A Story a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!

strawberry.jpgHappy Summer! It’s technically spring but it sure feels like summer in North Carolina! And the great news–besides a bed of strawberries now ripening daily–is that there are myriad things to write about. I decided to take Julie Duffy up on her creative challenge to actually draft a new story each day. I’m having a blast, and I hope, keeping the doctor away.

Here’s what I do. I rise first thing in the morning, and before the whirlwind of the day takes over (walking the dogs, eating breakfast, or painting shelves), I give my unconscious mind free rein. Yes, I do have an idea in mind, taken from an ongoing list, but I try not to think about it too much until I actually put words to the screen. It’s a crazy thing. The more I write, the more new ideas spring up.

As a matter of fact, we went to the flea market this morning, which is the writer’s equivalent of paradise. I often joke with friends that I’d love to one day lead a workshop where I take my fellow writers to Sophia, to the flea market off Highway 311. Among the ripe mangoes, rose and hibiscus plants, old books, movies and the strange assortment of someone else’s odds and ends, there is a plethora of random and intriguing conversation.

  • “There you go, getting all cynical again!” said a vendor, possibly to a long-time customer.
  • “She’s not really a people person,” said a little girl when we asked to pet the Dachshund puppy in a stroller. (Would it be a “people dog?” Not sure. :))
  • “Do you know where Bulgaria is?” asked a man in response to my question about his accent.

Today I bought a picture from 1908, when people printed images and mailed them as postcards. Where else can you find such a thing from more than 100 years ago? I’m sure that gem will also be a prompt of some sort in the future.

We’re almost halfway through the month, and I’ve drafted stories about a baker, a university town that pays its residents for their dreams, and two bickering sisters who accidentally leave their aging mother at a rest-stop. They may not all pan out as complete stories but as the writer Ray Bradbury once said: “Write a story every week. It’s impossible to end up with 52 bad stories.”

Here’s hoping your writer’s garden blooms with inspiration!

 

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Flash Memoir!

There are so many exciting literary forms available these days that it (almost) makes a creative writer scratch her head before penning a new piece. Found poetry, lost poetry, nanofiction, six-word stories, speculative memoir, you name it.

The cousin of one of my most favorite forms (flash fiction) is the emerging form of flash memoir. And there are countless markets for these short, true-to-life stories that can end up connecting people across time and space. And the good news is that you can earn money for these stories.

Here’s one way to get started. Make a list of ten of the most exciting or momentous things that ever happened to you. Choose the one experience that speaks the most to you and recount it in fewer than 500 words. Just write it in the same way as you’d tell the story to a friend. It’s that simple.

One of my husband’s pieces (with a photo) was just published in the May issue of Carolina Country, a local print and online magazine mailed to over 2 million people in the rural electric cooperatives across North Carolina.  Ever the reluctant author, Johnpaul told me he doesn’t have time to sign autographs right now. He’s too busy installing the floor of our library.

Read the story of the paperboy and the piano teacher here.

 

Celebrate National Poetry Month!

“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance,” said poet Carl Sandburg, North Carolina’s own adopted son. And thanks to Carl’s own creative genius, can you look at the little feet of a cat without thinking of fog? I know I can’t.

How will you celebrate a month-long tribute to the cherished art of poetry? As Lu Chi advises in The Art of Writing, I plan to “draw sustenance from masterpieces of the past.” I’m re-reading some of my favorite poets as well as questing to discover new ones. My go-to source for my daily poetry addiction is Poetry Daily and Rattle.

For more inspirational poetry, check out the website for The Gyroscope Review, which is running a daily interview with a poet published by them in the past. It’s a wonderful series that gives you a peek into the minds and work habits of poets at practice.

And today, for April 8, I’m honored to be the featured poet.

 

 

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way….

to my mammogram! The surreal experience happened a couple of years ago, and eventually I wrote a humorous narrative essay (“I Know What She’s Thinking”) that was just named a Runner-Up in the WOW (Women on Writing) Quarterly Creative Nonfiction Contest.

If you can tell a story, consider penning a nonfiction piece. There are so many types, from narrative (like mine) to description (a piece describing your favorite beach house, for example) to one intended to argue and persuade (Swift’s Modest Proposal, for one). And the market is better than ever. Publications, print or online, yearn for your stories and unique spin on topics both familiar and unfamiliar. In fact, Carolina Country just accepted my husband Johnpaul’s “I Remember” submission for later this year.

Interested? For starters, read some of the other winners in the WOW contest. They will stoke your imagination, particularly “Let’s Kill Your Grandfather Together” by First Prize Winner Adriana Páramo. It simply held me spellbound, both the power of the language and the empathy of the narrator. I can’t quit thinking about it. Needless to say, I’m just honored to have my little piece among the final ten.

As a next step, consider joining the WOW community. The website is regularly named a top site by Writer’s Digest. I signed up for the free newsletter several years ago at the recommendation of a writer friend. And I’m so glad I did. The articles, blog, prompts, and classes offered have been incredibly inspiring, and recently led to an Honorable Mention in the Summer 2017 Flash Fiction Contest for my story “Party Etiquette for Insects Recently Transformed Into People.”

In the words of the ancient Chinese writer Lu Chi (250 A.D.): “The pleasure a writer knows is the pleasure all sages enjoy.  Out of non-being, being is born; out of silence, the writer produces a song.” May the world hear yours!

 

 

 

 

 

Final Flash Photo! A Story of Four Girls

 

revival_edited

Youth Night, Revival Week, July 1965

New girls brought instant novelty, even Deirdre’s own tired moss green dress seemed fresher walking beside them.

The eldest girl, Sally, had been an easy victory. When Deirdre caught sight of the Bible in her tote bag, right as Sally was leaving the IGA, she invited her to Youth Night at Revival that very same evening. “I’ve got two younger sisters,” said Sally. “Is it okay if they come too?”

Of course it was. But as soon as Deirdre met the middle girl, Anne Marie, who at 15 had a savage self-confidence and rather mature beauty, she knew she would bring trouble.

She behaved herself during the service, even the prayers, Deirdre observed, peeping through the steeple of her fingers. But who knew what she was thinking?

At the end of the night, instead of walking home with her family, Anne Marie immediately sidled up to Doodle Hayes, a farmer’s son with a tendency to hunch his fingers into the pockets of his jeans and teeter on his heels whenever Deirdre spoke to him. And now he teetered next to Anne Marie.

Ashley Memory
~182 words
3-3-2018

What fun you can have from photographs, especially when you have no idea who the people are or where they’re from! This gives you the freedom to truly imagine, and conjure an original plot from the simplest of details. And because it’s flash fiction, you have to keep it short, less than 750 words, which helps you pare it down to the absolute essentials. I actually wrote 364 words in my first draft and ended up cutting it in half. Honestly, I think it’s better now!

For even more fun, stay tuned for more prompts, and of course, more details on future workshops I’ll be leading at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro in Fall 2018.

Flash Photograph! The Queen’s Comet

queen_editedSeveral members of the Royal family, including two corgis, board the new DeHavilland Comet at London’s Heathrow Airport, bound for New York.

Prince Philip remarked about how exciting it was to be flying on the most advanced jet airliner in the world.  Some time after reaching a cruise altitude of 30,000 feet, Captain Caryl Ramsay Gordon asked him if he would like to sit in the left seat.  Captain Gordon had known the Prince for years, having been his flight instructor back in the 50s, and was well aware of his reputation as a cracking stick and rudder man.

After a few minutes of straight and level flight during which he became familiar with the controls and instrument layout,  Prince Philip took the yoke in both hands and expertly put the plane through a 360 degree roll, maintaining positive Gs throughout the maneuver.  The Queen and Princess Anne both complained that they had been quite disturbed to look out and see the sky in the bottom of their window and the earth above. Upon returning to his seat next to the Queen, Prince Philip promptly apologized with a kiss and a promise never to do it again.  But it was several minutes before he stopped grinning.

Three days later a commercial Comet with a full load of passengers disappeared from radar over the North Atlantic 800 miles west of England, leaving a long debris field and few bodies to recover.  No distress call was heard.

At that point all Comets were immediately grounded until the problem could be sorted out and the mystery solved.  Fourteen months later, during stress tests on the fuselage, metal fatigue starting at the corners of the square windows was discovered to be the flaw in the design that brought the great plane down.

By the time DeHavilland had re-designed and solved their production problems, Boeing had completed the design and development of their new 707 jet liner.  They went on to dominate commercial aviation for more than half a century with many editions of their seven series airplanes flying from 112 different countries throughout the world.

The next time the Royal family flew, they used an older piston engine DeHavilland, (DH-104 Dove), one that had served them well for many years.  On board in a special compartment were nine tiny parachutes, one for each of their dogs.

Johnpaul Harris
3-3-2018

Editor’s Note: The beauty of this piece is the author’s fascination (if not obsession) with aircraft. The story itself is fiction but the specificity in the technical details lend an air of authenticity. We think Prince Philip would appreciate it, too, himself having stated, regarding his own service in WWII more than 70 years ago: “As most elderly people have discovered, memories tend to fade.” A special debt of gratitude to JP for lending samples from his extensive photo collection to our class on March 3.

 

Flash Photograph! Meet Reinhardt…

army dog_editedReinhardt

By some trick of doggie geneaology, I missed being born a Dalmation, the breed who rides on a proper fire truck.  I’ve got a different gig.  When that man with the sunglasses yells “Atten-hut”, I half-sit half-stand on my mixed breed hind legs.

When my tongue lolled out, my mother used to say that now my face was going to stay like that for the rest of my life.  But I’ve just run clear across the parade grounds to sneak into this photo opportunity, so naturally, I’m panting.  This is the the United States Air Force, you know, and these are my guys.  They just finished washing the bivouac, the tires shine like their newly polished shoes.

Hixon, Hershey, Cyril and Donald keep the trucks running on this base.  The Corps doesn’t pay much, but they earn enough to buy me a decent collar and to keep food in my bowl.  They found me covered with mud in a ditch.  And they don’t never mind that I speak German.

Mary L. Barnard
3-3-18

Editor’s Note: Leave it to Mary to write from the point of view of the dog! Her love of dogs rules (she owns 2 rescue angels herself) as well as her sense of humor. What seals the deal for the reader is the title. His German name makes perfect sense when you read the last line of the story. Such a little touch results in a big payoff for the reader. Woof-woof!