A WEEKLY COHORT FOR WRITERS
This is what has kept me very busy over the last couple of weeks. Michael Grant, Artie Ohanian, and I have put together a Virtual Writer’s Group. RevitalWriters is for writers of any style or genre (poetry; fiction; non-fiction; memoir/biography; etc.) who want/need support for their WIP (Work(s) In Progress). All this leading to achieving a finished manuscript to send off to agents and/or publishers.
The sessions will run every Friday night, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, EST. If you are in any other time zone, if you’d like to become part of the cohort, let us know.
Our Goal: To offer support, encouragement, and constructive critique in a safe space.
We are not a prompt/generative writing group that you join when the planets align. Our intention is that writers serious about their craft get what they need to to finish and submit.
For full details of how each session will be run, visit RevitalWriters. You’ll find our guidelines, About page, contact information, and upcoming Resource For Writers and Blog pages.
I hope you can join us in our first group meeting at RevitalWriters Session. Friday, July 10, 2020, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, EST.
PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO CONTACT US FOR MORE INFORMATION:
I hope to see you there.
by Stuart Nager©
“Wendy. Close the window. It is freezing in here.”
John was flat on his back, under his sheets and quilt. He had his right arm draped over his eyes. Truth be told, it was his nightshirt that did the draping. John’s arm was across his brow. He had to remind himself to relax, for he was leaving an indent in the lower forehead.
Wendy sat on the padded window bench; knees tucked up tight against her chest. Her arms encircled her legs. The window was ajar, allowing the night winds free entry into the bedroom. Wendy searched the clouds, looking. Praying. Hoping.
The wind whipped up, bursting past the lead paned glass. It sends Wendy’s nightshirt fluttering. Her shoulders lifted, her immaculate posture in place. Wendy tilted her head just so. She knew what he liked.
As did she.
“Arrrrrr, matey!” John used his pirate voice, doing his best to make her laugh. Wendy did not laugh nor smile. Jumping out of bed, John had to untangle himself from the bedsheets. All of the bed coverings wound up on the floor.
“Wendy, it is freezing in here. Shut the window, please.” He looked over at Michael, deep in slumber. His consistent snoring was the proof he was asleep. He could never duplicate that sound when he was faking to stay in bed. Mother saw right through him.
Wendy shushed him.
“You know he won’t wake up. He’s dead to the world right now.”
She shushed him again. John grabbed his quilt from the floor, whipping it over his head and onto his shoulders. So encased, John approached his sister. Wendy was still eyeing the night sky.
John plopped down on the other side of the bench, pulling the blanket even tighter around him. Just as his teeth started to chatter, he realized Wendy was only in her night clothing. Reversing the quilt, he laid one end over his sister.
“Thank you, John,” she whispered, far away from the room. John followed where she was looking. She’d change an angle; he would mirror it. “Darling bookends,” Liza would say if the housemaid was in the room. He smiled at that thought. Wendy noticed him as his smile slowly crept back inside him.
“Wendy. He’s not coming back. He isn’t. Shh. Please hear me out. We’ve had this…this…talk far too often. Fourteen months have passed. No pirates. No Indians. No Tink. No Pe…”
Reaching over, Wendy placed the four fingers of her left hand gently over his mouth.
“Enough, John. Please. I know. I still hope. I still have hope. Every blessed night I have hope. It just,” Wendy stopped, turning her head back to gazing the now unclouded sparkling heavens. “It just hurts, John.”
He nodded his head. What was left to say? They had had this conversation far too many times. It always ended in tears. There were many nights where John tried his best to distract her. The successful evenings were spent making up stories of what battle or mischief he would be embroiled in, smack in the center of it all. She’d laugh at many of his tales. The more outlandish he made them, the more Wendy relaxed. And she’d stop looking out the window.
The less beneficial nights would come, ones where John felt powerless. Wendy, questioning, always the same. “Why doesn’t he return?” John knew there were two unspoken words to that query: “For her.”
Wendy did turn her head back to John. “No stories tonight, please. My insides are so knotted, so heavy. Not tonight, dear John. Not tonight.”
He nodded his head, and the two sat quietly by the window. No one spoke. Michael snored. They both yawned, Wendy insisting John started it. John, naturally, accused Wendy.
“We better get to bed. I don’t wish Mother to be cross with us in the morning.” She stood up, patting her nightwear down into a proper shape. John noticed Wendy’s hesitation before she reached over and closed the window. The sound of the latch fitting in place brought a feathery gasp from her lips. Her arms, as always, crossed over her heart.
John returned to bed. He tossed all the linen quilt back on the bed, diving under it all for warmth. John’s face was warm. He felt an unpleasant tightening in his chest. He should have hugged her, said he’ll always be there for her, that she was the best sister anyone ever had. John only said: “Good night, Wendy,” as she closed the door, tiptoeing down the hallway to her room.
As Wendy made it to her bed, her thoughts swallowed her whole. She thought of the unfairness of growing up. How much Wendy wanted to share the same bedroom with her brothers again. How much she wished she had stayed and not returned home. All swept away by the burning question she held tight: “Why hasn’t Peter returned for me?”
It was just over a month that Wendy overheard “The” conversation. Wendy, supposedly in bed, was walking by Mother’s bedroom. The door was partially open. Peeking in, Mother was sitting at her vanity, Liza behind her, counting out the number of times she ran the brush through Mother’s hair.
Wendy was not pleased that Mother was now calling her “a proper young lady.” She had experienced her first flow, a most embarrassing event. Her bones were achy almost all the time. She started maturing. Wendy’s new clothing, the changes in her body, all of it left her feeling embarrassed and humiliated. Wendy’s deep sadness permeated throughout her.
She knew why Peter did not come for her.
Why he would not come for her, ever again.
Wendy wished she had never eavesdropped.
“100,” Lisa stated, putting the hairbrush down on the table. “Miss Wendy is starting to fill out, mum. She’ll be as beautiful as you. Not that she isn’t a pretty young thing now.”
Mother was silent, staring into the mirror. Wendy was sure Mother would not answer Liza. Just as she began to walk away, Wendy heard Mother say, “I know it is the right thing to do, Liza. It is time that Wendy a room to herself. She is blossoming. It is time for her to grow into being a proper young lady. But.” Mother left that word dangling on its own.
“Yes, but,” Liza agreed. “It will be for the best.”
Mother nodded. “I do pray that this will ease the burden she carries. Wendy needs to let this fantastical story of flying, pirates, faeries…” Mother sighed. “She needs to let it go.”
Wendy moved away from the door.
The next day Wendy was given her room. She sulked alone for the next two days, only leaving her confines for meals that she picked at. The third night, though, she had had enough.
Wendy immediately ran to the bedroom she had shared with her brothers. She threw the door wide open. Her feet glided across the nursery floor until she got up on the window. Kneeling, Wendy opened the windows. She crept to the window frame, her eyes fixated on the dark, laden clouds above. No stars were visible. Rain, though: rain fell ferociously. Wendy became a soaking wet sponge instantly. She kneeled on the pane for a long while.
A noise coming from the doorway startled Wendy out of her fugue. Wendy slightly turned and saw Liza standing in the hallway.
“Wendy Darling,” Liza trumpeted. She stamped her feet as she approached the window seat, not thinking of the boys at all. Upon arrival, Liza shooed Wendy to move away. “Young lady, what has gotten into you? You were not in your room. I knew you would be here. You, young lady, are heading straight to your room: a hot bath and fresh nightshirt. Go on. I’ll be right behind you.”
Wendy, shivering, glanced at her brothers, warmly tucked in. She smiled although her heart was shattering.
When she heard the latch fall into place, she sat on the floor and cried.
Balanced Three Layer Dip
Throughout the Mindfulness Workshop, Jenn and Eli connected. They hadn’t known each other before. They had entered at different times, took up different spaces, hadn’t exchanged even a mumbled hello. Yet, sitting diagonally across from each other atop creaky wooden chairs, they connected. One would smile as eyes connected. The other would smile back. The volley continued, intermittently, as they were working on being Mindful of the group leader of the Mindfulness Workshop.
The room filled with their connection nonetheless.
The session was interactive in conversation and small group projects. They joined in readily, paying close attention to what the other offered, laughed at the humor both exhibited. Some banter was tossed about. Eli was the cause of some group laughter, but his ears focused on Jenn’s. She’d fit in a wry quip or three. Their attention was focused. When the physical projects had them get up and move around, they flitted around each other, trying to “play it cool” but failing. When it was time to return to their seats, they were the last to sit.
Mindfulness continued to buzz around the group. They continued to smile for each other.
The workshop ran seven minutes over time. Eli kept checking his cell phone for the time. Jenn had a full view of the wall clock that was behind where Eli was sitting. Her right leg and knee were jumping while her attention was on the final words from the group leader.
“Thank you for coming, and…” and Jenn made a beeline to Eli. He met her halfway. The others were milling about, exchanging phone numbers, giving hugs and kisses. Jenn and Eli were stuck in the middle with each other.
“Hi, I’m…,” he began.
“Eli. I know. When you introduced yourself to our opening circle, I thought, what a beautiful name. I’m Jenn.” She was truthful to a point: Eli’s name did strike her. It was his eyes, though, that caught her. When he looked her way, the twinkles in them was a spotlight only for her. Jenn felt her cheeks grow warm. She put her hand out for him to hold shake.
The smile on Eli’s face grew Cinematic wide. He reached out and took her hand. It was the briefest of moments, but he had to remind himself to shake it and let go.
“Thank you, Jenn. Jennifer?”
“Jenn. Two N’s. Jennifer is reserved for my parents. And formal me. My friends use all the different ways you can break down my name. The closest of those, though, always call me Jenny.” She wanted to hear his basso tonality say that, to slide over the two syllables.
“Jenn, with two N’s, it is.” Eli coughed slightly, then continued. “I enjoyed your part of the introduction’s sharing. It takes a lot of strength to take such a huge risk. Walking away from a well-paying job to create something that is 100% you? I admire that.”
“Thank you, Eli. It has been a passion of mine for a long time. Easy peasy.”
“It came across. Mindfulness becomes you.” Mentally, Eli was kicking himself for that cheesy line. His stomach began to clench.
Eli unwound the second she began to laugh and was utterly relaxed again when she smiled. He silently thanked his daughter for pushing him out of the house toward this workshop. To him, mindfulness was the new buzzword, jargon that usually left him cold. Hearing “Let’s unpack…” or any use of the word scaffolding rankled him through his spine.
Yet, even beyond Jenn, he found connections with the content espoused in the past ninety-seven minutes. Yes, he was glad he attended, on several levels. Reluctantly at first: his daughter brought her A-Game “Dhaaaaad” to Sunday dinner. She used it with precision, honing it throughout her teenage years. At twenty-eight, the tool was sharp.
In her words, Eli was: too isolated; too in his head; too withdrawn from friends; too much living in the past. Too “too!” Eli filled in the one part she wouldn’t say out loud: too much into her daily life.
So. Here. Jenn.
Something she said filtered through the inside jumble of thought. “Easy Peasy. I haven’t heard that in a while.”
Jenn shrugged. “Just a thing I got from my grandma and mom. I took it on. Easy…you know.” Caught in the small talk loop she needed to stop before it drove all of this away, Jenn asked: “I know it is not an everyday saying. How did you hear it, if you don’t mind my asking?”
Eli paused a mulling over moment. “uh…a friend I met in college. Used to say it all the time, especially when she met anything tough in her way. She “easy peasyied” her way through the four years, and beyond that.” There was a seriousness in the lessening of his twinkles.
“Still in touch?” Jenn fretted aloud; her smile perma-fixed in place.
A different pregnant pause, another “too” that his daughter brought up too many times. He hoped it was too brief to make it a thing for Jenn.
“No. Not for a while now.”
Jenn did notice, but she carried on. Into her memory book, she jotted “Button” to return to another time if there was another time.
Eli chatted around this bump, discussing the meeting, asking her take on things, how it impacted her life, her new venture. The conversation continued as they joined in folding and stacking the chairs away. Each of them was approached, separately, by the few people still in the room, connecting without really being mindful of the connection they briefly interrupted.
They found each other and left the room, walking down the hallway, then stairway to the parking lot. She discussed her ideals. He listened, showing deep attentiveness by his answers, additions, and the connections it made with his thoughts and life. She did the same.
The conversation, for Eli, was Easy Peasy. That put any dissipated glint firmly back in both eyes. Yet, they were at her car, and the parking lot lights were shutting off.
Jenn said: “It was so wonderful meeting you.” She thought fast, so that didn’t come off as a brush off line like it usually was used. “Eli, I was planning to head over to the dinner. Normally, I jot down my thoughts after workshops like this. Would you join me for coffee/tea?”
She beat him to the punch, and that warmed him.
Eli shook his head yes.
“I’d love to, Jenny.”
“I suppose all fictional characters, especially in adventure or heroic fiction, at the end of the day are our dreams about ourselves. And sometimes they can be really revealing.”
“The act of writing is a way of tricking yourself into revealing something that you would never consciously put into the world. Sometimes I’m shocked by the deeply personal things I’ve put into books without realizing it.”
“its memories that I’m stealing, but you’re innocent when you dream” Tom Waits
I started Tale Spinning in January of 2011. April happened, and I discovered the AtoZ Blog Challenge. It has been a path I’ve taken just about every April since then (I didn’t participate twice; life, y’ know?).
When I sign up, I rarely know what I’m going to tackle by Theme Reveal Day. I’ll have an underlying theme title, maybe, and let the story/characters/ideas take over once we come very close to the start on April 1st.
Last year’s story, A Car in the Woods, began as one idea and morphed into something completely different by the third post. Some of that came from comments from the readers (comments ARE important); the rest of it, the characters spoke up and made the story-line happen. This year could be the same. Won’t know until we get there.
So, my AtoZ Challenge Theme Reveal is…
Nightmares for Unbleached Souls
I was taking one of my walks. 6,000 steps into Tom Waits soul (which is a cool theme idea unto itself). His songs propelled me along. Somewhere along my route Innocent When You Dream starts playing. Through my headphones, I really HEAR everything that Waits is pouring out, laying his thoughts and feelings down for anyone who will listen, to experience.
The song, like others of his, stops me. I replay it a few times. Then a few more times. The words moved me while I stood still.
I’m a bit twisted, for those who’ve never read my writing before. For me, going in the opposite direction from a jumping-off point is kind of my norm. Hence, Innocent When You Dream rolled into Nightmares for Unbleached Souls.
Thank you, Mr. Waits. For all the words and music. For being my muse for this challenge.
I have my initial AtoZ list of nightmares/phobias (which most likely will change as I write during the month). I’m still debating the form this will take. Right now, I am contemplating:
- Song Lyrics. Yes, I’ve written songs before. The challenge here would be 26 in a row. It is also something I’ve never tried in all the years I’ve been doing this; there’s the appeal.
- Diary-like entries, episodic but with an underlying back story (yes, my mind is drifting towards Lovecraft)
- Individual posts that let me go where it will take me (Flash Fiction; Drabble; Poetry; etc.). Essentially, stand-alone stories that have nothing to do with any of the previous posts but keep to the theme (I’m thinking along the lines of Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, but in my own way).
#1 seems to hold my attention more, and I think it fits with how I came to this AtoZ Theme: Tom Waits songs.
We’ll see when April 1st arrives.
YOU can still join in. Visit the Blogging from A to Z home page. Take a gander at the Master List and Theme Reveal pages to see who is already participating. As I’ve mentioned before, it is not just creative writing. Non-fiction postings sit next to photography a day, parent advice blogs, poetry, and so on.
Just remember one thing: Comments are important.
Thanks. I hope you’ll enjoy what’s coming to Tale Spinning.
Driving Into The Sun
Pure adrenaline; squealing around turns
A rise along the sediment; a bump, unseen
And we’re lifted off the ground
We’re lifted off the ground
We’re driving into the sun.
Pushing past the limits; Downshift to take it high
The glaring prism breaks the pain
That’s everywhere as we scream
We’re lifted off the ground
We’re driving into the sun.
Light ahead; lights behind
There’s no box to keep us level
No box to think within
We’re lifted off the ground
Lifted off the ground
Are you still with me?
I really can not tell
Not sure if I care or not
It’s all a blur as we ascend
We’re driving into the sun
Driving into the sun
Lifting off the ground
Nothing really matters much
Driving into the sun
We’re lifted off the ground
Off the ground
We’re driving into the sun.
Yes, I have signed up for the A to Z Blog Challenge for this year. I started my blog in 2011 a few months before April sprang on me. I went for it, and it was one of the best things I had done. Happy to have joined.
Except for a couple of skip years, it’s been fun and agony to write (almost) daily through the month. 26 posts, Sundays off.
It’s a challenge (the title says so) but, in my opinion, well worth it. Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Essays, photos, recipes, critiques, How To…, etc. Whatever your blog is about, join in. Great way to discover other blogs, make friends (I have), and for others to find your blog. I’ve gained many followers through this.
Here’s the link: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/
Not sure what I’ll write about yet. I’ll figure it out.
If you join, please leave me a comment below with your blog link attached. You might gain some followers before the whole thing starts.
JUMP AT THE SON
He was usually by my side. In his early days, we walked hand in hand. As our walks increased in step by step increments, he’d hold his arms way up high. Of course, I picked him up, carrying and mini snuggles. Other times he rode on my shoulders, clutching my hair. We became a Two-Headed Monster. We shared a gnarly growl; it always announced the monster’s arrival.
Yet, years pass as they dispassionately are prone to. From my side, hand-holding, carry snuggles, becoming a Monster were abandoned. We went on chases instead; more me chasing him. Then he’d chase after me, laughing so hard his head popped off his neck when I turned the table back to chasing him. When I was his prey, he always caught me. Once in a while, I would catch him.
We morphed into One less and less. We lost the “carry me,” and hand-holding didn’t exist. By this point in our lives, we also lost the Monster.
He never said “Goodbye” to either of us.
We ran the gauntlet most parents know. As he slalomed around me, his looking up to me would change to “I hate you!” to apologies and understandings, and back to volatile disagreements. In those cases, the slamming of his bedroom door was the coda that generally ended in “Arrrrggghhh!” from both sides of the door. There began the push away/pull me back times. From a protected, cared for son, a new monster, singular, appeared. He was striving to grow up, to be self-reliant. Independent.
Moments blipped passed us. We talked. We gave each other the Silent Treatment. Doing something fun together could quickly flip into parent shunning. I was waiting.
Waiting for things to even out, for our varying personalities to allow each other to breathe again when we were together. It happened with no rush to make it real. We had been on a strained thin rope, correcting our balances, expecting the other to fall.
I know there were times he did not like me. It might have bordered on hatred, but that remains in his secrets stash. It’s hard to say, but there were times I did not like him. Love, yes. I’ve always loved him.
Marriage happenings took over our lives. He committed himself to his bride, his mate, his best friend; my commitment dissolved around me, shredding into strips and then pieces. What was left was a tattered life. It all turned to ashes.
I’m proud of the man he has built for himself. He holds his strengths, his humor, his intelligence, and his weaknesses.
We are no longer a combined Two-Headed Monster, physically. There are those moments that sneak up on us, where our inner gnarly growling meshes. It may happen across the many miles that separate up. Face to face, the growl surfaces.
In those times I can shout out: “Beware. Beware! The Two-Headed Monster has arrived.”
It’s still alive.
In some ways, things stay the same.
nce upon a time there was a household in turmoil. One sister, one brother, and a widow who had lost the will to keep her children proper. Her husband left her with the debt of the home and the banes of her life.
very day the siblings fought, cursed, threw fragile items at each other, stole what they could and sold those items. They wound up at the village pub drinking until oblivion took them both.
ut one day the widow unexpectedly left, never to return. By the end of the first week they tore through the makings of their home. What they couldn’t sell, they bartered. They ate, drank, and took care of their baser needs.
ecause of that they soon ran out of money. The sister and brother had to vacate, unable to pay the house debt. With little more than a bag of clothing each, they set off in opposite directions. The sister vowed to never to see her brother again. He felt the same.
ecause of that as they traveled, taking whatever work they could find. Without the sense to save what they could, the sister and brother would find themselves penniless soon after receiving pay. What wasn’t spent on food and alcohol went to gambling. Outside of the comfort and safety of the village they grew up left them adrift. Often robbed, both suffered beatings, and sometimes worse.
ntil finally, many months later, each sibling took root in a haven. Broken to their cores by this time, they each had the chance to rebuild their lives. Both found themselves welcomed and absorbed into the communities they now called home.
ver since then each found acceptance, and love, in their ways. They kept their vows: they never saw each other ever again. As to the widow, she moved in with her sister and her family in a completely different direction from her children’s wanderings. She never heard from, or saw, them again. She lived out her life in bliss.
********************* **************** *************************
- The above was from #FlashFiction Prompt from my friends over at Fiction Can Be Fun. This time, the prompt was just this: A case of the law of unintended consequences. Rules are simple:
- Word count: 500 – 1,500 (ish)
Deadline: 2pm GMT on Friday 11th October 2019
- Post your story on your site and link to it here in the comments below, or drop us a line via the contact us page and we’ll post it for you.
The proprietors of Fiction Can Be Fun, Debs and David, are working on a shared novel that I can’t wait to read (yes, I still would love to be a Beta reader for the two of you). I met them during the AtoZ Blog Challenge in April of 2018, and I’m glad we have remained in contact. Visit their page. Lots of great stories, challenges, and essays to sink your teeth into.
2) The words in italics after the illuminated letters is from an Improv technique I’ve used for years in warmups and in my workshops and school residencies. I recently found out that the style is credited to Kenn Adams, author, educator, teaching artist, and performer. He is the Artistic Director of Synergy Theater based in Islip, New York (but they do travel across the country).
The pattern for Improv, and what I used above, is:
- Once upon a time
- Every Day
- But one day
- Because of that
- Because of that
- Until finally
- Ever since then
If running this in a warm-up or as a rehearsal exercise, the amount of Because of that would increase due to how many were in attendance.
And…sorry, Debs & David, the word count is only 321.
Photograph by Shari Marshall ©
Propped up by the blasted wall, seven faced their executioners.
Each of the seven different from the other, facing seven of one kind, their weapons raised.
“This is war,” echoed in seven languages, “and you ran. No excuses. No pleas. No last words, signs, or prayers. Nothing. You ran. Others of your kind died. It would have been the same if you aimed at them yourselves and fired.”
A nod. Of the runners: three fell; one cut in half; one shattered; another fused into the wall; one vaporized.
Seven colored fluids pooled; the only mix allowed beyond the Rim worlds.
Author’s Note: The picture above, by Shari Marshall, was a prompt posted on her page, Writing is Communication. The prompt was to use her photo, created your tale on your own blog, then post a link to your story in her comments section. We each see what we see in the photo. This was my take.
I also did this as a Drabble (100 words exact). Beyond posting a link, and using the photo prompt, you can go anywhere with the photo.
Give it a shot.