A sure way to loosen the black earth embedded beneath my fingernails is to go bob in Lake Superior. The icy cold water disperses warm pockets, electrifying the experience between soothing and shocking. My new favorite beach is off-limits with a big sign saying so. I’m not trespassing though; I’m a guest of a friend of a friend who owns property along a gated road of an undeveloped development. It’s not something we can do regularly. We don’t want to be obnoxious and ask to borrow the beach again, week after week, but it soothes my soul, cools my heels, and cleans my grubby fingernails.
While I was weeding yesterday, Monreal Dorb entered the July 2 Flash Fiction Challenge 574 times. He had all manner of websites to direct me to, but none were written in 99-words. I had to wade through pages and pages of his entries to find any accidental spam in the folder. We once had a literary spammer who spammed a Rodeo contest with a bizarre 99-word story about bitcoin, knock-off purses, and other suspicious topics. We blocked his website but included his amusing story in the roundup. We later questioned, who he was. I’m nostalgically wondering is Monreal Dorb is Nanjo Castille. Spammers have lives too, albeit strange and virtually criminal. How does one become a spammer?
It was an odd thought to ponder as I ripped up purselane. Spam, like the edible weed, sends tendril everywhere in hopes of taking hold and taking over. Soon, wildlife distracted me. A spider exited my blooming lavender in a huff, inspecting my activity. She saw me on my knees, pulling up groundcover, probably sending vibrations throughout the garden village at the soil level. That spider marched over on eight tall legs, climb my poppy, and looked me in the eye. I told her not to worry, that I had bought out the half-priced annuals at the grocers on Quincy Hill. Soon, she’d have a different cover, like new carpeting. Next, the toad revealed himself ever so quietly. I tried to convince him to go to the potato patch but he had none of my attempts to hold him. The toad wanted no kisses. He hung out, though.
One of my professors confessed that when she’s writing on deadline her house is immaculate and she hates housework. That sparked conversation about writing rhythms and where creativity comes from. For me, creativity permeates the air, the soil, the water. Like the truth, it’s out there. But my plot is upstairs, dissected, and tacked to my W-storyboard. The full write-up is pinned to a corkboard along with the character arc, subplots, and timeline that includes birthdates and anniversaries of my characters. The more I write into the book, the more I crave to be outside. I need to wash my nails and stare a spider in the eyes. Somehow, I need to fill up as I put out.
Then there is the craft side of the writing issue. The plot requires mastery of cause and effect. When life happens to your character, that’s plot. What happens though, stirs your character’s deeply buried desire and exposes their misbelief. This is the character arc reacting to plot, and one is internal tension the other external action. This creates a cause-and-effect trajectory that moves your novel forward (it can move your short story or memoir, too). To really get at the heart of your character’s current situation, you have to understand their past. It helps you focus on what is happening internally with your character because you want your readers to connect. And we do so through emotion. We have to write with feeling.
Emotions also play out in the classroom. Along with my thesis, I’m studying to teach creative writing. Our textbook this term is all about emotional intelligence in the classroom (EQ). It didn’t take long for me to figure out that my professor for this course is my favorite so far. He models what he is teaching, responding to tough discussions with great empathy to turn them into teaching moments for all of us. I’m in awe of his ability and, yes, I’m taking notes — or, as he says, “Fill the toolbox.” He prompts us to consider how we will respond, saying, “Good intentions do not make a good professor. Good actions make a good professor.” Then, it hit me — I’m going to be a professor! I think that realization made my knees weaker than any thoughts about being a writer.
I wonder what makes Monreal Dorb’s knees weak? Yes, I’ve circled back to our barndoor spammer. Before we answer that thought, I want to draw your attention to something exciting that’s happening right now — the Buxton Festival Fringe in the UK is going on virtually. Check out all the online events and performances. Among them is Anne Goodwin’s Becoming Someone event and Carrot Ranch’s Art of the 99-word Story. If you want an extra writing opportunity, you can enter the International Flash Fiction Challenge. Anne and I will select stories to read live (by us or the authors) on July 17 at 5 pm UK time (12 pm EST). Recently, Anne, Norah, and I met up on Zoom to record a reading and discussion. D. Avery will be playing it in the future at the Saddle Up Saloon (if she can convince Kid and Pal).
In the meantime, pull weeds, plant annuals among your perennials, and frequently jump in a lake to clean your nails and you’ll be all set to follow the creativity to your writing.
July 9, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes that answers the question, who is Monreal Dorb. You can imagine the life of this fictitious person in any era or circumstance. Is there cause and effect at play? Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by July 14, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.
Nothing more to see here, Monreal Dorb. Bot off!
A Senior Citizen Will Survive by Charli Mills
Monreal Dorb teased her hair into a beehive, saturating her silver locks with hairspray. She dabbed her lips hot pink and stepped out into the blazing Arizona sunshine in wide-width flip-flops. Her neighbors sweltered in the shade, waving. Monreal – Rea to her friends, and she had many – mounted her scooter and set off for the office at the head of the gated mobile home park. There, she’d wipe down her desk after Russian Peggy’s shift of credit card hacking, don a glam mask, and start spamming. She’d survive covid-economics on spam just like her mother did during the Depression.