#WriterinMotion: The Bear’s Breeches Smell Slightly Sweet As They Rot

rahul-pandit-CDrP01O2n-w-unsplash resized

I thought I would keep writing about process and tools for the rest of the week, but once I let my character’s speak, the draft consumed. It’s long and could be much longer. I see this idea like a House of Sand and Fog meets child services and the now of crazy, but it’s just a tiny draft of a story that I will need to find a pearl in if I will get it down to 1,000 words next week. Some strange and unexpected things happened during the draft and I look forward to hearing what people think. This is a very rough draft. Please keep that in mind. Here it is:

The Bear’s Breeches Smell Slightly Sweet As They Rot (first draft)

I had never seen a man’s face change so quickly. When he finally opened the door, only wide enough to step one foot over the threshold, completely blocking our view inside, the turquoise hills reflected in his bright eyes and the morning sun glistened playfully on his lips. He was still laughing at something his son had said. I could smell fresh herbs and fried oil. I imagined his son at a small roughly-hewn table, his small hand still not completely in command of the fork, dropping bits of wilted greens and chips of roots and bark as he tried to shovel them to his mouth inside that one gray room.
The man stopped laughing when he saw Josette with her clipboard held like a shield, large soft-sided briefcase on a long strap slung across her chest. Then he saw me and the sun on his face was blocked by cloud-shadow, darkening with a raging storm.
“You he said,” pointing a grimy finger at me. “I thought I told you to stay off my land. What are you doing back here? These are not the herbs you’re looking for,” he said making an odd gesture with his hand. Then, he slammed the door.
I could hear him banging pots and talking softly with his son.
“Who is it, Daddy?”
“Just that rude trespasser from the other day. Let’s tidy up. Then we’ll go play outside.”
Josette turned and looked up at me. She scowled. “Rude trespasser?”
I must have flushed. I wasn’t feeling as sure of myself as I had been last week when I called her office. “I t-told you,” I stammered. “I discovered the situation while I was out collecting herbs for my shop. I didn’t know anyone was living here. I was quite surprised.”
Josette had a way of sounding very condescending without even saying a word. “No, really. I saw those white flowers from the trail, back there.” I turned and pointed, but Josette didn’t turn. “Anyway, they are actually a flat blade fern, acanthis mollus, people call it bear’s breeches. It has medicinal properties. The trees over there, green ash, you can make a tea from the leaves that are also medicinal.”
“Yeah, what do you cure with these ‘medicines’?”
I got the feeling Josette was mad at me. Something had changed since we had a nice coffee in town this morning. “Me? I’m not a physician. But my remedies do help with all sorts of aches and pains, fatigue, swelling, infections. Lots of things.”
“Right. Well, now I have a job to do.”
Josette had appeared plenty glad she had brought me along when I showed her the tiny dirt road her small SUV bumped and swerved along, windows slapped by brush and branches. “How far out here is this place?” she had said. She seemed delighted when I pointed out a good shady spot to leave the car where it wouldn’t be seen. “Wow, this place is even more wild than I imagined,” she said, “How can someone live out here?” She also acted quite pleased when I directed her past the red shutters–paint peeling, and seeping into the once lemon-yellow walls along with the black sill paint, running along the mold and moss covered walls creating deep orange hues as well as if that hole meant for seeing out had become a festering sore of blood and rot—around the short side of the small rectangle to the steep side with the view of the turquoise mountains and the small, wood-slat door, its gapes showing a tapestry or old carpet hanging behind it. “This is no place for a child. You were right to call me,” she said. But now, since she saw the man and heard the child, I got the distinct feeling she wished she hadn’t brought me along.
She balled her wide, dark hand and hammered the fragile blockade, but it barely made any noise as it was not secured firmly and did not resist her touch.
“What?” the man yelled like an axe hitting a tree trunk.
Josette used a voice I hadn’t heard before, deeper, very formal, calm. “Mr. Palmberg? Mr. Eugene Palmberg? My name is Josette Luckman. I’m here on official business from child protective services. I am here to evaluate this dwelling for the safety of your child. Could I please come in?”
“Are you kidding me, lady? You sicked social services on me? You were trespassing. Of course I got mad. What the hell?” Eugene’s voice had changed as well. His was higher, tight like a rubber-band pulled to its limit.
I started to say I only want what’s best for the child, but Josette raised her creamy, deeply-lined palm in front of my face.
“Mr. Palmberg, it will be best for everyone if you take a deep breath and open the door.”
My pulse began racing. She had some brass telling that man to take a breath. I half expected him to roar out of there with a raised axe, or to just poke the barrel of a shotgun through one of the gaps in the door. The curse of a vivid imagination, I jumped an inch off the dirt when I heard him undo the latch.
He pulled the door in slowly. The worn carpet draped over the top of the wood creating a canopy over the dew on Josette’s bald head. I had to duck into the dark room. I reached out to the wall to steady myself, cool and clammy like entering a cave. I couldn’t see anything, but heard scratching, scuttling, clawing sounds. I imagined a bear or a mountain lion at the back of this cave. Suddenly, I saw a square of light on the floor in front of me and lines and shapes grew out of the darkness.
“That’s Horace,” he was saying. He’s a sweet, old things. Not much of a hunter or guard dog, apparently, but Ely adores him.”
He had opened the shutters letting lots of light into the room and the sound I had heard was a dog, just a dog. Josette was seated on a cute carved settee with pumpernickel and coffee striped upholstery. Somehow she already had a cup of tea in what looked like a toile china pattern.
“Alyssum, are you okay?” she said. “You look faint. Come sit down.”
“Alyssum? Hi, I’m Eugene. We’ve never properly met. Can I get you some water? It’s stream water, I boil it and let it cool. It’s really tasty. Or I have green ash tea. That should make you feel better.”
The man suddenly sounded like some sort of gentleman out of the historical fictions I like to read. Okay, I wasn’t thinking historical fiction, I was thinking about the romance novel and noticed how tanned and muscular his arms were.
“Yeah, Alyssum Grabner. Nice to meet you. Uh, tea. Thank you,” I said. I don’t know why I thought to tell him my last name, like he would know my family or people I knew, like somehow that explained me; I guess I wanted to sound professional too. I sat heavily next to Josette.
This whole trip I hadn’t noticed how nice Josette smelled, like baby powder and jasmine, fresh like lemongrass but with the lovely calming sweetness of orange blossoms. You would think, with my nose for herbs, I would have noticed it right away, but coffee is pungent and then I was so focused on getting here and making sure the man got what he deserved for being so ferocious and mean, I mean making sure the boy was safe.
He handed me a lovely tea cup. I admired the indigo images of children fishing and playing on white, white china background. It looked so ordered, so clean and somehow, by some twisted juxtaposition of fate and devastation, it was here, at home here in this hovel. I looked up. He was watching me, seated across from me. He didn’t look angry; he looked sad, searching.
“Eugene was just telling me about all the work he’s been doing on his grandfather’s property, since his bitter divorce,” said Josette as if revealing a truth I should have already known. “His wife was wealthy. He signed a pre-nup. She ran off with an even richer lover who didn’t want his son. This is all he has left.”
The dog put its head in my crotch. It made me think of how I smelled when I was sweaty, and made me incredibly uncomfortable when Eugene smiled.
“He likes you,” he said.
I tried to make it look like I was petting him as I pushed him toward Josette. “Nice doggy,” I said.
Josette, legs closed, pet Horace who pushed me aside to place his head on her thigh. I sat pinched against the arm of the chair as she said, “I wish this had never happened, but since this situation was brought to my attention and paperwork has been filed, I’m afraid you’re in the system. I’ll make sure I’m assigned to your case for all future visits and we’ll make sure to check all the boxes as we go. As long as you keep up improvements and Ely stays healthy and happy, enrolls in school and gets regular check-ups—I’ll make sure you have all the lists of expectations—
“But,” Eugene tried to interject.
“And we’ll be contacting all of your character references and other living relatives—”
“I’m sure there won’t be any problems, as long as you can prove that you can provide a stable home, which—”
“Josette, stop. I don’t want to be in the system. I don’t want to be checked on and mandated and commanded and timetabled. Can’t you see that Ely and I are finally making our own system that works. I thought I would home school him for a while, let him learn from nature, from the land, have a more traditional upbringing.”
I didn’t think Josette could turn red, but she definitely flushed. “Traditional? You think living away from everyone but you and having to eat weeds and bark is his tradition?”
“Bark? I mean—”
Josette jumped off the settee, startling the dog and me. The dog ran over to Eugene who had pushed back in his chair. I got up and took my tea cup to the plastic basin that served as a sink and watched from a still uncomfortable distance. Her voice had changed again, higher, faster; I could see her diaphragm pumping. Her words clicked against her teeth making me wonder if she had a tongue ring like my girlfriend in college, making we wonder about her in a way I hadn’t before.
“You mean? What could you mean? You go from mansion to hut and suddenly you are Native American? You’re a share cropper? Or are you, Jesus help me, trying to relate to my traditions? Is that what you’re trying to say?”
I felt sick. I watched Josette’s chest heaving and the shock on that man’s face and I felt the smallest, the most worthless I had ever felt. How did my good intentions turn so ugly. I had heard that saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but I thought that was only for corrupt politicians, not me, not these good intentioned people.
“Uh, Josette, I think I made a mistake,” I said as calmly as I could. “I judged this man and his situation mostly on the paint on his house and the nature of his land. That’s my fault. He’s not causing any harm and his son is healthy and happy. You said so yourself. Let’s go.”
Josette turned on me, a rage in her eyes. “This is my job. You know what it took me to get to where I am? I have too much to prove to let you yellow and turn me into a failure. You started this, but it is so far from your hands now, you will never see it end. “
She spun back on Eugene. “You are now, and will always be under my thumb. I’ll teach you tradition. Your tradition is reporting to me. Your tradition is having supervised visits. Your tradition is visiting your lawyer. Your—”
Horace barked.
“Stop it! Leave my daddy alone! You sound just like Mommy.”
The tiny body in the doorway cast a shadow across Josette’s face. I had wondered where he was. How did he get outside? I wondered if he crawled out the window when the shutters opened, or if there was another entrance to his cave. Josette used a new voice. This woman had many voices. I thought about the time my mom told me I had many voices when I talked to her. It scared me, like I might not be who I thought I was. Josette’s new voice was strangely sweet, subtle, but with an undertone of rot like the bear’s breeches outside.
“Hello, you must be Ely,” she said. “Nice to meet you. I was just having a nice conversation with your dad about how happy you are here. Are you happy here?”
Ely stomped his foot. “You’re a liar. I don’t like liars. Quit lying to me. Dad tells me the truth. He didn’t choose this, but he loves me. Go away!” Ely turned around and ran back outside.
Josette whirled back on Eugene. “There. Do you see what your idea of tradition has done to that child?”
Eugene took a big breath and smiled. His voice changed. It was deeper. It resonated. It was warm and full. “Yes. He’s so beautiful. We had to go through a lot of rejection and neglect to get where we are. Part of that beautiful boy had to grow up quickly facing the hurt his own mother poured on us, but that little brilliant soul is finding peace here and is going to get to be a kid. He’s going to play and feel loved and appreciated and protected.”
He turned, stepped toward me and I backed toward the door. He opened his palms to me. “Don’t be scared. I’m not mad. I want to thank you. I was so frustrated and full of anger, I took it out on the first person I thought had crossed a boundary, but I get the whole “forgive me my tresspasses thing.” I want to forgive you. You helped me see how important making this a home is for me and Ely. I was so involved with my own hurt, I stopped believing I could trust anyone to help us, but I had blinders on. So thank you.
Josette was on me. She pushed my shoulder. “We’re leaving.” She pushed me out the door.
I couldn’t stop staring at him. He had such a peaceful look on his face. I wish I had understood.


The Planner Project Returns

fourth quarter goals

I remember why I needed a break from this project: It is incredibly time consuming, which I find stressful. However, I like to finish what I begin, so I have made the opening fourth quarter goal pages and the pages for the whole month of October.

What has changed

As you will see, I’ve made some changes. I reformatted the pages to use as much of the page as possible with two pages per letter-sized piece of paper. I have continued to group my original prompts with the intent to work together to inspire a story per week. The major change, this time around is moving the featured magazine information from the left side to the center top and instead of including an image of a magazine cover, I decided to include my original photography and artwork for inspiration as another writing prompt.

The pages

The pages are made in open office and can be printed or typed in your word processing software. Once you have downloaded the pages and worked with them, please come back and give me some feedback. I would love to hear what you like and don’t like. What parts are useful and what you would find more useful. Thank you in advance.

Fourth Quarter 2019 Planner Pages

Printing as a booklet

I redesigned the pages, so there would be a lot less white space, but when I tried to click booklet printing in my printer properties, it reduced my pages and put large white space around everything negating my efforts. It took some time, but I figured out how to print it (almost) how I want it.

  1. Select File →Print
  2. Select the Page Layout Tab and select brochure
  3. Click the General Tab and click properties
  4. Select duplex printing. Make sure, when you select duplex printing, that you select staple on short side left.
  5. Print

Next Steps

The next steps are to submit stories and poems to all of these opportunities. Remember, the goal is to get 100 rejections by the end of the year. I’m not quite half way there, so I need to get back to submitting at least once a day to reach my goal. And with the response times what they are, I’ll want to get as much out this month as I possibly can.

Good luck with all your submissions!

Get those stories into the world.

The Planner Experiment: The last week of June

Hi all. I had the daily planner pages for the last week of June ready to go yesterday, but I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to talk about. And . . . I still haven’t, so I’ll let the pages speak for themselves.

2019 Planner June week four

It’s the last week of the quarter, so reach hard for those goals and make time to reflect on your achievements so far.

Have a good week.

The Planner Experiment: The Third Week of June


How was your week? I hope you got some good writing done, enjoyed a good book, poems and stories and sent out some submissions. I had a pretty good week. I typed up my poems, worked on a story and read a lot.

This summer has already shaped up to be the summer of a house full of water and tiny black ants. It seems like this house is desperate to fill itself with water. Every hose that can bursts, the water tank got a hole in it, and this week I had mystery water creating a damp spot in the carpet that I have no idea where it came from. The ants, usually a creature that hangs out in a line, so you can see where they are coming from, seem to just drop down from the ceiling to appear, one at a time, on this computer, a table top, or my arm.

The Pages

This week, I finally experimented with printing the pages as a booklet. I had to add an extra page at the front for everything to line up. I used the blank page to break down my goals for the week into achievable tasks. I like the idea of leaving the page blank, so I can use it in different ways each week.

I also tried out the writing prompts in my morning pages. I ended up with a good story idea and about a half of a story draft. I’m excited that the prompts I made up inspired my writing. I’ll continue to try them out in my morning pages.

2019 Planner June week three

Happy Reading and Writing!

The Planner Experiment: First Week of June

Deadly Again This Summer(3)

Looking for some fun summer reading? I hope you’ll check out this new anthology of twelve fresh, fantasy stories from Pacific Northwest authors, including me!

The Planner Experiment

Quick recap: I started the Planner Experiment at the beginning of the year with the intention to find homes for all my stories by learning more about literary magazines and increasing my submissions. I set a goal of 100 rejections this year in an attempt to change my feelings about each rejection and continue submitting through rejection after rejection. Toward this end, I designed a daily planner that organizes the year by quarter and month.

I post these pages as weekly experiments, making little changes as I come up with new ideas to see what works best to motivate me to write and submit my stories. My hope is that you will also try out the pages and share your experience, so that by the end of the year, I can compile the best planner to help writers get their stories into the world in 2020 and beyond. I hope you will join me in this experiment. You can hop in at any time. I look forward to hearing your experiences.

The pages

2019 Planner June week one

This week’s pages have writing prompts that can build on each other. I’m enjoying this idea. Did anyone try them out last month? Did it help you write a draft?

What do you think of the colors, background, fonts? Are you finding that you use all the different sections, or are only a few of the boxes getting filled in? Which ones are you finding most useful? Which ones would you get rid of/replace? With what?

This week’s pages start with a couple of heavy hitters that I highly recommend submitting to: Ploughshares is one of the top literary journals and it is open for fiction and poetry; and Granta is open for poetry for the next four days. Send them some poetry!

I hope you are feeling motivated.

Have a great week!


Exciting News!! Deadly Again This Summer is out today!

Deadly Again This Summer is a story I wrote as an exploration of why young, athletic people drown in the lake each summer. It is a modern-day fairy tale in that it’s a cautionary tale of magical realism. This story is very close to my heart and I’m so excited that Z Publishing chose it for their first Fantasy anthology series. I want to thank Diana Rose Wilson  and Andrick Schall for their thoughtful critiques and suggestions.

I could not be more excited that this story found a home and is now available in this great anthology of fantasy. I hope you’ll order your copy today!!

Happy Reading and Writing

The Planner Experiment: A New Month Begins

June month plan

So here we are. June is upon us. We’re looking at the midpoint of the year and the days keep flying by. How are your submissions going? Are you finding ways to use the daily planner to stay motivated?

Last week I admitted I was having trouble submitting and hoped that I would find that original energy again and I think writing it here really helped. I finished the month strong, entering two contests and submitting to ten magazines.

I received a wonderful, personal rejection with feedback from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. You couldn’t ask for a nicer rejection. In other words, keeping with it is paying off.  As a friend of mine recently said, “You keep pounding and pounding at that wall, eventually you’ll break through.” I can see cracks forming in the mortar.


As I mentioned, I’ve started looking into how contests fit into my submissions goals. I entered three short story contests last month, paying a total of $47 in entry fees. I won’t know if it’s a good investment or not for a while, but I am still focused on learning more about how to select contests, so I did some searching and found 30 contests with deadlines in June. At an average of $20 each, if I entered all of those contests, that would be $600 in entry fees for only one month of contests! So how am I going to choose?

One way to quickly sort through is by type of writing. Many of the contests ask for manuscripts: poetry chapbooks or story collects, novelettes, or full novels. Since I have stories in contests and all of my stories are out looking for work, I thought I might focus on poetry in June. I saw that one of my favorite poets, Ada Limón, is judging a poetry book prize. The deadline is the middle of the month and I have been wanting to create a poetry manuscript of my work, so I plan to use this as a deadline to get that work done. Then I can adjust that manuscript to fit other contests.

Another way to choose contests is by researching the judges, the journals or organizations having the contest and previous winners. Researching all of these aspects of a contest will give you information about which contests will be the best fit for your work.

When I was reading advice from contest winners in the last issue of Poets & Writers, one of the winners said to look at what else your contest entry fee gets you. Will you get feedback and critique? Will you get an issue or a subscription to the magazine? Will all entries be considered for publication?

All things to think about when trying to select which contests to dish out for.

Getting In On The Ground Floor

Submitting to the first issue of a literary magazine can be a bit of a gamble–you can’t read previous issues to see what they publish, and they may not last long–but it can also be rewarding. My first publication was in the first issue of Five on the Fifth and I enjoyed the experience and created relationships with the editors.

This morning, while looking over my wordpress reading feed, I came across a brand new ezine from Writer Shed Press called Writer Shed Stories. This is a brand new paying market ($20). I felt like I had a story that might fit, so I submitted. We’ll see how it goes.

In researching this month’s magazines, I also came across The Blend a paying market out of Australia. Their first issue comes out in July.

The Pages

2019 Planner June opening pages

Today, I’m only posting the June month planner page with deadlines and these first couple days. I will update the deadlines as the month progresses. I noticed plenty of errors in last months deadlines, but some of them may have been changes that happened during the month. As I’ve said before, it’s better to submit as soon as the window opens, or in the case of Submittable submissions, at the beginning of the month.

I’ve planned weekly compounding writing prompts for each week in June which will start on Monday, so check back again tomorrow night, or Monday morning.

I look forward to hearing from you. Are you submitting to the magazines in the planner pages? Tell me about your submission experiences.

Happy Reading, Writing, Planning, and Meeting Your Publishing Goals!

The Planner Experiment: May Week 2

pink rhodies small.jpg

My new focus on contests brought me to something fun. Literary Taxidermy is having a contest in which participants write a story that starts and ends with lines from a selected work. This year’s selection is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The idea of the contest is to start with the first line of Mr. Bradbury’s story and create something completely different that then ends with his last line. I already have a ton of ideas. I think I’ll write drafts for at least three of them, maybe more.

Other interesting contests I found were:

Jerry Jazz Musician’s Short Fiction Contest  This site is looking for fiction that incorporates aspects of jazz music.

Online Writing Tips Story Prize This contest is free and offers a £100 prize. There’s no theme or genre. Enter any story of 1000-4000 words.

This Week’s Pages

May Week Two.png

2019 Planner May Week Two

I think part of my frustration last month and why I kept getting behind on the pages was I wasn’t making the time to use them. This week, I’m renewing my efforts to completely fill in the pages each day with the goal of three submissions every day. I hope you’ll join me. I look forward to hearing about your journey to publication. I hope the daily planner helps motivate you to submit your stories and poems.

Happy Reading, Writing, Planning and Submitting!

The Planner Experiment: February Week Three Planner Pages

Week three pages blue

As I write this, I’m listening to short stories from Asimov’s Science Fiction on their podcast. I also discovered and have been listening to The CryptoNaturalist. I hope to have stories on both of them some day. Earlier today I enjoyed listening to stories, some read by the authors, over at Three-Lobed Burning Eye. I submitted a story to them this morning.

I have very exciting news. Yesterday, I submitted to three different magazines. It was the first day I have reached that goal. This morning, I did it again. I’m on a roll, but today’s submissions made me aware of another problem with my plan: sometimes the magazine or journal that appears to be the best fit for my story doesn’t accept simultaneous submissions. That means I may need to wait months before I can submit it again.

But wait! If I submitted the story to a magazine that is a good fit, I may not need to submit it again because they will publish it. So the only  real problem is how I will come up with three submissions for tomorrow. There-in lies the importance of learning about all of the literary journals that I would like to publish stories in and learning when their reading windows are, so I can prioritize the magazines for which I’m willing wait.

For those of you who are hoping to achieve a three submissions a day habit, here are some tips for preparing your submissions:

Make submitting easier:

  • Have a short bio written that you can cut and paste into your cover letter or submittable form when requested.
  • Re-read, edit, and format (most journals ask for Shunn format, but you may also want to have a copy with no personal info on it because many journals ask for that) your stories so they are ready to go when you find a good fit.
  • Try to find interviews with the editor to learn what they’re looking for and read stories from the journal. Find something you like or a story that is somewhat like your story, so you can mention it in your cover letter.
  • Read and re-read the submission guidelines and follow them carefully.

The Planner Pages

I have yet to receive your feedback and fervently await some data other than my own for this experiment, but we are only two weeks into it and I’m already seeing personal results.

Positive results

  • I have already submitted more than I did all of last year
  • I have a new outlook on rejections as accomplishments to work toward and they already don’t sting as much as they did before.
  • I am becoming familiar with literary magazines so that I can choose the best fit for my stories and write personalized, informed cover letters.
  • I have read a ton of short stories and poetry
  • I have collected, reviewed and organized my poetry and very short stories.
  • I’ve written a lot of writing prompts and come up with a lot of story ideas.
  • I’m finding ways to improve my design in open office though this part of the project is time consuming and can be frustrating.

Not so positive results

  • I haven’t found a daily routine yet.
  • I’m obsessively researching the journals.
  • There isn’t enough time in the day to read all the stories and poems.
  • I’m not writing new drafts for my ideas, at least not as quickly as I would like.

These problems, I believe, will taper off soon. I did write a very short story rough draft this morning. I’ve gathered most of the journals that I plan to include in the planner. By the end of the month, I should have them organized into their planner months and be able to prioritize getting familiar with each one.

The Changes

I was getting frustrated with the tools I had in open office, so I looked up loading new fonts. You can download free public domain, commercial use fonts at 1001 fonts. Having a selection of fonts I like made a lot of difference, but then I wanted borders and frames for my sections instead of just lines. This led me to the clip-art gallery. I downloaded frames and borders from public domain vectors.

This endeavor was not as successful as downloading and applying the fonts. Loading the clip-art into the gallery wasn’t particularly hard, I was just impatient and kept accidentally shutting down the program. Once I got the frames and borders into the clip-art, they didn’t look great when I resized them, so we’ll see if I end up using them.

While putting this week’s pages into one file, I discovered that the background colors that I had put with each day did not come along when inserted into the file. All of the days would have to have the same background color, so I decided to leave that for now. I think I’ll play around with using my photography for backgrounds. I would have to choose one that works for an entire season, if I choose to use a background.

I also changed the layout of the magazine section a bit. I didn’t like how the space next to the image of the magazine looked, so I moved the web address below the image and added info about the reading dates, pay/fee and whether or not they accept simultaneous submissions.

Planner Pages Week Three

2019 Planner February Week Three

I hope you’ll click the link above and download the planner pages, so you can plan your week’s submissions along with me. I look forward to receiving your feedback and hearing about your journey to publication.

Happy Reading, Writing, Planning and Submitting!



The Planner Experiment: Micro-fiction


This planner project is already working for me. This week I received my second rejection. The sting only lasted a moment this time. The rejection letter even suggested that I submit something to their next reading period, so I’ll keep that in mind for my deadlines. I edited and submitted two other stories to different magazines the same day. Now that I’m becoming familiar with so many paying and interesting markets, I feel confident that I will eventually find the best fit for my work. The only way to do that is to keep submitting and collecting rejections. This new mind-set is helping my confidence and productivity.

Micro-fiction, Nano-fiction, and Very Short Stories

This week I discovered another group of magazines to add to my spreadsheet, the wonderful world of micro-fiction. I enjoy writing flash fiction. Flash is usually a story that is less than 1,000 words. There is a market for a sub-section of flash which consists of very very short stories. These magazines look for stories as short as a 140 character tweet, or specific word counts of 50, 66 or 100 words. The range is up to 500 words.

Most of these ezines aren’t paying markets, but are a great writing challenge. Telling a story with a beginning, middle and end with so few words trains you to edit for economy of word choice. I have had stories published in Speculative 66 and The Drabble.

There are some paying markets looking for micro (or nano) fiction. I found two lists: The short list from D. L. Shirey and a useful table from Erica Verillo.

Like I did with my poetry last week, I went through and collected all of my very short stories in one file. Unlike my poetry, I wasn’t enthralled with the very short stories I wrote here on Experience Writing, but that was exciting to me. I was able to find some magazines that would take poetry from my blog, but micro-fiction is another story. They are only interested in unpublished work. Thus, I plan to take only the very best ideas from my very short stories and completely re-write/ re-imagine them before submitting. I also have a list of story ideas that I think will work well as micro-fiction and plan to tackle some drafts in my morning pages.

Reading Everything

Another way the planner experiment is working, is by guiding my reading. I try to focus on reading some stories from the Literary Journal of the day and maybe one other. That way I’m not sampling from all over the place, but learning as much as I can about one journal at a time. Getting a feel for a journal isn’t easy and when I’m trying to learn about hundreds of journals at once, it can get overwhelming. Exploring one or two journals a day is a great way to get to know them and figure out if I have a story that is a good fit.

As you may have heard, the Seattle area had unusual snowfall last weekend. It was beautiful. Being snowed in is the perfect time to read, all snug under a pile of blankets. My sweetie and I have been reading to each other since the beginning of the year and we ramped that up during the snow. We lit a fire in the fireplace, drank tea and cocoa and read a bit of everything. That is one of the fun things about reading a lot of short story collections at once, you can read a story by one writer and then move to a completely different genre or style by another. We skipped around between The Lottery and Other Stories (FSG Classics) by Shirley Jackson, The Neon Wilderness by Nelson Algren, The Shell Collector: Stories by Anthony Doerr, and The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror by Joyce Carol Oates interspersed with selections from The Pushcart Prize XLIII: Best of the Small Presses 2019 Edition (The Pushcart Prize). We ended up reading all of The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror and liking about half of it. She does tend to ramble and doesn’t seem to care about a satisfying ending, or that was our conclusion.

We also read Small Town: A Novel (Block, Lawrence). I’ve had this book for years and kept picking it up and putting it down, so I was glad we read it together and finally finished it, but I had no idea it would be so pornographic. I was much more interested in the murder mystery and found the “sexual artistry” annoying. However, it had a brilliant ending; little clues that made me re-read the beginning (since it had been a long time since I started it) to confirm.

As for the other reading goals I put in my planner, I finished The Carrying: Poems by Ada Limón. I enjoy her poems and liked the collection, but not as much as Bright Dead Things: Poems. I’m also reading a bunch of craft books. I’m especially enjoying The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby.

The Planner Pages

I’ve been frustrated with the tools available to me in open office, so I did some work this week improving my font selection and line and border possibilities along with experimenting with backgrounds and colors. I also realized that I needed to put some planning for my novel edits in the planner as well, so I’m playing around with that.

I noticed I had a repeat prompt on the thirteenth. I apologize. I wrote and saved over 100 writing prompts the other day, so even without the prompt inspiration I get from the literary journals themselves, we won’t be running out of writing prompts any time soon.

Look for the new pages some time tomorrow evening, so you can plan out your week along with me on Sunday.


I would love to hear from you. Are you using the planner pages? Do you use them on the computer, or print them out? Are you submitting your work? How could the pages be more useful and motivational?

Happy Reading, Writing, Planning and Submitting!