It’s fun sometimes to look back at how an idea germinates and — often too slowly — blossoms into a story. The seed of “Méchant” was an overactive little boy playing with a toy car while his overworked mother waited (with me and others) to see an orthopedic doctor at UConn Health Center. I imagined another patient volunteering to help with the little boy, and drafted a pretty good description of the setting. I tried calling it “Naughty Boy” and then “Novice Nana,” but it stubbornly refused to grow into a story with a narrative arc. I set it aside, but came back to it with the notion of developing the novice nana into a frustrated woman who wished she had children of her own. From the start I’d given her enough French fluency to think of the little boy as méchant. I dimly remembered — had to look up — a more nuanced alternate meaning, not just naughty but wicked. The theme for the next edition of Nightingale & Sparrow was renaissance, and I now had the novice nana entertaining wicked thoughts of her own rebirth. Perfect fit. Out now, available at Amazon with a bunch of other good short stories, or here at my blog
I was at Hartford’s downtown bus station one evening two years ago, watching people while waiting to greet an arriving friend. I began exploring phrases to capture the chalky light and anomie of people coming and going but isolated from one another. By the time I got home, the idea of placing a runaway in that setting had formed.
The resulting story has been offered here and there, and gotten a few favorable comments but no takers. One editor suggested that the ending felt rushed, and might be improved by reworking at more length.
Ironic, because a month ago I learned of two literary magazines looking for short-shorts (under 1,000 words) and for themes that might fit this story. I found it easier than expected to trim it from 1,220 words to 995 – and whammo, in two weeks it was accepted by an online magazine named “Who Writes Short Shorts?”
I have to confess that I almost wrote “Windfall” as a first-person non-fiction piece, a kind of chapter that might have been added to my Jamaican memoir.
But precisely because the incident and its aftermath are real, and all but one of the characters are still living, I decided to make it into a short story, and add a closing twist entirely different from my own experience.
I think it’s still a gripping story. The editor of the Lowestoft Chronicle had earlier printed “Monseigneur,” my account of my first nights in Phnom Penh. He liked this one, too, and it’s now available online at ==>http://lowestoftchronicle.com/issues/issue37/donnoel/
I was at her side when my beloved wife of 65 years died at 2:30 this morning. It is a huge loss, but a blessing for her: the final months with complications of Alzheimer’s were an increasing burden on her despite the best efforts of the caregiving staff of Seabury and the McLean hospice service.
Her obituary can only hint at the wonderful life we had together; read it ==> here.
Part of downsizing, on my way to selling the house and moving to Seabury, was selling or giving away clothes. An ad for what seemed a high-fashion consignment shop on the Berlin Turnpike caught my eye. Emily and I took a bunch of Brad’s things one morning—which proved the inspiration for a short story that’s now out in Every Pigeon magazine, readable online ==>>here
In my 2007 memoir Near A Far Sea, I mentioned the neighbor whose roosters became such a nuisance that I began buying them to get rid of them — which proved a fruitless and endless project. I’ve embellished the account a bit, and it’s just published in the December 2018 issue of Spitfire, a new literary magazine. You can read it (and other stories, fiction and otherwise) ==>here
I’ve tried for several years to write about Alzheimer’s disease, without success. Too painful, I suppose. A writer is supposed to work his life experience into his work, but I haven’t until a few months ago been able to do so.
Then Zimbell House, a publisher of short story anthologies that’s taken several of my earlier works, invited stories that developed a strong sense of community in a town that should be named November Falls. Place it anywhere, in any time, but make the community one that readers could readily identify and empathize with.
As I toyed with the idea, I decided my fictional town ought to be upstream from some very real towns on the little rivers that flow out of the Adirondacks and become the Hudson — but a town time had passed by, a frail shadow of its former self. It wasn’t then a big step to make the protagonist a man visiting his mother, resident of a cruelly named “memory care unit,” whose life story matched the town’s.
It worked; Zimbell editors liked it. It’s out now in bookstores and online, a compilation of nine authors’ imaginings of a town called — like the book — November Falls. You can read all nine in paperback or as an e-book, or read my version ==>> here
“Great story!” Bill Patrick, a published author and scriptwriter, sought me out to to admire a short story I’d written for a seminar he would teach in my Fairfield MFA program. We each wrote and circulated, before gathering, a piece to be critiqued in such seminars; it was unusual for a professor to comment before classes met and students had first crack, but he thought it an unusual story.
With help from him and my classmates (who also liked it), I improved it during that fortnight. We each did a reading to the student body and faculty. I read “Exoneration”, to applause.
I began sending it out — and sending, and sending, with growing discouragement. How could editors turn down a story everyone in the MFA program liked?
Three years later (!!) it was accepted by Aestas, an annual anthology. Then, to cap off my frustration, publication was delayed and delayed again!
It’s finally out, a year late, “Aestas 2017”. The whole book, a good collection of short stories, is currently bargain priced at Amazon — or you can read it ==>>here
Captain William Bligh popped into my head the night Donald Trump was elected: an earlier embodiment of an established order overthrown. Bligh was set adrift in the Pacific by discontented sailors seduced by the glib confidence of a master’s mate who, it would turn out, couldn’t steer the ship well enough to get them home.
It took a while. I got and re-read (or skimmed) the whole Mutiny on the Bounty trilogy, and let the idea gestate. It came together; I sent it out to a few literary magazines. Leslee Goodman, editor of The Moon magazine, liked it. It’s out now; you can read it online.