A place for writing off-the-cuff
Coverart by TheGirlInTheBigBox. Visit her online art portfolio by clicking here: http://thegiriInthebigbox.deviantart.com/
In 2011, my main focus will be on writing a novel. Since I'm a novice novelist, I've decided to come at the project from different angles, exploring the genre and experimenting with its elements. This blog and its offsite sister blog will be my journals where I attack novel-writing one day at a time.
As I was creating my BlogSpot page, the inspiration for the blog solidified in my mind. I named that blog "One Significant Moment at a Time." In essence, I want to use the format as a reminder to walk through my life with my author's eyes open, taking in the details, feeling the emotions of the day. As moments unfold and I feel their affects on me as a person, a woman, a mother, a sister, a member of the world community, I'll let the writer in me talk about it.
Creative Nonfiction is the genre most fitting to describe what I envision accomplishing here, moreso than blogging or journaling. The style is best suited, I feel, for my ambitions as a novelist.
In addition, Friday entries will not be written by me. Instead, I'll turn the keyboard over to one of the characters in my novel. He or she will relate the events of the day as s/he saw them, through the filter of his or her perception.
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|I've officially signed up for NaNoWriMo! I'm very excited, worried, not sure how to prepare, not sure if I should prepare....yikes! I was wondering if other, more seasoned NaNo participants have any good advice?
Also, like all websites I begin navigating, the NaNo site seems a little confusing. Do people interact a lot on there? I saw there were forums and blogs, but I didn't know who uses them and when. Is there a way to visit other people's profile pages? Anyone have any tips?
|I spent the day yesterday with my cousin and her family. A couple years back, she found out her husband was cheating. Their marriage teetered on the brink of the abyss for over six months, then slowly they worked their way back to each other. Now, they're solid. Granite solid. But when things were coming apart, my cousin declared to herself that life was too short to waste the good days. When you're knee deep in bad, you have new perspective. She decided she was going to go skydiving, something she had always wanted to do but never dared try.
A couple weeks ago, with her now faithful life partner next in the jump line, she did it. The two of them went skydiving. When I watched their videos yesterday, I was filled with awe that she would dare to jump out of a plane at 14,000 ft! She fell at a speed of 120 miles per hour! The picture of her taken by the company's photographer that documents each jump's experience is now her desktop wallpaper. Firey sunset colors outline the profile of her body and her face is the picture of living-in-the-moment joy.
I'm not an adrenalin junkie, but I want an experience that forces me right in the middle of the present. I want to my immediate senses hightened, my emotions raw and all about the moment, not the moment before or the one after. So, I've been thinking: What would that experience be, for me?
I've never scuba dived on a coral reef. That's what comes right to mind. I'm sure there are other ideas if I gave myself more time to think. But, scuba diving would be awesome! Oh, and I want to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. And I want to climb over the top of the bridge at Sydney's harbor.....
What about you? If money were no object...what would you dare do?
|Something funny happened the other day. My husband was going to Augusta the next day for work, but only had a sketchy layout of the quarry and wanted a better look. He had to kick me off the computer to log onto Google Earth, but it'd been a while since we'd "played" with it, so I didn't complain too much.
He pulled the program up and put the address of the quarry into the search box. The globe began spinning and we went into a spiral nose dive into Augusta. Once Christian had looked at the aerial shots, he clicked on Roads and Maps. This brought us even closer to the quarry. It was then that we noticed camera icons along the routes. Christian clicked on the camera closest to the quarry, and the view dipped at a radical angle at the same time that a large bubble appeared on the screen. It looked like the view in a large round mirror in the corner of parking garages. The warped view grew and flattened out, until the screen became a digital photograph of the entrance to the quarry, as if we were sitting on the road ready to turn in. By scrolling with the mouse, we could turn 360 degrees and enjoy a panoramic view of the location. There were other camera icons along the road, and by clicking on each one you get a similar view from a new location. Too cool!
We put our home address in next. The last time we tried to see our place, Google Earth's most up-to-date aerial shots had been taken when there was no house build on our lot. Now, we were able to see our actual house. Someone had stood on the road right in front of our place and snapped a panoramic view. I had a strange feeling when I realized this, but it was still pretty cool. We could actually narrow our guess as to when the pic was snapped based on the fact that the basketball marquee my parents bought the kids is visible, as well as the patch where we fixed the driveway.
Next, we put my sister's address in. She lives in Palm Harbor, Florida. We were whisked there quickly since GA and FL are close, and we clicked the camera on her street. We panned around and...there was her house....and OUR CAR WAS PARKED IN HER DRIVEWAY?!! Apparently, the pictures had been taken of her neighborhood last summer the week we spent our vacation with them. How hilarious is that?
If anyone hasn't played around with Google Earth lately, it really is a blast. We put Christian's home town in the search engine and found ourselves in the middle of Vichy, France. You can literally go where you want on a virtual vacation.
Here's the link for anyone who hasn't downloaded it yet. It's free!
I haven't tried to put Africa in there yet, but that's my next virtual trip!
|Well, writing off-the-cuff has officially kicked my arse today. It was like pulling teeth to get this little ditty written. I fought the urge to re-write, and lost several times. The exercise from Acme's "2nd September" was this:
Whatever way you look at it, our protagonists need a dark edge, and our antagonists need redeeming features to make us interested in them, their choices, and their story. Just like comparative imagery adds a powerful punch to our writing, so do a broad spectrum of personality traits in a character.
Think of a character type (cop, killer, bully, hero etc.,) and write them a scene where a little of their 'other' side can shine out.
Jasmine perched on the edge of the bench backrest with her black Converse high tops planted on its seat. She’d been comfortable enough when she first sat on the narrow spot and enjoyed a better view of the street than she would have had seated in the conventional fashion. She thought this pose went better with her outfit, too. But the rigid reality of the backrest’s unforgiving pressure against the tender base of her tailbone had her wishing the bus would get here already.
She craned her neck to look up an empty Emory Avenue; the chinks of her many strands of miniscule glass beads floated on the nighttime air. It was a more pleasant sound than the groaning she’d listened to in the Emergency Room for the past three hours. Jimmy was such a loser. Hadn’t she told him not to smoke that thing? If you don’t know where it came from, you don’t smoke it. Period. He’d scoffed at her, called her uncool. Then when he’d started tripping, all his “friends” had bugged out, leaving her to deal with him. She should have split when the drugs came out in the first place, but no, her pride had kept her there. She shifted her bottom a little, wincing as she repositioned the painful trench left by such an unyielding roost. Jimmy’d really started losing his shit, trying to rub off the spiders he saw crawling over his body. It’d taken her twenty minutes to scrounge enough dollar bills and loose change around Jimmy’s apartment for cab fare. The cabbie hadn’t been cordial on the way to the hospital, but she guessed she didn’t blame him.
The highlight of the evening had definitely been meeting Dr. Satterfield. Talk about handsome! He was old enough to be Jasmine’s father, but something about the flourish of his salt and pepper hair or the slight swagger in his gait sent the butterflies in her tummy in flight. She’d listened to the baritone voice instead of what he said, and even now her cheeks flared with the memory of having to ask him to repeat himself every time he’d spoken. She’d narrowed her eyes at the glint of gold on his left hand. She never entertained the hope that he’d feel the same immediate connection to her as she felt for him, but realizing he was married had been a blow to her optimism just the same.
Footsteps echoed on the still night from behind, and Jasmine stiffened. She wrapped her hand firmly around her woven Guatemalan sack, ready to wield it as a weapon if necessary. She jumped at a voice.
“Not sure there’s a bus at this hour. Need a lift?”
Jasmine stood on the bench and spun around. She hardly towered over Dr. Satterfield’s tall form. The street light shone on his hair and reflected a sparkle of light back at her from baby blue eyes. Jasmine stared at him, mesmerized.
“Miss Smythe? Would you like a ride home?”
Jasmine gave her head a rousing shake and smiled. “Thanks, Dr. Satterfield. That’d be great.”
She hopped off the bench and Dr. Satterfield led the way to the hospital staff parking lot. She tried to concentrate on his conversation, but found herself wondering how many lives he’d saved in his career in the ER, or what his beautiful wife must be like. What a lucky woman. As they approached his car, Jasmine drew in a sharp breath.
“Is this an Alpha B7?” she asked.
“Wow, you really know your cars,” he answered.
“Just BMWs. My brother was a dealer in northern California. We’d walk the lot and dream about riding around in these cars.”
Dr. Satterfield grinned as he drew a set of keys from his pocket. With a touch of a button, the car’s lights illuminated, the door locks popped up, and the engine roared to life. He walked ahead of Jasmine to the passenger side and opened the door. Leaning in, he hastily pulled file folders and loose papers off the passenger seat and tossed them into the backseat.
“Sorry about the stuff on the floor. Just nudge it aside, if you will.”
Jasmine offered a bashful smile as she lowered herself into the bucket seat. As the door swung shut, the smell hit her. Her hand covered her nose and mouth, and a grimace furrowed her forehead. She swallowed past a gag, her mind reeling as it tried to identify the odor. It seemed to be a horrible combination of humid garbage, old gym socks, and a cat’s litter box. She glanced at the console housing the stick shift. In a drink holder was a half eaten apple with black and green mold growing on it. Jasmine quickly looked away and stared at her feet as Dr. Satterfield slid into the driver’s seat. Her eyes grew wide as she prodded the debris at her feet with the toe of her sneaker. Discarded take out containers, some not quite empty, and Styrofoam coffee cups littered the floor up to her ankles. Slowly, she raised her large, questioning eyes to Dr. Satterfield.
He smiled back. “Okay, so what’s your address?”
(9:45 am )
|I've been a member of deviantart.com for months, but I used the site solely to search for images for my sig shop. It never occurred to me to upload my own original art. (Okay, I'll admit it: a contributing factor was I didn't realize I had a scanner on my printer until last week, so I didn't know I could get my drawings from a real life portfolio to a virtual one ) When I was overseas, especially when I was in Africa, I had long blocks of time to fill and pass the days. I hadn't discovered writing (for an audience) and though I kept a daily journal, my writing was restricted to jotting down at the end of the day what I'd done. I did a lot of drawing back then. I made my own greeting cards and then wrote in them, and sent them to friends and sisters back home. When I wasn't in the mood, I sketched and drew "for me."
So, today I uploaded some of that work to my deviant art gallery. If you'd like to check it out, here's the link:
|A quick look at events of the past can take your imagination on some fabulous journeys. Take a peek at any 'this day in history' page on the web….Write: Does one of the events capture your imagination? See where/when your imagination takes you!
I’ve been reviewing all day, fulfilling auction packages that were won over the weekend, and my muse is fried. I wanted to write a little, and reading Acme ’s daily exercise prompt got me thinking about this date.
I didn’t have to visit a “this day in history” site to remember. August 31st is my father-in-law’s birthday, and I my husband and I were spending the weekend at his parent’s house in Cusset, France, to celebrate. We were still newlyweds at the time; our first wedding anniversary wasn’t for another two weeks. (Note to self: your wedding anniversary is in two weeks. ). We came down the narrow wooden stairs from my husband’s childhood bedroom at a leisurely hour: 8:00 a.m. By that time, my in-laws had already had breakfast, fed the chickens, tended the sheep and rabbits, weeded the garden, planted two rows of winter lettuce, gone into town to the boulangerie for the daily bread, and pulled up potatoes and begun peeling them for homemade “French fries” (did you know the Belgians, not the French, came up with French fries?) for lunch.
We left the staircase and entered the living room where My mother-in-law greeted us with a kiss on each cheek and the words that sent a chill across my skin: La Princesse Diana est morte.
I couldn’t believe my ears. How could Lady Diana be dead? She was so young, beautiful, and an angel amongst us. The whole world mourned her, but the French were deeply affected by her passing, perhaps because she died in their country. It was all we talked about for weeks afterward. I remember crying easily and often; it seemed all I had to do was think about her, her life, her children, and the tears flowed. What a terrible loss.
I admired Lady Di for her humanitarian work. She recognized, long before it was in fashion, the incredible hardships in sub-Saharan Africa, and I will always remember her more for her work with the suffering children there than her elegance or her turbulent years with Prince Charles.
Rest in peace, Princess of the People.
A chase scene (any genre/style). Be sure to think about the verbs you use to bring it to life!
Through the fringe of hair hanging from her bent head, she kept the man in her peripheral vision. He was still staring at her, though he hadn’t moved from his seat since the last passenger got off the subway at the previous stop, leaving the two of them alone. She cursed herself for working so late, and for taking the last train before service stopped for the night. The hairs on her arms stood on end, as if the stranger produced static energy. An automated voice announced the next stop. It wasn’t hers.
The train slowed, then jerked to a stop. The doors slid open, but she sat still, aping a bored teenager. The chimes echoed through the deserted platform and the doors began to close. With the agility of a jack rabbit, she jumped from her seat, grazing the door’s edge as she sailed through and away from the menace, real or imagined, on the train.
She must have tripped the sensor, because the doors slid back open. Over her shoulder, she saw the man walked onto the platform. In the same instant, they broke into a run.
Inadequate lungs refused to expand quick enough as she sprinted for the escalators, running up the moving tread two steps at a time. She cried out but there was no one on the level where the fare card vending machines sat in silence. Grunts reached her ears, and she knew not to stop.
Her pumps skidded on the glossy tiled floor in front of the final escalator leading to ground level. As she fell, she raised her eyes to the square of hazy nighttime sky, feeling the freedom it promised slip farther from her reach. Her scream was muffled by a rough hand clapped over her mouth; a small static shock discharged at his touch.
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|I'll never forget the day I received the large white envelope in the mail. It'd been a year since I'd mailed off the manuscript-size Peace Corps application, and though during the ensuing six months I'd been asked in for two extensive interviews, I still feared I wouldn't be accepted into the program. I imagined rejection letters came in business-sized envelopes, so holding this 8½x11-inch monster's heft in my hands and staring at the Peace Corps logo printed in the return address corner had my heart slamming against my ribcage.
I tore the envelope open and read the first sentence of the cover letter over and over. "Congratulations, you have received an invitation to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Central African Rebublic." My hands shook so badly I had trouble dialing the phone, but I finally got through to my then-boyfriend. He was less excited than I was to hear the news, and then he asked a question to which I didn't know the answer: "Where the hell is the Central African Republic?"
I later learned, intimately, that the Central African Republic (CAR) is a land-locked country located dead center on the African continent. It shares borders to the north with Chad and to the south with The People's Republic of the Congo, which was known when I was there as Zaire.
My time in CAR was fascinating, heartwrenching, challenging, life-altering, and dangerous. I kept extensive journals while I was there, and I referred to them this month while writing a new short story about an experience I had which would be the climactic scene, if my two years in CAR were a novel.
I would love to hear what you think about this story, especially since it is entered in "Show Off Your Best at the Sandbox" which closes on Monday. There's an auto-reward of 2,250 gps for reviews!
I also scanned some of my photos from Africa, and uploaded them to this photo album:
My group was evacuated when the Peace Corps pulled out of CAR in 1996, when war broke out between the national Army and then-president Patasse's private, presidential guard. There has now been thirteen years of fighting and political unrest in the CAR, and the fabric of its society is in tatters. The CAR in the seventh poorest nation on the planet. War has devastated the country, AIDS has left millions of orphaned children, and banditry and rape are everyday realities. Writing my story has brought back memories, and I wonder how the Central Africans who touched my heart are faring today.
Celebrate WDC's Birthday: Sign up and get your Merit Badge!
|(This writing assignment is actually the second entry I've made today. Please also check out the WDC Birthday Activity I created featured in today's previous entry!)
This assignment is from "Invalid Item"
Drawing a Blank
Capturing a visual moment with your pen is a great way to get your inner writer into gear; we are, after all, translators. Whether you are in your home, out and about, or sat at your computer, you will find art everywhere (even the doctors surgery waiting room!). Find a picture, study it: is it bland or inspiring? Either way, can you imagine a story behind it? This could be the artist's story, the buyer's story, or just a mood you captured from it.
For no more than 15 minutes writing, take your reader into that picture's story.
From the north side of the room, Monelle stared through the lens of her prized Nikon mounted on a tripod. The sun streamed through sheer drapes that covered the entire span of the east wall, from crown molding to wide planks of mahogany flooring, including the windows. Monelle could see the ghostly outline of the half circle window atop the plate one below it and scoffed to herself at the choice to cover a gorgeous window like that. The light illuminated the alabaster walls and played off the texture in the brick fireplace that had been painted with high gloss white paint. Monelle straightened to survey the room with her naked eye and clucked her tongue. The overstuffed sofa and all its throw pillows were white, as was the pair of Louis XIV chairs opposite the chrome and glass coffee table, piled high with stacks of large white books with alluring titles like, “Guess Who.” Underneath the table was spread a zebra hide that was intended to be, she supposed, a playful splash of color along with the black and white gingham throw draped across a white ottoman as if it had been casually discarded there the night before. Monelle chuckled without smiling. This room is an asylum, she thought. She knew her editor wanted her to capture the chic elegance of this hoity-toity apartment, but the artist in her was rebelling, hard.
Suddenly, she remembered the lovely landscaping she admired when she approached the place that morning. She called to the butler who had been stationed at the great room entrance since her arrival. He raised an eyebrow when she demanded scissors, but he fetched them quickly just the same. Marching with her weapon in hand, she exited the house and chose a young shoot from a dwarf Japanese maple at the corner of the building. It took just a minute to cut-saw through the narrow branch, though she had to hold it at arm’s length back into the building so she didn’t trip as its fullness obstructed her view of the stoop.
She reached into the deep neck of the rectangular hurricane-style holder on the coffee table and lifted out the chunky, foot-tall white pillar candle. In its place, she set the large branch. The emerald leaves popped against the sameness of the décor, and seemed to breathe life into the room, drawing the eye to the center of the space. Monelle’s heart began to race as she snapped frame after frame, and her trained eye knew she was seeing through the camera lens a contender for next month’s cover.
(10:33 am -- Oops )
|I love writing.com SO much! My life has changed since I discovered this website, and I have grown as a writer because of the incredible talent here that inspires me every day and the support members have shown me in the course of the past two years. It's hard to put my finger on the most amazing aspect of this site; I think if I tried there'd be a fifty-way tie! I do think reviewing is up there, though. The lessons writers receive and impart through reviews are instrumental to growth in their craft.
With that in mind, I've come up with an activity in celebration of Writing.com and its upcoming birthday. Won't you check it out?
|Today's exercise was a lot of fun and I had absolutely no idea where it was going to go.
26 lines of dialogue can take you to some unusual places... often good ones!
A two person dialogue, no narrative, starting with the first letter of the alphabet and working your way to Z:
"After three years of marriage, I’m finally seeing your true colors!"
"Be a dear and hand me the remote control."
"Can’t you see I’m trying to communicate something to you here?"
"Don’t you realize we’re not in a commercial break?"
"Evan, that’s not funny. I need to get this off my chest!"
"For heaven’s sake, Debra, you are getting yourself all worked up over nothing."
"Gilda saw Brent kiss Natalie!"
"He wasn’t kissing her! Gilda’s blind as a bat and had been drinking mojitos all afternoon – how do you know what she saw?"
"I heard it from Karen who was told by Janet that she overheard Gilda tell Maggie."
"Karen’s friend from pilates class."
"Let’s see, that makes six degrees of separation between me and…who saw it again?"
"Maybe you think this is all a big joke, but I’m worried sick about Brent."
"No you’re not. You’re upset because you don’t like Natalie."
"Open your eyes, Evan! Natalie is a bimbo and is probably crawling with venereal diseases."
"Possibly, but that’s Brent’s problem. He’s a grown up, he doesn’t need his big sister interfering with his love life."
"Question: Was Brent acting like a grown up when he built that ramp in the road and broke his collar bone tryng to do X-Games tricks on his bike?"
"Responsibly, though – he had his helmet on, remember?"
"Shocking! You come to his defense again and again. I don’t get it!"
"Try to see things from my perspective: Brent’s a guy who does “guy things,” including wanting to kiss hot girls. He’s normal, let him be."
"Underneath Natalie’s “hot-ness” is a heart of stone. She’ll devastate Brent and I can’t watch it happen."
"Volunteering your opinion isn’t going to help Brent; you’re only going to piss him off, again."
"What do you mean, again?"
"X-Games mishap ring any bells? You read him the riot act for trying, as you put it, “that asinine circus trick.” He didn’t speak to you for a month."
"Your advice to me, then, is what? To just keep quiet?"
"Zen meditation, Deb, that’s what you need. Why don’t you start now, since my program is back on."
|Acme 's writing exercise for today is perfect, because I plan to work on an entry for "Show Off Your Best at the Sandbox" and this is a warm-up exercise. The first book my eyes fell on was my eleven-year old's copy of The Simarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I'm not a fantasy writer so this is parochial at best -- but I met the goal, at least. I began writing at 7:50 am and finished at 8:07.
A fifteen minute warm-up writing exercise.
Pick a book off a shelf.
Turn to a random page.
Pick any sentence you fancy to be the first sentence of your fifteen minute writing exercise.
Take that sentence anywhere you want. Write only for fifteen minutes.
He walked in the deserted ways of Tirion, and the dust upon his raiment and his shoes was a dust of diamonds, and he shone and glistened as he climbed the long white stairs. He was home, and his hammering heart pounded out a code of longing and joy that hissed along his arteries, mingling with the chilly blood of resentment until his fingertips grew cold and his face froze in a determined grimace. He thought the years away had healed him, and the anger simmering under the surface of his skin surprised him. He was a changed man. He’d sought success and captured it like a prized possession. So why was bitterness gnawing at his soul?
At the top of the stairs, he paused at the massive black door and stared at his reflection in its lacquered surface. He saw the long locks of twisted hair cascading down his shoulders, each strand a witness to the time that had passed since his departure. He inhaled, feeling his chest rise, imagining courage filling each to capacity. He raised a smooth hand and grasped the golden knocker. Its baritone chime echoed through the halls beyond for only a moment before his reflection retreated off the side of the opening door.
“Master Charleton! It’s so good to see you, sir,” gushed the servant. The three braided strands of his beard quivered as he bowed deeply. Without straightening, he said, “I shall announce your arrival immediately.”
He turned but stopped suddenly.
“That won’t be necessary,” a voice boomed.
The servant bowed and scurrying away. Charleton found himself face to face with his father.
|I'm not certain I followed this exercise to the tee, but writing off-the-cuff is supposed to be uninhibited so I let the writing go where it wanted to go. I forgot to look at the clock, but I think I started writing at around 8:30 am and finished just before 10. I had to think for a few minutes for an idea for the first scene to form in my mind. When I finished it, I started right into the second without plotting a thing -- I just had 'comedy' in my mind. (I stink at comedy, btw. )
Here's the exercise offered by my comedy-writing idol Acme . Now SHE can write comedy!
There's a way to inject any genre in the main genre that your writing, and it usually pays off. Romantic Comedies can convey the horror of nightmare scenarios, and historical stories of all varieties can carry action adventure.
What's the worst thing you can imagine happening now? Write it. Now look at the tone of it and see if you can add comedy, or drama, or action, or ... etc., etc.,
Try writing out the scenario in a few different styles.
The contest deadline had loomed in the distant future like that speck of light floating in the darkness on a midnight road trip to Las Vegas. I wasn’t too concerned with the mild bout of writer’s block when I first read the prompt. Write a biographical or autobiographical story. The idea had popped into my head at once: I’ll write about the harrowing experience when I was kidnapped by rebel soldiers in the Central African Republic. Then the beginning blocked me. If I could just get the right opening paragraphs down, the rest would flow. Hell, it’d gush. Those memories lived in Technicolor relief on the landscape of my mind. Yet the beginning eluded me, and the days were drops of water falling one by one, slowly filling the month’s vessel, torturing me with increasing anxiety. Come on! It’s my story, I lived it, just tell it!
And then, just like that, it came to me. I was in the shower, where inspiration has an uncanny habit of striking me. Maybe it’s the warm water flowing down my head that relaxes my mind and unlocks creative doors? I don’t know, but today, I saw the perfect jumping off point for my story float before my eyes on the billowing steam of the shower stall. I gave the curved handle a hard counterclockwise twist and slid open the door on its railing so violently it rebounded and hit me as my foot hit the bathmat. I grabbed a towel and twisted it around my body as I dashed through the house and up to my office.
I felt rivulets of cool water run from my dripping hair and down my back. Every few seconds I heard a dull splot as drops fell from shorter strands that weren’t plastered to my head directly to the black with white polka-dot upholstered chair. Neither the cold on my wet body nor the sounds reminiscent of melting icicles distracted my attention. My fingers flew across the keyboard, striking the keys without mercy as the paragraphs flowed out of mind and across the computer screen. My heart pounded with elation. Finally, with just days to spare before the contest deadline, a blocked door had been flung open –
And then the screen was blue.
From top to bottom, left to right, royal blue glowed with seamless wrath. I stared at it, then I shot a look at my hard drive. The light was on, but clearly, something bad had happened. Goosebumps covered my wet flesh from under my hair to my big toe, and I screamed, “Nnnooooo!”
I’m a contest junkie. What can I say? I can’t get enough thrill of getting an entry in there and then waiting, waiting, waiting with delicious anticipation for the judges to announce the winners. It’s like, what? I know! It’s sort of like planning a big night out and going shopping the day before, looking for the perfect outfit. You know how you want to feel, what personality you want to present, so you hunt for just the right colors and styles, and all the while you feel the butterflies tickling your tummy. The preparation is as exciting as the outcome.
Well, this contest prompt posted, and the idea for a story lit my world like the morning sun. The problem was I couldn’t pinpoint where I should start off. I played it cool, waited a couple days for the wily opening to come out of its hiding place. Then a day turned into a week, and a week became two. The adrenalin rush I usually enjoy turned on me, and excitement morphed into stress.
With just days before the contest deadline, I’d all but given up. I’d shopped and shopped, but never found that perfect outfit. I peeled off the clothes I was wearing and stepped into the shower. As soon as the warm water streamed down my head, the perfect opening popped into my mind. I couldn’t let it evaporate like the steam filling the stall, so I turned off the water and jumped onto the bathmat. Grabbing a towel as I ran toward the door, all my concentration was on those words I held in my mind’s fist and getting them into the computer before they slipped free.
I was halfway across the living room when I froze. I clutched the towel to my front; a drop of water fell from a strand of hair and I felt it roll down the small of my bare back and into the crack of my buttocks. My husband’s friend cleared his throat and looked away, taking an awkward sip from his bottle of Miller Lite. My husband, whose twisted sense of humor was one of the reasons I’d been attracted to him when we first met, smiled with casual affability, though I noted the twinkle in his eyes.
“Oh good, dear, you’re home. I’d like to introduce you to our new neighbor.”
|This writing assignment was posted by Acme for a new group she created. It is my first attempt at writing off-the-cuff, and it was a real challenge not to re-write every sentence like I usually do! (Sometimes...I did , but only a couple.) Here's the assignment as Acme typed it:
Animals are great tools for us to borrow characteristics from. Who hasn't heard of a salesman as slippery as an eel, or sneak-thief with cat-like grace.
Think of an animal. Write its name in the middle of a sheet of paper. Create a spider graph (pardon the pun), by writing positive and negative descriptive words around the animal. eg:
Horse: (+) loyal, hard-working, noble (-) plodding, docile, mindless
Before any horse lovers find offense, the object here is to try to look at all aspects of the animals nature.
Prepare several animals.
Chose two of your animals and write a flash fiction using their attributes in developing the characters. eg:
CSI: Policeman - Horse
Criminal - Spider
The options are many and varied.
And, here is my work:
Positive: playful, curious, agile, innocent, harmless, trusting, affectionate
Negative: doesn’t know its limits, doesn’t understand danger, destructive, needy, stubborn
Positive: graceful, independent, instills fear in others, beautiful, glossy skin
Negative: fragile, may be poisonous, at the mercy of its environment, misunderstood, predatory
Positive: able to fly, beautiful singer, free, lithe, social
Negative: nervous, distrustful, loud
Characters: Victoria (snake); A bunch of female gym newbies (kittens)
Victoria entered the gym quickly, pulling hard on the handle of the steamed up glass door and forcing it closed faster than if its mechanism had done the job. Wisps of chestnut hair framing her face had stubbornly escaped the tight ponytail holder at the crown of her head, and they moved in the last gust of frigid air that rushed in before the door sealed out the cold. She rubbed her hands together as she made her way to the wall of cubbies and fished out a pair of running shoes from her bag. Kicking off her snow-dampened tennis shoes, she stowed them and the bag in a cubby, and then sat on the floor to put on the dry ones.
She never wore her running shoes anywhere but inside the gym. Their treads were as clean as the day she bought them, despite the fact that she’d probably clocked 300 treadmill miles in them already. Once they were snuggly laced up, she grabbed the jewel-toned aluminum water bottle from the mesh holder at the end of the stowed bag and headed for the cardio stage.
She passed several of the regulars who appeared engrossed in their workouts, but she felt their eyes on her once she’d walked by. There were only two other people in the cardio area: a gentleman in his early sixties with white iPod earplugs in his ears, which prevented him from hearing how loudly he cleared his throat every thirty seconds, and a white haired woman wearing black wind-breaker pants and a white tee shirt that shouted “I found Jesus at Jefferson First Baptist Church.” The woman smiled broadly at Victoria, who mumbled “good morning” as she moved past her to the farthest treadmill on the platform.
Victoria was halfway through her three-mile workout when the door opened and a gaggle of young women entered the gym. Victoria groaned to herself. The women had begun working out right after the end of the year holidays, so she gave them kudos for making it past the three week mark when most gym newbies gave up on their New Year’s Resolutions. None of them were particularly overweight, but Victoria had overheard several of their loud conversations about their recent pregnancies and escapades as new mothers. It was clear they were determined to support each other and get back into shape.
They certainly played the part. Each donned expensive workout clothes with matching racer back tops with yoga-style pants and bright white sneakers. They called to each other from across the weight training area and laughed with boisterous abandon as if they were in a gym in their own basement. Though Victoria was at the gym every day, and smiled at these women when she caught their eyes, she never felt invited into their conversations.
At the three mile mark, Victoria slowed to a walk to bring her heart rate back down, and she planned her weight training session. She’d done chest and triceps on Monday and legs on Wednesday, so she decided it would be back and biceps today. She took a long swig of water, exited the treadmill program, and wiped the machine down with disinfectant spray. She visited the cubby area to retrieve fingerless gloves from her bag. As she made her way to the area whose perimeter was lined with racks of dumb bells, she passed three of the giggling women standing next to the cable pulley machine. Victoria greeted them, and they stopped talking to stare at her. One woman offered a ‘hey’ but that was it. The blood rushed to Victoria’s face, and she scolded herself for caring that they were cold to her.
Victoria chose two fifteen pound dumb bells and sat on an inclined bench. The cool metal drew her focus to the weight stretching her biceps as she lowered them to either side of her hips and into start position. She let out a deep breath and glanced at herself in the mirror in front of her. Beyond her reflection, she noticed the three women watching her.
Channeling her attention away from the women in the mirror, she fused her elbows to her sides and concentrated on contracting the bicep muscle as she curled the dumb bells up in line with her collar bone. Twisting at the top of the movement, she then lowered the weights fluidly back to start position. As she worked, the room disappeared around her. With each repetition, the muscles in her arm bulged into tight knots of power. The burn began around the seventh rep, and by the fourteenth she was on the cusp of fatigue and failure. She blew two hard puffs of air out and filled her lungs before she began forcing the weights up for the fifteenth repetition. Her breath hissed out with slow release that mingled with sheer will power until she reached the top of the movement.
Placing the weights on the floor, she reached her arms out wide to the sides, making a thumbs-down sign with her hands to increase the stretch to her biceps. She looked into the mirror and gasped.
The three women had attached a straight bar to the bottom cable clip, and placed a Bosu Ball in front of the weight stack. The Bosu Ball is a piece of training equipment, a stability ball that is cut in half and mounted on a flat rubber platform. One of the women mounted the Bosu Ball and her friend handed her the straight bar attached to the cable connecting it to the weight stack. As Victoria watched in horror, the woman began a very wobbly squat atop the ball. Victoria was on her feet and moving toward the women when the girl on the ball attempted a second repetition. Countering the weights and keeping her balance proved to be too much, and as her ankle buckled under her she fell to the side. The crash of the weights falling atop the rest of the stack echoed around the room, turning every head in their direction.
Victoria rushed to the woman as her friends surrounded her. “Oh my God,” Victoria said, “are you hurt?”
The woman rubbed her ankle but insisted she was all right. Victoria introduced herself. “I’ve never seen anyone do squats on a stability ball, and I don’t recommend it at all,” she said gently.
The woman regarded her sheepishly. “You’re in such great shape; you really know what you’re doing in here. I’m just learning. Some teenager was doing this last night so I thought I’d try it.”
“It looks too easy to hurt yourself.” Victoria paused. “If you want, I can show you how to do squats on the Smith machine. It’s a cable machine too, so you get the assistance like you were getting here, but you can rack the bar at any point of motion if you need to. It’s much safer than this thing.” She nudged the Bosu Ball to the side with her toe.
When Victoria left the gym later that morning, it was to a cheerful chorus of “Bye, Victoria!” and “See you next time!” At the door, one of the regulars she’d passed at the outset of her workout said, “Hey, ever think of doing some personal training? A gal in your shape would have no problem getting clients. In fact, they’d probably line up to work with you, behind me, of course!” he added with a grin.
|I may end up writing often about my family, so it seems appropriate to make some introductions right off the bat. Here we are:
Cody is the little face in the bottom left corner. He is eleven years old and started middle school this year. (Yes, here in Georgia, the kids went back to school on August 3rd!) Next to him is Sidney, my nine year old daughter and brand new fourth grader. Then yours truly, and my sweet husband, Christian.
These guys are everything to me. Though I barely remember back then, there was a time when I said I'd never get married or have children. Now, I can't imagine my life without them!
BTW, in the background you can see the fish tank which is now the home of our betta fish, Mr. Oddie, but was once empty and ispired this humorous poem. Enjoy!