If you care to share, either post a link to your story in the comments, or post the whole story.
I can’t wait to see what you write!
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My wife and I are big fans of books by Mo Willems. We’ve been taking bi-weekly trips to the library with the girls, hoping to find new Mo Willems books to read to them. Most recently, we picked up Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs.
I don’t want to spoil the book for you, because you should read it yourself, but one of the two morals for the story is, “If you find yourself in the wrong story, leave.” I won’t tell you what the other moral is, because you really do need to go read the book. But that moral got me thinking about what it means to be in the wrong story.
When I was younger, I used to wonder what I would do for a living when I grew up. When I was a fan of rock collecting, I wanted to be a geologist. When rocks lost their hold on me, I wanted to be an astronaut. When I realized how horrible it would be to die in space, I found inspiration on television and wanted to be just like Dave Coulier from Full House. In high school, I was such a band geek that I considered becoming a high school band teacher. In college, I looked back on my times as a camp counselor and pursued a degree in Recreation. And where am I now?
I work in a bookstore, planning and marketing events. I am a writer, waiting to be published, but I honestly don’t know whether to devote my time to memoir, flash fiction, or YA fiction. I have a beautiful family, wonderful friends, and a good job, but aside from knowing that I am happy, I don’t know where my story is going. I don’t think I’m in the wrong story, I just can’t see the plot of the story that I’m in.
Have you ever found yourself in the wrong story? Do you know where your story is headed?
I took a few days off this week to spend with my girls while their normal daycare provider is on vacation. I love spending time with my girls. My youngest is all smiles and snuggles. My oldest is full of surprises.
Anyway, I decided to do an interview with them. I’m only going to post the interview with my eldest here though, since my youngest is still working on building her vocabulary (at the moment, her favorite word is “bubble”, which, admittedly, is a fine word). The following is our interview.
ME: Your birthday is coming up soon. How old will you be?
HER: Umm, free. Free. Free. Free.
ME: What do you want for your birthday?
HER: Cupcakes with polka dots that matches my socks with polka dots. (She doesn’t actually own any socks with polka dots)
ME: Anything else?
HER: Cupcakes and muffins.
ME: Do you want any toys?
HER: Yup. I do want toys… and blocks. I do want blocks. I want to live in a house for my birthday (We do actually live in a house). I want to live in a tall house for my birthday with a lot of toys. A lot of toys.
ME: What is your favorite color?
HER: Red. Red is my favorite color.
HER: I don’t know, but I remember that it is my favorite color. I have to remember that my birthday is coming up. Why is my birthday coming up? (She likes to question the motives of everything, including calendar events)
PAUSE INTERVIEW TO LOOK AT THE SQUIRREL FEEDER OUT THE FRONT WINDOW WHERE A SQUIRREL HAS JUST DISCOVERED THAT I PUT UP FRESH CORN
HER: Where are the baby squirrels? And the mama squirrels? And the daddy squirrels?
BACK TO ME
ME: Tell me about your family.
HER: Mommy. Mommy.
ME: What about Mommy?
HER: A horsey.
ME: Is Mommy a horsey?
ME: What is Mommy?
HER: A person.
HER: Please, I want to color.
END OF INTERVIEW
I was pretty happy with how it turned out. And I’m glad that she doesn’t think her mom is a horse. Because that wouldn’t be a very nice thing to say about someone. Unless that someone is the amazing Mr. Ed (who actually was a horse).
I escaped from the zoo at the age of six.
Truth be told, I think the zoo keepers left my cage open on purpose. Now that I think about it, I’m not even sure it was really a zoo.
In college, my friend Dan and I would always joke about the “Corn Diet”, a diet consisting entirely of varying forms of corn. Corn on the cob, frozen corn, creamed corn, corn pops cereal. The theory was that you could lose a lot of weight on this diet because corn seems to pass through human bodies without changing form. So your stomach would be full, but your body would have to burn the fat on reserve because the corn would only be acting as a filler. We never tried the diet though, because we thought that the last part of the corn’s journey through us would be painful if it only consisted of corn.
Sometimes, at night, I dress up in a large skunk costume and run around my back yard.
Mainly, I do this just to freak out my dog, who once got sprayed in the face by a skunk in my back yard. Secondarily, I do it because it is fun and good exercise.
I learned the hard way that you cannot make more money simply by cutting it in half.
Quarters are really hard to cut in half anyway, and nothing ever costs 12.5 cents. Oh, yeah, and stores complain when you hand them a dollar bill that has been cut in half.
I also learned this about neighbors.
The best you could hope for is that your old neighbors, whom you cut in half, would move on and be replaced by whole neighbors. More likely, you will go to jail where you will not like your new neighbors at all.
My sister-in-law is an elementary teacher. This is only one of the awesome things about her. Another awesome thing is that she sometimes uses my flash fiction photo prompts as writing exercises for her students. And every now and again, she sends me the results. Here are two such stories, along with the pictures that inspired them.
One day in a small village there was a man. Sometimes people stole in that town so it came to war. The only person who survived was the old man. So he decided to travel to somewhere new until he found a place called Oklahoma and it was beautiful. And he found a new home, too. He got a wife. He had two kids. They had so much fun until the old man’s wife died. The kids grew up and left the house. It was sad. The old man got older and older.
One day I went to school. I looked in my locker. My stuff was gone! I was robbed! I ran down the hallway. “I see him” I said. Then he was gone! I lost my book bag, my books, and my popcorn maker. They were GONE!! The principal saw running and then he suspended me. I was lucky they didn’t find out. Then my mom was robbed. We were doomed. I found him and I called 911. They got him but they didn’t give me my stuff. Then they got away and forgot my stuff.
Thanks for writing, kids!
My writer’s group hosted Jot II the other night. We had a great turnout and a lot of fun. The speakers all did a great job. The venue was gorgeous. The attendees were attentive and kind. It was a great night.
My responsibilities for the evening included conducting an author interview with an old college friend, jumping up between presentations to make basic announcement regarding time and bathroom locations, and spouting my mouth off on a panel discussion of writer’s groups. And since I love the sound of my own voice, I loved every minute in front of the microphone. This was no surprise to me.
What was a surprise was the speaking I did after the presentations finished. I had three great conversations afterward with three very different individuals, and flash fiction came up in every one. Now, the reasons that surprised me is because no one spoke on the topic of flash fiction in this round of Jot.
The first conversation was with an attendee who was a long way from home. She was a journalist from Iran who recently moved to Grand Rapids and was curious about the type of people who attend writer’s conferences. She was guessing that our audience would be primarily of a college-age, so she was surprised to see the wide demographic range of Jot attendees. After talking about the conference in general, she asked me about my writing. I told her that I blogged and wrote flash fiction. She told me that blogging was illegal in her country and that she was unfamiliar with flash fiction. I did my best to explain that it pertained more to the length of a work than the genre of the work. Then she stumped me by asking for the name of a famous flash fiction author.
My second conversation was with our youngest attendee. I noticed early in the evening that a girl had come with her mom to Jot. I approached them afterward to thank them for coming out and to find out a little more about them. The mom explained to me that it was her nine-year-old daughter who was the writer and that she was just there to learn as much about the craft as she could. I then asked the girl what she wrote. It turns out that she, like me, is interested in science fiction and fantasy and that she recently wrote a short story.
“It’s not very long,” she said. “It’s only nine and a half pages.”
“Are you kidding me?” I said. “That’s three times longer than most of the fiction things that I write.”
I took the opportunity to share a bit about flash fiction before referring them to my blog where they could find this list of places that publish (and pay) for short-form fiction. I thanked them for attending, and secretly hoped that I could be as good a parent as that mom was.
My final conversation of the evening was with a retired gentleman. He was attending Jot for the same basic reasons as the girl, though their situations could not have been more different. He had just started writing, had finished a short story for children, and didn’t know where to go from there. I told him that I had some experience with short stories and suggested some resources to help him hone his craft.
“I know that short stories are all for kids,” he said. “So I wasn’t sure if I should be doing that or something else.”
“Oh,” said I. “Short stories aren’t just for kids. In fact, almost none of the short stories I read are aimed at children.”
We then went on to talk about some of the features of flash fiction, like the twist. After a few minutes of this, I thanked him for attending and wished him well.
I realized after my three conversations that I am pretty passionate about flash fiction. Now, readers of my blog may not be surprised by this, what with my flash fiction prompts, stories, and the like, but I was. I feel a bit like a man who has found a treasure in a field, but instead of keeping it secret so I can sell my stuff and buy the field for myself, I’m out there telling everyone I know about this amazing treasure that is flash fiction.
Oh well, I guess it’s okay to encourage others to write, even if they might be better than I am. But if you do turn out to be better than I am, if you get a big publishing deal and become famous because I turned you on to flash fiction, be warned. I will be approaching you for help in the industry.
Thanks again to everyone who came out to Jot! If you missed it, you can watch it in its entirety here.