Tag Archives: writing

Booking Through Thursday: Author


If you were going to write a book, what kind of book would it be? (If you’re an author already, what kind of book would you like to write that you haven’t written yet?)

Oh, writing. One of my greatest loves and one of my greatest sources of frustration.

Like many book lovers, I have tried to write a book many times. Off the top off my head, I remember a short series about a group of witches at school together (this was before Harry Potter, because I read Witch Week first), some Harry Potter fanfiction (before I knew that fanfiction was a thing), a super-plagiarized screenplay, and pieces of other unfinished stories. Most of them were not good, and none of them should ever see the light of day again.

The key to that is unfinished. Starting stories is easy. Finishing is the hard part.

In college, I was invited into a humanities program for which I had to complete a capstone project. We had the most beautiful leeway to design our own projects, but since it was for a class (two, actually) and a grade, we had advising and deliverables on deadlines. Structure saved me. I read and researched short story collections and the craft of writing extensively, developed my own writing challenge, wrote six short stories fulfilling my own challenge, and turned them in on time. It was marvelous, and difficult, and rewarding.

These days, I’m not working on anything concrete. My most recent blogging commitments are going well, and they’ve piqued my interest in writing fiction again. Experience has taught me that books carry more significance, but short stories are my jam. My real life is fine, but if I break free of the chains of realism, there’s no telling what I could produce.

For more short queries about books and the reading life, visit Booking Through Thursday.

Succinctly Yours: Week 63

Well, my catching up by writing two entries in one week last week was a fail, but perhaps I can just stay on track for this week.

This week’s story is called “Generations”.

Waves lapped as the boat resettled. “Well,” said Junior, finally. “Things like this don’t happen to real people. Like the movies, that is.”

“The one that got away?” said Senior.

“Yep. The one that really did get away. At least this makes a good story for you there, ey, Tripp?”

“Sure, Dad. Stories are good,” said the boy. The funny stories were really the only good part. Grampa nearly being struck by a renegade seagull. Dad forgetting to bring a bottle opener.

There were other good times, too, though. Grampa singing his favorites from the old days. Dad showing his son how to tie a lure. He himself, the littlest John Phillip Davidson, learning patience and contentment waiting for a bite. The together part was good, too, but he wouldn’t know that until a few more years had floated by.
(140 words)

This one’s a bit more serious than the others, but I’m enjoying the opportunity to get a totally new writing prompt every week. Oh, there you are, writing muscles.

Check out Grandma’s Goulash for more succinct stories.

Succinctly Yours: Week 61

Well, it’s Wednesday, and I’m two weeks behind, so I’ll have a go at two weeks’ worth of drabbles tonight. Maybe it’s a good idea I didn’t decide to call this meme Microfiction Monday.

Looking back through previous weeks, I think “Grandma” gets her photos from people who offer them or from the public domain. This works out well for me because here’s a kitty!

This week’s story is called “Zack Attack.” I dedicate this one my friend Sabrina and the real Zack Attack.

“Sports fans, welcome to another installment of Zack Attack! Our faithful feline explorer extraordinaire journeys each week through the Miller House.”

“Today, Zack’s sojourns take him to James’s room. He’s grown from a tiny tot to a maverick man of soccer. Tim, tell us what you’re seeing here.”

“Well, Scott, check out that leap from floor to bedspread! Great form! You can tell Zack’s aerodynamic control has improved.”

“About as much as James’s ball control over the years. Ha, ha! Oh, for the days of peewee league.”

“What’s this? He’s going for the soccer ball. A little pawing, a little more, he’s hesitant, but—oh! Up and over! Zack Attack is on the ball, sports fans, in more ways than one.”

“And now he’s off. What a thrill. What will he get up to next, in another great Zack Attack?”
(140 words)

That was fun. I wrote a little more and edited it down to fit the word requirement. Check out Grandma’s Goulash for more succinct stories.

Succinctly Yours: Week 60

Look at me, participating in a new meme two weeks in a row! Hooray! This week, I give you “Look Who’s Talking.”

“Mom? Mommy? Where did you go? Are you in the kitchen? No. Okay, how about in the big chair? No. Where’s Mommy? Grandpa, where’s Mommy? How do I make her come? I usually—oh, I usually can cry. Let’s try that.”

The old man closed the door, waving, calling out goodbyes. Turning, he found his granddaughter in the middle of the floor, lip quivering, just shy of wailing.

Nope, not just shy anymore. Actually wailing. Leaning on his carved cane for support, he shuffled to the diaper bag and found the pacifier. With a few soothing words for good measure, he tried to calm the girl.

“No, not passy-fier. Mommy! Mommy is what I want! Don’t give me that thing! Why don’t—mmnm, hrmm—ptui–why don’t you ever understand me?”

This was a language barrier for the ages. (140 words)

Check out Grandma’s Goulash for more succinct stories.

Succinctly Yours: Week 59

I’m determined to get a good Monday posting habit going. Maybe another meme will help with that.

From this week’s prompt at Grandma’s Goulash, I give you “The Princess’s Dilemma.”

“Mommy, I want to be a princess!”

“Oh?” replied the mother, refolding her newspaper. “And why is that, darling?”

She twirled in the midmorning sunlight. “Because a princess is the prettiest girl in all the land, and when she grows up, she becomes the queen!”

Slowly ending her spin, she dropped her chin and added, mumbling, “And she never has another princess coming along to get in the way.”

The mother gave a small smile, set her newspaper away, and eased her way out of the rocker, one hand on the belly that grew more cumbersome with each day.

“My dear,” she said, cradling the pretend princess, “you have nothing to fear. A mother’s love grows right along with the size of her family! And besides that, every princess needs a lady-in-waiting.”

She grinned even more and twirled away once again, back into her dreamland.

Check out Grandma’s Goulash for more succinct stories.

On Writing Less

I’ve come across some interesting points to chew on in my recreational reading lately. (Despite all odds, I just barely manage to squeeze non-academic reading in on top of all my schoolwork.) The first relates to my work, actually, so it seems like a noble use of my scant time. From the NCTE Inbox newsletter came a link to an Inside Higher Ed essay by Scott Jaschick on the trend of less writing on college application essays. Jaschick writes that some colleges, particularly those that use the Common Application, are de-emphasizing or eliminating the traditional long application essay in favor of shorter questions. Admissions staff say that the short questions tend to have more direct answers and show fewer signs of coaching, so they can get a better picture of the applicant through fewer words. Several commenters suggest that the true benefit is to the admissions officers, since they simply don’t have to read as much when applicants don’t write as much.

I find myself torn on the issue. I teach essay writing, so I know that students can express themselves a lot more fully when they are “allowed” (read: required) to write more. However, though some of my students are crack hands at writing paragraphs, they are struggling greatly with essay writing. They simply can’t break free of the strictly defined format of a good paragraph enough to expand it into an essay. I coach them as best I can, but simultaneously find myself drowning in the volume of writing that sixty students can produce in twenty to forty minutes a day. In that respect, I prefer the paragraph to the essay, but I know the essays are essential as well.

Thinking back to my own college applications, I used an essay I’d written for my AP English Literature class on as many applications as possible. The cookie-cutter “choose your own topic” long essay question invited that tactic. However, on the short questions (I think Maryland called them “Finding Your Niche”), I had to compose answers specific to the information needs of the school. Those questions ultimately led me to join Honors Humanities: a decision I have yet to regret.

Are college application essays walking the path toward extinction? I don’t think so; if you can’t write an essay by the time you’re a senior, you have no business in college, and even coached essays will help you realize that (or demonstrate the lack of that skill). But I can see short questions becoming more popular. I prefer them on my tests. Getting into college is, in some ways, just another test.

Why Grammar Matters

Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events—the movie—holds a special place in my heart. Aunt Josephine reminds me of me; that is, the often paranoid grammar lover. Grammar isn’t the greatest joy in life, but it’s pretty darn cool. As a bonus, you look much smarter if you avoid making common mistakes (very slight language warning). My heart dies a little bit when I see an allegedly professional document with “loose” where “lose” was meant. It’s really not that difficult to understand that “could of” is always wrong.

This has been a public service announcement from your favorite unofficial Grammar Girl.

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