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Photo by David Mark

Yesterday, I used a random word generator from Writing Exercises, and got the following combination: court, immense, scrawny, soothe, hypnotize, fish, athlete, cockroach. The challenge was to include all eight words in a story.


He was supposed to be in court, but he was late, and neither fact was Adam’s fault.

The trial was a joke. The charges against him were ridiculous. Shoplifting a pygmy hedgehog? The judge would fall down laughing.  

Adam’s mother said the scandal broke her heart, but he thought the whole mess could have been avoided if she hadn’t had so many kids. He had seven siblings. Who could possibly keep track of all their half birthdays, pet adoptions, anniversaries and sobriety dates? Adam missed his scrawny younger brother’s eight-grade graduation. Who even celebrated that? His mother, that’s who. And if Adam wanted more than Sunday dinner leftovers, he had to make amends.

So he drove to MegaPet. Everyone loved MegaPet. The store was immense and Adam got lost right off the bat, wandering down the aisles of glass tanks full of fish. Some of them were creepy, with long barbed tails or bulbous eyes, but some of them were cute. Other fish, colorful and flagrant, nearly hypnotized him. He lost track of time and then he had to rush, sprinting to the far end of the store like a demented athlete, looking for a pygmy hedgehog for his “graduating” brother. Was it Adam’s fault that the little rodents were so pricey? Was it his fault that the cages weren’t locked? And how was he supposed to know about the cameras on the ceiling?

What really baffled him was why the store owners got so mad about the cockroaches in his other pocket. The hedgehog had to eat. Did they want the thing to starve?

At least his mugshot wasn’t bad. Better than his driver’s license. The story got a lot of laughs down at the corner bar. That’s where Adam was two months later, on his court date, wearing his best suit. He’d popped in for a shot of whiskey. To soothe his nerves, you know? He didn’t realize that his watch had stopped until his lawyer called. Of course, the watch had been a present from his mother. It was hard to love someone who disappointed you so often, but Adam would forgive her. He was a good son, after all.

Does anyone else enjoy a wacky writing prompt? A silly story stretcher? I’d love to hear about your favorites.

How to Bake a Girl

Image by Andrea Paterson from Pixabay
Image by Andrea Paterson from Pixabay

Baking a girl, a daughter even, is an easy at-home project, not much harder than whipping up the perfect sugar cookie. To make her crumble-proof is as simple as old alchemy. A strong daughter requires little more than your last nerve, your worst scars, and the buried fears you hid in shadows. The trick is regulating heat: too little or too much and she’ll forget to hold her keys between her knuckles in the parking lot at night.


2 cups ferocity

1 cup food and shelter [you cannot bake a hungry girl; first, she must be fed and housed.]

½ cup opportunity

½ cup self-regard

A generous spoonful of dreams

A heap of stories, preferably with beasts—both human and inhuman

5 teaspoons of persistence

A pinch of bravery [the brand is up to you, but it’s best to use the kind distilled from survivors]

1. Gather your ingredients in a room without smartphones, cameras or mirrors. Remove airbrushed fashion photos, advertisements for unblemished skin, and prescriptions for fad diets. Keep your work space clean.

2. Preheat the oven. The temperature is mostly guesswork. Hot enough to melt a filtered selfie, but not so hot that she will burn with mania, depression, anxiety, addiction, anorexia, bulimia, self-harm or suicide. This is, of course, the tricky part. Test the heat with your own skin. Adjust at intervals determined by your faith, luck, and experience.

3. Girls are best baked in deep pans with room for secrets.

4. Blend the ingredients in any order you see fit. They will not be light and fluffy. Take your time. Stir well.

5. Pour the girl into the pan, using a spatula to scrape the bowl down to its bones.

6. Bake the girl for ten to twenty years, rotating the pan at frequent intervals, while singing songs of rebellion and telling stories where the heroines are warriors, artists, writers, inventors, dragon-slayers or executives.

7. The girl is finished when a wish inserted in her center comes out clean.

8. Place her on a rack to cool. Give her space. She might have wings. Or talons. She might erupt or quietly unfold like reverse origami into the shape she’s chosen. Let her stand. Or fly.

9. When she’s gone, clean your oven thoroughly, but leave the splatter in your heart.

Starting Over

I wrote my first post for this site in 2011. Back then, I added new material each week — posts about my life as a writer, a homeschool mom, a reader. Posts about traveling, or cats and dogs (we have a lot of pets). Links to publications. Interviews with poets, novelists, bloggers. As a whole, the website offered a series of snapshots, pictures of my life, my interests. Me.

Around 2014, my writing goals shifted toward longer fiction. I didn’t post as frequently and, when I did, I posted micro fables, a project dear to my heart. Although those little stories were sporadic, they managed to attract a loyal group of readers (you know who you are — thank you).

Fast forward to 2017 and the day, sometime last week, when I realized that I had deleted my entire blog. All of it. Gone. It’s a longish story involving an impressive level of technological ineptitude on my part. I shed some tears and curses. But, in the end, I chose to see the disappearance as an opportunity. A new start.

The daily snapshots always change, but I am still a writer, writing. Drawn to blank pages. In love with words, the promise of “what if?”

Let’s begin.