Archive | Micro Draft RSS feed for this section

Appreciating Desperation

15 Mar

AlphabetI’m discovering that desperation can be a useful tool. Again, I worked late into the night to get something. And this shorty so wants to be good but can’t quite pull it off. I wrote it from a child’s point of view, something I almost never do, so I can be proud that I strayed from my usual path.

Working Title: Her Book
1st Sentence: “No, no, Pearl,” said Miss Scott, “that is not a BEE. That is a…? A… ? What is it, Pearl?”
Favorite Sentence: She would much rather think about potatoes.
Word Length: 395

Photo credit here.


14 Mar

Rural RoadLike I said in a previous post, when I bounce back these days it’s only for a day or so. Mostly I’m just really, really, really tired, and often, as with this one, the story refuses to come until I’m so DONE with the day that I have to force something. But… this shorty is actually pretty good. Maybe.

Working Title: Soft and White
1st Sentence: They’d left the highway long behind, snaking a curvy, up and down two-lane at forty miles an hour, aimed for home in their little slice of rural Virginia.
Favorite Sentence: Mr. suburbia, Mr. creased trousers, Mr. You don’t have a passport??
Word Length: 443

Photo by Censusdata 4/2007.

More Playing with Fairy Tales

13 Mar

Princess and the PeaThis one didn’t come out quite right but it has potential. I have no idea how I stumbled onto that first sentence after struggling all day to come up with something that would hold. I know I was falling asleep and feeling pretty desperate by the time it came to me.

Working Title: Pea and Princess
1st Sentence: Princess never said she could feel the pea.
Favorite Sentence: If history is written by the winners then Princess has to accept that a dewy, limpid-eyed maiden with rubies and pearls twined into her long, golden tresses, even she, Princess, can lose.
Word Length: 282

Image of illustration by Helen Stratton (1899) for the Hans Christian Andersen story, “The Princess and the Pea.” Scanned by Nicole Deyo, obtained from

Goodbye Week 45, Hello 46!

12 Mar

Biscotti and CoffeeThis piece started as a 5-minute writing exercise with my friends Patty and Joani, so I feel like they gave it to me. Thanks Ladies! It’s small and humble but I like it. The piece of biscotti I just bought and ate with a cup of coffee was not small and humble. I neglected to take a picture of my snack, so this photo will do as my official celebration for finishing another week. And this time the celebration, for me, is not just virtual. Yum.

Working Title: Sunday Breakfast
1st Sentence: She delivers one of her especially long, dramatic sighs, the kind that says, Why don’t you understand me, after all these years, all this heartache, the kind that says, Why did you never become the man I wanted you to be, that says, You still here?
Favorite Sentence: Sitting in our dining room decades after wearing that strapless dress she’s got the same liquid brown eyes like cool scotch whiskey, the same tremble in her lips.
Word Length: 434

Photo by cyclonebill 6/2008.

Back to Pulling Teeth

11 Mar

LeavesOh, the heartache of finding this story. Finally pulled it out but left some gaps. I think it’ll be a keeper when I can get back to it, though. This marks my last day of a week of prompts using the Wikimedia Commons picture of the day. These images were very, very good to me.

Working Title: Now Is Too Late
1st Sentence: All these years his complaint has been that she is too orderly, too scheduled.
Favorite Sentence: These wide-eyed writers of such sincere prose seem to think that if we all did yoga a couple of hours a day, if we burnt our daylight meditating on a multisyllabic word of your trendy choice, if we ate nothing but oats, mortality itself could be slain.
Word Length: 480

Photo by Diego Delso 4/2012.

Picture of the Day, Day 5

9 Mar

MacawThis one came to me very easily, which felt like such a gift in a very, very tired week. It’s odd and maybe a shorty only I can love, but love it I do. Love, too, this Wikimedia Commons picture of the day that inspired it.

Working Title: Bird Story
1st Sentence: Everyone has a wounded bird story.
Favorite Sentence: A ragged crow with a mangled leg, clinging to a branch of the tree behind the house, cawing, its red eyes blazing.
Word Length: 428

Photo by Luc Viatour / 7/2009.

Picture of the Day, Day 4

8 Mar

Space ShuttleSo this is the fourth time I’ve traveled during the DS challenge. I left Wednesday first thing for Boston, where AWP is holding its annual conference. I’d forgotten how hard it is to be in a different place and keep up with my story-a-day promise. Ergh. Anyway, if I can figure out what this piece is missing, maybe I’ll make some progress on how to write good stories that are fewer than 250 words. The shorty is almost good but… isn’t. And I have absolutely no idea how I got from this Wikimedia Commons picture of the day to a short story that has nothing whatsoever to do with space, science, NASA…?

Working Title: Closet Habit
1st Sentence: When he was eleven, his mother found him in a coat closet, where he had retreated after a fight with his older brother.
Favorite Sentence: He didn’t mind being discovered sitting in a puddle of shoes in an armoire in his freshman dorm room because he got a few instant friends for being bizarre, and everyone else circled wide around him because they’d heard he was a nutjob.
Word Length: 207

Photo of a silhouette of the space shuttle Endeavour by NASA/crew of Expedition 22 (2/2010).

Picture of the Day, Day 3

7 Mar

Lighthouse EstoniaI’m always hesitant to say that I’ve learned any particular thing with regard to writing because I never know how the ground will shift tomorrow. But I think I can say that I have taught myself how to write very short. Not teeny-tiny, mind you—I don’t know that I will ever be able to write good pieces that are, say, 250 words or fewer. That is a feat I can barely comprehend. But I have now written a fat handful of pieces under 500 words that I like a lot. Given that I couldn’t do that at all before this challenge, I feel pretty excited. The shorty this picture of the day at Wikimedia Commons inspired is one of these very short pieces I like.

Working Title: Mountains
1st Sentence: For almost a year I’d been teaching at a school built into a bowl of land between two mountains.
Favorite Sentence: On a day when I wasn’t just wincing but dizzy, if I caught myself wanting to fling my body at all that hardness, to beat my fists on it, then I would plan an escape.
Word Length: 360

Photo of a lighthouse on the islet of Keri in Estonia by Andrus Uuetalu 5/2008.

Picture of the Day, Day 2

6 Mar

Russian PalaceThis photo of a Russian palace, the picture of the day at Wikimedia Commons, inspired thoughts of Anastasia, the Romanov princess at one time rumored to have escaped the massacre of her family.

Working Title: Anastasia
1st Sentence: If she had not been the sort of princess who, as a child, liked to trip her servants, would she be here now?
Favorite Sentence: Do you imagine, broken bird, that you brought Mother Russia to her knees because once, in a princess temper, you put your foot out, caught a ratty shoe?
Word Length: 349

Photo of the Church of the Grand Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, by Aleks G (10/2011).

A Week of “Picture of the Day”!

5 Mar

ButterfliesMy first sustained period of mental fatigue hit hard in August. I beat it back by using various kinds of story prompts for a while. Then I fell into the habit of a week of prompts, a week of no prompts, followed by a period of anything goes. I was feeling so exhausted as March began (I’m writing this catch-up post on March 19) that I reached again for prompts as a solution. My DS weeks begin on Tuesdays, so on March 5 I started a week using the “picture of the day” at Wikimedia Commons as my prompt each day. I have unreasonable affection for the story I wrote in response to this photo, partly because I was able to keep it so short but mainly because I worked in a (well, rather obvious) homage to the Ray Bradbury classic, “A Sound of Thunder.” (The insect is identified in the photo credit as a moth but I saw it as a butterfly, which is why I thought of Bradbury’s story.)

Working Title: Thunder
1st Sentence: She’d felt something brushing her forearm and because it was July and a cascade of insects greeted her whenever she left the house, she was conditioned to think mosquito or bee or gnat.
Favorite Sentence: After another moment of staring, she snapped a leaf from one of the maples that lined the path, and scraped the ruined butterfly from her arm.
Word Length: 266

Photo of the Madagascan sunset moth, two views of the same specimen, by Didier Descouens (2/2013).

A Little Better

2 Mar

Human HeartI was in a better mood when I wrote this one and feeling more rested. I’ll enjoy coming back to it but I think in the end it will be a shorty only its mother can love.

Working Title: The Heart
1st Sentence: She looked at her hands and saw a stapler.
Favorite Sentence: The heart was ragged and limp, crouched in a sticky smudge of scarlet blood.
Word Length: 395

Photo of human heart by en:User:Stanwhit607.

Goodbye February!

28 Feb

MariaAnd good riddance. January was brutal and February was worse, both because we had to euthanize our beautiful kitty—I’ve put up another of my favorite pictures of her, here—and because for the entire month I fought a kind of fatigue that just totally took over my mind. I used to be able to bounce back for weeks at a time. Now a good bounce lasts maybe a day. Well, I wanted to know what would happen to me if I wrote a story every day for a year, and now I’m finding out. The day’s shorty is a sad one about a grieving widow. Fitting.

Working Title: The Empty Half
1st Sentence: Without him I can’t speak, not coherently.
Favorite Sentence: Half of everything I want to say went ashes to ashes and now when I open my mouth to let words drop I find that I am part cluttered noise, part yawning empty, all confused garble.
Word Length: 334

My husband took this photo of our sweetie not too long ago.

More Recent Memory

23 Feb

Bird NestWhen I’m severely stuck, which is a state I’m living in far too often these days, I follow the advice to look for my material in my obsessions, gripes, fears. A huge gripe is the condescending things some mothers say to me when they discover I chose not to have children.

Working Title: Mommifying
1st Sentence: “You will never know real love,” she warned me.
Favorite Sentence: If “good” is condescending, if “good” is thinking you know what’s best for a woman you barely know, if “good” means you learned how to apply makeup in and oil-painting class, then, yes, you’re good, you’re very, very good.
Word Length: 426

Photo of empty bird’s nest here.

Taste Memory

21 Feb

CrabapplesThis shorty is based on a taste memory I’ve been chasing, and it’s a great example of a piece that is very well done for what it is, but there’s kind of no there there. If I were more of a poet perhaps I could write a compelling shorty based only on taste. Next time!

Working Title: Crabapples
1st Sentence: Over the years in odd moments, when she’s thinking of nothing in particular, she remembers the look and taste of small, preserved, bright red apples.
Favorite Sentence: She savors thick, spicy, syrup-sweet skin and dense yellow flesh.
Word Length: 298

Photo from, where there’s a recipe for wine-poached crabapples that looks DELICIOUS.

Giving Up

20 Feb

Raspberry PieThere are bad shorties and then there are shorties that revel in their badness, mocking me with a smoker’s choked laughter, inviting me to question this project, my calling. Go ahead and laugh. No one else will ever hear you. Laugh while I move on to the next.

Working Title: Raspberry Pie
1st Sentence: Just-picked Maine raspberries, check.
Favorite Sentence: She was a task-master, that woman—no, not cuddly at all—but pie is pie and life is short.
Word Length: 352

Photo by 2/2013.

Childhood Again

19 Feb

Lit MatchOne of the ways I rescue a totally arid brain is to go back to childhood. This story about my mother using gasoline to light our wood stove fits nicely into a small package. Oh, the horror on my father’s face when he discovered she’d been doing that—maybe I’ll write that story sometime.

Working Title: Morning Fire
1st Sentence: We were cold, we had been so cold all morning, and she couldn’t get the fire going.
Favorite Sentence: Goddess of Flame, Keeper of the Sun and Moon, Juno throwing her bolt of lightning.
Word Length: 441

Photo by Sebastian Ritter 1/2006.

A good one!

17 Feb

FedoraAll the notes I took for this week of stories said things like “I’m tired” and “Still sad about [my cat] Maria” and “Not in the flow.” So it’s not surprising that this is the first story this week that feels right and whole.

Working Title: Rapture
1st Sentence: She saw a hat in the middle of the street, an old fedora, and the first thing she thought was, Daddy wore a hat like that.
Favorite Sentence: If she didn’t keep smiling into the radiance of the sun, if she didn’t bear the twitching muscles, the tight shoulders, she might be overlooked.
Word Length: 431

Photo by Clément Bucco-Lechat 11/2012.

A Little Better

13 Feb

TattooOccasionally I see a pretty tattoo and I think, “Why not?” You only live once. But then I think… PERMANENT. And that word is enough to scare me away. Just further proof that I was born with the sensibility of a middle-aged woman in mom-jeans. Anyway, thinking about tattoos today led to a piece that isn’t great but has potential when I can come back to it.

Working Title: Tats
1st Sentence: When you are 20 and your ass is a couple of round rocks carried high on your hips, it seems like a great idea to decorate those sweet cheeks with a couple of pretty tattoos.
Favorite Sentence: At that age you think nothing of sleeping on concrete to make a statement against oppression—shit, you’ll sleep on concrete just to get better concert tickets.
Word Length: 445

Photo by Bur 4/2005.

No Inspiration

12 Feb

ScrabbleReally struggled and it shows. This one will live on the hard drive.

Working Title: Games
1st Sentence: I have never been good at games.
Favorite Sentence: But wanting to win is not the only reason a person might cheat.
Word Length: 326

Let’s Make It 3

8 Feb

Ruby SlippersAmong the many, many lessons this challenge is teaching me so well: The idea file or writer’s notebook is an awfully good friend. I had to end this shorty badly, though, for lack of time to find the right ending.

Working Title: Validation
1st Sentence: When they dressed up like Robin Hood and Maid Marion, people thought he was an elf and she was a princess, but how does that make sense?
Favorite Sentence: When they were Dorothy and Toto, everyone got her right, there was no mistaking the ruby slippers, but they thought he was a werewolf.
Word Length: 307

Photo by RadioFan at en.wikipedia (10/2009) of the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz (1939) on display at the American History Museum.

Rescuing Scraps

6 Feb

SlippersI like it when I can figure out how to build on the scraps I save in my idea file. Struggled the whole day then finally made something work. Not a keeper in present form but it has potential for when I come back to it.

Working Title: Fire
1st Sentence: Phase 1: Frat party, bouquet of roses, too much drunk sex, BIG WEDDING with poofy dress.
Favorite Sentence: He’s the kind of guy who gives fancy chocolates and really plush slippers on Valentine’s day, who replays that moment in the movie when our hero gets his tie stuck in the door seven times because he loves her screaming laughter, who brings treats for the cats when he comes over.
Word Length: 343

Photo from the website of Lamey Wellehan, where my husband bought me these awesome slippers for Christmas.

Ending the week with cnf!

4 Feb

BBQBig congrats to me for finishing Week 40! We’ve got a huge snowstorm going here in Maine and I’m craving comfort food, so my virtual celebration treat is savory. That’s the kind of plate I could swim in for a long time…. As for the day’s work, do you know about Brevity magazine’s flash nonfiction contest? There is no entry fee and the deadline is 2/14 so get on it! Rather than basing the day’s shorty on a poem as I have been doing all week, I answered Brevity’s siren call and generated a short piece recounting a strange memory from childhood. As it happens, I have written about this memory before at Daily Shorty, I think in August, and the word count was 1000+. I remember it as mediocre at best. This time the contest guidelines, which limit the submission to 500 words, forced me to be more targeted and I wrote a much better piece. Is it good? I don’t know. CNF is not my thing. But it’s pretty good and after several revisions (I’m writing this post on February 8), it is as good as I can make it. Many thanks to Brevity for the prompt and to my cherished, yellow walls friend Patty Weidler, who gave me excellent feedback on the first two drafts.

Working Title: Blood
1st Sentence: I lurked behind the couch, nursing a slapped face or kicked shin or twisted wrist.
Favorite Sentence: Missed me, I wanted to sing, but I was too high to form words, high on his twisted mouth, my lightness, high on sure-footed, dancing me.
Word Length: 500

Photo by Marshall Astor 6/2007.

More Poems Day 6

3 Feb

HailThis one didn’t come easy but it finally landed. A strange one with some potential when I go back for revision. Inspired by February 3rd’s poem at Poetry Daily, “My Knife,” by Dennis Hinrichsen, from Rip-Tooth, published by University of Tampa Press. First four lines as teaser: I keep a little Lear in my back jeans pocket / a little sorrow / like a doll or jackknife / to slice away at storms

Working Title: Hail Storm
1st Sentence: None of us had ever seen hail before.
Favorite Sentence: The laughs were rude, they sounded like barking, they split the air and felt wrong, wrong.
Word Length: 338

Photo by Mat Fascione 3/2008.

Out with a Whimper

31 Jan

NougatI finally enjoyed two days of a little spark yesterday and the day before but today, sadly… no spark. I hope I have a really good week soon to make up for these late doldrums but who knows, maybe 9 months is the outer limit of how long I can write something every day and mine a little gold here and there. In any case, congratulations to me for completing my 9th month today! The treat in the picture is “artisanal nougat,” which looks like that Torrone candy I love to get at Christmas. I think a hunk like that is sufficient for celebrating another month. Excuse me while I don my dinner napkin. The day’s lackluster shorty was inspired by the lovely poem “Forecast” by Karin Gottshall, published at Crazyhorse Fall 2012. I found it at Poetry Daily. Here’s the first stanza as a teaser: I remember, before the snow started, / thinking I wish it would start. The sky darkened

Working Title: Snow Sculpture
1st Sentence: For going on five years, now, she would sculpt only with snow and only outdoors.
Favorite Sentence: She lumped, piled, packed, and patted into place a vision as it rose before her.
Word Length: 448

Photo by nonolilli 8/2012.

New Lease on Life + Poetry

29 Jan

HandThere is one good thing about the flu (and it’s certainly not worth it): Once on the road to recovery, everything you eat and drink is delicious, and everything you do is exciting because it’s so easy. Yesterday I straightened up the kitchen and felt incredibly happy that I had the energy to do it. I wanted to wash that dish—and I did! The day’s shorty isn’t great but it has a bit of spark and that’s enough for me right now. I’m going back to prompts this week and will be using the site Poetry Daily again for my inspiration. The day’s inspiration poem is Dispatch Detailing Rust, by Adrian C. Louis, published in New Letters, Volume 79, No. 1. The first four lines as a teaser: I was merely on / the cusp of growing / old when I shook / his hand, my enemy’s

Working Title: Art
1st Sentence: She lifted her hands and squinted into the light.
Favorite Sentence: A little lingo-lasso, and we’ll rustle ourselves a better profile.
Word Length: 316

Photo by Striatic 7/2009.

More Flu Stories

26 Jan

Red Velvet CakeI remember working on this one. I would forget what I was writing literally while still in the middle of a sentence. There is evidence that I wanted to craft something good—a note partly down the first page in the margin reads, “Start here?” Oh, Honey. It doesn’t matter where you start this one.

Working Title: Who Counts
1st Sentence: When I was very young, maybe five or six, my mother cut two pieces of cake, one noticeably larger than the other, and asked me which piece I wanted.
Favorite Sentence: Their utter disregard for any opinion not brined, first, in testosterone.
Word Length: 477

Photo by Flickr user Twon 1/2009.

More Paintings Last Day!

21 Jan

Raspberry tartThis raspberry tart looks almost unbearably wonderful. Faced with a shelf of those things I would eat them for every meal until they were gone, I think. Dream with me. And applause, applause for the completion of Week 38! On my last day of this week I used Leslie Anderson’s “Stonington Street” to spark my shorty. Maine writers, see the Summer Stories Short Story Competition put together by the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance and Shanti Arts Publishing for details on submitting short stories inspired by Anderson’s paintings (deadline March 1). This was a tough week, mainly because I seem unable to recover a fairly normal level of energy since the dive I took this fall when I was working really hard on some editorial work. Today was particularly tough but I got it done. Despite the difficulty of the week, it was a pure delight to spend another 7 days with Laurie Anderson’s paintings.

Working Title: Blue
1st Sentence: Today in January I yearn for August blue.
Favorite Sentence: But no, my nails are pliant, thin, inherited from a victim of consumption in a flowing white nightgown or a failed prince in girlish shoes murdered in his sleep.
Word Length: 374

Photo by Flickr user Selena N. B. H. 5/2008.

Another Hard Push

13 Jan

TulipsAgain, many false starts. Much gnashing of teeth. Finally, a decent little shorty. Awarding myself these tulips for all the recent especially hard work. Very tired.

Working Title: In That Moment
1st Sentence: She has no idea what possessed her in that moment.
Favorite Sentence: In that stopped moment she had looked at her husband’s torso topped by a bowtie topped by a plate and she had laughed, a short series of barks powered by her diaphragm that would have embarrassed her any other time, anywhere else.
Word Length: 459

Photo by Jebulon 1/2011.

Capturing a Mood

11 Jan

Red RoseI woke up thinking morbid thoughts. So… morbid shorty.

Working Title: Morbid Much?
1st Sentence: She keeps a Word file that lists all distinguishing marks in case her body ever has to be identified.
Favorite Sentence: The current version of her obituary includes the best poem she ever wrote—about the exquisitely soft furl of a rose petal, shrinking and black-edged—but she’s thinking of taking it out in favor of a song that came to her last Wednesday while she soaked in the tub.
Word Length: 374

Photo by Marcus Obal 4/2007.

Another Random Phrase

10 Jan

DoughSometimes I just have to start with nothing. My mind roams and I type words or sentences and then delete them and type more and delete again and more and again until an image holds, for no reason I can divine, and I stop deleting as the sentences spin out into a larger whole.

Working Title: His Hands
1st Sentence: In his hands the dough was a living thing, elastic, full of breath, the surface glistening silky soft in the overhead light.
Favorite Sentence: They were not musical, they did not shape themselves to a paintbrush or a shoulder, they were clumsy with a pen and couldn’t keep hold of a needle.
Word Length: 354

Photo by Jon Sullivan 4/2004, courtesy of

Hello Week 37!

8 Jan

Fudge TurtleI neglected to celebrate the completion of Week 36 in January 7th’s story post below. Likewise, I began this week forgetting that I should use a writing prompt to keep up with my practice (for some time now) of alternating weeks using writing prompts with weeks of coming up with ideas entirely randomly. Well, that’s how it’s been, lately. I may have to accept that I’m not going to regain a normal-ish level of energy for the remainder of this challenge. Major mental fatigue has settled in and seems to abate somewhat for only a couple of days at a time. I do continue to write stories that surprise and delight me, at least one every week. How long can I go? I guess we’ll find out. For now enjoy with me this turtle fudge to celebrate another week of shorties. The day’s story was inspired by a conversation I had recently with a friend about fertility treatments.

Working Title: Egg-less
1st Sentence: Egg Mommy.
Favorite Sentence: Purgatory is trudging around with your flat abdomen, your biological clock clanging like Big Ben, dodging growing bellies in pastel colors, sandwich-bag dresses with big bows centered on the womb, and TMI jokes about indigestion, compressed bladders, innie belly buttons popping out like little erect penises or like posted “I was here” signs from the actual penises.
Word Length: 423

Photo by Mackinac Fudge Shop 12/2008.