I’m sitting at my dining room table this Thursday morning. I sometimes like to write here, away from my desk where I can spread out, and not only that, but the view out the window is onto our lovely side yard with native plants, rhododendrons, sword ferns and Oregon Grape, a Japanese blood maple tree and Rose of Sharon tree (both bare this time of year). The weather has been chilly, for us, in the low 40s most days. Brr! Even with these cool temperatures, the Japanese flowering cherry trees are starting to put out their pale pink blooms, unbelievably. A whisper that spring is on its way already.
The other day I read a brief lament by the month of January, saying how it is a month that is misunderstood and underestimated, that “everyone loves April” in all those poems written about that month, and that no one gives January credit for being the first month of the year, for being a strong month with 31 days in it, asking us to think of how all that snow and ice (in northern climes) gives you ice skating and other fun outdoor activities. I don’t know about you, but I love January! It’s a month for new starts, it’s a peaceful month after the holidays, and in particular, January 31st is one of my favorite days of the year. I’m not sure why, but it just seems like a lovely date, like the period at the end of an enjoyable sentence in a wonderful book.
This month I’ve been writing a series of stories that are only 55 words long, through the “Eleven Stories”project offered by Kahini retreats. Wow. Fifty-five words is very short. Lots of attempts, lots of different viewpoints, it’s been a journey. Here is one of my favorites:
Visitor, by Theresa Barker
Can you see my eyes? I trot through your suburban yard of green grass in my shaggy yellow coat, disguised. You think I am a dog; no. The word is coyote. I’m almost not here. The sharp up-points of my tufted fur belies a dog’s pelt. I only hunt food for my young ones. Can you see my eyes?
This month I’m working on a story about a sentient AI being, like the iPhone Siri or Echo’s Alexa, a being who is attempting to understand her role in the Creator’s world and how she might escape his control. And I’m continuing my “Little Book of Lies” project.
I have two microfiction stories out this week in the UK’s Grievous Angel. Both stories are about monsters who live in – or travel through – graffiti walls. Take a look!
My collaborator Anne Jailene Aguilar, a South African blogger and writer, and I are proud to announce our anthology of re-told Cinderella tales, Cinderella Reimagined, is now available on Amazon Books! This anthology is a compilation of fifteen new stories drawn from the Cinderella fairy tale from blogger-writers all over the globe. You can read two of my stories and two of Anne’s stories among them. Anne and I created this project last year, inviting bloggers from near and far to contribute stories. We selected the best among them, edited them into an anthology, and we’re excited to share it with you. More information here.
Do you ever find that something you are searching for a story idea? You’re wracking your brains, but you can’t seem to come up with anything to start writing about. Here’s a an idea that I’ve been trying this month with promising results.
Take another story, for example, The Enormous Radio, by John Cheever (originally published in The New Yorker on the 1940s). Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait! Okay, you’re back? Now, think about rewriting the story from a new perspective. What if you wrote the same story, but this time narrated by the husband? Or the Sweeneys’ nurse? Or – the radio? That’s what I did; I wrote a new draft from the radio’s point of view. While it’s largely the same plot, I found a really interesting ending, in which the main characters of the original story, Jim and Irene Westcott, become addicted to the stories of the neighbors around them broadcast through the radio. So addicted they start turning in their neighbors for being communist sympathizers, informers, etc., never going out to the theater or concerts, while at the same time turning a blind eye to social injustice like domestic violence and bigotry on their own block. Hmmm.
A side note, if you try this exercise, I have it on good authority you can consider publishing the story as long as you give credit to the original story, and as long as your new story is original enough to be distinct from the author’s version. Your story will form part of the conversation begun by the first story’s publication.
Thanks for reading, and happy writing!
p.s. The sketch above is of a tea flower. Did you ever think they were that complicated? Like writing…!