Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Twitter Stories

This week’s assignment (which prompted one of my students to cry, “Do you hate us?!”)* was to write a story suitable for a single tweet. So 140 characters or fewer. To prove that it wasn’t too difficult, I worked up several rough drafts on the drive to and from co-op. I think you can see from my examples below that not all Twitter stories are created equal. (My favorite is the last.) Enjoy!

Tumbleweed rolled by. Shootout music played. Trigger fingers itched. Only one question remained: Who would catch the most Pokemon?


“My dog ate my homework,” you said.
I scoffed.
You showed me the remains.
My advice: Next time write on paper, not ham.


Pistols at dawn. Twenty paces and turn. Bang! Bang! Too bad I bribed his second last night. He’s shooting blanks. I ride into the sunrise.


We almost didn’t meet, ships passing in the night. I never thought to be glad for an iceberg.

* Mwa ha ha.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Mermaid's Tale

Image from morguefile.com

Note: For the teen writing class I’m teaching this year, the first assignment was a piece of flash fiction based on an assigned fairy tale. Since I’m trying to do the assignments along with the kids, I thought I’d share mine. This one is certainly shorter than usual, but I figured I could bend the rules for me. :) Enjoy!
I have been a daughter of the sea, my tail fin flashing as I slide through the water.

I have been a child of earth, dancing upon two feet though the steps felt like knives.

I have been, for mere moments out of eternity, almost nothing, just a bit of brine and sea foam.

And now I am a spirit of air, lithe upon the wind, tossed about on invisible currents. No body but a puff of air, no tail, no feet, no brine.

In the sea, I was innocent, naive, but free. On the earth I suffered, but oh the exquisite joy of that pain. In the wind I am witness to all the world at once, its beauty and its misery. I change lives, right wrongs, nudge people. It is amazing what a gust of wind can do. But for all that, I am only an observer, I experience nothing for myself.

Where do I belong, I wonder. It is the question that passes through me, rustling through my thoughts like the breeze through the grass. Where is my soul meant to be? For I have, I am told, finally earned that soul.

It is a question I cannot answer, though I have asked it often in my three hundred years of wind.

My time in the air is over. I can feel the change in me, but I do not know where it will lead. Perhaps I finally will disappear, from air to brine forever despite that promise of immortality. Perhaps I will return to earth or sea. Or perhaps, I think to myself, I will rise up from the wind into fire, one final element. Perhaps I will rage into storm, a bolt of lightning crashing down through the air, over the sea, striking at a ship made by men of the earth. Perhaps I will set the ship afire in a great burst of power, and the cycle will be complete.

Will there be, far below me, in the water, another child of the sea to rescue the human flotsam of my destruction? Would she look to me for wisdom if she knew my tale? And what would I tell her?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Our Life in Music

“Bohemian Rhapsody.” Kati, Anna, and I had wondered: How much of our weirdness would it take to scare you away? How crazy would we have to be before you said enough? But that night I began to realize maybe you would always match us crazy for crazy. Was I already falling for you then? Or was there magic in watching you stroll, suitcase in hand, across our makeshift music video stage to the line “carry on, carry on”?

The entire Best of Kansas CD. You mentioned, in passing, that you liked Kansas. I went home and bought the CD. I listened to it a lot that summer, in between the more typically me music: OMD, Erasure, Enya, the American Graffiti soundtrack (though I’ve never seen the show). It was a subtle form of stalking, and I convinced myself, for a few months at least, that I really loved Kansas.

“Green-Eyed Lady.” Sugarloaf. I’d never heard this one. You mentioned it via email after one of our late-night campus rambles. You said it reminded you of me. I looked it up, of course, in those days when it was still somewhat difficult to find lyrics online. Did it mean what it sounded like? Did you like me? From the lyrics, the implication seemed obvious, but I still couldn’t manage to believe it. It was still months before we admitted how we felt.

Bon Jovi. “Always.” We danced, and it felt like the first time, the most important time, and I sang the lyrics quietly and thought it might be true—that “I will love you . . . always.” Minus, of course, that poorly rhymed bit about (ironically) rhyming words. That moment changed us. It changed me. And yet, even then, as always when I hear this song, I couldn’t help but wish that they’d come up with a better rhyme.
“Breathe” by Faith Hill. “Amazed” by Lonestar. Our first kiss.

“Via Con Me.” Watching Mostly Martha (the German version, not the American remake) in our first apartment and dancing in the kitchen.

“Run” by Snow Patrol. It was playing in the car as you dropped me off at work that one time.

That mix of about seven songs for childbirth. I kept meaning to make a brilliant, perfect, relaxing mix of songs for labor with our third child, but then I kept not getting to it. For months. Finally, about ten hours into labor, I put the songs together on our computer. They played, over and over again, for the next six hours.

Anything by Radiohead. Our irreconcilable difference, that you think their sounds count as music.

“High and Dry.” Though I admit it sounds more like music when I listen to you practice it on your guitar.

“Daydream Believer.” “I’m a Believer.” Both the Monkees versions, of course. Sitting in the dining room, reminiscing about the music of our childhood. Playing YouTube videos for the kids. Occasionally in our lives, I just stare at you and remember. Where we’ve been. Who we’ve been. The fact that here we are, that you love me, that we’ve created this life together—it just takes my breath away. And I think I couldn’t possibly love you any more than I already do.
But then the music starts to play, and we both burst into song, and we smile, and the children laugh at the silly outfits in the music video, and we laugh along too, and I find I was wrong. I love you even more.

Happy anniversary to my fantastic husband.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Promise of Snow, the short version

Hey, so a while ago there was a contest through ANWA (American Night Writers Association) for short pieces based on the theme “Warm the Winter.” I immediately thought that my story “The Promise of Snow” would fit well, but it was just a teensy weensy bit too long (i.e., it was 5500 words for a contest that only allowed up to 1500 words). So I put it through about a thousand revisions, and when it was done, I barely managed to get under the word limit.

But the exciting part is yet to come. I won the fiction category of the contest! Yay!

So, if you wanted to see how the story got drastically slimmed down, here’s the link. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Book Review: My Fairly Dangerous Godmother, by Janette Rallison

My Fairly Dangerous Godmother (My Fair Godmother #3)
Rating: 3/5 stars (I reserve 4 and 5 stars for books that really struck me on a personal level or stuck with me in some deep way. This book was lots of fun but not, for me, super deep. I almost feel bad rating it only 3 stars, though, because it makes my feelings sound lukewarm. I wholeheartedly recommend Rallison as good solid fun, just not generally as particularly life-changing.)

Clean rating: G, totally G. Rallison tends to be that way. Super squeaky clean, which is something I love about her. I rarely have to worry that there’s anything offensive in her works.

Short summary: This is book 3 in a young adult series (but they are all stand-alone, just united by the same really lousy fairy godmother). Sadie has a horrifically embarrassing experience on a reality talent show, which earns her a pity fairy godmother and three wishes. Chrissy, her godmother, interprets her wishes in a predictably dreadful manner and sends Sadie to live in a fairy tale. It just gets worse from there.

Recommend it? Are you looking for something light and fluffy and fun? Also, can you tolerate painful embarrassment—as in, situations so dreadfully embarrassing, you cringe for the characters who are living through them? Do you think it would be fun living in a famous fairy tale? (You’re wrong, by the way.) Then this is good series for you to try.

Janette Rallison novels in general: In fact, especially if you enjoy the painfully embarrassing teenage scenes, I would recommend most of Janette Rallison’s novels. My favorite was Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To-Do List, mostly because it had an absolutely fantastic, completely ruined staging of West Side Story. I would totally pay to see that performance. Just One Wish was also hilarious and one of my other favorites, while touching on more serious stuff than most of the others (the main character’s little brother has cancer). Mostly when I read Rallison, I think, “Wow, I’m glad my teenage years were not that horrendous.” But in a funny-painful way, not in a drama-angsty way.

What I liked: I enjoy the utter absurdity of Chrissy’s interactions with her charges and also how she interprets their wishes. I know I’ve already said the word “painful” several times, but that’s how it feels—painful the way that lots of people love America’s Funniest Home Videos (which I actually can’t stand; I prefer fictional emotional embarrassment to real physical pain). I also enjoy how Rallison addresses the inherent plot holes in our famous fairy tales—which I like to do as well—but in a very humorous way.

What didn’t work for me: I’m happy that Rallison has enough of a fan base that she makes money now independently publishing a lot of her books, but in this case I think she needed one more person to copyedit. There are just some minor things, and mostly they’re not distracting (well, except for one spot which was clearly marked as a sort of “to fix” item that didn’t get fixed). But to me they’re distracting, even though minor. Otherwise, I’m sure I could nitpick, but because it’s just a fun, fluffy novel, I’m not going to.

Last words: I really hope I never get Chrysanthemum Everstar as a fairy godmother. And if I do, I’m going to choose the wording of my wishes very, very carefully. I advise you to do the same.