Have you figured out your writing process?

Out of curiosity, I’ve been trying to understand my writing process, particularly for the short story. I seem to do one of two things. Either I jot down a brief outline or list and start writing or I just start writing. Often inspiration comes from a photograph, a painting, a magazine image, an object, or an experience. These motivators tap into a feeling or an emotion or they spark an idea or character.

Other times an idea comes from nowhere. It may evolve slowly or it may hit with a jolt. I’ll jot down notes while sitting with a piece of pizza or waiting for a friend for coffee. How very unscientific this writing, inspiration, creativity thing turns out to be. I’ve learned to keep myself open to all the potential constantly on my radar.

This pre-writing tip from author Joe Bunting is useful no matter your style and helps keep a focus: Before beginning to write, try a screenwriting trick known as a logline. A logline is a one-sentence summary of your short story, its core, its essence. For example, here’s a logline for “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner: A lonely, Southern woman is found dead and decaying in her home after being abandoned by her lover. The formula is your character + a descriptor (e.g., lonely, Southern woman) followed by an event (e.g., found dead) and followed by a conflict (abandoned by her lover).

The idea and the story begin to flow, meeting rapids and dams and whirlpools and quicksand in the thought river, but I keep going, allowing for change and discovery. Writing craft kicks in while putting the words onto the page and keeping “in flow.” If I can, I’ll write through to the story’s end. The result is the epitome of a rough, rough draft.

The rough draft is a skeleton on which to hang muscles that you sculpt, shape, stretch, and massage. The real fun begins. I start checking for and adding more muscle. The use of the senses. The weaving of description, setting, flashbacks (if any), and character description within the story flow rather than dropping these ingredients in as chunks here and there. I rearrange sentences and paragraphs. I look at the realness of the dialogue, the pace of the rising action, the varying of sentence length and rhythm, and word choice. I try to stay close to my main character and be in the character’s head. I look at what the character wants, the obstacles in the way, the tension, the conflict.

As I’m writing, I’ll do nuts and bolts research when necessary, keeping the Google page open next to the developing manuscript, as well as a dictionary/thesaurus open in the lower right hand corner of the screen.

I’ll experiment, writing a few sentences in present tense or past, using first person POV or third, trying sentences on to see how they feel and assess how I can best tell the story. All the while I’m keeping the reader in mind. Will the reader care about the character, will the reader empathize? I’ve discovered the character also has to touch me.

At some point I step away. For me, a story needs time to percolate so I understand it more.

When the story feels good, I’ll bring out the magnifying glass, looking at individual  parts and sentences. Have I strung a bunch of prepositional phrases together? Have I switched tense? Have I written sentences with economy and truth. For example, I had this sentence in a recent story: Henry shifted his gaze to me. Say what? Shifted his gaze? I changed it to read: Henry turned to me. I make sure each sentence reveals character or pushes the story forward.

Finally, there’s all that stuff about punctuation and spelling and final proof reading. A recent teacher of mine, Maggie Downs (UC Riverside Palm Desert), suggested putting the manuscript into a different font. Suddenly, a story you’ve been reading and rereading and can sing in three languages looks different and something you’ve missed will stand out. From a period to a nuance. For example, I had this sentence and didn’t see the error and spell check couldn’t make the distinction: He messaged her hand. Whoops. It should read: He massaged her hand. The font change helped me see the word. Lastly, I check for word repetition. On my Mac, under View, I click Sidebar and then Search Pane. I might do a search for the word as and watch the word pop up highlighted in yellow. Or I’ll type in “ly” to search for adverbs.

At some point, when I feel a cohesiveness, although I know I could keep diddling with the story forever, I call said story d-o-n-e. F-i-n-i-s-h-e-d. Whew!

Then I submit it, and wait – for “Declined” or “Accepted,” always hoping to see this on a submission control panel:

309~1409081599~dcm-logoYou are logged in as Carol Mann.
Welcome to your control panel.
“French Pastry” Status:
Changed From Pending to Accepted.

Feel like sharing any tips about your writing process? Love to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by.

P.S. I like a short story by Thomas E. Kennedy called “The Author of Things” found in his collection Getting Lucky. In the story we enter the head of fictional author Tom Dunne, who then proceeds to take us on his story writing journey. Writers, I think you will relate.

Posted in Creativity, fiction writing, Finding Ideas: The Creative Process, Inspiration, Looking for Inspiration, Reading, short story, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Books, Shakespeare, Cats, and Lithia Water

images-3The small city of Ashland, Oregon, located just north of the California/Oregon border near Interstate 5, is known for its Shakespeare Festival. I haven’t been there for a few years but have great memories of the place. My parents lived in Ashland in the hills behind Southern Oregon University. I’d visit them in the summer and, during one of my stays, I walked down the hill to work in the university library. I was studying for my Master’s Degree in theatre and attended plays almost daily. For a theatre major, Ashland was and is a feast. While at the library, I looked out on flowers, pine trees, and green mountains. Quite a change from southern California and the desert. 

I enjoy most of the small city of Ashland. I haven’t quite decided on the natural springs of lithia water bubbling from the public drinking fountains in The Plaza at the center of town.

The water is best described as odd tasting, odiferous stuff.  Many people drink the mineral water and local lore celebrates its health benefits. My visits, I confess, include a hasty gulp or two – just to hedge my bets.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has something for everyone: classic, traditional, and experimental theatre. Whether on the boards of the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre, on the proscenium stage of the Angus Bowmer Theatre, or in the experimental arena of the Thomas Theatre, the plays provide audiences with some of the finest regional theatre in the country.

One of the most stunning productions I’ve seen there is the Jacobean tragedy ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore” by John Ford, first published in 1633.  Each scene formed a tableau. The acting was stellar.

IMG_2541During one of my first trips to Ashland, I discovered Bloomsbury Books on E. Main Street. The bookstore bears the name inspired by the Bloomsbury group – intellectuals, writers and artists who gathered in Bloomsbury, England, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These colleagues, surrounded by family, lovers and friends, met to discuss their work, their ideas. E.M. Forster and Virginia Woolf were among the participants.

Printed on one of the store’s bookmarks is a quote by Virginia Woolf: “I have sometimes dreamt that when the Day of Judgment dawns – the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say when he sees us coming with our books under our arms, ‘Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them. They have loved reading.'”

The store, nestled in a narrow portion of an historic building on Ashland’s main street, bears no trappings of chain booksellers or corporate promotions. Instead, hand-printed 3×5 cards thumbtacked to the shelves highlight the notables or “Good Reads.”

Open daily, the shop lured me to its door on each of my arrivals in Ashland. In the literature section, I lingered over the notables and checked my wish list. Oregon is a great place to stock up on books. No sales tax. From there I wandered to the art and photography section. Next to the theatre section for scripts of current Ashland productions, books on acting, make-up, set design, lighting. Then into the poetry section. I would add a current magazine on writing, the local Ashland Daily Tidings newspaper, and several birthday cards from the card racks. I was ready, arms loaded, to check out.           

With books bagged and wallet lighter, I wandered upstairs to The Coffee House. My goal was a comfortable couch by the fireplace or an orphaned café table with mismatched chairs where I could enjoy a tall latte, decaf, nonfat. (I know, I know. My drink of choice is often called “A Why Bother” or “A Waste of Time.) I dug into my bag of books and indulged a reader’s lust – the launch of a new read while drinking a latte and noshing on a large chocolate chip cookie. (Vacation meant no diet police.)

Orlando the Cat, now gone to cat heaven, once lived in the store. He was an immense, long-haired gray feline. He looked like he should be called Smoky or maybe Chester, but his name was Orlando. A nonchalant charmer, showing the disdain common to the species, he lounged among the contents of Bloomsbury Books. The owner rescued him from the pound. I wondered at the source of his auspicious name.

Perhaps it was for Orlando Coolidge, an 1862 Ashland pioneer, who prospered as a commercial nurseryman. His restored Victorian home became a bed and breakfast. The Coolidge House, located on Main Street, commands a view of the town.

Maybe he was named after Orlando of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. That Orlando liked to slip into the forest to look for his true love Rosalind. The play has a noble and happy ending. I suspect Orlando the cat was noble and happy, too. He didn’t harass the clientele and I didn’t see any mice.

A book by Virginia Woolf bears the same name. Her Orlando lived a varied and colorful life, which covered several hundred years. Orlando the cat possessed nine lives and lived a rather extraordinary life among bulging bookshelves, piles of newspapers, and the busy feet of book-seeking humans.

UnknownOrlando used to recline in the narrow aisles or by the front door, oblivious to traffic flow, unperturbed, adding instant atmosphere and panache to what became my favorite bookstore. A sign hung on the door offering a gentle reminder – Don’t Let the Cat Out. I don’t know if the owners have replaced Orlando.

A quick aside. My parents chose Ashland for their retirement and are now at rest in Scenic Hills Cemetery on the outskirts of the city. On one visit, my sister and I took my then 87 year old father to see an uncut production of Hamlet at the Angus Bowmer Theatre. We smugly joked he would fall asleep during the evening production. Earlier in the day, my sister and I went antiquing and toured a few wineries. Guess who fought sleep that evening? Yep, my sister and I. At one point I looked at my father and his lips were moving as he silently recited the lines along with the actors on stage. He didn’t miss a beat.

If you’ve been to Ashland, would love to know your thoughts. If you go to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I suggest stopping at Bloomsbury Books. I also suggest a sip or two of Lithia Water, done quickly.

Posted in Creativity, Finding Ideas: The Creative Process, Inspiration, Looking for Inspiration, Reading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In the News

NewsImageAt times I think men have gone mad. At other times I think men are behaving in a way that is innate and can’t be helped. Both thoughts unsettle me. Watching the news makes me want to weep.

A little girl is left in a black trash bag on a rocky Deer Island shore near Boston. The issues of missing children, exploited children, and child abandonment jump to mind.

A young woman walks with her father along a San Francisco city pier and is shot dead by a gun in the hands of a man in the country illegally. Issues about illegal immigration flood the news.

A Detroit area doctor diagnoses his patients as having cancer and prescribes lengthy debilitating treatments. Except the patients don’t have cancer. Issues of medical malpractice, insurance fraud, and ethics shock us.

Nine members of Emanuel  A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, are shot to death at Bible study by a malcontent. Racism rears its ugly head. Gun control plagues us. Enough.

These actions are within our country. Actions in foreign lands are horrific and bleed to our shores. I’m exhausted, heartsick. Sad.

Unknown-1Aristotle believed that seeing actors portray a tragedy on stage could be beneficial. Their pity and fear aroused, an audience could then envision themselves in the tragic circumstances and leave the theater purged of doing such actions. A catharsis.

UnknownOn the other hand, Plato argued the opposite. Actions on the stage, and by extension to today in our entertainment media, can influence what a person does in real life. These can have an immoral and negative effect.

I’m with Aristotle on the nobility of his view and the need for empathy in our daily lives and law making. Sadly, I’m with Plato on entertainment media and its potential to desensitize us, making us unempathic and numbed to others.

And then I see South Carolina House member Jenny Horne address the state assembly on the issue of removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds in Charlotte and displaying it in a nearby museum. Such an impassioned plea. A plea based on empathy and understanding about the subtext of that flag. Click here to view. Empathy is a distinctly human trait, the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

Some claim that removing a symbol such as the Confederate flag is practicing revisionist history or trying to rewrite history. To me, the removal represents positive change. It represents learning from historical acts which is the reason we study history.

I hope our leaders will continue to dig at the ills and issues in our society and arrive at decisions that promote the greater good. I like the American flag waving on official government grounds. I like being united under one flag. I like positive change and progress. Most of all I like empathy, man’s saving grace.

Posted in Inspiration, Looking for Inspiration, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

World Poetry

As life moves along, horizons widen. New people, new experiences, new ideas. Sometimes there’s even a win in a contest. My contest winnings have included a trip from Buffalo to Cleveland. (Heart be still.) A gift basket during a luncheon raffle. A floral centerpiece, also at a luncheon. Enjoyable, fun. I know, I know. A million dollars would have been better. Such is life.

Then, recently, I won a collection of books. For a writer and reader, this is kind of neat. It came about when I joined Pen Center USA, and I got lucky in their membership drawing.

I joined the organization because of a class I took on the personal essay taught by journalist and UC Riverside instructor Maggie Downs. PEN sponsored the class and the Palm Springs Writers Guild coordinated it.

PEN Center USA’s mission (quoted from their website) is to “stimulate and maintain interest in the written word, to foster a vital literary culture, and to defend freedom of expression domestically and internationally.” “PEN Center USA is a branch of PEN International, the world’s leading international literary and human rights organization.” Its broad goals are to foster world literature and protect writers and the written word, writers who are jailed, exiled, in hiding, whose lives are threatened. Sadly, some have lost their lives. In the USA, we have freedom of speech. As we know, that is not true around the world. I like and believe in their mission.

What I didn’t know was this. With these books, I’d be taken quickly into the realm of current world literature: three books of poetry, one of short stories , and one novella – by authors from around the world. Brazil, Russia, Uyghurland, and two from Mexico.


The three books of poetry I received offer a departure from the canon of works often written by American poets. While the genesis or content may be different due to cultural and geographical differences, I found the poetry generates a similar emotional impact and truth.

The first book is Rilke Shake by Brazilian Angelica Freitas; translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan. Some of the pieces were very light hearted such as “perfect teeth, listen up” which I sent to my dentist nephew in Oklahoma, or “i enter the idiot’s bookstore.” The poet does like to shake things up.

what passed through the head of the violinist
as he hurled toward his death
pale against his black hair
clutching his stradivarius
in yesterday’s great air disaster

I think of bela bartok
I think of rita lee
I think of the stradivarius
and the sundry and various
jobs I held
to get here
and now the turbine fails
and now the cabin breaks in two
and now the whole kit and caboodle
tumbles from the overhead compartments
and I plummet too
beautiful and pale my black head of hair
my violin against my chest
a passenger up ahead prays
I just think
I think about stravinski
and the beard of klaus kinksi
and the nose of karabtchevsky
and a poem by joseph brodsky
I once read
intact ladies, unfasten your seatbelts
cause here comes the earth


Uyghurland, the Farthest Exile by Ahmatjan Osman is translated by Jeffrey Yang. The first thing I had to do was find out about Uyghurland. The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group living today primarily in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, in the Tarim Basin, bordered by Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Tibet. This all can be shortened to the oppressive region called East Turkistan (Xinjiang province.)

Uyghurland, the Farthest Exile is the first book by a Uyghur poet to be published in English translation according to Jeffrey Yang, translator. Poet Ahmatjan Osman, a Muslim,  now lives in exile in Canada for his own safety.  Although his place of origin may be remote to us, he captures the poet’s universal mission in the poem below.

My Share of the Night 

Ephemeral as a falling star, evanescent as twilight
and this old, old world
is like mellow tobacco. . .
I rip off a corner of the sky and roll it up
I, the most familiar the most strange
more concerned with tobacco than death

I walk along the streets of my imagination
poems falling from my autumn mouth
with flecks of tobacco
The starlight picks them up with slender fingers
the whole of my life
the whole of my death
my share of the night


Diorama by Rocio Ceron is translated from Spanish by Anna Rosenwong. Ceron’s poetry is experimental, impressionistic, and lends itself to performance, incorporating the spoken word, art, music, and video. In Diorama she explores Mexican history, language, sounds, and images. Below is an excerpt from “13 Ways to Inhabit a Corner,” the thirteenth stanza.

13 Ways to Inhabit a Corner

Cars circulate in an inch and a half. A dog barks in the distance.
Tinsel. Blueberry-chocolate chip muffin. Synthetic happiness pill. It wasn’t
just the swinging of cumber salsa samba. Hinge between realities, “look at
your iridescent body, iridescent bluegreenpurple.” Language. Territory for
the emergence of parks cityscapes rehabilitated hillsides of houses with met-
al roofs nucleic stones sacrificial spaces. Boxes and wrapping, vital space
inch and a half. Nation.

On youtube, Ceron offers Diorama in both Spanish and English. You can get a feel of the rhythm and tone and drama of her work through this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpQJMvZFfNU. I feel the work is meant to be heard and seen.


IMG_2490 (2)

Bessarabia Stamps (16 short stories) by Oleg Woolf and Jacob the Mutant (a novella) by Mario Bellatin are the other two books.

Poets take us into lives, thoughts and surroundings, in an extraordinary way. No matter where they are in the world, they do this with well chosen words. Thank you, PEN, for acquainting me with these works and these poets.

Posted in Authors, Books, Creativity, Inspiration, Looking for Inspiration, poetry, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Companion Pieces

I began reading the book Lawrence in Arabia after hearing author Scott Anderson speak at a local book event. The book’s subtitle is War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East. As you probably figured, my motivation for reading was to try to have a better understanding of today’s Middle East and its problems.

UnknownAnderson’s approach is not to focus solely on Thomas Edward Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and his role in the events of the time. He combines his story with that of Curt Pruffer, German spy, William Yale, American spy, and Aaron Aaronsohn, Israeli spy. Schemes, battles, betrayals, and events are explored and woven together as ignited by these men. The research done by the author is extensive.

As I read Anderson’ account of the Battle of Gallipoli – how itThe_Water_Diviner_poster came to pass and the after effects – the film The Water Diviner opened in theaters to mixed reviews. But because the three sons of the film’s protagonist Joshua Connor played by Russell Crowe were thought to all have died at the Battle of Gallipoli, I was in. The film takes you to that battlefield, into the local culture, and into military attitudes of the time. It depicts the strange happenstances of war. The film is based on the book The Water Diviner by Andrew Anastasios.

UnknownAlso coming into my hands during this time was a collection of short stories by Katey Schultz called Flashes of War. This collection focuses on today’s war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and surrounding area. Schultz keeps you close to her characters as they survive or recover or die, as they try to make sense of their world. She explores the lives and feelings of survivors on both sides of the war. I was touched by the humanity of it. In the book are three pieces covering seven pages. The stories have the following titles: “WIA,” “MIA,” and “KIA.” Very powerful.

As I read and tried to understand, making connections and drawing conclusions, I also realized war’s contribution to literature. Writers weave profound stories and works of research to understand events, feelings, beliefs. To give us heroes as we read and try to offer a modicum of understanding as to how man can keep doing inhumane acts to his fellow man.

With Lawrence in Arabia and Flashes of War, I read each book in short sessions. Lawrence because I needed to absorb the machinations of the times, the intrigue, the motives of the key players, and the then map of that part of the world. Flashes of War because the impact of each story hit an emotional place, drawing on empathy, sympathy, and sadness; drawing on resilience, coping, and surviving.

Unknown-1I haven’t read The Water Diviner, but plan to.

If you want to explore these companion pieces, I think you’ll find they dovetail together to add some understanding about a current part of our world.

Posted in Reading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

A Positive Rejection? Say What?

After submitting several pieces of work to publications, I sometimes don’t know how to open my email. I mean, should I open it with a high sense of expectation or take my time – as in who jumps in line for a rejection notice? It seems either way, there’s a bit of excitement, as in rolling the dice in Vegas. I might be receiving an acceptance notification, but, then again, maybe not. Being a writer means, if you’re smart, you’ve taken the time to be fitted with a stylish rhinoceros skin. But still.

I found a call for submissions for pieces about Viet Nam on the Writer’s Relief website, an author submission service (http://client.writersrelief.com/writers-classifieds/anthology-calls-for-submissions.aspx). I submitted a short story called “Behind the Triple K” to the publication and waited. In a timely manner, I received this email:

Dear Carol,
Thank you for your submission.  After careful consideration, we have decided that “Behind the Triple K” isn’t quite right for us. However, we are interested in seeing more of your writing. Please keep us in mind as you consider future submissions.
The Editors.

abstract-portraitWell, not quite what I’d hoped for. I read it again. What a gentle letdown, and encouraging. But then I thought, now what? What do I do with this?

I mentioned the email in the personal essay class I recently blogged about. UC Riverside instructor Maggie Downs shared an interesting article: “Submit Like a Man; How Successful Writers Can Become More Successful,” by Kelli Russell Agodon. I really appreciated this revealing and informative read.

Turns out male writers who receive an email like the one above will submit work again right away. Female writers tend to wait and may or may not submit to the publication again at all. Here’s a small excerpt. According to Agodon’s article, a woman’s inner dialogue may go something like this and I quote:

“I don’t want to seem pushy, but I do want to get them my work. Maybe I should wait a few months so I don’t seem desperate or so I don’t irritate them by submitting so fast. Do they really want to see more work, or were they just being nice? I’m sure they want to see more work, but I should probably wait a few months, I wouldn’t want to be an imposition and it would be better manners and more respectful to wait a bit. Or should I? Yes, I’ll play it cool and wait a few months. I wouldn’t want to impose.”

As I said, my inner dialogue was simply, Now what? I felt neither pushy nor wussy. Here’s the moral to the tale: submit to the publication again, as the editors have indicated. Don’t wait.  They couldn’t be clearer.

The email above for my Viet Nam story “Behind the Triple K”  came from a journal which publishes four times a year. The call for work about Viet Nam was for a themed edition, something the editors publish periodically with a specific submission date.

However, they also accept rolling submissions, which means they take submissions all the time.

I’m not quite sure what to submit for a follow-up, but with rolling submissions I’ll be able to submit again right away. At the moment, I’m culling through my files for a piece of existing work that’s submission ready or almost.

I’m also taking another look at the Viet Nam story. Is the ending a little too dark? Just not to their taste? I’ll try another venue and submit elsewhere. Onward.

Posted in Authors, fiction writing, Inspiration, Looking for Inspiration, Reading, short story, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Writing, Wrinkles, and Scarves

Like most malls, our local Westfield version has several major anchor stores and a multitude of smaller shops. Kiosks camp in the corridors on each of the mall’s two levels. In these kiosks, you can have your teeth whitened, buy a blingy cell phone case, get a Wetzel’s Pretzel, have your picture taken by a professional photographer, purchase a miracle cosmetic. Sound familiar?

Each Monday morning for the past 10 weeks with two to go, I’ve taken the escalator by the food court down to the lower floor of the mall. The escalator lets its riders off next to Victoria’s Secret. A long hallway runs beside Victoria’s Secret and ends in double doors. Go through those doors and you’re in classrooms used by our local community college, College of the Desert. There’s a receptionist, three office cubicles, four classrooms. Who knew?

I didn’t until I took a class called Writing the Personal Essay, coordinated by PEN Center USA – through their PEN in the Community Residency Program, and the Palm Springs Writers Guild. The class is taught by Journalist/Freelance Writer/UC Riverside instructor Maggie Downs. For clarification, a personal essay is a short work about a personal experience. A memoir is book length about many experiences.

When writing a personal essay, you choose a significant life experience, write it, and explore it, asking yourself such questions as:

How did you feel during the experience?
What was your body doing?
What was your inner dialogue?
How did the experience help you reflect on your own life?
What revelations did you discover about yourself?
What discoveries did you make about the human condition?
What universals about mankind did you find?


Found this book in my bookcase. In the PEN class we study essays culled from current online or print publications such as The New Yorker, Orion Magazine,The Sun Magazine,The Believer, The Toast, The Butter.

I’m used to fiction writing and creating characters in stories. I’m used to theatre and creating characters on stage as an actor or director. I’m not used to writing and sharing an inner reflection in a public forum.

Guest speaker for one class was author Tod Goldberg who, when asked about this process of revealing, said a writer should only reveal what he’s willing to let go of because once it’s out there, it’s out there. Makes sense.

We’ve been writing essays and workshopping each other’s work. We’ve been learning techniques to access our inner dialogue and dissecting essays by prominent essay writers. I’ve compiled a thick notebook of these essays AKA our textbook.

Here are just a few of the essays we’ve read. “Now We are Five” by David Sedaris, “Botswana” by Todd Pitock, “The Fourth State of Matter” by Jo Ann Beard, “The Way Woman Laugh” by Dani Shapiro, and “Thanksgiving in Mongolia” by Ariel Levy. Some are edgier than others.

And after the two hour class, a few of us have lunch in the food court and then go on our ways. As I passed a kiosk on the second floor near the food court, a not unattractive young man waved a colorful plastic bag at me. I shook my head no. He waved it again, took a step toward me, an engaging smile on his face. I took the bag. Then he motioned me closer. He had something wonderful for my complexion. Oh, what the hell, I thought. Soon he was smoothing something on the wrinkles near my left eye. Next he waved a fan to help the concoction dry. Then he held a mirror in front of me so I could see the miraculous change, the before of the right eye area, and the after of the left. Sure enough, the wrinkles near my left eye were gone.

Miracle or not, I knew I had to escape before the real sales pitch began. I backed away, smiling , and thanked him. I was also thinking “allergy girl” here probably didn’t use the best judgment in allowing magic potions on the face, especially so near the eye. I was pretty sure a skin reaction was in my near future.

I continued on to See’s Candies for a sample and looked at the jewelry in several windows of the mall’s gazillion jewelry stores. Slowly I realized there was no itching, no watery eye, no irritation, no reaction. I put my hand on the area with the magic on it. Wow! No wonder the wrinkles were gone. The stuff had worked like a lightweight Spackling compound used to fill cracks in walls before you paint. Smooth and rigid. Was it going to crack off? It ultimately disappeared, absorbed into my skin, leaving the wrinkly lines very much back in place. So much for instant fixes.

I have this scarf I carry that is kind of like a two year old’s blankie. It goes everywhere with me. The scarf is black, gray, and white and rather long so it can be looped and draped around my neck or shoulders. Weather can be weird in the desert, and air conditioners are often set at levels to preserve meat.

I had the scarf draped on top of the big purse I carry. At some point, I realized I’d lost the scarf. Damn it. So I retraced my steps. Past the escalator that lets you off by Victoria’s Secret, past the kiosk with the Spackling compound, down the promenade toward See’s. Then I saw the scarf. It was draped over the railing where people stand and look down on the floor below. Some good Samaritan found it, draped it, and hoped for the best. Whoever you are, thank you.

Posted in Authors, Creativity, Finding Ideas: The Creative Process, Inspiration, Looking for Inspiration, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments