Monday, December 7, 2009

Still Kicking...and Baking!

*****
I've been remiss. Here's the latest:

Last month, I successfully completed NaNoWriMo. I have a nearly completed first draft of a promising novel titled, The Blue Hills, which I'm itching to finish and revise. My goal for this month is to complete the story arc by writing a scene a day. If I stay on pace, I should be done well before Christmas, God willing and the creek don't rise.

My story "Free" was selected for The Best of Every Day Fiction 2. This story sparked a lot of controversy on the EDF site, enough that I was selected for the EDF author of the month interview last year. Many thanks to all who loved or hated it.

Other recent highlights include online classes with Jordan Rosenfeld. I recently completed Jordan's Image Building class and recommend it highly.

Now, I look forward to settling in for some Christmas cheer and a wallop of snow. We're expecting up to a foot here in Southeastern Wisconsin over the next two days. Perfect weather for holiday baking. I host a cookie exchange at my house every year. This past weekend, I worked on candies for the party. The recipe below is my personal favorite. I make several batches every year.

Potato Chip Clusters

9 - 1 oz squares white baking chocolate (or 1 - 12 oz bag white baking chips)
2 cups crushed potato chips (measure after crushing)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a large microwave safe bowl, melt white chocolate. Stir in chips and pecans. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto wax paper covered sheets. Refrigerate until set. Makes about 3 dozen totally addicting candies.

Friday, October 30, 2009

At Last!

Drumroll, please...

30 Days, 30 Writes 2009 has been released for your reading enjoyment. This collection features short writing by Jane Banning, Stephen Book, JC Towler and myself.

You can pick up a free e-copy at www.30days30writes.blogspot.com. There's also a link to purchase a full-color, bound print copy, if you'd like a copy of your very own.

Please tell us what you think. We'd love to have your comment on the 30 Days blog. And keep in mind we're thinking of doing this again next year. We hope you'll consider joining us next April for 30 Days, 30 Writes, 2010. Stephen and I are already simmering a juicy batch of prompts to inspire you.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Old Mixed Bag Bit

*****

It's been a bit good news / bad news here lately. On the bad front, I've had the flu since October 16th. But the good news is I'm slowly getting better. Bad news: my daughter has had it, too. Really good news: she's getting better, too.

For all our battles with congestion and fevers, the writing front has been a source of much good news. In the spirit of glass-half-full, I share my bounty with you.

GREAT NEWS: The 3o Days, 30 Writes chapbook is on the brink of being released. Stephen and I are hammering out the final details. Expect to see it available at the end of the week.

UNEXPECTED GOOD NEWS: I had an email from Every Day Fiction this morning telling me my flash fiction, "Free," was selected for their annual anthology. I was part of last year's anthology and was so pleased with how the project came out. Plus, there's nothing like an acceptance for something you didn't even know you had out there.

GOOD NEWS ON THE HORIZON: NaNoWriMo is just a few days away. Already, I feel myself getting excited about it. The last NaNo I did (2007) brought me Jamieson's Folly. I believe this year's project, The Blue Hills, has every bit as much potential. I'm not as prepared as I'd like, but NaNoWriMo is about the leap of faith. The Blue Hills has bones enough to warrant that leap.

So, mainly good news, indeed. I'm losing the Vicks Vaporub and gaining a lot of ground. I can't wait to see what else waits on the horizon. Just no more flu, I hope. I'm ready to run. Or will be when I finally stop coughing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Same Old -- #fridayflash

*****

When Amanda was a baby, Carrie yearned for routine, for knowing when to wake and when to sleep. In the chaos of new motherhood, she longed for a slot to cook dinner, to exercise, to breathe, to make love.

The routine came all too soon, the daily activities that varied little from week to week: Mondays, the park; Tuesday, play at home; Wednesday, story hour; Thursday, lunch at Grandma’s; Friday, playdate. And in each of those days, their own aching subroutines, the three meals a day with the handful of tolerated menus, the same three movies, two books, one cry.

Mommy.

She returned: to her friends, her hobbies, her work, to some semblance of the girl she’d been before Amanda, but always with the understanding that everything must fit, no matter how large and unwieldy, inside the tight buckets of routine—a time to play blocks, a time to read books, and even a tiny golden sliver to remember her freedom.

*****

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story appears in the 30 Days, 30 Writes 2009 chapbook, to be released at the end of October. The chapbook features more stories by Greta Igl, as well as stories by Jane Banning, Stephen Book and JC Towler. Please check the 30 Days, 30 Writes blog for more details and an invitation to participate in next year's writing challenge.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Almost done!

*******

After much work, 30 Days, 30 Writes 2009 is nearly ready for publication. This anthology is a compilation of the 30 best stories written during the MySixWriMo event hosted here on this blog last April.

For those of you new to my blog, a little background:

MySixWriMo was a writing event where I posted two prompts here on my blog each day. Participating writers wrote a six (or more) sentence story based on one of them. Jane Banning, Stephen Book, and JC Towler all rose to the challenge.

After months of selecting, editing and laying the publication out, the chapbook is nearly ready. I've received much invaluable help from Stephen in creating a pdf version. We expect to launch it by the end of the month.

For more information on the project, please visit the 30 Days, 30 Writes blog. And plan to join us next April for the 2010 30 Days.

Friday, September 18, 2009

#fridayflash: Getting Ready

*****

Monday, it had been the flat sheet with faded yellow cabbage roses, the old one washed until it felt like flannel.

At first, Ruth thought she’d forgotten to wash it. But then she remembered how it had hung up in the wringer. She’d shut the infernal old machine off and wriggled that sheet out like a reluctant calf.

On Wednesday, she knew something was afoot. Two raggedy bath towels went missing—towels she’d washed to get ready for Trixie’s puppies. The old hound’s belly was big as a watermelon, her time coming soon. The towels had hung in the middle of the stretched lines, between Virgil’s work pants, not on the end where they’d be easily grabbed. The discriminating thievery made Ruth stop and think.

This morning, she baited the trap, hanging an old tablecloth Virgil spilled ham gravy on. Even after washing, it still smelled meaty. She sat behind the sheers overlooking the clothesline, her day’s work done, but for the dinner that needed starting. The house bore the clean stamp of settled quiet, beds long made, dishes drying in the drainboard, kids long grown.

She sat in the filtered sun and soaked in the silence. It wasn’t long before the old thief showed up, belly swaying. She waddled ponderously, back swayed from so many litters. Gray hairs grizzled her snout as she tugged the tablecloth gently from the line.

Ruth ticked the curtain aside, watched Trix drag the tablecloth off between bowed legs. Ruth’s heart twisted remembering the hard work ahead. The old girl would struggle, but she knew what to do. Soon, they’d have one last wriggling batch of velvety puppies.

Friday, September 4, 2009

#FridayFlash: Recording

*****

I press play and the past slides into the present, his voice light like a needle on a record. Hey sweet thing what’s it been--ten years? Then he clears his throat and laughs like I remember. I’ll be in town this weekend, yeah … something something …yeah, I’m getting married. And he jumps into chitchat about who’d have imagined, but it’s just static at the end of an old LP. My memory skips, hung up on all those nights we sat talking behind Meg’s house, the stars in multitudes like the years before us. Kids that we were, we didn’t plan. We didn’t act. We thought we had all the time in the world to find each other.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Into the Woods

I have a rule when we go on our annual northwoods camping vacation: NO COOKING.

As you all know, I love to cook at home. But cooking in a pop-up is torturous. Let’s face it: cooking without running water, electricity, refrigeration, or an oven just ain’t fun. Bottom line: I’m on vacation. I shouldn’t have to work that hard.

Writing while camping, on the other hand, is a different story. Something about the smell of pines and breeze off the lake makes me desperate to write. This year, my husband chipped in to augment my writing proceeds from the year so I could buy one of those handy Neo word processors. And what a great investment it was. I found an empty campsite, dubbed it my office, and wrote for several happy, productive hours. I sneaked in hours of work on seemingly limitless AA batteries. I came home with a good idea for this year’s NaNoWriMo project and a solid idea for a flash.

This year’s camping trip was very good to me.

I did manage some cooking, but of the most perfunctory type. One morning, the neighbors stoked up their grill and it had me wondering: what breakfast food could you cook on a grill? Here’s what I came up with:

ANY TIME GRILL PACKETS

Per packet serving:

1/2 can diced potatoes, well drained
2 Tbsp. diced onion
2 Tbsp. diced green pepper
1 serving FULLY COOKED meat of choice: bacon bits, sliced breakfast sausages, cubed ham, smoked sausage (I used smoked sausage and it was YUMMY!)
Seasoned salt, to taste
Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Nonstick cooking spray

Heat grill to high heat. For each serving, lay out a double layer of aluminum foil—12” lengths. Spray foil liberally with nonstick spray.

Place ingredients on foil. Fold foil over lengthwise, creating a durable seam. Fold in ends several times to make packets leak proof.

Place packets on grill. Cook 15 - 20 minutes, turning as needed, until heated through and veggies are tender. Open packets and dump on paper plates. After eating, discard mess and do something FUN.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

#fridayflash -- For Love of Vater

******


“This the place?” the cabbie grumbled over one shoulder.

Peter looked out the rain smeared window. The streaming water made the house seem to melt into the lawn. For Peter, it felt all too real.

“Yes.” Dread wove into Peter’s voice. He cleared his throat. “Yes. This is it.”

The cabbie fiddled with a clipboard like Peter hadn’t spoken.

Yes, it was the same place that burned in his memory. The lannon stone bungalow with the sloping entryway. The semicircle cement front stoop with the wrought iron railing. Back when he was a kid with a choppy home haircut, Peter used to bound down those steps two at a time. How many times had he taken a spill on that sidewalk and scraped his knee?

It was always Mother who came with the hugs and band aids.

Even in the rain, even now, he could see that Vater still kept the place the same; each blade of grass evenly trimmed, the edges of the lawn beveled to make a smooth angle toward the sidewalk. That lawn had been the pinnacle of Peter’s misery. Vater hadn’t trusted him to cut it unsupervised. The old man had sat on his old man lawn chair in his undershirt and baggy plaid shorts and watched Peter, his eyes following him back and forth as Peter pushed the mower. Every so often, he’d stand and wave his wiry, white arms to point out Peter’s numerous mistakes.

“You’re sloppy!” he’d say in his phlegmy German accent, a hand cupped around his mouth as he yelled over the mower. “Straight lines, Peter! Can’t you get anything right?”

Peter would look up at him and swallow the anger knotting his throat. It had never occurred to him to talk back. Even as a kid, he knew Vater was immutable. Fighting Vater was like fighting a wall.

“Well, go on!” Vater would say, eyebrows fierce.

Anger would burn like fire in Peter’s gut. Vater never seemed to notice. He’d put a hand to his lumbar and stretch back with a low grunt. Then he’d notice Peter still there, and scowl. “That lawn isn’t going to cut itself!”

Then Vater would creak into his chair and sip his beer.

All these years later, Peter still hated that lawn. He wouldn’t be here, but Mother had insisted.

“There’s so little time, Peter,” she’d said. “Please don’t let this chance slip away.”

But Peter knew chances had run out long ago, in all the times he’d looked to Vater for approval. How many hollow nights had he spent, curled in his bed under the eaves, wondering what it would be like to have one of those TV fathers? The kind who put arms around shoulders and called their boys “son.” The kind who tossed the ball or helped build model airplanes.

Mother held out hope long after Peter abandoned it.

“He loves you, Peter,” she’d tell him. “You must believe that. It’s not his way to let such feelings show.”

Now, their clock ticked toward an agonizing end.

The knowing about Vater didn’t make the past softer. His mother wanted him here, but Vater wouldn’t appreciate it. He’d hide the truth, pretend there was no grim diagnosis. The fact that it was a “private” cancer made it more unmentionable. Decent folk didn’t discuss such things.

Now Peter had to tell Vater he knew.

“You about done looking?” the cabbie asked.

Peter turned to see him still scribbling on the clipboard. Another stranger who didn’t care. Not that he should. But it got old, having the world populated by the dismissive.

Peter watched the rain and ached with the need to be real. To speak words and to have them heard. To have eyes land on him and see him standing there.

Not just any eyes, but Vater’s eyes.

“Yeah.” Peter grabbed the door handle, paused, then pushed the door open.

Maybe Mother was right; it was time. Time, while he had the chance. One day soon, the old man would be gone, his stinging words silenced with him. If he didn’t fight now, he’d be left alone, fighting himself. It was time to stand up, to tell Vater the truth: Vater was dying and Peter cared to the core of him. Vater would try to dismiss him, but Peter wouldn’t allow it. He was Vater’s son. He had something to say.

He stepped out of the cab, into the rain.

Hump Day Prompt #2

******
Yesterday, my family took our annual trek to the Wisconsin State Fair. There's a lot to love about the fair: the cows, the bunnies, the food, the CREAM PUFFS and, most of all, the people. Nowhere else in Wisconsin can you see such a delightful melange of jean clad farmers and pierced Goths.

One particularly intriguing fellow caught my eye as he strolled past the porta-potties. I'll leave the particulars to you, but he sported the following ditty on his shirt:

WENCHGUARD ON DUTY

Yep, now that's a guy with a story. I'd imagine his wife could tell one, too.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hump day prompt #1

****

I thought it might be fun to try something new: a series of Wednesday prompts to keep the creative juices flowing.

As anyone who knows me will attest, I love to eavesdrop on strangers. Here’s something I overheard on my daily walk. Almost made me turn around and stalk the speaker.

“It wasn’t any planned deal, but we ended up spending the night together. And that opened up a whole new bunch of weird stuff.”

To the great, white page, friends. May the muse be with you.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

#FridayFlash -- "To the Lake"

*****
I follow Troy to the lake, just like every week. First, Troy and Mindy read the paper, then Troy says, “Come on, girl” and we go. Troy gets the box from the garage, the sweet smelling one with the hooks and doodads. He pulls the pole from the wall. The lake isn’t far, just on the other side of the yard, behind the pines Troy planted last summer to break the wind.

When we get there, Troy pulls a hook from the box. I lay in the grass and watch him. If it’s warm, I lay in the shade. If it’s cool, I lay in the sun. We just finished the cool time, the damp grass, way down in the earth time. Things are drier now. The sun has more presence, so I lay in the shade. Troy does something magic with his hands and the hook hangs from the string. It’s a shiny hook with a big feathery thing wrapped around it.

Once it’s on, Troy pats my head. I lean into it. His touch is firm and comforting, like my old blanket in front of the window doors when it snows.

“What do you think, girl? Are we going to get lucky?” he asks.

I like to stare at him. I like how he looks, the way he smells, like the sweet stuff from the box and his happy excitement. His voice resonates in my ears, not too high or too low, but just him.

He stands up from his crouch and arcs back an arm, the pole bending behind him with it. A string streams out with a whir, then the hook plops. Troy waits, then reels it in with a tick-tick-tick.

The grass feels good. It’s quiet this time of day, only Troy and I and the ducks with their babies. The houses around the shore are quiet, but for the black car pulling out of the driveway just across the lake. It’s a small lake, new, made just last summer. The men with the machines built it when they built the new houses. Troy says it’s just for show, but they put fish in it, big ones that glub at the surface. I can see in the houses across the way.

Troy arcs his arm back, sends the hook out again. “We should get a nibble soon, girl,” he tells me with a smile.

Just then Mindy leans out the window. “Troy? I’m leaving for class!”

Troy raises a hand and waves. Mindy disappears. A minute later, I hear the garage door open and her car back out. I roll over on my back, expose my belly, and wait. It’s just Troy and me now. I know what’s coming.

Just like always, the thing in his pocket sings.

Troy reels the line in quick and puts the pole on the grass. He pulls the thing from his pocket and looks at it. He presses something, then puts it to his ear.

“Hey.”

He turns his back to me. He always turns his back to me. I don’t mind. I wait. It will be worth it.

The duck family approaches, the mother closest to the shore. The father swims a body length ahead, the ducklings trailing behind. There are only four now. I wonder what happened to the fifth. Maybe that fish got it, the trophy one Troy says nibbles his line.

“Yeah, she just left. Let me put this stuff away. Say, five minutes?” He listens to the thing a minute, then says, his voice growly, “Yeah, me, too.” Then he presses something and puts the thing back in his pocket.

I wait.

He looks out at the lake, toward the house with the black car. Something moves behind the window. Troy watches, his hands still in his pockets.

He takes the hook off the line and puts it back in the box. Before he clips the box shut, he notices me.

“Sorry, girl,” he says. “I’ve got bigger fish to fry today.”

My tongue lolls out and flops against the grass. I look up at Troy and the white puff clouds and the sky behind him. He smiles down at me, then bends over and rubs my belly. He’s my everything. This is our moment.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Platform, Schmatform

*****

I admit it: I bought into platform hype as much as the next struggling writer. I’ve blogged. I’ve facebooked. I’ve even considered tweeting. And with each new trend, I’ve sacrificed a smidge of my precious writing time. As mommy to a preschooler, quality writing time is as rare as a flawless pearl. There are times I’ve wondered if building a platform is really worth it.

Then I happened on Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel. I heard about the book from two writer friends, who raved enough to entice me into buying a copy. The book was published in 2001—practically prehistoric in the world of publishing-- but I think much of what it tells us is timeless. According to Maass, the best thing a writer can do to promote himself is to write a spectacular book. It’s not so much about promotion, advances and book tours that sends a book onto the top of the bestseller lists; it’s gushing word of mouth. One reader gets excited about a book and tells her friends. Her friends tell their friends, etc…Enthusiastic word of mouth can make a book’s sales skyrocket. And what brings this serendipitous, grass roots promotion? Maass beats no bushes; it’s great storytelling from writers who keep getting better, writers who take their work to the next level.

Publishing has changed dramatically since 2001, but I think what Maass says still holds true. Lately, it seems I’m reading more articles telling newbie writers to focus on craft, then worry about promotion. In other words, learn how to write, to tell great stories. It bears shades of the bipolar nutritional and parenting trends that have us spinning in circles. We eat eggs/eschew eggs/don’t use the word no to our kids/show them tough love/write/market/blog/tweet/stand on our heads.

I’m a writer. Bottom line, that means I should be writing.

On a final note, I do believe writers should promote their own work. After all, if you don’t toot your own horn, who will? But, I don’t think establishing platform should take precedence over time spent writing. First and foremost, writers write, then we sell.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An Ever-Changing Landscape

*****

Last weekend, my daughter’s best friend slept over for the first time. We’d worried about how it would go. Lisa didn’t have much experience spending the night away from her parents. And the girls were so young—my daughter soon to be 4, Lisa just 4 1/2. We’d worked up to it, though, having Lisa come over to visit without her parents. I talked to my daughter about being sensitive to Lisa’s feelings.

When the big sleepover came, things went well. The girls spent the evening playing and watching Beauty and the Beast. We set up our tiny pup tent in the living room. The girls played inside and wrestled. At bedtime, Lisa told us she was afraid of the dark. We turned the end table lamp on low. The girls drifted off for a peaceful night’s sleep.

I thought we had this sleepover in the bag.

The next morning, the immensity of the change finally hit. As I made pancakes for breakfast, I could tell both girls were tired. They could no longer work out differences themselves. They both wanted to play quietly on their own. When I slid the pancakes onto their plates, Lisa didn’t like hers because they weren’t like the ones her dad makes. I wondered how I’d keep the peace until she went home. After breakfast, Lisa got her backpack and sat in the living room, where she promptly burst into tears. She missed her mom, she said, and she wanted to go home. She’d reached the edge of her four-year-old’s capacity for change. We packed her things and returned her to her parents.

Like Lisa, I’m facing my own battle with change. My writing has grown in the last year to the point it’s a whole new entity. I feel this inner unrest because I’m stretching beyond what’s painless. I need more: more connections, more training, more substance. I need different. I need better. I just need.

It hurts.

I visited with pal Jane on Sunday. She took me to a quiet, transcendental park where we walked amongst the wildflowers and talked. The sun draped over us in golden benevolence. My anxiety seeped out my pores. We climbed a winding path up a huge, rounded hill. Black eyed susans and daisies peeked over the top of the prairie grass. At one point, we could look both down over the fields and the stream or up to see the flowers brush the clouds. The landscape changed as we walked and talked. We traipsed through a damp, cool deciduous forest. We sat by a little pond teeming with minnows. We talked about change and growth and phases. It helped. I came home not wholly restored, but in a better place. Given the immensity of what’s going on with me right now, I’m content with standing in this better place.

I’m going to share my mom’s recipe for those buttermilk pancakes, originally from kitchen diva Martha Stewart. Don’t let the little kid’s bad opinion of them discourage you. These are the lightest pancakes I’ve ever had. They practically float off your plate. We like them studded with mixed berries (this was what Lisa objected to) but they’re fantastic just plain with maple syrup.

Mom’s Buttermilk Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups lowfat buttermilk (worth the trip to the store to use the real thing)
1/4 cup melted butter
canola oil for pan or griddle

Sift together dry ingredients into a medium bowl. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix together eggs, buttermilk and butter. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour wet in and stir until just mixed, being careful not to overmix. (it’s okay if some lumps remain) Let batter stand 10 – 15 minutes before using.

Heat large pan or griddle to medium high heat. (I set griddle to 375 degrees). When griddle is hot, place a small amount of oil on surface. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto griddle* Fry until bubbles form on top of pancake and bottom is brown. Flip and cook until pancakes are browned on both sides and cooked through.

Makes 12 – 15 pancakes.

* If you want to add berries, place them on the pancakes now. I use frozen mixed berry blend. Just put them on frozen. They’ll thaw as the pancake cooks.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Season for Kvetching…and Barbeque!

*****

The Editor Unleashed/Smashwords Flash Fiction 40 contest closed to voting this weekend. I know I’m not alone when I say I’m glad. It was an emotional experience, watching my story ride the whimsical wave of voter favor. In the end, I finished a respectable 9th. I’m satisfied.

Except for the hollowness.

Turns out the ranking was more than just a process. It was a distraction. A source of euphoria and blistering outrage. It was something to email WB’s about while we kvetched over the voting. But now it’s gone and it’s time let go and write again.

Yep, the season for kvetching has ended.

Lucky for me, I have transition activities to help me switch gears. These days, I’m embracing grilling season on my glorious new gas grill. Some transitions are easy, like getting rid of the crusty old Char-grill, a fire hazard of a beast that breathed licking dragon tongues of flame. I lost more arm hair to that monster than I care to admit. The end of the Char-grill’s season couldn’t come soon enough for me.

With the new grill has come a new sense of adventure. And some misadventures, but mainly successes. For those who are interested, here’s my latest effort. This came out so juicy, it left a pool or beer-infused yumminess on my plate. We enjoyed it with lightly grilled bruschetta and a mixed greens salad.

BEER ME CHICKEN

Seasoning:

1 Tbsp seasoned salt (I use Lawry’s)
1 Tbsp poultry seasoning
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp. Hungarian paprika
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 – 4# whole chicken
1 – 12 oz. can beer (use the cheap stuff)
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Mix seasonings in a small bowl. Loosen skin all over chicken, including legs, being careful not to tear skin. Rub 1/2 of seasoning mixture on meat under skin. Tuck wings for roasting. Place in a dish and refrigerate overnight.

When you’re ready to cook, preheat grill to medium-low heat.

Discard (or drink) 1/2 of beer. Add remaining seasonings, 2 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp EVOO to can. Spray can with non-stick spray. Place chicken over beer can. Stand the chicken and beer up on a disposable foil pan. (Use the legs to form a tripod.) Combine remaining EVOO and butter. Rub over surface of chicken.

Place foil pan on preheated grill. Grill 1 hour, or until chicken was cooked through. Remove chicken from can and place on serving platter. Cover with foil. Discard beer. Let chicken stand 10 minutes before carving.

Serves 4.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Matter of Taste

*****

I wasn’t thrilled when my husband told me he wanted Hamburger Helper for Father’s Day dinner. I’m not a big fan of chemicals and salty, prefab food. I like herbs and fresh vegetables, preferably stuff just picked from the garden. I like to shop a couple times a week. I avoid the middle aisles of the grocery store and build meals around the fresh foods at the perimeter. I believe in building layers of flavor and that good technique brings out the best in food.

But I also understand that everyone has different tastes. Even though I’m no fan of convenience foods, I respect that my husband likes them. In turn, he respects my predilection for homemade pesto using imported olive oil and garden-warm basil.

Just like with food, there are a million different style of writing. And I admit there are styles I just don’t like. Extreme minimalism doesn’t do it for me. I like writing with mystery and music in the language. I don’t like being spoon-fed stories. But (and I believe this is important) I still respect talented, hard-working writers who write stories outside my particular preferences.

Last week, I ran into someone who tore apart a piece of my writing because he didn’t like my style. I’ve been around the block enough that I’m not devastated when someone doesn’t like my stuff. I need the feedback. Growth comes from seeing what went wrong. I know I have a lot to learn.

But here’s what I don’t have to learn: to treat others with respect and to evaluate their writing gently even if the piece isn’t tailor fit to my interests. Everyone is different and that’s a good thing. If we were all the same, we’d never sell a story.

I won’t share the Hamburger Helper recipe. A monkey with the box and some hamburger could do that. But here’s what I’m simmering for dinner. It isn’t a favorite of my husband’s, but I adore it. It’s good served hot, cold, or room temperature. A little dishful, on the side, tastes great with a sandwich. I LOVE it spooned, cold, over a cheese omelet or scrambled eggs. It’s also great spooned on toasted pita bread or with grilled fish or chicken. And it's diet friendly and packed full of nutrition, so what's not to love?

BEST EVER RATATOUILLE

1 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/2” slices
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 large stalk celery, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 large clove garlic, pressed
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 – 28 oz can stewed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. fresh basil, minced (or 1 tsp.dried)
fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and layer in a colander. Place a heavy plate and the can of tomatoes on top to add weight. Let sit 15 – 30 minutes. Rinse eggplant. (This removes the bitterness) Blot eggplant dry and cut into cubes.

While eggplant is in colander, heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium low heat. Add onion, celery and peppers. Sauté 10 minutes to lightly caramelize vegetables. Add garlic. Sauté 1 minute longer. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer 30 – 40 minutes, until vegetables are tender, but not mushy. Add basil and salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat and let pot sit on stove, covered, for 1 hour to let flavors blend. Serves 8.



.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Blind Ambition

*****
I promised WB Stephen I'd post a picture of my TO READ pile. Here it is:


Ok, the Nancy Drew book is my daughter's. She thinks she's big guns because she likes to read novels like Mommy. But wait. I'm not done showing you my TO READ PILE.



This is my TO READ bookcase:





Ok, in all fairness, I have read some of these books. I just ran out of room on my ALREADY READ bookcase.



Finally, this is why I don't have any time to read:









Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Salad Days

*****

This morning, as I was making celery seed dressing for tonight’s salad, it occurred to me that writing is a lot like salad. You can serve a good salad with no dressing at all. The unadulterated ingredients taste good all in their own right. But a little dressing can bring the whole thing together and make the dish shine.

This is the dilemma I’ve been facing with my Flash 40 contest entry. “Mirror, Mirror” was a departure for me because I wrote it without my usual bag of tricks. I tend to use setting as a character in my stories. In this case, the setting was barely addressed. It felt a lot like that undressed salad and I wondered if the story suffered without it. But, after a lot of thought, I wanted the story as bare bones as possible, feeling it was a better match for my narrator’s overwhelmed state of mind.

Since the ranking process began, I’ve been keeping close tabs on my entry. So far, “Mirror, Mirror” is faring well. I’m neck in neck with good friends, all of whom I’d be proud to lose to. It appears my gamble paid off.

As for the salad, I’m going to share the recipe. This one’s a summer favorite here. For the salad itself, use leafy greens of your choice. Something tender is usually best. Top them with sliced nectarines and blueberries or strawberries. A little thinly sliced red onion adds a pleasant punch.

Celery Seed Dressing

Whisk together in a microwave safe bowl:

1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
1-1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp finely grated onion
1/2 tsp celery seed
generous pinch of salt

Cook on high for 1-1/2 mins.

Whisk in:

1/3 cup canola oil

Chill until serving. Served with greens and fruit.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Are We Having Fun Yet?

*****

Lately, my attention has been hijacked by the Editor Unleashed / Smashwords Flash Fiction 40 Contest. It’s a great contest with a simple premise: write a short story under 1000 words and post it in the Editor Unleashed Forum. Forum members will vote, the editors will make their choices, and the top 40 stories will be published in an e-book by Smashwords. Simple, right?

Well, not really.

Let me explain: This week, I posted my entry, “Mirror, Mirror.” I felt good about it and figured I had a strong chance of making it into the top 40. I’d been reading other entries in preparation for voting. My “no” list was miles long, my “yeses” and “maybes” tallied in the scraggly handfuls. Many of the stories were laden with fundamental errors. Starting the story in the wrong place, errors in syntax, weak or nonexistent character arcs, stilted dialogue, you name it.

During this first phase of reading, I’d describe my experience as enlightening and affirming. I was learning a lot about life with the slush pile. I felt positive about my work.

Lately, my feelings have shifted. I’ve been fortunate to read several truly exceptional entries. With each, I’ve seen my chances dwindle. I’ve been forced to look at my work honestly and I can see there’s need for growth.

I don’t know why exactly that bothers me. I already know I have lots to learn. I already know I’m the sort who makes progress through hard work rather than by possessing literary genius. And I know there are MANY non-geniuses who make six and seven figures as writers. They find their niche and they know how to work it.

But it still brings to mind many questions. Should I push myself as hard as I do? Am I being distracted by platform and market positioning? Where can I best fit into the publishing hierarchy? Am I doing a good job of balancing writing with my life? But the biggest question I don’t have an answer for: am I still having fun?

Big questions, and no easy answers. Seems to me there’s a fine line between getting somewhere and enjoying the journey. One little contest sure has given me a lot to think about.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sharp as a Knife

*****

Last night, as I stood at the counter chopping veggies for stuffed shells, I lamented how dull my knives are. I have a couple decent knives, but I'm not easy on them. I do make the occasional effort to sharpen them. But I use them naughtily, cutting apples on paper plates, using those plastic cutting boards that can go in the dishwasher. Even the knives go in the dishwasher. As I struggled with cutting a carrot into decent matchsticks, I knew I had no right to complain. It’s my own fault my knives are so dull.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with an artist friend awhile back. One morning, as our children played together, we got talking about how upsetting it is when we don’t have time to follow our respective muses. I told her that, not only does not writing give me an unsettled, cranky feeling, but I know my skills grow dull if I don’t write daily.

She surprised me by being surprised.

Maybe painting is different that way. You can clean the house and garden for a few months, then come back and pick up where you left off. But I can testify that writing requires regular practice. Otherwise my writing muscles grow lax and stiff, which is destined to show up in my writing. So I write. Every day. Even if it’s only a few lines.

Lately, things have been going well. I have several stories nearly ready to send out into the cosmos. Folly still molders, but I’m working on it. Chapter Three needs a complete revamp. I’m reshaping it on the back burner. I’m pleased with my progress. The ideas come fast and hard. I just need more time to execute.

Now back to the stuffed shells. They came out terrific, in spite of lousy knife edges. That’s encouraging, because it means we can get satisfying results, even when things aren’t perfectly sharp. But I have to admit, I noticed the clunky carrot strips. Time to sharpen the knives and make them even better.

Veggie Stuffed Shells

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup shredded or diced carrots
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 cup chopped broccoli
6 ozs. spinach
2 lg cloves garlic, minced
2 - 3 Tbsp minced fresh basil
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
1 egg
1 cup cottage or ricotta cheese (Drain in colander if using cottage)
1 - 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
24 jumbo pasta shells, cooked and drained
1 - 26 oz jar marinara sauce (I use Prego Traditional)
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan

Heat oil in large sauté pan over med-low heat. Add onion; sauté over low heat until onions begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add carrots; sauté 2 – 3 minutes longer. Add mushrooms, zucchini and broccoli; sauté 3 minutes. Add spinach and garlic and sauté until garlic is tender and spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Stir in fresh basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove pan from heat and place vegetables on a plate lined with several layers of paper towel to drain excess moisture.

When drained and cooled, place vegetables in a large bowl with egg, cottage or ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese. Stir until combined.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13” pan with non stick spray.

Pour 1 cup marinara sauce in bottom of pan. Stuff shells with veggie and cheese mixture. Lay in pan over sauce. Pour remaining sauce over shells. Cover pan with foil. Bake 45 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and shells are heated through. Remove foil. Sprinkle parmesan over shells. Return to oven 5 minutes longer. Remove from oven. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

5 – 6 servings

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lunch and Lessons

*****

Friend Jane came over for lunch and a visit on Saturday. Jane brought an amazing sun dried tomato and brie appetizer. I did up my usual down home – upscale fusion. As we slathered garlicky brie onto crackers and munched hot beef sandwiches, we chatted optimistically about our writing.

Let me say: it’s amazing how much we writers can learn from one another. Not just about our craft, but about how writing exists as part of our lives. As she always does, Jane gave me a lot to think about. About embracing our roots and using them as a creative force for the future. About finite time and how to be a responsible steward of it. About learning everything we can from the resources around us. And about moving on when we’ve grown beyond them.

After she left, I sat in the quiet space she left behind and considered my situation. It’s clear I have some choices to make. Up until now, I’ve done a rather scattered approach to my writing: throw seeds of myself at every opportunity and see if anything viable takes root. The problem is I now have seedlings growing everywhere. Some are dying. Some are neglected, some overgrown. I’m not doing anything well, because I’m trying to do it all.

Clearly, it’s time to prune.

I spent the rest of the weekend considering options. I have too many things that distract me from my writing, too many things that drain my energy. There are things I invest effort in, but receive only nominal return. And one or two things that are just plain more than I can handle. But they’re choices, which means I don’t have to keep saying yes to them.

So thanks, to Jane, for friendship and good advice. You didn’t know you were giving it, but I’d be smart to take it. And just for the fun of it, I’m going to post my hot beef recipe. Now you can have lunch and Jane's good advice, too :)

Shredded Roast Beef for Sandwiches

2 -1/2 - 3 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast
1 sweet onion, chopped
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. beef base or 1 beef bouillon cube
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
seasoned salt, to taste

Place roast in slow cooker with onion, garlic powder, water, beef base, thyme, bay leaf and pepper. Cook on high for 5- 6 hours, or until tender and meat pulls apart easily.

Remove meat from slow cooker and set aside to cool slightly. Leave juices in slow cooker. Pull meat apart with two forks. Remove any fat or gristle and discard it.

Return shredded meat to cooker with juices. Add seasoning salt to taste. If too juicy, sift 1 - 2 Tbsp. of flour over the meat and stir. Turn slow cooker to low until serving. Serve hot on rolls.

Serves 6 – 8.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Shortbread Moment

*****

This weekend, I had a shortbread moment.

Let me explain: I have this incredible recipe for shortbread that worried the hell out of me the first time I made it. It seemed too simple. Flour, butter, sugar. That’s it. How could a cookie shine with so few ingredients? Then, the dough seemed a little odd. When I put everything in the mixer, I watched the paddle churn away, but the dough didn’t hold together. All I had was a crumbly mess. I was about to toss it out. But then suddenly, the ingredients melded and I had dough. Half an hour later, I had pale golden cookies that coated my tongue with the satisfying taste of butter. Since then, I’ve baked them many times.

Now to this week’s shortbread moment.

As you know, we’ve just spent a month doing our very first MySixWriMo. I’ve had mixed feelings about it. A week ago, I wanted to throw the whole batch of my stories in the trash. I was sorry I’d even suggested MySixWriMo. Only my commitment to my fellow Sixers kept me going. MySixWriMo ate up all my daily writing time. Folly went from the back burner to stone cold and congealed.

On May 1, I sat down at the PC, grateful the posting was over. I was never going to do MySixWriMo again. But I figured I should get something tangible out of it. That morning, I sent off my last micro from the month, “Hands.”

By the time I came back after lunch, “Hands” had been accepted by Boston Literary Magazine.

The dough began to meld. BLM had accepted one of fellow sixer Jane’s micros already. Two days later, BLM accepted another MySixWriMo from sixing pal Stephen. As I read Stephen’s email, I savored a warm satisfaction I’d never expected when I started this. I’d suggested MySixWriMo on a whim. Now three writing buddies would share page space in Boston Lit Mag.

Cool stuff indeed. I plan to track all our successes born from MySixWriMo, so keep me posted on how our April babies are faring. I’ll post their status in the sidebar.

My feelings have changed about MySixWriMo. That one monumental success has convinced me this is something we should consider doing again. But I’m going to make a change. Come back next April and I’ll let you know what I’ve got planned.

And for anyone interested, here's the recipe for that shortbread. Trust me, they are AMAZING.

Simple Shortbread Cookies

2 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 cup butter, chilled and cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 300 degrees (low temp + longer baking time = tender cookies). Combine flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, work the butter into the flour mixture until all the ingredients hold together, about 5 minutes. (It looks like dry paste when it’s done)

Using hands, roll generous teaspoonfuls of dough into balls. Place about 1 ½ “ apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Using tines of a fork, flatten the cookies to ¼” thick by making crisscross pattern on the top.

Bake the cookies until they’re light golden in the center and a bit darker around the edges, about 30 minutes. Cool the cookies on the sheets, then store in an airtight container. Makes about 4 dozen.

Note: if using unsalted butter, add ½ tsp salt to this recipe. Do not use margarine or shortening in place of butter.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 30

*****

Well, kids. We made it. Woo hoo! Many thanks to all who have shared their stories this month. Now let’s finish this thing with a deafening bang.

To celebrate everything we’ve done this month, let’s take one last look at those prompts we passed by earlier. This is our final chance to collectively Take Two. Let’s make the most of this chance.

And, of course, we can’t forget this fitting prompt from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to write a farewell poem (six). After all, we are saying farewell to another wonderful National Poetry Month. Say farewell to this month; say farewell to a vacation spot; say farewell to a bad relationship; say farewell to work; say farewell to school; say farewell to saying farewell even. Hopefully, I won't be saying farewell to you; please stay in touch and let me know of your successes as we keep poeming (sixing) toward the horizon.

It’s been a terrific month of stories. I can’t wait to see what you post in the comments. You guys rock.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 29

*****

Hump day. I don’t know about you, but I’m having a hard time getting over the hump today. To make things slide a little easier, I’m going to offer two prompts again today.

Here’s our offering from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to title your poems (sixes) "Never (blank)" with you filling in the blank with a word or phrase. Then, write a poem (six) based off your title, which could be "Never look both ways when crossing the street" or "Never blush in public" or "Never ever" or "Never write a poem (six) with the word never in the title." You get the idea, right?

And here are today’s selections from The Writer’s Book of Matches:

#1: A mail carrier begins to suspect that a customer on his route is engaged in something fishy.

#2: I lie awake at night thinking that marrying her was the wrong choice.


Give it your best shot and create a work of genius. See you in the comments later.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 28

*****

It’s Tuesday, which means two prompts from Robert Lee Brewer. Because his prompts today are poetry specific, I’ll throw in two to give us some extra choices.

Our duo from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to write a sestina. (Click here to find out the rules for sestinas.) So start figuring out your 6 end words and get writing.

But wait! Today is Tuesday, so you have one other option. You can write a poem about the sestina (your love, hate, frustration with, etc.).

And here’s two gems from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer's Digest Books):

#1: You see your brother, a recovering alcoholic, buying beer at a local store.

#2: A man and his wife stop to investigate a disabled vehicle on the side of the road.

Lots to pick from. Am I wrong to expect greatness? See you in the comments later.

Monday, April 27, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 27

*****

The end is so close, I can taste it. Have you gotten better as the month progressed?

I’m not sure my technique has gotten better—in fact, I’d probably argue that it’s gotten sloppier--but my imagination can flare from spark to inferno in seconds now. And that’s something I’m very happy to take away from this.

Now down to business. Here’s today’s prompt from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem (six) of longing. You or someone (or something) else should be pining for someone or something. Maybe a cat is longing to get outside the house. Maybe a teenager is longing to get away from his or her small town. And, of course, there's always the longing poem (six) of love.

If longing doesn't appeal to you, here’s today’s prompt from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer's Digest Books):

I do not hate you.

This prompt was another originally offered as a line of dialogue, but I want you to use it however you wish.

Good writing so far. I expect more to come. See you in the comments later.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 26

*****

Can you believe this is our last Sunday of six-or-so’s?

Here’s today’s prompt from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem (six) involving miscommunication. It can be miscommunication between two people or misinterpretation of some sort. I will leave it up to you guys to deal with it however you want.

And here’s today’s prompt from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer's Digest Books):

I pray every day that it will stop, but it keeps getting worse.

This prompt was originally given as a line of dialogue, but I thought it had possibilities beyond that. You use it however you see fit.

Hope to see you all later in the comments.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 25

*****

We’re in the home stretch! Let's see if we can keep the momentum going.

Here’s today’s prompt from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt I want you to pick an event and make that event the title of your poem.

And here’s today’s goody from The Writer’s Book of Matches:

A ten year old boy suspects his neighbor is wanted by the police.

See you in the comments.

Friday, April 24, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 24

*****

The end draws near, but there’s unfinished business. Stones unturned, stories unwritten…You know what I’m getting at: Take Two.

To refresh your memories, Take Two lets us go back to those prompts we never got a chance to explore. Or even those ones we could have done better the first time. Think of Take Two as something we don’t get often in life; Take Two is a second chance.

Here’s today’s prompt from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to write a travel-related poem. It can be human travel, the migration of swallows, the trafficking of drugs, etc. Some sort of movement from point A to point B.

See you in the comments.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 23

*****

After today, just seven more days. That makes me a little sad. Sure, I’m ready to get back into my usual routine, but I’ve had some shining moments this month that are hard to let go. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned this month, it’s how to keep moving, and that means moving on after this month.

Here’s today’s prompt from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem (six or so) of regret. Get creative with this one, but there should be some form of regret either expressed or hinted at (even if ever so slightly). You do NOT have to use the word "regret" in the poem (six or so), though it's fine if you do.

Interestingly, the prompt I’d selected from The Writer’s Book of Matches is the antithesis of regret. Funny how things work synergistically like that, without any planning or intent. Here’s your second prompt:

I know it’s terrible, but I kind of like hurting people.

That one could leap genres without breaking a sweat. Can’t wait to see what you come up with later in the comments.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 22

*****
It's straight to work today.

Here’s today’s prompt from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to write a work-related poem. Work doesn't have to be the main feature of the poem, but I want you to "work" it in somehow. And remember: There are different types of work. Of course, there are the activities that gain you fortune and fame (or not), but then, there's also housework, exercise, volunteering, etc. I'm sure you'll "work" it out.

We’re back to Lin’s Garden for one last eavesdropped prompt:

I refuse to let myself get emotional.

Use the prompts however the muse urges. See you in the comments.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 21

*****
Hard to believe we’re more than two-thirds done. When we started, I never imagined how hard this would be. And I never imagined I’d find so many stories. As of this writing, I have fifteen stories with potential and only five I don’t plan to pursue. Not bad for twenty days’ work. I’d be happy even if the numbers had been reversed.

But there will be time enough to dwell on this on May 1. April is about moving forward.

Today’s prompts (Two for Tuesday) from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides deal specifically with poetic forms. Not necessarily right for writing sixes, but I’ll post them for those who want to challenge themselves:

1. Write a haiku. The haiku is not just a form but a genre of poetry. (Click here to read more about the haiku.) People sometimes go into writing a haiku and end up with a senryu or a faux-ku, but it's all good (and all poetry).

2. Write about the haiku. I know there are some poets (in this very group even) who are anti-form. So, I'm giving them the option to write their anti-haiku manifestos. Of course, if you pay attention to this 2nd prompt, it doesn't need to be anti-haiku; your poem could be questioning or even praising the haiku. Or something.

I offer the following homegrown prompt as an alternative:

Start with a stereotype, then turn it on its ear.

Good luck with day 21. We’re doing great. See you later in the comments.

Monday, April 20, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 20

*****

I feel like I’m on a roll. Let’s see what today will bring.

Here’s today’s prompt from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem (six) of rebirth. There are many different types of rebirth available, including the changing of the seasons, the beginning of the day, religious or spiritual rebirth, a reconfirmation of good in people, re-learning how to love, etc.

For our homegrown prompt, I offer another eavesdropped beauty plucked from Lin’s Garden:

And I said to myself, “That is the last time.”

You can use it however you want: dialogue, narration, or otherwise. Use it in the beginning, middle or end. Then post your masterpiece in the comments.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 19

*****

Hope you’re all having a good, productive weekend and that the words are flowing.

Here’s today’s prompt from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

…today's prompt is to write an angry poem (six). That is, a poem (six) about someone or something that gets angry. Could be a person, animal, or even them there angry clouds.

I’m still in the mood to mix things up, so rather than the usual offering from the Writer’s Book of Matches, I’m providing a prompt based on a snippet of conversation overheard at the Chinese buffet yesterday. Here it is, straight from Lin’s Garden (best Chinese food in southeast Wisconsin, IMO):

“You’re freaking me out.”

I have more gems from Lin’s (along with happy memories of their awesome steamed dumplings). Expect them to pepper the prompts over the next twelve days as we head toward the finish line.

Good luck and see you in the comments

Saturday, April 18, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 18

*****
Take Two was fun. Now it's back to business as usual.

Here’s today’s offering from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem (six) with an interaction of some sort. The interaction does NOT have to be between people, though it can. For instance, you could write about the interaction between a bee and a flower; or an owl and a field mouse. Or just write about a traffic cop getting into an argument with a speeder. Just as long as there is some sort of interaction going on.

And here’s today’s offering from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writers’ Digest Books):

“I’d be surprised if their marriage lasts a year.”

The bitchy part of me finds that irresistible :) See you in the comments.

Friday, April 17, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 17

*****

I’ve decided to make today our first Take Two day.

Take Two lets us go back to those prompts we never got a chance to explore. We’ve been moving along at a fast pace. Now it’s time to go back and take a closer look.

I’ll post today’s Brewer prompt, but no new selection from The Writer’s Book of Matches. Your task is to either select today’s Brewer prompt or pick any prompt from the last 16 days of MySixWriMo and write your six sentence masterpiece.

Here’s today’s offering from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem (six) with the following title: "All I want is (blank)," where you fill in the blank with a word or phrase of your choosing. Some example titles, then, could be: "All I want is to eat fried chicken"; "All I want is world peace"; "All I want is for everyone to tell me I'm beautiful"; or "All I want is a handful of quarters."

I like the idea of Take Two, so expect it to appear again in a week or so.

Good luck, have fun, and see you in the comments.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 16

*****

We’re over the hump! Today officially marks the start of the second half of MySixWriMo. How are you doing? Have you found anything fabulous?

Here’s the prompt du jour from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to pick a color, make that the title of your poem (six), and write a poem (six) that is inspired by that color.

And here’s what I hand-selected from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books):

A trash collector uncovers something extraordinary in the back of his truck.

Good luck, everyone! Hope those creative fires are burning. See you in the comments.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 15

*****

Every day spent writing is a good day, so let’s not tarry.

Here’s today’s prompt from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to take the title of a poem (story/six) you especially like (by another poet) and change it. Then, with this new altered title, I want you to write a poem (six). An example would be to take William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow" and change it to "The Red Volkswagon." Or take Frank O'Hara's "Why I Am Not a Painter" and change it to "Why I Am Not a Penguin." You get the idea, right? (Note: Your altered poem (six) does NOT have to follow the same style as the original poet (writer), though you can try if you wish.)

And our prompt from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books):

“Can you recommend a good book?”

Hope to see you in the comments.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 14

*****

Happy Tuesday! Today we get a two-fer from Robert Lee Brewer. Here’s what he’s posted at Poetic Asides:

First prompt: Write a love poem (six).

Second prompt: Write an anti-love poem (six).

Simple as that.


And here’s the enticing little gem I selected from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books):

After courting online for months, a couple finally meets face-to-face in a hotel bar. Neither looks anything like the pictures they exchanged.

Looks like we could have overlap, but that makes it even more fun. Good luck, everyone. See you in the comments.

Monday, April 13, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 13

*****

Welcome back to the work week, everyone. We had a great, but busy Easter here. It’s so nice to see family and (over)indulge in the feasting, but I’m ready to get back to work.

From Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem (six) that incorporates a hobby (either yours or someone else's). That's right: Now is the perfect opportunity to write about your comic collection or your scrapbooking activities. And for the purposes of this challenge, I also think activities such as fishing, running, bowling, photography, birding, and gardening count as hobbies.

And the prompt from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books):

A nosy man eavesdrops on his co-workers and immediately regrets what he hears.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 12

*****

Happy Easter to all! For those of a Christian persuasion, this is the biggest day of the year. May the joy flow over into all we do, including our writing.

Here's the prompt from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to take the phrase "So we decided to (blank)" and fill in the blank. Make that your title and write a poem. Some possibilities include "So we decided to plant a tree" or "So we decided to burn a hole in the sky."

And the prompt from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books):

A child finds a magic ring inside a box of cereal.

Happy Easter and happy writing! Hope to see your sixes in the comments later.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 11 (and sneak peek at Day 12)

*****

Yesterday’s story came easily for me. A reward, I think, for pushing through. I would never have thought to write a story framed around Fridays if it hadn’t been for the prompt. But once I’d written it, I saw it was in me all the time.

But enough looking backward. Let’s get to today’s prompts.

From Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem (six) about an object (or objects). Though you don't have to confine yourself to straight up description, I do want you to focus on object and/or make it a central piece of your poem (six). One of the more famous poems of contemporary literature does this wonderfully in William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow."

And the prompt from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books):

“Either you tell him or I will.”

Write your 6. Share it if you wish. As always, I’ll post mine in the comments.

Now for that sneak peek at Day 12.

I don’t know what the Brewer prompt will be, but here’s what I’m posting tomorrow from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books):

A child finds a magic ring inside a box of cereal.

Friday, April 10, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 10

*****
I feel like I’m losing momentum. But I know enough about writing to know this is the time to keep pushing. Sometimes the pushing through brings the best results.

Now to today’s prompts.

From Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

In some circles, today is known as Good Friday. In other circles, every Friday is good (mostly because the weekend has begun). For the rest, Fridays aren't anything special.

For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem about Friday. Do you like Fridays? Despise Fridays? Of course, you can also write about something that happened on a Friday--or write an ode to Fridays. Or, as you know, I'm all for seeing you attack this from an angle I haven't thought of yet.

And the prompt from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books):

“The only thing I’ve got left is my pride.”

Let’s see what we can come up with. See you in the comments later.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 9

*****

Today’s a random extra inspiration day. For your reading pleasure, I submit:

SIX REASONS TO MYSIXWRIMO

1) To get the creative juices flowing. It’s hard to face that novel when you first sit down. Start with something small. Limber up, then tackle the tough stuff.

2) To have fun. What’s more fun than finishing a story? When the story is only six sentences long, you get to the fun part even quicker. Woo hoo! You’re done! Now crack that beer open.

3) To challenge yourself. It’s not easy to write a story in 6 sentences. Are you up for it? Just how much can you say and how well?

4) To take a break. We get in ruts sometimes on those long, marathon projects. Sixes are pauses that refresh us, but don’t hijack us from our main focus.

5) To unearth marketable work. Micros are hot. Join the party. Build your audience. Show them how brilliant and brief you can be.

6) To find that gem you never knew you had inside you. You never know what you’ll get. Could be a micro, could be a novel, but you never know until you start to write it down.

Also, a quick announcement: I know Easter is busy for everyone, so I’ll be posting Sunday’s Writer’s Book of Matches prompt on Saturday. I’ll post two to give you a choice.

Now to the prompts.

From Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:


For today's prompt, I want you write a poem (six) about a memory. The memory can be good or bad. The memory can be a blend of several memories. I suppose it could even be a memory that you're not sure you remember correctly. Take your time finding a good one (or good ones).

And the prompt du jour from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books):

“A woman buys a copy of her high school yearbook through an eBay auction.”


There are so many reasons to write those sixes, so don’t tarry. See you in the comments.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 8

*****

Today marks the start of our second week. Are we still having fun or has this metamorphosed into work?

It’s a little bit of both for me, but I can’t complain over the results. I already have four winners and two with potential, if I rough them up a bit and make them step into line. Not bad for seven days worth of work.

As of this writing, the prompt from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides wasn’t available yet. I’ll check on it after my morning outing. Here’s the link to the blog, if you want to follow up yourselves:

http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/


And here’s today’s selection from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books):

“Well, he said he was pretty drunk at the time.”


Write your six sentences. I’ll do the same. See you in the comments later.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 7

*****

Three prompts today, two for Tuesday plus one. With such abundance, we have no recourse but staggering brilliance.

First the twofer from Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

Prompt #1: I want you to write a clean poem (six). Take this however you wish. Clean language, clean subject matter, or cleaning the dishes. Of course, some twisted few will automatically link "cleaning" with hired hitmen. That's okay, as long as your poem (six) is somehow linked to clean.

Prompt #2: I want you to write a dirty poem (six). Take all that stuff I wrote in the first prompt and twist it upside down. The opposite of clean is dirty; so, do what ya gotta do to produce a dirty poem (six).

And one hand-selected by yours truly from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books):

After five years of admiring her around the office, Michael finally gets the chance to make his move.

So write and post. I’ll do the same. I look forward to the day’s riches.

Monday, April 6, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 6

*****

A fresh week means fresh ideas. Here are the prompts to get your juices flowing.

From Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's poem, I want you to write a poem about something missing. It can be about an actual physical object or something you just can't put your finger on (like "love" or "the spirit of Christmas" or something).

Andy did such a great job picking yesterday, I gave him another crack at it. From The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books):

Seven people board a small boat for a tour around the islands; but when the boat returns to the dock, only six people remain on board.

You know the drill. Six sentences on the prompt of your choice. Share if you want. I’ll post mine later.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 5

*****

I’m saving today’s allotment of creativity for the writing, so let’s get straight to the prompts.

From Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem about a landmark. It can be a famous landmark (like Mount Rushmore or the Sphinx) or a little more subdued (like the town water tower or an interesting sign).

I decided to make Sunday hubby’s choice day. Here’s what my husband picked from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books):

Over the course of one week, a rural woman notices that several items have disappeared from her clothesline.

Write 6 sentences. Share if you want. I’ll post mine in the comments later. Have fun. Be brilliant. Be brief.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 4

*****

Ah, the weekend, with all its writing opportunities, obstacles and distractions...

So far, I’ve grown two worthy 6’s. One has blossomed into a nice microfiction. The other has a promising bud. I'm even telling myself that if I exercise some restraint, I might be able to prune the extended metaphor disaster of Day 2 into something worthwhile.

Now to today’s prompts:

From Robert Lee Brewer at Poetic Asides :

For today’s prompt, I want you to pick an animal; make that animal the title of your poem (in our case, 6); then, write a poem (6). You could be very general with your animal title (“Bees” or “Lion”) or specific (“Flipper” or “Lassie”). You could even be very silly with something like “Tony, the Tiger,” I guess (that tiger on the cereal box).

Or, if you prefer, here’s today’s selection from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books):

“It’s always the quiet ones, you know?”

Instructions are as usual. Share if you wish. I’ll post mine in the comments later. Let me know if you’ve unearthed any diamonds. I’ve got ideas about what we can do with them…

Friday, April 3, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 3

We’re off to a great start. Let’s keep going.

Here’s today’s prompt from Robert Lee Brewer

Take the phrase "The problem with (blank)" and replace the "(blank)" with a word or phrase. Make this the title of your poem and then write a poem to fit with or juxtapose against that title. For instance, you could have poems with the titles of "The problem with government," "The problem with advanced mathematics," or "The problem with bipolar penguins." You know the drill: have fun, be creative

Our selection from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books) celebrates the creative potential of the US economy:

“I’m sorry. Your position is being eliminated.”

I’ll post my six in the comments later. Post yours in the comments, email them to me, or hide them under your mattress. Happy writing, everyone!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 2

*****

The creative fun continues. Your mission: write a 6 sentence story based on one of the prompts below.

Here’s today’s prompt from Robert Lee Brewer

Today, I want you to write an outsider poem. You can be the outsider; someone else can be the outsider; or it can even be an animal or inanimate object that's the outsider. As usual, get creative with the prompt and don't be afraid to stretch the limits.

And our selection from The Writer’s Book of Matches (Writer’s Digest Books)…

You’re secretly in love with your best friend’s wife, and you suspect she feels the same way.

I’ll post my meager effort in the comments later. Post yours in the comments, email them to me, or keep your gold for yourself. Up to you. Good luck and good writing, one and all.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

MySixWriMo Day 1

Today marks the official start of MySixWriMo, an entirely unsubsidized, unauthorized event that I made up on a whim. MySixWriMo invites participants to write a 6 sentence story based on a daily prompt. Six Sentence stories are inspired by the form created by Rob McEvily at his blogzine, Six Sentences.

We'll use prompts provided by Robert Brewer, who hosts the April Poem a Day month event at his blog, Poetic Asides. (Poem a Day is an event sponsored by Writer's Digest.) In addition, I may also post another prompt from The Writer's Book of Matches, published by Writer's Digest Books.

You may email your finished 6s to me or post them in the comments section here if you want to be held accountable, but sharing isn't required. This is strictly for fun.

Today's prompt from Robert Brewer at Poetic Asides:

For today's prompt, I want you to write an origin poem. It can be the origin of a word, person, plant, idea, etc. Have fun with it.

And the prompt taken from The Writer's Book of Matches:

"She checked out last night."

I'll be back later to share my own 6 sentence interpretation. Good luck, everyone!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

MySixWriMo

*****

I’m a sucker for NaNoWriMo. It’s how I brought Folly into the world. If I had it in me (and knew my husband wouldn’t divorce me), I’d do NaNoWriMo every month. So when I heard that Writer’s Digest was doing their April Poem a Day (PAD) marathon again, I felt the creative fires start to stir. I love a trumpet call to recklessly create. Just thinking of it made the words flow juicy in my mouth.

Then I remembered: I’m no poet.

Creative chick that I am, it occurred to me that I do write in a form that bears some resemblance to poetry. Yes, you know what I mean. The mighty Six.

Sixes are these amazing little micro stories, dense with image and metaphor and emotion. They’re the brain child of writing pioneer, Robert McEvily. Rob is a creative thinker and a true friend to struggling writers. You have something to say? Rob wants to hear it.

But in my opinion, the Six form itself is Rob’s greatest contribution. The form of the Six is so tight, the content can't help but burst free. The story lives outside and between the sentences. Sixes knit themselves together in the reader’s mind. The more understated, the better, just like haiku. To write a good Six, you need to invoke feelings and pictures. If you write a great one, it will read like a poem.

So, my challenge for April: to visit Robert Brewer’s PAD blog and use his prompt to write a Six every day. Out of the thirty, there’s bound to be some winners. I’ll post those worthy of public consumption here for you to enjoy/mock/tear to shreds.

One last bit of business: all journeys are more fun when shared. If you want to MySixWriMo with me, give a holler. I'd love to have the company.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Star Is Born!




Yep, we're already planning the next play :)




Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Show MUST Go On!

*****

It all began with a rainy Monday and The Kiddo’s bright idea to put on a play.

It went from there into full-fledged crazy.

First, I was up against some serious obstacles. My star is only three years old. She doesn’t read yet, which makes it tough to run lines. My other problem? The little diva wanted a role for her stuffed Stegosaurus, Dino.

I love a writing challenge. It wasn’t long before I had the problems solved. Insert myself as narrator, who could spoonfeed The Kiddo her lines. And as for Dino—I had her voice down pat. Creative juices were flowing. This was going to be fun.

I curled up in my favorite chair with my pen and a notebook. Fifteen minutes later: I had a working draft of “The Princess and the Dinosaur.”

Now here’s the thing about me: when things go well, I don’t know when to put on the brakes. Next thing I know, I’m on the phone, inviting Wonny and Papa (grandparents) to our fabulous play on Friday.

And of course my mom informed me she wanted refreshments. Shit.

Monday afternoon, we jumped into rehearsals with gusto. I read my lines with all the flourish I could muster. The Kiddo’s face collapsed and she bawled red-faced through both rehearsals. I thought, Crap! This is SO not good!

During her nap, I designed and printed programs and tickets, praying it would all work out. Good news: the programs looked better than the ones from our local professional children’s theatre. The bad news: the star still hated the play. Damn.

Tuesday morning, The Kiddo told me she didn’t want to do the yucky play. She informed me she thought the Black Moment was too black. The writer in me couldn’t give up. When things aren’t working, it’s clearly time to revise.

Tuesday afternoon, she approved the revisions and declared the new Black Moment to be just kinda gray. We drove off to the Salvation Army store to find sheets to paint for our backdrop. We enjoyed a frutiful creative meeting over lunch at the Greek restaurant.

Wednesday, rehearsals continued and we painted the backdrops. We got green paint on the floors and walls. I thought it might be fun to do dinner theatre, so I called Wonny and Papa and asked if they wanted potato pancakes or fries with their take-out church fish fry. I took orders and had a few laughs with Mom over how the play was going.

Wonny told me she wanted snacks during the play, too.

“What???” I told her, staring into the phone. “This thing’s only three freaking minutes long! How many snacks you think you’ll have time to eat?”

Wonny wanted snacks. Ok, The Princess and the Dinosaur? I put dinosaur fruit snacks on my grocery list. Before bed, The Kiddo told me she wanted to add a dance number after the curtain call. To Brown Eyed Girl, by Van Morrison.

Sure, whatever.

Thursday, The Kiddo didn’t want to rehearse. She wanted to play with her fairy princess set. I told her Dino was unsure of her lines and needed another rehearsal.

We held a dress rehearsal, during which the cats wreaked havoc. Baxter played with the string I’d rigged to give Dino a more artful entrance. Simon tossed around the plastic baguette we used as a prop.

“BAXTER YOU GET OUT OF HERE!!!!” The Kiddo screamed.

“Just ignore them,” I told her. “They’ll probably be in the middle of things tomorrow anyway.”

Baxter gave me a dirty look. But we all knew it was true.

After lunch, I drove to Karl’s Market to buy The Kiddo’s favorite ranger cookies for after-play refreshments and macerated a pint of frozen raspberries from last year’s garden for sundaes.

Now, the big day looms before us. Props are tucked away where cats can’t get at them. The castle and forest backdrops are waiting to be hung from the entertainment center with masking tape. The costumes hang in the closet, ready. We know our lines and if we forget, who cares? I’m hoping for the best, but things have gotten kind of crazy. (okay, totally)

But no matter what, no matter if the backdrops fall and the damned cats tear everything to shreds, I have to say it’s been an awesome project. We overcame challenges. We had fun. We created. And we did it together and that’s all that really matters.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sisterhood of the Pen

*****

WB Linda Wastila tapped me, and a great honor it is. She's a talented writer who makes it seem effortless, but I know she works her butt off to make it happen. Her insightful reading keeps me on my toes.

In the spirit of sisterhood, I pass the tap on. For friendship, encouragement, great advice, and commiseration, I'm lucky to count these fine writers as friends:

Brenda
Linda B
Gail
Daphne
Jane B

Most of you don’t blog, but you deserve the kudos anyway. You’re great friends, generous with your knowledge and companionship. It's a joy to share my journey with you.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Stretch

*****

I’m going to share a secret about myself. I’m a little shy around people I don’t know. So the idea of getting out there and marketing my work face-to-face scares the crap out of me. I imagine myself at an empty book signing, fidgeting and running off to pee every ten minutes. Even worse, making chit chat at a conference! I’m not a networker. Schmoozing isn’t my thing. I’m more likely to put my foot in it than be brilliant.

Funny thing is, I haven’t always been so painfully shy. Back in the day, working in retail and hairdressing, I had no problems talking to people I didn’t know, sometimes for a couple of hours at a crack. But there was a difference. In those situations, I was performing some function, so I didn’t feel so self-conscious. I had a job to do. Chitchat was part of it.

Recently, I’ve been contemplating my membership in WRWA. (Wisconsin Regional Writers Association) I joined a few months ago for the express purpose of networking with other Wisconsin writers. I haven’t done much with my membership yet. I joined the online forum, but it’s new and is visited only sporadically. I eavesdrop on the daily conversation threads. I considered going to the spring conference, but it’s an unrealistic 7 hour drive from home. So I set my sights on the fall conference instead.

Fall. How many months away is that? And coincidentally, fall is when my annual membership expires. Needless to say, I’m not making the most of my membership.

Yesterday, the WRWA president sent out an email, asking for someone to serve as fall conference registrar. Right away, it seemed like a good idea. But--another little secret--I sometimes bite off more than I can chew, so I thought about it overnight and talked it over with my husband. After reflection, registrar didn’t seem like the right fit for a writer with a little kid and two writing groups to keep up with. It’s unrealistic to expect I can serve such an important role when I’ve never been to even one WRWA conference.

But, as I saw the email in my inbox, I couldn’t let it slide. I emailed Robin back before I could chicken out. I told him I wasn’t able to serve as registrar, but I’d like to help in some other way. He seemed pleased at my offer of help. He forwarded my message to other officers, who are currently figuring out where I might fit.

So I wait to hear what opportunities lay ahead. And I worry about feeling shy and awkward. But I’m a together chick with a lot of heart and an unwavering love of writing. I don’t know what’s ahead, but I’m excited to find out. I’m sure I’ll be glad I sent that email.

Friday, March 13, 2009

All Around Us

*****

Good news: the Best of Boston Literary Market Chapbook came out yesterday and my drabble, “Twenty Years Later” is in there. Also included is the work of writing friend, Linda Simoni-Wastila. I’ve seen the proofs, but not the finished product. I submitted my order immediately. I can’t wait to see how it feels in my hands.

Linda and I exchanged excited emails. A comment she made got me thinking. She said something to the effect that the further she gets into it, the smaller and more intimate the writing world feels. And she’s right. Two years ago, the writing world seemed like a massive fortress I just couldn’t breach. I had no contacts. I had no publishing credits. Two years ago, I was an outsider. I didn’t like that, so I committed to changing my circumstance. Today, I’m far from the inner circle, but I’m blessed to find myself in the company of friends.

In many ways, the writing world is with us everywhere we go. An example: the other night, I went to my bimonthly Stitch and Bitch group. I’m the only writer in the group. That night, I had knitting on my mind. But friend Debbie shared a story that got my writerly wheels turning. She was recounting a story about an acquaintance of ours, a man whose mental health we often debated. And I reacted to it with a glowing rainbow of emotions. Horror, pity, fear, disgust. Most interesting: at the heart of the story was love. What writer could leave such treasure untouched? I started drafting first thing the next morning.

My point, and there is one: the writing world surrounds us in many ways. But only when we commit to immersion. Connecting with other writers, seeking the seeds of stories, carving out time to create. It’s not easy. There are sacrifices. Sometimes big ones. But the experience of immersion is worth it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Monologue in Cyberspace

*****

I Googled myself today. I know, it’s kinda weird, but I find it interesting to see how cyberspace reports me. I found out I’m a writer and chick with a lot of published recipes. Already knew that. But today, I discovered something new. I’m also a reviewed writer. I was so tickled, I had to share.

Here’s what Molly Tolsky had to say about “In Limbo” in her report on Word Riot magazine:

"In Limbo by Greta Igl is a plainspoken, realistic story in a domestic setting. Nora has been a waitress at Jimmy's Corner Café for 17 years. One day, she waits on a nicely dressed couple, and though they are being perfectly friendly to her, she can't help but get frustrated with these kinds of people—the kind that are much [better] off than her. When the couple notices the for-sale sign in front of the diner, the woman asks Nora where she'll go once the place is gone. While she doesn't say it, Nora knows she'll probably go to a place that's just like this one and keep doing the same thing over and over again.

The pace of this story is very slow and steady, which immediately wraps you up into the atmosphere of this “piece of crap diner,” where people move slowly and nothing ever happens. The only problem is that nothing ever happens in the story, either, so as a reader, I was less than engaged. There are some nice gestures here and there, such as,“Nora picks a fleck of dried egg yolk from one of the chrome jelly stackers,” but for the most part, all we get is Nora's internal monologue about her frustrations with going nowhere in life. This created too much internal, not enough external."

Cool, hey? Now, I have no idea who Molly Tolsky is. My guess is she’s a writer like me, struggling to get her footing. But isn’t it interesting to think that, during the time she read “In Limbo” and wrote her school report on it, our lives were somehow intersecting. I put an idea out there; she built on it to create her own interpretation. That fact intrigues me so much that I’m not even bugged that she was “less than engaged” by my story.

I like that. Less than engaged. Molly doesn’t know it, but I’ve had fun unpacking that enigmatic statement. Did she mean bored shitless? Or perhaps mildly entertained? She wrote about my story; I’m returning the favor and writing about her report. Perhaps one day she'll Google herself and trip across this post. Then she can write about me writing about her writing about me. Freaky.

It just goes to show: all this writing we do is merely a monologue into cyberspace. We write and never know who might be reading. Our words can take on their own life. Perhaps they'll germinate, root, and bloom into something else. I'm humbled by the beautiful divinity in never knowing where my words might land.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Prompt Me!

*****

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again: I love prompts. A good prompt is a jolt to my creativity. It gets me thinking of stories I wouldn’t have imagined otherwise. I look for prompts everywhere. In snippets of overheard conversation. In writer’s magazines and websites. In the Theme Calendar on Duotrope’s Digest.

One of my favorite sources for prompts is the Writer’s Digest Your Story contest. WD provides a prompt, then asks readers to submit a 750 word story based on the prompt. Some are silly, some are serious, but they’re almost always thought-provoking.

With the last issue, it finally registered that WD culled their prompts from a book: The Writer’s Book of Matches: 1001 Prompts to Ignite Your Fiction. I decided to buy a copy. And I’ve become rather annoying with it. I’ve sent prompts, unsolicited, to my nearest and dearest writing buddies. And I’ve taken the book to share at my writer’s workshop. Plain and simple, this is a great book. I can’t wait to get the most from it.

So far, I’ve just browsed it and admired the creativity driving them. But I’ve decided to go one step further. Starting today, I’m going to do a prompt-a-day freewrite. I plan to go through the prompts in order, one at a time. And I’m going to find a way to approach each that stretches my creativity, yet remains true to myself as a writer.

For anyone who wishes to join me, here’s prompt #1. Good luck and good writing. May the muse shine on you.

“Well, if you could accuse anybody of being downright evil, it would be him.” (From The Writer’s Book of Matches: 1001 Prompts to Ignite Your Fiction. Writer’s Digest Books, 2005.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Take it Slow

*****

It’s been a rough couple weeks here. (Hence, no posts.) First, darling daughter came down with some strange virus. Within days, my husband and I had it, too. I won’t bore you with the details. But suffice to say we’re still recuperating. We’re moving slowly here. But then, I’ve never thought slow was bad.

The older I get, the more I like slow. There’s beauty in slow, a kind of gentle reverence. Like taking long walks with my husband under the waning autumn sun. Or spaghetti sauce that bubbles noisily on the stove all day. I like how daffodils are slow to uncurl their fists in spring. I like the unhurried way snowflakes drift to the ground.

But perhaps the nicest thing about how slowly we’re moving lately is the time it’s given me to savor some recent successes. This week, for all its frustrations, has brought exciting news.

“Twenty Years Later” has been selected for The Best of Boston Literary Magazine chapbook. That news makes me happy. The story, a drabble, was originally published by BLM last summer. Now, like so many of my works, it seems to be finding a second chance at life. I like second chances, with its connotation of both past and present. A chance at redemption for those of us who don’t always get things right the first time.

Just as exciting, I had good news from On the Premises. “The Market” has been awarded an Honorable Mention in their recent Again-themed short fiction contest. I win on multiple levels here: a cash prize and the publication of a story that cuts close to my heart. I’m not sure when it will be published, but safe to say, you’ll see the news posted here.

So I sniffle and celebrate, sip tea and ruminate. (illness has left me tritely poetic) Things are good now, even if they aren’t perfect. But the sniffles will pass and the successes remain. For now I bask in them and watch for what’s next.