How to behave at a holiday party

Ever go to a pabeerty and feel like you don’t quite belong? Not sure about where to sit? Is that a cheese ball or a centerpiece? Is it edible? And what do you talk about when you find yourself balancing a glass of punch with strangers?

Now, imagine that you used to be a a blue orchard bee….a praying mantis….or even a monarch butterfly.  It’s even more befuddling.

Holiday Party Etiquette for Insects Recently Transformed Into People,” a flash fiction up today at one of my favorite literary magazines, Okay Donkey, was inspired by my own shyness and angst at holiday parties. The story bloomed when I discovered a link on Reddit for a support group for former insects and an article on etiquette in Southern Living. I’m so honored that the donkey — himself a fan of “the odd, the off-kilter, and the just plain weird”– made a space for this little story.

Writers actually relish writing about things that make them feel uncomfortable. It’s cathartic and oddly, it can also be easier. Your emotions are already stirred up and accessible, ripe for the picking. For fun, try your hand at turning a real-life situation into speculative fiction. And if you were an insect, what kind would you be?

 

 

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Fun with fleas

fleasIf you’ve ever skimmed through Living Social and chuckled at the ways people spend money online–such as flea control–you might like my new parody: “Living Social Shopping Cart of Your Vindictive Ex-Girlfriend.”

It’s up today at The Disappointed Housewife, an uber cool literary magazine showcasing idiosyncratic and offbeat writing.

And if you’re interested in reading and writing humor, you might also like my recent interview on the Women on Writing website (scroll to Tuesday, December 18, 2018). Here I discuss the inspiration behind my short story “Dear Derinda.”

When you think about humor, consider the words of George Saunders, a fearless yet compassionate humorist.  He said: “Humor is what happens when we’re told the truth much quicker and more directly than we’re used to.”

The lesson here? When writing humor, you can definitely exaggerate and use hyperbole, but you can also tell the truth!

 

A pie chart just for the holidays….

pie chart

Percent of responses from an unofficial survey of unbiased dessert lovers…..

Now I love traditional pound cake as much as anybody, but for my last meal on this earth, it would have to be my beloved Grandma Wilma’s apple pie.

As a sweet treat to myself, this month I’ve been taking a Women on Writing online class, Humor Writing with Chelsey Clammer, and loving it. Among many other things, she’s inspired me to think of traditional graphs and charts in a new, twisted way. 🙂

At this point, I’m not smart enough to tackle anything more than a basic chart, but I’m hoping there’s a flowchart or a Venn diagram in my future….

 

Confessions of a Cake Crumbler

Ccake.jpgOURT TRANSCRIPT: STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, RANDOLPH COUNTY. FILED 12 DEC 2018.

JUDGE: The defendant is charged with consuming half of a coconut vanilla pound cake within just two days of its baking. For the record, this charge has been reduced from a felony to a second-class misdemeanor. Ms. Memory, how do you plead?

ME (hangs head): Guilty.

JUDGE (bangs gavel): Duly recorded. I understand that you’ve conferred with your attorney and before sentencing, you wish to make a statement to the court.

ME: Thank you, your honor. I do. (Stands up and faces the judge.) While I’m certainly willing to take my share of the blame, at this time I would like to name my accomplice.

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Bored? Write about it….

snow.jpgAs we recover from the early December snowfall, trapped at home due to icy roads, it’s easy to feel bored.

There are only so many ways you can reorganize your pantry and entertain house-bound dogs, and yes, even watching movies gets old pretty quickly. And reading, while always stimulating, feels self-indulgent to me after days on end.

I need to be writing! New material, not just editing. As good as it feels to whittle and sculpt, there’s no substitute to the high you get by rolling out new pearls. So, on to new stuff….

When writing creative nonfiction, it’s easy to be intimidated by all the great prose out there. I recently read essays by a woman visited by the ghost of her mother, an environmentalist who protests exploitation of sea life by robbing coastal souvenir shops with his father, and a piece by George Orwell about a wild elephant on the rampage in Burma. Do you ever feel that your own experience, while certainly special to you, seems inferior when stacked up against that of others?

Don’t! Just because you haven’t survived a harrowing incident recently, been the victim of a crime (thank goodness), or saved a baby from drowning, you still have an extraordinary life, and I promise, you can find something inspirational to write about.

And on that subject, one of my favorite prompts came from a Women on Writing  newsletter. It goes like this: “Take a small, boring moment that happened and write as much as you can about it. Go overboard describing it, and make this boring moment exciting by describing it in intense detail with ecstatic prose.”

So while we all might not have an earth-shattering event at our fingertips, we all do have a seemingly boring incident to write about AND possibly elevate. You just have to be creative about it. Such an assignment might also be fun — at the very least, it’s certainly good practice to flex those creative muscles and push yourself in this way.

Humm…reorganizing my pantry is suddenly exciting again. And didn’t one of the dogs do something silly this afternoon on a walk through the neighborhood….

 

 

 

Life according to Winston Churchill . . .

winston.jpg“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by giving…” On this #Giving Tuesday, why not follow the timeless wisdom of this legendary statesman and make a life by giving to the causes that matter to you?

For me, charitable giving is about writing and animals, so I gave to the N.C. Writers’ Network and Saving Grace, two of my favorite nonprofits.

Now, as far as our “other” statesman, Winston Thomas, my nephew cat, it’s all about attack and destroy. Meet the Prime Minister of Male Beauty and Plastic Bags, what he likes to catch in the air like a balloon and pummel with his paws.

I’m not sure what Winston would say about my donating to an organization that rescues DOGS, but I do know that he does support the act of writing. Writing, we both believe, is the ultimate philanthropy, the gift that keeps on giving. By sharing your story, or immersing yourself in the world of another person, real or imaginary, we create instant community.

So, in addition to donating funds to the causes you support today, I challenge my writing friends to give of themselves. Not just today, but every day. Keep giving your stories to the world, keep finding words to express the beauty around you, and keep finding ways to give voices to  people who cannot speak for themselves. And I promise you, from one writer to another, it will all come back to you one day……

 

 

Sunshine at Carolina Meadows and WOW!

87-FE1-Summer18ContestYesterday’s sunshine rolled in like a female lioness — a brilliant, tawny light against my writer’s window. So welcome after the relentless days of rain! And just a few minutes later, I learned I won first place in the prestigious WOW! Women On Writing Quarterly Flash Fiction contest for my story, “Dear Derinda.”

I couldn’t believe it! I’ve been fortunate enough to break into the top 10 and top 20 before, but never this. To all of my fellow writers with dreams, I hope it’s reassuring to see a girl from the boondocks take her place among writers from Baltimore, MD, Boulder, CO, even London and Dublin (that’s England and Ireland, by the way)! So keep writing, keep submitting, and keep winning….And by the way, the deadline for WOW’s Fall Flash fiction contest is November 30!

carolina meadowsYesterday was also special because I spent time with old friends and new at Carolina Meadows in Chapel Hill. Along with the three other writers, I read one of my flash stories in The Mighty Ant anthology. Led by editor Jessica Bryan, we also participated in a rousing discussion of favorite memories, from the magic of childhood to the angst of high school days.

What I love most about flash fiction is its accessibility–a quick read creates instant community! Reading the other stories in the anthology, along with those of the other WOW writers, reminds me again of the power of humanity and how darn good it feels to lose yourself in the worlds created by other people.

Enjoy the day, and hopefully the sun is shining again where you are!