Tuesday, April 2, 2013

NaPoWriMo 2013: April 2

Today's prompt from over at NaPoWriMo headquarters suggested that we poets write a poem based around a lie.  Here's mine.

White Lies

ignoring shadows
pooled under his eyes
refusing to see
papery skin stretched
taught over bony angles
smile broadly and
tug the words from
down in our guts 
drag them through our
throats and shove them
with our tongues
past smiling teeth

Monday, April 1, 2013

NaPoWriMo: Back in the saddle again!

Forgive me Readers; it has been months and months since my last confession... er... post.

Truth be told, I've been focused on writing for my other blog, EduNerd. Life has lead me down a new path. While I am still teaching, my professional career has shifted from classroom-only to more of an educational technology integration sort of thing. I'm loving it! It does, however, force me to prioritize a bit and (unfortunately) that's meant neglecting this little blog for a while.

Bringing me back to this address, though, is National Poetry Writing Month! I am, once again, participating with my sixth graders. I'm happy to share their work with the world. Check it out here. I'll be posting my own work here, too... just note that it has to be sixth-grade-acceptable. So nothing too risque or serious, I suppose.

Here's April 1. Our theme? April Fools' Day!
Fooling Around

If your alarm was somehow set
To ring  at five, not six
And someone shaved your pet
And your cereal was sticks-

If mayo filled your donut
Instead of berry jam
And your order came from Pizza Hut
Piled with beets and ham-

And some joker packed your shoes
With jello that was green-
Before you start to sing the blues
Because the world’s so mean...

Remember that it’s April one-
A day for playing tricks.
So play a fool and have some fun
with your own antics.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Today's post was inspired by a student I've been tutoring throughout the summer. I gave him the assignment to choose a photo and to write a story based on the photo. As I think it's important (and fun) to participate in such writing assignments along with my students, I used the same photo and wrote my own story. We both had a great time writing (his piece is about a hero who saves a water planet from utter destruction wreaked by a fire god) and so we are both publishing our stories on our respective blogs. I hope you enjoy my offering

Edgar's day had started like any other. Alarm at 7am. Two bouts of snooze. Out of bed with a sigh at 7:18. He pinched generic fish food into the cloudy water where Barry, his pet goldfish, swam listlessly in a clockwise motion, never finding his way out. A ten minute shower under lukewarm water with poor pressure and Pert shampoo. A microwaved Weight Watcher's breakfast sandwich as he walked to the #45 bus stop by 8:02.

Edgar arrived at the squat, gray building by 8:55 and took the elevator to the third floor, working bits of egg and cheese from between his back molars. He worked his way through the maze of cubicles. He slumped into his squeaky chair, simultaneously turning on his dusty computer, which groaned to life, gradually humming along with the others. Someone, probably the buck-toothed secretary who always wore brightly colored polyester pants that were two sizes too small, had placed a stack of papers containing numbers and codes next to his keyboard, and so he began entering the data as soon as the black and white database shimmered into view in front of him.

Although he heard those around him chatting about the latest episodes of whatever television show they had all watched, Edgar took no note of it. Instead, he settled into a rhythm of typing in a strand of numbers, clicking the tab button to move to the next cell in the table, tapping in the code (containing three capital letters, two numerals, and five lowercase letters), and then clicking the return key-- all the while never looking away from the stack of papers. He had long since forgotten what the numbers meant, what the codes referred to. Had he thought more deeply about it, he would have probably remembered that it all had something to do with insurance and medical procedures, but he did not think more deeply about it.

It happened at about half past ten. There was no sound, no dimming of lights, indeed nothing dramatic or even noticeable at all. But something changed and Edgar found himself absolutely unable to see his screen clearly anymore. It wasn't blindness, exactly, it was instead as though his right eye was no longer able to coordinate with his left, causing the strangest effect: the numbers and letters seemed to swarm toward his periphery as though they might be running away from him, trying to avoid notice. He took off his glasses and cleaned them on his plain black tie, replacing them and squinting as the numbers still refused to cooperate. Removing the glasses for a second time, he rubbed his fists on his eyelids, noting how the patterns that erupted in the darkness reminded him of the spirograph he used to play with his sister when she had still been alive. He made a short exclamation that sounded like, "Hmmf!" upon replacing his glasses and still seeing the same strange dance of numbers and letters before him.

At this point, Edgar looked around, wanly wondering if the rest of the office might be experiencing the same phenomenon. He detected no discernible change in the behavior of his colleagues, and none of them seemed to notice that he was in the midst of such a strange ripple in reality. The whole thing suddenly made Edgar feel very dizzy and a little nauseous. He pushed himself back from his desk and stood up, hands planted firmly on the desk's surface to steady himself. With Herculean effort, he rose to his full height and turned away from the screen. As soon as his eyes were allowed to look elsewhere, he felt a little better, though he could see the screens of those around him and those, too, swam and swarmed, pulling him back into another dizzy spell. "I have to get out of here," he murmured to no one in particular. And no one in particular responded, for no one in particular had heard him.

Steering himself through the office, he made his way to the elevator and somehow pressed the button marked "1". During the ride down, he noted that the floor pattern made him have this same queer and queasy feeling, and as he barreled through the lobby, he noted that the sound of people talking and the flickering fluorescent lighting also affected him in this way. Edgar hoped that when he stepped outside into the air he might feel better, but he found instead that the cars whizzing by and the various patterns of brick and concrete, steel and wood of the buildings increased his anxiety. All of this caused Edgar to stumble almost blindly through the streets without paying attention to where he was going.

It was only when his shoes sunk into the sand and he realized that he had walked all the way to the beach that he began to catch his breath. He must have been walking for hours on end. His feet ached, throbbed, and felt suffocated, so he bent down at once and removed them. That felt so good that he also tore off his socks, tossing them aside. The cool and forgiving surface of the sand between his toes inspired him to breathe deeply for the first time that day- perhaps for the first time in years. He unbuckled his belt, unbuttoned and unzipped his pants, and stepped out of them, enjoying the cool and prickly feeling that now tickled his bare legs. He loosened his tie and fumbled with the buttons on his shirt, understanding without a doubt that removing these items would make him feel even better. He was right.

Edgar stood like that for maybe ten minutes, just enjoying the fact that his own breathing now coincided perfectly with the ebb and flow of the tidal waters on the shore in front of him. He wondered at how deliciously few muscles he actually needed to engage in order to stand here at the edge of the world staring into the setting sun.

The sun. He cocked his head to the right and squinted. The sun looked strangely clear, as though a digital HD version of itself. In fact, it seemed not to be millions of miles away, but perhaps only an arm's distance away. It was silly, he knew, to do it, but he reached instinctively upward with both hands.

Edgar gasped, "oh" when he felt his hands curl around the sun's surface. He stood frozen and staring at it in his hands, not letting go even as it sizzled and burned his palms. Its power radiated up his arms and spread throughout his body, making him vibrate from within. He could, he knew without a doubt, move the sun one way or another and cause instant global destruction. Tides would turn, the planet would wobble off its axis, magnetic poles would reverse. Perhaps all of Earth's resident life forces would fly off its surface like a merry-go-round stopped suddenly from its rotation. He breathed in this knowledge.

Edgar stood like that for a very long time.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Take the Last Train to Loserville

Yup. It's true. I am a loser.

A while back I cracked my knuckles and wrote some fiction. Some flash fiction, to be precise. NPR hosts, with fair regularity, a contest called "Three-Minute Fiction." The challenge? Write a piece of original fiction in 600 words or less. For each round of the competition, a successful published author also sets a specific challenge.

Something about the Round 8 prompt moved me. In addition to the word limit, the story also had to begin with this sentence: "She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door." Ignoring what I deem to be an incorrect comma placement choice (who's with me?!), I loved it. That word finally set my imagination a'running.

I had followed the contest after seeing some friends post about it on good ol' Facebook, but I had not yet worked up the ambition and focus to even think about the prompts for Rounds 4-7, let alone actually... you know... like... write something. I waited until nearly the last minute to actually set pen to paper (ok... set... fingerprint? to keyboard?), but I kept thinking about it and thinking about it. Eventually, I talked to my friend (and often Creative Partner), Krista and found myself somehow having committed to submitting an entry.

This is all a long preamble to having a place to post my entry, since the judge for this round, novelist Luis Alberto Urrea, author of Queen of America, turned out to either be a man with a notable lack of taste or somehow didn't ever really get to read mine. How else to explain his crowd-hushing decision not to pick my story as any sort of winner at all. Ok... Ok... I had great competition. Over 6000 entries, including Krista's, which he also somehow missed in the hubbub. His pick for the favorite turned out to be "Rainy Wedding" by Carrie MacKillup. And I must agree that her story is packed with layers and does indeed feel "novelistic in its heft."

After my perusal of the finalists' stories, I would have instead, chosen "Action Verbs" hands down. Not only did author Kani Martin make me throw my head back and laugh, but I also raised my fist in solidarity. Another Grammar Shaman! What a clever, clever, clever (and brave, brave, brave) take on the prompt.

So. Without further ado, I present my unpublished, uncelebrated, unrecognized, unwinnerly piece of short fiction, "Finally". Just think. You can say you knew me when.

door opened
"Door Opened" by hokkey on Flickr
She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. Had he known, he might have taken more notice of the details. The color of the top she wore. How she had done her hair. If she had worn lipstick. He might have noticed whether she had taken her small purse, which would have indicated she would be gone only a short time. Had he known, he might have done something. A hug, a kiss, a wave. Said something profound or touching. Something. At least he might have looked up from his cup of Sumatra, set down the paper.

Instead, he had done none of that. He had slurped the strong coffee, feeling annoyed there was no creamer. Had remained engrossed in the article about the coming cold front, wondering if he would get to play golf. Some time after she departed, he had stretched backward in his chair to check the time on the microwave's clock. 7:45. He had left his mug on the table, tossed the paper there, gone upstairs, brushed his teeth, grabbed his briefcase, and wandered out the door into the sunlight.

It would take nearly the entire day to realize. And it would take nearly one week for him to think about those actions: the closing of the book, the placing of it on the table, and the finally of her walk through the door. Later, he would read the book himself, laboriously sifting through its words, searching for some clue.

His day had gone by without incident, a typical plodding routine of emails and meetings, filing and printing, mundane conversations about people's genius children and disappointing spouses. She had not called him at lunchtime, which was unusual but not unprecedented. It was not until he returned home to see his mug and paper unmoved that he began to wish he had paid more attention.


On the other hand, the little boy's mommy had taken careful note of everything about his departure. She made sure he had finished his cereal and fruit and orange juice. Made sure he had worn light colored clothing, his reflective vest, and of course his helmet. She had helped him load the newspapers into his bike pack, making sure it was secure and that no ties could loosen and become entangled in the spokes. She had told him she loved him and had waved until he disappeared, finally, around the corner.

She knew right away. She felt it in her heart.


Nobody was around to archive the old woman's actions as she left the house. No one was there to feel saddened by her meager breakfast of half a blackened banana and fruit punch from a cracked plastic McDonald's cup. No one felt uncomfortable as she struggled to peel back the plastic on the single piece of cheese she ate as an afterthought. Nobody noticed how she tied a scarf around her white wiry hair and pulled lace gloves over her gnarled hands, squinting at herself in the dusty mirror by the front door before she left.

An observer might have thought she looked as though she had known what was coming. An observer might have wondered if she had cared. Or if she had thought only, finally.