Freewriting exercises during the month of May

some freewriting exercises in May

If ever there was an ideal time to invoke the spirit of daring to be fabulous, this is it. Nothing like a pandemic to strike the fear in all of us and rattle our ways of life.

How are you doing? How are you holding up? Are you taking care of yourselves? Getting out for daily walks and fresh air? Eating well? Connecting with loved ones?

Are you nursing your spirit in other ways? Taking a class, learning a craft, cooking new recipes, or revisiting a long-shelved project? Keeping the spirit open and the mind pliable is also vital for good health.

With this in consideration, I plan to devote myself to some creative freewriting exercises during the month of May. Want to join me?

Each Tuesday and Thursday morning, from May 5 through May 28, I will send out a freewriting exercise prompt to those who sign up. The idea with these prompts is to freewrite, meaning to write without pause or prior deliberation, for ten minutes. That’s it. See where the writing takes you.

Each freewriting exercise will vary in focus or style, to keep your creative juices flowing by exploring sensory experiences, fresh perspectives, characterization, dialog, and more. I also invite participants to share their writing exercises with me! I’ll post some highlights in a future blog.

Here’s how to sign up:

  • If you received this post via email, please click reply and write YES in the subject line.
  • If you are not an existing blog subscriber, please email and write SUBSCRIBE TO MAY PROMPTS in the subject line. I’ll add you to the email list.

Play time! Please share this with anyone else you know who might like to join the fun.

Stay healthy and safe (and sane) out there.



Dare to be Fabulous celebrates the daring spirit that exists in all of us. Read through the roster of featured personal stories for a dose of inspiration.

Climbing Everest was NOT one of the greatest days of her life

As of today, eleven people have died climbing Everest in 2019, making this one of the deadliest climbing seasons in Everest’s history. Previously, a high number of deaths in one season was because of weather or onetime incidents, but the deaths this season are being associated with overcrowding, a lack of strict regulations and management by Nepalese authorities, and the increase of inexperienced climbers.

You may have seen an image on the news showing Everest climbers lined up like a long colorful centipede along the ridge of the mountain, back-to-back-to-back-to-back. I’m an “outdoorsy” person (as non-outdoorsy people tend to call us), and I love to hike and camp and backpack, but this kind of feat, on this kind of crowded terrain, has never been on my personal To Do List.

A friend of mine, Lisa, climbed Kilimanjaro last year. She trained for that hike for many months, but she ended up stopping her climb just shy of the peak because of breathing difficulties. She had medical oversight and took all the necessary precautions; she was more than fine with not making it to the top. After stopping, she stayed in place, waiting for her climbing companions to descend from the peak.

It was before dawn. When Lisa saw her first climbing buddy making her way back from the peak, she expected to witness great excitement. Her friend took another careful step down the icy slope and looked up into Lisa’s headlamp. “This sucks!” she winced, “All these people are throwing up, my body is hurting all over, and it’s f—ing freezing!” Not exactly what Lisa expected to hear. They had a good laugh about it later.

Perspective, right?

This brings me to DTBF’s featured story from Alison Levine titled “On the Edge”. It’s a perfect time to highlight her story again.

Alison Levine wrote a New York Times bestselling book about her own experience climbing Everest and has since become a sought-after keynote speaker. This includes her popular TED Talk on leading teams in extreme environments.

After the latest Everest deaths this past weekend, Alison posted a note on LinkedIn, which she permitted for me to share here:

The headlines this week about the crowds and deaths on #Everest are frightening to be sure.
Nine years ago TODAY I stood on the summit of that mountain. There were not many people climbing that day because the weather was terrible and visibility was poor. But in less than ideal conditions, we made it.
Was it one of the greatest days of my life? NO!
What was great was coming back to the people who are important to me.

For those of you who love “all things Everest” — I OF COURSE share your passion! But please remember that standing on top of a mountain does not change the world.


1. Raising kind, compassionate children who will contribute to their communities (and you don’t have to have your own kids to be part of this — you can do this by being a good aunt/uncle/brother/sister/grandparent/godparent/step-parent/mentor/friend, etc).
2. Technology/innovation
3. Being there when people need you! A few kind words to someone who is hurting/struggling can literally change their life.

Not everyone can climb Everest. But everyone can be a part of one of the above, and that has much more impact than standing on the top of a mountain.

My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones on the mountain this season. May their souls rest in peace.

Read Alison’s story, “Over the Edge.”



An extremely shy TV news anchor shares her personal story

Wendy Tokuda worked as a primetime anchor in local television news for almost 40 years. She anchored the news in Seattle, Los Angeles, and for the majority of her career, in San Francisco. She was also the first Asian American to anchor a weekday primetime newscast in San Francisco.

With that history, you might assume that Wendy is naturally outgoing, extroverted, or unafraid to speak up. Well, that is not the case. At least it wasn’t for a very long time.

In our newly featured DTBF story, Wendy shares her personal experience of overcoming extreme shyness, and how she carved a path to become an Emmy Award-winning journalist and one of the most popular TV news anchors in the Bay Area.

Read “A Shy TV Anchor” by Wendy Tokuda

Fear may hold us back, but courage and determination can get us far. Wendy’s story offers a wonderful example of that.

May the spirit of Dare to be Fabulous set the tone for your day.

DTBF stories are back for your reading pleasure

Greetings! It’s been a while. How is everyone? Are you daring to be fabulous? I hope so.

I wanted to let you know that the Dare to be Fabulous website is back! Check out the Stories page to peruse through the roster of 40+ stories and contributors.

Contributors range from Gloria Steinem to Alcoholic Anonymous, and include Doris “Granny D” Haddock, Renel Brooks-Moon, Wendy Tokuda, Terri Lyne Carrington, Julia “Butterfly” Hill, Jill Robinson, Pema Chödrön, Dianne Reeves, and many more.

I feel strongly that these wonderful stories need to be back in the light, where they can inspire, uplift, and entertain. I also welcome new story submissions for website consideration. Check out the submission guidelines for more information.



* I want to express my deep appreciation for two fabulous women who helped me with editorial suggestions and feedback during the past year: Ellen Fagan and Donna Henderson-King. Thank you!

Raising brave girls TED talk by DTBF contributor Caroline Paul

Have you read Caroline Paul’s DTBF story, “Where there’s Smoke, there’s Fire”? In this story, Paul shares what it was like to be one of the first female firefighters in the San Francisco Fire Department. (She was the 15th woman in a department of 1,500 men.) Her story is an excerpt from her New York Times best-selling book Gutsy Girls. The book is written for pre-teen readers, but her message resounds for men and women of all ages.

Caroline has also given a TED Talk titled, “To raise brave girls, encourage adventure.”  To which we reply, YES! (Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!)

Here is the video of her TED Talk:


Join me for book reading Saturday in Alameda

As many of you know, in addition to being the editor of Dare to be Fabulous, I am also the editor of my mother’s newly published memoir, Six Car Lengths Behind an Elephant: Undercover & Overwhelmed as a CIA Wife and Mother by Lillian McCloy. My mother wrote the manuscript over 20 years ago. She is now 91-years-old, proving that it’s never too late to become a published author or to see your dreams come true! The book is available from Amazon, as well as book stores and ebook retailers.

This Saturday, January 21, from 2:00 – 3:00pm, there will be a book event and reading for Six Car Lengths Behind an Elephant in Alameda, CA. The event will be hosted by Ben Hess of the podcast Story Geometry. My mother Lillian will be in attendance and I will read from the book, along with my sister Kristin, who is an acclaimed novelist. Books Inc Alameda will have the book available for purchase at the event.

If you’d like to attend this event, please link to the event page for more information and to RSVP Click “REGISTER” and submit your # of attendees. The organizer will need RSVPs to estimate attendance.



DTBF in a TV comedy writers’ room

Dare to be Fabulous has posted a new featured story for your reading enjoyment! This one comes from Ali Rushfield, who shares her personal experience of working in the writers’ rooms of several top-rated TV comedy series.  An excerpt:

Have you ever sat with eight to ten of the funniest people you’ve ever met, said something you thought was one of the most hilarious things your brain has ever managed to conjure up, and suddenly felt invisible?

Before I link to her story, I shall indulge in a little personal background. I met Ali Rushfield when she was around five years old and I was 12. Our families were neighbors in Tokyo for a couple of years and our mothers became fast friends. Even at such a young age, my family considered Ali to be a sharp, sarcastic and hilarious person.

Ali, me, her father Len and her brother Richard

Ali, me, her father Len and her brother Richard , in our Tokyo neighborhood

Fast forward to 2016, when Ali found out about my mother’s newly published memoir, read it, and immediately contacted me, sharing her amusement at being referenced as our neighbor’s “small child” in one of my mother’s stories. I was not surprised to find out that Ali is a TV comedy writer, and a great one at that. She’s been a writer on two TV series created by Judd Apatow, and other notable shows, but I’ll defer to her DTBF story for more about that.


Ali, all grown up

Daring to be Fabulous can happen in all kinds of environments and circumstances. No one is immune to the experience of feeling uncertain, or insecure, or sincerely humbled. Success, and that includes personal triumphs as well as professional ones, includes a lot of facing up to one’s own fears and an awful lot of daring. Ali’s story is no exception.

Read A COMEDY WRITER’S STORY by Ali Rushfield



Gutsy Girls

Caroline Paul FirefighterOur new featured story comes from author and adventurer Caroline Paul. It’s her story about what it was like to be one of the first female firefighters in the San Francisco Fire Department.

Read DTBF’s newly featured story: “WHERE THERE’S SMOKE, THERE’S FIRE” by Caroline Paul

This story was adapted from The Gutsy Girl, a book she wrote for girls between the ages of seven and eleven. In a recent PBS interview, Paul talked about why she specifically targeted that age group.”They’re at a perfect age now,” she said, “before they hit the pressures of looking really pretty and having to be very nice and having to be perfect. They still want to do the rough-and-tumble things.”

Gutsy Girl, The jacket artPaul’s book is is filled with suggested activities, fun illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton (her “Gutsy-o-meter”  is currently our Facebook page header), and stories from Paul about some of her own adventurous escapades, starting when she was a kid. The book hit #5 on The New York Times Bestseller list shortly after publication.

Just prior to the book’s publication, Paul wrote a New York Times op-ed that garnered a lot of attention: “Why Do We Teach Girls That It’s Cute to Be Scared?”  Here’s an excerpt from that op-ed:

This fear conditioning begins early. Many studies have shown that physical activity — sports, hiking, playing outdoors — is tied to girls’ self-esteem. And yet girls are often warned away from doing anything that involves a hint of risk.

It’s been said that courage is not the absence of fear, it’s acting in spite of it. So here’s to gutsiness. Whatever your gender or your age, don’t let fear hold you back. Go outside and have yourself an adventure!

Meanwhile, enjoy reading DTBF’s newly featured story:  “WHERE THERE’S SMOKE, THERE’S FIRE” by Caroline Paul



Meeting Moina, meeting a Muslim

“Ignorance is the parent of fear.” – Herman Melville

When you hear the words Islam or Muslim, what comes to mind?

“More than half of Americans say they have unfavorable views of Islam, and six in 10 either aren’t interested or don’t know whether they want to learn more about the faith. While a majority had negative views, few seemed to base those judgements on knowledge or on relationships with Muslims. Just 13 percent said that they ‘understand the Islamic religion’ very well.” Huffpost/YouGov poll from March, 2015

U.S. Republican presidential candidates have only been fanning those flames of judgement by condemning all Muslims to a wide swath of suspicion. Donald Trump is “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and Ted Cruz recently announced a proposal to enact government surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods in the U.S.

Moina ShaiqOne Muslim woman living in Fremont, California decided that she had to do something about the judgement and fear. Personal interaction and open conversation with a Muslim neighbor, she hoped, would help to make a difference in altering those negative opinions. She placed an ad in the local paper titled, “Meet a Muslim.”  Then, she went to a local coffeeshop, sat down, and waited.

Would people come? Would people join her in conversation?

Read DTBF’s newly featured story, “Meet a Muslim” by Moina Shaiq



Love Made Visible

Last weekend, the Japanese Fisheries Agency officially notified the International Whaling Commission that its whaling fleet plans to return to the waters of Antarctica to hunt 333 Antarctic minke whales over the next four months.  This despite the fact that on March 31 2014, the International Court of Justice declared Japan’s whaling program to be illegal, and ordered that it immediately cease.

Much of the difficult and dangerous task of battling such illegal activity has been helmed by Sea Shepherd, an anti-poaching organization that has been shepherding international waters for years. Its activities have also been highlighted in Animal Planet’s Emmy-nominated reality program, Whale Wars.

“The pristine waters of the Southern Ocean are once again under threat from poachers,” said Captain Alex Cornelissen, CEO of Sea Shepherd Global. “We would like to remind the Japanese government that the whales of the Southern Ocean are protected by international law, by Australian law and by Sea Shepherd. As such, any violation of the sanctity of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary or the Australian Whale Sanctuary will be regarded as a criminal act.”

This news prompts us to highlight a related DTBF story, “Love Made Visible: My Adventurous Year” by Jo-Anne McArthur. McArthur is an international photojournalist and animal rights activist and this story is about one year in her life when, amongst other things, she volunteered as a staff photographer aboard a Sea Shepherd vessel called the Bob Barker, witnessing and photographing direct encounters with Japanese whaling ships that were poaching illegally in international waters.

Jo-Anne McArthurLife won’t always be this idyllic aboard our boat, which the crew affectionately refers to as “The Bob.” We will have intensely dangerous confrontations with our rivals, the Japanese whaling fleet. Our boat is one of three on this 2009-2010 Antarctic Mission to stop the poaching of up to 935 Minke whales, which are hunted by the fleet and sold for meat in Japan.

Her DTBF story was first featured in 2010. Read “Love Made Visible: My Adventurous Year” by Jo-Anne McArthur

Dare to be Fabulous will be featuring more new stories in the coming months. Consider sharing a DTBF story of your own! Submissions are open and stories are also welcomed in audio or video formats. Please check the submission guidelines for more information.