Writing Challenge: Write a Six-Word Sci-Fi Story.

I know, right? Pretty interesting and cool. Inspired by this article. Here’s mine:

“Time to weigh the hearts, Joe.”

Want to try it? Leave your words in the comments!

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Short Story Prompt – 12/30/13

Short Story Prompt – Make a list of five things that you’re afraid of happening to you. Then write a story in which one of them happens to the character…

Thanks, Ms. L! (I cheated a little with this one, though. You’ll see…)

The List

In the past, she had therapists who couldn’t abide by her silence. Some would visibly shift uncomfortably in their leather chairs while waiting for her to respond; others would allow it for mere moments before breaking the silence apart, eventually pressuring her toward a reply/conclusion that they themselves created.

Robin Thurston was nothing like this.

Dr. Thurston had a way of almost retreating into the shadows after posing a question or a thought, almost disappearing into thin air while Jean customarily took her time to wrap her mind around an idea. It was jarring at first; she had become used to impatient therapists, using their intolerance as an excuse to continue with the desperate and toxic acts that now framed her life. Ultimately, however, she realized that—surprise, surprise—Dr. Thurston was neither intolerant nor a fool. She simply wanted to help her.

That morning, after they did away with their usual pleasantries, Dr. Thurston placed a blank sheet of paper on the glass coffee table that sat between them. Jean regarded her and waited. They tended to do these kinds of exercises. Dr. Thurston would ask her to write down silly things like her favorite memories from childhood, or five things she was grateful for. To date, not one exercise had resulted in Jean writing anything down. She wanted to tell Dr. Thurston that she was killing trees, wasting paper on someone who was enshrouded in so much darkness.

“I want you to write a few things down for me,” Dr. Thurston said.

Jean sighed inwardly. It would be another quiet session, another blank piece of paper.

“Make a list of five things you’re afraid of happening to you.”

Swallowing thickly, she peered at Dr. Thurston, waiting for an explanation. They’d never done something like this before.

“Go ahead, Jean. Here’s the pen; write them down.”

With trembling fingers, she accepted the pen and picked up the piece of paper. There was no need for her mind to assimilate the request, as she was prone to do. She began writing, and quickly.

Death

Assault

Drowning

Spiders

Everything

Dr. Thurston looked over the list, and then smiled. “These are the first honest things you’ve said to me in the six months we’ve known each other, Jean.”

She nodded slowly, unable to halt the hot, unrelenting tears that descended onto her chin, her neck, her clothes.

“Now,” Dr. Thurston said, gently tapping at the piece of paper, “now we can talk to each other.”

Thursday and Friday.

I’m sure you’re wondering what I wore yesterday? And if I’m grateful for anything today? Have you? Well, since I forgot to post what I wore yesterday, let’s combine the two, shall we?

Gratitude

1. You, because you visit this blog.

2. You, because sometimes you click “like.”

3. You, because sometimes you leave a comment.

4. Anyone who supports my writing.

5. My 4th grade teacher, who inspired me to become a writer in the first place. (Have I mentioned her before? I am mentioning her again. I love you, Mrs. Chrytzer!)

6. My 11th grade English teacher, who recognized my love of writing and shaped it by saying, “I think you should major in English in college. That would be perfect for you.” (And I did, and it was.)

7. My mother, who shaped my love of writing and storytelling from the beginning by telling the most marvelous stories and introducing comic books and fairy tales into the lives of her daughters.

8. My creative writing professor in college, who taught me the value of research in fiction. It’s important!

9. My old college friend, who told me to stop using writer’s block as a crutch for not writing.

10. Music and art, for being the best friends this writer could ask for.

Ok!

Fashion

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It’s Casual Friday here at the farm, so the details on what I’m wearing:

Skinny jeans, gifted to me by my sister. I was late to the skinny jeans thing, so, in actuality, she forced me to wear them. They’re nice. I’d like to happily report though that they’re now a bit loose. Time for new (skinny) jeans…

Cowl neck blouse – this may have come from Mom’s cloest. Love cowl necks. You can’t really tell from the photos, though. Plus, I tend to pull up the cowl part, which hangs a bit low, to prevent the entire office from seeing the world up top, if you get mah drift…

Silver chain, Avenuethey have terrific accessories. Got this one on sale.

Cream Crystal Studded Beret, Claire’s – one of the purchases I made when I did this three weeks ago.

Standard Black Boots – the usual. I live in these things.

Bon weekend, all!

Short Story Prompt #2 – 12/25/13

Short Story Prompt – Fashion a story using these five things:
1. A rotten gala apple
2. A pair of lime green sneakers
3. A missed appointment
4. A pig
5. A goodbye hug

Lime Green and Time Machines

“What time is it?” she asked, out of breath, as she came bounding into the bedroom. “I’m so late. I think I missed the appointment. God, this will be the fourth time.”

Quietly, he gazed at her from the bed, pausing in his tapping of the keyboard. As he took in her splotchy, red face, the sweat-stained exercise clothes, and those unfortunate lime green sneakers, he couldn’t stop the disdain that crept into his chest.

“I lost track of time. It was such a good run, honey,” she went on, pulling off her clothes and throwing them to the floor. “You would have loved it. Sandy found this trail by Miller’s Lane, and there were these beautiful creeks and brooks. It was so picturesque.”

After the baby, he was the one who introduced her to running when all the dieting and convoluted weight loss plans became ineffectual. She had taken to it immediately, increasing their twice-a-week morning runs to once a day a month shortly after they started. Eventually, he was replaced by a neighborhood running group. (“Honey, you work so hard. You can sleep in and I’ll run with the group.”) They called themselves The HouseMiles, a silly play on the fact that all of them were housewives. He wasn’t sure what annoyed him more: the mornings when the women showed up at the house at dawn, disturbing their home at such an early hour with their obnoxious laughter, or the fact that she hadn’t lost one bit of weight in the six months since she had started running. If anything, as he regarded her bulbous, equally splotchy belly, she seemed to have inexplicably gained more weight.

“I should call Mrs. Appleton, shouldn’t I? I should call her.” With that, she walked over to the bedside table near him and picked up the telephone to call their son’s teacher. “Hello, Mrs. Appleton, it’s Mallory Renaud…yes, I’m so sorry…I lost track of time…is there a way to reschedule…oh, you can’t? I understand that this is the fourth appointment I’ve missed. No, my husband injured his foot, so he won’t be able to…yes, I know how disappointed you must be. Yes, yes, I’ll hold.”

He watched her close her eyes and take a prolonged, deep breath. She was obviously embarrassed at having missed another appointment. He didn’t feel sorry for her. If she spent less time gossiping with those hens after their runs, perhaps she would have arrived home at a reasonable time.

“Yes, I’m here. Next Tuesday at 7:30? That sounds perfect. Thank you, Mrs. Appleton. We really appreciate it.” She hung up the phone and sat down on the bed in a huff. “That woman will be the death of me. I’m sure she’s told the other parents what a horrible mother I am.”

As the pungent scent of her sweaty body consumed his senses, he wished she had put on a bathrobe instead of sitting here like this, in a wet bra and underwear.

“What are we going to do, Lewis?” she asked, shaking her head.

Here come the waterworks. Sure enough, as she began to softly cry, he wished there was a time machine somewhere in the house, something to take him back to last week. He’d been so stupid last week, heading down the stairs without paying attention. That’s when he slipped and tumbled all the way down. With the time machine, things would be so different. No toy, no fall, no two-week long condemnation in a house he could hardly bear.

“Why is he this way, Lewis? What are we doing wrong?” she asked, tears falling down her chubby face.

A month ago, their 11-year old son had decided to pull yet another prank on his teacher. During recess, LJ took advantage of his empty classroom and filled Mrs. Appleton’s desk (as well as the coat closet) with rotting and/or rotted Gala apples. There was no investigation on who could do such a thing; his track record having been proven since the beginning of the year, it was obvious who the culprit was. Apparently, he had saved a month’s worth of apples for the plan, hiding them in his room until the time was right. His reason for the prank? Mrs. Appleton’s last name. It just seemed perfect for a prank, the boy said.

“Maybe we’re not—we’re not strict enough with him. We spoil him.”

We? Yeah, right. He was the one who refused to pamper the boy, suggesting that they send the boy to military school for a dose of hard reality. Nevertheless, with her constant waterworks at the idea of sending the boy away, he stopped arguing. Let the boy be a terror, he told her the last time. And now, as she cried and blamed herself, he did nothing to dissuade her. It was her fault. Moreover, their 10-month old baby would be the same way as his older brother: spoiled rotten. Again, as he watched her weep, the disdain crept up in his heart. He could no longer decipher whether the feeling came as a result of isolated moments like this, or whether it had always been there.

Just then, the squealing, screeching welcome of the boy’s pet pig pierced the bedroom. He leaned back against the pillows, wanting to punch something. As usual, their son left that blasted cage open, and she, naturally, left the bedroom door open. Wiping her face, she scooped up the miniature pig from the ground, holding the squealing animal to her chest. “You escaped again, Kumquat. What are we going to do with you?” she cooed. “Isn’t he adorable, Lewis?”

He had said “no” to the pig, as well.

“Hon, I’m going to throw on a robe and check on the baby,” she said, turning toward him. Before leaving, she leaned forward and hugged him tightly, the pig’s fur rubbing against his chin. “Everything will be all right, won’t it? Won’t it, Lewis?” Without waiting for an answer, she hugged him again and kissed his forehead.

As he watched her go, he silently uttered his second wish of the day: that her hug had meant goodbye.

35.

35 is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years. — Oscar Wilde

Oscar ain't never lied...
Oscar ain’t never lied…
Reflecting: we’ve been together for three months now, me and 35, and I have to say that I’m enjoying it so far. A few things…

1. Keeping it All in Perspective. My back hurts, you know? I need an Advil, not your complaint about the long line in the store.

2. I Sing the Body Electric. I accept that I will never have a flat stomach, or abs, or actual, visible hips. I’m so ok with that right now in my life. So, so, so ok with that. I’m not entirely sure where this peace of mind about my body and loving it came from, but I will take it.

3. Some Things Need to Be Said. I tend to shy away from confrontation. (My Sissy will dispute this, but whatever you do, don’t listen to her.) I’d rather let it go and leave it most of the time. But these days…certain things need to be said, acknowledged, dealt with, and then let go. If you say something silly that bears discussion, we will discuss it. K? 

4. This.

5. My Mother, my Friend. I think my mother and I are at a stage where we can really be friends. Although I very much respect her role as mother, parent, and all-around CEO of everything, I still think we can chat, laugh, and joke without me worrying about not being able to sit down because of being swatted on my rump. Within reason. Within reason.

6. This Writing Life. I’ve experienced the following phases with my life as a writer: joy, confusion, comparison, quiet, returning, acceptance, joy. The latter phase is what I feel at present, and I believe I feel this way because I stopped comparing my work to the works of others; stopped putting pressure on myself, stopped giving in to the excuse that there was nothing there, creatively, for me to work with. Once I left many toxic habits behind, my writing and the process itself has taken on a completely different and exciting feel.

35. What whaaat?

In the Corner of the Center of Your World.

so I revolve around your world, do I?
the gravitational pull within your cosmos?
believe what you want,
dearest,
but I fear the truth is shinier than the
stars above your supposedly impassioned head.
here I am,
in the corner of the center of your world,
relegated to afterthought, vague memory, the fabric of a lingering dream.
I starve for your attention while you fool me with galaxies.
well, simply leave me in the corner of the center of your world,
dearest,
in my tiny niche, my nook, my cranny,
and let me enjoy the real stars.

Stories about Words. (Aplomb)

I’ve been a lover of words since I can remember, especially when my father bought me my first dictionary when I was 10 years old. (Being 10 and randomly finding the definition for decade one day made things even sweeter.) Once in a while, I’ll tell you some memorable stories about my ongoing love affair with words.

Aplomb (noun) – complete and confident composure or self-assurance.

I was 17 years old. He sat behind me in our English class. Every day, while our teacher (who shared the same name with the leading actress from The Excorcist, a fact we discussed almost every day in light of her very uncheerful demeanor) lectured in front of the classroom, I felt tiny stings coming from the back of my head. You see, I began to gray when I was about 14 years old, an inheritance from my father, who began to gray when he was 20. Every day, he would gently pull out some of my gray hair. I rarely reacted to this tender assault to my scalp, being that 1) I wanted them out of there, as well, and didn’t fully believe that when one came out, 100 replaced it; 2) I kind of liked the feeling, because I’m a weirdo; and 3) this had been happening since I was 14 years old, random kids behind me in class pulling out my gray hair.

Eventually, we began to have intriguing conversations in class when our crazy teacher allowed us to discuss a novel or something else we were reading. With his bright blue eyes gleaming, he asked if I felt him pulling my hair. I said yes. You never react, he said. No need, I replied, smiling. A few weeks later, he said the following: “You have such aplomb. I love that about you.” I remember replying, I’m a ploom? Aplomb, he repeated, laughing. “You’re so poised. You never react.”

Later, I looked up the word in the dictionary and smiled at his mispronunciation (I’m really a plum, not a ploom), and at the compliment itself. If only he knew the complete lack of self-assurance I felt most of the time, the teenaged/puberty/girl storm raging inside of me. Nevertheless, it gave me a warm feeling to know that he thought I had poise. We were already becoming fast friends–I loved his quirky personality, his brilliant mind, and those eyes–but that word seemed to make him even cooler.

Alas, people drift apart after high school. Last I heard, he’s an attorney living on the West Coast. If we saw each other now, I’d ask whether those court cases are being argued with aplomb. And then I’d gently yank any gray hairs I find on his big head.

how not to be ignorant about Africa.

We won’t get into exactly what inspired this post, only that its absolute necessity is imperative. Shall we, then?

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Image courtesy of Free World Maps. Link here: http://www.freeworldmaps.net/africa/

  1. Africa is a continent. Not a country.
  2. When something weird happens in a country within the continent of Africa, it does not represent the entire country where it happened, the people in that particular country, or the people that live on the street/town/city where the weird thing happened. It is an isolated incident, borne from the choices that particular individual or group made.
  3. When someone is from Africa, do not assume that those sad commercials in which flies mill about the crying faces of starving children with distended bellies applies to them and/or represents where they came from. Yes, abject poverty and starvation exist in Africa, but the assumption that all Africans either lived in abject poverty or came from such is ridiculous and inane. Even if they did, how about not assuming?
  4. Disney’s The Lion King. I can’t even. That Swahili in the beginning of the movie? Is not the universal language spoken on the continent. Stop asking Africans what it means.
  5. Speaking of asking Africans random questions, it is 2013. We live in a Google world. There’s likely a library in the vicinity of your home. If you have a question about the continent, kindly research it on your own.
  6. I am proud to be an African woman. I am also an American woman. The fact that I do not have the dough to regularly visit the country of my birth does not diminish the fact that it is the country of my birth, or that I am proud of it.
  7. Oh, you thought this was just about the ignorance of non-Africans, huh?
  8. Ignorance is universal.
  9. Believe that.
  10. We all possess a level of ignorance about things we don’t understand. Rather than relying on age-old prejudices and/or foolery, take the time to sincerely find things out. You will be happier and the possibility of major side eye coming from me will be significantly reduced.

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Wednesday Writers’ Spotlight: L. Taylor

Because this blog, first and foremost, is about writing. Every Wednesday, I’ll spotlight a fellow writer and bring you his or her thoughts about this writing crafts of ours by way of a brief interview. First up is Ms. L. Taylor, a wonderful friend of mine and an equally amazing writer. I’m not just saying that; one of her short stories recently blew this mind of mine. And it was a sweet, sweet implosion. She also provided the writing prompt for the short story I wrote and shared this week, so another yay for her. Read on, won’t you?

1. When did you start writing?

Ms. L. Taylor!
Ms. L. Taylor!
I’ve been writing in journals since I was about 11. That’s how it started, really – chronicling my daily thoughts and feelings. Later, I moved into the realm of teenage angst and began writing poetry. My early twenties saw short fiction stories added to that collection, and I’ve really never stopped writing since.
2. What or who was your inspiration to start writing?
My sister was my inspiration. I don’t think she’s written in a long time, but when I was little, I remember her writing these wonderful short stories that absolutely captivated me. I would always think, “I wish I could write like that.”
3. What are some of the themes you like to explore in your work?
The broad spectrum of human emotion has always been my favorite thing to write about. Heartbreak, loss, self-discovery and appreciation, love – you name the emotion, and I can write about it. I love to explore it all in different ways.
4. What’s your writing schedule?
I have always been able to write best late at night, when the rest of the world is dreaming. That’s when I’ve come up with some of the work I’m most proud of.
5. How do you combat the dreaded writer’s block?
When I have writer’s block, prompts are my best friend. Nothing shakes me out of a block like being given a story idea and meeting the challenge of bringing life to that idea.
6. Conversely, I’ve heard that writer’s block doesn’t exist; it’s actually having too many ideas that’s the problem. Do you agree with that? Why or why not?
I can’t speak for all writers, but for me personally, writer’s block is not about having too many ideas, but rather about not knowing how to develop those ideas. As a writer, I find that I always have ideas. What to do with those ideas, though, is sometimes the cause of the block.
7. Who are your favorite authors?
John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark, Michael Crichton, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Louisa May Alcott.
8. Do you write only fiction, or do you dabble in poetry and other genres?
I mainly write fiction and poetry. As bad as it probably sounds, I spend a lot of time in my own head, and those genres indulge my inner dreamer and hopeless romantic.
9. Do you think blogging aids in creativity?
Definitely! One reason is because it gives you an outlet for something that might be hiding within, waiting for the right time to come out and develop at the flourish of your own. It gives you a voice, and it’s good practice in letting other people read (and sometimes critique) your thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

Thanks, L!!

I see we have a lot in common, particularly when it comes to when our journeys as writers began, as well as the overall themes in our work. If you’d like to read more from Ms. L. Taylor, check out her blog at www.passionatevoice.tumblr.com.

And if you’re a writer and would like to be featured in the Spotlight, feel free to contact me in the comments or via the email on my Contacts page.