Saturday, April 27, 2013


NOTE: Here is Chapter Three of my book-in-progress called The Stories of Our Lives. In this chapter I present some rules and tools of good storytelling. I realize that most of the readers of this blog are already good writers, and some of this will seem elementary to them, but let them be reminders, then, of the ways their writing is good.
BY THE WAY: I won't be posting on this blog next week, because I'll be traveling and far away from my computer. I'll be back the following week, May 11, with a collection of 99-word stories contributed by volunteer writers. The theme for May is "Yes, You May," and I'll be accepting contributions until Monday, May 6. I invite and encourage you to send me a 99-word story with that theme!

Truth be told, this chapter contains a lot more than ten rules. I’ve lost count of how many rules I’ve written here, but I’ve clumped them into ten groups, so you can digest them easily. Digest them you should.
Should you really? Some people say that art (including writing) should obey no rules. Well, in response to that permissive attitude, I must say that my experience as an editor and publisher has shown me otherwise. I’ve reviewed thousands and thousands of manuscripts, and I’ve found that some work (or play) better than others. In my opinion, some stories are better than others. Moreover, I’ve noticed that there are recurring reasons why some stories fly and some stories thud. I call those reasons “rules.” If you don’t like that word, call them “principles,” “guidelines,” or just regard them as ten clumps of common sense.
I made this list of ten rules for a class I used to teach at UCLA Extension on how to write short fiction. But I find the same rules are valid for writing the stories of our lives, too. I’ve tried to make this point clear in the commentary that follows the rules.

1. Show ’em, don’t tell ’em.
This is the most frequently repeated rule you’ll ever hear or read about writing stories. Usually it’s said about fiction, but this rule is just as important for writing the stories we tell about our own lives. What “Show ’em, don’t tell ’em” means is…
Wait. Why should I tell you want the rule means? I should show you, right? Right. See here:
a. I never could stand my oldest aunt, and I was glad when she died.
b. When I heard that my oldest aunt had died, I sent two dozen roses to the funeral home. She always hated roses, said she was allergic to them.
Which is better, a or b? Which tells more of a story?
Here’s a tip: reread the last sentence of every paragraph, the last paragraph of every scene, the last scene of every story. If you find that you’ve restated or explained what you’ve already shown, you have written too much and have a bit of cutting to do. Rely on plot to do the work.

2. Stay in control.
Although I admit there’s some therapeutic value in letting your mind wander like a free-range chicken while you write, if you want anybody to read your stories and be entertained or enlightened by them, you’re going to have to stay on track.
I suggest that you outline a story before you start writing. Keep in mind your narrative arc, or even draw it on paper. Get your consequential plot points in order, and make the story build to a climax.
Be selective about what to include: make every element of your story support the whole shebang. Edgar Allan Poe, one of the architects of the American short story, maintained that every single word should contribute to the meaning of the story. William Faulkner advised writers to “kill their darlings,” by which he meant to get rid of the fancy details that may show off what a talented writer you are but that yank the reader out of the story. While we’re at it, avoid the clutter of “info-dump,” which makes the story grind to a boring halt. Too much information is a soporific thing.
Another way to stay in control is to be careful with point of view (POV). Generally I recommend that you stick with one POV per story. Usually that POV will be your own, since you’re writing a story inspired by an episode from your own life; but you could get experimental and write a story from the point of your mother, your friend, your spouse, your child… Such variations can be rewarding, but then you should stick in that POV. Whatever you do, don’t shift POV in the middle of a scene. That’s called “head-hopping,” and it’s considered amateurish.
While you’re plotting your story, keep in mind Chekhov’s rule of drama: if a rifle is hanging over the mantelpiece in the first act, that rifle must go off before the final curtain drops. Here’s a corollary to that rule: if a bomb explodes at the climax of your story, you should plant that bomb, ticking, at the beginning of the story.

3. Write strong.
What’s that you say? I should say “Write strongly”? Well, grammatically you’re correct, but I’m illustrating a point, which is: Beware of adverbs. Especially beware of adverbs that end in “ly.” Sometimes they’re called for, but often they’re unnecessary: I swam desperately against the waves, which were pushing me farther and farther from shore. The word “desperately” is a duh word. Cut it.
Especially, especially (look at that: two “ly” adverbs in a row!) beware of “ly” adverbs that modify how somebody talks: “Get out of my room. In fact, get out of my life!” she said angrily. Does the word “angrily” contribute anything we don’t already know? Nope.
What else to avoid: filler words, like “basically,” “actually,” “personally.” Also qualifier words, like “very,” “totally,” “extremely.” Weak words, like “somewhat” and “rather.”
The use of verb constructions is stronger than the use of noun constructions. Example: change the sentence you just read to: For strong sentences, use verb constructions, not noun constructions.
The active voice is stronger than the passive voice: I was taught by my father that honesty is the best policy is weak; My father told me, “Son, tell the truth” does the job better.
Watch out for the static past. That means telling the reader how it was in general, when you could be showing how it was in the context of your story. My sister always borrowed my clothes without asking is okay, but this is stronger: As usual, Sis showed up at breakfast wearing clothes out of my closet.
One more. Short, strong words work well most times. Elongated, erudite vocabulary inevitably aggravates.

4. Love your characters.
Or at least respect them, and that includes the rotters in your story, like the cousin who stole your best girl or the uncle who put his hands where he shouldn’t have.
By “respect them,” I mean show them as real people, individual people with their own quirks and characteristics. Don’t resort to clichés. Moms don’t just bake pies and correct our posture; they also smoke and cough, or sing old songs off-key; dress like a clown or like Katherine Hepburn… In other words, remember people as they really were, and make each character in each story one of a kind, and original. Someone your readers will never forget.

5. Tell a story.
By now you know what I mean by this rule. If you have any questions about what a story is; or what conflict, choice, change, consequence, structure, selection, significance, and style are; take another read through Chapter One.
Here I’ll add that a successful story is one that hooks the reader with curiosity and holds the reader with conflict. Drama is the result of desire plus danger; so when you write stories inspired by your life, take advantage of those risks you took, learned from, and changed as a result of. Another rule of thumb about change: it often result in a shift in the balance of power.

6. Be significant.
I already touched on this in Chapter One, but here it is again. Write about the human condition. The human condition includes buying groceries, just as it includes working for world peace; it’s a need for quiet, and a need to sing and dance. Most of all, the human condition is a matter of love and death.
Novelist Herbert Gold has said that all great writing is about love and death. He’s talking of fiction primarily, but the same statement ccan be made of memoir: all great life stories are about love and death. Herb Gold goes on to say that if you can suggest a piece of great writing that’s not about love and death, he will explain to you why that piece of writing is not great—or, he will show you why that piece of writing is indeed about love and death.
Love and death are essential ingredients to most of the stories of our lives. These stories are, after all, about life, which is miraculously sparked by an act of love. The whole process of life is a search for love and a forestalling of death. Love comes in many variations, of course; and death has many aspects. But to return to the human condition, as defined above, let it be said that buying groceries is either an act of love or a defiance of death, or both.
I will deal more with death in the next chapter, and more with love in Chapter Five.

7. Be honest.
Remember the advice you heard so often as a learning writer: “Write about what you know about”? Well, it’s true. Re-read the first six letters of the word “authority.” That’s you. You’re the author of the story because you’re the one best qualified to write it. No one can retell an event out of your life the way you can, because you’re the only one who knows how much the event changed you, and how.
How do you earn and keep the authority to write your own life stories? By being honest. Tell the truth. You may fudge the details a bit for dramatic effect, and you may even turn that life story into a science fiction tale 2,745 years into the future and place it on the ex-planet Pluto, but at the core of the story is something true. Something you know about, something you learned because of a change that happened in your eventful past. Write honestly about that change and the lesson you learned, and you will do so with authority.
(I will deal with reasons and techniques for fictionalizing your life stories in Chapter Six, but even when you use the tricks of fiction, it’s important that you stay honest.)
Level with your audience, and don’t talk down to them. Don’t explain when it’s not necessary. Imagine that you are writing for readers who are at least as intelligent as you are. That goes even if you’re writing for children. Children may not have acquired as many facts or memories as you, but their brains are just as curious and sharp as yours. They can probably smell out a phony, and they deserve your honesty.
Be original: say something new, and say it as you alone would say it, because you’re telling the truth. Don’t copy the ideas or the words or the style of others. Nor should you rely on stock characters, and don’t write in clichés. Above all, avoid cartoon writing. In spite of what we’ve been led to believe, light bulbs don’t turn on over our heads every time we get an idea. Nor do thunderclouds rain on our heads when we’re blue. These old gimmicks are lazy, and they’re not the truth.
Write with authority. Be honest.

8. Write with style.
I eulogized about style in Chapter One: it gives wings to your words. Style also is what makes your life stories interesting and even entertaining. Your number-one job as a writer is to keep the reader reading, and the way to do that is by serving the reader a generous helping of your own individual style.
Let me recommend to you what may be the most important ingredient of writing with style: irony. Irony comes in two forms. First, there’s irony at the sentence level, where you write a phrase or a word that surprises the reader and then on second reading is curiously accurate: When my mom has nothing to say, she always says it to me. Or: The herd of buffalo wandered slowly around the meadow like sofas at a cocktail party. Or: I crawled under the CRIME SCENE tape, but when I stood up I was confronted by a cop the size of a Buick.
On a grander scale, irony can be the stylistic ingredient that causes the plot to twist in such a way that it makes surprising sense. I offer you the plot you may be familiar with, in which a darkly beautiful queen, jealous of her step-daughter’s beauty, drinks a toxic potion in order to become an ancient crone, so that she can murder the innocent young girl. Ironically, the princess survives, whereas the scheming queen dies horribly, and she dies hideously ugly.
Irony, just one element of style, gives a story the element of surprise, either at the sentence level or at the story level. Either way, it entertains the reader. And either way (extra points to you) irony is a joy to write.

9. All writers rewrite.
Nobody ever wrote a perfect first draft, except maybe Lincoln when he scrawled the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope, and chances are he changed a few words by the time he read the piece aloud.
When you think you’re finished, let readers you trust read your work. Ask them to respond honestly and listen with both ears open to their suggestions. You may not agree with all they tell you, but don’t defend your writing out of a sense of pride. If they didn’t “get it,” it’s not their fault, probably.
If you don’t have friends to help you with this, read your story aloud to an audience of nobody. If something sounds clunky or phony, it is, and it needs to be rewritten. Remember, these life stories are how you will be remembered by your family for generations to come.
Don’t be discouraged. Any story can be improved, and the process can be fun.

10. You may break the rules.
But if you do break the rules of good writing, do so on purpose.
Want to write a story in which the point of view switches with every line of dialogue? Go right ahead. Want to write a story in which the employment of lengthy words, a preference for noun constructions and the passive voice are utilized extensively? Do you really, really want to feature “ly” words, filler words, and intensifiers, very, very freely? Be my guest.
But shine a spotlight on your intentional disregard for logic and clarity. Have fun with the experiment, so your readers will enjoy it too.
Because there’s one rule you may not break:
Thou shalt entertain!

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Note. This is the second chapter of a small book I’m writing about how and why to write the stories of our lives. In this chapter I give techniques for mining our pasts for good story material. I know most readers of this blog are not memoirists, but fiction writers. Nevertheless, since I believe that much if not most fiction is to some degree autobiographical, I hope you’ll give this brief essay a read.

One of the reasons writers give for not getting their life stories down on paper is that they “don’t have anything to write about.” Well, maybe they feel that way, that their lives contain no stories, but I don’t buy it. Anybody old enough to hold this book in his or her hands has lived long enough to have experiences, meaningful experiences, to write about. The task is to recall those memories and then shape them into stories.
I recommend three resources for stimulating your memory. I call these the Attic, Rites of Passage, and Archetypes.

The Attic isn’t, or doesn’t have to be, a real attic, upstairs in a dusty loft. The image is just a symbol for where we keep relics and souvenirs we haven’t looked at or thought about for quite a while. It’s the compartment of your memory that opens up and reminds you of an experience, a milestone, a subtle change—in other words, a story to be told. Reminders can come to you from somebody else’s story, or from dreams, or from books and movies; and they’ll hit you by surprise and demand that you remember something that happened to you.
If nothing’s nudging you out of the blue, then feel free to stimulate your memory by climbing the real attic stairs and opening up that real chest of treasures. Don’t have an attic? How about a basement? A junk drawer? Tool box? Glove compartment?
There are all sorts of stimuli at hand: photo albums, scrapbooks, school yearbooks, certificates and trophies, recipe boxes, scars on your body, poems from a love affair that turned sour or bloomed beautifully. A yo-yo with a broken string. A piece of Noxema-blue beach glass from Cape Cod. A favorite stone given to you by a mentor who later killed himself. Old songs, popular when you were a child, or an adolescent, or when you fell in love.
So if you want to write a story from your life and you don’t know where to start, find an artifact. Remember how your life changed when you added that artifact to your collection of odds and ends too precious to throw away.
And start writing.

“Rights of Passage,” a term borrowed from anthropology, refers to those experiences that come as a result of our common biological or social changes. Some of these changes are specific to males, and others to females; but we all either experience them or know people who have experienced them. The important thing about these shared experiences, in terms of the stories of our lives, is not that they happen, because by their nature they’re common to us all, but the psychological changes that happen because of them. The way you experienced a certain rite of passage, and the way it made you different, will be your own story.
What were the rites of passage that changed you and made you who you are, different from before they happened? Here are a few, common to many of us, that may jog your memory and make you itch to write about them:
The Oedipal conflict, the generation gap, sibling rivalry, first friends and best friends, romantic love, sexual love, lasting love, loss of love, courtship, marriage, divorce, children (generation gap redux), toilet training, summer camp, bar mitzvah, first menstruation, learning to shave, first driver’s license, first auto accident, first sex, getting eyeglasses, an abortion, getting religion, getting politics, going too war, passing the bar, being promoted, being fired, grave illness, the joys of grandparenthood.…
Now throw away that list and make a list of your own turning points. Others will relate to them because you’ve stimulated their own memories.
Here are a couple of tips on how to ensure a resonance with your readers. Plug into the story some indication of what was going on in the world when you experienced this rite of passage, this change. The simplest way to do this is by hanging a date on the wall of your story. “I learned a lot about honesty in the summer of 1974.” A more elegant way is to refer to a newsworthy event that was happening at the time: “When Nixon went on TV and told us, flat-out, that he was not a crook, I learned…” It’s also important to let your reader know how far along in life were, either by stating your age or, more interestingly, by referencing your experience: “I learned that love means nothing from the tennis pro I fell in love with, the summer I turned seventeen.”

Archetypes are another rich resource for inspiration when searching in our past for the stories of our lives. Archetypes are those stories we all know from our common cultural lore. Some examples of archetypes in our western culture can be found in Greek myths, Old-Testament bible stories, and European fairy tales. These well-known stories exist as if to illustrate the changes we go through, so in a sense they’re another way of presenting rites of passage.
Have you found yourself in a horrible job situation, doing mindless, meaningless work that you had no hope of completing? So did Sisyphus. (As did Captain Ahab and Wile E. Coyote.) If you’ve ever had a bitter rivalry with a sibling, remember the story of Cain and Abel. Was your senior prom a glorious night for you or an embarrassing disappointment? Either way, think Cinderella. I’m sure that each of us, at some time in our life, has been unable to resist doing something we were told by our elders not to do. We did it in spite of dire warnings, and as a result we had to suffer the consequences. That’s why Eve and Adam got kicked out of the Garden. That’s how Lot’s wife became a salt lick. Why Pandora opened up a box of troubles, and how the Little Mermaid lost her life. And there are hundreds more. Let ancient stories shine a light on your own moments of change. Let them awaken your memories.

The three resources I’ve just discussed, the Attic, Rites of Passage, and Archetypes, are handy tools for stirring up your memories of the changes in your life. These memories are inspirations for stories you’ll want to write.
So now would be a good time to discuss the slippery matter of memory.
Be advised that memory is not an accurate record of the past. Memory is a malleable art form. Every time we remember an event from our past, we’re really remembering our most recent memory of that event. Each time, we edit it slightly, so it changes and usually becomes more meaningful and dramatic. This is especially true for us writers, because every good writer is also a diligent self-editor.
Here’s my advice on this subject: don’t worry about the editing process that goes on when we bring those memories out of the trunk in the attic. The way you remember what happened is good enough, and you don’t need to fact-check. A good memory is a valuable tool for anyone writing life stories, but just as valuable is a lively sense of imagination.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Note: This week’s post is part of a monthly series in which I take pleasure in introducing fiction writers whom I’ve read and admired. I’m pleased to present J. R. Lindermuth, a prolific author of historical mystery thrillers. I recently read his novel Watch the Hour, set in Pennsylvania’s coal mining country in the 1870s. It’s a tale of class struggle, forbidden love, and vengeful death. Great reading. I recommend it highly, and I know I’m going to read a lot more of John Lindermuth’s work in coming months and years. Lucky for us all, John writes book after book!
I asked J. R. Lindermuth to contribute a piece for this blog, telling us what “The Joy of Story” means to him. He has written about the pleasures of scouting out locations for his historical thrillers.
I turn the mike over to J. R. Lindermuth.

Location, location, location.

That’s the theme in real estate, and I believe it applies equally to fiction. Certainly character is essential to story. But our characters don’t exist in a vacuum. If we want them to be believable, they must have place.

I love the challenge of creating the right place for my characters.

Though they realize a story is fiction, most readers demand a semblance of truth—even if your story is pure fantasy. They want what they’re reading to seem realistic. Should they note something they know to be false, the writer is certain to hear about it. Lester Dent, a prolific and masterful pulp writer, urged the use of a familiar locale, one in which you’ve lived or worked, to avoid the embarrassment of making mistakes obvious to the reader.

You can also resolve the problem through research—either through experience (the best kind) or by other means. Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County doesn’t exist save in our minds, but I’ll wager more than one reader has gone looking for it on maps. In many ways, setting has the same aspects as another character and the two can complement one another.

My Sticks Hetrick mystery series is set in a town of my creation, which meant I was free to lay out the streets, describe the homes and other structures and develop businesses as I saw fit. In a review of one of them, Judy Clemens, author of the Grim Reaper and Crown mystery series, said I did “…a wonderful job of bringing his fictional small Pennsylvania town to life by getting us into the minds of a multitude of characters.” Coming from a writer for whom I have great respect, I believe I did my homework on this one.

I made the job a bit more difficult for myself with the Sylvester Tilghman series, which is set in Arahpot, a fictional Pennsylvania town in a different time period—the late 19th century. Since I love research nearly as much as writing, enhanced by my experience in the newspaper business and as a genealogist, it has been more of a joy than a challenge.

Sooner Than Gold is a sequel to Fallen From Grace and the second in the Sheriff Sylvester Tilghman historical mystery series. Check it out:

It’s the summer of 1898. The nation, just coming out of an economic slump, has been at war with Spain since April. And Sylvester Tilghman, sheriff of Arahpot, Jordan County, Pennsylvania, has a murder victim with too many enemies.

There’s Claude Kessler, who is found standing with a knife in his hand over the body of Willis Petry.

There’s Rachel Webber, Petry’s surly teen-aged stepdaughter, who admits an act intended to cause him harm.

Then there’s the band of gypsies who claim Petry is the goryo who stole one of their young women.

If this isn’t enough to complicate Tilghman’s life, add in threats to his job by McClean Ruppenthal, former town burgess; a run-in with a female horse thief; scary predictions by a gypsy fortuneteller, and the theft of Doc Mariner’s new motorcar.

There’s plenty of good eating, church-going and socializing along the way. And, before all is over, Sylvester solves the crime and even comes a little closer to his goal of finally marrying longtime girlfriend Lydia Longlow.

Sooner Than Gold has just been published by Oak Tree Press.

The author of 12 novels, J. R. Lindermuth is a retired newspaper editor and currently serves as librarian of his county historical society where he assists patrons with genealogy and research. His short stories and articles have been published in a variety of magazines. He is a member of International Thriller Writers, EPIC and the Short Mystery Society. His two children and four grandsons do their best to keep him busy and out of trouble. When not writing, reading or occupied with family he likes to walk, draw, listen to music and learn something new every day.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Joke's On Me

For this month’s invitational blog post, in honor of April Fool’s Day I invited writers to send me 99-word stories with the theme “The Joke’s On Me.” The stories are presented below. At the end of this post is next month’s challenge, and the rules of the game. Remember: all writers are eligible, and I hope to hear from many, many of you. I edit stories a bit, but I “print” them all.


by Elaine Polson Shiber

On April 1, every year without fail, their father said, as they sat down to eat breakfast, “I wonder what Mr. Janssen’s doing up on his roof?”
And every year without fail, they wouldn’t look. They refused to look. They couldn’t look.
They looked.
And every year, they knew what their father would say. They groaned in unison.
One year, on April l, they said, “What is Mr. Janssen doing up on his roof?” He looked. Mr. Janssen was hammering roofing tiles. He said, “What’s Mrs. Janssen doing up there now?”
We know what they did. Habits die hard.


by Liz Roddin

My Dad answered the phone. “Yehlo.”
“Hello, may I speak to Fred, please?”
“You want to talk to Fred?”
“All right, buddy, what are you selling?” my Dad said.
“How do you know I am selling anything?”
“Because nobody but salesmen call me Fred. Anybody who really knows me calls me by my nickname. It saves me a lot of time. So—what are you selling?”
Without skipping a beat, the man said, “You’ll never know, Fred,” and slammed down the receiver.
The joke was on my Dad, and he laughed about it the rest of his life.


by Liz Roddin

In the seventies, the drinking age was 18, and my friends and I would often go downtown to Finnegan’s and have a beer. I didn’t drink, so I always ordered ginger ale. Nobody ever hassled me; it was just the way it was.
When I went to the ladies room one night, I thought nothing of it, but when I returned, there were six shots lined up in front of my barstool. I looked them over, puzzled, until I saw the bubbles.
And then I downed six shots of ginger ale, as everyone, including the bartender, giggled and smiled.


By Jerry Giammatteo

My cousin Paulie was the ultimate jokester. But we were going to get him tonight.
“Meet us at the abandoned house at seven,” I said. It was a creaky, two-story bungalow with old furnishings. Our plan was to arrive earlier, hide, and make noise moving stuff around to spook him.
It was after seven. Where was he? We were getting spooked. From the second floor, a table crashed down the stairs. The door didn’t hit us as we fled the house.
At the top of the stairs stood Paulie, laughing hysterically.
You simply can’t out-joke the joker.


BY Christine Viscuso

“You thought you’d get Jeff fired, Pfeiffer, by sending the clown to our CEO’s bachelor party being held in his son-in-law’s honor; and then sending the cake lady to Donny Sturbridge’s fourth birthday celebration.
“We’ll, Raffles, the clown, ran off with the groom. Seems they knew each other in college. Our CEO is thrilled. He detested his future son-in-law.
“Laverne recognized Mr. Sturbridge as soon as she alighted from the cake. They’re lovers. Mrs. Sturbridge was ecstatic since she wanted a divorce for years.
Jeff is getting promoted. You’re getting Raffles’ job. Know what, Pfeiffer?”
“Guess the joke’s on me sir.”


by Barbara Blumberg

Our new pool is an enormous open hole centered in our backyard. Saturday we walked the job site and could see deer tracks in the fresh dirt surrounding the huge open pit.
April 1st fell on a Sunday and I couldn’t resist playing an April fool’s joke on my husband. As he was coming up the stairs to our bedroom - I sprang to the window. “Look two deer are trapped in the pool!”
“NOOOOOOOOO!” he shouted as he ran to look out the window. We both laughed and laughed, funny because it was so believable.
 I “got him.”


by Phyllis Povell

It was a cold Monday night when I pulled up a stool at the bar to wait for my friends to have dinner. “A gin and tonic, please, I’m waiting for my friends.”          Fifteen minutes passed, no one arrived. “I’ll have another. My friends should be here soon.”
The bartender waited another twenty minutes before approaching me again.          “I really have friends,” I told him, motioning for my third drink.
After an hour, I hobbled off the barstool and went home.
Tuesday night my friends called. “Where are you? We’re waiting for you, having a drink at the bar.”


by Jill Evans

Gardening is my hobby—a tradition carried down from my Polish ancestors. With gardening comes composting— the art of transforming organic refuse into soil. I routinely throw rotten potatoes into my compost if for no other reason than to rid my house of the smell. I struggle with growing them. My plants get diseased and attract bugs. Imagine my surprise when I tilled my soil and discovered the cast-offs from last year’s compost had transformed into vibrant new potatoes ready for cooking.
Perhaps if you leave something alone long enough it blesses you by cultivating the seeds of generosity.



In honor of the month of May, send me a story with the theme “Yes, you may.” Use that phrase as the title, or the first sentence, or the last sentence.
Remeember, writers, it has to be a story. What is a story? Something happens to somebody. A story has to have conflict. It has to show a change in somebody. Okay? And a little surprise and irony wouldn’t hurt. And extra credit: don’t be afraid of the dark. Remember, permission (“Yes, you may”) isn’t always a good thing…

Other rules:
1. 99 words exactly
2. Deadline: May 1
3. Send by email to
4. One story per writer per month.
5. Again: I’m looking for real stories.