Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Short Story Contests: October

In Writing on October 1, 2012 at 10:42 pm

October is here, and that means new short story contest deadlines are upon us (my apologies for the ones that are so upon us that they are essentially past us). Things really heat up in the fall, so you’ll doubtless notice this list is a little bit longer than in some of the past months.

Good luck everyone!

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Pietro Barbino

In Writing on September 18, 2012 at 10:55 pm

In the spirit of writing more, this week I’ve decided to tackle another writing challenge, specifically the Trifecta Writing Challenge, where we’re given a one-word prompt on which to base a 33 to 333 word story. This week the word is ample.

Now, in the Boboli Gardens in Florence there is a statue of a fat dwarf sitting naked astride a giant turtle, and for some reason this was the very first thing I thought of when I read the prompt (but let’s not read too much into that, ok?). The statue is of Pietro Barbino, court jester to Cosimo I de’Medici, a Tuscan Duke of the 16th century.

But I won’t bore you with Wikipedia research. Let’s just get to his story, shall we?

Pietro Barbino, Cosimo I's dwarf jester

I took this picture of Mr. Barbino myself. You should be thankful it’s a little blurry.

Pietro Barbino

Pietro Barbino was short of stature, ample of bosom, and drunk of wine.  He tottered to the fountain and sat with a groan.

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The Mill In The Kip

In Writing on September 7, 2012 at 6:27 pm

This week I’ve done something very different (for me at least) for Friday Fictioneers: A poem!

Maybe it’s because I’ve been gone for a couple weeks and I wanted my glorious return to be different, or maybe it’s just because I started writing and noticed a lot of rhythm in the words and decided to go all in (who can really say?), but whatever the reason, this is where I ended up.

As always, constructive criticism is welcome (be gentle! Poetry isn’t my thing), and head on over to Madison Woods website for past weeks, sweet writings and authorial goodness.

Who Lives There?      

Deep in the Kip is a stony mill,
and close by the mill is a stream,
dark and small and easy to miss in the shade of the close-spaced trees.

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My Bad (Care to Guest Blog?)

In Travel, Writing on September 4, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Excuses, Excuses

Yet again I find myself apologizing for an extended absence, but this time I have good excuses, I swear!

Firstly, in a piece of toot-my-own-horn kind of news, I recently got a new job (unemployment, it turns out, while a great generator of free time, isn’t so great for the wallet). I officially started two weeks ago, and it’s been keeping me pretty busy, so I shall henceforth need to learn to budget my remaining free time a little better – an adjustment, to be sure, but as of today I’m resolving to make it happen.

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Short Story Contests: August

In Writing on August 9, 2012 at 10:50 am

In all the chaos and confusion of my recent move, I forgot to post my monthly list of upcoming writing contests! The good news: Not too too many deadlines have already passed. The bad news: August is a pretty thin month for contests to begin with.

At any rate, here are the one’s I’ve come up with. If you know of others, feel free to let me know, and, of course, if you’ve happened to win or place in any of the previous months’ contests I’d love to hear about it!

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Don’t Leave Out The Music: Writing For Sound

In Writing on July 10, 2012 at 9:09 am

When I was an undergraduate I took a poetry class and found it to be pretty tough going. Mind you, I’ve never found poetry easy, but when I was just starting out I was so frustrated by how bad my writing seemed that I almost gave up altogether. I understood the technical aspects — stresses and syllables and meter — but nothing I wrote ever really sang.

I went to meet with my professor and told him I had no problem writing song lyrics (I was in a pretty cool band called Funk Bus in high school), but I couldn’t get a handle on poetry. He asked me a pretty obvious question, then — one that I should have asked myself long before, and one that completely changed how I approached my writing from then on.

“What’s the difference between lyrics and poetry?” he asked.

The obvious answer: lyrics go along with music, poetry does not. In other words, with poetry, the music has to be built in. Nothing I wrote seemed to sing because, so far, I’d just been writing words (trying to make myself sound sophisticated and poetic, of course) but I’d been leaving out the music.

Woody Words and Tinny Words

It turns out that, in poetry, the way the words sound is almost as important as what the words are saying (some would say even more important), and though I never really kept up with the poetry, I’ve found the lesson of writing for sound is also useful when it comes to writing prose.

There’s a funny Monty Python sketch where they talk about Woody Words (“Carribou. Gone.”) and Tinny Words (“Antelope!”).  And even though it’s funny it also hits on a truth: words have tone, and timbre and character.

Some words are sharp and crisp, while others are soft and warm, and they conjure up these feelings just by virtue of how they vibrate in our chests, how they shape our mouths and make us work our teeth and lips and tongues (just read that sentence aloud to see what I mean).

If you want to describe a comforting fire in a cozy hovel, you should use warm (even woody) words; as a matter of fact, the words comfort, cozy, hovel and warm all fit into that category.

You might want to use some words that accentuate the action of the fire, too.  The embers crack and hiss, pop and snap.

While you’re at it, maybe the wind outside is cold and biting, sharp and stinging. The snow may be crisp and bright. Shards of clear crystal hang from the frosty eaves.

You get the idea.

Sound’s Good (Sounds Good)

If you’re looking for a general guide, words that sound in your chest and stomach, or pull your mouth into an ‘O’ shape, tend to have a warm, deep character. (Think M’s, long O’s, W’s, voiced G’s). Words that make you use your teeth and lips tend to feel sharp and hard. (P’s, T’s, C’s and K’s).

That’s just in general. The real lesson here is that you should read your sentences out loud — not just to see how they flow, but also to see how they actually sound. (Who knew, right?) Listen for how well the timbre and tone of the words you’re using fits with the feeling you’d like to convey.

It may not be immediately intuitive — it may not even seem important at first — but I promise if you pay attention to the sound of your words and not just the meaning, your writing will improve.

Anchors Aweigh

In Writing on June 22, 2012 at 7:23 am

Here we go with another Friday Fictioneers, care of Madison Woods and her shiny new website. This week’s picture prompt, my story, and a link to the other stories below.

I don’t usually take the approach I did this week, so even more than usual, constructive criticism is welcomed, encouraged, and will be rewarded with goblets of wine.

Damsel Fly

Anchors Aweigh

We sit in silence, our reels whirring, sinkers splashing. The shore is a shadow.

“Boat’s almost too small now,” I say.

He pulls in his line and casts again. The water slurps.  Damselflies dart through the mist, cutting grey trails above the lake.

“What do you think mom would say if –“

He holds up his hand.

“Robert, please,” he says, looking at me. Then just as quickly he turns in his seat and casts into the fog.

I can tell he is smiling.

“She’d probably have another heart attack,” he says.

*****

Again, constructive criticism is encouraged — and if you’re feeling generous with you criticism, check out my other fiction, including stories that are even longer than 100 words!

Short Story Contests: July

In Writing on June 20, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Each month I put together a list of some of the short story contests you could look forward to entering in the month ahead. Well, that time is upon us once again, so here now is the list of contests with deadlines in July. Good luck and go get ’em!

And of course, if you’ve happened to win or place in any of the previous months’ contests I’d love to hear about it!

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The One From The News

In Writing on June 18, 2012 at 3:34 pm

100 word challenge for grown ups

This week’s 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups  prompt was to write an article based off the title “There’s a real buzz about this place.” But since I misread the prompt and wrote a story first, here’s a story AND an article. Enjoy!


The One From the News (A Story)

Gabe stood waiting, fourteenth in line out of fifteen and youngest by far. The sun flashed; the insects droned; the sweat dripped.

“Step forward,” the guard said. The door opened and a buzzing whirl swelled from within. Gabe complied, thirteenth now, and not much older.

“You the one from the news, little lady?” the man behind him asked. His arms were black with ink, scarred and corded with muscle.

“I’m a man.”

“Sure thing, darlin’.” The man laughed soft and deep. “Better hope you look it once they cut that pretty hair… It’s the last cut you’ll ever get.”

There’s a Real Buzz About This Place (An Article)

BOSTON – Thirty eight students were hospitalized Monday after the group suffered inexplicable bites and stings during a tour of the Common. School officials say no insects were spotted in the area.

“The kids just sort of scattered, screaming,” Elizabeth Berry, a substitute teacher at Boston Latin Academy, said. “But the adults were all fine. Very unnerving.”

Doctors at BMC attribute the event to a kind of shared hallucination, though at least three children had to be treated for severe anaphylaxis.

“The imagination can be a very powerful thing,” one man said at the scene. He refused to give his name. 

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Follow the link up above to read the other responses and submit one of your own. Comments and criticism more than welcome! (That goes for the rest of my fiction, too).

Arrival in Sharesh: An Ill Omen

In Writing on June 15, 2012 at 7:28 am

The road led them up a shallow incline toward the crest of the hill, where they were flanked by clusters of stones and scrub brush.  It was eerie the way the graves tilted in the soil, leaning toward the road as if the bodies below were eager to join them on their way into town.

In the last row, as they reached the top of the hill and the land spilled west in lumps of purple hills, the boys noticed that one mound of earth hadn’t yet been taken over with grass.  The dark soil had been freshly turned and a stout shovel stood in the dirt, its handle propped against a newly cut headstone.

No name had been carved on its face.

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I did something a little different for my response to Madison Woods Friday Fictioneers prompt this time around.

This week’s photo immediately reminded me of an excerpt from my work-in-progress YA novel. I figured I’d put it out there to give you Fictioneers a taste of my longer-form writing (albeit without context) and see what feedback you might have for me (I love constructive criticism, so let me have it)!

Check out the other stories (including Madison’s) and submit your own on the story pageOr, check out the links here: