Friday, October 17, 2014

First Five Fragments for Friday - It’s in the Details

Your weekly offering of writing/art prompts.

Earlier this week, I wrote about my unwavering focus on Little Trees car fresheners, which I saw dangling from the rearview mirror of the car in front of me at a stoplight.

It’s attention to those little details that sometimes turns into a story, a work of art, a statement. Those details can derail a train, down an airplane, change a life. Or they can simply cause a sock to unravel because the wrong thread was pulled. 


Today’s prompts are odd details that may or may not get your attention. Do with them what you will.

1.  The neighbor’s back porch, with the shades rolled up, holds an assortment of items including a black men’s 10-speed bike, a box with “mountain grown Bartletts - 1.50” printed on the side, a green coffee can, a lidless Cool Whip container, a white director’s chair, a white bike helmet, a half-empty bag of Scott’s lawn fertilizer, a coiled green hose, and a pink sweatshirt tossed atop some boxes.

2.  Here is a list of things necessary to manage type 1 diabetes: insulin, an insulin pump or insulin pens, cartridges for the pump or needles for the pens, a blood glucose meter, strips that fit the meter, a lancet and lancet needles to get blood samples, batteries for the meter and the insulin pump, alcohol swabs for the tops of insulin vials, prep swabs for skin before inserting an insulin pump set, glucose tablets in case of low blood sugar, insulated carriers for insulin vials or insulin pens, a clip to hold the insulin pump on a waistband, a checklist for travel so nothing gets left behind, a copy of all prescriptions, and one thing - anything - that helps maintain sanity while managing a chronic condition.

3.  If someone is in the midst of an asthma attack, the skin at the base of their neck seems to suck itself inward while the muscles on the sides of their neck become taut ropes as they try to inhale. The sound of the inhalation is a chorus of odd, faint squeaks.

4.  Has anyone ever bought a lottery ticket based on these numbers?

5.  What is this?

Got enough details to ponder for the entire weekend? Good!

Happy Friday.

Fun Fact for the Week:

When was deodorant invented? According to an article on Mental_Floss, the first trademarked deodorant, called Mum, appeared in 1888, and it was actually a paste for the underarm area. Can you imagine putting that in your gym bag?

The scent-obsessed can learn more about that here: Body Odor Through the Ages: A Brief History of Deodorant.

Blame this week's fun fact on those car deodorizers that probably won't show up on this blog ever again.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Midweek Musings

Today, I was driving back from the Post Office when I pulled up at a stoplight behind a small car. I can't tell you what kind it was, because its logo didn't get my attention. What did get my attention were the three pine tree-shaped car deodorizers that hung from the car's review mirror. You know the ones - they look like little Christmas trees, smell strongly of something that resembles pines, swing wildly when the car they're in turns a corner.

I hate those things. I know they serve a purpose, but not in my car. Their stench is just about on a par with other nasty things I would rather leave at the curb. That's not to say someone else can't love them. And I am aware that they have other scents for those little tree shapes now, scents that weren't around when I first made their acquaintance.

If you love them, or you work in a place that makes them, I apologize.

Anyway, I couldn't stop looking at those and wondering why that car's owner had three of those smelly excuses for a sachet hanging from his mirror. Did he want to cover up the smell of cat vomit/dog poop/a dead body? Did he regularly forget to shower? Transport too many White Castle hamburgers? Did someone leave a dead fish in the car like in the movie, Grumpy Old Men?

Why did I care?

Ah. Why did I care? I truly can't answer that except to say that this is what I do all the time as a writer. Find some stupid little detail that gets my attention and I can't let it go, like when I find a thread hanging off a shirt and I just have to pull it to see what happens. I make up reasons for that detail, put it in different scenarios in my head, wonder who that person is who owns the detail, think about what it could lead to.

By the time I got home, a matter of 10 minutes from when I saw the oddly arresting little tree shapes, I had half a story in my head. Not sure when I'll actually figure out the other half of that story, but that one detail unleashed a lot of thought.

And that, right there, is one reason details matter. Without them, there is no story.

Come on back here on Friday, when my weekly writing prompts zero in on all kinds of goofy details. See you then.

Curious about the above-mentioned car air fresheners? Here's the link to Little Trees Air Fresheners.

Friday, October 10, 2014

First Five Fragments for Friday

Your weekly offering of writing/art prompts.

Hello, everyone! This week's prompts are all photos that I shot on Wednesday morning. Many people prefer a visual rather than a verbal prompt, so here it is.

Yes, there's a theme here. And it's in honor of my husband's birthday, which is today. He loves birds and he is the reason I pay as much attention to them as I do.

Happy Birthday, Mick! And Happy Friday to the rest of you.

Fun Fact for the Week

October 10th is the 283rd day of the year (except for Leap Year).

Friday, October 3, 2014

First Five Fragments for Friday

Your weekly offering of writing/art prompts.

As I write this post, rain pours in a pinging symphony on our roof, gathers in a river in gutters, washes the surface of our street. I imagine the roots of the trees drinking their fill, holding moisture to  help them stay strong in the coming winter. I think about the fireplace downstairs, how maybe later I'll light it, sit in front of it with my husband, share some wine.

This kind of day is the very best kind for writing, reading, snuggling. It's the kind of day that gets better with cookies just out of the oven, stew atop the stove.

Perhaps by the time anyone reads this, the rain will have stopped. But the rainwater will linger, soothing our garden as it prepares for sleep.

Sometimes creativity washes down, too, seeps into us, lingers until we give it another shape. With that sort of mood, here are this week's offerings.

1. The Boston terrier crawled right into my bed, got under the sheets, curled up next to my armpit. Once there, he refused to move. In the morning, I managed to get him outside, where he promptly peed on his own back leg. Why had I agreed to dog-sit?

2. The surface upon which she least wanted to sleep was the very one offered her in Purgatory.

3. How do you return to sleep after a nightmare?

4. Is it harder to be a parent or a warrior?

5. How do you make your art matter in the larger world?

Fun Fact for the Week:

Need a pizza fix? You're in luck. October is National Pizza Month. Americans eat about 251,770,000 pounds of pepperoni - our favorite topping - per year. And Americans eat 350 slices of pizza per second. That's a lot of pizza.

Find more fun pizza facts at Pizza Facts & Trivia - The Pizza Joint in Stowe, Vermont. 

And then go order one. Happy Friday.

photo courtesy of

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How To Carry Sunglasses

One day last summer, I was with my granddaughter Camille. We walked to a park near my house where there was a mucky pond with ducks, a bench swing, an overgrown path. The day was warm and clear, sunny enough that three-year-old Camille wanted to wear her sunglasses. They were beauties, too. Purple, with rhinestones around the lenses.

We walked to a playground when Camille tired of the park. The playground had kiddie swings, slides in three different sizes, a jungle gym. It rested in the shade of St. Rose of Lima Catholic School, where countless kids from my neighborhood have skinned their knees and run home to families who weren’t Catholic.

After telling Camille it was time for lunch, we strolled home hand-in-hand. Camille no longer wanted to wear her sunglasses. Would I carry them?

Instead, I showed her how to carry her own sunglasses. I hung them from the neck of her little purple dress, told her how easy it was to carry them that way. She seemed delighted to learn this and walked the rest of the way back to my house with them hanging there.

If only all the things we carried were so easy to hold. I had a moment of wondering what else Camille would carry in her life. Sadness? Joy? Memories? Dreams? Regrets?

I carry memories of days like this with my daughter Abby and my son Shawn, days that now seem distant. Camille is Shawn’s daughter through and through right down to her curly brown hair. She is a force with her three-year-old stubborn certainty about what she wants and when she wants it, a comic with her emerging sense of humor, and a lock-box who remembers everything I say. She nudges me to remember when Shawn discovered slides and how that morphed into things with wheels: rollerblades, bikes, skateboards, cars. I am carried along a rush of images that fills me till I burst. 

A lifetime of being a parent, and now a grandparent, and I still want to slow the flow of moments so I can savor each one. Even though I carry them all in some part of my heart, little pieces blur each time I bring them out for a look. 

That’s when I am sad. That’s when I want to stop time, before the images are too soft to see the finer details.

I’m glad the present always brings me back. The little hand in mine, the little girl who says, “Grams, do you have grapes?” and I am carried into the here and now.

Camille wanted to be carried when she was just learning to walk. On that summer day at the park and the playground, she wanted me to carry things for her. And then Camille learned to carry her own sunglasses.

Maybe that will be a memory we both carry forward.

image from Clipart Panda.

Friday, September 26, 2014

First Five Fragments for Friday - the Return

Your weekly offering of writing/art prompts.

First five fragments for Friday are back.....fragments, figments, flakes, flashes, and fictions designed to force you to find a pen and paper, a keyboard, a canvas, or whatever you use to put down your ideas, your stories. Okay, maybe not force. Maybe nudge, suggest, finger-wag.

Here we go. Relish in the randomness. Alliteration optional.

1. The trainer was the only man who could tell Kallie to stick her butt out further without getting kneed.

2. "Why the hell can't we have a glass of wine with corn flakes on Friday mornings?" Mary asked as the dog threw up its breakfast on the carpet, a mere two inches away from the old linoleum, and five-year-old Millie ran out the front door without a stitch of clothing.

3. Father Don really really really didn't want to be in the confessional when Carter Nelson kneeled down on the other side of the sliding panel and said, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. Last night, I finally had it with my wife bad-mouthing my boyfriend."

4. Ishmael could not for the life of him figure out how he went from living in the desert to appearing in a book where he was surrounded by the sea to a coffeehouse in Minneapolis in 2014. This was exhausting.

5. The chicken appeared in the yard overnight. That it grew to be 10 feet tall by morning caused the stampede of every poultry scientist within a 100-mile radius. Some of them brought barbecue sauce.

Fun Fact for the Week:

Writers and artists cannot live on fictitious (or not) fragments alone, so I'm offering an honest-to-goodness fact at the end of each Friday post for the foreseeable future. Sometimes, these will be odd facts that you might not have thought to ask about and you'll sometimes wonder why I did. Oh, well.

Today's fact is about banned/challenged books. This fits right in with Banned Books Week, which is drawing to a close as you read this, so we're starting out with a not-so-odd fact.

What was the first year Banned Books Week was observed in the United States?

Answer: 1982.

Bonus fact: What was one of the most-challeneged books in 1982?

Answer: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

If you look at this list of the top 100 banned/challenged books for the decade 2000-2009, you might be surprised. How many have you read? Did you notice that Slaughterhouse-Five is still on the list, at #46? And human beings are still committing atrocities under the guise of war on a daily basis. (Go read the book if you can't figure out why that last sentence is there.)

Happy Friday. Try not to be so serious.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction News

Are you a flash fiction writer looking for a new place to send your best work? 

Are you a visual artist who works in small formats who would like to explore a new market?

Are you someone who reads flash fiction and appreciates complementary artwork?

Are you looking for a new community that provides a little fun, provokes a little thought, sends you something you can hold in your hand?

Then I have something for you.

My friend and colleague, Dave Morehouse, and I have launched a new literary magazine called Fine Linen.   Here is our mission:

We plan to offer a quarterly small-format publication that will look different with each issue. It will be small enough to slip in your pocket or purse or backpack, to read and admire wherever you find yourself. There will be surprises. Subscribers will be members of a community of people who care about well-done stories and art, who find a common bond in a unique shared experience. Our website will offer reviews of flash fiction. Our Facebook page will offer occasional updates, as will our Twitter feed

We've been having fun meeting via FaceTime video calls to articulate a shared vision and implement a website with guidelines for both artists and writers that will invite those who are looking for a different literary model. Our standards are high. Do not confuse "different" with "amateur". Dave and I both have clear expectations about literary excellence that we hope anyone who submits to us shares. 

Did I mention we are a paying market? Dave and I have strong feelings about honoring the work that writers and artists do, the contributions they make to the world. Our guidelines, however, are a must-read. We are considering submissions for our inaugural issue right now. Our target for publication is February 2015.

If you find this intriguing, please check out the links I've included in this post. We'd love to share our excitement with you.