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Maine Writers: Apply for this!

2 Jan

This writing award is definitely worth your time.

Just a reminder to Maine writers to apply for the Egen WEX award. The application is SO simple, just a form with contact info and a work sample. The reward is a trip to New York City to meet publishing bigwigs (among a couple of other treats), so that’s a huge win for very little effort. There’s just no excuse to ignore this one, so let’s go!

Click here for application details and the form you need.

My Published Stories

11 Dec


This image best represents the way I feel when a magazine accepts a story. The chance to share my work with people who would never otherwise see it… well. That’s a gift.

I’ve finally created a page here at Daily Shorty noting the title and first line or two of each published story, as well as the name of the publication that put me in print. When the full story is available online, I’ve linked to it.

Now back to the writing trenches….

Love from Mid-American Review

17 Jun

MARcover35_1.inddMany thanks to Mid-American Review, first for publishing in their beautiful anniversary issue my micro fiction “Three Things”–written during my Daily Shorty year and submitted to MAR’s 2014 Fineline competition–and second for giving me a shout-out from their website with an author interview. I used to do interviews like this with authors when I was an editor at Hunger Mountain, so it was fun to be on the other side. What a great, great magazine, and what an honor to be a part of it.

But enough about me! Enjoy from MAR’s archives this stunning micro by Anika L. Eide, 2013 Fineline editor’s choice, “Some Parents.” I love the surrealism of this piece, especially as delivered in what I would call a sort of deadpan tone of voice. Here’s the first sentence to get you hooked: We are granted only so many lies before we become liars. Ahh, yes. You just know this is going to be good….

Give that lady an apple!

8 Mar

AppleWriter friends, I tried to care. A week ago, a former creative writing professor reignited the are-we-really-talking-about-this-again “debate” over MFAs–stifling or inspiring, valuable or a waste, dirty trick or transformative validation? I can only assume it’s been a year, more or less, since the last gleeful festival of Who Gives a Shit, so we were due.

Ex-prof wants to spread a little hard-earned truth about MFA programs and writing, in what some are calling his “screed” or “rant.” But a screed has a pulse; a rant careens. I sensed no passion in his same ol’ same ol’ opinions and insensitive remarks, which might be why he failed to light the fire of commentary in me, despite my disagreement with just about everything he said. I finished the piece unmoved and wondering why this guy didn’t take his own advice, and decline to write about something he doesn’t understand: teaching. Which brings me to what inspired this post.

I was writing about something else when I stumbled over a response to “Things I Can Say…” that did make me care. Not about the same, warmed-over insults to writing students, certainly not about the perennially stupid argument about the value of an MFA. But about the glaring subtext of Ex-prof’s piece, which is that a man so full of contempt for students and their apprentice work should never have been teaching in the first place.

I can’t and won’t try to write something thoughtful about teaching, because I don’t have the experience to do the subject justice. But Laura Valeri does. Her reply to Ex-prof, “Those Who Teach, Can,” reminded me forcefully of the extraordinary writing teachers I have studied with, all of whom treated me, my apprentice work, and my particular version of writing ambition with profound respect. In Valeri’s post, I felt passion–for teaching and for her students–in every line. Some of my favorites:

* …the true challenge of teaching is that we want to reach every student, not just students who already have success spelled on their foreheads and were already self-motivated to start early.

* I could never be satisfied taking a salary paid in large part from student tuitions and resign myself to “making them better readers.” This has been the standard, pass-the-buck response of too many privileged writers who were assigned their teaching positions based on the record of their publications with little to no scrutiny given to their teaching philosophy and approach to the classroom.

* If you fail, it’s on you. Don’t blame the students. They showed up. Did you?

If you have any desire to teach writing, you should do yourself the favor of reading her thoroughly excellent post.

All hail good writing teachers. They are GOLD.

February’s Daily Shorty Week

28 Feb
In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien is my all-time favorite suspense novel.

In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien is my all-time favorite suspense novel.

I am so uninterested in writing a novel, and so annoyed at those who think of short stories as stepping stones to book-length fictions, that I based my graduation lecture in my MFA program on the declaration that short story writers need never even think of writing a novel. Which likely guaranteed, I thought at the time, that I would, one day, pine to write one. Would I tell anyone, I wondered, when that day came?

Writer friends: That day has not yet arrived. Thank you, World, for Pride and Prejudice and Song of the Lark and Mrs. Dalloway and Lolita and Wide Sargasso Sea. Keep up the good work! I’ll be over here, dancing with Chekhov, Grace Paley, Alice Munro, Gina Berriault, Etgar Keret, Aimee Bender, the incomparable George Saunders. Oh, and gulping my latest mystery.

A mystery! Now there’s something I’d love to write. Something? Somethings. A series! One after another, galloping along with humor and only the coziest kind of gore, or maybe slithering in noir shadows dragging along empty whiskey bottles and dirty needles, possibly buttoned into the uniform of a police procedural and slinging a gun with the safety off. Oh, I could get behind a mystery series, hell yeah. Why I haven’t before “counted” mysteries as novels, I don’t know—some silly, delusional genre-posturing, I suppose. Yet how I would love to write something half as good as a favorite mystery.

Writer friends: Correction. The day, I fear, has arrived. I do not wish to write a book about coming of age on a motorcycle road trip or battling cancer in a remote fishing village or weathering a mid-life crisis in Italy. I don’t have a new perspective on the Holocaust or a tale of three mothers or a fascination with Wall Street. But I’ve got some mystery-love to pour on the page. And so was born in February a new approach to Daily Shorty.

I love Sara Gran’s fresh approach. This second Claire Dewitt is particularly good and I’m really looking forward to the next.

My assignment the first 7 days of February was to do a freewrite, each day, on a mystery idea that’s been sitting in the back of my mental filing cabinet for a few years. After I wrote one freewrite, I’d give myself a specific assignment to tackle in my freewrite the next day. The overall goal was to finish the week with a set of plot possibilities and character sketches to inspire some research I’ll have to do to pursue my rough idea for the mystery. So not my usual Daily Shorty week, and no Story Facts to share. Just my confession that I might yet lurk in the land of the novel. Packing heat, of course.

Daily Shorty Textile Art

16 Aug

My multi-talented and over-scheduled friend Patty Weidler was one of my biggest cheerleaders as I wrote my way through the Daily Shorty year. Patty is also a writer, and occasionally I’d ask her if she wanted to do a week of stories with me. “Soon,” she’d say, “just let me get past these next couple of projects.” As it happened, I’d finished my year when Patty decided to take me up on a Daily Shorty week. But she wanted to tackle TWO weeks, she told me, and she’d decided to write her stories with a sewing machine.


Patty’s Day 6. It was very hard to choose, but I picked it as my favorite.

For two weeks in July, I sent encouraging e-mails to Patty as she made a piece of textile art every day. When I work with a writer, I can tailor advice to her experience and approach. But I have no training in visual art, so I didn’t have much in the way of tips for Patty. Instead I focused on what I know generally about the creative process, and I provided sustained encouragement and gentle accountability. I reminded her of her goals, sent the occasional inspiring quotation or poem, and of course checked in with her on how her day went, congratulating her always for showing up. When was the last time you made 3 pieces of art in 3 days? I asked on the evening of Day 3. Never! she replied.

Patty sent me a write-up of her reflections on her Daily Shorty challenge. Here’s an excerpt:

At first I had grandiose plans to maneuver fabric, paper, thread, and the written word together, expecting key words and reflections to be part of my creative process. I tried that on the first day, then let go of any thought of including writing in my Daily Shorty challenge. Clearly I was in visual mode. And soon I discovered that I hungered most to work with fabric in a quilting medium. I gave myself no constraints as to size, number of pieces of fabric used, or direction. Sometimes I would get an idea from something I saw the day before so that when I woke up, I knew approximately what sort of color or fabric with which I wished to begin. Other times I had no clue when I walked into my sewing room what I was going to make. After I finished each piece, I moved on to my job and regular life. Throughout the day I would think about how sweet and interesting the creative time had been that morning, notice how good I felt, and wonder what I would end up creating next.

Now I can ask, When was the last time you made 14 pieces of art in 14 days? And both Patty and I feel happily awash in color and texture. We’ve each chosen a favorite of her 2 weeks of work to display here, although I have to say that these pictures don’t begin to capture their beauty. Thank you, Patty, for sharing your process with me and for honoring us all with your art.

Patty's Day 12 and her favorite.

Patty’s Day 12 and her favorite.

Prompt Power and Objectivity Fail

24 May

I just realized that all five of the shorties I have published so far have two things in common. (1) I wrote each one with the use of a writing prompt. The prompts I used included a photo, a paragraph I had written and stored in my idea file, and three paintings. The shorties are “Her Postcards” from September 18, “Reflections” from October 17, “High Water” from December 5, “Vanilla” from January 17, and “Imaginary i” from January 19.

Honeymoon Bay SunsetInterested in writing prompts? I often used a “Picture of the Day” at Wikimedia Commons for inspiration. Here’s one for you, if you’d like to stop right now and let it inspire a story. Go!

(2) Despite my understanding throughout my Daily Shorty year that the challenge was about process, and my insistence that the Inner Critic must be banned during the drafting phase, I habitually (and reflexively) commented in story posts when I considered a story a “keeper.” So under the “What the hell do I know” file: I made no such comment about any of these five shorties. Apparently I was underwhelmed when I first wrote them and only discovered their worth later, when I selected them for submissions. Good to be reminded that initial judgments should always be questioned.

Photo of Honeymoon Bay, Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia, by JJ Harrison 7/2009.

Daily Shorty Snapshot

8 May

Story Facts IIt’s going to take me a while to process this experience and catch up on all the pages I owe—a ravenous, demanding beast, this site. For now, some preliminary Daily Shorty stats.

1: Number of times my body has forgotten that I’ve completed the challenge. Wow, only once! I expected that to happen more. Apparently relief sugars the brain better than habit.

2: Daily Shorties accepted for publication. A few are out but it’s been a while since I’ve submitted, so, note to self….

5: Days passed before I wanted to work on this site.

8: Writer-Athletes who have taken on the Daily Shorty challenge for one week. (Thank you for that term, Suzanne!)

1: Number of weeks before I woke up with the urge to write. This morning I began my post-Daily Shorty almost-daily writing practice.

1.75: Number of days I enjoyed a full sense of satisfaction and contentment after having written my final story. At around 1:00 pm on Thursday, May 2, my inner voice said, “Shouldn’t you be doing something productive? You call yourself a writer and yet here you sit, doing nothing. You embarrass me.” And, so, proof that the inner voice will never be satisfied. 365 stories in a row but the inner voice wants more. Let the record show that this happened a full 1.25 days later than I expected. Victory!

Final Daily Shorty!

30 Apr

Peanut Butter Soft ServeI did it. I actually did it. I was hoping to end the year with a really good story but it was even more important to me to finish before it was too late in the day, so that I could enjoy the accomplishment this evening and go to bed knowing that all is well. So once something took hold this morning, I worked it and worked it, then came back to it after lunch and worked it some more until I’ve got the best story I could make of the premise. It’s not so great. The ending feels wrong. But after a couple of hours of final tinkering, I called it DONE. To celebrate I got a peanut butter supreme from the Dairy Joy in Lewiston, which happens to be within easy walking distance of my apartment, something to both cheer and boo, but mostly to cheer. A peanut butter supreme is a cup of peanut butter soft serve with hot fudge. Sadly I didn’t think to photograph it before I ate it, but it looked a lot like the picture here (but mentally add hot fudge). YUM. Tomorrow I’m having dinner at my favorite Maine restaurant, Fore Street in Portland, as a more complete celebration. And… well, that’s it. I’ll be playing on this site some more, adding nerd romps I didn’t have time for while producing my stories, including Story Facts pages for the 8 months I haven’t analyzed, and a page for each of the writer friends who joined me for a week during the challenge. Otherwise my only immediate plans are to sleep and read, read and sleep, sleep and read.

Working Title: Wide Ride
1st Sentence: Torment.
Favorite Sentence: The more creative, smart and inventive, like Alexander, referred to her as “Wading Pool” or Mattress Pants” or “Rear Admiral Caboose.”
Word Length: 497

Photo by Deva Hoffman here.


Week 50 Complete

15 Apr

Van GoghSo… wow. When I wrote my April 15 shorty, I completed the 50th week of my Daily Shorty challenge. I couldn’t really appreciate the accomplishment because that was the day of the Boston Marathon bombings (I’m posting this on April 22). For the same reason, I can’t muster the usual enthusiasm I have for finding a fun photo of a treat to post as my reward. Instead I’ve chosen this Van Gogh to mark the occasion, one I haven’t seen before. It always makes me happy to look at a Van Gogh.


Maria R.I.P.

10 Feb

001bHad to say goodbye to my sweet girl this morning. Just a couple of months ago she was making a mess of the index cards I was using to help me organize a chapbook. She loved nothing more than to interfere whenever I or my husband was focused on a task. We miss her so desperately already. As for my daily shorties, I have kept up with them, barely. But right now I have no heart for anything else. I will catch up on story posts when I’m better.


Goodbye December, My 8th Month!

31 Dec

Christmas Cookies

Saying Goodbye to December!

I neglected to take a photo of the Christmas cookies I baked this year. I usually bake 10 to 14 kinds but had to cut that in half or so because of this challenge. No matter, there was plenty of fancy sugar to go around. Anyway, my cookies are not as pretty as this plate, which nicely captures the spirit of all that fun in the kitchen and looks like the perfect collection of sweets to celebrate my 8th month. Photo by Till Westermayer 12/2010.


Week 31!

4 Dec

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you know about whoopie pies? They’re traditional Maine treats, two pieces of cake sandwiched with a very thick layer of cream. I think the most common variety is chocolate cake with vanilla cream but they come in all flavors and they range from Hostess cupcake quality when bought at the grocery store (not that I am above that, believe me) to sublime, when bought from a good bakery. This one showcases one of my favorite flavor combinations–chocolate and orange–and so makes a perfect way to celebrate the completion of Week 31, my flirtation with postcards, which ended yesterday, December 3. The cream is “orange cream cheese buttercream” and you can see the zest if you look closely. Now I need a whoopie pie, stat.

Photo by Flickr user Joy, 3/2009.


7 months!

1 Dec

Chocolate Fudge CakeOh, this glorious cake. It makes me giddy just to look at it. This beauty marks 7 months, my friends. I have been writing a story every single day for 7 months. That’s… insane. It is also, at this point, habit. Not easy habit, no. But even when I’m exhausted, when I’ve been forced to pay attention to something else all day, I’m telling myself, in the back of my mind, don’t forget your story, your story, your story, you have to write your story…! I will admit that I haven’t been writing winners, lately. When I devote a lot time and attention to something else, the writing definitely suffers. Which seems like something I really need to pay attention to when I go back to a normal life. Anyway, celebrate 7 months with me (that little piece of cake on the plate is for you) and wish me luck for… tomorrow. Just tomorrow. I never know if I’ll make it beyond tomorrow.

Photo by Tracy Hunter, Kabul, Afghanistan, 11/2005.


Goodbye Week 30!

26 Nov

Macarons with Lemon Curd
Don’t these look wonderful? And like just the right treat to celebrate the completion of Week 30 of the Daily Shorty challenge? Of course!

Strawberry macarons parisiens with lemon curd filling, photo by Flickr user zaimoku_woodpile, 5/2011.


Goodbye Week 22!

1 Oct

With my October 1st story, I can celebrate the completion of Week 22! The treat in the photo is a slice of “lemon burst” cake, purchased at a coffee shop in Perkins Cove, Ogunquit. Between the husband and me I think we downed 4 of these when we were there. This one made it home to pose for the camera before I attacked it. Mmm.


September, Adieu

30 Sep

Well, I did it! I have completed my FIFTH month of the Daily Shorty Challenge! I am shocked and really I shouldn’t think too much about it. Instead I will dream about these celebration profiteroles. Dream with me?

Photo of Profiteroles from Annie Smithers Bistrot by Alpha from Melbourne, Australia, 10/2008.


Goodbye to Week 17!

27 Aug

THAT is a chocolate soufflé! Congrats to me, to me, to me, for finishing off my 17th week of the Daily Shorty Challenge! And I can’t let another August 27 post go by without wishing a big, fat, happy wedding anniversary to Pat and me! Best decision I ever made, Babe. And I’m looking forward to that steak dinner Wednesday night….
Photo by Alpha from Melbourne, Australia, April 2008.


Goodbye to Week 16!

21 Aug

One of the ways I keep my energy going for the Daily Shorty challenge is to celebrate every milestone. I didn’t have room for this photo yesterday and I won’t when I write up today’s story post, so here’s my pat on the back for completing my 16th week on August 20! This apricot-blackberry tart, purchased at Forage Market in downtown Lewiston, Maine, is my celebration treat. I don’t often get to eat the real treat photographed for these virtual celebrations, but I ate this one and it was DELICIOUS.