The Mugsters in Seattle

Twice a year, my writing group (aka the Mugsters) throws our own writing retreat. This year, we chose Seattle because Mike started his MFA program in Washington, and most of my writing group lives in Southern California where we’ve forgotten the feel of rain clouds, and we’re all a little leery about that mysterious liquid falling from the sky.

The four of us rented a quirky house on Airbnb in the Columbia City neighborhood of Seattle. We chugged Tin Umbrella coffee (aptly titled “Chase Your Dreams” blend), we meandered through a bookstore/brewery/restaurant called Third Place Books (brilliant idea!), we met up with other writing friends in Seattle, and we were ambushed by Tilly cat, the apparent feline homeowner of our little house. We maybe wrote a little. The thing is, our “writing retreat” has always been a way for us to connect beyond our manuscripts and our blinking computer screens. We come together to laugh and commiserate and inspire and fling ideas around like the lucky little tribe we’ve become.

We’re still puzzled by the mysterious liquid falling from the sky, but unfortunately it did not follow us home.

Mugsters group photo

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Are 100 Words Enough to Tell a Story?

tiny notebooks

Recently, I took my first stab at flash fiction in the form of one hundred words. The challenge came from 100 Word Story, an online literary magazine that showcases fiction stories of, you guessed it, exactly one hundred words. Imagine one paragraph to tell an entire story. A few weeks ago, my MUG Writing Group decided to take on the challenge. Each writer pursued the possibilities of one hundred words: a flash mob in the Ferry Building; a lovers’ misunderstanding; a joke about a giant squid; a man trapped in his own prison. Their stories pulled me in immediately. Their endings felt like endings. In one hundred words, there was no space for dilly-dallying. How did one hundred words accomplish an entire story?

By acting as a photograph.

We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Some emotion, gesture, scene, expression is captured in a photograph, which tells a larger story. With the right written image, one hundred words can mean one thousand words.

With my own one hundred word story, a single image inspired it—a boy could not read a biohazard sign written in English, but he knew that red meant prosperity in his home country. As I carved the story during a single lunch break, the image became more powerful with each detail. His dive into the deadly water. The unlucky red envelope, a symbol of his sealed fate. It was enough to evoke emotion. It was enough to let the reader’s imagination engage from beginning to end. It was enough to publish my story with the literary magazine 100 Word Story. If you’re interested in reading more, check out “The Red Envelope” published at: http://www.100wordstory.org/2808/the-red-envelope/

Photo by Flickr User: Jenna-Carver