UPDATE: What have I packed? Spring, complete with coronavirus-driven sequestration, like everyone else. My spring also involves hundreds of newly started seeds for a garden and a young flock of chickens, the first three of which–beautiful Cuckoo Marans who lay dark chocolate-colored eggs–will arrive this week. I can’t wait; more on that next week. For today, I want to share the stories that have arrived in response to the prompt and encourage you to go out and read them:
and Stephen’s Unexpected Something…
I am going to spend some time with both Liyona and Stephen this week workshopping their stories. Follow the links if you want to jump in with comments and/or encouraging words.
In light of the coronavirus and the craziness we are all experiencing, Stephen and I have decided to simplify the workshop for the next few months. We will leave this prompt open for the rest of April. If you want to share a response, be sure and link in the comments. I will add you to the list above.
I have a special prompt in May (with a surprise item from Stephen) that we will workshop the same way.
Most importantly, stay safe and healthy everyone! We have an amazing community here. You are NOT alone. You are loved and treasured.
Sally packed devilled eggs—something she usually hated to take on a picnic, because they were so messy. Ham sandwiches, crab salad, lemon tarts—also a packing problem. Kool-Aid for the boys, a half bottle of Mumm’s for herself and Alex. She would have just a sip, because she was still nursing. She had bought plastic champagne glasses for the occasion, but when Alex spotted her handling them he got the real ones—a wedding present—out of the china cabinet. She protested, but he insisted, and took charge of them himself, the wrapping and packing.
You can enjoy the rest of the story here:
In order to be a good writer, you must spend time reading great writers. Alice Munro is one of the best. A prolific short story writer, Alice Munro thought she would eventually write novels. Instead, she has provided the world with an amazing body of short form work. She has been the recipient of many awards, including the Man Booker International Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature (2013).
Douglas Glover opens his essay, “The Mind of Alice Munro,” like this:
Alice Munro’s constant concern is to correct the reader, to undercut and complicate her text until all easy answers are exhausted and an unnerving richness of life stands revealed in the particular, secret experiences of her characters. She does this in two ways. First, she has a sly capacity for filling her stories with sex, thwarted loves, betrayal and violence while self-preserving (somehow, in the prose) as a middle-aged Everywoman with only the faintest hint of a salacious gleam in her eye. And second, she deploys an amazing number of intricately interconnected literary devices that ironize and relativize meanings while conversely revealing (unveiling as in “apocalypse”) an underground current of life that seems all the more true because it is hidden, earthy, frank, and shocking. In her story “Meneseteung,” for example, the truth has something to do with menstruation, bloating, diarrhea, and opium. That this truth is called into question at the story’s close is pure Alice Munro, whose message may only be that life is never what you think it is. (Attack of the Cupula Spiders, Douglas Glover, 2012)
For me, reading Alice Munro is like savoring a thick, layered, dark chocolate cake with fruity, liquor glazes hidden between the layers: It’s pure joy, deeply satisfying, unexpected, and real. I hope you can find the time to read the full version of “Deep-Holes.” The story closes with these lines:
There is something, anyway, in having got through the day without its being an absolute disaster. It wasn’t, was it? She had said “maybe.” He hadn’t corrected her.
And it was possible, too, that age could become her ally, turning her into somebody she didn’t know yet. She has seen that look of old people, now and then—clear-sighted but content, on islands of their own making.
For the moment, we are all sequestered on islands of our own making. In the spirit of that, I invite you to write a short piece (150-300 words) with the following parameters:
- Isolate your protagonist/s on an island of their own making. This could range from a remote picnic, a cabin retreat, a self-isolating pandemic, or anything you can imagine that puts your character/s in self-isolating circumstance. You can write about your own experience and make this a non-fiction piece if you want.
- Have your protagonist/s pack, take, store, or purchase something unexpected to get them through the time. State why it is contrary for the character. “She packed deviled eggs—something she usually hated to take on a picnic because they were so messy.”
- Have fun. Don’t stress. Make mistakes. Allow yourself some extra words to freely explore your subject, maybe dive in a bit deeper to the “unexpected” than you had planned.
- Link to your work in the comments section here, so I can share the pieces in next week’s Workshop.
Most importantly, wash your hands and stay safe everyone!
Words and Photo ©️2020 Tanya Cliff