Monday, June 11, 2012

CHALLENGE FAILED

No one likes to admit she failed, but in failure there always sleeps a lesson waiting to be aroused. I set out to post every day for the month of June based on one writing prompt or another. I wanted to write twenty minutes a day--a story, poem, or essay--and post it here. But as John Lennon said so well--life is what happens while you're making other plans.

What lesson was asleep in this recent failed challenge of mine? Of course, the lesson is when you commit to something you need to follow through, but we all know that. And it is significant to the writer because you can't publish if you don't write. But there is another lesson that perhaps slept a little more deeply. The lesson, or question, of finding time to write so I can follow through on my commitments. I did find twenty minutes a day to write--exactly where I'd left them each morning.

I've been a writer of "morning pages" a la Julia Cameron's suggestion in her book "The Artist's Way" for many years. Taking out my spiral notebook and filling three pages of curlicued blue letters and words is as much a habit as brushing my teeth, washing my face and eating oatmeal. Over and over in those pages I have complained about not having time to write my novel, or start a new short story, or work on my memoir. I complained about other things too. And I wrote many pages about what my goals were, what genre I wanted to focus on, where I was going with my writing--was it for publication or just for fun? But this morning I took that sleeping lesson and woke her up.

Instead of three pages of rambling thoughts and complaints, I started a new short story to submit at the end of this week in my online flash fiction class. In twenty minutes I had four and a half pages of the story written. And this is flash ficiton, so that means a first draft is just about finished.

How did I complain all those years about not having time to write when all those mornings I was writing--just the wrong things. Twenty minutes every morning can create a first draft flash story every day. It can be three to four pages more of the novel. Or it can be the opening of a new personal essay. How stupid could I have been all those years? Using my writing time to complain about not having time to write. That alone should make me ashamed.

But I am exposing that fault right here on my writing blog to prove--to my readers and to myself--that with a little flash of thought I can solve this dilemma. I am challenging myself, yes again, to start a new flash story every morning from a prompt or an idea and to complete and revise that story at night. If this works it could become as much a habit as morning pages were. And at the end of the week instead of pages and pages of whining and moaning I will have at least 7 first drafts of stories to polish and send out to journals.

I'm off on a new challenge! Wish me luck!

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Story Behind Every Face

Writers are frequently asked where they get their ideas for stories or poems and the answers seem endless. Sources range from dreams, to news stories, to the ephemeral muse, to strange voices in the night. I never know the original source of my story ideas but I don't go looking for them, they seem to seek me out instead. They find me, grab me, reside in me, until I finally agree to write the story. I have notebooks filled with ideas for stories, poems, essays and art pages and if I had 24 hours a day, every day I'd never have enough time to write them all. Ideas are everywhere, at least for me.

There are stories behind every face I see. Faces of family and friends. Faces of strangers in coffee shops and colleagues at work. No one is storyless. As the stories around me reveal themselves I see that this world is filled with stories. You never know what dramas--triumphs and defeats, joys and sorrows-- live behind the faces you see each day. Sometimes the stories come out of hiding and nudge me to pen and paper to write them down. Sometimes they need to be coaxed out of the darkness where they can be dressed up and sent out to teach, entertain, support or enlighten.

I've taken to scouring crowds looking for people who appear to have a story. If someone I know has a story I will investigate, get to the heart of it and turn it into fiction. If it's a stranger then I create a character and make up a story, because somewhere, someplace there is someone who owns that story. It's a wild ride and I hang onto my pen for dear life, coasting across the page marking tracks that will hopefully find their way to readers.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

CHANTEUSE

This poem was inspired by a true family story.


Her father sent her to Paris

to make money as a chanteuse.

She boarded a plane, baggage in hand,

and hummed a few bars on a flight over the Atlantic.

While in Paris she learned to sing like a bird.

She went nightly to cabarets and wore

the finest silk dresses in the colors of jewels.

One night she met a tall dark man

who offered her his love, a kiss and a ring

that made her eyes light like sapphires.

She accepted the ring.

She silenced her song.

She stopped answering her father’s letters

asking when she would be coming home.

One night, on a flight back over the Atlantic

With her tall dashing husband, she returned

To New York, where she and her young man

started a farm in the Catskills.

And she never heard from her father again.

But her song can be heard in the wind that

races through the trees and over the sharp pointed

mountains---and she is happy as a lark.

Friday, June 1, 2012

PROMPT: looking back it was the eggplant that caused it.



            “What are you doing?” Alice yelped.
            Her husband, blonde ponytail knotted from an afternoon in the wind, looked up.
            “What do you mean? I’m planting eggplant seeds.”
            “They’ll never grow. I told you to stick with tomatoes and cucumbers.”
            Tony laughed and wiped sweat off his forehead leaving a trail of moist dirt.
            “Of course they will,” he said. “I need a change. We always plant tomatoes and cucumbers. I wanted to be innovative. Can’t do the same things all the time. Break out of the box. Fly the coop. Don’t be so boring.”
            “Boring huh?’
            Alice snapped around and stomped back to the house. Eggplant will never grow in this tight earth. They need loose sandy soil. He’ll see come August when this garden is barren.
            In the bedroom she pulled the blanket down to the foot of the bed. Then she showered and anointed herself with musk scented body oil. When Tony came up from gardening he took one look at his wife posed erotically on the bed, nothing but her pink skin as a covering.
            “What’s all this?” he asked.
            “I’m not being boring,” Alice drawled.
            Tony stripped, took a quick shower and joined Alice on the bed. They spent hours making love and sleeping, making love and sleeping, until the sun rose on a new day.
            In August the eggplants were thick lush plants, purple bulbs of pungent flesh hanging from thick stems. And Alice’s taut belly was beginning to soften.
            Nine months later, when Alice gave birth to an adorable blonde haired baby she told everyone the eggplant caused it.

A NEW WRITING CHALLENGE

Today is the first of June and as good a time as any to begin a new 30 day challenge. In the month of April, in honor of National Poetry Month, I posted a daily poem and art piece on my sister blog http://www.amarriageofpoetryandart.blogspot.com/. Now in honor of Short Story Month I am challenging myself to post a daily story on this blog. It will be a 20 minute free write from a daily writing prompt.

The inspiration for a twenty minute a day writing challenge came from my online writing teacher Len Leatherwood and her blog http://www.twentyminutesaday.wordpress.com/ Len is an amazing teacher and seeing her daily writing encouraged me to do the same on my own blog. My prompts will come from Melanie Faith. Melanie is a fabulous flash fiction and poetry writer and teacher. I've taken several classes online with her. Today I began a new flash fiction class with her. Melanie provides daily prompts to her students so I will use those for my free writes for this blog.

I'd also like to share with my readers my newest publication success. My short story "After the Ball" will be published online at http://www.metrofiction.com/  on Sunday June 3. Now I have 3 published short stories and am on my way to creating a short story chapbook or collection. "After the Ball" is a spoof on Cinderella that was great fun to write. If you wander over to the site on Sunday I hope you enjoy reading it.

I'll post my first free write exercise later today. Hope to see you all here following my daily stories.
Wish me luck.