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.


And now a word from Natalia!

10 Apr

reddoorOn April 7 (see my story post further down the page) I used my friend Natalia Sarkissian’s story prompt, a photo of a red door, for inspiration. When I e-mailed Natalia to ask if I could use the image for the blog, she said yes and mentioned that she had used this same prompt before as well. I want to highlight her piece here both because I enjoyed it and because you can see from what I posted of my story that she and I took radically different approaches. That’s one of the joys of a prompt, that it can inspire such different stories. So rather than using her photo in my story post, I’m showing it here, and here is Natalia’s piece. Again, thanks so much my friend!


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.


Mastering Every Sentence

3 Feb

Craft NoteMy friend Cynthia Newberry Martin has a great craft essay at Brevity about making sure every sentence of your fiction is at least good. I agree with her that not every sentence can be great, but all sentences should meet a minimum standard or they shouldn’t be on the page. Here at Daily Shorty I force myself to celebrate something in every story by posting a favorite sentence. When I was just getting started with writing I promised myself that if I ever stopped making myself laugh with my own jokes or if I ever found myself writing a story that didn’t contain at least one sentence that knocks me out, I’ll stop writing. We really do have to write for ourselves FIRST or why would we ever put so much time and energy into it? Making each sentence good or great is the least effort we owe our own work.


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.


A Kiss Goodbye to Week 21!

24 Sep

Sure, you hear about Maine’s lobster and chowder, all those sweet blueberries, the gorgeous coastline, the rich history of great writing and art. But did you know that Maine boasts chocolate shops that will make you weep with gratitude? Well, I weep. Maybe you can indulge without tears. To celebrate my completion of another week in my Daily Shorty Challenge, enjoy with me this plate of chocolates I bought at Perkins Cove Candies in Ogunquit, Maine, which now holds the revered title of Claire’s Favorite Chocolate Shop, a coveted honor indeed. Pictured here are 3 orange creams, a peanut butter cup, a caramel, and their chocolate-to-slay-all-others, a cashew turtle. All in dark chocolate, of course. Oh, dear. I’m weeping.


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.


Avoiding Complication

31 Aug

I finally picked up the craft book Rules of Thumb, edited by Michael Martone and Susan Neville, and I wanted to mention an early piece on “Complexity” by Paul Maliszewski. He talks about reading work by students who avoid complication in their stories—one student puts and keeps a husband in a coma while the wife rails at his recent sins, but, of course, rails alone—and how much playing it so safe drains the story of any energy. I’m not doing him justice, so you’ll have to get the book, but I wanted to remind myself and any writer friends following this project: Don’t skip the hard stuff! A character gets fired but you skipped the firing? Why? A woman leaves her husband but you don’t give us the scene when he catches her packing? What gives? The story is supposed to be about the hard stuff. Take a deep breath, and, yeah, go there.


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.


What’s at stake?

7 Aug

I love fiction that breaks rules and refuses to deliver the expected goods and shape. But no matter what kind of story I’m writing, I’m always asking myself why I, as a reader, should care. I was flipping through my notes on a talk by the wonderful Richard McCann when I saw this great piece of advice on the subject of writing something that matters: “A frequent mistake writers make is chronicling events. When the chronicle of events takes over, ask yourself: Is there enough at stake?”