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Grades are in

Grades Terms 1-3

Dig Deep

There are five days left of this term. Just five! It’s time now to dig deep and finish up my work for these two classes. In the next five days, I have to:

– Write my final explication initial post and respond to two others (Medieval Lit).

– Finish writing my term paper for Medieval Lit.

– Write my final discussion posts for Studies in Place and Setting.

– Revise two stories for Studies in Place and Setting.

Once that work is complete, I will be halfway through my MA program, which feels a bit surreal. I’ve forgotten what it feels like not to have homework, but while I am enjoying my studies, I also look forward to the absence of homework in my weekly schedule. I do, technically, have a week off between terms but I will likely start some homework for my next classes next week.

Ritual Shave

Today’s writing exercise also comes from my school work. I had to write a 100-word story this week (exactly 100 words), incorporating the following words:

  • orange
  • beard
  • empty
  • dreamt
  • suit

At least one of these words had to be symbolic. There were some other stipulations as well, but this is the basic gist of the exercise. Here was my result:

The prior recited the benedicto ad barbum, crossed himself, adding, “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.” 

“Amen.” Denis clutched the Abbey psalter to his heart. The wet blade scraped along his jaw as the sun dipped below the orange-banded horizon. “I feel the Lord’s heavenly light. Like St. Peter, I commend myself into His service, by my vows.” He gathered the remnants of his shorn beard and placed them reverently in an empty box upon the altar.

“Piety does suit you, Brother Denis.”

“Thank you, Prior Bouchard. Long have I dreamt of serving God here in this abbey.”

Exercises like this are great because not only do they force one to work with an economy of words, but because the 100-word story had to be considered a complete story (in other words it cannot be simply an excerpt that relies on more to make it conclusive), it can easily be built out into a larger story without needing to be. This was a fun exercise and one I would happily do again with different words or even the same words.

Flash Fiction: Parking

Today’s prompt comes from 642 Things to Write About. The prompt reads:

You have just swallowed your pride and done something you didn’t want to do. Your friend wants to know why. The two of you are driving around an almost-full parking garage looking for a space for the friend’s oversize pickup. Write the scene.

Here’s the scene I wrote:

“How about right there?” Deb pointed ahead.

I pushed my foot down onto the accelerator. The engine rumbled and the truck shot forward, throwing us both against the back of the cracked, vinyl bench seat. A motorcycle rested diagonally across the space; I stopped short, wincing at the squeal of rubber on concrete.

“Whoa, easy,” she exclaimed, gripping the door handle, bracing herself.

“Sorry, I didn’t see the bike.” I took a deep breath and glanced at myself in the rearview mirror. I couldn’t tell if the sweat on my brow was from the heat or narrowly avoiding a collision. I peeled my sunglasses off, rubbing my eye with the heel of my palm.  “Why do you still have this old truck anyway? It’s such a pain to park.” I pulled away from the motorcycle and eased the lumbering truck down the aisle. Power steering was a dream of the future when Deb’s truck was rolling off the line–I had to turn the wheel over and over before the tires responded so that we could try the next aisle. “This place is packed today. Why are we even here?”

“It’s supposed to be the best movie of the summer, and we already have tickets.” She took them down from the visor and scraped them together, like she was honing the perforated edges.

“Yeah…maybe we should have come earlier. Or you should have driven your own truck.”

“I like when you drive. I get to look around that way. And ask you annoying questions.”

Deb and I used to climb up the railroad trestles just outside our hometown to feel the wooden frame shake and shudder as a train approached. That way, we could hear it coming before we even heard the train. The silence in the cab of her truck now reminded me of those summer afternoons, filled only by the rattling air vents. “What?”

“Why’d you do it?”

“Do what?” Another aisle with nowhere to park, and only three more to go before we’d have to try to find a spot on the other side of the street.

“Why did you apologize to your mom before we left?”

I lifted one hand off of the wheel to point at an empty space. “Think we can fit in there?”

“No way. Keep driving and answer my question. You weren’t in the wrong. You never are with her–you do everything she asks you to do. And don’t tell me I don’t get it, that it’s a family thing, because I’ve known you since we were four.”

“Honestly? It’s just not worth it arguing with her anymore. In her eyes, I’m always in the wrong and I’m tired of fighting with her. You know, she hasn’t yelled at me once since I apologized?”

Deb leaned forward to pull her hair back into a ponytail. It was just long enough to be pulled back so it made her head look too big. I didn’t say anything; it was too hot out for that. “Well,” she assessed, “that’s good at least. But you’re enabling her. There’s one.”

We were in the last aisle. I wedged the truck into the empty space, but Deb had to slide out of the driver’s side because there wouldn’t have been room to open the doors if I centered it. The parking garage smelled of gasoline and burnt rubber. I pushed the heavy door shut with a deep clunk and dropped the keys into my canvas tote.

The prompt said nothing about this being an old truck, but I once drove an friend’s old truck because she’d broken her wrist or hand–I can’t remember–and I was the only other one in the car with a driver’s license. I hated the steering and the air conditioner was broken. I’m sure I pulled from that memory when writing this scene.

I welcome your thoughts.

Punctuation: Is variety the spice of life?

One of the groups in which I participate on Facebook is having a discussion about punctuation. The discussion began when someone asked if it was okay to use two semi-colons in one sentence. Our general consensus was that the sentence might be better written so that this isn’t necessary. Not that it’s technically an illegal grammar move, but it could be considered a faux pas.

One individual commented to say that she only uses periods and just makes all of her sentences short, because she said this works best for prose. My response was that this has never worked for me because I like to have sentence variation. I politely asked her for a sample of her writing–out of curiosity. She hasn’t answered yet (to her credit I only asked about a minute ago) but it got me thinking…when it comes to prose (fiction especially), do you, as a reader, prefer shorter, simpler sentences, or do you like sentence variation, with some simple, some compound, some complex, etc…