If you looked out my desk window at my Seabury home, you’d recognize the setting for Rabbits and Coyotes. If you went out in the morning to pooper-scoop behind your poodle, the rabbit droppings in the grass would tell you what he’d been barking at last night. If you went out to look, on at least some nights, you might hear the yelps of some remote progeny of the critters that you used to hear sing in the California desert. And when your daughter came to visit, she might warn you that those wild animals have been known to go after domestic pets.
And you’d have the makings of a story that appealed to the editors of Metafore, a literary magazine created by students at the little-known Maharishi University in Fairfield, Iowa.
Third Street Writers, a California enterprise, invited short-short stories on the theme of “adrift”. I imagined a girl who lost her paddle while kayaking, and awaits a hero to rescue her. Third Street didn’t like it, but The Writer’s Club did; you can read it ==>here
I can’t remember what prompted this bit of flash fiction. I first wrote it under the title “Promises,” drawing on more than one state legislator I’ve known who couldn’t quite evade leadership’s arm-twisting on one bill or another. Nobody took it, so after a while I did a very minor rewrite and began sending it out as “Independence”. The Writer’s Club took it; you can read it ==>>here
Pandemonium Press, in California, publishes three oddly-named online magazines. One of them, riverbabble, took my “Sirens” two years ago. Another, Doorknobs & Body Paint, last winter invited short-short (450-word) stories featuring descriptions of hard work. We’d just had a good Connecticut snowstorm; I’d gone out to be sure the men hard at work clearing our courtyard shovelled up to my patio door to accommodate my dog. I whipped out a little vignette, called it “A Path for Peanut”, and sent it out. Hardly great literature, but fun; an exercise in painting word pictures.
They didn’t take it.
In October Doorknobs had a new invitation: Short-shorts set in Bern, with a sub-theme of transcend, and somewhere using the the phrase considered as. It took maybe an hour to give my courtyard a view of the Swiss Alps, meet the other criteria, and re-name the piece “Une Piste pour Le Petit.”
Bingo! You can read it online — and find some other quirky pieces — at the Doorknobs website ==>>here
“We are here,” wrote the editor, “to explore the human condition . . . . submit anything that explores your life views, existence, mortality, spirituality, conflict, and more.”
So the oddly-named online magazine Cleaning Up Glitter planned a different kind of October/Halloween issue. I had written, years ago, a slightly fictionalized account of a memorial service I’d attended, that I’d titled “Seeing Charlie Off.” She liked it; you can read it ==>>here
We’re all surely aware of how much privacy we yield whenever we go online. Suppose, I wondered one day, that our smartphones actually gave reports to Big Brother periodically; what might that conversation sound like?
I called the resulting short-short story Surveillance. Burningword Literary Magazine’s editor liked it; you can read it ==>>here
Zimbell House, which has taken several of my earlier works, invited short stories on a theme of “secrets in the water.” Initially, as I thought of all the rivers and oceans I’ve known, nothing came to mind.
But then I remembered fishing for shad at what used to be the Enfield Dam on the Connecticut River (which has since collapsed). There’s a secret to getting shad to take a hook, since they don’t eat anything on their way upriver. Secrets to tying flies. Maybe other secrets would develop. I started writing, but it took weeks for a story arc to take shape.
Although I suspect the editors were expecting stories of pirates, mermaids and selkies (Scottish mythological seals that take human form), they liked my more prosaic secret enough to include it among 31 in an anthology Secrets in the Water,” available today at Amazon and other booksellers. You can also read it ==>here
I’m not a fan a super-short fiction, but every now and then I’m drawn to the challenge. An online litmag, 50-Word Stories, wants EXACTLY 50 words. I did something called Earthworm Ruminations that they liked two years ago; this time around I concocted an ending to a real-life Noel family mystery that remains in fact unsolved: What happened to Brad’s family-history engagement ring? Read the fictional answer ==>>here
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 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/