A literary magazine based in Texas, called The First Line, routinely invites stories using its opening words, and I sometimes use such prompts to stir up the writing juices. Last April they invited stories whose opening words were “The door was locked.”
I concocted a story appropriate to the pandemic era. They declined it, but another magazine, Montana Mouthful, invited stories on the theme of “quarantine,” and I sent it to them. Their door wasn’t locked; you can read it my story ==>>here.
First Line’s prompt for its next issue, by the way, is: “Loud music filled the room, making it hard to hear anything else.” Think about that one.
I’m not entirely sure where the idea for “Bonding” came from; it’s a dark story, not my usual. I began it during the early stages of Brad’s illness, set it aside, and went back to it after her death, which I suppose explains at least part of the origin. Anyway, the Elizabeth River Press in Virginia liked it, and it’s in their 2020 annual anthology, available as a paperback at booksellers including Amazon. But unlike most literary magazines and collections these days, there is no online edition, so you’ll have to read it ==>>here
Mariticide is the murder of a husband, and is the context of my short story “Rescue.” The title refers to the wife’s efforts to save her dog that was unavoidably at the scene. A friend who read an early draft thought my ending cruel. But undeterred, I polished it up and sent it off to the Bethlehem (PA) Writers Group. They liked it, and you can read it at their website ==>here (or of course right here on my blog).
The Museum of Americana, an online literary review that “revives or repurposes the old, the dying, the forgotten or the almost entirely unknown aspects of Americana,” invited very short (500-word) essays involving “creatures . . . from pets to beasts of burden.”
That prompted a reminiscence of Deep Springs, California. In accepting it, editors Lauren Alwan and Lindsey Griffin said they “enjoyed the elegiac stance, an unexpected approach to a subject often full of bravado.” It’s published now; read it ==>>here.
I doubt that many folks here in my retirement community have even considered online dating services like eHarmony, Match, etc. But a few months ago someone mentioned trying one, so who knows? there may be others. I would find the idea distasteful, but was prompted to imagine a recently widowed man being urged by his son to sign up for such a service, and balking. Aiming for a sense of mournful open expanse, I placed it on the Platte River in Nebraska where the sandhill cranes stop each spring, which prompted a title.
A literary magazine named Nightingale & Sparrow wanted stories for their 5th issue on a ‘love’ theme, and they liked my Threshing. You can buy the volume at Amazon or other booksellers; read it online at their website (my story is at page 57) or (easiest) read it ==>here
Toho Journal, a fledgling literary magazine in Philadelphia, was looking for short-short stories with a strong sense of place. Toho is an ancient Japanese word for sword, and the editors wanted “pieces that are sincere and honest and that send shivers down our spine.” In less than 500 words.
I’d recently written about two of the most sincere and honest neighbors Brad and I had in our 65 years together, and I thought I’d successfully conveyed a sense of Connecticut farming country where we built our first house. I wasn’t sure about shivers down the spine, but I sent the story, and they liked it.
It’s now online at https://www.tohopub.com/thrift
. . . and of course here at my blog
Toho Journal, a young print-and-online literary magazine based in Philadelphia, invited short stories for its second issue that managed a strong sense of place in less than 500 words.
The place that came to mind was New Hartford, where I built our first house — and the near neighbors who still largely lived off the woodlands as their Yankee forebears had. I called it Thrift.
The journal is available now for $20, and an online version is promised soon. Meantime, yo9u can read my st0ry ==>here.
Falling Star Magazine invited short stories somehow involving an intersection. The one that popped into my mind was on a floor of Death Valley, where a college pal and I explored an unusual sand dune and got caught in a blinding sandstorm on New Year’s Eve almost 70 years ago. It was also, symbolically, a nice intersection of a dark desert and a hostelry ablaze with holiday lights.
But the magazine didn’t invite narrative non-fiction. Never mind, I’d turn myself into “Andy” and relate that night in the third person.
The editors liked it. You can buy a copy of the winter issue at an online bookstore name Lulu (sorry, they haven’t so far made this issue available online) — or just read it ==>>here
I suggested to the editor who chose my short story “Ransom” that the author bio mention my debt to William Sydney Porter and Red Chief. Alas, he must not be an O. Henry fan, so there’s no such acknowledgement.
The story did, though, meet the criterion established by the online magazine, Defenestrationism — that, as the name implies, it involves an incident of (figuratively, at least) throwing people out of windows.
It’s a contest. You can read my story, and participate in a reader poll, ==>>here
(But don’t feel compelled to take time to vote. In their 2016 contest, there were 2,494 votes cast, so it would take a LOT of my friends to make much difference. I took second place in 2016 —with a short-short titled “Surveillance” — read it ==>>here — but that year there was no runner-up prize. There is, this year: two will get $30 each. Not exactly a king’s ransom!
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?”
Read it here