Post a Week: “The Conversation”

This week’s task:  write a  piece using a list of five nouns.  These five nouns were randomly generated from the website Random Nouns and they inspired this story:

  • language
  • stone
  • locket
  • cherry
  • eyes

The Conversation

20140408-222220.jpgThe angel was made of stone. I knew that it would be difficult to talk with her, but I had to try.

When I got to the cemetery it was raining. Hard. Of course I had forgotten my umbrella, so I pulled my coat tighter around me and dashed for it, trying to dodge raindrops without success. She stood on the green grass, head bowed, a clutch of stone violets in her arms. She looked pensive, but not sad.

I approached her carefully. The wizard had told me not to awaken her abruptly or she would not be able to speak. After the months it took me to learn her language, I didn’t want to lose my chance to learn her secret.

The first thing to do was take out the strange locket the wizard had given me. It had a runic design on it, which made it seem an odd item to give to an angel, but those were my instructions. After saying the quiet prayer I’d been given, I draped the fine chain over her head and draped the locket around her neck.

At first nothing happened. Then one of her eyes began to sparkle, like the glint of a raindrop on the stone. I thought I was imagining things at first. But as I waited, both eyes started to gleam, and I could tell she had awoken.

This was my chance. Taking a deep breath, trying not to seem anxious, I started my well-rehearsed speech. In her language, I said, “Angel of the glen, I have come to seek your counsel. In my hour of need, I ask your help.”

Into my brain – not aloud – I heard these words, “What is it you seek, oh mortal one?”

“I have but recently lost one of my own – my son. I would that I might speak with him again.”

“What is it you wish to tell him?” The words came into my brain again.

“I wish to tell him …” My voice faltered. What right did I have to ask this of an angel, an angel made of stone who guarded this section of the cemetery? Would it even work?

I decided to try. “I didn’t have a chance to tell him I loved him before he died. I want him to know I love him and that I will always love him.”

There was a long silence. The angel’s eyes seemed to dim, and I was afraid I had failed. Had I said the words correctly? Had I somehow made an error?

I shivered in the rain. It was all I could do to remain standing there, freezing in the winter afternoon, awaiting the angel’s response.

Then it came. “Go toward the cherry tree that stands near the entrance gate. Say your prayer there. He will speak to you.”

I could only thank the angel with a shaky voice, and I noticed her eyes had returned to their original stone appearance. I left the locket, as I had been instructed. When I reached the cherry tree, I stood under its branches and waited. It was still damp, but the rain had stopped.

I waited to hear my son’s voice.



My work has been published in the Pitkin Review: “Your Table is Ready”

I am delighted to share with you a short piece that was accepted for publication by the Pitkin Review, a literary journal for Goddard College student work.  Enjoy!

Your Table is Ready

Champagne/Red Wine Toast

Dear Dining Patron:

We are pleased that you chose to celebrate your recent anniversary/holiday/birthday are our establishment.  In accordance with our policy to provide a more welcoming and inviting experience on return visits, we would like to offer the following apology and explanation of circumstances during your recent visit.

First of all, we are sorry that your server was morose.  We realize this may have had a dampening effect on your occasion.  While is it no concern of yours, we would like to explain that the server had just unfortunately broken up with one of our other employees, the sommelier, in fact.  The breakup was not amicable, as you probably noticed when the server  opened your bottle of champagne and then regrettably poured it over you rather than into your wine glasses, as should have been done.  We apologize for the inconvenience and will, of course, pay for any dry cleaning charges which you may have incurred.

We are also sorry that the band did not play any recognizable numbers during the live set.  While you could not have known this when you made the reservations, the band recently lost their record contract and they had decided to forsake their usual set, which we assure you covered a pre-approved list of standards and big-band classic tunes. Thus the discordant noise you heard during your meal.  We took steps to suspend the live music once we realized the situation.  However, the profane rhetoric which the lead singer lapsed into after we cut off the set was unintentional on the part of management, and we deeply apologize for any offense which it may have caused.

Finally, we deeply regret the damage that occurred to your automobile, which was parked in our valet parking location.  The chief valet has resigned his post and will no longer be working for our company.  We did not realize he was engaged in the underground graffiti movement, a so-called protest organization against capitalism and the free market, until he provided a manifesto of his organization, the Valets Against Luxury Vehicles (VALV).  We greatly apologize for the diabolical political caricature that festoons your black BMW, which we believe is either Angela Merkel or George W. Bush – difficult to tell.  Naturally we will cover the cost to restore your original paint job.

Regardless of the imposition of our staff and former staff on your celebration evening, we would like to assure you that we harbor high hopes that you will consent to return to our establishment for a repeat dining experience.  Your satisfaction is our greatest concern.  Please feel free to contact us if you have further questions or concerns.

Yours in fine dining,

The management

I have been awarded the Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

I am honored to announce that I have been awarded the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, nominated by Luna Cooler at  Luna Cooler has an imaginative and fun blog.

veryinspiringbloggerawardThese are the rules for this award:

  1.  Thank and link to the nominator.
  2.  List the rules and display the award.
  3.  Share seven facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate fifteen other blogs and comment on them to let the owners know that they’ve been nominated.
  5. Display the award logo as an image widget on your blog.

Seven facts about myself:

  • My favorite flavor of ice cream is chocolate-chocolate-chip.
  • I teach creative writing to seniors at a nearby assisted-living residence.
  • I love jazz music.
  • My favorite dessert is chocolate pot de creme.
  • I love math.
  • My favorite movie is “Stranger than Fiction,” a story about a writer whose character comes to life.
  • I adore Shirley Jackson’s short fiction.

My nominations for “Very Inspiring Blogger” award (first 5, more to come!):

  1. A Mom’s Blog – terrific assembly of pieces on parenting, photographs, and reflections on life
  2. Written – Kelsey Hoff’s reflections on writing
  3. Collecting Conversations – fun blogging
  4. Musings – great poetry and images
  5. Nicole Sloan’s Writing – writer’s daily blog postings


Exercise: “Sunday”

Here’s an exercise I’ve been doing lately, and this week we did it in the class I teach on Creative Writing.  It seems ordinary, yet often surprising results happen.  It’s from  the book “What If?” by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter.

Write a story entitled “Sunday.”  The idea is that Sunday is a day of the week that often evokes strong emotional or family tension.  It’s a day of rest, yet it is also a day for family meals, getting ready for Mondays, and so on.

Here’s my “Sunday” story!


Sunday was the day they went out to eat.  Darla dreaded it.  First there was the ongoing raging debate about where.  Mom always wanted The Olive Garden.  Dad was for the Ribeye Steakhouse.  Grandma – Old Time Country Buffett – “they have those little mini-eclairs at the dessert bar,” she said.  Uncle Jack didn’t like anywhere without IPO beer and Cousin June was a vegetarian – “Anyone who eats meat ought to be shot,” she said.

Darla sat in the corner, trying not to listen as they screeched back and forth at each other.  It was as though the arguing was the best thing about Sunday.  She watched them, red-faced, open-mouthed, trying to shout down the next person.  Not hearing the sad silence inside her that shrank away from their violence.  They looked absurd in a caricature New Yorker cartoon kind of way, like Old Fat People in the Sunday comics.

It might have been funny but the emotions they hurled at each other so freely were too raw for her.  It cost her to be in the same room with them.  After Tom had died they took her in – Tom was Jack’s brother and Mom and Dad’s son – and she had felt too numb to refuse them.  But it had been a month of Sundays and now she felt there was no escape.

The choice was before her.

Things I never would have done if my son hadn’t been there


Tumalo Coffee Company, Bend Oregon, Fall 2013

In response to Anna Fonté’s excellent exercise on the Weekly Writing Challenge, “List Lesson”, here is a list of things I would never have done if my son Leslie (Les Kiger) had not been here.  I lost him recently to lymphoma.   Over the past year he fought valiantly for his life, but the odds were against him and he passed a week ago.

There are so many things I would never have done if he hadn’t been in my life.  Here are some of them:

  1. Yoga.  I hated yoga before his 10-minute video yoga lessons.  Too hard, too strenuous, too boring.  I couldn’t do it.  I hated it!  But his poses and flows made it accessible even to me.  And fun!  I could do it and I wasn’t a klutz.
  2. Mac.  All my life I dreamed of being a Mac user.  In the movies they had Macs.  I was so jealous.  Even my ex had a Mac.  But I had Windows, my Dell laptop.  Because he’d always used a Mac, a few years ago I got a little Mac (12″ Powerbook G4) just to try it, a great little Mac.  Suddenly I was IN.  He coached me, he helped me with the transition from Windows to Mac.  He inspired me.
  3. Kale.  I never ate kale before; now we sauté it, steam it, oven-roast it.  It was scary and bitter and strange and weird.  But he made it seem easy – and appetizing.
  4. HTML/CSS/WordPress. ‘Nuf said.
  5. “Photos using iPhone are good enough for a website.”
  6. Learning to sketch.  I’m not good at it, but when I try I think of him.
  7. Understanding Modern Art.  Pollack, Mark Rothko, Picasso.  Braque.  How it all works.  An interest in what modern art has to communicate.  Why it’s hard to understand and how to understand it better.
  8. Trying gluten-free foods.
  9. Dancing for fun.
  10. Snowboarding (as an observer).
  11. Board games.  Monopoly, Carcassonne, Scotland Yard, Pandemic.  Empire Builder.  (I’m sad I’ll never get to play Alien Frontiers or Quarriors with him.)  Settlers of Catan played with fierceness.
  12. Ocean-Beach

    Cannon Beach, Oregon

    Walking on the beach.  With the dogs.

  13. Acupuncture!  for my shoulder and foot.
  14. Street Fighter II, Mario Kart.  The Nintendo Super-NES.
  15. Writing letters and cards.
  16. Eating at ChowEating at McKay Cottage.  Eating at the Queen Mary Tea Room.
  17. Horses.  I thought I knew how to ride (in the 1990s), but he took working with horses way beyond what I dreamed you could do.
  18. Writing, writing, writing.  He was my best cheerleader when it came to my writing career, whether novels, short stories, or blogging.  In the past year he had become a talented writer himself.

I miss him already so very much.  He was beautiful, loving, spirited, and ambitious.  I am lucky to have been his mom, and I carry within me all these things – and many more – that he helped me to become.

Exercise: “I am” poem

Reflecting-leavesI’m not a poet, but I love to dabble in poetry exercises, hoping it will bring more lyricism to my fiction.  This week I tried a new exercise from Susan Wooldridge’s Poemcrazy, Chapter 14, “Full Moon Me,”   an “I am” poem.

For this exercise you make a list of “things I am”: If I were a color, I would be …; If I were a movement, I would be …;  and so forth, with sound; animal; song; number; car; food; musical instrument; element in nature; kind of tree; and the “word hiding behind my eyes.” 

Then combine the items into a poem.

In her book Susan says this exercise has given amazing voices to people who are not usually poets, such as the students in a Juvenile Hall school she has worked with.  I took a gulp and dove in.  It’s not perfect, but some surprising fun things came out.

Give it a try!

I am

I'm a 1930's ballad sung by Nat King Cole
smoothly flowing across a black ebony piano
unintending to double
I'm the number eleven
the age of perfect reason
without adult regret
I'm a 1960s Mustang convertible
soaring a high leap into the air
I'm odd and a bit unpredictable in a predictable way
a lovely savory crepe
or a leafy deciduous shade tree
I am the rich deep green of forest leaves
I spill like a waterfall
float across the air like the melody from an ancient tribal flute
fragments hold my imagination
I distinguish between the loved and the unloved
I'm in the first
I am laughter
I am a caress - especially of a summer breeze
I am a 
kind of shape
I am me.


Try this! the “Alphabet Exercise”

This week I trotted out a much-loved exercise from the book “What If?” by writing instructors Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter.  If you have never seen this book, it’s worth checking out.  They’ve got tons of fiction exercises on character, plot, starting a story, short-short fiction, point of view, etc.

Super-fun to try when you’re feeling stymied!

Here’s an exercise I keep coming back to – it always produces surprising results, and I’m excited to share it with you.  The idea is to write a story in which each sentence starts with the next letter of the alphabet, beginning with “A”.  You also have to include one sentence fragment and one sentence at least 100 words long.

Here is my attempt – enjoy!

Life-3-yearsIt’s all in the Name

All at once he knew it was a mistake.  Before she left him, he had been certain of everything.  Captions on photos.  Delivery times.  Elegant formal dinners.  Going back over what she said, he knew it had been a mistake to invite her to stay the weekend.  Hell, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, and it was a poor one.  If anything, she disliked him more now than her old boyfriend, “Sam.”  Just another name.  Kind of like in grade school when his best friend dropped him for another kid called Charlie.  Let’s be honest, Jedediah wasn’t exactly a popular name, now or when he was a child, and although it was a family name – his great-great-grandfather had been Jedediah Jones, and he’d had an illustrious career as a frontier newspaperman, so the family stories went, and even though he had long ago shortened his name to “Jed,” the name always seemed to evoke unfortunate connotations; sometimes they thought of Jed Clampitt from the dreadful 1960s TV sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies,” or maybe they conflated his name “Jed” with the conservative politician Jeb Bush, but always it seemed to mean bad things for him.  Maybe a name change.  Never rule out options was his motto, but in this case, no.  Odd names had to be good for something, he decided.  Perfectly possible.  Quite naturally, he wanted to make money from it, if he could.  Really could use the money.  Still, he didn’t have an idea.  Too late, he regretted not learning HTML instead of going to night school to get his CPA degree.  Unhappily, he had met her in the CPA program, and now if he were to finish it, he would have to face the embarrassment of being in class three nights a week with her for the next six months.  Very unsavory.  Well, he could stand it if she could.  Exactly that.  You could bet on it. . . . Zane would be a nice nickname.

Unlock the Possibilities


Table Top at the Ugly Mug Cafe

On Wednesday Miranda locked her keys in the car. When Jake, the man from AAA turned up to unlock it, she fell in love instantly. They went out on a date the next week, and in three months they were married. Who doesn’t want the talent of a handy locksmith? (50 words)

About this post:  How to write a story of exactly 50 words?  I opened a blank Word document and put in fifty “XXX” words so I would know exactly how many words I had written.  I think the XXX suggested AAA for triple-A (automobile association), and the story sprang from there.  One of my students ends her stories often with a reflection or question, so I must have borrowed her technique for the last sentence.



These Things Are Red

Deckled Paper Detail

lady bug
jelly beans
evening gown
bathing suit
4th of July
fire truck

About this post:  I wrote a catalog or list poem last week in a class I am teaching.  For a catalog poem, you just select a topic and make a list of things for that topic.  It’s a great starter poem form, and sometimes has surprising results!