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Culture Shock, flash fiction by Jane Boch (MY SWEET WORD Series)

I love this piece so much that I need to re-blog it! This is a fantastic piece of flash fiction! Thanks for sharing, Jane Boch, and Silver Birch Press.ūüôā

Silver Birch Press

japanese pastry

Culture Shock
by Jane Boch

Carla no longer trusted chocolate. Her bite into the filled pastry contorted her face with sourness and disappointment.

‚ÄúBean paste,‚ÄĚ Evan said, laughing.

Carla forced a swallow. ‚ÄúYou knew?‚ÄĚ she accused.

Carla would be in Japan for three weeks. She hoped this trip would propel her into an engagement with Evan, a U.S. Naval Officer, or prompt them to end the long-distance relationship. She couldn’t imagine marrying a man whose career demanded replacing chocolate with the gooey pastiness of mung beans.

A walk in Evan‚Äôs hilltop neighborhood led Carla to an overlook of the bay. Turning from the water view, she glimpsed a sign picturing a loaf of bread. Inside the shop, the fragrance of freshly baked goods, arranged on racks lining the walls, reminded her of the bakery in her hometown. She asked, ‚ÄúSweet?‚ÄĚ while pointing at a croissant topped with sugar.

The baker…

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When

What a great micro-read to start the week with…

Oblong

 

By David Bussell

 

When the waiter poured the man‚Äôs wine and offered a casual ‚ÄėSay when,‚Äô the man did no such thing.

Instead he watched, steadfast as the wine filled the glass, until eventually it found the rim and overflowed onto the tablecloth. The waiter cocked an eyebrow as if to say ‚ÄėPlay fair, sir, say when,‚Äô but the man remained staunch as the wine cascaded off the sides of the table, soaking the carpet and pooling at their feet.

Soon the wine collected around their ankles, then their shins, and still the man said nothing. Sweat beaded the waiter’s brow as the wine flooded to the edges of the restaurant and began pressing at the windowpanes. Say when, the waiter’s eyes screamed. For God’s sake say when! The bottle faltered in his hand but still the man said nothing, so still the wine flowed.

There was a…

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The first few words…

 

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What I wish to write about today, actually happened a couple of months ago, just as school was ending. It was my last day to assist in the middle-school library of my son’s school. It was also a scheduled testing day for many students, so the library’s book section was closed.

My job was to man a mobile book site: table, computer/scanner, and a rolling cart full of randomly, librarian-selected books. I was ready. Yet, as the minutes ticked by the halls remained silent with only an occasional squeak of shoes or hushed whispers, but no customers. I tried reading the book I’d brought along, but alas, I was bored. And that was when I had the great idea to conduct an experiment.

I had seventy-nine books on the cart: all fiction books, and all middle grade or young adult in content. My testing method was simple: pick up a book, look at the front cover, skip the synopsis and/or any prologue, and then read only the first paragraph. If the book caught my attention in that opening paragraph, it earned a spot on the top shelf of the cart.

At one point the librarian came out into the hallway to check on me. I noted the quizzical uncertainty on her face and felt compelled to explain why there were books stacked on the table, and an oddly empty book cart, especially the top rack.

What did she say? She gave me a furtive high-five as only a librarian could, and with a¬†conspiratorial¬† smile claimed that I was, “a girl after my own heart.”

With the seal of approval upon me, I quickened my pace–an hour and a half passes quickly when you have a timed goal to complete. I can‚Äôt describe what I thought I was looking for, but I knew that I‚Äôd know, or feel it when I read it. I finished with literally minutes to spare before my shift was over.

My top shelf was full, and overflowed into the second tier of the cart. It was difficult, but I narrowed my list down to the top twenty-one titles, those that most precisely grabbed me from the first few lines. IMG_1748

Here’s my list:

1)Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

“The best time to talk to ghosts is just before the sun comes up.”

2)The Lightning Dreamer(written in verse–added commas to note line breaks)by Margarita Engle

“Books are door-shaped, portals, carrying me, across oceans, and centuries, helping me feel, less alone. But my mother believes, that girls who read too much , are unladylike…”

3)The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake

“The first time I seen her, I got a bad feeling inside.”

4)The & Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

“I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It‚Äôs not as easy as it looks.”

5)Jefferson’s Sons: A Founding Father’s Secret Children by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

“It was April and all Monticello was stirring, but in their cabin Mama had just put baby Maddy down to sleep and she told Beverly and Harriet to be still.”

6)Positively by Courtney Sheinmel

“When my mother died I imagined God was thinking, ‚ÄėOne down, and one to go.‚Äô”

7)Taken by Edward Bloor

“Once you‚Äôve been taken, you usually have twenty-four hours left to live.”

8)Number 8 by Anna Fienberg

“I think the best number in the whole universe is eight. The way I see it, eight has everything going for it. It‚Äôs even, for a start.”

(The first eight are in ranking placement, however the remainder are not in any order of preference.)

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Heartbeat by Sharon Creech

Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Spitting Image by Shutta Crum

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet

by Erin Dionne

Kill Switch by Chris Lynch

Gone by Michael Grant

The Looking Glass War by Frank Beddor

The Battle of the Labyrinth

by Rick Riordan

Door in the Woods by James Dashner

London Calling by Edward Bloor

So what did I learn?

IMG_9826Those first few lines are so important, but they don’t have to be complicated. They are the gatekeepers into the story, and only need to stand tall, firm and singular. Be inconspicuously vague in the everyday details, but uniquely brazen in the precision of telling the tale. Don’t hold back. Make me extremely curious!

Keep the words simple, but the thoughts so precisely complex so that they belong only to this story, this character, and the moment in time that you are revealing to the reader. What you say must ring true, and if you try too hard, add too much, too soon, you’ve lost me.

The first paragraph, or the story’s beginning,¬†should offer a promise. The promise: It‚Äôs that connection between the reader and the writer(narrator), the¬†invisible, timeless contract of whispered truths to come.

Personally, I prefer first-person narration in stories(and my writing). Less than a handful of the above mentioned books were written in third person.

 

Personal updates:

Obviously, I‚Äôm not too good at keeping up with this blog. However, I do “write” blog posts, but mostly in my head‚Äďalthough I‚Äôve taken notes and at some time in the future plan to share them. Right now it seems more important to write, and finish my current project, Sky.

Speaking of Sky, I‚Äôm in the process of its transcription into computer files, as well as editing/revision along the way. My goal is to be done with this process around the time school starts, and then move on to a second hearty round of editing. I’d love to¬†be done with the entire project by October/November. Eh?

The poem I posted last year on this site, “Shame,” will be published the week of August 24th via a great site: http://www.thevoicesproject.org! Oddly, I receive the most random traffic to this blog because of that poem, so I wanted to have it officially accepted/published somewhere before someone tried to plagiarize it off of my site. (Not that this would prevent such things, but still, makes me feel better regardless.)

I have one non-fiction short story and one new poem out there in the world, awaiting either rejection or acceptance. At this point I still have naive hope that both will be given the latter.

One of my planned, upcoming/someday blog post will be about my writing group. I started the small group at the beginning of the year, just for local moms. It’s been such a great experience and a wonderful way to promote more writing in my life, as well as to encourage other moms.

I‚Äôm still reading as much as I can, to improve my writing. I‚Äôm almost done with Sylvia Plath‚Äôs Letters Home‚Äďthere‚Äôs hidden wisdom between the lines.

That’s all, folks! For more frequent, less loquacious updates, please like my Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/ShermieRayne?ref=hl

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The End!!!

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This is my completed rough draft of, SKY, an upper-middle grade novel about a young-teen girl contemplating the burden of living, in a world that is not too kind.

Well, it is sort of “the end,” as I’ve completed my first novel-length rough draft!¬† Yay! And, high-five super duper yay!!! I’ll admit I’ve been smugly smiling to myself the last couple of days with this accomplishment bubbling inside.¬†ūüôā

stock-vector-colorful-vector-runner-silhouette-background-with-butterflies-152366162It is emphatically wonderful to announce this news, especially since I slowed my writing pace towards the very end of the story.¬† There was a vague sense of uncertainty plaguing me, despite knowing the ending and what needed to be written, there was an¬†unexplainable fear to cross the marathon’s finish line.¬† Thankfully,¬† I pushed past that¬† foggy¬†fear and made it to the other side of completion.

 

stock-vector-vector-illustration-of-transparency-of-start-and-finish-in-cartoon-style-158473007¬†Humbly, I begin¬†another long marathon*.¬† Now my task at hand¬†will be to transcribe my handwritten draft into computer files.¬† This step will not be nearly as exciting, or free flowing¬†¬†as creating the story,¬†and thus I anticipate many grumpy moments ahead at the laptop.¬† ¬†However, I’m equally impatient¬†for the editing and rewriting/realigning¬†to begin.¬†¬† I’m not sure if this is a realistic goal or not, but I hope to have all of this accomplished, and a completed 1st/2nd draft by July 1st, so that I can rest the draft, and my memory of the story for a couple of months before nitpicking the heck out of it when my kids return to school.

*I suppose I should clarify that analogy and say half-marathon, for my book is an upper middle grade novel of roughly 45-50K words in length.

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Everything is awesome…

Seriously, the new Lego Movie theme song has been continuously looping through my head for the last day.   YIKES!  So, here I am riding in on that awesomeness wave of optimism to reconnect with my blog.

Alas, lonely little Blog, I’ve been neglectful for far too long.¬† (Wow,¬† exactly 100 days to be precise!)

I’m happy to report that even though my blog has been void of words, my writing has not.¬† I didn’t finish November¬†as a first-time,¬†¬†National-Novel-Writing-Month(NaNoWriMo) “winner*,”¬†but I did finish the month with a solid, and completed¬†outline and well over 15,000 words “carved” into¬†my current project, SKY,¬†which currently stands at around 27K in words.

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My “Wonder-Mom” Lego keychain figure…

My 2014 writing goal is/was to write everyday, and for the most part I’ve been following through and connecting in some tangible way with writing everyday.¬†¬† There are a few poems that I’ve been¬†fiddling¬†around with,¬† that desperately need a lot more thought and time.¬† I’ve even¬†come up with the very great, yet very na√Įvely¬†awesome idea to submit to ¬†Writers of the Future (http://www.writersofthefuture.com/) at some point during the year.

In January, I submitted two, equally “awesome” flash-fiction pieces.¬† So far, I’ve received one rejection, but no word¬†on the¬†other yet, so I’m hopefully and totally awesomely stoked either way.¬†¬† Why?¬† Because it means two important things: I’m writing and I’m trying!!!¬† In the end that’s all I can do–try and put myself out there.

 

How’s the writing year going for you so far?¬† Awesome, yet?¬† There’s still time!!!

P.S. I know I used an awful lot of adverbs in this blog post, but really inserting the word “awesome”¬†just seems to require heavy usage of LY-words.¬†ūüôā

*I’ll post more on this in October, if I can remember to do so.ūüėČ

 

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Last-minute NANO participant…eyeroll at self!!!

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This project will be written entirely in longhand using notebooks(on purpose). Can you guess my favorite color?ūüėČ

I¬†had no intention to sign up for NANO–really!¬† In the last couple of years, I considered it briefly with the same¬†intrigue someone might consider eating a basket of¬†fried Oreos.¬†¬† Interesting concept, but probably a really bad idea, that could lead to unpleasant distress.

November is the kick off to the holidays, right?¬† My kids have¬†five scheduled¬†school days off this month.¬†¬† There are several birthdays and end-of-season sports parties to plan/attend.¬† And, let’s not forget the twenty-pound turkey that needs cooking with all the fixings…let alone the Christmas crazy haze that has already began in haste.¬†¬† Whew!¬† That’s overwhelming!¬† But, you get an idea of why November is one of the worst months to immerge oneself into writing 50,000 words.¬† http://nanowrimo.org/

Unfortunately for me, I often don’t listen to¬†the¬†rational left-hemisphere of my brain.¬†¬†¬†I’m actually looking at this as an auspicious¬†occurrence that was possibly meant to align at this very moment.¬† There is a trio of elements that flourished the NANO seed:

  1. The new project that I want to see in rough draft ASAP( https://shermierayne.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/when-the-dogs-bark-listen/  )
  2. I honestly can’t remember, too much coffee does this to me! Darn!¬† Ha!¬† How could I forget!¬† A major age-related milestone is coming up.
  3. A conversation hubby & I had Wednesday afternoon.

Without any doubt, it was that conversation that not only shone brightly on that little seed of NANO consideration, but soaked it until the roots were spreading quickly.¬†¬† The conversation?¬† Well, it was the basic we-need-more-money lament.¬† But, when hubby finished with, “Why don’t you hurry up and finish that book and make us a million dollars?” I felt a belief in his words(maybe for the first time).¬† Perhaps it was merely desperate, temporary dreaming on his part, perhaps, yet I heard in his voice an undercurrent of hope and belief.¬† I needed that.¬† In that moment I knew I would push harder, try harder and struggle more.

I have been treading lightly;¬†my footfalls have barely left an imprint.¬† I’m committing¬†to the long hours and unrest of struggle, relenting to its¬†beauty.¬†¬† “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.” Frederick Douglass

There y’aIMG_8786ll go, that’s my “why” in a nutshell.¬† I don’t plan to blog this month unless something truly remarkable happens(fingers crossed).¬† If you’re curious enough to want to follow along with my month-long journey, please like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ShermieRayne?ref=hl¬†.¬† I’ll update my word counts there sporadically throughout the month.

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I hope everyone had a safe and happy Halloween!

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Where does a writing voice come from?

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 Can voice be taught?  That is the question!

For weeks, I’ve been attempting to help¬†navigate my twelve-year-old son with his assigned middle school writings.¬† This has not been an easy endeavor.¬† Evidently, It seems there is a new¬†writing buzzword in our local schools: voice.¬†¬†Students need to have their own unique,¬†vibrant¬†and creative voice, while actively engaging their readers.¬† That sounds great in theory, but in reality is this an easy concept to teach, let alone assess and grade based on a rubric checklist of conforming standards?

In the years past,¬†my son did an okay job writing, getting by¬†with putting together¬†complete sentences–minus grammar and spelling errors.¬†¬† If he had a writing style before, it was(still is) sparse, reticent and painfully to the point.¬† So when he writes, that is his voice, too–making the material seem obtuse and nowhere near¬†engaging.¬† ¬†Alas,¬†but that is his own writing voice.

In comparison, his slightly younger sister has brought home papers recently that exalt with praise¬†of her “excellent voice.”¬†¬† She wrote a small homework assignment on pork last week effortlessly, as my son and I banged our heads together for over an hour trying to add “voice” to his assignment.¬†¬†In just a couple¬†of paragraphs, she had an energized¬†commentary that was both funny and persuasively moving(enough so that I felt a pang of guilt for sneaking bacon into her soup the previous night).

So, I’ve been thinking about the “writing voice” lately.¬†¬† Can I even accurately articulate its meaning to my children?¬† ¬†What are the differences that might influence, or enhance¬†a¬†writing voice?¬† Regarding my children I’ve¬†concluded the following:

  1.  My daughter loves reading, my son does not.
  2.  She does not fear(or care much) what others think of her, whereas my son does.
  3.  They have totally different personalities!
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‚ÄúI’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Kurt Cobain

Hmmm, number two intrigues me.¬† I’ve been told that I have an “OK” writing voice.¬†¬† But I don’t know how “OK” that voice would be if I’d not made it to that point in¬†life where I cared more about expressing my own thoughts, than what others might think of those words(thoughts).¬† Perhaps voice becomes most potent when we let go of the fear of saying something wrong, and¬†we speak with an authentic essence of self .¬† But, again, how can that be taught?¬† How can you teach someone to let go and be expressive without fear, especially young writers, and most especially young writers that don’t really want to be writers?

I believe a writing voice to be a fragile and subjective thing, that can’t quite be described, explained or captured by others.¬† My fear in trying to objectively grade subjective material, like a¬†student’s writing voice, is that eventually a paradox is created, one where¬† we no longer seek a genuine and unique voice, but one that conforms to¬†pre-determined, standardized criteria.¬† Thoughts!?!

Side Notes:

  • After three attempts of my son rewriting an English paper, while I¬†figuratively baited,¬†hooked and pulled personable responses out of¬†him, the paper was finally¬†accepted and highly scored, and surely contained a voice.
  • I started this blog post in draft¬†form yesterday afternoon.¬† Ironically, and much to my chagrin, not long after,¬†my first grader brought home her first graded writing rubric of the year.¬† She scored a¬†2/4¬†for her writing voice(yes, you need a voice in kindergarten and first grade nowadays).¬† And that is perfectly OK, so I’m not worried, at her tender age, spelling and punctuation take precedence.
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When the dogs bark: listen!

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Art sculpture is titled “Muddy Dog” and produced by a local artist that I’m rather fond of.

I started a new writing project last night. I know I had promised myself to stick it out with only one big story at a time–one novel and not to hopscotch around further dividing my limited writing time. But, the water began¬†boiling¬†many days ago. I honestly tried to put a lid on it, or ignore the flash of ideas,¬†yet before I realized it– she had a name and a face and a heart full of pain.

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So when I sat down to declutter the ever-growing paper mess at my writing desk, and casually retrieved a legal pad from the floor, in an instant I knew the only question was whether I’d use¬†pencil or pen. The lid popped off the pot, the steam released.

When I finished the first entry(epistolary format), that pad literally vibrated in my hands. It held me as much as I physically held it. I didn’t want to go to sleep, afraid I’d lose that connection. No worries! In fact, or in spite of spending a rushed day out and about navigating everyday life(including work on a tooth’s crown), I’ve garnered a nice collection of napkins, receipts and Post-its scribbled with written material.

Back to the odd blog title: listen, don’t suppress! (Has anyone ever heard of such a saying before, or did I actually make it up?) Perhaps everything does have its own season and time, and moment of birth.¬† This could be the very right instant in time to write this one¬†particular story.¬† I must listen!

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Doubt, Fear, False Alarms & “Giving Birth” To Our Dreams

What encouraging writing words of wisdom to read on such a gloomy Monday !

Kristen Lamb's Blog

If you’re a writer, then you have a dream. You also have a lot of work ahead. I heard an interesting quote this morning from Joyce Meyers. There are dreamers who don’t work and workers who don’t dream. That hit home for me.

After having been around the block a few times, I can say I‚Äôve met both types of writers. Some writers have all these¬†ideas¬†and generally a stack of unfinished work to show for it. They aren‚Äôt willing to dig in when it gets hard, when the ‚Äúfair-weather friends‚ÄĚ fall away. On the other side, we have those who write, but are afraid to dream. They‚Äôre terrified to dare ask if they could be great.

To be successful we must learn to dream and to be finishers.Starting is easy. There are a lot of people to cheer us on, but watch what happens when the…

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A poem called “Shame”

streetsign

 

 

SHAME 
News reports that I’m trafficked,
my heart denotes that it’s racketed.

Street owns me,
prostrates me,
bends me to knees,
for money that touches my hand, but never reaches my pocket.

Fettered and tethered in invisible chains,
puts me on display‚ÄĒbut never seen.
That’s shame.

Mom hooked on crack and reefer,
allowed uncle to become my creeper.
In a haze she turned her gaze.

Wanted to be a teacher,
spent my nights daydreaming in books.
Now looking for a come up from the preacher,
reading street signs and the promise on the cigarette packs.

Easy prey, that’s what I was.
Not enough love at home to lift me up above,
the grip of a pimp.
That’s shame.

Need to escape.
Shooting up liquid heaven, can’t make the evade.
Crisscrossed wrist so scarred in lines,
my signs of dying to live.

I‚Äôm a commodity‚ÄĒan item, a purchase.
Change it!
No demand–no supply needed!

But, the Johns drive by.
Buy my time and my pain is your crime.
That’s shame.
 

I entered the above poem in the Library of Virginia’s Dark Side Writing Contest:  I did not win.  And I was OK with that, honestly the poem was a tad indecorous for library walls.  However, I felt the pulling, indignant urge to put it out there into the world nonetheless ( https://shermierayne.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/human-trafficking/ ).

There is now a People’s Choice Award vote, that is ongoing until October 5th for all of the prior contest entries.  So, if you have the time to browse through some fine poems and short fiction pieces, please have a look: http://www.virginiamemory.com/blogs/dark-side/2013/05/31/america-atlantic-ave-virginia-beach-oceanfront-2012/ !!!  Voting is super simple, and requires no login–merely a simple click.  My poem “Shame” is the seventh entry from the top(the photo icons seen in the right corner have entries posted as well).  However, please only vote for me if you’ve read other entries, but still liked my poem–no sympathy votes allowed. ūüėČ