A Teaser…

US Major League Baseball season has been postponed due to the COVID-19, but tomorrow at the godoggocafe.com, we will step up to batting practice with our first drafts in hand. Join me in the Writer’s Workshop for some friendly encouragement, an editorial challenge, and few words from Stephen King. Even if you don’t have a prompt draft, feel free to hop in to the discussion. Participation is welcome at any time.

Stay healthy everyone!

Tanya

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Writer’s Workshop

Exciting News!
I am going to be hosting a weekly Writer’s Workshop over at the Go Dog Go Café on Saturdays, beginning March 7th. Please join me there for a fun, challenging opportunity to stretch your writing skills in the Café’s warm, friendly environment. I love the group at GDG! I’m thrilled to be joining them, especially in a format that explores the power of language in storytelling.

The Writer’s Workshop will stick with a single prompt response each month, limited to 150-300 words, and involve several editing challenges to the same response designed to sharpen prose. The schedule is as follows:

Week 1: The Fastball
This week, I will introduce some element of good prose and/or share encouraging words from favorite authors. Then, I will pitch the Fastball prompt. Participants can link their responses in the comments section, and I will share them the following week.

Week 2: Batting Practice
This week, I will continue the discussion and share the responses from Week 1’s Fastball.
The challenge to participants this week will be to cut at least 10% of words from their response in week 1, tighten their prose. The 10% cut comes from Stephen King’s On Writing, one of several writing books that you will hear me refer to on occasion. The cut might seem arbitrary, but it forces concision and encourages the use of powerful language.

Week 3: Curveball Challenge
And just when you think you mastered it…
This week, I will throw a curveball, a specific challenge designed to improve prose, some element to be added to the response from the Batting Practice in Week 2. We will use this challenge to explore some of the grammatical tools that can be used to create tension and drama on the sentence level in our writing.
I will also show how I handled the 10% cut from Week 2 (including my word counts) and provide links to the Week 2 responses of participants.

Week 4: Players at the Plate
I will sum up the month’s activities, show how I handled Week 3’s Curveball Challenge, and link to all the other participants’ rewrites. Writing is hard work. You can expect a lot of encouragement and praise from me along the way.

I hope you will pull up a chair in the Go Dog Go Café and join me for the Writer’s Workshop. Visit the Go Dog Go Café to learn more.

Tanya

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Did I Say?

Did I say that I want you?

Alice enters the room and stares at Jimmy, waiting. How can he not remember? He yelled her name three times a few minutes ago. Her knees need replacing, and the hallway—stacked with bins of her half-finished crafts and quilts—requires negotiating. He had sounded afraid, almost panicked. She responded as fast as she could hobble, but, now, he looks up at her, baffled.

Alice’s children had warned her about getting involved with a man that late in life. Her daughter had complained, “He just wants someone to take care of him.” Her son had been less tactful, “He is broke. He needs your money.” What money? Her mortgage had been paid off a few months before her husband died (eleven years ago, but it feels like yesterday), and she is the sole the beneficiary of the modest life insurance policy he left behind. It covers the property tax and puts food on the table, not much more than that. She had heeded their warnings for two years, but Jimmy’s persistent pursuit had proven charming. Or maybe she had just grown weary of driving herself around town and pulling the garbage to the curb once a week.

Jimmy takes the garbage out now, at least if she reminds him; and he is a good driver, provided she pays attention and tells him where to go. When the kids ask her about Jimmy’s driving, she ignores them. (She doesn’t tell them about the woman he nearly hit in the parking lot of the grocery store last month or how she had to grab the steering wheel last week when turned the wrong way down Highway 35.) She hides the car keys from him, so he can only drive when she is with him.

Did I say that I need you?

He had told her that he was going to rake the leaves out back and then watch the golf tournament on tv. His shoes sit on the mat by the back door, clean, empty. He looks at Alice, vacant, the television remote upside down in his hands. The tv is off, the leaves, not raked. Jimmy turns away and stares at the blank tv screen.

Alice wants to yell at him, no, to scream, but Alice loves Jimmy too much to raise her voice. She walks over to him without saying a word and presses the power button on the remote control. He grins as “Wheel of Fortune” lights up the screen. As he fist pumps a correctly guessed letter, he shreds her dreams in a dignified air of victory.

~

©2020 Tanya Cliff

~

This is my response to Stephen’s Level Up Challenge that combines several prompts. Thanks to all these talented humans for the prompts:

https://godoggocafe.com/2020/02/11/level-up-writing-challenge-2-11-moves-to-the-cafe/

https://godoggocafe.com/2020/02/11/tuesday-writing-prompt-challenge-tuesday-february-11-2020/

https://lifeafter50forwomen.com/2020/02/10/what-do-you-see-16-february-10-2020/

https://amanpan.com/2020/02/10/eugis-weekly-challenge-love-february-10-2020/

Should I Warn the Neighbors?

“Should I warn the neighbors?”

We are lighting a smoke bomb today. I’m good at this. If the wind is favorable, the smoke will travel to the top of the old, oak tree that towers over my driveway. No one called the fire department in a panic last time. The man across the street lingered in his own driveway sweeping leaves that didn’t exist just so he could watch, but we avoided the sirens and red and blue lights.

Still, it’s a dilemma. Do we alert people or not?

This time we are shooting a stop-motion video in Barbie-doll scale. The smoke bomb for this shoot is full, human-sized. I could engulf a pink, plastic convertible many times bigger than the one my Ken doll occupies. That is a lot of smoke. It should make for a good sequence of stop-motion pictures, unless I am engulfed in smoke too, in which case I will simply keep snapping and hope for the best.

We are using fake blood for this video as we did for the last, “The Fake Guy”. I know a recipe that looks convincing and has a great splatter property. It is made almost entirely of powdered sugar with just a bit of cocoa and a massive amount of red food coloring. Yes, it’s edible. Yes, it’s gross. What is the amount of blood needed for a Barbie-doll bombing accident? Last time, I mixed a cup. I needed a teaspoon. Those dolls were small. I am good at math, but I tend to overdo things.

Ken’s doll double required some post-apocalyptic mutilation. I didn’t want to damage him too much, so I used a small hammer and tapped. That was pointless. Who knew that plasti-Ken had #absofsteel? I grabbed my industrial goggles – no selfies here – and the big hammer and pounded away with all my might. An exhausted 30 minutes later, and Barbie’s beau has a few gaping wounds.

“Should I warn the neighbors?”

What would you say? “Hey, I’m shooting a stop-motion video with Barbie dolls in my driveway. I’m going to be spilling fake blood and lighting a large smoke bomb. Please don’t panic when you see the mini-mushroom cloud rising above my roof line.”

My children think I’m weird and funny. That’s a good thing. It keeps them interested, laughing and engaged. My antics also teach them to think outside of the proverbial, collective box and take creative risks. We will be all hands on the “deck” of my driveway. At least one of them will be standing by with buckets of water should anything go wrong. What could possibly go wrong?

My only real dilemma:

“Should I warn the neighbors?”

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

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Quotas

The St. Louis

On May 13, 1939, the ocean liner, St. Louis, sailed from Hamburg, Germany, for Havana, Cuba. The Third Reich allowed more than 900 Jews aboard. We are counting now. When souls become quotas, numbers matter. The number was 937, most of them were German Jews. They carried what they thought were valid permits that guaranteed them temporary stay in the United States until proper visas could be granted.

The quotas…
The quotas!
The United States quotas were full.
The souls aboard the St. Louis had no clue.

The German-Austrian immigration quota for the United States allowed only 27,370 souls annually. The wait list for entry stretched for years, pages filled with longing names numbered. When souls become numbers filling quotas, what has humanity left to do but count? So we counted them. Number one got in. Number 27,371 did not. She received a free train ride out of Germany to a place called Auschwitz that reeked of smoke and shit and death, where she was given a new number. She died in a gas chamber and was burned to ash. We are counting now. She took her place among six million dead.

That was Europe, the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The St. Louis safely reached Cuba, where 29 Jews were allowed to disembark. Cuba had immigration quotas too. We are counting now. 29 souls found a refuge. The ship was ordered out of the harbor in Havana. To be sure that number 30 didn’t sneak in, Cuban police boats followed the St. Louis. Several passengers attempted to commit suicide.

For three days, the St. Louis drifted off the coast of Miami, close enough to see that city’s sparkling lights. Pleas went out via cables from the ship. President Franklin D. Roosevelt never responded. The White House never responded. The State Department finally sent a telegram to the ship explaining plainly that the United States had immigration quotas in place and that the souls on board would have to apply for the proper visas and take their turn on the waiting list.

The quotas…
The quotas!
The United States quotas were full.
The souls aboard the St. Louis now understood.

How did we explain to men, women and children that they were nothing more than numbers in a quota-filling game? What words of comfort did we give? Were we present when many of them were torn from their families and piled like cattle into cargo holds after their bitter return to Europe? Did we travel with them sharing their terror as they were sent to concentration camps? Did we hold their trembling hands as their flesh rotted away from starvation? Did we hear their screams? Did we see them die? They each were given a number. We are counting now. They took their place among six million dead.

We laud a statue that reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Were these not tempest-tossed? The lamp went dark, blown out by xenophobic winds.

We have recycled those winds today in the forms of quotas, restrictions, deportations, bans and walls. We fear.

Souls become numbers, leaving humanity with nothing left to do but count.

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in short stories. Bookmark the permalink.

The Writer’s Arrow 2

Little quill on an inkwell rests. The keyboard idles in its frame. Moguls in stretch limos arrive for Coronation Day, mere minions surfing the golden-crested wave of hair soon to fill the ever hollow crown. Silence echoes your nothings. A raccoon digs at the ice on your frozen koi pond with intensity that chips his claws. He needs to drink.

The poor thirst. Their bodies wither.

You sip a cool drink of Evian while you surf the net on your cell phone. You shake your head in dismay at the state of the world and such things.

No one sees you from your leather chair with the oversized ottoman where your feet rest crossed. Your finger slides on the screen of your phone and leaves a greasy streak behind. You wipe it with your sleeve. At least your sleeve has found a purpose. It polishes your screen so you can read the dismal headlines clearly. That picture of starving refugees from Sudan sparkles. You glide your finger across the screen, magically erasing it from view.

Don’t you see the problem?

Your fingers are uncommitted. They simply flip through the pages of life, smudging the screen with the oils of indifference. How can you sit there? Why are you stagnant? Your country is about to crown a Baron King in the oasis of the global desert.

Little quill on an inkwell rests.

Writer from passion rests.

World thirsts.

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

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The High Tower

“Let’s build the tower high again!” the newly crowned king shouted as he rode his tall steed through the kingdom’s cobblestone roads for his coronation parade.

The subjects cheered, “Rebuild the High Tower! Rebuild the High Tower!”

Stupidity echoes loudly off the walls of stopped ears.

The High Tower, symbol of the kingdom’s former glory, spiraled to a height never before achieved in any other nation. Chiseled stone on chiseled stone, long ago carried on the whipped backs of imported slaves, rose into the clouds. Along the lines of human chains each brick was painstakingly laid. The mortar mixed with blood displayed a uniquely rusty hue. The subjects of the kingdom exported the excess stones at great profit. That was long ago.

The High Tower was built among the Emerald Hills, a verdant, rolling paradise selected after the native population had been culled, its survivors driven off to desolate grounds on the outer edge of the world. Cleared of its original inhabitants, the garden variety slaves were free to dig, plant, weed and harvest an abundant and varied crop of produce, watering the ground with their sweat and tears as they toiled. The subjects of the kingdom grew fat with joy and exported the excess produce at great profit. That was long ago.

“The slaves won their freedom. The native inhabitants won the freedom to live on ‘their own lands’.” That’s what the history books read. (In truth, the slaves won the right to no longer be slaves, and the native inhabitants lost everything important to them; but, if you tell this to the now cheering subjects of the kingdom, it will fall on stopped ears, lost in the continuing reverberations of stupidity. I digress.)

The Emerald Hills rotted, first with overuse, then with neglect. Decaying foliage filled all its stagnant pools. The High Tower cracked and crumbled. The stone steps that spiraled to its peak, providing a view all the world’s kingdoms, was no longer safe to climb. The subjects were embarrassed but not enough to become stone workers or gardeners. They coveted their own sweat and blood, and labor in brick or dirt brings a meager pay. This is now.

“Let’s build the tower high again!” the newly crowned king shouted.

The subjects cheered, “Rebuild the High Tower!”

Stupidity echoes loudly.

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Entry posted in short stories & satire. Bookmark the permalink.

 

The Writer’s Arrow

Little quill, on an inkwell, rests. The stationary lives up to its name. Ideas die in wait on a solid oak desk where an empty chair defies its game. Silence echoes your nothings. A woodpecker pecks on your window frame with intensity that rattles his brain. He needs to eat.

The poor starve. Their bellies ache.

“So it is with the world!” you shout into the pillow.

No one hears you from your bed where you scratch notes. The pencil line you draw with those words simply chases its tail around your margins. You break the lead. You crumple the paper and throw it across the room. At least the paper sees some action. It flies through the air and lands just short of your garbage bin. You leave it there with a few of its cousins. You pull up the covers and sleep among your eraser droppings.

Don’t you see the problem?

The pencil is uncommitted.
It changes its mind at every whim.
It cracks under pressure and requires constant sharpening.
Who has time for that?
Why are you in bed?
The alarms are all ringing.

Little quill, on an inkwell, rests.

Writer from passion rests.

World starves.

~

Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

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