Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Reflected Details

When I was ten, my favorite place to read was the carpeted landing where the staircase in my house made a sharp left turn. I’d press my back flush against the wall behind me, stretch my legs out across the landing to the next riser and lose myself in a book like “Harriet the Spy.” Sometimes, I'd put the book down and tilt my head to look obliquely into the full-length mirror on the wall beside me. My eyes would climb and descend the stairs in that parallel house, my mind wondering what rooms and people might be beyond sight there.

As an adult, I bought a copper-colored gazing ball and set it on a table on my patio. Its sphere reflected miniature images in astonishingly crisp focus--curving, elongating and accentuating the shapes like caricature. I noticed an open space in the ball’s reflection of our maple-tree leaf canopy. And within that space, something else: a window. I glanced up, eyes sweeping the actual canopy for the open space. There! And through it, a neighbor's attic window I'd never noticed. Or, probably, had noticed a hundred times and come to ignore. Returning my gaze to the ball, I imagined what might be going on behind a window like that. What characters might be there.

Inside my house, I wondered what else might be seen differently in relief than in reality. First, I looked directly into the dining room. Nothing very interesting, I decided, but then frowned. Nothing except the chair that stood away from the table--stood where my husband persistently left it after breakfast. I shook off my irritation and opened the hall-closet door just enough for its full-length mirror to reflect the dining room.

In the mirror, before anything else, I saw the chair. The reflection emphasized its emptiness, its distance from the table: a riderless horse. I regretted my irritation. Then I stared deeply into the mirror image of the room I saw every day. I tilted my head and imagined what else might be happening in there, what kind of people might live there.

A gazing ball, a mirror--even the back of a spoon during a restaurant meal. Why not try a reflection to get a new look at something familiar?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Detail Juicer

More inspiration from Bev : Name 4 places I've lived.

My list went something like this:

Small Town #1, Michigan;
Small Town #2, Michigan;
Medium City, Michigan;
Big City, Illinois.


Then I sliced it a different way and got:

A 100-year-old house with squirrels in the walls and secret rooms in the attic;
A modern ranch house with drapes that matched the wallpaper;
As one of 5 freshmen in a dorm room built for 4;
A Chicago six-flat overlooking a forest preserve.

(slurp) Much juicier!

Friday, January 26, 2007


A woman walks past a coffee shop and sees her boyfriend inside, reading the newspaper. She grins and stops to phone him from her cell to tell him to look outside. His phone rings and she watches him look at its caller ID -- and then go back to his paper.

What happens next?

If the genders are reversed, what happens next?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Work, Part 2

I like stories set in workplaces -- their peek behind the facade into normally restricted settings, their mirror to restricted parts of a person. (I'm a reader who'd welcome a novel that explores, for example, a character who finds accounting juicy.) Two recent workplace reads are David Gates's anthology Labor Days and Max Barry's corporate satire Company.

I also want to try the anthologies from Workers Write! whose annual themed issues have included stories from the Cubicle, the Classroom, and the Cash Register. I'm keeping the August 1 submission date in mind for this year's "Tales from the Clinic."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Work, Part 1

Everyone I know probably knows I'm a pharmacist; most know I'm a technology-project manager.

But, inspired by my friend Bev, I gave thought to four jobs no one knows I've had:
motel maid
banquet waitress
nurse's aide
college instructor.

I've spent far less time in those jobs, but I've also talked about them far less. A lot of story energy has compounded and been reinvested in them over the years.

What about you?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Write for The New Yorker

Take a fun creativity challenge at The New Yorker's weekly Cartoon Caption Contest.

An uncaptioned cartoon is published on the back page of each week's magazine, and is posted online each Monday. Submit your caption (and vote for captions from previous weeks) by the following Sunday.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Suppose a series of camps have operated here over the years. What are the backstories? Now imagine a prior camper shows up at the current camp.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Don't Look Up!

We're all-too-aware of the sheer drop below a mountain road. But who could navigate except on all-fours if we realized the sheer rise above?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Such a severe line of demarkation between city and mountain! What's it like to live in a house on that street?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


My husband's on a plane, en route to a business meeting. I push away from my desk and, turning to leave for a walk outside, see my cell phone. 9/11’s Flight 93 ... the passenger phone calls. What if ... would it be better to have a recorded voice message to keep forever -- or a final, fleeting conversation? I take the phone.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Welcome ...

... to The Detail Muse! A place to relax and gather creative inspiration from the everyday details of life.