeka,” she queried. I grew more aloof with each question. I wanted her to stop talking. Her voice tugged the tears out of my eyes. Unwelcome tears, tears that I worried might make her or my dad feel I was incapable of handling this life changing event.

I poured coffee into my gigantic NYC mug and felt the tears trickle down my cheeks. I wiped them away and thought to myself, why is she asking me all of these questions when we covered it last night? And then, I realized she felt as miserable and conflicted as I did; excited for the new chapter in my life, but devastated that her best friend was leaving and moving hundreds of miles away from Missouri.

I choked down a blueberry muffin and a cup of coffee. Then, I grabbed my thermos, my pillow, and lugged my suitcase to the car. Popps loaded up my trunk with his emergency provisions and my mother and I embraced and cried. I looked up and saw my father watching. He was shaking his head. Then, with Jell-O legs, I wobbled into my overstuffed blue Nissan Sentra and turned the key. Her engine purred confidently. I backed the car onto the quiet street, pausing to wave goodbye to my parents, and the chapter in life I would never get back.


 Looking back on this memoir, moving from Missouri to Colorado was a life changing event. I remember and honor that time in my life. So many lessons learned.


As a writer, how did you get your first break?




Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Thrill Ride

The last writing prompt I posted was a couple of weeks ago. I intended to post the piece once I finished it, but I found a contest and decided that I would wait to post my story until I received a critique from the judges.

I found a website called Women on Writing. They host Flash Fiction contests every quarter and offer a critique on the subject, the content and the technical aspects of the piecefor an additional fee. In order to qualify, it needed to be between 250-750 words. I spent the last couple of weeks writing, reading, editing, rewriting, reading, editing, rewriting…you know the drill. I finally submitted the piece on Sunday night.

The due date isn’t until the 30th of August. After the deadline, it takes two months for the critique to be completed. I plan to post the piece once I receive the comments.

In the meantime, to keep the creativity flowing, I wrote another flash fiction piece today utilizing my smartphone app. Once again, today’s Flash Fiction piece is about getting the words on the paper. Now, it needs to be finessed and I plan to post the essay next Tuesday.

Tuesday’s Writing Prompt:

  • Character: A farmer
  • Setting: Roller Coaster/Thrill Ride
  • Plot: A character has the worst day possible

I set the timer for 15 minutes.

Happy Writing!


Flash Fiction: Allergic to Your Spouse

Today I have web content to write for my full-time job at ColorWare. We are in the process of launching several limited edition items, therefore I have copy to write for each of the new items. I wanted to use some time to open my mind and let my pen move across the paper. I want to try to alleviate any judgment and write for the sake of writing.

I used my Flash Fiction Prompter on my smartphone, and here is what I am writing about:

  • Character-Librarian
  • Setting-Candy Store
  • Plot-A character is allergic to spouse

I set the timer for 15 minutes.

Happy Writing!

How often do you use writing prompts to enhance your creativity?