Tag Archives: challenge

Learning Curve

It

was

early

in March,

nearly spring,

the season of hope,

and my grandson Elliot

would soon have a birthday —

his first. I couldn’t wait to see him.

I had my ticket. Flight 351. April 24.

 

Then, like a giant evil raptor, the pandemic

swooped in, wrecking havoc across continents.

The world was shocked. Thousands fell ill. Many died.

I cancelled my trip. Elliot would have to wait to see Grandma.

People are saying: “It feels like a sci-fi movie,” and “This is weird.”

Some say, “I’m scared,” or even, “It’s like living in the Twilight Zone.”

I watch the news. It’s real. I learn about mitigation and flattening the curve.

I live alone. The silence is deafening. When this is over, I think I’ll get a puppy.

 

We are in this together. We all buy wipes, wash our hands, stand six feet apart.

We cough into our elbows, sew masks, sing from windows, applaud helpers.

We call our parents, record funny songs, take up new hobbies, practice yoga.

We praise our essential workers. We send them big tips and free pizzas.

Our houses are spotless, our cupboards are bare. We’re okay with that.

We try to embrace love and deny fear. We don’t always succeed.

We check our wipes and toilet paper supplies on a daily basis.

We tell ourselves we’ll get through this. Most of us will.

 

When this is finally over, I will visit family.

There will be laughter, and also tears.

As for the rest of the world, will we

reflect on things? Will we know

what we did right? Appreciate

how we cooperated? Mend?

Will we ask ourselves

“What did we learn?

What

was

it?”


Written for Cheer Peppers as part of a daily writing prompt for the month of April.

A Nine-Word Story

What’s the shortest story you’ve ever read?

This week’s challenge at Carrot Ranch Literary Community was a doozy. I needed to shave my shrinking story, Mudslide, down to 9 words! (It’s already gone from 297 to 99 to 59.) Not only that, but I was required to write an emotion into the story.

A 9-word emotional story? “Nein!” I insisted furiously. But since I don’t speak German, I ignored my outrage and took up the challenge, using the following 9-step program:

  1. I told myself I could do it. (Critical step!)
  2. I made a first draft and thought I was done:

SLIMDUDE’s call had turned Rachel’s life into a MUDSLIDE.

  1. I re-read the rules and smacked myself in the forehead. “You forgot!” I scolded myself. “The challenge was to write two stories, and they each need to include an emotion!”
  2. I then wrote this version (emotion shown in brackets):

SLIMDUDE’s call turned Rachel’s life into a disappointing MUDSLIDE. [disappointed]

       I could see now that, by comparison, my first emotionless version was pretty boring.

  1. I rewrote the sentence using a second emotion:

SLIMDUDE’s call pushed Rachel’s life down a disgusting MUDSLIDE. [disgusted]

       I couldn’t stop there.

  1. I changed it again:

SLIMDUDE’s devastating call swept Rachel away in a MUDSLIDE. [devastated]

  1. I tried making it even more emotional:

SLIMDUDE’s haunting call hurled Rachel down an infinite MUDSLIDE. [terrorized]

  1. Then, just for fun, I rearranged the structure and ended up with:

Rachel was shocked by SLIMDUDE’s call. Welcome to MUDSLIDE! [shocked]

  1. I took 9 minutes to reflect on how many different ways there are to write a 9-word story, and how important emotion is in writing.

I wonder if anyone’s ever written a 9-word novel. Just think of the trees that could have been saved by editing War and Peace down to these 9 words:

“War: What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Peace.”

 

2018-ffr-icon-awards29

 

The Phantom

This week, Colleen Chesebro‘s challenge was to write a poem in one of the formats she lists (haiku, senryu, haibun, etheree, etc.). It was time for me to try a haibun, which is a titled piece written in first person singular, present tense, minimal words, which combines prose and poetry. (To learn more about haibun, see the link to Colleen’s site above.) Also, this week’s writing had to include synonyms for the words “ghost” and “hollow.” I chose the words “phantom” and “empty.”

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

The Phantom

Something’s rattling around downstairs. I can hear it from up here. I creep silently along the long, dark, empty hallway toward the open window. I’ll squeeze through it and onto the roof, drop to the ground, and run away. There’s no other way. I’m sweating as I reach the window. I feel a gust of wind behind me. I turn and see a phantom grinning in the shadows, as it moves swiftly toward me.

full moon
howling wind
shadows pointed
like batons
frenzied rhythm
then a hush
time’s up

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

 

 

 

 

 

The Incredible Shrinking Story

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that I’m involved in a writing challenge at Carrot Ranch Literary Community. Part I was to write a 297-word story about a mudslide. Part II was to edit it down to two 99-word versions, each with its own POV. Part III (this week’s challenge) is to choose one of the two 99-word versions, reduce it to 59 words, and include a “nugget” from the other version.

But my two Part II versions were virtually identical — except for the pronouns! There wasn’t a unique nugget to be found! The lesson I learned from attempting Part III is that two different POVs are going to react differently to the same situation on an emotional, sensual, and rational level. When I wrote the two versions, it would have been more interesting to get inside of each “mindset” to truly experience the POV.

And now, a confession. In order to complete the Part III challenge, I cheated, going back to my 257-word Part I version, stealing a nugget, and hauling it into Part III. I think cheating is allowed here. If not, my next installment will be sent from the principal’s office.

Part III Version, 59 words (nugget in bold):

Two-fifteen. Four nights of mudslide dreams since becoming Jake’s live-in. A warning? Jake slept. Rising, I phone-googled “mudslide dream.” Jake, awake, kissed my neck. Startled, I dropped my buzzing phone, which Jake retrieved. It said, “SLIMDUDE.” “Who?” “My husband.” “Husband?!” I pondered my ex’s prison nickname. He’d always haunt my dreams, scrambling the MUDSLIDE my life had just become.

My life had just become” was the nugget I selected from Part I, because prior to the dreaded phone call, Rachel’s life was hanging on by a thread. It is now going downhill fast. This nugget of insight from the omniscient third person POV is now being keenly felt by the first person POV of Rachel.

Thank you, Charli (at Carrot Ranch) for the lesson!

Stay tuned for Part IV, in which the story will be reduced to just NINE WORDS!

 

 

 

The Mudslide Continues

If you read my recent post, Mudslide, you’ll know that it was only Part I of a literary challenge at Carrot Ranch Literary Community. Part II of the challenge is to reduce our original 297-word flash fiction story to 99 words. Not only that, but we have to write two versions, one in the original POV (point of view) and the other in a different POV.

I’d never done anything like this before. Cutting out 2/3 of my words taught me an important lesson: I use a lot of unnecessary words! Wait, let me rephrase that: I waste words!

But the even more important thing I learned was that POV matters, and of the following two versions, I have a favorite. Which do you prefer?

Third Person POV, 99 words:

Rachel sat upright. It was 2:15. She’d had that mudslide dream four consecutive nights since living with Jake.

She touched him; he slept. All she could do was consider her dream. Was it a warning? She rose and Googled “mudslide dream” with her phone.

Jake, up now, kissed her neck. Startled, she dropped the phone. Jake grabbed it; it buzzed. The caller’s ID: “SLIMDUDE.”

“Who’s ‘Slim Dude’?” he asked.

“My husband,” Rachel answered.

“Husband?!” Jake sputtered.

No reply. Rachel pondered that prison nickname, his tattoo. He‘d never stop calling.

He’d always haunt her dreams, scrambling up her MUDSLIDE life.


First Person POV: 99 words:

I sat upright. It was 2:15. I’d had that mudslide dream four consecutive nights since living with Jake.

I touched him; he slept. All I could do was consider my dream. Was it a warning? I rose and Googled “mudslide dream” with my phone.

Jake, up now, kissed my neck. Startled, I dropped the phone. Jake grabbed it; it buzzed. The caller’s ID: “SLIMDUDE.”

“Who’s ‘Slim Dude’?” he asked.

“My husband,” I answered.

“Husband?!” Jake sputtered.

I couldn’t respond. I pondered that prison nickname, his tattoo. He‘d never stop calling.

He’d always haunt my dreams, scrambling my MUDSLIDE life.


In my opinion, first person makes the story much more immediate and threatening. Jake startles me, I drop the phone, I’m terrified of SLIMDUDE haunting me forever. Yeah. Looking forward to the next challenge. Or should I simply say: Excited!

 

 

REBEL WITCH — a poem

Today I took up Colleen Chesebro’s challenge of writing a poem that uses synonyms for the words “color” and “creepy.” I chose the words “hue” and “sinister.”

Writing a poem that included both color and creepiness was quite the mental exercise. Color is fun, and creepy is not fun. When I put those two concepts into a pot and stirred them up, a conflicted character materialized.

Here’s the final brew, which took the shape of a double etheree. An etheree is a 10-line verse with a syllable count of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. A double etheree adds another verse of 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.

REBEL WITCH

skirts
swirling
in the streets
red and orange
yellow, green, and blue
indigo, violet
now that I have named them all,
which hue is the one you favor?
I am forced to dress in black myself —
for that’s what all the other witches wear

and who am I to go against the grain?
witches must look sinister and plain
no colors in our closets, no!
bright colors are forbidden
prisms warrant prison
what’s a witch to do?
make rainbow robes?
break the rules?
why not?
POOF!

 

tanka-tuesday-fall

 

Heartburn

I’ve written a “senryu” in response to Colleen’s “Weekly Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge.” From Colleen, I’ve learned that a senryu is a poem including elements of love, a personal event, and irony, with a 5/7/5 syllable structure. The tone of a senryu is humorous or sarcastic.

See below* for more about Colleen’s weekly challenge.

And now for my senryu, “Heartburn.”

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

my heart is on fire

I wish I were in love but

it’s indigestion

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

*Colleen’s challenge for this week was to write a tanka, haiku, senryu, haibun, or cinquain poem using any words we choose, rather than the two words she usually prompts us with. Not having word prompts made my task more of a challenge!

Pasta Dreams

My post for today is in response to a Flash Fiction challenge by Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Literary Community (see the challenge here). The idea is to write a complete story in exactly 99 words, no more, no less. This week’s challenge was to write a story about PASTA. The following is my first attempt at Flash Fiction. It’s a lot harder than I thought! Thanks, Charli, for the challenge!

“Mary? I’m Dr. Cavat. Please have a seat.”

Mary considered the couch, then chose the stuffed chair.

“What brings you here, Mary?”

Mary burst into tears.

“I see you’re upset.”

“Sorry. It’s just that … I’ve been dreaming about PASTA!”

“Well, sometimes pasta is just pasta.”

Instantly, Mary felt better. After paying, she asked, “By the way, are you related to Dick Cavat?”

“No. That’s Cavett, with an e and two t’s. My real name’s Cavatelli … like the pasta!”

After Mary left, Dr. Cavat lay down on the couch and started dictating:

“I’ve been dreaming about a woman named Mary.”


Have you ever written Flash Fiction? Or would you like to add more to Pasta Dreams? Maybe we can write a sitcom about it!

Rapping It Up

Day 30 of the Nano Poblano (a.k.a. NaBloPoMo — National Blog Posting Month) challenge is finally here! Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, and thanks to the “cheer peppers” who made it all happen and cheered us on by “liking” our posts. I read the posts of my fellow bloggers religiously and learned so much from all of you.

I’m proud of myself for sticking with it, even though some days were a little rough. Somehow, I managed to eke out 30 different pieces, including:

  • two posts made within 15 minutes of midnight
  • one post consisting of only one sentence
  • two posts that were nothing but questions
  • one that included a video of me singing and playing guitar
  • a poem made up of 14 shorter haiku poems
  • many other posts, some with a bit of history, some just plain silly
  • no cat photos, and only one post with pictures of what I had for lunch

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed NanoPoblano, I’m looking forward to a little down time in December. (Did I just say down time in December?) This year, for the first time since I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for December to get here. I mean, I literally couldn’t wait. As soon as I returned home from New York yesterday, I changed both of my wall calendars to December without realizing that I was two days early.

There’s one thing I meant to post this month and didn’t. It’s a little embarrassing, but here goes: I don’t know how to rap. I don’t know much about it and I think I might be terrible at it. I’d like to learn, though, so that maybe I can use it in my songwriting projects. But how do you learn to rap? The same way you can learn almost anything these days: YouTube! I watched a few videos and I learned that some rappers (I think it’s called freestyle?) compose on the spot by thinking ahead to the end of the phrase before mentally writing the first line. I decided to try it, so I looked around the room for inspiration. I was in the kitchen. On the table was a glass, some cheese and crackers on a plate, and a vase of flowers. I grabbed my pad and pencil, and here’s the result. I may not win a Grammy, but if I make you smile it’s all worth it.

I had no support, I had no backers,
all I had going were these tasty crackers

I needed a genie to grant me three wishes
instead of all these glasses and dirty dishes

I wanted to be strong, I wanted magic powers
or maybe just a bunch of beautiful flowers

I had me some treble, I had me some bass
but I needed something else, like a flower vase

I asked that genie, pretty pretty please
can you bring me some money, or maybe just some cheese?

And on that note, I’m rapping up this edition of loristory. Happy December!

Featured image photo by Anita Peeples

img_2134

 

 

The Magna What?

Two years ago, I entered my first poetry contest. I’m not much of a poet, and I know it, but I’m interested in poetry and I do have a tendency to wade into deep water and get in over my head. Well, these waters were deep indeed, and the current was strong. In fact, it carried me 800 years into the past, and, figuratively speaking, across the Atlantic Ocean. That’s because the contest was part of a London festival celebrating the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. The highlight of the event would be the reading of the winning poem (by the poet). I had never been to England. Game on.

The last time I remember anybody even mentioning the Magna Carta was maybe in my very dry high school World History class. I say maybe because I really don’t remember much about that class. I got B’s only because I knew how to study and cram for tests. I didn’t really start to appreciate history until much later. I had a lot of Googling to do if I was going to write any kind of a poem about the Magna Carta.

Well, Google I did. I didn’t win a prize, but the effort was worth it anyway. I learned something new, and I had fun doing it. If you want to learn more about the Magna Carta … well, it’s 2017. You know what to do.

And now for my poem.

At Runnymede

At Runnymede we made our stand
eight hundred years ago;
the rolling hills and River Thames
bore witness to it all.

We gathered in the meadow
with rebellion on our minds
and told King John he had no right
to act above the law.

“We’re nobles with a noble cause,
And free men, by the way!
Your taxes are exorbitant,
your punishments arcane.

The Archbishop has drafted
a more modern set of rules,
and what’s more, it’s in Latin
so it’s legal as can be!”

“I can’t accept your terms, you fools,”
said haughty old King John.
“The Pope’s in my back pocket,
so you haven’t got a prayer.”

Then he dismissed us with a wave,
but we would not be cowed
Instead, we grew more resolute
than ever, and declared,

“We’re mad as hell, you tyrant, you!
Divine rights are passé!
No longer will we acquiesce
to your outlandish schemes!

Our liberty is sacred,
but you are not, King John,
and if you dare to cross us
we will seize your lands at once!”

Reluctantly, the king accepted
our demands that day
with no intent to honor them —
but they survived his reign.

At Runnymede the River Thames
and rolling hills abide;
eight centuries have come and gone —
and Magna Carta stands!

© Lori Bonati, 2017

Badge 2017