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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.

4th Haystack Story: Chair Art

28 Sep

I was at Haystack for a cultural summit that took place over about a 24-hour period. When we summiters woke up the second day and headed to the dining hall, we discovered a treat: Some of our brethren (I think they were all men) stayed up late the night before and with the help of some high-octane inspiration they set to work on… chair sculptures! This is one of the four they made. The protagonist of the day’s shorty handcrafts chairs from reclaimed materials.

Working Title: Reclaimed
1st Sentence: To use it right he would have to find it beautiful.
Favorite Sentence: On his hands and knees he hammered the thing into chunks and flying splinters, he crushed every bright red piece of it into the wet grass and then deeper into the dirt until he couldn’t see any of it.
Word Length: 819

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

3rd Haystack Story: Rogue Art

27 Sep

I was fascinated at Haystack by the rows and rows of wooden steps leading from the main campus area and down past the dorms and to the water’s edge. This is one of my many photos of them at various angles.

Working Title: 365-Ten
1st Sentence: Beatrice called the project 365-Ten: Living the Stereotype.
Favorite Sentence: It had been a thoroughly exhausting year, mostly due to all the partying, and she had been relieved to transform herself into Mimi that next January 1st, a thirty-something granola gal who sold hand-crafted candles and all-natural dog treats from a cart in the city plaza, and lived in an old VW bus in the Walmart parking lot.
Word Length: 1,431

Photo of steps on the campus of Haystack 9/2012.

2nd Haystack Story: Cookie Jar

26 Sep

In the dining room the lovely folks at Haystack kept a huge cookie jar and a bowl of cider, as well as carafes of coffee and hot water for tea. When I discovered this a man was reaching into the cookie jar and looked at me, shouting, “World’s biggest cookie jar!”—I was annoyed that I didn’t have my camera handy. The next day the cookie jar was in the kitchen, so I snapped this photo through the pass-through. You can see the cookie jar on the counter next to the base of a food processor (as well as the reflection of it in the window). But you can’t tell how big it is. Just trust me that it’s enormous. And it was full of yummy chocolate cookies.

Working Title: Cookie Love
1st Sentence: They kept meeting at the cookie jar, one waiting while the other reached deep into the jar to fish out the chunky chocolate cookies.
Favorite Sentence: What did it mean that he was staring at her fingers like that, and as he did so, she found herself lingering over the chocolate bits on her hands, licking lightly and repeatedly, flicking her tongue like a wild thing?
Word Length: 699

Photo of Haystack kitchen through pass-through from dining hall.

A Week of Haystack!

25 Sep

I just attended a cultural summit at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine. Inspiring, delightful, thought-provoking, exhausting. I couldn’t be more grateful to have been included, particularly because I have never felt so validated as a writer as I felt while rubbing elbows with all those creative Mainers. A number of the attendees asked me if I ever link the stories I’m writing for Daily Shorty and I had to say no, although I have often considered doing that. Well, there’s no time like the present, they say, and They are mighty wise people or we wouldn’t keep quoting They. Thank you, They, for your insight. Today I begin a week of stories inspired by Haystack. I got the idea for today’s shorty while in the room pictured here, listening to presentations. The idea is better than the execution, but that’s what revision is for. Okay, Haystack—what’s next?

Working Title: Playing Life
1st Sentence: Missy slapped her fork to the table and snapped, “Login”—their shorthand for “We need to continue this conversation as an argument in Second Life.”
Favorite Sentence: Ellen, his alter-ego, could absorb accusations and insults and then deal with them with a cool head, whereas if he had to think about such things, hear such words, all that language would collide and his unchecked fury would melt the bits and pieces together, leaving him confused, steaming, mute.
Word Length: 768

Photo of the main lecture room at Haystack, 9/2012.

Grab Bag Day 4: Place

14 Sep

The Bates College outdoor track inspired the day’s shorty. My friend Alicia and I walked for 45 minutes (which was not nearly enough time for a proper girl confab) while I reserved one small part of my brain for taking mental notes. I guess my notes weren’t so great because the resulting story is destined to live its life undisturbed on my hard drive.

Working Title: The Gwen Scale
1st Sentence: The woman in the pink shorts gave her hope.
Favorite Sentence: The woman in the tight black leggings—no, that was not an inspiration, that was an anatomical display.
Word Length: 754

Photo from the Bates College website.

Last Day of Place Series: Boston

27 Aug

I spent the day in Boston with my friend Mark. I took lots of pictures and tried to go thoughtful once in a while, but I never did take a few minutes out of our traipsing even to take notes for a story. Instead I carried my notebook to (an early) bed, reviewed my photos, and closed my eyes and waited…. As it happens, I have no photo to document the moment in our day that inspired this story. Instead I’ve posted here the favorite of my pictures. The shorty was inspired by the rest we took in the Public Garden, admiring the pretty lake and glimpsing from afar a big rock with… was that a mermaid??

Working Title: Lady of the Lake
1st Sentence: “For real,” she said.
Favorite Sentence: She ruffled the boy’s hair while he grinned up at her, one of his fingers sneaking toward the frilled edge of her tailfin.
Word Length: 883

Photo: A fountain in Leventhal Park in Boston, August 2012.

Place Series Day 6: Starbucks

26 Aug

A mocha, a cushy couch. Memories inspired by the man-sandles I saw on the guy sitting catty-corner to me. Oh, how my father would despise those shoes, I thought. And I was off and running.

Working Title: Blood
1st Sentence: When I was about twelve years old, I once put myself into a euphoric state by imagining the act of slamming the back of my brother’s head with a cast iron skillet.
Favorite Sentence: And then I would run lightly up to the back of the sofa, right behind his huge head—barely covered with the same fine hair I had, no protection at all—and hover there, for a moment, thinking like this, this fast, this hard.
Word Length: 822

Photo: Hello, my friend. August 2012.

Place Series Day 5: Theater

25 Aug

Frontier is a wonderful example of how the old mill buildings so prevalent in Maine can be re-purposed. A combination restaurant-theater-gallery-performance center, Mainers have treasured this place since it opened in Brunswick not long after I moved to the state in summer 2006. I sat in their small theater scribbling ideas in my notebook for about 15 minutes before the showing of the film my husband and I came to see, “Queen of Versailles.” (I give the documentary a thumbs up but I have no idea why reviewers found it hilarious. It’s fascinating, disturbing, and very sad. I think I laughed three times.) I came back to my notes hours later to work my impressions into a shorty. Love the idea for it, but I’ll need good luck with revision to accomplish what I hoped.

Working Title: American Belle
1st Sentence: I have one real image of my maternal grandmother, the twenty-minute movie star.
Favorite Sentence: Whereas Nora—well, you can see from those crisp white gloves that she never touched anything dirty, and those wall-to-wall eyes were nothing if not innocent.
Word Length: 503

Photo: Frontier in Brunswick, Maine, August 2012.

Place Series Day 4: The Gym

24 Aug

Okay, I wrote today’s shorty before I got to the gym but that’s because I woke up thinking “gym” and I’m so familiar with the place—and I’ve already written several shorties there—that my mind started working on the sights and sounds right away. Within minutes I was scribbling.

Working Title: This Is ME
1st Sentence: She tended to do things in cycles, particularly self-improvement.
Favorite Sentence: When friends commented on her new physique and asked her how she maintained such a rigorous workout regimen, she would fling aside the self-deprecating jokes that sprang to mind—I pay a hunky man to stay just a few paces ahead of me when I run, so I’ll keep moving; Cosmo advised either heroin or the gym to achieve that cover-girl look, and I hate needles.
Word Length: 525

Photo taken at Davis Fitness Center at Bates College. I have written multiple shorties on that mat.

Place Series Day 3: The Store

23 Aug

I’m finding that places are not inspiring stories as well as photos but that is likely at least partly due to the fact that having to go somewhere adds a task to my day that I’m having trouble fitting in. Each of these first 3 days of the series I’ve left for my writing prompt-place no earlier than 4:00 in the afternoon. I do like today’s shorty, especially that I kept it so brief. But I don’t love it.

Working Title: Ma’am Tantrum
1st Sentence: Far too many ma’am’s in one day.
Favorite Sentence: Teenager-cum-college freshman just this weekend, right now squaring up to the wide world with only narrowed eyes and a sailor’s vocabulary as weapons.
Word Length: 344

Photo: Hannaford grocery on Sabattus street in Lewiston, Maine, where today’s shorty was inspired.

Place Series Day 2: Home Depot

22 Aug

Dear Home Depot: What story will you bring me? One about a husband who’s getting a bit too handy around the house, of course. I had to fight hard for this one—lots of starts and stops. It’s okay, probably not a lot of potential for being publishable. Onward.

Working Title: Mr. Fix-it
1st Sentence: No Mr. Fix-it in the bedroom, I said.
Favorite Sentence: Or to discover that he’d glued aluminum foil to the dining table using wallpaper paste because he read on a website that it would give the table a beautiful faux-pewter finish.
Word Length: 837

Photo taken in the Home Depot in Auburn, Maine. I sat in that displayed golf chair while working on the day’s shorty.

Place Series Day 1: Campus

21 Aug

Starting a week of shorties inspired by place. Today I sat on a bench on the quad of Bates College. Something about the peace (the students aren’t here yet) made me write something dark and violent. DO NOT LIKE. This one will live only on my hard drive but I’ll put it in a cell so it won’t hurt any of the others who are imprisoned there.

Working Title: This Is Life
1st Sentence: Ugly things aren’t supposed to happen in pretty places.
Favorite Sentence: Occasionally the ragged muffler of a motorcycle filters through the calm but mostly the world is nothing but peaceful, here, nothing if not safe.
Word Length: 482

Photo taken while sitting on a bench at Bates College, August 2012.