Friday, September 28, 2007

Pick 3

You have three pair of ladies' legs in your life, yes? What's the story?

Better yet, pick a pair from a woman in each of three different stages in your life and put them together on the sofa.

I remember a nun -- {{shudder}} school principal and my teacher in seventh and eighth grade -- whose legs looked like this, newly visible in the shorter-skirted habits that emerged in the late 1960s. I think I'll toss her into the mix.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

So Many Writers ...

… so little time. I can’t possibly listen to all of the web’s audio/video about what writers write and how they go about it. But I do check the following sites periodically and choose judiciously:

Amazon’s Amazon Wire

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett’s Writers on Writing

Barnes & Noble’s Meet the Writers

Penguin USA’s The Penguin Podcast

The Tattered Cover Bookstore’s Authors on Tour


Live (*note -- not recorded*) audio from Prairie Lights Bookstore’s visiting authors, streamed at WSUI online

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I'm intrigued by class distinctions, for example the differences in accommodation among the various passengers aboard the Titanic. But comparing differences at the big-picture level of staterooms, or dining rooms, feels abstract and distant ...

... getting down to the details feels personal ... and a story begins.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cover Story

Are you a writer who can develop the initial burst of inspiration from a visual prompt into a full short story?

Then take a look at this cover-art prompt for Ruins Metropolis, an upcoming anthology of mainstream and genre (science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance) stories.

See guidelines here. Submission deadline is October 31, 2007.

Friday, September 21, 2007


The thing I’m enjoying most about Jonathan Safran Foer’s ”Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is the 9-year-old protagonist’s mission of talking with every person named Brown in New York City -- and its affirmation that an interesting life exists behind each anonymous face and closed door.

It reminds me of Steve Hartman's “Everybody has a Story” segments on CBS News. Hartman throws a dart at a US map to choose a city, then randomly opens a phone book there and chooses a person to interview. He invariably discovers a fascinating story.

It reminds me of The Oxford Project, wherein Peter Feldstein photographed every resident in the tiny town of Oxford, Iowa. Twenty-one years later, in 2005, he photographed the same residents again, this time accompanied by writer Stephen Bloom, who interviewed them. And hidden behind one ordinary face in this flyover-country town is Jim Hoyt: “… the last living of the first four American soldiers who liberated Buchenwald concentration camp.”

Novelist Orson Scott Card wrote, “If you look at somebody and think he or she is normal, that often means you don't know them well enough yet.” Gustave Flaubert wrote, “Anything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough.”

It just takes some excavating around the details.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

On the Edge

I'm a believer in method writing. Should you find yourself stuck about what a moment of panic feels like, here's inspiration.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Point of View

If you're not periodically checking out the sites on my Blogroll, you're missing interesting ideas ...

... and alternative views, like this one from Cute Overload.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Truth in Advertising

The quietest solicitor, ever, stood outside the coffee shop this morning.

In his forties, outfitted with a donation canister and an identifying tie-on vest, he held a neutral face mostly toward the cars passing on the street rather than to the people passing next to him on the sidewalk.

Inside, I waited for my latte and watched him pace slowly, a few steps this way, a few steps back that way. I wondered what charity he was (not very effectively) soliciting for, and when he turned, the lettering on the back of his vest answered: "Help Kids With Autism."

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Separated at Birth

Which is Archbishop Fulton Sheen (shown circa 1956 from an EWTN program) ...

... and which is vampire Barnabas Collins (shown circa 1967 from Dark Shadows)?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Back to School

Schools in my suburb started a couple weeks ago, but Chicago-proper's first day was today. It influenced the small talk at my coffee shop this morning, and characterized the moms in line.

Barista: "Are your kids back in school?"

Customer #1: (smiles) "Yeah."

Customer #2: (answers via a solemn, silent nod)

Customer #3: (flips hair) "Two weeks already."