Saturday, August 4, 2012

Ugly Ducklings and Princesses on Parade

For this month’s blog post, I invited writers to send me 99-word stories inspired by fairy tales, either “Cinderella” or “The Ugly Duckling.” I also asked that the stories be to some extent autobiographical, based on some change in the writer’s own life.
Some delightful stories came in, and they’re posted below. Read and enjoy!

Your next assignment:

Imagine a special place you like to go, a place that has much meaning for you. Write a story about going to that place, and being surprised to find someone there whom you haven’t seen in a long, long time.
Use your imagination, and remember that in a story something has to happen. How will this meeting change you, or the other person, or both of you? And don’t forget: good stories thrived on conflict!

Deadline: September 1, 2012



by Marie Rose Elias 

Being an old fashioned romantic, I thought marriage was forever…wed at 22 and soaring with hope. Leaving with 2 kids in elementary school was reality.
At 35 I married again. He became aloof soon after, barely noticing much when the kids were grown and gone.
I woke him from his nap and asked him to move out, planning never to marry again. Freedom was blissful. I happily danced every weekend, responsible for no one but myself. I was like a butterfly.
At 48 my perfect dashing prince was sent. We danced far past midnight at our enchanted magical wedding


by Denise Dreany

The swans were powerful men, thick breastbones, broad wings. I was with the ducks, mawkish, complaining.
“No point in sticking your neck out,” they said.  But secretly I thought, “Isn’t that what necks are for, if you were born with one that was long and slender?”
“No point flapping your wings.”  But what if your wings were aching to spread? What if the agony of not soaring was greater than the comfort of belonging?
My eyes opened and I saw their necks were short, their courage small.  I looked at myself and saw a black mask and silver wings.  


by Rita Kushner

Dear Cindy,

We were fifteen and sixteen when Prince tried the glass slipper on my adorable tiny size 4½ foot.  Through the sixty-five years of our marriage he has uncomplainingly paid for my countless purchases of red ballet slippers, rubber galoshes, leather walking shoes, and fashionable high-heeled alligator boots.
My prince lives with my shoe fetish of miniature shoes on the cocktail table, display cases of collectible slippers on the bedroom wall, calendars of shoes.

Now, child, you must determine whether your prince will happily love you ever after when your foot no longer fits into that glass slipper.


by Rita Kushner

Only ugly duckling book-worms wore eye-glasses when I was eight…chubby me…shapeless unruly hair.  Ugh.  The books in the library, butterflies in cases in the museum compensated.
Then came along handsome, bespectacled Swan.  We mated and begat a flock; two wore contact lenses.  My senior skin was besmirched with smile wrinkles and well-deserved worry lines. Bad hair turned white and matched Swan’s feathery white beard.
         Swan took me under his wing and we flew over the world.  Now with writing pad, and his block of wood and carving knives, we hope to continue to glide healthfully every after.


by Elaine Polson Shiber

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Ella.  She lived with her parents and her big sister Stella. Stella was mean to Ella, teasing her and making her cry.
When Ella started school, though, she laughed because her teachers liked her, her friends liked her, and she was smart. 
Much later she married a handsome man and they had two beautiful daughters. Then three perfect grandchildren arrived.  One sad day, Ella’s husband died, so to banish her tears she married another handsome man.
Ella and Stella became friends at last and they all lived happily ever after.


by Jerry Giammatteo

All agreed he was ugly. Kids teased him. Girls ignored him. He never got invited to parties. Saturday nights were spent home.
He disappeared after school. Nobody thought about him. Life went on, taxes paid, babies born. Nobody knew what happened to him. Nobody cared.
There was a twenty year reunion; King, Queen, Valedictorian, and the “in” crowd present.
A gasp ensued. An elegant looking gentleman walked in. On his arm was the most gorgeous woman in the room. Everybody stared in shocked recognition. They were the perfect couple.
A hint of a condescending smirk appeared on his face.


by June Kosier

I used to be a dialysis nurse and had to be at work early in the morning.
 I would throw on old jeans and a tea shirt and put my hair in a ponytail.  At work, I would change into blue scrubs provided by the hospital.  We all looked like Smurfs.
Then came the night of the Kidney Foundation Ball and  I had a chance to change from an ugly duckling or at least a “plain Jane”  into Cinderella. 
When my date said “Wow!” I said to him, “Yes, I clean up nicely, don’t I?”


by James A. Ryngala

He was always considered overweight, or "husky," as they used to say.  He had tried almost every diet  that was out there with no avail. It also did not help his self-esteem that he was near-sighted and had  to wear glasses. 
Finally school was over and he could start anew in college.  Unfortunately, nothing changed.  
After graduation, he got a good paying job with benefits.  He joined a gym and got Lasik surgery. He lost all the weight, toned up his body and got rid of the glasses.  At his fifth re-union, he wasn't ugly duckling anymore.


  1. Great 99 word stories, John. I've always loved "Once upon a time" stories, especially when they have happy endings.

  2. Amazing what can be said in 99 word stories. Keep 'em coming.


  3. Hi John,

    I'm delighted to see that five of my students contributed again to your blog -- Rita Kushner with two stories!

    I'll be bringing a copy of this Joy of Story with me to my classes this Tuesday and Thursday. (One more class after this week and no more teaching until early October. Hope to get away for a road trip or whatever...)

    Thanks so much.

  4. Thank you, friends. Eileen, your students are keeping this exercise alive. Thanks to them, and to you!

  5. Love the writing challenge concept here and the product displayed by all your authors. I'll try to participate in the September 1 contest.

    Thank you, John.


    1. Good, Marta. I look forward to hearing from you!