My first triptych,Green Haze, was published at Matterpress.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Monday, September 8, 2014
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
I am compiling a group of stories centered around my experiences in the field of home health. Of course, I won't use real names or details that would break confidentiality. Today, the first piece, Brown Paper Bag, was published in Estuary Literary Magazine. I'm not sure when I will have enough stories to put together the book, but I will submit pieces here and there until I do.
I can't do a direct link to this one. It's in issue three under "Story Corner".
I can't do a direct link to this one. It's in issue three under "Story Corner".
Brown Paper Bag
I’d been worried about the home health visit since the moment I received the phone call asking if I could add the patient to my case load. I had never been choosy about which patients to take but was anxious about going to this particular area alone. I pulled the clipboard from my bag and checked the address, scanning the road signs as I did. Just when I started thinking I must have missed the road, I spotted the faded green sign. Only three of the letters were visible from behind a thick vine that ran along a chain link fence then up the pole, before wrapping itself around the sign. Two half-deflated helium balloons hung from a ripped poster board secured to the fence. Big, boxy letters in neon red and purple announced,
My mind was busy filling in what was missing from the ripped poster as I made the right turn onto Pink Street.
Dirt driveways running through clusters of rusty mailboxes opened up to randomly placed mobile homes positioned in all directions, the back yard of one running into the front yard of the next. There was nothing to assign any of them to the addresses on the sides of the mailboxes. The tree line bordering the road opened up to reveal rows of identical white-framed houses. The yards were bordered by chain linked fences or picket fences missing every other section. Broken-down cars littered every other yard. The missing tires served as flower bed borders, leaned against rusty tin auto shops, or rested on top of trash piles. An abandoned couch sat in the yard of the last white house in the row. In front of it was an electric fan on a long, beaten coffee table. A cord ran from the fan to an orange electric cord that disappeared into a cracked window on the side of the house.
A small dot in the road ahead grew larger as I drove slowly toward it. It evolved into a middle-aged man with his head bowed as he walked along the jagged pavement along the side of the road. In his left hand, he carried a small brown bag that was twisted at the top, probably around a bottle that was contained within. A 12-pack of toilet paper hung from underneath his right arm. I slowed the car to a near stop, but when it didn’t look as if the man would look back, I pulled up slowly beside him. I ripped the bottom from the first sheet of paper on the clipboard, quickly jotted down my patient’s name, and leaned across the passenger seat to hold the piece of paper out the cracked window. When the man stopped, I waited for him to look up. When he didn’t, I spoke,
“Excuse me, sir, but could you tell me if this man lives on your street?” I asked hesitantly.
“Of course,” the man answered as he glanced at the name then finally lifted his eyes and met mine. “He certainly does. Follow me.”
I let the car coast, allowing the man to ease back ahead of me. He cast his eyes down to the ground and continued walking.
The street was quiet except for the occasional passer-by and a dog that barked in the distance in regular ten-second intervals. Wavy lines of heat hung just inches above the black pavement. In moments, they were swallowed by clouds of steam as the first drops of rain began to fall. I inhaled deeply as the air circulated through the open windows. The man pulled the paper bag nearer and sat the toilet paper down as he reached back and pulled a hood from the flimsy gray jacket over his head. He gathered the tissue and continued walking. I pressed the gas with plans of catching up to the man and offering a ride, but when I saw him pull the bag even closer, my heart hardened against him for what I knew must be inside. The man stopped abruptly and looked back at me, nodding toward the next house on the left. I waved, mouthing a “thank you”, and prepared to pull into my patient’s drive. As I gave the dingy white- framed house and surrounding yard a visual inspection, I heard the squeals of children and the creaking springs of a screen door, followed by a loud pop as the door snapped back into place. Three dirty, but beautiful, children ran down the front steps, into the rain, and straight toward me. I waved them back as I prepared to pull in between the two vehicles already in the small drive in front of the house.
As I opened the door to greet the children, the first one ran right past me. The rest of them followed close behind, each one screaming separately one word that ran together in coherency.
What? I must have missed my patient out by the road, perhaps checking the mail or trying to get in from the rain.
I glanced back toward the road just in time to see all three children attempting to jump into the man’s arms. He dropped the 12-pack of toilet paper and held his right hand out, palm up, as if to tell them to do the same. With a toothy grin, the man untwisted the top of the brown paper bag and reached inside. He rummaged around until the children began laughing and urging him to hurry, then pulled out a handful of candy and dropped a couple of pieces into each one of their open hands. He continued this process until the last of the candy was distributed then wadded up the bag and crammed it into his pocket. He then stooped to pick up the toilet paper one last time before following the children into his home, stopping only to glance back and wave me forward with his now empty left hand.
Monday, September 1, 2014
One of the men on my peer review site challenged everyone to write a 50-word story as an exercise in brevity. It was one of the hardest things I have ever written-trying to fit a middle, beginning, and end all into only fifty words. I submitted the resulting piece, Womb, to 50-Word Stories, and they chose to publish it.
SHERRI ELLERMAN: Womb
Pressure squeezes me to the rhythm of her heartbeat.
The warm fluid around me turns metallic and rushes past, pulling. I fight to stay until my body relaxes against smooth, strong walls.
I gasp as the womb releases me. My chest swells then releases the agony.
The silence is gone.
Sherri Ellerman is an Occupational Therapist who spends her free time writing short fiction and poetry. She has had a flash fiction story published in River and South Review, a literary journal. Her article “Five Steps to Consider in Romance Fiction” was published atWrite Well, Write to Sell in July 2014. She is the Flash Fiction editor for Liquid Imagination, an online literary magazine.
Friday, August 29, 2014
My interview as Flash Fiction editor for Liquid Imagination.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
My daughter received a summer reading program she was to complete the summer before her freshman year in college. I noticed that the essays for the program all came from a site called "This I Believe". I went to the site and was impressed with it. The site has been around for a long time and features essays as well as podcasts of some of the essays. I wrote a piece and submitted it. They accepted my piece, One, for publication on their site. Two days later, they sent me another message asking if I would be willing to record a podcast for my essay. Of course I said yes!
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Guest post by Sherri Ellerman
Sherri Ellerman has been a very active member of Silver Pen since she joined several months ago. Aside from her activities and work at Silver Pen, she recently became the flash fiction editor for Liquid Imagination magazine.
When I saw her post on the Silver Pen forum about elements in a romance novel, I knew we should have it here at Write Well, Write To Sell. I asked Sherri to expand her ideas. Further, since I had recently decided to do a series on how to write a story, I thought it would be good to include her piece there.
Because romance is a very popular–and often profitable–genre to write in and there are so many out there, many new writers seem to feel that they must be really easy to write. Further, they think that because they’ve read a ton of them, they can write one, too. And maybe throw in some hot sex for good measure.
Unfortunately, it’s much easier to write a bad novel than a good one. Even though romance novels proliferate, very few of them stand the test of time. Sherri gives some excellent advice for writing a good romance, and she uses examples of some very memorable ones.
It’s an interesting exercise to look at what makes some romance stories stand out from the myriad others and to become popular and bestsellers.
On that note, here’s Sherri–
What classifies a story as a romance?
The answer to this question varies with different readers, depending on what each desires from a romance novel. Of course, readers expect to see a love story, but not all of them agree on how they want that story to unfold.
Like any other piece of fiction, the romance story needs to have a clear arc with conflicts and resolutions, but the challenge of weaving a relationship into this arc is overwhelming for many writers.
While there is no exact formula for writing romance fiction, there are some specific elements that can be used as a guide:
1. Let the characters come from different backgrounds.
There should be something in one of the characters or in his life that the other longs for. While this doesn’t have to be true for every romantic story, it is prevalent in many of the well-known ones.
In Dirty Dancing, a character nicknamed Baby is spending the summer at a prestigious summer resort with her family when she comes in contact with one of the employees, a dance instructor named Johnny. She is first drawn to his “secret” world behind the scenes of the resort. This interest becomes focused upon Johnny and develops as she gets a taste of freedom and a glimpse into a life outside the “box” she has grown up in.
In The Bridges of Madison County, Francesca is left alone for a weekend when her husband takes their two children on a 4-H trip. When a stranger, Robert, shows up looking for directions to a bridge he needs to photograph for a magazine, Francesca develops an interest in him. She is first attracted to his life of travel and freedom, but the focus of this attraction quickly shifts to Robert.
Titanic follows the same pattern with the wealthy, prominent Rose falling in love with a poor, homeless artist who wins his way onto the ship in a poker game moments before it sails. Trapped in a predictable life of social events and obligations, Rose falls in love with the idea of Jack’s life of roaming from one place to another. The story unfolds as this love shifts to Jack, and Rose dares to think of a life with him and no boundaries.
Each of these stories demonstrates the concept of one character longing for something in the other. It is this longing that ignites a flame that eventually becomes the love, or lust, between the characters.
2. There should be a conflict that prevents or affects the relationship.
A romance story, like any other story, needs to include some sort of conflict. This conflict needs to complicate the characters’ relationship. If done properly, the struggle becomes the true romance element of your story.
In The Bridges of Madison County, Robert is out of reach because Francesca is married. In The Notebook, Allie falls in love with Noah partly because of their differences, which is what also drives them apart. Years later, circumstances bring the two of them back together, and she has to choose between the seemingly perfect man she is engaged to and Noah.
A conflict can arise in many forms. It can come from an outside source, from between the two characters, or from within one or both of the characters in the relationship.
3. Don’t introduce the first love/sex scene too soon or without emotion.
The conflict in a romance story often happens soon after the couple has participated in an intimate encounter, so lead up to that scene slowly, then follow through with a struggle. Readers want to see the subtle signs of attraction between the two characters. Give them a light brush of skin on skin as the characters pass in a hallway or fingertips lingering on the palm of a hand a second longer than necessary. A steamy love scene in romance fiction is certainly okay, but it will have a much greater impact on the readers if they are led into it slowly. Without the cues and story behind an intimate scene, it is simply sex with no emotions involved. Unless a reader chooses a romance novel for the sole purpose of enjoying the sex scenes in all of their explicit details, he will want to feel emotion when he finally makes it to this encounter.
4. The story does not always have to end with the couple living happily ever after-together.
The temptation is great to wish for the “happily-ever-after” ending in every romance novel. However, some of the greatest love stories are those that do not have the typical “love story” ending—the most famous of these being Romeo and Juliet.
The Bridges of Madison County is another example of this. I love how it ends, but there is a part of me that begs Francesca to push the truck door handle down and jump out of the truck on her final chance to choose Robert. She doesn’t jump out of the truck, but when her husband tells her on his death bed that he appreciates her for giving up her dreams for him, it is confirmation she’s made the right choice. This is the sort of detail that makes a not-so-happy ending a good ending, nonetheless.
Decide what type of ending you want before you begin writing your story. If you are working toward a happily-ever-after ending, give the readers moments when they believe it won’t happen. If you choose not to let the couple end up together, make the readers believe at some point that they will. You cannot build these elements into a story unless you know where it is going.
5. Tie the romance element into a bigger plot.
Weave the romance element of the story into a plot that is greater than just what is going on with the couple. Create a back story for each character in the relationship then let them come together. Show us how separate life experiences either strengthen them or drive them apart. In both The Notebook and Titanic, the female character is stuck in a life of expectations. The stories both deal with life decisions and the consequences of these decisions. In The Bridges of Madison County, there are the underlying moral issues woven throughout the story. Gone with the Wind is as much a historical novel as it is a romance. So, think bigger than the relationship, then work your way down to it.
Be careful not to make the above concepts too obvious or simple. Following a set of guidelines does not mean writing “cookie-cutter” stories. Consider your main story plot first, then weave the romance into it using the concepts as a guide.
Friday, May 30, 2014
A few months ago, I got asked to be the flash fiction editor for an online magazine called Liquid Imagination. I was more than willing to take the job and very flattered that the publisher, Sue Babcock, had enough trust in me to ask. I was allowed to read through all of the flash submissions and choose/edit the four I wanted in the magazine. It was a lot of work, probably more than I'd imagined, but it was worth the time. I learned so much through the process and was very proud to see the four pieces I'd chosen make it into the May issue of Liquid Imagination. I am so happy for the authors. They are all very deserving. Here is a link to the magazine. I hope you will visit it to see, not only the flash pieces, but everything else it has to offer as well.
Monday, March 17, 2014
For every moment we share with someone on the surface
We live a thousand thoughts inside our minds
Each one leading us down another path
We know not where it will go, only where it begins
Just as we feel closure on one memory, another one appears
We must go where we are led
To destinations unplanned and unknown
Until the outside world draws us back to the surface
We attempt to share with others the innermost parts of ourselves
By writing stories and singing songs
But none of it is any more than tiny grains of dirt atop an anthill
That can only hint at the true depth of what is beneath
Inside, we are stars in our own plays
On the surface, only supporting actors for those around us
We are never as important as we think
We never truly believe that we are
Beneath the surface, we do not choose who we will portray
Because everything we have ever been or felt is there
We rise as we fall and slump under the agony of defeat
While holding our heads high and taking the next step in confidence.
We wonder about things we already know
And know the things we do not understand
We pass ourselves at dead ends
Even as we rejoice in new beginnings