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Extreme Fatigue Inspires Play?

12 Apr

Mata HariI’m weathering another small crush of fatigue and I keep wondering just why this project is so tiring. On the one hand it seems like common sense that it would be—when I tell other writers I have written a story every day for these many months, they are stunned. Right, of course, because we know how hard it is to craft a complete piece. But on the other hand… why is it not just as hard to simply write for several hours every day? The pressure to create a new piece each day, plus the pressure to complete it, add up (after many weeks) to a very, very tired brain, but I have no idea if a pyschologist or neurologist could explain why those pressures should be so fatiguing. Anyway, I’m very pleased to say that for the first time in several weeks, I had a lot of fun writing the day’s shorty, which I approached in a really playful way, and that, this late in the game, feels like an enormous victory.

Working Title: Mata Hari’s Head
1st Sentence: Mata Hari’s head’s gone missing.
Favorite Sentence: In the first week of the timeframe in question, at least fourteen museum visitors carried a bag or backpack in which a plexiglass box containing a head might be concealed.
Word Length: 1,288

Photo is a scan from a magazine, 1910. Author unknown.

Friendly Prompts, Day 2: Gwen

3 Apr

Sagrada FamiliaMy friend Gwen Mullins took the Daily Shorty Challenge with me last summer. She sent me this story prompt: “Gaudi’s most famous church, Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, has been under construction for a hundred years. In some photos of the church, the cranes and scaffolding are digitally removed.” I’ll just say right now that I didn’t do this prompt justice, maybe because I was too charmed by it. In any case, the shorty I began to write reminded me of an old story I had begun several years ago, so I went back to that material and used several sentences from it as my foundation. I don’t think it works yet—probably needs to be longer, maybe much longer. But it’s a nice start. Many thanks to Gwen!

Working Title: Revelation
1st Sentence: Ammi and Rebekah were wed under the Holy Babe’s blue eye in the Foundation Church of Sweetwater County.
Favorite Sentence: Again in Papa Barnard’s office in the back of Foundation Church they prayed for understanding, and then Papa leaned forward, elbows digging into his desktop, and asked if there was anything either of them felt the need to confess.
Word Length: 542

Photo by Bernard Gagnon 9/2009. (A note appended to this photo says that cranes were digitally removed.)

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.

Good Potential!

27 Feb

Froot LoopsI write a lot about people who seem to be losing it. Recently a friend recommended that I not submit a story about a patient in a mental institution to a contest because she thinks editors are leary of stories “about the disturbed.” My experience in publishing says she’s probably right about that, yet pretty often my characters mentally deconstruct on the page. What’s a girl to do? Anyway, I like this one. It’ll be fun to come back to it and better shape it, fill in the gaps.

Working Title: Message
1st Sentence: I’m seeing it everywhere, now.
Favorite Sentence: She was upset about the latest memo on comp-time specifying exactly what is meant by “comp-time” (hint: there is no such thing as comp-time).
Word Length: 1,025

Photo of Froot Loops by Zanastardust 10/2007.


16 Feb

GhostSometimes when I’m fishing for story I hook a word that I don’t want to let go. The word I caught for this shorty was “figment.” I developed a really strong beginning from that word but then totally fizzled on the ending. Hopefully I can pick up the thread in revision and do a much better job.

Working Title: Figment
1st Sentence: She just doesn’t believe in that ghost shit, never has.
Favorite Sentence: How to describe “dubious” emerging from the writ-in-air face of a shimmering, transparent, apparently former man?
Word Length: 1,056

Photo here.

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.

An Odd Start

1 Feb

White BirdsToday’s prompt poem from Poetry Daily is “Five White Birds,” from LSUP’s Under the Pergola by Catharine Savage Brosman. With this shorty I got myself into a situation I had neither the time nor the brain power to get out of, nor did I have time to scrap the story and try to develop something else. So I spun for a bit and then wound out to an ending. The result is a shorty that is not just strange but, sad to say, pointless. I’ll go back to the idea for this one and the initial situation. I just need time to determine what should happen. Next! The first four lines of the poem as a teaser: Having seared the sky, the sun—a brazier—
 / smolders through the crumbling clouds / upriver; to the east, rich mounds of smoky / vapors, signifying rain tomorrow, drift on.

Working Title: Twizzler Pentimento
1st Sentence: I reported to her office at exactly 3:00 pm, as requested.
Favorite Sentence: She opened a pack herself, peeled off a strip of candy, and began to gnaw on it, looking at me with eyes narrowed.
Word Length: 1,106

Photo by Angela K. Kepler.

Struggling More

23 Jan

KittenA very difficult day. Hugely fatigued, couldn’t focus, headache. The shorty I produced has potential, though. By bedtime I was cursing the nasty cold that had settled in (I’m writing this a week later). This photo has no bearing on the post, I just need cheering up.

Working Title: Dream Teeth
1st Sentence: When Lynette had good dreams—not that she ever had good dreams, but she did have dreams in which nothing bad happened—there was no particular notice of teeth.
Favorite Sentence: She’d be at a dinner in a nice restaurant and open her mouth to laugh and reveal spongy black teeth the size of dice, a sheen on them like the surface of chocolate pudding.
Word Length: 1,167

Photo by Ron Whiskey 1/2008.

More Paintings Day 6

20 Jan

WestieComing to the end of my second week of stories prompted by Leslie Anderson paintings—just one more after this one. See the Summer Stories Short Story Competition put together by the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance and Shanti Arts Publishing for details on the March 1 deadline if you’re a Maine writer and you want to play. The day’s shorty was inspired by Anderson’s “Semaphore.” I had a lot of hope for this one but the execution wasn’t so great. On to the next.

Working Title: Talking Coffee Cup
1st Sentence: For a while they spoke only in Coffee Cup.
Favorite Sentence: The Westie talk was a boost to Veronica’s weeks of slinging cups of the same over-cooked, over-sugared crap, over and over in all its multisyllabic forms, while she worried about the next test at her night class.
Word Length: 1,035

Photo by Christopher Walker, Krakow, Poland, 11/2006.

More Paintings Day 2

16 Jan

KayakAnother day inspired by the Summer Stories Short Story Competition put together by the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance and Shanti Arts Publishing. Maine writers are invited to write and submit short stories in response to a series of delightful paintings by Maine artist Leslie Anderson. The deadline is March 1 and submissions need to be snail-mailed: Details here. I wrote today’s shorty after meditating on Anderson’s “Lake Rower.” And yes, I do know that this painting does not feature a kayak but I like the sound of the words “holy kayak” much more than “holy rowboat.”

Working Title: Holy Kayak
1st Sentence: He had been taught to call the bird an egret and she had been taught to call it a heron and somehow neither had stumbled over the common knowledge that the two words were often interchangeable, particularly if you are not an expert in ornithology, which neither was, and so they missed the simple truth that they were, in fact, BOTH right.
Favorite Sentence: After a few decades of extreme muscle-condescension, if you, Mr. Bigger and Stronger, decide to get in her way, on a day when she happens to be holding a paddle in her hands—a paddle that she is quite handy with, a paddle that has sculpted her small shoulders and arms—will she use that paddle as a weapon?
Word Length: 1,036

Photo by Walter Siegmund 4/2009.

Another Week of Paintings!

15 Jan

ClamsMaine writers, look sharp! The deadline is drawing near for the Summer Stories Short Story Competition put together by the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance and Shanti Arts Publishing. Mainers are invited to write and submit short stories in response to a series of delightful paintings by Maine artist Leslie Anderson. The deadline is March 1 and these submissions must be postedDetails here. I used 7 of these paintings as story prompts for a Daily Shorty week in October and I’m going to use 7 more as prompts this week. I’m in love with these folks for giving me extra incentive for two weeks of shorties and providing me with gold-plated prompts! I chose “Clammer” for today’s inspiration, which reminded me of a scrap I’d written for another (unfinishd) story. I rescued the scrap and built on it for the day’s story. Incidentally, I am a huge fan of the Maine lobster, but all seafood here is heaven and I’ve met quite a few natives who consider clams to be Maine’s best treasure.

Working Title: Dad Day
1st Sentence: Oh great, it’s a Dad day.
Favorite Sentence: Yeah, it did make you feel a little bit like hot fudge slipping off a scoop of ice cream.
Word Length: 1,200

Photo by Flickr user Leon Brocard 1/2008.


14 Jan

Banana RoyaleFinally, a break! This one didn’t land in my lap whole but I got it in two reasonable sessions and even had time to polish it up a bit before evening fell. Very rare, these days. And goodbye to another week of this challenge! Celebrating with this picture of a “banana royale.” If it were real I could down it in about 2 minutes flat, I think.

Working Title: Faker
1st Sentence: As a rule Brenda felt a slight flutter of discomfort immediately before giving a reading, but only just.
Favorite Sentence: How unattractive, to be so repulsed by a child.
Word Length: 1,215

Photo by Flickr user Janine from Mililani, Hawaii, 6/2008.

Virginia Tradition

6 Jan

Salt Herring MenuOne of my favorite and really intense memories from very young childhood is of the occasional Sunday breakfast made up of fried salt herring, eggs, and biscuits. (Yes, probably that should be “salted” herring, but I remember that we never said it that way.) We didn’t have much money, so only rarely–after a good paycheck with overtime–did my father get that craving and drive out early on a Sunday to hit a local place that sold the fried salt herring. I have no idea how the rest of my family felt but I was always Daddy’s little girl, certainly with regard to food, and I remember practically vibrating in anticipation, waiting for his return. He’d come back with brown paper packages containing the just-fried fish. My mother would open the packets on the table, add freshly baked biscuits and scrambled eggs, and we’d be off and running, eating our food from the paper. Half-meal, half-sport. After a few false starts on a shorty, this memory came to me. I asked my husband, also raised in Virginia but by parents who are not native to the state, if he’d ever had this breakfast and he said no. I did a Google search for “salt herring breakfast” and every hit I got specifically for that phrase came from a Virginia diner or a Virginia Moose lodge or Ruritan club. I copied the menu item above from the breakfast menu on the Virginia Diner’s website (located in Wakefield). Apparently a “salt herring breakfast” is a Virginia tradition! I’m delighted to discover this and to know I was part of it. Too enchanted not to write about it, though the shorty didn’t turn out well.

Working Title: Salt Herring
1st Sentence: He wanted a better life for his children and he wanted to provide more for his family than just three square meals a day, enough clothes, the occasional necessary trip to the doctor, and school supplies, all of which we could sometimes afford and sometimes not.
Favorite Sentence: Those salt herring breakfasts came at a time of possibility, when our living in this new, wild place still felt like camping, or a field trip.
Word Length: 1,211

Photo from the Virginia Diner website.

Pepys Day 4!

28 Dec

Samuel Pepys BustOn this day 350 years ago, Samuel Pepys and his wife snubbed Lady Batten at church by leaving before her. According to the rules of etiquette, they should have allowed the higher-ranked woman to exit first. Ha! Very British hijinks likely ensued. He says only, “…which I believe will vex her.” That was the detail that tickled my brain all day as I tried to come up with a short story. Eventually, in desperation, I just started typing variations of the word “snub” over and over, which got me thinking about someone refusing to speak to a friend, which then made me think of a silent pet parrot.

Working Title: Hey, Sweetie
1st Sentence: My parrot will no longer speak to me.
Favorite Sentence: So if I give him more jelly beans, I’m disobeying the doctor, I’m knowingly imperiling my parrot’s sensitive birdie system.
Word Length: 1,030

Photo by John Salmon (12/2008) of a bust of Samuel Pepys outside Seething Lane, London EC3, the location of one of his homes. From the collection at

Goodbye to Week 34!

24 Dec

TwizzlersAnd another week locked away! I once posted a pic of a Dark Milkyway as my celebration treat and confessed then that my palate can be a very cheap date. My husband put Twizzlers in my Christmas stocking this year and I squealed with delight when I found them. So enjoy with me this very cheap treat as I say goodbye to another week. The day’s shorty was inspired by another scrap from the Idea File that I then mostly junked once the story took shape. The story’s got some gaps–just barely makes it into my definition of “complete” for the purposes of this challenge–but it’s also got some good potential.

Working Title: What Perfect Looks Like
1st Sentence: What would a perfect world look like?
Favorite Sentence: In a perfect world the girl who walked her college campus in fluttery broom skirts and sandals, handing out flyers decrying the brutality of her own government’s spy games in South America and the Middle East, would not grow into a woman who worked for the U.S.’s largest private defense firm, up to its ears and bad toupees in dirty money and blowback-control.
Word Length: 1,168

Photo by Evan-Amos 11/2010.

Sounds Day 4

14 Dec

Cash RegisterThe husband chose the sound of a cash register from to prompt the day’s shorty. I went literal and got an idea I like, but it was tough to execute. I have hope this one will come alive with revision.

Working Title: Cashier
1st Sentence: Here comes somebody’s granny, a little snap-bean buttoned up in a coat much too warm for the season and topped with a red knit cap, sporting it like a sundae with a fat cherry on top.
Favorite Sentence: She had a huge head festooned with spiky ribbons in her thin brown hair, ribbons that shone no more than her intense, ink-black eyes, eyes that you wouldn’t want to see under a street lamp on a dark night, eyes you wouldn’t want following your unprotected back, eyes that even now wanted to consume Angie whole.
Word Length: 1,328

I wish cash registers still looked like the one in this photo by Kroton 5/2011.

Postcards Day 3

29 Nov

Isabella Gardner Scrapbook PgOnce again I find myself catching up on posts (I’m writing this on December 3). I’ve been working hard on polishing some of these shorties to submit to a chapbook contest—yeehaw! Wish me luck. In the meantime, my third postcard, which inspired my November 29 shortie, is one showing two pages from a scrapbook Isabella Gardner made to document a trip to Japan. Pictured here is one of the pages shown on the postcard (photo credit below). I’m slightly embarrassed to say that my plodding brain produced a story about… a scrapbooker. But what can you do. Next!

Working Title: Saving Memory
1st Sentence: In her hands she cradles the wrapper from the Snicker’s bar she just bolted.
Favorite Sentence: At night sometimes she lies in bed rigid with failure as frail mental-memory cycles through all the things she should have scrapbooked.
Word Length: 1,116

Photo of a page from Isabella Stewart Gardner’s scrapbook of her visit to Japan in 1883.

Postcards Day 2

28 Nov

I have a postcard with the image shown here (see photo credit below) of Barry Flanagan’s sculpture “Thinker on a Rock.” I meditated on this wonderful man-like hare for quite some time and then landed on a certain famous manlike bunny we all know well…. So the day’s shorty turned out to be my first fan fiction!

Working Title: Psycho Bunny
1st Sentence: Ilsa had worked her hand through the crisscrossed rope that bound her, retrieved her Swiss Army knife from her jeans pocket, and was sawing away, thinking bitter, bitter thoughts about that talking rabbit they had all believed was going to be such a godsend.
Favorite Sentence: No knock, no preamble, just a furry waltz across the floor and he threw himself into a chair, put his huge feet on her desk, looked at her narrow-eyed and asked his favorite question—wassup?
Word Length: 1,793

Photo of “Thinker on a Rock” by Barry Flanagan (1997), in the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden in Washington, DC.

Random Conversation

22 Nov

This time a physical description from a conversation with a friend about someone she had met recently inspired the shorty. This challenge is teaching me how to find story in just about anything.

Working Title:
The Scar
1st Sentence: Sergei’s scar started just below his hairline over the left eyebrow and cut across his face on an almost perfect diagonal, slashing his nose and barely missing his mouth.
Favorite Sentence: And then those moments were no longer about the simple perfection of an arithmetic equation or the way the morning sun in deepest winter glazes the sky over a frozen river, no longer about the color and scent of inspiration.
Word Length: 1,017

Photo is a screenshot of Paul Muni as Scarface in the 1932 film Scarface: The Shame of the Nation.

Texture Day 5

3 Nov

Today the husband dropped a Styrofoam ball into my outstretched hands. And in response I wrote a creepy story he much approves—the husband really enjoys creepy—which is only right.

Working Title: Your Words
1st Sentence: The squeak of Styrofoam still makes my heart skip.
Favorite Sentence: For example if I stab my single allotted Styrofoam ball with a pen—one sharp squeak—and then hold up the pen, the ball sitting nicely atop, and announce that I have made a doll, I get a check-mark.
Word Length: 1,052

Photo by Saurahb R. Patil 12/2011.

And now for some texture….

30 Oct

Trying a new set of prompts this week based on texture. I have asked the devoted husband to present me, each morning of this 27th week of my Daily Shorty challenge, with an object that has a notable and uniform texture. Today a rubber eraser, which inspired the first line of my shorty. After the first paragraph, the story went bonkers, in the same way that one of Barthelme’s really goofy, “What on earth is he on about” stories skip across the page just for fun. Not to suggest that my shorty lives in the same house as a Barthelme story. More to say that I thought of him as I wrote it. My story is out on the sidewalk, gazing up at a Barthelme story’s window, blowing kisses.

Working Title: Majick and Me
1st Sentence: His hand was encased in a latex glove, which made it feel fat and dense and rubbery.
Favorite Sentence: Everything is so much more peaceful, in the break room, if I just pretend that yogurt inflames my mucous membranes.
Word Length: 1,194

Photo of Donald Barthelme, courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.

Mystery Box Day 2!

24 Oct

Inspiration sprang from my box today in the form of two rusty nails, which reminded me of one of the things my mother warned me about when I was a kid. Don’t go out barefoot or you’ll step on a rusty nail and then you’ll get lockjaw! I thought that was a really funny threat until I read a coming of age book set at the turn of the century or thereabouts, when young ladies wore bloomers and dresses and tied their hair back with ribbons, and, according to this book, planned their nuptials at the tender age of 14. The main character’s love—a feisty and loyal young man with raven hair—was thrown from a carriage and cut himself on the wagon wheel. And then died a gruesome, slow-motion death owing to, yes, lockjaw. She held his grotesquely grinning face to her budding breast and sobbed the same tears I silently shed under my bedcovers around 2:00 in the morning with my father’s filched mini-flashlight. How would our heroine ever know love again? Oh. Too, too cruel.

Working Title: Sharp Edges
1st Sentence: For a very long string of days, weeks, months, years, I didn’t care if I might step on a rusty nail because I went outside barefoot, if I should avoid the tall grass because of snakes, if the river was too polluted and mucky for wading, if a boy blocked my way at school—I had plenty of kick in both feet—if a girl didn’t want to be my friend.
Favorite Sentence: I was a little rabbit, twitchy and bright-eyed and hiding a soft underbelly.
Word Length: 1,394

Mystery Box from Jen Hicks!

23 Oct

The lovely and talented Jen Hicks, writer friend and Hunger Mountain colleague, recently sent me a mystery box all the way from her home in St. Paul. She just said, hey, what’s your address, and a few weeks later comes a box with random goodies I can use for story prompts. What a treat! Today’s shorty was inspired by the first thing I fished out of the box, the button pictured very badly here because I wield a camera about as well as I can throw a ball—but get out of my way if I’ve got a Frisbee (just sayin’). The button says “Restore Monkey Island” and has a picture of a banana on it. Love it! The story I don’t love as much because I couldn’t compress my vision enough but it’s got a lot of potential for when I can come back to revise.

Working Title: Our Marge
1st Sentence: I tried to call the meeting to order but everybody was too buzzy to listen.
Favorite Sentence: Davies and his pals had stirred up garbage over Marge’s role in a kerfuffle a few years back, when a Baptist group demanded that a number of books be removed from the city library to protect children from “tax-subsidized filth.”
Word Length: 1,060

From Cults to Cannibalism

15 Oct

A logical progression! But don’t think about that, think about this gorgeous baked Alaska you may share with me as I celebrate finishing Week 24!

Working Title: Baked Timothy
1st Sentence: “If you were starving, yes, I would want you to eat me.”
Favorite Sentence: It would be like that sweet story “Stone Soup”—once I’d agreed to put Tim in the pot, everybody would find a carrot or a turnip in his sock or a packet of Lipton Onion soup mix in her pillow.
Word Length: 1,017

Photo by Yun Huang Yong, 3/2007.

Reclaimed Crap

7 Oct

I try to suspend judgment to some extent because this experiment is all about process and practice. We all write material we discard and we almost always produce our best work only after careful, thoughtful revision. But sometimes I can’t help but get cranky. Today’s shorty came from a scene I wrote a week or two ago then cut from a story because it didn’t belong. But the scene was good. I saw how to make something of it, so I did. I made a very nicely crafted, well-written piece of CRAP.

Working Title: Impasse
1st Sentence: We’d been driving since noon.
Favorite Sentence: “I think,” I said, in my smallest voice, my movie theater voice, my apology voice, the voice I use when explaining to my doctor why I hadn’t scheduled my next mammogram, “Yes, I think that you should pull over.”
Word Length: 1,702

Photo by Bordercolliez, June 2011.

Abandoned idea comes back!

6 Oct

I love it when I can reclaim material. I wrote part of today’s story a few weeks ago but I couldn’t get into it. It stuck in my mind, though, and today I decided to give it another shot. This time: A story! Of course, that means I didn’t use today that process I talked about at the start of the week but I’m too excited to care.

Working Title: Bitch Hunter
1st Sentence: Thank you for submitting your game Bitch Hunter to Action Gaming Enterprises.
Favorite Sentence: Or, just after she stabs a switchblade into a bad guy’s jugular, she might use a sports term such as, “Nothin’ but net.”
Word Length: 1,009

Photo by Cyrus Andiron 1/2007.

Muddling through….

4 Oct

Day 3 of this process of trying to force connections between three paragraphs generated in succession but without obvious surface connection, then developing story form there. For today’s shorty I wound up building the story from the first two and cutting the third original paragraph. I like the third paragraph so I’ll try starting the next story with that one.

Working Title: Signs
1st Sentence: Last week he found a crumpled piece of paper in his driveway.
Favorite Sentence: Sure, she didn’t mind revealing every secret from her own family but that was because she was from somewhere robust and windblown and awash in tractors, like Idaho or Nebraska, where her relatives lived out their dramas in obscurity.
Word Length: 1,379

Photo taken at El Mirage Lakebed by Horst Frank 11/2004.

Back on the tightrope….

2 Oct

I want to do a week with no prompts to see where my head is and how the process goes. If I can’t come up with something I’ll go looking for inspiration but for now it’s back to just letting my mind wander into story ideas.

Working Title: The Face She Wears
1st Sentence: Somewhere around 3:00 AM, the confessions started.
Favorite Sentence: Far better to go down as someone who would literally take food from a starving child’s mouth than as a liar.
Word Length: 1,180

Photo of The Tightrope Walker by Jean-Louis Forain (1852–1931), 1895.

Last Haystack Story!

1 Oct

I’m not sure this experiment of writing a week of stories inspired by Haystack (three of which I set in a Haystack-like place) did much for story-quality but I enjoyed immersing myself in the thoughts I had while at Haystack, as I flipped through my photos and notes in search of story. The day’s shorty was an odd one with a really forced ending but I have hope that some of the material can be reworked someday.

Working Title: Being Present
1st Sentence: The early risers gathered at the water’s edge, clutching mugs of tea and commenting on the crisp freshness of the mountain air, or the clean bright blue of the Maine sky, or the silvery glow of the streaming morning sunshine.
Favorite Sentence: “I think I would sacrifice some really unimportant body part, like an ear lobe or an eyebrow, if it meant I’d never dream about high school again.”
Word Length: 1,005

Photo of the morning sun at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts 9/2012.

6th Haystack Story: Victory!

30 Sep

I won’t top this. I could not BE more satisfied with this project right now. Let the record show that at just before 1:00 AM, I completed the day’s shorty, which I worked on all day, off and on, and which just so happens to be the resurrection of a story I tried to write in the first half of 2009, and then returned to a number of times the last couple of years, failing each time to complete a draft. I didn’t even open those earlier Word files. I just re-imagined the basic idea of the story, which happened to come to mind because it fit so well with my trip to Haystack, and this time, after starting from scratch with a new opening image, I just insisted on finishing it. I really like it, too, but that could be all about the victory of the finished draft, and so what if it is. Ahh, happy days. And many thanks to Cheryl Wilder, who said, you want a little Emily Dickinson? I’ll give you a little Emily Dickinson. And I’ll do it in 5 minutes flat. Damn, Girl!

Working Title: Writer in Residence
1st Sentence: Emily Dickinson would have had eyes like a cat.
Favorite Sentence: Who was she to feel that tremble in her fingers as she held the pen, who was she to look at those insensible liquid curves she was putting on that paper and imagine them twisting, elongating, connecting into letters and words and sentences….
Word Length: 1,007

Photo: View from the dining room of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts 9/2012

5th Haystack Story: The Bell

29 Sep

A bell tolls at Haystack at meal times and when it’s time to meet for a talk or someone has to make an announcement. That felt old fashioned and very… communal.

Working Title: That Bell
1st Sentence: She was beginning to think her boss had sent her to this retreat for obedience training.
Favorite Sentence: “So… imprinted, if you know what I mean, like you captured the insignia, if you will, of that flower, at least cumulatively, because I could see that you were depicting the substance of that flower’s interaction, really, with its time and space, you were aiming overall for that flower’s, well, I call it a spirit-meme, so to speak, am I right?”
Word Length: 1,685

Photo taken at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts 9/2012.