Tag: creativity

Flash Your Fiction Workshop Writeup

Day One

worddiceLast night’s Flash Your Fiction class at Howard Community College went great!
We talked creativity, freedom to create, and sparking the flame. We put a little science in our fiction and did the Cloud in a Bottle activity and it applied perfectly. (I am just starting to incorporate different aspects of the activity into every presentation I do. It applies to them all.)
Then, we wrote flash fiction from a prompt word (they had one minute to write a story). And then prompt pictures (ditto). And they did great. It was hard for them to start but once they did they hated having time called on them. But the urgency of having such limited time bumps you into fight or flight and if you decide to stay and fight, the words become your playthings and then the writing explodes!
Interestingly, all but one of the students were willing to read their work out loud. The last one had trepidation and downright fear about it. But then, I found a solution. I used a modification of the excellent Mobius Corpse activity (created by my friends John Cooper or Jacob Davenport or some combination of the two) and had the whole class write a single story collaboratively. Then, they read the entire circular story out loud. Once the student realized she was part of a team, she was able to read the rest of her stuff aloud perfectly well. You never know what will push past the boundaries and break through the fear but when you hit on it, it’s magic!
After that, we gambled and threw my Word Dice (object, location, profession) and Word Cards and the students got homework to do writing sprints with their word cards and also to eavesdrop shamelessly everywhere they go. Like my “Overheard” project, they will hear tantalizing snippets that will yield story ideas if not outright novels.
Next week, we continue with more exercises using the Word Dice, and we will discuss plotting, compelling dialog, pacing, and characterization and how to access those before you edit.
We will finish up with some editing exercises and resources before I send them off to their new writing lives. Exciting!
Really, I could have taught an entire eight-week class on this and had material left over, but I’m glad I’m going to leave them wanting more. 🙂

Flash Your Fiction at HoCo College

I’ve been putting the finishing touches on the Flash Your Fiction workshop that I’m teaching at Howard Community College on Monday (February 26 and March 6), and it is going to be great!

We’re going to have great writing exercises, creativity-sparking activities, and we’re putting some science in our fiction and doing the cool Cloud in a bottle activity to start things off.

I’m not sure four hours will be enough! 🙂

I’ll let y’all know how it goes, for sure.


10-26 Flash Fiction Challenge (prompt words: horror and ratio)

“Done!” Haley shouted as she hit the Enter key. She collapsed against the back of her chair and removed her headphones.

“Are you serious?” Orson stuck his head in the booth. “We’re finished?”

“Yes, sir, we are outta here, Styled Hunter VII is in the can!” She grinned.

“Mallory DeMarco hunted and trapped The Hatchet Man once and for all, and never faltered on her Dolce and Gabbana strappy sandals. He’ll never attack the fashion industry’s hemlines ever again.”

“So, what’s next for you?” Orson popped open a beer.

“I think Mallory is taking on ‘The Hair Cutter.'”

“What, he scalps people?” He asked.

“Nope. He sneaks into their homes, drugs them, and gives them horrible haircuts.”

“You know, sometimes I think we’ve taken the ratio of horror to fashion too far to one side.”

“Yeah, I miss the good old days when serial killers actually killed their victims.

(Tee hee. There is something fun to me about serial killers who do things like shorten hemlines or give terrible haircuts. The challenging part of today’s story was figuring out the names of the movies and villains. I wanted them to have potential for true horror but be obvious in their fashion consciousness. I hope you enjoyed it.)

9-25 Flash Fiction Challenge (prompt words: decoration and pod)

“There! That’s perfect!” GCH11878 nodded to itself. It narrowed its eyes and studied the angle of the decoration that now hung from the top of its sleep pod. It had found the shred of shiny paper on garbage duty and hidden it away in its smock pocket.

“Not quite there,” it whispered and repositioned the bright red, blue, and white scrap so the markings in the center were in a straight line.

Twwoooeep Twwoooeep, the alarm reverberated throughout the Domicile. The whir of a Watcher sounded outside 11878’s pod.

“GCH11878,” the Watcher buzzed. “We have detected contraband in your pod. Remand yourself for reconditioning while your pod is sanitized.”

11878 gripped the outside of the tiny space and pulled itself out.

“Ouch,” it said as its fingers scraped against the markings on the outside of the pod.
G-I-R-L C-H-I-L-D H-U-M-A-N, the strange markings felt familiar, but it knew it would never remember what they meant.

(Yikes! Dystopia seems to be my inclination recently. The tough part about today’s micro-story was figuring out how to reveal what GCH stood for. I hope you liked how I did it and that it wasn’t revealed too early.)

Oh and if you are curious about the piece of paper? It was this: 9781419706325

10-23 Flash Fiction Challenge (prompt word: excluded)

“When I was in college, we ended up doing a guerrilla production of a show” Amanda took a sip of her latte.

“How do you do that? A clandestine production under the cover of night that no one knew to go see?” Charlie laughed.

“No, to protest that the theater department decided to a show with ten male parts and only one female, we decided to do our own since that excluded most of the people in the theater department from even auditioning.”

“That wouldn’t fly nowadays,” Charlie emphasized his statement with a salute of his coffee. “Hell, today, everyone auditions for everything. Look at Laverne Cox playing Frank N Furter in the Rocky Horror remake.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me,” Amanda rolled her eyes. “That movie did not need a remake.”

“True, but that’s not my point. It’s still progress. To progress then,” Charlie raised his mug.

“To progress!” Amanda clinked her mug with his. “Even if it does leave a ‘bad remakes are bad’ taste in my mouth.”

(This one is sort of autobiographical. We did mount a guerrilla production of Antigone [with three different Antigones trading off the role] when Sam Shepherd’s “City of Angels” was the play. We had a lot of women in the theater department and that play only had one female role. And they weren’t going to gender swap any casting so all the women had to vie for one role.

I didn’t audition. Instead, I assistant directed, and I had a blast. But I do remember that feeling of disappointment in the theater department for choosing something that felt so exclusionary. And the characters are right, I think. I don’t think it would fly nowadays. At least I hope it wouldn’t.)

10-21 Flash Fiction Challenge (prompt word: iron)

“Hey, Mom,” Jeremy cries. “Look at me!” He grabs the iron fireplace poker and ties it into a neat knot.

“Honey,” Doris Jameson sighs and picks up the twisted mass. “Now what am I going to do with it? I can’t use it for the fireplace anymore.”

Jeremy screws up his face in concentration.

“I know! You can use it as a trivet.”

“Jeremy,” she walks to the cupboard and opens it. It reveals twelve other mangled metal shapes. “I know your powers are getting stronger, but just how many trivets do you think I need?”

(I decided to play again with present tense. This doesn’t feel quite as compelling to me, but then the story itself is a bit more whimsical. How would a mother deal with a Super son who is growing into his powers but doesn’t have the reasoning capability to figure out not to behave like a typical five-year-old? If kids are always going to be kids, how do you deal with their lack of mature thought processes? I guess you end up with a lot of trivets. 🙂  )

10-13 Flash Fiction Challenge (prompt word: haunt)

“Okay, now that you’ve got your morning coffee, I want to ask your advice,” Ashley curled her voluptuous form in the overstuffed chair at the Java-Mukti cafe.

“What do you think of this?” she handed her phone to Anna.

“You are my why. You’re my one and only. You haunt my dreams,” Anna read the text and rolled her brown eyes.

“Seriously? This guy is supposed to be some greater writer? He’s a walking, talking cliché!” She sat back and sipped her mocha.

“So you don’t think I should meet him?”

“Sweetie, I don’t think you should even reply to him.”

(This is the second time the Java-Mukti cafe appeared in one of these flash fiction tales. I think it sounds like a super cool place, and if I were of a mind to open my business, I could see opening a free trade cafe like that.

I already like the denizens of the place. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this entry in my year-long flash fiction challenge. I write these stories from a prompt word. The bones of the story must be done in a single minute. I can edit to my heart’s content afterward, but the initial tale must be finished in that minute. The last time I did this it revolutionized my writing. I hope this time the project will have a similar effect.)

10-2-16 Flash Fiction Challenge (prompt word: incognito)

Laura stepped back from the mirror and appraised her right eye. An artful cat’s eye made her appear polished yet with a hint of mystery. With a curt nod, she applied the the same to her left eye.
James entered their shared hotel suite and stopped short.
“Do we have a mission tonight I didn’t know about?”
“No, why?” Laura gazed at his reflection through the mirror as she finished applying her makeup.
“Because you look hot, and you only do that when we’re on the job.”
“Thanks, a lot. So, what? The rest of the time I’m ugly?”
“Not ugly, exactly, but certainly not this.” He waved a hand in her direction.
“It’s not an alias,” she replied. “I’m not going incognito. I’ve got a date.”
“We don’t date. You can’t date.” James asserted.
“I can if I want to, and anyway, what do you care?”
“I don’t.”
“Good!” She grabbed her purse and left the suite.
He sank to the bed and gazed at the closed door.
“What do I care if she has a date? I don’t care,” he assured himself. “Do I?”

(This one took a bit longer than a minute to write. It feels like it’s a scene from a movie or something, doesn’t it? I feel like there’s an entire backstory to this relationship and the work the characters do that we don’t know about it. Are they spies? Are they running a con? Who are they that they would need aliases?

This one was dialogue-driven for sure. What do you think? Does the dialogue feel real? Could people speak like this and sound real? Or at least real for fiction? I’d love to know your thoughts.)

9-30-16 Flash Fiction Challenge (prompt word: digress)

“At this point, we can only speculate about the possible reason for the young lady’s apprehension that she was in dire danger,” Reginald Wiltshire Helmsworth sauntered around the room. He punctuated each by tapping his dapper fedora with his mahogany cane.

He skirted chairs, tables, and the occasional foot stuck out in the middle of the aisle.

“But I digress,” he faced his audience and raised a sardonic eyebrow. “You see it was all ruse, a trick! Because at that time, in England, where the Muffetts resided, there were no poisonous arachnids, and she would have known because her father was an entomologist!”

(I have a feeling Reginald would never allow someone to call him Reggie. So, the question is, how old is Reginald? Me? I’m guessing he’s no older than about six. I love him already. Can you imagine the care with which he chooses his words and his outfits? He sounds fantastic!

I hope you enjoyed today’s little tale.)

Getting to the edge

For those who have been reading this blog for my flash fiction challenge stories, I’ll have one later today. Right now, though, I’m pondering procrastination. Actually, no, wait. It’s not procrastination.

I’m not procrastinating on working on the thing I need to do. I am getting things done. But, oh, wow, it’s like watching trees breathe. Things are happening inside me. I am making micro strides toward my goal, but instead of taking the leap and starting, I am arranging everything so it is just so.

That can’t be right. Inching my way forward has never been my style. I’ve always jumped in. Always. But for this, this really important part of my life (the Earth Science education work I do with children to help them understand our planet and make informed decisions as they grow), I am hesitating.

Me, mid-dive over Key West, Florida

The best way I can describe is skydiving. The one time I tried skydiving, I did it. I am not afraid of heights. I love them. I am pretty adventurous and willing to take on most challenges. But I remember being in that little rusty plane flying over Key West. As we ascended to 10,000 feet (the good jump elevation), I got increasingly nervous. What the heck was I doing? I was a nutter. But no, I persevered and didn’t tell them descend and let me out of that little bucket of bolts.

Then, the instructor gave us directions. What we would need to do and how we would need to do it. I understood and knew I would be going first. My husband would follow. As the instructor attached himself to my back for our tandem dive, everything began to move in super slo-mo. I was inching my way towards the door, but every movement became deliberate and slow. It was almost like I started testing myself to see how little I could do while still making some sort of progress towards this thing I had always wanted but had never done. Eventually, I did, and it was incredible. So freeing. But as I edged towards the open door,

Right now, I am facing the same dilemma with my Earth Lady work. I know I need to get out there and get more schools interested in the work and projects I can provide. Once they hear about it and once they work with me, they’re on board! But those initial contacts? Yikes! They scare me. I know what I need to do, but I am moving through quicksand. Every single motion slows me down. I inch forward. Yesterday, I promised myself I would identify ten schools I could call. I outdid myself and listed eleven. Small victory, though. I haven’t called a one. Today, I will. Even if I fail miserably.

The other day, my husband and I listened to Benji Bruce’s webinar on getting work. He said something that resonated: “You can make excuse or you can make money. You can’t do both at the same time.”


If I modify it to fit my predicament, it would be, “You can make progress or you can make excuses. You can’t do both at the same time.”

And what’s more, I think that can be said for any endeavor. If we want it, we can make it happen, but it will take work – dedicated, constant work.

And, I’m off to do just that!