Thursday, November 19, 2009

“Oblivion Cycle: A Spider’s Nightmare” Re-imagined

The writing exercise I chose for this week was to take a completed story and rewrite it, intensifying the conflict, exaggerating the tension—even to the point of absurdity. Well, I chose a story that was already pretty exaggerated, but I managed to exaggerate it even more, and I cleaned up the prose a little in the process and made a slightly different setup (by adding specific sections to the story).

But first…

NOTE FOR THE READER (STILL APPLIES TO THIS REVISED VERSION): James Joyce ends his novel Finnegan’s Wake with a sentence that concludes only by going back to the very first page and re-reading the first line. When I first learned about this oddity, I found it to be an ingenious literary device and immediately tried to think of a story that could end/begin in this way. With “Oblivion Cycle: A Spider’s Nightmare,” I think I’ve captured, in miniature, the basic “never-ending” structure that Joyce used. I really like this story, overall. I like the cyclical nature of the story itself, as well as the disorientation and short memory span of the spider, living in its own mini hell—hence the word “oblivion” in the title. Following are my suggestions for reading this flash fiction, cyclical horror story. Start with whichever paragraph you like, even if it’s not the first one, and read the story from there; then read it again, starting at the next paragraph and reading from there; and then read it one final time, starting from the last remaining paragraph and reading from there. It may be necessary to wait a few minutes in between rereadings. I think it’s interesting to see how well the story holds up in each “version.” I like to read it from beginning to end, then from middle to beginning, so to speak, and finally from end to middle. Without further ado, the story, which I will now call

Oblivion Cycle: A Spider’s Nightmare Re-imagined

Part 1 then part 3 then part 2

So, with her ghastly device engaged, she tortured him, maimed him, brutalized him. The tiny, black, defenseless spider twisted and writhed on the tabletop, screaming in agony until he had used up all the air at his disposal. The drinking glass with which the girl had covered him made both breathing and escape impossible. His high-strung screams echoed off the walls of the glass, and his ears rang, and then bled. He stopped screaming and tried to draw in a breath but couldn’t.

Part 2 then part 1 then part 3

The spider was suffocating, mouth cracked and dry. How long had she been at this? He couldn’t remember; he couldn’t tell. How long before she just killed him? Would she? Or would he have to live in complete agony for the rest of time, constantly pushed to the very brink of death only to be cruelly revived a moment later? While he pondered this, a distinct feeling of déjà vu overwhelmed his mind; it was as though he had had these thoughts a thousand times before, never arriving at a coherent conclusion. Suddenly, the drinking glass that was his prison rose high into the air, and he gasped, his lungs ablaze with a fire that grew more intense with each new breath.

Part 3 then part 2 then part 1

As soon as the spider had reclaimed his breath and his bearings, he charged off, away from the drinking glass and the girl, trying to escape certain death; but he was no match for her, in all her gargantuan, human glory. As quickly and easily as if she had done it a thousand times, she put the glass over him. His millions of legs darted toward the glass, again and again, as he tried desperately to run right through it, to no avail—and the air quickly evaporated into oblivion.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My condolences

As some of you may already know our program director Kendra Kopelke has had a death in her family. I don't presume know about her loss or even what to say to help her in this time of mourning. I just wanted to let every know, and to join me in offering her our condolences. I don't know what to say about grief. In my family we have wakes. We get together with warm food and heavy hearts and talk about the person who has left us. We share stories about them with the younger generation. In hopes that those stories in some part help to carry on the memory of our love one's. We remember things they did that made us laugh, that made us cry, and that made us proud. Sometimes we are angry that they left, we yell and curse, then cry and wonder if they miss us as much as we miss them. In the end we come together in a strange celebration of their life. We raise a pint glass to their memory, and grieve together. But that's just me. How do you grieve?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Knot-Tangle" Re-imagined

Almost two years ago, I wrote a short short story called “Knot-Tangle,” and at the time, I felt like it was flash/micro fiction. A writing exercise just proved me wrong. The exercise asked me to cut half of the words in a previously written story. I chose to revisit “Knot-Tangle” and was pleasantly surprised by the resulting piece of real flash/micro fiction. The original (second) draft of the story, the one I published in the Writer’s Block at Wabash College, was 734 words, and this new version is exactly half that: 367 words. So, without further ado,

Knot-Tangle Re-imagined

It glowed in the hazy moonlight: a knot, a beautiful tangle of brunette hair, wrapped around the headboard of my bed. Through overly moist eyes, I worked to untie it. The mass was thick, but I worked incessantly because she deserved her freedom.

“What’s her name?” Naomi said.

“Does it matter?”


“Ja—her name is Julie.”

Silence, and then: “Oh, Julie! Don’t stop!” She arched her perfect back as best she could with her hair trapped, a prisoner of vigorous lovemaking. Her skin was smooth, damp with twinkly sweat.

“Stop it!” A tear fell from my chin and soaked her hair.

“Don’t tell me to stop. You should have stopped. What happened to love?”

Something died. Darkness poured in through a funnel, and I wanted her to hurt me. Somehow. Just hit me, I thought. “I do love you. I just—missed you, while I was away.”

“When you miss someone, you call them,” she said. “You don’t go out and fuck the first thing you see.”

I frowned. “I’m…sorry.”

Her face was empty, eyes gray and wet. “You cheated!” Tears leaked onto her pillow in two spots, forming a broken heart.

I couldn’t tell her what had really happened, that there was more to it than a bit of hot sex. That, paradoxically, my spontaneous encounter meant more to me than any lovemaking with Naomi ever did. It was something I’d always craved but never had the guts to try—because I loved Naomi.

“For Pete’s sake, cut it!”

Hesitantly, I reached into the end table drawer and pulled out a pair of scissors. “Are you sure?” I said, looking at her beautiful hair.

“Cut the damn thing off!”

At that, I sobbed uncontrollably, and my tears connected with hers on the pillow. Just a blob. It mocked us, me. I held the scissors up, and the brunette strands flowed into the metallic grip of the scissors. I hesitated again.

“I can’t do it.”

She grabbed the scissors and started cutting. The knot—the tangle—turned into a million dark hairs, in slow motion, and fell between bed and wall. She dressed, and then left. My tears kept coming, exploding, like supernovas in deep space.

NOTE FOR THE READER: In this story, I was intentionally mysterious and vague/ambiguous about a few things (not to a fault, though, I hope). This wasn’t the initial plan, but I had an epiphany soon after starting the story: I could make it sexually ambiguous, which would be very interesting, at least to me. As you read the story the first time, you likely read it as Naomi and her cheating boyfriend. I invite you to read it again but more deeply: Try to see it as Naomi and her cheating girlfriend, then again, perhaps most interestingly/shockingly, as Naomi and her closeted bi/gay boyfriend. I think all of those scenarios work well, but maybe that is my writer’s bias talking. In any case, this was a difficult story to write because of the logistics, the purposeful ambiguity. It’s actually quite a challenge to be unclear or vague on purpose!

Blackbird, Section VI

When I did my last section of Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," for last week's journal assignment in Creativity, I came up with something kind of interesting, so I thought I'd post it here. This is an extension (in different points of view) of a slightly varied form of

Section VI

"Icicles filled the long window with barbaric glass. The shadow of the blackbird crossed [the window], to and fro. The mood traced in the shadow an indecipherable cause."

Icicles filled me, top to bottom, with their barbaric glassiness. The blackbird crossed me, to and fro. And its shadow lent an air of suspicion. What was the bird about to do? What were her plans? "Careful, bird," I said. "For I am littered with barbaric glass!" The bird crossed again, as if she couldn't hear a thing.

As the blackbird crossed the window, to and fro, she pondered on the cold, barbaric glass shield that protected it. A moment's pain and coldness, and she could be safe inside, to enjoy the warmth of the house. But what if the glass did not break? Would she survive? She shivered. Would she survive if she didn't try? That was the indecipherable question. She paced again, to and fro, and when a cold blast of air took her breath away and pushed her away from the window, she raised her wings and flew straight into the glass.

excerpt: "No Soup for You"

I love the day date... No wine, no shower...
Depending on your definition of date, me and Emma had one date. It was about two months into my contract and we went out to lunch together. It was a simple walk to the sandwich shop and we sat at one of the circular tables in the corner.
She talked about her love for news and how she really loved working for CNN and I could tell this was her career. I pretended to care about the midterm elections, not so much in terms of politics, but for the excitement of real change in Washington. In truth, I cared more about the Oscar vote than the congressional midterms. But in the moment, seeing her face light up as she asked me about the New Jersey seventh, I found myself fairly engaged.
As for the date aspect, nothing went well. I offered to pay, she didn’t accept. She walked faster than I, so I didn’t open the doors. And at no time did I feel like she saw me as anything more than a work friend. And more than anything else that was what was frustrating. I wouldn’t go out to lunch with her if I wasn’t interested. I don’t need any more friends. And I don’t think she saw the lunch date as anything more than friendship. That’s how different our minds were.
I thought about kissing her, but there was never that conversational pause where I could slip one past the goalie. Instead we talked about the upcoming elections and then a little football. But nothing that seemed substantial, nothing that felt like a couple. So while it was nice to have a one-on-one date that didn’t feel like a date. It was terrible to have a date that wasn’t a date.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


so... has anyone given any thought to spring semester? i was just curious who was interested in taking what. its sort of hard to believe it's that time already. i'm just starting to get settled into the semester. i guess that's how school goes, though. as soon as you get comfortable, things start changing again.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bennett's Curse

We had a great time at Bennett's Curse last night—mostly the conversation before and after, though, because the haunted house was kind of lame in terms of scariness. But there were some cool setups/props.

After the haunted house, we went to DuClaw's (brewery/bar) to talk for a while, drink a little, and eat. It was a good time.

I tried to take a candid picture with my iPhone, but someone noticed, so everyone started moving around, I guess trying to pose. The result is kind of funny, so I kept it. In the spirit of Bennett's Curse and Halloween, Danielle looks like a ghost. ;-) And Lori...I don't know what Lori is doing. Kari is confused, Mike doesn't notice, and Wendy just smiles. I wonder what I would have been doing if I had been in the picture. Hmm...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Haunted House Trip - This Saturday!

Prepare to be scared! 
Saturday October 24
Meet @ 8pm
Bennet's Curse
7684 Arundel Mills Blvd
Hanover, MD 21076-1385

This was rated the best haunted house in the area by several websites. The tickets are $20 for two haunted houses. You have to pay in cash at the gate or you can go to the website and preorder the tickets with a credit card.

In keeping with the halloween tradition, we'll be grabbing some spirits (a.k.a. drinks) after the haunted house tours at a nearby bar establishment. Feel free to join in either or both festivities. Significant others are welcome!

Hope to see you there!
Wendy and Lori

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A local habitation, and a name

I thought it might be interesting to share one of my favorite methods for passing time on long car trips: making up stories about characters named after towns and villages on the road map.

This works best in England, I've found, because where else are you going to come across Rushton Spencer, Fenny Bentley, Dole's Ash, Dead Maids, Kidderminster, Shepton Mallet, or Bury St. Edmunds? (Hands off Rushton Spencer, by the way, I've got dibs on him. He's the sort of ACTOR who wears dressing-gowns to dinner and pours unsatisfactory port over the sommelier's head.)

The trick to this game is not to look for funky names, but just let yourself enjoy the wonderful richness and weirdness of local naming conventions. In England you'll find a whole series of villages along and named for the same river (Winterborne Whitechurch, Winterborne Stickland, and Winterborne Kingston, for example, or the Deverills); over here you can find the classic Intercourse, Mud, and Bird in Hand, but if you look closer there are old names still hanging around even in this city that could offer some creative inspiration. Eudowood, for example. There was once a TB hospital called Eudowood; there's Ladew, and Oella, and Linthicum, which sounds like something you rub on to ward off colds, and the euphonious Padonia, and so on and so forth. There are names everywhere out there, and it's way more fun than it sounds to make up characters to fit them. Some of the characters stick around.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Whose Point of View is it Anyway?

Our fiction class discussion focused on point of view and psychic distance this past week. While I think we all are familiar with First and Third person narration, many of us were astounded by the number of different POVs. Being comfortable in third person limited, I rarely leap out of this POV so this was such an eye-opening discussion for me. Yet, now that I'm aware, I will purposely play with the other roles.

1) Observer narrator (first person)
2) Observer narrator (third person)
3) Detached Author (observant third person)
4) Involved Author (limited third person)
5) First Person Narrative
6) Let's add to this list: Second person "you"

My question is what is your favorite POV to write in and why?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Roll credits.

I collect character names by paying attention to movie credits. Older movies place the credits up front for easy reading, but anytime you watch a movie, just grab as many names as you can and write them down in your moleskin.

prefer to take the first name from one person and mate it with the surname on the next, so I don't upset any Key Grips or Caterers. Screw actors, their names are made up anyway.

It's a good idea to start off with the etymology of the name. I see the visual of the character first in my mind's eye . Sometimes they are in action, sometimes they are sitting around, but once I see them, then I can guess at their name.

Trying asking the character what name they like, imagine them saying no, then listen to their voice. Can they say their own name correctly? Does it sound right when they say it? The Character ethnic background and local help me pick their name. Example, if he is an irish sailor, Finnegan Murphy. Murphy meaning : Seafarer, or Sea warrior, just off the top of my head.

I dig the rare vintage and/or names that can be shortened, and order to have a formal name like Jonathan,which can be annouced by a bulter, but also a short name, for friends, family or to screamed from a moving vehicle. "JON!" I also like family names, passed down from generation to generation.

Crossing ethnicity is great and can be useful in breaking down racial boundaries without preaching, but nicknames have stories of their own to add depth to the character and will draw sympathy out of the reader. Did you know "John Waynes" real name was Marion?

Write on, dude.


This is the result of a writing exercise from What If?

I just had to start a story from a far psychic distance, and then zoom in to get close to the character without actually slipping into first-person. that I think about it, the last line probably fuggs it up. Oh well. I had to keep it under 200 words (and failed, actually; it's 205), so I couldn't make the last line "close" to her.

Anyway, I'm calling it "Red," and I will probably do more work on it, even if I can't really use it for workshop because it's so short. I guess it'll end up being a flash fiction story. Well, unless I come up with something I feel I should add, but I think it could exist as flash. :-)


The girl was removing her rouge and singing jazz classics when the wolves finally came. She’d heard them crying, and was frightened, of course, but she’d never let fear run her life. She didn’t care for that kind of thing.

“Sarah Harper,” she told herself, “don’t you be a ‘fraidy cat!” Sarah continued rubbing cleanser on her face—firmly, but not so hard that she’d go raw and be mistaken for a burn victim the next morning and rushed to the hospital or something.

When they scratched the door and pretended they had knocked and said, “Let us in, let us in,” she looked at the doorknob suspiciously. She thought she’d heard a scratch, but maybe it was a knock. She put down her cleansing pad and went to the door to let in chaos.

The wolves leaped, scratched, clawed, dug. In a rage, they tore her pretty face open like a hunter gutted deer. They fooled and embarrassed her, shamed and disfigured her. They made her bruised and swollen and ugly. And red. So much red. She abhored the red—the blood and the raw, puffy, mangled mess that now masqueraded as a feminine face.

Sarah woke up the next morning in the hospital.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

dirty little secrets

so i was wondering what trash everybody likes to read - whats that dirty little secret book you keep stuffed under the bed...

i, for one, own 3 copies of twilight. (i hope that doesnt get me disqualified from the program) i also own the other 2 books - or is it 3? what can i say? i dig emo vampires with great hair and fast cars.

i always thought you could learn alot about a person by what they read on their off time. is anyone else willing to share?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Character Names


This morning, I stumbled on a page at while looking for character names for my newest story. The article there has some really good information for naming characters, so I thought I would pass it along. And I just want to add that, if you need to find a surname, is good for that; and you could probably even search for "meaning of surnames" in Google and get some excellent results. That's how I found, although I've been there before.

Happy naming!


UPDATE: is an excellent place to search for surnames! is also great.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Baltimore Book Festival Adventure

Yesterday I attended - with other UB MFA friends - my first ever Baltimore Book Festival after my creativity class. It was exhilarating! I have to say I went a little crazy on the book buys - C'mon who can resist $1 books?... I left with a box of books, my filled backpack and my friend Mike's filled backpack (sorry Mike and thanks for helping me carry all the books :)

We walked from class and all scoped out the food as most of us were starving. I ate an avacado and crab taco (Yum!) while my friends chose quesadillas or hot dogs. Once we filled our bellies, we strolled the busy walkways leading us from one book tent to another. So many tents, so little time! At one point, we all ended up at a tent that portrayed Edgar Allen Poe's the Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allen Poe. A brilliant actor (I wish I knew his name) did a stunning portrayal of this chilling story.

Afterwards, our group split and I scouted for interesting book buys with Mike. We ended up making a detour up the stairs of Mount Washington. This in itself was an adventure as the spiraling staircase really only allowed one person through, yet we were constantly maneuvering our body into positions I didn't know it could do in order to let others go down past me. We made it to the top winded, and I hate to say it, disappointed. It was just as tight at the top as the whole staircase and they had four breakout windows that provided one - to two people a view at each window. The view was beautiful as you took it all in but the walk up wasn't worth the view. After we regained our breath, we made our way back down. I had shaky legs the rest of the afternoon...

What I enjoyed most was meeting several independent authors, two of which I bought books from: The Bum Magnet by K.L. Brady and Identity Crisis by Debbi Mack. I look forward to reading these books.

I would have enjoyed staying longer and perusing more books and talking with more authors but between the shaky legs and the rain, I chose to end my book festival adventure. I do look forward to next year's book festival.

I would enjoy reading other's experiences of the Baltimore Book Festival either in the comments to this post or through a new posting.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Baltimore Book Festival

Baltimore Book Festival  - This weekend!

Mount Vernon Place
600 Block North Charles Street

Sept. 25-27
Fri. 12 - 8 pm
Sat. 12-8 p.m.
Sun. 12-7 p.m.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Twitter Story

I have started a Twitter experiment. I would be interested to see if we can create a story on Twitter - in 140 characters or less. If you would like to participate, log on to Twitter (or create a Twitter account to log on) at .

Once you logon, follow our twitter at

Some directions for these Twitter postings:

1) The 140 Characters posting needs to move the story forward
2) Always finish your posting with #story so we can all follow the story chronologically through or
3) First Post has started the story: When I think of what I did last night, I shiver #story.

Have fun with it!