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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.

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!

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!

It’s official! I’ve been crowned one of the worst writers in America. No, I’m not talking about the number of rejection letters piling up, but my recent success (or failure) in the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Am I proud? Yes, and disturbingly so.

Now in its 26th year, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest seeks to find the worst opening line to a novel. I have received the dubious distinction of penning a sentence so vile, it received a barely-coveted 2008 “Dishonorable Mention.”

Rudy’s feline senses tingled as he watched Minerva pour a glass of milk, thrusting his tongue outward involuntarily, urging him to inexplicably lick his hand and smooth his cowlick, but he could not let Minerva know about the vampire kitten that had sucked his neck–attacking him with a feral ferocity that belied its adorable whiskered face–and how the meowing and purring that had become an integral part of their lovemaking was really just an injection of half-dead Calico.

And yet, I don’t think this was the most wretched of my submissions! For your reading displeasure…

Zander surreptitiously slid closer to the woman whose figure resembled an upside-down butternut squash as he envisioned himself splitting open her rough, dimpled skin to scoop out the pulpy innards of her flesh and devour them raw, ravenously, a primal desire that could only be unleashed during Oktoberfest.


Even the lettuce dripped with anticipation, its romaine surface glistening like Roger’s sweaty brow as he stabbed into his Caesar, pricking it with the tines the way Phyllis had poked holes in his heart; he wanted to confess how no waitress had ever affected him so deeply, defiantly pouring dressing over the top, drowning the croutons and his soul, rather than serving it on the side as he had requested.


The mountainous mountains loomed large and omnipotent before him, precipitous precipices too gnarled and scraggy to pass, so he endeavored and lamented, heaved himself prodigiously and collapsed in anguish, for he would never scale the bed linens to reunite with his beloved binky.


Immediately upon laying his eyes upon the four day-old stubble upon her sturdy legs, he longed to canoodle with her like two cautious porcupines (for he had a bristly, dishevelled beard to match), but due to professional obligations, Dr. Lovelace would unfortunately have to settle for just administering her annual pap smear.


The contortionist sulked backstage and tears zig-zagged down his cheeks like the legs twisted behind his head; his limber limbs had been catawampus and askew, jammed into awkward angles and improbable positions, only to be upstaged by a clown doling out balloon animals.


Devon’s nemesis recoiled in fear and trepidation, intimidated by the glistening edge of the enemy’s knife and the deftness with which Devon wielded its herculean power and lunged forward upon the mighty blow of the referee’s whistle, commencing a slicing and dicing the vigorous likes of which had never before been seen at the Auxiliary Women’s League annual bake-off.


The blizzard winds howled like an alpha-female wolf in heat—a she-wolf ready to mate, not heat as in temperature hot, for our story begins in the frigid north, and therefore a wolf cannot be hot, although one could argue that a wolf’s short, thick undercoat keeps them warm in winter, but certainly not hot—sniveling longingly across the bitter prairie.
Think your opening lines are as shockingly repellent?  Then start submitting! The 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is already underway. You, too, can be one of the worst writers in America. (Just don’t mention it in your query letters. I doubt Random House will be impressed.)

Employers spend an average of just 30 seconds scanning each job resumé.  If you don’t make an immediate positive impression, you won’t get called in for an interview.

The same half-minute scan holds true for your fiction.  One page is all you have to hook an agent or editor and entice them to keep reading.  Without a strong voice, a compelling hook and sharp writing, you’re doomed for a swim with the slushies.

It therefore makes sense to attend a first page critique.  The neighborhood kids may giggle over your tale, your friends might deem it wonderful, and your critique partners may even bless it as ready for submission.  But a professional opinion is your best literary litmus test.

A professional first page critique can answer these questions:

  • Is your writing appropriate for the genre?  Does the voice match the target age range?  Is your picture book too wordy; is your young adult novel too simple?
  • Do you have a truly unique premise?  Certain subjects—like fairies and witches—may be popular at the moment, but that also means the market could be saturated.  If you’re writing about fairies or witches, your idea should really stand out from the books already on the shelves.
  • Have you left enough questions for the reader to want to continue?  Or do you leave the reader too confused instead?
  • If you’re writing in rhyme, does it have a consistent scheme?  Does it move the story along or bog it down?
  • Does your dialogue sound authentic?
  • Are you telling the tale in the most appropriate point of view?
  • Can a child relate to the story?
  • Does the reader get an immediate sense of who/what/when/where?  Can the reader imagine herself in the book’s setting?
  • Are you beginning the tale at the right place?

Wow!  All this just from a first page?  Absolutely!

Professional editors and agents know the latest trends in the literary marketplace and they see hundreds—if not thousands—of first pages every month.  The highly competitive book publishing business dictates that they weed out undesirable stories as quickly as possible in order to get to the good ones.

Thirty seconds is all you have.  Make them work for you.

While writing for children is my passion, I occasionally dabble in short stories for adults.  Today my work appears in book form for the first time with the release of Six Sentences: Volume I.  Check it out:

Many thanks to my friend Robin Mizell, a brilliant, insightful editor who helped me to polish and select the stories for submission.

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