I’ve tried a few times to write for The First Line, which as its name implies offers a prompt that must become the opening words. Last fall they wanted “loud music filled the room.” I concocted a story about a teenager waiting his turn to perform with the state orchestra, and called it Fortissimo. When it was turned down, I offered it elsewhere. An unusual online magazine, The Creativity Webzine, took only four days to snap it up and make it the lead piece in their March issue. You can read it ==>>here. (Alth0ugh frankly, I find their typography — every line centered — difficult; you may find it easier to read right here.)
The short story published as Tchotchkes began life more than five years ago as an unfocused description of the contents of an older friend’s decorative shelves. Not sure what to do with it, I set it aside. A year later, the germ of a short story came to me; I finished a first draft, called it Bric-a-Brac Secrets, and set it aside to ripen. Another year went by; I polished it, renamed it, and began sending it out.
Within three months, it was accepted by a magazine called 1932 Quarterly; I withdrew it from consideration elsewhere and waited to see it in print. And waited; and waited. Finally I poked around, and learned that 1932 Quarterly had gone out of business! Disheartened, I did nothing for a while, but finally began sending Tchotchkes out again.
At last! An online magazine called The Metaworker took it, and it’s finally out. You can read it ==>>here
It’s fun to observe and reflect on the regular visits of sons, daughters and grandchildren to a senior retirement community like mine. A year ago I was struck by the enthusiasm of a daughter who didn’t look in the least like the father she came to see and help. I was prompted to concoct a short story that was in due course turned down by more than a dozen literary magazines.
Then along came a call from a small press compiling an anthology of stories about “goodness in our lives.” Sure enough, in just over two weeks they snapped up my “The Redhead.” You can read it ===> here.
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.