Wednesday, September 7, 2022
Wednesday, August 17, 2022
It's time once again for another Write...Edit...Publish challenge. This month's musical prompt is Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. If you'd like to join in, feel free to visit the WEP site!
At first, I wasn't certain how to tackle the prompt this month. I've been busy getting my kids rady to go back to school next week, so that's had my mind preoccupied. Then I got an email from the school district, and the contents of that email provided me with the inspiration I needed.
This wasn't an instance of being joyfully inspired. In fact, the email left me feeling sad and worried. The United States has been struggling with a shortage of teachers over the past few years, but my children hadn't really felt the effects of that shortage like the will be this year. My two boys are in middle school, and this year they have yet to find a science teacher and a band director. They plan on having a long-term substitute teach science until they can find someone permanent, but who knows how long that will be? The position has already been open and advertised for months. As for the band director, there is no real solution. The school is trying to find people willing to teach some private lessons for interested students, and they're still searching for someone to fill the job. As of now, though, there will be no band. My oldest plays the saxophone, and my other son plays the drums. They were so excited to start learning how to play, and they enjoyed playing music with their bandmates. Now they're disappointed that's not happening this year. I'm hoping the school finds someone so they can start band back up partway through the school year, but with the number of teaching positions left unfilled across my state right now, it's feeling bleak.
Teachers are so important, and they have such a tough job. We need to find a way to draw more people to this vital profession and to keep them in it. So much of the future depends on it.
Anyway, thank you for tolerating my brief rant. I hope you enjoy this piece.
The tinkling of a piano cut through the air. The high, trilling notes floated down the hallway on the warm August breeze.
Lorraine knew she should simply return to study hall, but surely the teacher wouldn’t care too much if she took another minute or two longer to return from her restroom break? She clutched the hall pass in her hand as she let her feet carry her the wrong way down the hall.
As she approached, the musical sounds paused briefly. She also halted in her tracks for a moment, waiting to see if the unknown piano player would continue.
The notes began again, haltingly, and an octave lower than they had previously been. The melody formed with each note played, and while the execution was hesitant and awkward, she soon recognized the song. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. She’d know it anywhere. Beethoven used to play in the background while her mother sat on their front porch, painting landscapes to her heart’s content. Painting was her favorite hobby for many years, and she used music to guide the strokes of her brush and the colors she selected.
Her mother hadn’t painted in more than a year. Financial strain drove her to work longer hours, and she no longer had the time. And when she did have a spare hour or two, she hadn’t the inspiration.
Unfortunately, Lorraine knew what it felt like to lose an artistic outlet. The music room should have been utterly silent during this hour, hence why she was drawn to the unexpected melodies. She crept forward and, reaching the door, peered inside.
She didn’t know who she expected to find, but she was still surprised to see Henry Phipps. He hunched over the piano, guiding his fingers across the keys, the depth and beauty of the notes discordant with his torn, faded t-shirt. His shaggy blond hair fell into his face as he played, and Lorraine wondered how in the world that didn’t interfere with his ability to read the music.
An inharmonious sound marred the moment as Henry’s fingers faltered. He paused to compose himself, and Lorraine took that as her chance to make her presence known. Lingering for much longer would only feel creepy.
“What are you up to?” she asked.
Henry turned from the piano to look at her. “Oh, I got permission to practice here. I mean, the room is free now, so…”
“Yeah. That makes sense.” A pang of sadness twisted her stomach. The room shouldn’t have been free. Wouldn’t have been free, except the school didn’t have a band director anymore. Not because the position had been eliminated, but because no one had applied for the job. She’d heard parents talk about the shortage of teachers before, but this was the first year she had been directly impacted by the problem. She thought of her clarinet and how it had been sitting in the corner of her room for far too long. The school band had been, in a word, disbanded. The silent joke failed to lighten her mood.
“I just asked Principal Robbins. She thought it was a great idea. Better than letting the room go unused.
Lorraine nodded. “It didn’t occur to me to ask.”
Henry’s smile brightened. “Maybe you could. There’s plenty of time in the day, and after school. If we got enough people interested, we might even be able to practice together.”
“Start our own band, you mean?” Lorraine laughed to herself, but not because the idea seemed ludicrous. In fact, it could be fun.
He shrugged, perhaps taking her laughter for mockery. “Just a thought.”
She offered a reassuring smile “A good thought. I’ll think about it.”
He smiled in return and turned back to his music. As the notes filled the room once more, Lorraine knew she should be thinking about going back to her classroom, but the melody kept her feet planted to the ground while her mind took flight, giddy with new possibilities.
Word Count: 662
Tagline: Even in dark times, music can provide you the light you need.
Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
It's already time for another WEP Challenge in our Year of Music. This month's musical inspiration is "Please Read the Letter" by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. For more information or to join in on the fun, check out this post. If you need additional inspiration for this prompt, be sure to check out the Challenges 2022 page.
Here's my take on this month's prompt. I hope you enjoy.
The Letters Left Unread
Ingrid wrote a letter every day. It was a habit she started early in her childhood. Her first letters were written to Santa. She didn’t write just one like most kids her age. No. Her anticipation in the lead up to Christmas was so intense that she found herself writing to him daily. Her spelling was less than perfect, her childish scrawl filled with inverted letters, but she poured every bit of feeling she could into those letters.
My name is Ingrid. I want a pony. Do your elfs like makking toys? Do you like flying around the wurld?
I love you.
She wanted him to read them. She wanted that so badly, but she never got a reply.
Then Ingrid got older, and she learned the truth of things. She also learned that her parents, who had promised to mail those Santa letters, had instead kept them in an old trunk of keepsakes in the attic. They were a treasure, something her mom and dad valued dearly.
So she kept writing. These letters weren’t meant for anyone to read. They were more of a diary of her feelings. A way to say truths she wouldn’t dare say to anyone’s face.
Dear Miss Potter,
I don’t like you. I liked Mrs. Brown better. She was nice, and you are mean. I wish I could go back to 4th grade so I don’t have to be in your class. No one else likes you, either.
Ingrid Pearl Nelson
That was her first angry letter. It stuck out in her mind years later. That was how she learned she could release her anger and frustration on the page and feel better afterward. So of course, that became her favorite way to vent about problems and frustrations.
She wrote letters to her family members. Friends. She wrote them to her exes after a breakup.
I trusted you. That was a mistake. You kept telling me I was paranoid. You flirted with so many girls, often right in front of me. The rumors I kept hearing. You kept changing plans last minute with minimal explanation. Every time I tried to talk to you about my concerns, you kept twisting my words and using them to make me feel crazy.
There’s no denying the truth now. I saw you and Debbie with my own eyes. We are over. I wish I could push you into traffic, but you’re not worth going to prison. You’re not worth another minute of my time. To hell with you.
On and on, she grew and accumulated stacks of letters. She placed them in shoe boxes under her bed. When she moved out to go to college, she brought them all with her. She stacked them in the bottom of her cramped closet where her shoes could have gone.
The small frustrations often made it into her collection.
Dear Random Stranger,
You drive like a moron. How dare you cut me off in traffic then dare to flash a rude gesture at me as if I’d done something wrong? Yes, I stopped in time to avoid an accident, but maybe I shouldn’t have. Maybe I should have rammed into your rear end and damaged your precious Mustang. You’d have deserved the resulting damage.
Please take some driving lessons.
Heartbreak made it into her letters, too. Two months after she wrote that last angry letter, she had reason to write another relating to a car. Unfortunately, an accident actually happened this time.
Dear Random Stranger,
Why did you have to do it? Why did you have to get in your car after a long night at the bar? Why did you have to drive down the same road my mom takes home after a long shift at work? Why did it have to be her?
Damn you. I wish I could tell you how much I hate you for taking her away from me, but I can’t because you died too. Maybe some would call your death a just punishment, but you don’t get to suffer for what you did. You got the easy way out as far as I’m concerned.
That letter went in a box, never to be seen by anyone else. The next morning, after a restless night of tears and hardly any sleep, she sat down to pen another letter.
This one didn’t go into a box. Instead, she slipped this one into an envelope, and when the funeral took place two days later, it accompanied her in her purse.
After she watched her mother’s coffin being lowered into the ground, she lingered until the crowd had thinned out enough to give her some privacy. She gazed down at the shiny box that would soon be covered in dirt. There was so much she wanted to say, but her voice wouldn’t work. Instead, she pulled the envelope out of her pocket and tossed it in. She wanted her mother to read the letter, to tuck it away somewhere to be reread and treasured as she had with the Santa letters. The best Ingrid could do was leave it here with her.
Ingrid walked back to the car, her body numb as her mind relayed the words she’d written.
I’m sorry I didn’t tell you how much I love and appreciate you every single day. I wish I hadn’t fought with you over so many tiny, pointless things. None of them mattered. Not really. I can see that now.
I wish I could have one more day with you. I wish I could find a way to fix everything. It all feels so broken now.
I feel broken now.
I’ll always love you.
Word Count: 962
Tagline: A young woman writes letters to cope with the difficulties of life.
Wednesday, June 1, 2022
It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time to convene another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our host Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled a great group of co-hosts this month: SE White, Cathrina Constantine, Natalie Aguirre, Joylene Nowell Butler, and Jacqui Murray.
Be sure to check out the IWSG website for great writing resources!
The optional question for this month is: When the going gets tough writing the story, how do you keep yourself writing to the end? If have not started the writing yet, why do you think that is and what do you think could help you find your groove and start?
I often find myself getting stuck at some point during my writing journey. I often take a step back from the story for a day or two before coming back to it. Returning and looking it over with fresh eyes can sometimes reveal opportunities that I hadn't previously considered before. I also like to take notes and map out possible scenarios. Writing out short drafts of later scenes in the story can help me decide if a possible narrative path will work well.
Truth is, I don't always find a way to keep writing to the end. Sometimes I can't work my way through the issues I encounter with the story. When this happens, I save everything in case I end up coming back to it later. You never know when inspiration will strike, after all. Maybe I'll pick up the story years down the road with fresh new ideas. Or maybe I'll be looking through my old story files and find inspiration in them for a new idea I'm working on.
Try not to get discouraged when you get stuck. It happens to all of us. It all comes down to how you handle those normal struggles.
How do you keep yourself writing to the end?
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means it's time to convene another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Our esteemed leader Alex J. Cavanaugh has assembled some great co-hosts for this month: Kim Elliott, Melissa Maygrove, Chemist Ken, Lee Lowery, and Nancy Gideon.
Be sure to check out the IWSG website for lots of writing resources!
First of all, I would like to make an announcement regarding WEP. The winner's post for the April Challenge is now live. You can find that here.
Now on to the business of the day.
The optional question for this month is: It's the best of times; it's the worst of times. What are your writer highs (the good times)? And what are your writer lows (the crappy times)?
I've sure had a mixture of both, as I'm sure we all have. Personally, my favorite highs come from finding out I'm having a story published. When I found out that I won the 2015 and 2018 IWSG Anthology Contests, I was elated. Seeing my words in print makes all the struggles that come along with the writing process worth it. I'm sure publication counts as a high point for most.
When thinking about lows, rejection obviously came to mind. It always hurts to have a story rejected, but I think an even worse low than that comes from writer's block. If I'm submitting stories, that means the words are at least coming to me. I'm being productive, even if publication doesn't follow. The inability to get words on the page is far more demoralizing for me.
What are your writing highs and lows?
Wednesday, April 20, 2022
It's already time for another WEP Challenge in our Year of Music. This month's musical inspiration is "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" by Bob Dylan. For more information or to join in on the fun, check out this post. If you need additional inspiration for this prompt, be sure to check out the Challenges 2022 page.
Here's my take on this month's prompt. I hope you enjoy.
Like a Waterfall
The sky looked identical to the wet concrete below. Water hemorrhaged from the sky, while the streetlights burned bright despite the mid-afternoon hour.
The weather report had warned a hard rain was going to fall, but no one in Rey’s little neighborhood had access to the most up-to-date reports anyway.
Rey pulled her frayed flannel shirt closer to her body as she huddled under an awning. It wouldn’t be so bad if it were a few degrees warmer, but the chill in the air sent the dampness radiating into her bones. Her teeth chattered, her limbs trembled. She closed her eyes and tried to envision bright skies and the gentle warmth of a summer breeze. The illusion was pleasant enough, but it couldn’t hold the cold at bay.
Ms. Dupree, hunched over her shopping cart with a tattered poncho pulled over her, trudged by. One of her tennis shoes had a hole so big her big toe poked through. Milo, who had to be nearly 80 years old, huddled across the alley, coughing into his white-knuckled fist. Up until recently, he’d still had his own home, but times got tough.
Nearly a dozen tents populated this little alleyway, shared amongst a current twenty-nine inhabitants. The number fluctuated from day to day. Some residents left one day never to return. Rey often wondered about them, especially little Ricky, who found his way to the alley at 15. His parents booted him from the house for being gay. She hoped that maybe his family had a change of heart, or maybe that he found a program willing to give him a leg up and out of this life. She hoped, but she knew the other dark possibilities that lurked on the edges of their daily lives.
The rumbling of her stomach interrupted her thoughts. She couldn’t recall the last time she’d been able to eat enough to feel full. At best, she could get her hands on enough food to take the edge off her hunger.
She dipped her hand into her damp jeans pocket and brushed her fingers against the change contained within. If she walked to the corner store, she might be able to buy herself a packet of peanut butter crackers. That had been one of her all-time favorite snacks as a child. Now those little crackers were tainted by the desperation of her situation.
The rain was falling too heavily to take the trip now. Hopefully it would abate soon.
Leaning back against the brick wall, she surrendered herself to thoughts that she generally tried to avoid. On days like this, it took too much energy to keep them buried.
The bright blue of Ethan’s eyes flashed before her eyes, and an aching pain flared in her chest. She’d only had him for a day in the hospital before the adoption papers were signed. Logic told her she couldn’t have been a good mother for him. She couldn’t even take care of herself most days. A pregnancy spent living on the streets had been risky enough. He deserved more than that. This knowledge didn’t stop the pain, though. He had to be two years old by now. Did he love peanut butter crackers? Was he allergic to anything? What made him smile?
These were answers she would never have.
She lingered awhile in the grief. It gnawed away at her insides, as persistent and potent as her hunger. She remembered the dreams she once had for herself. When she was young, she always imagined herself becoming a veterinarian. She could never stand to see an animal sick or suffering.
Now suffering was an integral part of her daily existence.
The rain persisted. Rey shoved herself away from the wall and began to walk. Why not? She was already half-soaked anyway, and she needed to eat something. Tears streaked her face, mixing in seamlessly with the pelting rain drops. It all ran like a waterfall down her cheeks. If she stayed in the driving rain long enough, perhaps it would wash her pain away.
Maybe the sun would eventually shine through and a rainbow would appear. Maybe, just maybe, there could be brighter days ahead.
Word Count: 702 words
Tagline: Rey attempts to find hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.
And there it is! Please read the other wonderful entries for the April Challenge!