With a new year around the corner, write about what you’ve learned over the past year. What do you know today that you didn’t know a year ago — about yourself, about someone in your family, about an issue in the world? Next, write about something you hope to learn more about in the year ahead.
Category: On Writing
Write about your first set of wheels. This could be the first car you ever bought, your tricycle, roller skates, or a skateboard. Write a scene about a particularly memorable occasion when you used your first set of wheels. Describe everything, from setting to others in the scene to the weather.
Write about shopping. Is shopping for yourself fun, or a chore? What about shopping for your family, or for holiday gifts? Think of your first memory of shopping, and how this relates to your current views on this activity.
It wasn’t until I moved to Oregon and saw mistletoe growing in the wild that I realized that mistletoe, that most romantic of plants, is actually a parasite. It grows in clumps on tree branches, drawing nutrients from the host plant, and it can actually cause damage. Who knew?
Write about mistletoe. From your earliest experience of it to what you know and feel about it now, include as much detail as you can.
Write a story about a red cat.
(I know it’s random. Just go for it.)
With all the focus on food and holiday shopping, we often forget that Thanksgiving is the season of gratitude. Each day this week, write down three things you’re grateful for, whatever these may be.
Next, write a scene about a Thanksgiving meal. This could be a scene starring the character in your novel, a poem about the Thanksgiving you spent in a train station in Guangzhou, or an essay about a childhood Thanksgiving that was particularly memorable.
Write about the last day you spent in nature, whether hiking or swimming in a lake or the ocean. Remember and record all the sights, sounds, smells, and textures you experienced. Next, write about how this day differs from a day spent in a city or suburb.
With winter on its way (perhaps already here, depending on where you live), we enter another season. Write about winter … what does this season mean to you, and why? Write about all your memories, and how these affect your current attitudes about winter.
When my husband warned me to avoid stepping on snails after a recent rain, I suggested the snail is probably his spirit animal (he loves them). The notion of a spirit animal its origins in traditions both specific and otherwise, but it generally refers to an affinity we have for a particular animal as well as facets of our personalities. Write about your own spirit animal — any animal that may fit your own version of what a spirit animal might be.
I was delighted to chat about Everyday Book Marketing with Adventures by the Book — and am especially looking forward to talking with authors on Thursday, November 6, at the AuthorPreneurs monthly Dinner Series. (Click here for more info and to register — $25 includes dinner and a free copy of Everyday Book Marketing!)
Also coming up next week is a chat with Sheila Bender on KPTZ’s In Conversation … the show will air on Tuesday, November 4, at 12:05 p.m. and on Thursday, November 6, at 5:35 p.m. Join us for a conversation about writing, environmental fiction, and small presses.
Write about your favorite cool-weather beverage. Include a recent or past memory about this drink.
Write about losing — a game, a bet, at item you loved. Then, write about something unexpectedly won or found.
Write about a song that brings back a certain memory or memories.
Write about a habit you wish you could break.
I’m thrilled to have a story included in this new anthology from Press 53: Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, an anthology of 20 short stories by 20 authors set in 20 countries.
The collection, compiled and edited by award-winning author Clifford Garstang (What the Zhang Boys Know, In an Uncharted Country), has a a theme that goes beyond geography: It’s a Dangerous World. The stories take readers on journeys to all seven continents: to a portentous soccer game in the Congo, to a mysterious disappearance in Argentina, to post-Katrina New Orleans, to a murder in the Italian countryside, to a quarreling couple in Kazakhstan, to a visit with Chairman Mao in China, to a sketchy dentist in New Zealand…and in my story, “The Ecstatic Cry,” to a remote Antarctic island where a touring passenger overstays his welcome.
I was glad to have the chance to chat with Cliff about Everywhere Stories … as well as upcoming readings and events!
Q: What was the inspiration for Everywhere Stories?
A: I began traveling extensively right after college, when I joined the Peace Corps. I then went to law school, which led to an international career. When I began writing fiction, I was drawn to stories set abroad, and I like to read those stories, as well. It occurred to me that an anthology of short fiction set all over the world might have some appeal, so I approached my publisher, and he loved the idea.
Q: Tell us what’s in the book. Do you cover the whole world?
A: There are a lot of countries on our small planet, so we couldn’t include them all. We’ve hit each of the continents: four of the stories are set in Africa, five in Asia, five in the Americas, four in Europe, and one each in Antarctica and Oceania.
Q: Do you have any plans for a second edition, to include the many other countries on the planet?
A: I’m glad you asked! I’m in discussions with the publisher now about a second volume. My thinking is that we would again have about 20 stories, and the only country we would repeat would be the U.S. In fact, from the original submissions for the book, I’ve asked a number of writers if I could hold their stories for Volume 2, so I’m already well on the way. We’re looking at Fall 2016 for a release.
Q: The book opens with thought-provoking quotes on travel by T.S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, and Albert Einstein — what do you hope readers come away with after reading this anthology?
A: My own international education began when I joined the Peace Corps. Since then I’ve worked and traveled extensively overseas, but when I return to the U.S. I can’t help feeling that we are primarily xenophobes. We know very little about the rest of the world, even those parts of the world we’ve visited as tourists. So this book—this series—is an attempt to dig below the surface of the world, to find what a casual observer isn’t going to see. So what do I want readers to come away with? I want them to realize that there is a big world out there, and we all have a lot to learn about it.
Q: As a writer yourself, how does creating your own stories affect the way you work/read as an editor?
A: The impact is more the other way around, I think. As an editor, I often see writers doing things that don’t work—falling into long flashbacks that totally stop a story’s forward momentum, for example—and it helps me understand what not to do in my own work. It’s almost like being in a fiction workshop, where the real benefit for a writer is not having his or her own work critiqued but in investing the time and energy to offer constructive feedback to others. In doing that, the writer invariably learns from someone else’s mistakes.
Q: Are there any upcoming events readers should know about?
A: First up is the official launch party, which takes place in Staunton, Virginia, where I live. Four of the 20 contributors will be coming to that. Press 53 will also be celebrating the launch at their annual Gathering of Writers in Winston-Salem NC on October 18. And then throughout the fall, we’ll be posting information about other events on the book’s Facebook page, at: https://www.facebook.com/everywherestories.
And check out this radio interview with Cliff on Rudy Maxa’s World; Cliff comes on at 33:45.