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Short Stories

“How did you get your start writing?”

“Just like Roald Dahl.” (Yes, I take advantage of any opportunity to compare myself to my favorite writer.)

But, I’m not kidding. When I began this whole crazy ride, I did so by writing short stories for adults, just like Dahl. Except my stories weren’t short stories. They were short, short, extra short stories—flash fiction.

I had found an online magazine called “Six Sentences” that published one flash fiction piece per day. The name of the site said it all—every story was only six sentences long (or six sentences short, chortle chuckle).

To some writers, this presents an enormous challenge, to examine character and emotion and conflict between six periods. Sure, you could exploit the semi-colon and em-dash and maybe stretch it to resemble eight-and-a-half sentences, but still. That’s not much space.

The uber-short format, however, is like prose-poetry. And it’s most definitely like a picture book because some things must be left unsaid, yet the silence remains part of the story’s experience.

Paper Cuts
by Tara Lazar

Her daughter was achingly beautiful, a delicate loveliness like a paper lantern, illuminated from within. The girl’s long hair separated into fine ringlets, cascading like curled Christmas ribbon down her back. She was the kind of child who made strangers smile and take pause—the kind of child who made other mothers envious. The mother was not so much shunned as politely excluded; excuses were made, apologies provided, but invitations were never extended. She exaggerated her own ordinary features—forgoing makeup, leaving her hair unwashed for days, wearing mismatched clothing—but none of her efforts to elicit pity served to lessen the jealousy; her daughter’s radiance only shone brighter, her extraordinary hair the source of more disdain. The mother closed her eyes, grasped the scissors, and cut.

I’ve long held the belief that aspiring picture book writers would benefit from writing flash fiction, as it’s good writing practice in another format. No pictures are necessary, but a mind for visuals is. Can you imagine the scene above?

Writing these stories is fun as well as a challenge, so I was mighty intrigued when I saw Logitech announce their Very Short Story contest on Twitter.

logivss

So here’s your chance to strut your storytelling skills outside the usual medium. Logitech is giving away their new K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard and a Blurb giftcard for the best short story written in 8 tweets or less. Just use #LogiVSS to tell your tiny tale. Get all the details here—http://blog.logitech.com/2016/02/18/k380veryshortstorychallenge—but hurry! The contest ends at the close of this week.

And guess what? Logitech is also giving away one of their new keyboards to one of my blog readers! If you hate typing on a phone or tablet’s screen, worry no longer. This keyboard is happy to help you out.

Just leave a comment below about short story writing and you’re entered to win. One lucky commenter will be picked randomly in two weeks!

So go ahead and write on! (But don’t write on and on and on!)

flashfictionchronicles

Flash on over to Flash Fiction Chronicles today and I’ll tell you all about writing micro fiction for children! It’s how I got my start.

http://www.everydayfiction.com/flashfictionblog/flash-fiction-for-ya-y-not

[UPDATE: The winner is Sheryl Tilley! Congratulations and enjoy!]

My story “The Juggler Triplets” will appear in the November issue of Abe’s Peanut, a micro-magazine for kids ages 6-10. Delivered in four postcard installments, the story appears on one side with full-color illustration by Lichen Frank on the other.

Independently published by editors Anna and Tess Knoebel, Abe’s Peanut launched this year after the success of Abe’s Penny, a micro-magazine for adults: “Off-set printed on double thick matte card stock, each issue dispenses art and literature while becoming a collectible, temporal object.” (In kidspeak: “They look cool tacked to your bedroom door.”)

Recent Abe’s Peanut contributors include Audrey Vernick, author of Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten?, and Lisa Tharpe, author of P is for Please: A Bestiary of Manners.

Kids love receiving their own mail, so here’s a chance to receive four postcards with your child’s name on the label.

Leave a comment naming your child’s favorite picture book for one contest entry. Mention the giveaway elsewhere for two additional entries. A winner will be chosen on Friday, October 22nd.

And stay-tuned for PiBoIdMo in November, when there will be several itty-bitty (plus some hugantic) giveaways!

Besides writing for kids, I’m raising them, too. (You may have already figured this out by the blog title. I’m not that full of surprises.)

Two years ago I won a Six-Word Momoir contest from Smith Magazine, and now another one of my Momoirs is featured in their new book It All Changed in an Instant: Six Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure:

Wanted independence but had two dependents.

Probably would have sounded better if I went all Duggar and said nineteen dependents, but I digress…

Sometimes we need a break from our current manuscript, but we still want to write. Well, what better way to be succinctly witty and wittily succinct than by writing six-word memoirs? Picture book writers are expected to write short, so here’s the ultimate exercise. In my case, I’m sticking to momoirs. Here’s a few to get your creative sixes flowing:

Woman with awesome body becomes homebody.

Two words bring joy: “She pooped!”

You really do become your mother.

How many years until Kindergarten begins?!

Naptime: my favorite time of day.

Wake me up when they’re grown.

Stuffed animals must breed at night.

Motherhood should require an entrance exam.

Hug tight. The years move fast.

Say “yes” as often as possible.

Except when muddy nightcrawlers are involved.

Grant wishes. Encourage dreams. Inspire hope.

Give birth. Give lessons. Give freedom.

OK, I apologize for the poop. I have no reason to sink that low. But I do have something to tell new mothers in six words: “Stay far away from rice cereal.”

So, give it a shot. If you’re a parent or not, try a six-word memoir. I expect to see at least six below in the comments!

Earlier this week I wrote about writers using Twitter to deliver short stories a few lines at a time, á la the cell phone novel craze in Japan.

And today I have a list of TwitLitters. These writers are either telling a tale tweet by tweet, or delivering 140-character and less micro fiction stories.

Bravo to these writers for experimenting in a new fiction format. I’m following them all to see how they merge tales and technology.

  • Sixwordstories. Like Smith Magazine, tales that are just six words long.
  • Jeffrey Somers. Science fiction novelist, short story writer and creator of the zine “The Inner Swine” begins his Twitter serial on January 26th.
  • Matt Richtel. Author of the novel Hooked and NY Times business and technology journalist tells a “Twiller” (Twitter thriller) 140 characters at a time.
  • MyLifein140. Nikki Katz’s  sixteen-year-old fictional character learns that she can change her world by editing photos in the school’s Yearbook room.
  • Slice. A digital story-telling experiment by the UK division of Penguin books called We Tell Stories. Six authors told six stories over the course of six weeks. This teen novel only attracted about 100 followers, but TwitLit is still in its infancy. Teens are typically early adopters of technology, so I suspect once word gets out, they may follow in droves, especially if a well-known author introduces them to this story-telling medium.
  • Fuel Dump. Monk screenwriter Tom Scharpling just began this microblogging book in December. Look for posts marked #FD.
  • Joy Motel. A colloborative effort between a short story writer and an adman, this sci-fi Twitter novel has attracted 145 followers.
  • David Miller. A senior editor with Matador, an interactive travel magazine and online community, David began his Twitter novel in December.

Do you know of other Twitter novels and stories? What do you think about TwitLit? Exciting new venue? Or harbinger of a literary doomsday?

twitter2I first heard the phrase “TwitLit” from writing friend Christopher Cocca. I’ll give him coining credit. We both write flash fiction, so he had suggested using the 140-character Twitter format to tell uber-short stories. His first submission: “His probation stopped on a dime-bag.” Mine? “The gourmand often ate too much, but she was living life to the fullest.”

So how else can writers use Twitter? You might want to refuse answering the assumed question, “What are you doing?” Come on, that’s boring. We’ve got Facebook status for that. Twitter is nimble, Twitter is quick, Twitter has the power to change the world. (OK, a bit of hyperbole there.)

Agent Nadia Cornier used Twitter to update authors on Firebrand Agency’s “query holiday.” From December 15 to January 15, Firebrand invited submissions without a query letter. At final count, she had over 3500 submissions with 387 read and 30 requested. Useful, clever Tweeting. Thanks, Nadia.

Of course, agent Nathan Bransford already covered authorly Tweeting with a guest post by Tracy Marchini two months ago. Marchini suggests 21 ways an author can use Twitter. Yep, she’s got TwitLit covered.

But I’m going further with this.

You may be aware of the cell phone novel phenomenom in Japan. Authors deliver stories a few lines at a time directly to mobile devices and welcome reader feedback regarding the tale’s direction. Once the novel is completed, readers rush to buy the paper copy because they feel invested in the story. After all, they had a hand (or a thumb) in its creation.

Some critics consider mobile novels an omen of a literary doomsday. Others think the platform can’t be ignored, especially with five of the top 10 novels in Japan having originated on cell phones.

So why not tell an entire tale in Twitter a few lines at a time? OK, perhaps there’s a certain level of literary integrity you want to maintain and this ain’t the way. But it’s a fun and interesting new venue for fiction, and one that could elicit reader feedback. Applications like TweetDeck help you to organize Tweets by subject and keep track of responses to others (using the “@” symbol). But be careful not to use Twitter for conversations that will lose other readers.

What about a Twitter account for your fictional characters? Don’t they have something to say beyond the confines of your book? A Tweet or two and they’re brought to life in real-time. Or maybe you can create a new character who only exists in Tweets.

The format is experimental. Who knows if it will catch on for story telling. But with Amazon’s Kindle gaining popularity and cell phones evolving into integrated entertainment devices for music, web browsing, pictures and videos, surely books and zines can’t be far behind. Can you imagine your phone’s screen folding out like a newspaper and delivering any story you want anytime you want it? Will Twitter help push things in that direction? Perhaps with a million authors using it, it just might.

twitterfollowSo how are you using Twitter to enhance your writing career? Are you marketing yourself or using it creatively? Please share your ideas!

You read that correctly: revisolutions. It’s an amalgam of resolution, revision and revolution! Yes! It’s a revolution, do you hear me? This year I am going to work harder than ever to earn that first book contract. Polish up my manuscripts until they shine like a spanking new pair of black patent-leathers! (Hopefully they won’t be as stiff.)

I’ll kick off 2009 by reflecting upon the successes of 2008. It was an amazing year. I finally decided to take my writing seriously and work towards making it my career. Some milestones (be careful, horn tooting to follow):

  • My adult flash fiction was published in four venues.
  • I won a contest from Smith Magazine and received a “Dishonorable Mention” from the annual Bulwer-Lytton fiction parody contest.
  • An agent requested one of my manuscripts after reading my first page. (Alas, it isn’t finished.)
  • A writing friend offered a referral to her agent. (Alas, for the same unfinished manuscript.)
  • I became the coordinator for my critique group.
  • I applied to the Rutgers One-on-One Mentoring Conference for the first time and got in!
  • I attended four NJ-SCBWI first-page events and received encouraging feedback at all four sessions.
  • I joined Verla Kay’s blueboard and learned an incredible amount of industry info from its members.
  • I received personal rejections! Ha!

And most importantly, I made a lot of new writing friends. If you’re reading this, you’re one of them!

What were your successes of 2008? And what are your New Year’s Revisolutions? Do you have an abandoned manuscript you want to complete? A daily word count to meet? Whatever it is, share it. So shall it be written, so shall it be done!

History Lessons

Juliet Dupree snuck into Mr. Forman’s classroom before the morning bell and wrote Mr. Snoreman on the blackboard. When Tristan sat next to her, she’d nudge his arm, nod toward the front of the room, and take credit.

Everyone knew that Mr. Forman’s monotone lectures came straight from the textbook, word for dreary word. He cradled the teacher’s guide with his left arm while he pointed to the ceiling with his right, appearing only slightly more animated than the Statue of Liberty.

The huddled masses of 1st period American History yearned to be free of boredom, so Tristan organized daily pranks. Yesterday the entire class dropped their textbooks on the floor at precisely 8:10am…and received empty detention threats at 8:11am.

When Juliet reached for her book, she had noticed it was published the year she was born. That was odd; she was pretty certain that something historically meaningful had happened in the past 13 years. After all, Tristan had kissed her. That might not make it into the next edition of An American Account Volume II, but it would launch an unpredictable new chapter in her own history, threatening full-out war as soon as Tristan’s girlfriend found out.

 

This flash fiction piece is in response to the Imagine Monday writing prompt posted last Friday. Join us every week for a new writing exercise.

When I came up with this week’s prompt, I immediately drifted back to my 9th grade American History class. The tale above isn’t far from what occurred in the classroom. My friend arranged pranks on a near-daily basis. One day a classmate discovered that he owned the same digital Casio watch as our teacher, so he set the alarm to go off in class. Our teacher fumbled at his wrist, wondering why he couldn’t get the beeping to stop. Such adolescent nonsense has a way of escalating into legend, and in the hyperbole of memory, I recall this little trick baffling our teacher for months.

Do you write for children? Then please join the Imagine Monday blog meme!

  • Every Friday a writing prompt will be posted here.
  • Take Saturday and Sunday to write a tiny tale in ten sentences or less.
  • Post your story on your blog this Monday. Use the tag Imagine Monday.
  • Link back here to the prompt.

That’s it! The purpose of this meme is to have fun, stretch your creativity and get in a little writing practice.

This week’s prompt:

In honor of Columbus Day this Monday,
write about a National Monument.
It could be The Statue of Liberty, Devils Tower,
Fort Sumter or Giant Sequoia National Park.
You could use the Monument as the setting,
or simply mention a Monument in dialogue.
However it inspires you, go with it! 
Write in prose or poetry, for young children or young adults.
 

Happy writing! Enjoy your weekend and see you on Monday!

Imagine Monday is a weekly blog meme for children’s writers—and fans of children’s fiction.

One of the fastest growing online venues for micro fiction is Six Sentences, yet the target audience is adults. Imagine Monday challenges you to write an über-short tale for kids in ten sentences (or less) using a weekly prompt. Flash your brilliance in a few lines.

It’s simple:

  • Each Friday a prompt will be posted here.
  • Take Saturday and Sunday to write.
  • Submit your entry via your own blog sometime on Monday.
  • Include a link back to the prompt page. Use the tag Imagine Monday.
  • Visit fellow participants and leave constructive comments if you choose.

Have fun! Stretch your creativity. Use the prompt to put a character from your current project in a different situation. Start something entirely new. Compose a series of connected tales. Or simply get in a little writing practice. Do with it what you will.

Sometimes the prompt will be a sentence, sometimes a single word. We’ll mix it up and include images, too. See what you can create in just a few sentences. Make it tight. Make it memorable.

All are welcome, regardless of age or writing experience–and you don’t even have to own a blog. You can submit your writing here via the comments field.

Imagine Monday kicks off with the first prompt this Friday, October 10. Please join us!

7ate9
Winner of the 2018 Irma S. Black Award and the SCBWI Crystal Kite!
black kite

As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
June 4, 2019


illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
October 15, 2019

THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
illus by Vivienne To
HarperCollins
Spring 2020

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
August 2020

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