Have you ever been intent on writing about a specific event but, when you took pen in hand, couldn’t remember enough of the details to make the writing interesting? If so, you’ve come to the right place! Learn how the three writer’s tools in Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present can help you pull the tiniest details from your mind’s camera and develop them into word pictures that can be recorded in any genre and shared over and over again. In addition, find out the difference between a handheld camera – whatever the style, brand, or cost – and your mind’s camera.

With the Olympic Games in full swing, I couldn’t help but step back in time and offer an Olympics-inspired excerpt from Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present (pages 42-43), plus a word picture (poem) derived from images pulled from my own mind’s camera and developed with the help of the snaps, scraps and snippets explained in that book.

On our most recent trip to Australia, for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, my husband and I bought an older model car and traveled up the coast, from Melbourne to Cairns. Along the way, my camera was poised, ready to not miss a single precious moment in time. But I did miss several: a farm woman returning from a sugarcane field with a turned-up apron full of short pieces of cane; a half-grown lamb, down on one knee, nudging milk from its mother’s udder; a three-foot long goanna doubling back into the bush on a mountain road; a seagull halting in midair to scratch its belly; and the list goes on. Since it was impossible to recapture the moments on film, all I could do was capture the images with my mind’s camera and record them as word pictures in my diary, under “Pictures I Missed.” Most of those “pictures” are now being developed for a travelogue in poetry.

Good photographs depend not only on the quality of the film and proper use of the camera, but also on the skill of the photographer to watch for great shots and then have the spontaneity to click the shutter without hesitation. Likewise, good word pictures depend not only on the spontaneity of the writer, but also on proper use of the mind’s camera, through observation and the gathering of images. The difference is that a moment in time missed by the photographer can never be recaptured. No matter what pains he goes to, to reenact the moment, if he fails to get the picture the first time, that moment is lost forever. Not so with the writer whose words can record moments in time, anytime.

Think of your mind as a camera with a memory-sensitive, hair-trigger shutter. It is continually snapping pictures, capturing memories, good or bad, and storing them like microscopic images on film. But the beauty part of this camera is that it comes equipped not only with sophisticated video and audio capabilities, but also with the ability to record touch, taste, and smell, all of which can be described with words. 

That’s not to say that all of our cameras see and record things the same way.  Just as photographers see things differently—some capturing only the main subject, others taking in the entire background or foreground—writers do the same. Give three different writers the same subject on which to elaborate and, chances are, you’ll get three entirely different word pictures.

A “Getting the Picture” exercise can be found on page 44 of Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present: How to Retrieve the Lost Pictures of Your Past.

“Olympic Gold” (below), now a part of my travelogue, is among the many word pictures I have developed using the snaps, scraps and snippets explained in my book:

         Olympic Gold

Sixteen Olympic tickets—

No others quite like these;

A third trip to Australia for

‘Two Thousand’ memories.


They got us into venues

Of wrestling, boxing, track,

Our bold USA banner in

An Aussie haversack.


We walked in rains and rode the trains,

Bought food that wasn’t cheap,

And marching music played as we

Were herded ’round like sheep.


From stadium at Homebush Bay

To Darling Harbour halls:

Four busy days of to-and-fro

Mementos on our walls.


Olympic flame and cauldron burned

Their way into our hearts

While, sitting at the finish line,

We witnessed stops and starts.


Inside one exhibition hall

A pigeon walked our aisle;

Evander Holyfield shook hands,

Though seldom did he smile.


An angel stood at Central,

Promoting peace, good will;

The trains were always right on time

And quickly got their fill.


From Melbourne, north to Cooranbong,

To Sydney’s Games, and more:

Right up the coast to Cairns and back—

A trip we’d made before.


‘Twas I who’d balked at going,

But you who’d said we should;

We met with my old classmates and

Camaraderie was good.


Sixteen Olympic tickets,

Bright gold, with green and blue

Reminders of Two Thousand mem’ries

Shared by me and you.


Copyright 2014  Lois J. Funk


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An excerpt from Chapter 1 of Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present (How to Retrieve the Lost Pictures of Your Past):

Ask a child to create a scrapbook without the benefit of photographs or tangible mementos, and he will surely rely on memory to conjure up pictures of his favorite things, making them real and touchable (at least to him) by drawing or writing them on paper. Our challenge, as writers wanting to record our own thoughts and feelings about our pasts, is to do the same thing. But unlike children, who are closer in time to everything they’ll record, we sometimes have to draw on memories that have been tucked away for so long that we first have to find them. In other words, we have to “get the picture” before we can write about it.

Photographs, no matter how precious, tend to get lost or buried or tossed away. Similarly, memories that have the potential to become good word pictures (highly detailed, written descriptions), or ideas for writing, get lost in the shuffle of busy schedules, buried beneath the debris of other thoughts, or tossed away, that is, given up as being too trivial to think about, let alone write about. In order to draw those memories back to the surface, the writer needs to drag out the mind’s camera, dust it off, and start getting some good images that can be developed into word pictures and then turned into meaningful poems or essays. Dusting off the camera might be compared to “getting the cobwebs out of our brains,” as our teachers used to say, so that we can observe what’s been stored there and is just waiting to be retrieved. Although some details of the past may be temporarily out of sight, it doesn’t mean that they are lost forever. There are ways of bringing them back to mind, and photographs, or snaps, are just one of those ways.

On my ninth Christmas, I received a Kodak Baby Brownie Special and a few rolls of film, after which I became responsible for paying for my own film and processing. I soon learned to shoot wisely in order to avoid wasting film. Still, I looked diligently for interesting subjects to photograph, and when there didn’t seem to be any, resorted to taking seemingly dull shots of home, church, and school. Dull, I thought, until recently, when the details in some of those pictures jogged my memory and gave me some unexpected writing material. One example that comes instantly to mind is a black and white photo taken by a teacher, of my third grade class at Lincoln School, in Pekin, Illinois.

It wasn’t the Why are you taking this picture? look on some of our faces that caught my attention but, rather, the background: a wide, brick stairway attached to a back corner of the school, on the girls’ yard side of the building, with pipe railings running up each side and a thick concrete landing at the top. The steps led to double steel doors that seldom, if ever, were opened. So no one minded that, every recess, my girlfriends and I climbed the steps and took claim to the landing in front of those doors, to resume the girl talk that had been cut short with the previous return-to-your-room bell. From that photo, then, I immediately made a journal entry (word picture) that covered ideas for at least two more childhood poems—one about the brick stairway and landing, and one about those recess talks.

It was during my Kodak Brownie years that I learned to carry a camera most everywhere I went, a habit that still has me grabbing one or more newer models from the closet for any special occasion. (The Brownie was retired in 1967, when an emaciated cow in Banaris, India, kicked it from my husband’s hand and sent it flying through the air.)

While a large percentage of the photographs I take are close-ups, mainly because I am more interested in the color of a person’s eyes than in the shoes they are wearing, my search for childhood memories taught me a valuable lesson about the pictures, written and otherwise, that I want to leave for my descendants. Designers of today’s scrapbook kits advise us to sort through our photographs, get rid of the bad ones, and give (or throw) away any duplicates. Then we’re to take the good ones, cut away the backgrounds, and put what’s left in the scrapbook. Had I followed those instructions with the picture of my classmates at Lincoln School, I would not have a picture of the brick stairway that led to the unused doors, that was so much a part of those days, and that inspires me to want to write about it.

(Continued on page 34 of Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present), available through and

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Running Hurdles

Six years of attending my son’s track meets made me thankful that he’d chosen to keep his feet on the ground, for sprints and relays, rather than running hurdles. Watching his fellow teammates tackle barrier after barrier kept a prayer on my lips that, win or lose, they would not stumble and that, if they did, they could still finish the race.

At the same time I was praying for those young runners, I was running hurdles of my own, in the writing field. My urge to write had been fueled years before, by the encouragement of two English teachers.

My goal throughout high school had been to become a journalist. But my father’s sudden and unexpected death, six months before graduation, destroyed my incentive for any further education. As a result, I had come to my first hurdle—the underlying thought that, without a degree of some kind, I could never write anything worthwhile; that, even if I did, it might be recognized by my own little world of family and friends, but never by the reading world beyond them.

When family and friends encouraged me to seek a publisher for my work, I gingerly climbed over that first hurdle and stumbled on, along the track that led to the next hurdle. It came in the form of a possible-but-not-probable challenge. One writer “in the know” stated that stay-at-home housewives and moms (both titles worn proudly by me) could possibly, but not probably, become successful writers. Sheer determination helped me knock down and trample that barrier with both feet. I would keep writing what I was capable of writing and tackle “success” later.

Then came the blunt realization that most editors/publishers weren’t looking for, or even reading, poetry—especially traditional rhymed and metered verse, which was my passion, and which had already flowed into my children’s stories. The only glimpse of hope came in yet another writer’s suggestion: “If you can do it well, try it.” I did, and it worked, to a degree. My traditional poetry was now getting published and winning awards, but my stories were still sitting on the sidelines. And there they stayed, until I came to my next hurdle.

This time, I read that, for various reasons, children’s stories could be harder to write and get published than any other writing. By now, I knew that both facts were absolutely true. But I was on a roll, and since I had gotten around the other hurdles, I could surely get around this one.  I just needed to find an editor who was willing to read my rhyming stories and, hopefully, find them worth publishing. That hurdle was cleared successfully when, over the next few years, the editor of the Benjamin Franklin Literary & Medical Society, Inc. (Children’s Better Health Institute) purchased and published over eighty of my rhyming stories and poems. At the same time, another editor began accepting, and is still publishing, my inspirational children’s stories.

Several years ago, a handwriting analyst pegged me as being determined in what I wish to accomplish. Had I balked at any one of the hurdles along my writing track, I might still be wishing I could write something worthy of publication. As it is, I can peer through the glass doors of my personal library and say, “Hey! Each of those publications holds one or more of my writings!”

Of course, where there is a desire to learn, and another goal sitting on the sidelines, there will always be another hurdle to clear.

P.S. Since this reflective essay was published in Pieces of Her Mind, in 2012, I have two books of my own: Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present, published in 2014, and the soon-to-be-launched Light for the Burning Soul: Sparks, Flames, and Embers. So I’m still running hurdles; they’re just getting to be more fun.

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When I started refinishing the 1929 Richmond upright piano my husband and I had scavenged from an old farm house, I rummaged through several black and white pictures my mother had given me, searching for ones I remembered seeing, of my great-grandparents sitting side by side in front of the upright piano in their parlor. Although I had formerly been interested only in their faces, I now wanted to see what the piano itself looked like and, more importantly, what was sitting on top of it.

I scrutinized the photos with a magnifying glass, taking in the lace runner; the oval picture frames that held faces I didn’t recognize; and the open sheet music on the music stand that stood beside the piano; but searching most of all for a glimpse of the metronome my mother had used during music lessons at her grandmother’s – this grand-mother’s – house. While Mom’s memories of those lessons and her grandmother were very unpleasant ones, they tugged at my desire to get them down on paper, so much so that as I continued to remove the rock-hard, blackened varnish from my piano, scenes of my great-grandparents’ era, as I imagined them, set my mind’s camera whirling with images and word pictures for a poem that eventually surfaced along with the beautiful cherry finish of the Richmond.

Refinishing the Piano

A relic of someone else’s past,
it revels in its own unmasking,
its delicate features, rich and red,
taking center stage now, parting
layers of time-worn curtains to
let me slip, unseen, through tapestried
parlors reeking of cigars and
oldness; to let me breathe in the
familiar air of uncharted notes falling
deftly into place, only to stop short
with the crack! of the wooden pointer
on Mother’s tender knuckles while
the metronome keeps time with
my heartbeat.

The refinishing incident spurred me on, and I anxiously searched through my childhood photo album to find the deep-down pictures of our home life. But I was disappointed to find that pictures don’t really lie; they just don’t always tell the whole truth, and the little things I so desperately wanted to see didn’t show up in the photos.

I wanted to see the cinder driveway that had once run alongside our house, and the garbage pits and hollyhocks that had lined the alley behind it. I longed to see pictures of Mom’s clotheslines propped up and loaded down with the week’s wash; the tricycle that my sisters and I took turns riding to the neighborhood park just up the street from our house; and glimpses of my grandma’s kitchen where, in the aprons my mother always made for her, she taught me how to spell my name while she was baking cherry pies. Those were the details that added color and life to my childhood. But nowhere did I find them recorded on film. So I did the next best thing. I encouraged my mind’s camera to come up with mental images that I could translate onto…continued on Page 37 of Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present (How to Retrieve the Lost Pictures of Your Past), on sale now at Barnes & Noble and

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