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!

Afternoon of Stories at Carolina Meadows!

might antJoin us on Friday, November 16, 2018 at 3 p.m. at Carolina Meadows in Chapel Hill for a special event celebrating the Mighty Ant Anthology, Short Stories for Seniors, available on Amazon. The book features flash fiction intended for adults suffering from dementia, memory impairment, and those with compromised attention spans.

Anyone loving a good yarn will savor this book, which delivers crumb after crumb of literary satisfaction.

At the November 16 event, several authors (including me and the editor, Jessica Bryan) will be reading from and signing copies of the book. I’ll be reading “While Planning the 55th Reunion of the Class of ’63, Kathryn Hunsucker Has a Conniption Fit.”

Proceeds from the book will support The Chatham Council on Aging, so I encourage you to check it out and order your copy today.

 

Treat your writing like fine cheese….

gruyere

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the best Gruyère cheese–the one earning the lofty “AOP” designation in Switzerland–merges both morning and evening milk.

The poet in me likes to think this means both the cow’s morning cheerfulness and her late afternoon pensiveness swirl into the same vat. It’s more likely that mixing last night’s milk into the morning batch gives a head start to the culturing process. The cheese is then aged five months up to a year, another step which lends Gruyère its trademark complexity–sweet, salty, and nutty.

William Trevor, one of my literary idols, was famous for penning a short story and putting it away for as much as six months before re-reading and revising. Now that takes discipline! It’s also a testament to his productivity. I’m sure he had so many pieces in various stages of production that it never bothered him to shelve something for a time.

Jane Austen is another writer known for her reflection. Pride and Prejudice took many years to write. And this delightful novel started out with the title of “First Impressions.” It was only after months of revision and consideration did she settle on the final name of the book that we all know and love so much today.

Both Trevor and Austen, although very different writers, made a name for themselves through complex characters and subtle humor, two elements that can only flourish with adequate rumination and revision.

The next time you finish a story, poem, or essay, try putting it away for a little while. At least give it a good night’s sleep. Fan those first flames of enthusiasm (morning milk) with a healthy dose of maturation (evening milk). I bet you’ll end up with a final product as nuanced and delicious as Gruyère! Bon Appétit!

A New York City Ghost Story!

cropped-new-logo-no-wordsMany thanks to the guest judges of The Ginger Collect for naming my short story, “Saturday Night at the Swannanoa,” a Runner-Up in their first-ever Halloween contest. These kind folks also published it online in the just-released Halloween 2018 Mini-Magazine!

If you like eclectic and imaginative stories, I hope you check out this issue for yourself.

This story wouldn’t have been possible without generous input from my son Dashiel, another talented writer, who also happens to be my favorite New Yorker!

Yes, it’s Halloween, but it’s never too early to start on your own spooky stories for next year. Draw some inspiration from the other stories in The Ginger Collect or from your own favorite writers.