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More Paintings Day 3

17 Jan

Vanilla ConeUPDATE. “Vanilla” was one of the winning entries, along with “Reflections,” drafted here on 10/17, and “Imaginary i1/19. Many thanks to Leslie Anderson for her beautiful paintings, to MWPA and Shanti Arts for sponsoring the contest, to judge Ron Currie, Jr. for selecting my shorties, and again to Shanti Arts for publishing such a beautiful book.

Back to the well of 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 paintings by Maine artist Leslie Anderson. Mainers, the deadline is March 1! Today’s shorty was inspired by Anderson’s “Morton’s Moo.”

Working Title: Vanilla
1st Sentence: Jerry was counting pairs of shorty-shorts—a deeply sad fashion trend he’d hoped would never come back—when he heard the “Here you go” from the bangs-and-ponytail that had taken his order, and turned to claim the Styrofoam cup she had pushed through the window.
Favorite Sentence: “It’s always the nilla-magnariffics who don’t know what they really want,” whispered someone in the crowd, followed by uh-huhs and yeps.
Word Length: 739

Photo by Flickr user Steven Depolo 8/2009.

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.

Pepys Day 7!

31 Dec

Christmas PuddingI’m celebrating the end of Week 35 with the tastiest looking picture of a Christmas pudding I’ve ever seen. Samuel Pepys would approve, I’m sure. As for the work of the day, I shouldn’t be surprised that 350 years ago on December 31, Samuel Pepys used his diary to assess his situation and that of his country as a new year dawned. It was a time of political unrest in England, and that got me thinking about the two words “resolution”—that word we obsess over whenever January 1 comes calling—and “revolution,” and how I might connect them. That was the germ for the day’s shorty, which is playful and not about much of anything. What a remarkable week! Many thanks to old Sam, to Phil Gyford, who runs the site where I read the diary entries, and to all the lovely people who have been leaving annotations on the entries. Even when I was exhausted, which is the whole week, I got such a kick out of thinking, ahh, Sam wrote his diary entry exactly 350 years ago today, and here I am, making a story inspired by what he wrote. It’s like I’ve been carrying around a bit of Pepys’s writer-DNA. Very satisfying.

Working Title: New Year Revolution
1st Sentence: At some point, probably in college, when she’d shattered the high school self so carefully constructed, emerged from the scraps of that shell like a fresh-skinned superhero on a righteous mission, Melanie decided that the birth of a new year called not for the formulating of resolutions, but for the fomenting of revolutions.
Favorite Sentence: Into her forties, now, the mother of middle-schoolers, the wife of a moody, detached, golf-loving dentist who keeps disappearing her Victoria’s Secret catalogs for purposes unconfessed, she is anxious as ever for more wins to tuck under her tightly cinched belt.
Word Length: 1,000

Photo by Man vyi 12/2006.

Pepys Day 6!

30 Dec

Samuel Pepys PlaqueThe liveliest of the diary entries yet! Pepys recorded a fat handful of juicy details on December 30, 1662, but the one I and my lowly mind entertained the most was a tidbit handed over during a heavy-drinking lunch by a couple of officers in the Dutch East India Company, who told Pepys about a method for increasing a man’s fertility used by the native peoples of the Cape of Good Hope. I had to read the annotations to discover what exactly this method entailed, because the editor of the edition used for this site had excised the details—too faint of heart. I don’t blame him. The method? “[W]hen they come to age, the men do cut off one of the stones of each other, which they hold doth help them to get children the better and to grow fat” (see 3rd annotation). I wasn’t likely to forget that but what stands out to me more than the mental images of gore and my horror at the pain these poor men endured is the realization by these people, so long ago, that a MAN could have something to do with fertility—an insight that escaped Westerners for quite some time. In any case, talk of “stones”—again, I wince for those men—was particularly good inspiration, apparently, because I’m very pleased with the day’s shorty.

Working Title: Good Girl
1st Sentence: He’d read somewhere, in one of those ridiculous pamphlets he picked up at that back-to-earth, commune outfit in the next county, no doubt, that walnuts enhance fertility.
Favorite Sentence: Should you want to spark a baby with a man who has left behind entirely the funny, sexy guy you married, to become this fretful, forehead-creased accountant of passing days, the keeper of the calendar logging everything that happens between your legs, the man-splainer who intones the word “menses,” when instructing you about your own goddamn cycle, who has forgotten entirely about your breasts but could write an epic poem about your ovaries?
Word Length: 628

Photo by Man vyi 12/2008. Inscription by “The Corporation of the City of London”: In a house on this site, Samuel Pepys, diarist, was born. 1632-1703.

Pepys Day 5!

29 Dec

Samuel Pepys Portrait BookplateOn December 29, 1662, as Samuel Pepys was making his usual rounds about town, he heard about “the burning of Mr. De Laun, a merchant’s house in Loathbury, and his lady … and her whole family; not one thing, dog nor cat, escaping; nor any of the neighbours almost hearing of it till the house was quite down and burnt.” He found the story to be “a most strange thing” and so do I. How could a massive fire go unnoticed for so long? That’s the detail that inspired the day’s shorty. Too bad the shorty itself isn’t worth noticing. Make friends, dear shorty, because you will not be leaving my hard drive.

Working Title: Keeping Time
1st Sentence: I was the first to notice.
Favorite Sentence: “Maybe they weren’t home,” whispered my Marnie.
Word Length: 688

Photo of engraving by Robert White, after a portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller. Engraving (with Pepys’s motto beneath) served as the frontispiece to Pepys’s ‘Naval Memoirs” (1690). Courtesy of the British Museum, London.

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

Pepys Day 3!

27 Dec

Pepys Diary PageOn December 27, 1662, Samuel Pepys mentioned in his diary that he’d spent time that day in uninteresting company. The star of the day’s shorty is having a rough week that culminates in a nasty break of temper at a party he really wishes he wasn’t attending.

Working Title: Done
1st Sentence: It happened the first time at work, while he was on an important conference call with a client last week.
Favorite Sentence: All these shiny, over-tanned people with too-ready smiles and unnaturally bright hair put him on edge.
Word Length: 634

Photo of a page in H.B. Wheatley, ed, The Diary of Samuel Pepys: Pepysiana (London, 1899).

Pepys Day 2!

26 Dec

Samuel Pepys Diary350 years ago today, Samuel Pepys noted in his diary that he saw the play “The Villaine.” After several false starts, his trip to the theatre inspired today’s shorty.

Working Title: Fame
1st Sentence: About midway through the second act, and with no warning, Bettina began to shed her clothes.
Favorite Sentence: These were his words getting lost in the curve of an inner thigh, his metaphors slipping down a cool shoulder and disappearing into the sssshhhh of falling cotton.
Word Length: 858

Photo of a book cover by Alfred Garth Jones for a 1902 edition of the published diary.

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).

Sounds Last Day!

17 Dec

Creme CaramelCongrats to me for finishing off Week 33! Crème caramel all around! And the best sound of the week served as the day’s story prompt: gargling, selected by the husband from

Working Title: The Test of Time
1st Sentence: So at first it was like the bunny slippers and the way she said “YAY-hoo” when she meant “YAH-hoo” and how she always slid her movie ticket into her left jeans pocket, then every once in while, between popcorn grabs, she’d slip a finger into the pocket to reassure herself that the ticket was still there.
Favorite Sentence: Like you’re supposed to achieve multiple pitches while gargling, like you’re supposed to communicate a range of emotion while gargling, like the main point of gargling is to see how long you can gargle.
Word Length: 517

Photo by Miansarri66.

Sounds Day 6

16 Dec

Horse and SleighThe day’s sound prompt was sleigh bells, selected by the husband at Meditating on the sound took me past Christmas to horses, which inspired the shorty.

Working Title: Ponytalk
1st Sentence: I couldn’t have a pony because, my father said, you can’t eat ponies.
Favorite Sentence: Eventually you get used to the awful images of mustang loaf, chicken-fried hoof, Clydesdale casserole, pickled horse lips.
Word Length: 655

Photo by Engle & Smith 3/2010.

Sounds Day 5

15 Dec

Hands ClappingApplause! I started my day with a round of clapping, chosen by the husband at

Working Title: Bravo
1st Sentence: They say that you will see a light, that it will appear far away, at first, a pinprick that you can’t help but follow, but as you rush toward it, the light glows brighter, it becomes a sunburst, and it is the light, the light, that you become.
Favorite Sentence: There was something about the way she read it from her list in the morning, once everyone was seated, once Stephen Clough’s sobbing body had been dragged to his desk and draped over the seat where he could more tidily mourn the loss of his mother, again.
Word Length: 622

Photo by Evan-Amos 1/2011.

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.

Sounds Day 3

13 Dec

WitchThe sound prompt for the day was boiling water, selected by the husband from Naturally I thought of a witch stirring a brew.

Working Title: Seeking Witch
1st Sentence: Dear Hiring Committee: I write to apply for the position of Assistant Director Witch at Berkitt House.
Favorite Sentence: Enclosed please find three spells I have crafted for a range of needs, from damning individuals who catch our attention by happy accident, to orchestrating grand political feats through the meticulous application of curses designed specially to pull the levers of power.
Word Length: 430

Photo of an illustration by Alexander Sharp from The Goblins’ Christmas by Elizabeth Anderson (1908).

Sounds Day 2

12 Dec

Railroad TrackFor the day’s shorty prompt, my husband chose from the sound of one of those old car horns, the kind that sounds like, “Ayoogah.” Meditating on that led me to the folk song I learned and sang as a child, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” because of the line “Dinah won’t you blow your horn.” That in turn led to another song I loved to sing as a kid, “Polly Wolly Doodle.” I always loved that song because of the image of a grasshopper “pickin’ his teeth with a carpet tack” while sitting on a railroad track. That and the rhyme “LOO-siana” and “Suzy-Anna.” Anyway, that song inspired this story.

Working Title: Polly Wolly Doodle
1st Sentence: My third grade teacher loved to schedule singing time most every day, when she set herself up on a stool with a guitar and led us in various folk songs.
Favorite Sentence: “Okay,” she said, “like a melly-belly-merripoose, then.”
Word Length: 615

Photo by Powerkites 16, 10/2008. I can’t see the grasshopper….

And now: Sounds

11 Dec

Cricket BallI’m writing this on December 18 but per usual, I’m back-dating to match the day I wrote the story I’m documenting in this post. First a word on this ongoing story-a-day challenge: This last week has been the hardest full week so far. I absolutely could not do anything more on this project than just get each day’s story written, and many days that was a close-run thing. But I did it. And I’m building a little energy again for documenting the process. The shorty for December 11 was inspired by the sound of a cricket chirping, which my husband selected from the site The sound reminded me of an unpleasant childhood memory that I spent something like two hours avoiding, because I knew it wouldn’t inspire a good story. So I took notes and tried various brainstormed sentences. I associated from cricket to something else to something else to something else. Nothing would take hold, so I gave in and wrote the memory-story as best I could. I was right, it’s no good.

Working Title: Cricket
1st Sentence: “Don’t kill it,” I said, “he’s not hurting anything. I’m going to take him outside.”
Favorite Sentence: He didn’t know that this mystery, this cool slick surface under his feet, will never be solved.
Word Length: 396

If I knew anything at all about the game cricket, I might have let my mind wander to a story about it. Damn. Photo of cricket ball by Marie-Lan Nguyen, 2005.

Postcards Last Day!

3 Dec

Hathorn HallToday’s inspirational postcard has a picture of Bates College’s Hathorn Hall (photo credit below). My husband works at Bates and we live within easy walking distance, so I’m on campus all the time. Hathorn is one of my favorite buildings. It just screams New England.

Working Title: My Girl
1st Sentence: The first time I saw her I was so sick with frustration and guilt that I didn’t notice her right away.
Favorite Sentence: This is what my girl in the stacks promises me, every time, with her pale eyes, her long hair I want to wind around my neck.
Word Length: 475

Photo of Hathorn Hall at dusk, from Bates College website.

Postcards Day 6

2 Dec

MooseMy inspiration postcard today pictures two young bull moose by the water, sparring. I couldn’t find a picture of two moose online that I like as well as the picture here (photo credit below) so a picture of one will have to do for this post. I have yet to see a moose in my 6+ years in Maine, mostly because I’m unlikely to see one from the couch. I would be delighted to see one of these goofy gus animals in person, but NOT, I sincerely hope, and thank you very much, in my headlights.

Working Title: Moose Wedding
1st Sentence: My sister was to be married at the Moose Lodge.
Favorite Sentence: We also both believed that my sister should not be marrying this guy, but the truth of that was so obvious, so poke-your-eye-with-a-stick unavoidable, that it didn’t count as agreement.
Word Length: 542

Photo by Walter Ezell 6/2010.

Postcards Day 5

1 Dec

O'Keeffe PaintingI really like the idea for this one but the execution… not so much. Hopefully I’ll work some magic in revision. As for my inspiration, I honestly have no clue how a postcard with the O’Keeffe painting pictured here (see photo credit below) led me to the story I wrote, which appears to have absolutely no connection to the painting. But after a meditation on the image and some note-taking, well, I wrote a story, and that’s that.

Working Title: Slow-Motion Sendoff
1st Sentence: She had been writing her own obituary for years, updating it on each birthday not with the things she’d done in the previous year but all the things she wanted to do in the next, or anyway before she died.
Favorite Sentence: If “Marge was a master seamstress” seemed a bit excessive, it was only because she hadn’t learned to sew yet.
Word Length: 467

Photo of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. IV, 1930, National Gallery of Art.

Postcards Day 4

30 Nov

Pissarro PaintingToday’s shorty was inspired by a postcard showing the Pissarro painting pictured here (photo credit below). It reminded me of Colonial Williamsburg, VA, on a blurry winter day, which in turn sparked the story.

Working Title: Tourons
1st Sentence: Tourons, they called them, because crossing the words “tourist” and “moron” is so clever, and college kids are nothing if not clever.
Favorite Sentence: It was a really funny story, crafted with care and including plenty of vulgar words applied to the SUV-ful of docile lambs from Michigan.
Word Length: 569

Photo of Camille Pissarro’s Boulevard des Italiens, Morning, Sunlight, 1897, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

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.

A week of postcards!

27 Nov

I buy pretty postcards wherever I go just so they can sit on a shelf. Today I gathered a pile and went through them, selecting the most intriguing as I went. I kept whittling the pile until I had seven to use for story prompts this week. The first, chosen randomly from the seven, was imprinted with the photo you see here of an Edward Steichen painting (see photo credit below). Isn’t it stunning? It took most of the day for me to get a story out of this image because I was so enchanted with it all I could think of were more colors and shapes. Gorgeous.

Working Title: When I Get Up
1st Sentence: Van Gogh ate paint because he wanted to be yellow, he wanted to be red.
Favorite Sentence: When I get up from this chair I will say to this woman with the thick calves, the heavy shoulders, the stringy hair, that I should never have asked her, thirty-seven years ago, if she wanted to get a coffee.
Word Length: 323

Photo of Edward Steichen’s “Le Tournesol” (The Sunflower), c. 1920, tempera and oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors Committee 1999.43.1.

Last Fragrance Day

19 Nov

This challenge more and more shakes up my notion of what makes a story. I love this but just like all good educational experiences, the more I learn the more I discover my own cluelessness. Today’s shorty took hold once I settled on a playful conversation between a woman and her father, sitting at a dining table, waiting for dessert. And I found I wanted to stay firmly in that conversation—the story begins with the mother walking away from the dining table and ends when she returns. There is nothing approaching a traditional beginning, middle, and end, and there’s no story arc to speak of. I tried to develop an unspoken conversation beneath the surface of the exchanges, but I don’t know that I was terribly successful. And is this a story? It is a fiction and I was very conscious of my own decision about how to begin it and how to end it. But does that make it a story? All I know is that for the purposes of my Daily Shorty challenge, it is. And the photo today is pulling double-duty. The dessert our protagonists await is an apple pie. Let’s enjoy this gorgeous pie, too, as a celebration for completing Week 29. Yahoo!

Working Title: Apple Pie
1st Sentence: “I wish I could live in an apple pie,” my father said, as we stared at the two-crust wonder my mother had placed in the center of the table before leaving to fetch the pie server.
Favorite Sentence: “If a person has to ask herself—is this a pie, or is this my father—then you have a profound pie-definition problem.”
Word Length: 839

Photo by Dan Parsons 11/2004.

Fragrance Day 6

18 Nov

This morning’s fragrance was… Worcestershire sauce. Nothing smells quite like it, yes? A big whiff of it made me think of my mother preparing the kind of food you take to a party—dips, sauces. Which in turn made me think of deviled eggs. Which in turn made me think of family reunions.

Working Title: Family Reunion
1st Sentence: When Aunt Edna got to be too tired to bully us, we stopped having family reunions.
Favorite Sentence: Jittery cousin Maura, eyeing her pony-tailed husband, wondering, like the rest of us, if the rumors were true.
Word Length: 500

Photo by Qurren 11/2011.

Fragrance Day 5

17 Nov

Oy, another tough one. The husband had trouble coming up with a scent for the day so when we went out this morning he drove to the gas station to fill up and I rolled down the window to get a whiff. Doesn’t show itself much in the shorty but the smell of gasoline was indeed its inspiration.

Working Title: Word Game
1st Sentence: The doctor pushed his glasses up his nose and shifted from one hip to the other, his pants straining from an obviously recent weight gain.
Favorite Sentence: I like that, when I soften my effect on the world.
Word Length: 635

Photo by Derek Jensen (Tysto), 9/2005.

Fragrance Day 4

16 Nov

Having a really tough week because I’ve got other commitments that are taking a lot of time. I pulled this one out, inspired by the fragrance of a burning match, but only just. I think I’ve got something that could come good in revision, so okay. Onward!

Working Title: Burning Dreams
1st Sentence: A fire.
Favorite Sentence: First a parakeet, then a hooting owl—ooh, a sage with its warning call—and then a raven, surely Poe’s raven, quoth the raggedy, blue-black pest, and never say never, mom will you shut up.
Word Length: 435

Photo by Fir0002.

Fragrance Day 3

15 Nov

My husband enjoys few things more than a huge bowl of Cheerios. Whenever he eats Cheerios, which is almost every day and often twice a day, I am struck by the very specific scent of that cereal and I have commented on it. So no surprise when I woke up to discover a giant box of Cheerios as the fragrance prompt the husband chose for my day. I opened the box and sniffed the cereal multiple times but in the end I couldn’t come up with a story until he came home and fixed a bowl for himself. And there it was, the smell I know so well. Maybe there’s something about his eating pleasure that adds to the scent.

Working Title: Today’s Menu
1st Sentence: For breakfast, you will feast on a generous bowl of Cheerios, served in a sturdy, delightfully lopsided old margarine tub, with skim milk, and, BONUS, the fresh, local blueberries your neighbor brought over yesterday!
Favorite Sentence: Whatever your choice, enjoy as you return from the snack room a cool slice of fuck-you, flung as you pass her cubicle by Jenny, who is still totally pissed off that you got the Hennicker account.
Word Length: 679

Photo by Conrad Irwin 2008.

Fragrance Day 2

14 Nov

Today’s fragrance was a “Christmas Cookie” scented candle from Yankee Candle that was hanging around our apartment somewhere. The husband left it at my bedside this morning. I smelled it. I smelled it again. And I was stumped. I smelled it once more. Still stumped. So I filled my day with other things and then very, very late, thoughts about baking cookies led to thoughts about candy led to a childhood memory led to a complete story. Ergh. Next.

Working Title: Candy Man
1st Sentence: Supposedly his only child, a daughter, had died as a teenager—a car accident, said some, no, no, it was tuberculosis, said others—and then his wife died of cancer (or possibly heartbreak over the girl) not long after.
Favorite Sentence: “I don’t know what’s going to happen to these kids,” he said to my mother as he left, and he sounded so anguished that I stopped making wolf-eyes at the candy boxes and focused on their talk.
Word Length: 677

Photo by Adam Zivner 4/2008.


13 Nov

Today marks the start of a week of shorties inspired by fragrance. This morning’s fragrance: freshly sliced orange. I also wave goodbye to Week 28, so I need to post a virtual treat. This lovely orange cake will do very well, yes?

Working Title: Sitting Tangerine
1st Sentence: She held the tangerine in her right palm and looked at it, turning her hand this way and that, so as to see it from all angles.
Favorite Sentence: Each tiny segment was a clean, unmarked slice of tangerine, birthed and scrubbed and whole and perfect.
Word Length: 794

Photo by LG1991 3/2998.