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Sense Week, Day 7

1 Apr

Chocolate Raspberry CupcakesMore treats! I know we just gorged on chocolates, but today we must celebrate the completion of Week 48! For that we indulge in a chocolate cupcake with raspberry icing. YUM. Now on to today’s shorty: I had to randomly select from my collection of small pieces of paper, each labeled with one of the five senses (and a sixth labeled “ESP” for fun), to determine which sense I’d have to repeat for my seventh day. I selected “smell.” As it happens, I wrote the day’s shorty while at a writing session with friends, using the prompt of a sentence randomly selected from a book. Then I revised the story to make the sense of smell factor into the plot in some way. I made it work, so for once my job was done early in the day. Happy April!


Working Title: Steak Dinner
1st Sentence: Fire!
Favorite Sentence: Multiply by 1,000 and that’s what apocalypse smells like.
Word Length: 443


Photo by Flickr user Whitney 2/2010.

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.

Sense Week, Day 5

30 Mar

PinocchioThe day’s prompt: smell. Oh, how I wanted to write about the scent of frying bacon or Thanksgiving Day’s roasting turkey, but happy smells wouldn’t take hold and inspire story.


Working Title: Ripe
1st Sentence: When she was eight or nine her great-grandmother, an ancient woman bowed to a right angle by all the troubles she’d brought with her from some very cold, very gray place in Eastern Europe, had cornered Josie in the kitchen and told her that she could smell the lies on her.
Favorite Sentence: The knowledge that she could be sniffed out, even if only by this half-woman-half-spirit, was enough to shake Josie of the lying habit.
Word Length: 353


Photo of illustrations from “Le avventure di Pinocchio, storia di un burattino”, Carlo Collodi, Bemporad & figlio, Firenze 1902 (Drawings and engravings by Carlo Chiostri, and A. Bongini).

Sense Week Day 4

29 Mar

EyeglassesToday’s prompt was sight. Mercifully, the idea and outline of this story came to me almost immediately this morning. Can’t remember the last time a shorty was this easy. Is it good? Oh, now, remember—this project isn’t about being good! Good is for revision.


Working Title: Landscape
1st Sentence: She looks at her feet as she walks to work.
Favorite Sentence: It’s lightly worn leather, desk-job leather, up-and-coming, foreign-film, house-wine, fine-for-autumn leather.
Word Length: 306


Photo of “Harry Potter” glasses by Ultra-lab 11/2011.

Sense Week Day 3

28 Mar

Bronze HandTuesday my prompt was sound, Wednesday it was ESP, and now touch. After trying to woo inspiration several times in the day, a goofy sentence occurred and I went with it. The conventional wisdom says never to begin with a sentence so over-the-top that you have nowhere to go and I almost threw this sentence away for that reason. But I decided to challenge myself to take it seriously and puzzle out why someone would ever be in the position to say such a thing. I did my best to capture a moment in this poor person’s life. And now I will write the single most over-used sentence for, oh, a few years now: It is what it is.


Working Title: Bronze Age
1st Sentence: My question is this: So what if I want to bronze my own hand?
Favorite Sentence: While I sip a cocktail, crush a piece of ice between my teeth, I’ll remember those fingers, now stilled in metal, once trembling over the fluttering heartbeat of a broken bird.
Word Length: 378


Photo © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC-BY-SA-3.0.

Scrambling

27 Mar

ZodiacToday my prompt was the “6th sense,” ESP. Writing session 1: Nothing, during which actually I did something, which was rejecting lots of stupid ideas and coming up with a couple that might fly but needed mulling. Writing session 2: Almost nothing, then frustrated forcing of SOMETHING. I chose one of the mulled ideas, then wrote a harmless sentence referencing a horoscope. I stared at it for a while, then wrote a few more sentences. Then I called writing session 2 “done.” Writing session 3: Scramble, push, scramble… done. Honestly at this point I think I could teach a workshop on how to write a very short fiction in 3 brief-ish writing sessions. You might not love it but it’ll be complete. And you might love the one you write tomorrow….


Working Title: Horoscope
1st Sentence: My horoscope said that I would remember a friend, today.
Favorite Sentence: Somewhere there is a friend I’m meant to remember in some stray moment of stopped time—because of a flash of sun on a woman’s hair or the shaky tenor of a cubicle-neighbor’s laugh or the slippery surface of the phone in my sweating hand… yes, that’s it.
Word Length: 467


Photo of the zodiac in an illuminated 15th century manuscript.

Just Playing

26 Mar

Dripping FaucetSo here’s the thing about writing a story every day for 329 days. On the 330th day, you ask yourself: What have I not done yet? A gazillion things, of course, but the brain that has written a story every day for 329 days doesn’t FEEL like there are a gazillion ideas and approaches out there. That brain says, are you shitting me? But then Rude Brain does actually think of something she hasn’t done yet. With the help of a prompt, of course. This week (my DS weeks begin on Tuesdays), I’ve decided to focus on a different sense each day, adding the “sixth sense” for fun, and re-doing one of the senses for the seventh day. I drew randomly to determine the order and today I had to focus on sound. So I wrote a story that was framed around a “sound” word. That made me want to blend text, so I found a way to mix in quotes from a Shakespeare play. I don’t think the resultant shorty-stew works so well but it was fun to just be a goof.


Working Title: Drip Drip Drip
1st Sentence: Oh, of course, why not, the classic drip drip drip of the bathroom faucet drip drip drip.
Favorite Sentence: It’s just like those frogs in Atlanta drip drip drip that time when you wore those purple-ey pants, do you remember drip drip drip??
Word Length: 866


Photo by Nicole-Koehler.

Another Cat Appears

25 Mar

Jordan AlmondsI’ve admitted somewhere before on this blog that I have a fondness for putting cats in my stories. I think it’s been a while, though, since I have indulged. I like the idea for the day’s shorty, which has a cat front and center, but the execution wasn’t so great. I’ll come back to it. In the meantime, congratulations to me for completing Week 47! I’m a sucker for Easter candy, which always includes for me Jordan almonds. I’ve been eating far too many of them these last few days. Just one more small handful to celebrate another completed week.


Working Title: The Choice
1st Sentence: “Does Tweezle want his mommy? Hmm? His mommy?”
Favorite Sentence: “Silly silly Tweezle-plum-pie,” said Samantha, her body oozing closer.
Word Length: 285


Photo by Alex Kasperavičius 2/2006.

Making the Best of It

24 Mar

RapunzelI grabbed something from the idea file and made it work well enough. I actually kind of like it but this shorty will need some reworking if it’s going to be a keeper. It’s a third recent piece inspired by a traditional fairy tale.


Working Title: Hairy Dreams
1st Sentence: When they bought the old country mansion her father was so hot to rehab, Tammi begged to be allowed to make her bedroom in the little cupola that sat on the roof of the house like a cake decoration.
Favorite Sentence: A girl who lives in a cupola, she reasoned, might one day need to pull a Rapunzel.
Word Length: 404


Photo by Kay Körner.

Back on track!

23 Mar

Sock PuppetEver get fixated on a phrase or an image but you don’t know why and can’t seem to do anything with it? Just let it marinate. When it’s ready to frame a story it will. That’s what happened to me with the day’s shorty, which I like but don’t love. Hopefully I’ll hit gold in revision.


Working Title: Threesome
1st Sentence: Sarah had wanted to meet so she could apologize for using the sock puppet to break up with me.
Favorite Sentence: “We love you, Joe,” said Lemonade, in a high, creaky voice.
Word Length: 229


Photo by Carlb.

Again Childhood Strikes

22 Mar

FriesI think I said recently that again and again I’ve gone to the childhood well to save myself in times of extreme desperation? Sometimes that works out and I write something I really like. Most of the time it goes the way it went today. That’s two stories in a row destined to live only on my hard drive.


Working Title: French Fries
1st Sentence: I feared it but also looked forward to it, any anticipated alone-time with my older brother.
Favorite Sentence: And because the appointments were painful and upsetting they would take her to McDonald’s afterwards for an enormous serving of soft, fragrant French fries, her favorite treat.
Word Length: 524


Photo by Biso 6/2009.

Rambling

21 Mar

Gift BoxSometimes if I spin out from one simple sentence, I can make something I really enjoy. Other times… I just keep spinning.


Working Title: The Box
1st Sentence: She’d wrapped a box about the size of a loaf of bread in textured purple paper, ribboned the box with white organza, and left it on the coffee table in the living room.
Favorite Sentence: Right smack in the middle of the table this peacock of a box—for an entire week!—and he never said one word about it.
Word Length: 619


Photo by XFONG 7/2011.

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.

Fevered Brain

19 Mar

Celebration BouquetWell, I’ve started Week 47 with a bang. Or something. This story is… frantic, feverish, and not a little silly. It makes me laugh but also puzzles me. This is not my best work—I think it could use a bit more depth and punch. But I can’t think of another time when I’ve written something that both tickles and pokes me this much. If it takes, what, 323 straight days of writing a story every new day to accomplish that, then I’ll just go ahead and declare this whole challenge a success, even if I wind up not making it to the end. So a bouquet of flowers goes to me for this version of success. But I do really want to make it to the end….


Working Title: Ecstatic
1st Sentence: True, life has occasionally knocked her on her ass but always before in ordinary, “I should have seen that coming” ways.
Favorite Sentence: The nun is posted on the porch, a yard stick resting on her lap, keeping the reporters and the old boyfriend at bay.
Word Length: 721


Photo by Vimukthi 2/2011.

A Surprise!

18 Mar

Lava Cake and Ice CreamUPDATE. “Three Things” was published by Mid-American Review, Volume XXXV, Number 1. Many thanks! Not online, but here’s an author interview.

The surprise is that I can do something this late in the challenge, when I’m this tired, that excites me. I produced a droopy, totally uninteresting version of this shorty when I was writing with my friend Patty. I told her that it would count as my day’s shorty if necessary, but I hoped I’d have the energy and inspiration to revise it into something halfway good before lights out. Much to my delight (and shock), I did get interested in the piece later and I reworked it into something I actually kind of love. Patty, many thanks for your encouragement! As for the picture, I had a version of this dessert once at Fore Street in Portland, Maine. The one I ate looked even better and it was, oh, in my top 3 dessert experiences. Congrats to me for completing Week 46!


Working Title: Three Things
1st Sentence: She left three things behind.
Favorite Sentence: Or is this simply a last, whimsical act as Conductor?
Word Length: 327


Photo by Jurema Oliveira 12/2004.

A Disturbing One on St. Pat’s

17 Mar

Green BeerI don’t think there’s a connection between St. Patrick’s Day and the ugly vibe I’ve got going in this story. I don’t know why I sometimes write about the violence men do to women. I guess because I’ll never figure out how so many of us can be so cruel.


Working Title: Sweet Libby
1st Sentence: What is it that makes her impossible to believe?
Favorite Sentence: No, truth never comes from lips like that.
Word Length: (309)


Photo of green beer by SpaceAgeSage, March 17, 2007.

More for the Hard Drive

16 Mar

KittensLook, my hard drive needs friends, too. I’ve produced work at every level during this challenge, including a nice collection of stories that can live peacefully in their hard drive community, never disturbed in any way. The day’s shorty is one of them.


Working Title: He Knew, She Knew
1st Sentence: He knew she was lying.
Favorite Sentence: But if he challenged her she would be forced to admit the deceit and then they would have to look at it, this truth, her need to be rid of him.
Word Length: 389


This is my current go-to picture for cheering up. Thanks to Sudias (7/2008).

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.

Struggling

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 http://www.archive.org/details/fairytalesofhans00ande.

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 6

10 Mar

Lisbon BridgeIt took a long time for this one to arrive but once it did, it wrote itself. So, another gift in a tough week. I can’t tell how good this shorty is but I like it because I played with allusions to the old fairy tales about trolls guarding bridges. Inspired, of course, by the Wikimedia Commons picture of the day posted here.


Working Title: On the Other Side
1st Sentence: All of it, all of it—the years of crunching numbers and running out of staples and replacing toner and unjamming the copier.
Favorite Sentence: He stands before me, his legs in a wide, martial stance, his white face smooth as river stone, that slender red smile twitching at the corner.
Word Length: 526


Photo of Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon, Portugal, by F Mira (1/2009).

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 / http://www.Lucnix.be 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).

The Limitation of a Day

4 Mar

Apple FritterI’m celebrating the official completion of another week (it’s not official until I post about it!) with thoughts of the apple fritter I too often get at Starbucks. It looks a lot like the apple fritter pictured here. So here’s to finishing Week 44! The day’s shorty about a woman who discovers she’s an online romance-advice columnist’s invented girlfriend is a good example of a story that fails because I needed much longer than a day to get it right. In the old days, when I was rested, I could have banged out a decent draft. But nowadays it almost always takes my exhausted brain multiple (mostly unproductive) writing sessions over the course of the entire day for me to get something I can work with on the page, and by then I’ve only got a little gas left. If the vision can’t be thoroughly rendered in 1000 words or fewer, the draft will suffer and probably severely. Currently this shorty is a crammed, distilled story with notes for where to expand and it just barely meets my DS criteria for completion (see My Rules under my About page). But I’ll enjoy coming back to it, I think, when likely I will need to double or triple its length.


Working Title: Know Your Lady
1st Sentence: Leslie stared at the instant message at the bottom of her Facebook page.
Favorite Sentence: Dear Leslie, the only thing to come clean about is just how much you rock my world, Babe.
Word Length: 1,109


Photo of apple fritter by Aanidaani at en.wikipedia 1/2006.

Poorly Executed

3 Mar

Statue MarsI remember loving the idea for this shorty about a man who for no reason starts hearing the thoughts of people who are speaking to him. A bad movie cliché, I know, but I like the way I’d envisioned the story unfolding. But the execution is terrible, and not just because I had to leave some gaps. Maybe I’ll come back to it, maybe I won’t.


Working Title: Truth Echo
1st Sentence: The first time it happened he was on the phone with his landlord and he thought there was a break in the line, that someone else’s conversation was leaking through.
Favorite Sentence: “It’s not right you should be cold like that,” he said, and then Lanny heard, Freeze your balls off for all I care.
Word Length: 713


Photo (10/2008) of Schadow’s sculpture of the Roman god Mars, source of “March” as the name of our third month.

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.