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My latest assignment from the Margaret Atwood master class was to write a story from three different perspectives, or points of view. I started out by writing down 16 different scene ideas, then choosing one from the list. My story start was: Rearranging gnomes on a neighbor’s lawn.  Once I got the writing going, I decided to give each of my three characters one written page worth of space, helping me to focus.

I will post the results of the above assignment under the Short Stories section of this website. Enjoy!

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Public Dump

Margaret Atwood – amazing author – teaches an online Master Class that I’ve been taking. The latest assignment was to write a story using the following technique:

1. Make a list of 10 events that could spark a story.

2. Make a list of 10 characters.

3. Make a list of 10 story “Legos”, such as folk tales, family stories. I think of them as archetypal stories, the kind that stick around due to some deep significance to our psyches. (She also calls them story shells or foundational stories.)

(Note: Instead of 10 each, I added items until I seemed to run out of steam. I got to 18 items for each list.)

4. Choose one item from each list, and begin a new story.

The three things I chose were:

Event: Pooping in a doorway.

Character: Artist preparing for first show.

Lego: The Shoemaker and the Elves.

I feel like I need to explain myself concerning the event I chose.

One of the rules of spontaneous writing that I like to follow is to write down whatever comes to mind. Not too long ago, I was driving somewhere (I can’t remember where), when I saw in the shadow of a closed business entryway, a woman, pants down and squatting. It’s not the first time I’ve witnessed a woman pooping in public, either. Seeing that happen, twice, made an impression on me. But I didn’t want to write about it.

Unfortunately, this became a case of “Don’t think about elephants” ensuring that one will think about elephants. Or, in this case, public defecation.

So, the choice was made. And the story worked. I hesitate to say it was good, because, with almost everything I write, I go through a honeymoon phase where I’m infatuated with the most recent thing I have written. But over time, my feelings and ideas about it often change. So I’ll type up the story, let it sit a bit, and then maybe I will share it here.



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Spring smells and ideas

Spring is gearing up and smelling lovely. Every first step outside is perfumed with growth, and I breathe deep, as if taking in the aroma of chocolate baking, or warm  berry pie. It’s air to be eaten up, this time of year, gobbled and gulped with the hunger and thirst that comes after winter deprivation. I love the increasingly warmer days, and they make me feel loved; I take weather very personally.

The vitality of my yard/garden is making me wish I knew more about landscape design. I have watched some of a Udemy course on the topic, but I haven’t gotten to the main principles yet. I have gathered most of the recommended drawing and measuring supplies, but I haven’t done a full survey of my yard. I need an architectural level (I can’t remember the official name of it) to measure the dips and rises in the yard. Once I have a to-scale drawing, I can better figure out what structures and plants I would like to put in various places. Some of my ideas involve more time/money/labor than I’m currently able or willing to invest. But some day I will have benches and swings and gazebos and decks and fountains and ponds, and lovely spaces to wander and daydream, even if only on paper or in my mind.

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Sunday Evening

I have to write something, because it is Sunday evening. But I’ve had difficulty making myself sit down and do it. It’s been a negative thought day, and I’ve pushed away hopelessness by ignoring it, distracting myself with tasks or mindless computer games. It reminds me of how I handle being sick – escaping pain through television or reading or sleeping. In the case of depression, which I hesitate to say I’m experiencing in a place as public as a blog, but which I definitely am, the pain comes from thoughts and brain chemistry. As with physical sickness, I have to accept that moving forward (in this case mentally) will be difficult for awhile. But I will get better.

One of my disappointments in myself is that I haven’t yet compiled my writings from throughout the years. I have hundreds of poems and short stories, plus a couple of novels and screenplays that I would love to look at and do something with. Will they go in a book? (To be published? Self-published? Given to friends/family?) Will I clean up the screenplays, flesh out the novels? Will I use the best in the bunch as a portfolio for application to a masters program in creative writing? I should be reading more, writing more, fulfilling my duties as a Mom/Wife/Baha’i/Gardener/Human. But I’m 50 years old. What can I really accomplish now? Will I just limp along trying to balance life necessities until I’m too old to function well and don’t have any writing juice left in me?

That was just a taste of the mental chaos that stirs inside me when I’m in this state. I can be doing something as simple and necessary as folding laundry, and up comes the despair and the why-bother. So I will take my evening meds, put myself to bed, and start another day tomorrow.

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Bombardier Weeds

I did not post a blog entry yesterday, in part due to a war on bombardier weeds. These are prolific plants with spring-loaded seed pods that, when ripe, will fling their potential progeny in many directions. I’ve seen these weeds triggered by the lightest touch – even a stiff breeze can get them to pop. And if there is a wide expanse of them (which there often is, in my yard), one seed explosion can trigger all the plants nearby and beyond in a chain reaction of proliferation. It’s entertaining to witness, even joy-producing if one doesn’t imagine the future consequences of such a display.

So, I was determined to pull as many bombardier weeds as possible yesterday, before they had a chance to ripen. Pulling them once they are ripe is an exercise in unhappy futility. For every 1 weed I pull, dozens more are being scattered in potentia. So I spent many hours yesterday, digging and pulling and dumping buckets of dirty, sandy greenery. By the end of the day, I had a deep, pre-migrainey headache, stiff, aching muscles, and a bad attitude, so I didn’t blog. I had also planned on calling my Mom, but I was outside until past her bedtime (Montana is one hour ahead of us), so I didn’t do that either.

On a side-note – I googled “bombardier weeds” and found nothing to indicate that this is even a plant. I would like to find out what other people call them. When I babysat my honorary niece, I would call them firecracker weeds because I didn’t want to have to explain what a bombardier is. Firecrackers are more entertainment than war-related explosions, and thus seemed more appropriate for a young kiddo.

Now I must leave for work. I might even get there on time.