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Sense Week, Day 6

31 Mar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEnjoy a trip to the chocolate shop with me to celebrate the close of another month! Yeehaw! I can hardly believe it. Want to make a year fly by? Promise to do some difficult thing every single day of it. While you’re slogging through the day, the week, while you’re looking ahead to how much time you still have to go, you feel like you’re walking through mud up to your hips. But in the big picture, when you glance out the window and notice the days are getting longer (or shorter), when you realize Thanksgiving is just around the corner—or Christmas or Easter—you’ll be shocked at how quickly it all slipped by. As for the day’s shorty, my prompt was the sense of taste. I wrote a non-narrative piece based on the four flavors we can detect plus the taste of “savory-ness” I hear cooks talking about, “umami.” I like the framing but I hope I can make a better piece out of it when I come back for revision.

Working Title: Flavor Profile
1st Sentence: Bitter. Like black coffee, dark chocolate, hoppy beer, grapefruit, like when you break up with your boyfriend after seven long years of “making it work” and not three full weeks later he’s dating someone else and already they’re committed.
Favorite Sentence: Salt is swagger.
Word Length: 315

Photo by frank wouters from antwerpen, belgium, 1/2003.

More Fun

20 Mar

DaffodilsIn Maine we’re getting our usual heavy doses of March snow when my bones are used to daffodils, so I’m posting a photo here to combat the chill. As for my shorties, I continue to have trouble, most days, coming up with an idea that will hold. Over and over I wind up settling into a story around midnight and then staying up another hour or two to complete it. This one, framed as a list of the most important facts of a person’s life, was fun, despite my falling asleep over it. I’ll enjoy coming back to it.

Working Title: Just the Facts
1st Sentence: Fact 1. She didn’t cry the day she was born.
Favorite Sentence: We don’t know when she started doing it or why but she got steadily better and better at sitting there like a puffed up toad, her face going purple.
Word Length: 613

Photo by Rosendahl.

When Sadness Helps

11 Feb

Hot ChocolateThis hot chocolate looks so comforting. It’s the right virtual treat to enjoy as gratitude for completing the very, very difficult Week 41. As for the day’s shorty (I’m typing this post on February 21), I had no heart for writing the day after saying goodbye to our kitty. Late that night, when I couldn’t make anything in my idea file work, I looked through my file of unfinished stories and found a start to something I wrote more than four years ago. My “I really wish I didn’t have to think about this” approach helped me to zero in on why I never wrote more than a few paragraphs after a whole page of notes on what I wanted to accomplish: The story’s vision was far too complicated. I saw how to render a simplified version in much shorter form and pounded it out. It’s a joke-story in any case, probably destined to live on my hard drive. But it’s nice to check off another piece that had been languishing in my “unfinished” folder. And it was good to work on something meant to be humorous.

Working Title: Story by Committee
1st Sentence: Notes on Final Draft of “When I Wasn’t Looking” by Sharona Weekly
Favorite Sentence: By slim majority and against the wishes of the recording secretary, we decided to eliminate your epiphany ending to this story.
Word Length: 1,533

Photo by Itisdacurlz 12/2010.

Too Sad To Care

10 Feb

I wrote this shorty on the day we had to euthanize our sweet kitty. We took her to the animal hospital early and then spent the day crying over her. Late that night I couldn’t summon any desire to write but I had to, so I produced a story by grabbing at various stray thoughts. And I have to say that when I read this one, I remember that I did become interested in it, despite myself. I remember, too, that I was soothed by the writing that night. And I’m surprised to find that the story has a lot of promise. Again, no heart for a photo.

Working Title: Unverified
1st Sentence: Scar. She has a vertical quarter-inch scar just above the left side of her upper lip.
Favorite Sentence: The dream is beginning to feel more reliable than her memory.
Word Length: 735

My Permanent Record

9 Jan

Gold StarI don’t think people threaten kids with what might appear on their Permanent Record anymore. But it was something I heard a lot growing up. Don’t even think of doing X or it’ll wind up on your Permanent Record! Strangely, this threat had teeth, at least for me. But I’ve always been a coward. Today’s shorty is another written in the form of a list of 7 things.

Working Title: On My Permanent Record
1st Sentence: 1. I was winning the gold star race.
Favorite Sentence: Pretty young thing, said my quickened breath, the faint moans of the fake nightmare, pretty frail thing with her long, tangled hair, her skin so pale it shows the blue-veined pulse in her wrist, in the hollow of her neck, can you see that, in the moonlight, can you see how fragile?
Word Length: 834

Photo by Flickr user Nina Matthews from Australia 11/2010.

Prompts from Pepys!

25 Dec

Samuel Pepys PortraitIf I’m ever feeling full of myself for writing a story every day for so many months, I need only remind myself of Samuel Pepys to prevent ego-bloat. The man wrote a diary entry every single day for 10 years, from January 1, 1660, until the end of 1669. Now THAT is a commitment! I’ve been alternating story-prompt weeks with non-story-prompt weeks, and it’s time for prompts again. In brainstorming possible prompts, I thought of old Sam’s diary, which I’d always heard was pretty lively. Turns out, a man named Phil Gyford has been publishing the diary entries every day since January 1, 2003, at this wonderful site (so as it happens, they’ll finish out the tenth year this December 31). Oh, how I love the interwebs! I decided to read the entry from December 25, 1662, as my inspiration for the day’s shorty, just because I like round numbers. On Christmas day in 1662, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary that he had enjoyed “a mess of brave plum-porridge,” a detail that inspired a short story 350 years later. I wrote this one in the form of a recipe.

Working Title: Christmas Pudding
1st Sentence: 10 to 12 long, heavy sighs.
Favorite Sentence: 1 argument that involves more than two family members, lasts at least twenty-four minutes, and starts with a disagreement about whether garland is prettier than icicles OR whether colored lights are prettier than white lights, and ends with a reference to a sin committed by one of the arguers at least ten years ago.
Word Length: 241

Photo of 1666 Samuel Pepys portrait by John Hayls (1600–1679).

More Fun with 7

22 Dec

ZombiesIt’s been a while since I’ve written a shorty for sheer amusement. Feels good!

Working Title: 7 Reasons To Go Zombie
1st Sentence: 1. You never have to run.
Favorite Sentence: 4. By nature the zombie is a social animal who bonds with his zombie fellows and travels in packs, so you will never again stare at your bright red Fiesta-ware dinner plate inherited from your mother, sawing at a slap of ham by candlelight, reviewing all the choices you made that brought you here, alone at this table, on Christmas night, with “Joy to the World” playing on a loop.
Word Length: 429

Photo by Jeremy Keith 10/2007.

Still going!

20 Nov

The handful of you subscribed to this blog know that I missed a few days of posts (I’m writing this on Sunday, November 25). The Thanksgiving holiday overtook me, I’m afraid, but not entirely—I have kept up with my story-a-day commitment, and today I’ll catch up with my posts, backdating as usual so that the date I wrote the story matches the date of the post. I’m not using prompts this week, just letting inspiration come from wherever. This shorty was inspired by grocery shopping, though that doesn’t show in what I have here.

Working Title: Pop Quiz
1st Sentence: Jonathan, a med student who could eat fish tacos for dinner every single day of his life and never get tired of them, is smitten with Katie, a former competitive swimmer who works the front desk at the art museum and is thinking seriously about going to library school.
Favorite Sentence: All four names are associated with white, Anglo-Saxon-ish, Christian-ey people who grew up with back yards and placemats and bed skirts.
Word Length: 781

Photo by KF 6/2005.

Fond Farewell to the Mystery Box

29 Oct

And a fond farewell to Week 26! One of my all-time favorite treats is pistachio ice cream—enjoy it with me as I celebrate another completed week of the Daily Shorty challenge. The last inspiration I pulled from my mystery box was part of the top of a corroded aerosol can, which got me fixated on the thought of hairspray. I covered three pages with various ideas and story starts related to hairspray—I couldn’t shake the image of it—and finally landed on a story as list using that number again: 7. Many thanks, again, to Jen Hicks. I love saying this: I owe you one!

Working Title: 7 Items
1st Sentence: Ever wonder what’s in my basement?
Favorite Sentence: I love bananas just as they are, so I’m in no danger of buying the Nanna-Mousser.
Word Length: 285

Photo of pistachio nougat ice cream by Flickr user Jules 1/2007.

6th Pic of the Day: A Test!

23 Sep

This has been a very tough few days. Yet again I struggled to produce a complete story. Yet again I wrote a lot of words I had to toss. An easy one very soon, please?

Working Title: SAT Question
1st Sentence: Four friends and co-workers, Jenny, Elissa, Michael, and Fran, are due to attend an important conference, which takes place in a town that is roughly a three-hour distance from where they all live.
Favorite Sentence: She says absolutely not but this solution suits Fran and Jenny very well, so they agree with Michael and all three badger and badger Elissa, they just keep on badgering her, and maybe because she was the youngest of five children, she is used to capitulating to a slew of yammering voices, she is used to condescension, she is used to being told.
Word Length: 1,345

Photo: Portion of I-35W Mississippi River bridge after 8/1/2007 collapse, by Kevin Rofidal, U.S. Coast Guard, 8/2007, picture of the day at Wikimedia Commons 9/2/2011.

Grab Bag Day 6: Song

16 Sep

When I bought seven songs for my song-prompt week, I actually added an eighth “bonus track.” “Landslide,” by Fleetwood Mac, inspired the day’s shorty.

Working Title: Relationship 1 to 7
1st Sentence: Phase 1. Even your hair.
Favorite Sentence: But here’s what you don’t get: I’m not your mother.
Word Length: 272

Photo of Stevie Nicks at Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, CA, 2/1/2008 by Chris1345.

Back to 7!

20 Jul

I don’t know. Nothing was coming to me and the minutes were ticking away. I thought again about Michael Martone’s Four for a Quarter and how we should try arbitrary forms for stories and so again the number 7 comes flying at me and then… I’m off and running.

Working Title: 7 Confusions
1st Sentence: Confusion #1. The big one.
Favorite Sentence: We may never know if a Neanderthal could say, “I had pierced the mastodon with an arrow when I realized that I did not have my hacksaw.”
Word Length: 1,101

Photo by Ökologix, 2007.


8 Jul

Had a hard time finding something to stick, and once I did I struggled with a draft that pleased me. Wound up re-drafting this piece twice before finally getting something that has potential. Really hoping I’m going to feel more sparked soon. Lately despite some great brainstorming sessions the writing has felt more dutiful than joyful. Will I have to admit soon that I plain need a break from drafting a short story every day? I hope not because I have no intention of taking one.

Working Title: Things I Can Tell You Now That It’s Over
1st Sentence: What I was really thinking when we first met.
Favorite Sentence: “What a waste!” you’d say, “I could make a baby chicken out of that,”—always, always the thing about a baby chicken—and then you’d actually shove the bones into your mouth to suck and strip off the leftover bits.
Word Length: 556

7 Still on the Brain

7 Jul

I so love my vision for this one but the draft is a truly stunning failure. I’ll come back to it because dammit I have to be able to execute better than this. Frustrating.

Working Title: The 7 Wonders of Annabelle’s World
1st Sentence: Follow me, if you will, to Annabelle’s bookshelf, where we find the song book she made last Christmas.
Favorite Sentence: Note the detail on the center rocks, where Annabelle used red nail polish to paint hearts denoting her profound and abiding love for Milliker.
Word Length: 821

Image of the 7 wonders of the ancient world by Slof, August 2006.

Still Thinking 7

5 Jul

I would like to be more original and be inspired by a cranky number like 11 or 17 but it’s “lucky 7” that keeps coming to me ever since reading the Michael Martone piece (at Cynthia’s blog Catching Days) that I mentioned in my July 2 post (just below). Today my shorty is a 7-part personality quiz, the really infuriating kind marketed to women at the checkout counter on the cover of a bad magazine showing off the puffed-up cleavage of some anorexic actress. Fun to write.

Working Title: Know Thyself
1st Sentence: Ladies, do you wonder what people are thinking about you?
Favorite Sentence: Your mother worries about your self-confidence and suspects that allowing the doctor to induce labor deprived you of as much as two crucial weeks of prenatal development; you would be a doctor, yourself, she thinks, if you’d had those two weeks, maybe a state senator.
Word Length: 489

Photo of the 7 Lucky gods of Japan by Steve from Nagoya, Japan, August 2007.

Too Tired To Be Inspired

3 Jul

After a great brainstorming session and a fun shorty yesterday I just slumped through my commitment today, sadly. Now that I’m caught up with posts, I’m pushing hard to put something on my static pages so I can make this site public. For the record, if you’re thinking of starting a blog I highly recommend it for documenting your work and reveling in whatever delights the Inner Geek, but know that it’s going to take a lot more time than you think to set it up. (Damn you, Cynthia.) Anyway, a shorty today that doesn’t please me but I stuck with it and did my best by it in any case. Poor Bill. Enjoy your life on my hard drive, Bill. And know that as my clunkers go, you are a stand-up guy.

Working Title: What Bill Read Today
1st Sentence: His watch.
Favorite Sentence: Between the dusty box of chamomile crap Erin left behind and the chocolate-scented confectioner’s sugar in the packet, every time the sugar.
Word Length: 757

Photo by Timur Voronkov, February 2010.

Goodbye to Week 9!

2 Jul

A frosty virtual piña colada for me in celebration of completing Week 9! Today’s shorty was inspired by Michael Martone’s visit to my friend and colleague’s blog, Cynthia Newberry Martin’s Catching Days. I’m a huge fan of Michael (see the “How To Be a Writer” project he inspired at Hunger Mountain) and I pay close attention to everything he says. More on what he says in that post another time but today what I took from it was a reminder to play with structure. He’s just written Four for a Quarter, a book of pieces based on the number 4. This morning I got hooked on the number 7. So… why is thinking “yellow” a Big Idea that ruins a story and thinking “7” isn’t? I’m not sure, but my guess is that I’m using “7” to suggest form, and form is just a constraint we can choose to work within or not. Whereas with “yellow” I wasn’t thinking form at all but about the abstract concept of the color yellow and about even more abstract associations with it (cowardice, age) and how I might do these ideas justice. For me, trying to go from the abstract to the concrete means ruination.

Working Title: 7 Ways To Tempt Your Man
1st Sentence: What man?
Favorite Sentence: For God’s sake don’t wear that flimsy pink number with the silky sash, it makes you look like an expensive bedroom slipper.
Word Length: 574

Photo by Portorricensis, June 2008.

First week done!

7 May

A virtual cupcake for me, to celebrate my first full week! Yahoo! See May’s Story Facts + page for a geeky round-up of the week’s work.

My first week has been much easier than I expected. I write for a good 1.5 to 2 hrs each morning, getting a draft down, then come back at night for 1 to 2 hours to revise that morning’s story or one I wrote on a previous day. True, I’m finding it hard to maintain any balance in my days, but it’s high time my writing is the thing I’m doing too much….

Working Title: Gabriel Calling
1st Sentence: Here’s why I can’t stop thinking about the Apocalypse.
Favorite Sentence: Last week my alphabet soup spelled out GoatMan.
Word Length: 717

Photo by Kristin Ausk, February 2009.