January 27 2018

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The subject of the Holocaust has always been of great interest and importance to me — as an educator, as a student of history, as a person with Jewish friends, and as a compassionate human being.

My mother first told me about the Holocaust when I was quite young. It made an indelible impression on me. When I was a little girl I would go to the local Jewish bakery with my mother. The owner’s elderly father sat by the door and greeted people. I saw the number that was tattoed on his arm and I wondered about what he had experienced.

That grim curiosity has stayed with me. It’s rooted partly in my horror that anything so abhorrent could ever happen to an entire race of people. However, it’s more deeply rooted in the knowledge that other humans allowed it to happen. I realized, from an early age, how important it was to educate myself and others about these appalling historic events. When I was a teacher, I considered it a solemn honor to teach my students about the Holocaust. Together we studied and discussed its causes, effects, perpetrators and victims — so that we may never forget.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. It’s a day to reflect on how the rhetoric of hate set off a chain of events that obliterated over 6 million human lives. These human beings were displaced, persecuted, discriminated against and murdered because of their ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, disability, or sexual orientation. I, for one, will never forget.

From YadVashem.org: “The Auschwitz Album (link below) is the only surviving visual evidence of the process leading to the mass murder at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is a unique document and was donated to Yad Vashem by Lilly Jacob-Zelmanovic Meier.

The photos were taken at the end of May or beginning of June 1944, either by Ernst Hofmann or by Bernhard Walter, two SS men whose task was to take ID photos and fingerprints of the inmates (not of the Jews who were sent directly to the gas chambers). The photos show the arrival of Hungarian Jews from Carpatho-Ruthenia. Many of them came from the Berehovo Ghetto, which itself was a collecting point for Jews from several other small towns.”

The Auschwitz Album at Yad Vashem

May 26 2017

More Flash Fiction – Some Six-Word Stories

I follow an account on Twitter that provides daily six-word story prompts. The account name is Writer.ly and its handle is @WriterlyTweets. I like doing these micro flash fiction stories, as some writers might call them, because it’s challenging to come up with a unique, cohesive short-short-short story. I like to force myself to think outside the box and not go for the obvious. For example, one of the recent prompts asked for a story about a swarm. For many people, that immediately conjures an image of an onslaught of bees or other flying, stinging insects. I wanted to write about something unconventional that can swarm, so that’s why I went with the Elvis fans story.

Anyway, from time to time I’ll be curating collections of these stories and posting them here on my blog. I highly recommend giving it a shot yourself. It can be addictive and it’s a fun brain-tease that keeps the creative juices flowing. Here is my most recent collection from the past couple of weeks. The prompt I responded to is underneath each of my stories.

May 22 2017

Hide and Seek – A 79-Word Flash Fiction Story

Hide and Seek

Grace is seven years old. Hide and Seek is her favorite game. Her old Uncle Pete would play it with her almost every day. Then he started asking if she’d touch his secret spot and if he could touch hers. Grace told him, “No,” but Uncle Pete is hard of hearing. Now Grace stays in her hiding place for a long time. Uncle Pete can’t understand why. She still loves to play Hide and Seek, but only by herself.

May 20 2017

My Muse-ic

Ah, music, sweet music. I love it so. It’s part of my life every day, whether I’m driving, writing, creating art, cleaning, cooking, showering. For me, it’s an essential element to my daily routine. The only thing about it that can differ is the type of music I listen to based on the task at hand.

While writing, I only listen to instrumental music. My choices vacillate between classical or jazz, depending on my mood and the type of writing I’m doing. Pre-writing, though, I’ll listen to all kinds of stuff — jazz, classical, hip-hop, 40s Big Band, 70s disco, 80s pop, alternative/grunge, Middle Eastern, blues, lounge, classic rock. My tastes are all over the place. I do go through phases, where I’ll listen to a lot of one genre or time period of music and then switch to listening to a lot of something that is completely different. I get bored easily (<cough> ADD) and my mind needs the variety to stay stimulated.

So, for instance, if I’m feeling like this…

…then I’m in pre-writing mode and my playlist might include:

or perhaps if I want to evoke the bright, sunny days of summer:

However, if I’m feeling like I’m in more of a sing-along frame of mind, then I’ll crank up something like this:

or this:

or this (I LOVE Elle King who, in case you didn’t know, is Rob Schneider‘s daughter. Yes, THAT Rob Schneider.):

If I’m feeling like I need something a bit more intense to pump me up before I start writing, then I play tunes like these:

 

Once I’m sufficiently inspired by whatever pre-writing music I’ve heard throughout the day, then it’s time to get down to the business of writing. I need to be able to focus, so I either opt for complete silence, or I put one of the following on at a very low volume:

 

 

 

Any combination of songs like these can help me to be meditative, yet productive.

A whole ‘nother level to this music thing is the “why” behind a particular song and how that impacts my writing, but that’s a subject for another post. For now I leave you with these melodies.

I’d love to hear from other writers as to whether or not you listen to music while writing and, if so, what kind? Please feel free to share your favorites in the comments or on my Facebook or Twitter pages. Maybe we’ll have some overlap or maybe you’ll introduce me to something new. I’m always on the lookout to expand my music playlists.

May 15 2017

Over Easy – A 79-Word Story

Over Easy

“Where were you last night?” was something Tina gave up asking many breakfasts ago. She heard Rich purposely clattering dishes in the kitchen, as if to say, “I’ve been home all along and have just gotten up.”

He popped his head out the screen door to see her in the Adirondack chair he’d grown to hate.

“Coffee?”

“Nope,” she replied without taking her eyes off her book. She took a sip of her tea as the door slammed closed.

May 8 2017

The Big Log – A 79-Word Story

The Big Log

“The Big Log” by Robert Plant was on the radio. We were parked deep in the woods across from Mr. Conway’s peach orchard. We left the engine running. It was the beginning of December. The Catholic school girl and the future felon in the back seat of a 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass.

I wanted to be on top.

I glimpsed my reflection in the rear window as I straddled him. I knew then I wouldn’t come. He came right away.

May 1 2017

Be Prepared – A 79-word Story

Be Prepared

Last time, he damn near shit his pants. This time he was ready. He gritted his teeth and steeled his will. He knew it would happen again any minute. He stifled a small whimper. Beads of sweat trickled into his eyes. The intensity of anticipation was enough to make his knees buckle.

Finally, the doorbell rang.

He nearly passed out.

Nearly.

Progress.

“Ok, kid. Do it again.”

The Boy Scout walked away, then back up the steps, finger poised.

April 24 2017

Pieced Together – A 79-Word Story

She wore the necklace he’d always told her matched her eyes. She grabbed the photo album that he’d made of her 30th birthday party. He would light up when he saw her. They would sit and talk about years past. She rehearsed what to say. When she arrived the nurse gave her his room number. She took a deep breath and entered.

“Hi, Dad,” she said.

His vacant eyes searched her face. “Who the hell are you?” he bellowed.