The Shortest of Stories

Tonight’s post celebrates pure fun, bordering on silliness. It became the perfect activity for the end of a busy and joy filled day. The Inspiration Starter that I drew appeared at first to be daunting. I selected:

I have a couple of short stories in my creative brain, just waiting for me to free them. However, today was not the day for that. Those stories require time and thought, crafting and editing. Instead, an idea came to mind to try something that I have wanted to do, just for fun.

Most smart phones have a feature that suggests words for you as you type. My phone has three boxes above the keyboard with word choices. Here is a screenshot that shows the suggested next word as I type:

This feature can be helpful in that it can save time and provide the proper spelling of a word. Granted, the predictive word feature has caused me embarrassment in the past, when my phone automatically supplied the word it thought I wanted. (Ask my son about the text I sent him asking if he wanted to go to a party together…except my phone substituted the word “orgy”, and I hit SEND without catching it!)

What if…I wondered…what if I used the predictive feature to write a short story? A quote from Stephen King popped into my head…

I love that quote! Allowing my phone to shape a short story seemed to carry an element of surprise, much as a kiss in the dark by a stranger would! I was willing to try, and see what happened.

I began the first attempt with the opening word “During…”, and let my phone take it from there. I simply added punctuation when the sentences seemed complete.

I smiled at the result. And it is evident my phone has a memory and has picked up the repetitive use of the word Christmas. It amused me that there were a couple of sentences that referenced grandsons!

Encouraged by that snippet of a story, I tried again, except this time, I let my phone choose the first word. This story made me, literally, laugh out loud. In fact, I chuckle every time I read it. It’s a humorous story.

I noticed that I must use positively charged words a lot…words like wonderful, journey, grateful, blessings and family. My favorite sentence is The first two weeks in my journey I was a little too excited, followed closely by The only problem is that I am not sure if I have a problem. I have been accused of being too happy sometimes!

The part that makes me laugh the most though is the section, The new things for the kids are the grandkids. And…Thank goodness for the kids. The new one is so awesome!

In that shortest of stories, the phrase I am grateful shows up four times. I say and write those words often and my phone knows it. Gratitude is a core belief for me. And the phrase used twice, Yes, it sounds good, comes across like an amen or a so be it. I like that. It is a phrase I type often when responding to people. Seeing the words that popped up in these micro stories gives insight into my own story.

This was a fun little experiment in short story writing. There is nothing publishable here. But I laughed. And I let creativity guide me. And I got a glimpse into my own heart and mind. All good things, tucked into a seemingly random method of creating a story.

In keeping with my experiment, I’ll let predictive text finish up my blog post, typed below in italics.

Thank goodness for new things.

Submitting Essays for Publication

This morning I drew my third Inspiration Starter, and the first one that caused me to make that strange sound created by sucking air in through the mouth around clenched teeth. I love playing this game, of seemingly random choices, that actually aren’t random at all. I know I am being guided. And my rule is, I draw a folded slip of paper out of the jar and that’s my activity for the day. No do overs.

This one is one of the biggies, pushing me out of my comfort zone and stretching me to take what I do to a different level. This is good, right? This is what I wanted…and I wrote out the activities, knowing my stomach would tighten a little in response to some of them.

Today I drew:

I selected a slip of paper early, so I could think about the activity as I worked this afternoon. Before dipping my hand into the jar, I asked aloud, How shall we play today? This was the answer.

I am grateful for Google. As I turned my attention to this project late this afternoon, I posed another question, this time to that online helper.

Where can I submit essays for publication?

Instantly, Google supplied an answer. I was directed to an article by The Write Life, with a list of 19 websites and magazines to submit essays for publication. What a helpful page this turned out to be. I have spent time this evening studying options, looking at the publication websites, and taking notes.

Yes, I still like the scratch of pen against paper. Plus the action of writing allows my thoughts to flow. By the time I had visited my top picks for submission, reading through guidelines and sample essays, I was able to narrow my selection to seven choices.

This was a good exercise for me tonight. In truth, I am very content to write blog posts. After almost four years of daily writing, I have found a niche that I enjoy. I don’t have a burning desire to write a book. I am happy to be a blogger.

However, these Inspiration Starters are designed to ignite a fire and challenge me. And I am ready for that. I have 1,437 blog posts. Tonight I selected several that I am reframing slightly into more essay like formats. An essay is an opinion piece. And basically, most of my blog posts fall into that category.

Tomorrow morning I will submit 1 – 3 essays to a site called Narratively, that became my top publication pick tonight. I feel good about kicking my writing up a notch. And in the process of doing research, I discovered The Write Life, a great site for freelance writing, marketing, publishing and blogging. And I found another site called Travelista that accepts travel stories.

That’s good. I know there is an Inspiration Starter in that jar about submitting a travel piece.

Encouraging Young Writers

I appreciate a feature on my iphone. When I go to Google, beneath the familiar search bar there is a list of articles that I might find interesting, based on previous search results. I have a smart phone, indeed! Included in that list this morning was a post that today is Encourage Young Writers Day. 

I wasn’t going to write a blog post about this unique holiday. However, throughout the day, I found myself thinking about writing when I was a child, and the importance of fostering creative writing in children. Inspiration has interesting ways of getting my attention. Once my awareness was focused on encouraging writing, the idea developed and I at last surrendered to it. 

Encouraging Young Writers

My mother encouraged my own love of writing as a child. A gifted story teller and writer, my mom modeled the art of creative writing to me, enchanting my sisters and me with the bedtime stories she made up. When I was about eight years old she bought me a junior typewriter. More than a toy, this pint sized typewriter worked, holding a standard sheet of typing paper and using the old-style spool ribbon. 

Encouraging Young Writers I spent many happy hours creating stories on a turquoise typewriter just like this one. 

As a mom and now a Yaya, I have recognized the importance of encouraging children to read, write stories, draw and practice creative story telling. Not every child will grow up to be a writer, but every child has a rich imagination and stories to tell. 

Here are six ways to inspire your children to write:

Encouraging Young Writers
Read to your children and encourage them to read. Nothing builds a more solid creative foundation for children than being introduced to reading at an early age. Read a variety of fiction and nonfiction books to them and encourage them to pick out their own books at the bookstore or library. Let your children see you reading and discuss your favorite books and authors with them. My grandson Joey placed the first Harry Potter book by his bed today, for night time reading, after I told him how much I have enjoyed reading the stories. 

Encouraging Young Writers
Make story telling a regular fun activity. Everyone loves the words, “Once upon a time…”, anticipating that a story is about to unfold. Tell classic stories to your kids and don’t be afraid to make up your own. Children love to tell their own stories as well or embellish upon yours. For years my grandson Dayan and I made up a shared story called “The Further Adventures of Dayan and Yaya”. One of us would begin a story and then we would take turns adding to it. Those made up adventures grew to include vision boards later, which told a hoped for future story. 

As children get older, creating a written story in the round is fun too. Everyone begins wrtiting a story on pieces of paper, then the papers are passed to the right. Each person writes a few lines and then continues to pass the paper on until the page returns to the original author, who can then write the conclusion and read the story aloud. 

Encouraging Young Writers
Keep writing and art supplies readily available. Children don’t have to have their own computers or mini typewriters (Do they even make those anymore?). Keep #2 pencils, pens, markers, colored pencils, glue, tape, journals, sketch pads, blank paper, stationary and notecards in easily accessed places, to encourage children to create. There is something so inspiring about a blank page. The imagination needs an outlet. Having materials to use provides the building blocks for first books, plays and picture books. 

Encouraging Young Writers
Make use of technology to foster creativity. Although technology can be mind numbing, it can also open artistic channels. My grandson Jonathan makes full creative use of his phone and tablet, creating YouTube videos and crafting stories using an app called Wattpad. There are many writing and reading apps available, for phones, tablets and ipads, that can encourage the budding reader and writer to create their own stories. 

Encouraging Young Writers

Offer writing opportunities. Encourage children to write in a variety of ways. Let your child write out the grocery list. Ask each other questions and write down the answers. (What’s your favorite food? What makes you laugh?) Write movie reviews together. Play restaurant and write out a menu and write down the diners’ food orders. Play word games like scrabble and hangman and work crossword puzzles together. Make up games and write out the rules. 

My granddaughter Aubrey began making up a game today, using a piece of typing paper and a pencil. She drew squares and wrote out instructions for the first few squares. It is a health game. (Are children observing our lives? You bet!) Another favorite writing activity for Aubrey is to write our waitress at the restaurant a note to leave with her tip. 

Encouraging Young Writers
Encouraging Young Writers

Encourage alternative forms of story telling. Writing isn’t the only way to tell a story. Movies tell stories. Dance tells a story. And drawing is a form of story telling as well. Joey and I once spent an afternoon creating by taking turns drawing the elements of our story. Grandson Oliver likes to take interesting photos that tell a story. Aubrey creates music videos. And Dayan has created whole imaginary worlds in his mind, much as JRR Tolkien did as a child. Jonathan made cupcakes based on a video game and created a how to video of the experience. The creative possibilities are endless. 

Encouraging Young WritersOliver’s photo captures an interesting perspective and a story about Carl. 

I am grateful that I was encouraged to write as a child. Writing and story telling has always been an important part of my life and I am thrilled to be creating on a daily basis. 

There are many ways to encourage young writers, and create a supportive environment that allows the imagination to flourish and take form. William H Gass wrote, “The true alchemists do not change lead into gold: they change the world into words.” 

Children understand that. I do too. And sometimes our words create worlds. 

Encouraging Young Writers