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Friendly Prompts, Day 4: Suzanne

5 Apr

CrowMy friend Suzanne Farrell Smith did a Daily Shorty week with me in January. The prompt she gave me for this week is a writing exercise, asking me to create a scene focused on an animal of some kind but not a pet or a zoo attraction. I wasn’t allowed to put any human beings in the scene but I could add other animals. My main goal was to follow these directions and somehow write a complete piece rather than just a scene that would be part of a larger whole. I’m not sure how complete the shorty feels but it meets my basic requirements and it was fun to write. Many thanks to Suzanne!

Working Title: Winter Games
1st Sentence: A crow flies from a nearby tree branch toward a steep slope covered in dense, frozen snowpack.
Favorite Sentence: Then it takes a wing-fluttering hop forward, lands about a foot down the slope, and holding its wings at half-span for balance, it wobble-slides down the glistening white on its feet, like a skier who added a little too much peppermint schnapps to his cocoa.
Word Length: 279

Photo by Jack Wolf of Albany, CA, 12/2008.

Ending the week with cnf!

4 Feb

BBQBig congrats to me for finishing Week 40! We’ve got a huge snowstorm going here in Maine and I’m craving comfort food, so my virtual celebration treat is savory. That’s the kind of plate I could swim in for a long time…. As for the day’s work, do you know about Brevity magazine’s flash nonfiction contest? There is no entry fee and the deadline is 2/14 so get on it! Rather than basing the day’s shorty on a poem as I have been doing all week, I answered Brevity’s siren call and generated a short piece recounting a strange memory from childhood. As it happens, I have written about this memory before at Daily Shorty, I think in August, and the word count was 1000+. I remember it as mediocre at best. This time the contest guidelines, which limit the submission to 500 words, forced me to be more targeted and I wrote a much better piece. Is it good? I don’t know. CNF is not my thing. But it’s pretty good and after several revisions (I’m writing this post on February 8), it is as good as I can make it. Many thanks to Brevity for the prompt and to my cherished, yellow walls friend Patty Weidler, who gave me excellent feedback on the first two drafts.

Working Title: Blood
1st Sentence: I lurked behind the couch, nursing a slapped face or kicked shin or twisted wrist.
Favorite Sentence: Missed me, I wanted to sing, but I was too high to form words, high on his twisted mouth, my lightness, high on sure-footed, dancing me.
Word Length: 500

Photo by Marshall Astor 6/2007.

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.

The Random Encounter

3 Oct

For this “non-prompt” week I’m formalizing a process that I’ve stumbled into before: Think of phrases and sentences until something takes hold. Then instead of exploring what that phrase/sentence brings to mind, beginning to sketch out how it might make a story, just write what flows from it. Then skip a space and do this again. And skip another space and do it again. Then develop transitions between the unconnected pieces until a narrative that feels alive begins to take shape. Cut anything that doesn’t serve the emerging story and write to an end. Go!

Working Title: Indian Princess
1st Sentence: On the way home I passed a teenaged girl in ragged clothes handing out flyers.
Favorite Sentence: Specializes in spiritual cleansing and Indian princesses who can’t afford decent clothes, specializes in getting a divorced, middle-aged accountant super-, super-pissed off.
Word Length: 829

Photo of William Ordway Partridge’s Pocahontas statue (erected in Jamestown, VA, in 1922) by Hfdapuirhdk 4/2006.


Producing New Material

16 Sep

Remember in grade school, when you had to write your name down the left side of the page, and then make a poem by producing a word or line that starts with each letter? Or you started with “W-I-N-T-E-R” because you had to choose a season, or “P-U-R-P-L-E” because you had to choose a color. When I wrote my shorty yesterday, my prompt was a photo of a hurricane (see the post just below). I was stumped. I came up with multiple first sentences that went nowhere. After 40 minutes of NOTHING, in desperation I wrote “H-U-R-R-I-C-A-N-E” down the left side of my notebook page. Then I wrote a sentence that started with each letter. I edited them to be more interesting, then went back to the top and extended each sentence into a paragraph that made sense as a lead-in to the next starting sentence. After that, I discovered that I really liked my “E” sentence and the couple of sentences I’d written after it. So I crossed out all the preceding work and started over with those last sentences, which quickly led to a complete story that I actually liked. So, thank you Mrs. Moral, my first-grade teacher, for making me write a poem out of “C-L-A-I-R-E,” one that I have blissfully forgotten.