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Archive for March, 2011

three little pigs

The Irvine Valley Writers’ Group (IVWG), the writing group I belong to, periodically host internal “assignments”, just prompts to get the creative juices flowing.

Our assignment for February was a re-write of the classic children’s tale The Three Little Pigs. I found it difficult to get a handle on this one. I just couldn’t come up with anything I thought was fun or creative enough to present to the rest of the group.

I knew I wanted to write something which was a parody of the current economic times, turning the big bad wolf into the big bad credit crunch. I knew I wanted to turn the pigs in to people.

So, in the spirit of full disclosure (also, it will be published on the IVWG website before too long) I hereby present my re-write of The Three Little Pigs. It was by no means the best or most creative example within the group, in fact I’d say it was near the bottom, but it was interesting and fun, either way.

Oh, and by way of explanation, I’ve chosen the format of a morning radio show with the DJ named Chaz interviewing a man named John Porcus (see what I did there?). So, here you go:

Sure, we’ve all heard about the dire economic state of the world – The Big Bad Credit Crunch, as it were. While everyone undoubtedly knows about the housing crisis, we here at KCRW wanted to know more; we wanted to explore the personal side of The Big Bad. So a few weeks ago we went out to find someone who could tell us their story. Enter my next guest, Mr. John Porcus, the youngest of three brothers who have all been affected by the fall of the housing market. I’m happy to say that John has agreed to come on the air to tell his story; good morning John.

-Morning, Chaz, thanks for having me.

-Not at all, not at all. Now, in your e-mail you said it’s not only yourself but also your whole family who were affected.

-That’s right, Chaz.

-Sounds pretty awful, why don’t you tell us what happened…

-Well, I imagine it’s all just been a result of some rather bad timing. About four years ago our mother met an married an Australian man and they emigrated together to Australia, following the sun, you see, which meant that my brothers and I no longer had a place to stay.

-Tricky situation.

-It wasn’t the best, no. So we all went out and bought our own homes. It seemed perfect – we had a few months of freedom before it all came crashing down… We’d all done it differently, you see. My oldest brother, Jack, is in banking. With a secure job in a major bank he stretched himself a bit beyond his means, bought a lovely, grand stone house in the country. Then there was Joe who is a structural engineer and at the time was working for a fast-growing construction company with building sites all over the place. He moved in with his girlfriend but they bought a brand new house off-plan, one of those wood frame house, in one of his company’s developments which was scheduled for completion near the end of the summer. I was a bit more cautious. I’m a teacher, you see, on a much smaller salary than my brothers.

-So, John, what did you do?

-I convinced our Mother to keep the family home and I took over the payments on the mortgage.

-Sly.

-Yes, well, it’s a nice house. A cottage, very old – been in the family for generations. Thatched roof…

-Right, and the monthly payments…

-Small. Very small.

-Sly! So now you and your brothers are all living in your new homes, enjoying the peace and quiet. Then what.

-Well, then everything went to heck, Chaz. Jack lost his job at the bank within weeks at the beginning of the economic crisis. On top of that, all of his investments were now worth very little and his glorious stone villa lost a lot of value. Was worth less than what he paid for it, anyway. Which would have been tolerable had he been able to continue payments, but, of course, being unemployed, he couldn’t.

-So he lost his house.

-So he lost his house.

-What about Joe?

-Well, the company Joe was working for shut down and he was made redundant. His house never got built past the wood frame. He got some money back from what he paid, but not enough, really. Oh, and his girlfriend dumped him.

-Jobless and homeless. Like Jack.

-That’s right, Chaz.

-Terrible. What about you?

-Well, I’m fine. I was the lucky one. It’s strange, really. Four or five years ago my family were all on my back to get a better qualification and a better paying job with more security. *chuckle* If only they’d known…

-Does your story have a happy ending, then?

-Well, all of our stories do, really. I mean, the housing crash put a dent in all of our plans. Jack lost his stone mansion. Joe lost his brand new wooden house. Thankfully, though, I’ve still got the family home – our lovely thatched cottage that my great-great-great-great grandfather built with his own hands. We’re all living together again, of course, because they have nowhere else to go, but it’s working out OK for now.

-For now.

-That’s right. For now.

-What a great story. Thanks so much for sharing, John. I wish you and your brothers all the best.

-Thanks for having me Chaz, it’s been fun.

-So, listeners, what do you think about John’s story? What about yours? Did the Big Bad Credit Crunch cause you as much grief as the Porcus family? Get in touch via e-mail or text message. Or you can visit the website where you can leave feedback on today’s story. And now back to the music

When I get the others’ pieces published on the IVWG website I will link them. They are all excellent. One in particular will have you laughing so hard you will struggle to get oxygen to your brain. I am quite blessed to have found such an excellent, supportive group of people who share a passion for writing.

Our next assignment was actually one that I thought of. I printed off some famous first lines from classic novels and everyone had to choose a line at random. The task is to use that first line as your own first line and create a story from that.

The catch? Our word limit is 200 words!! Of course, the 200 word limit does not count the famous first line, otherwise some would only have a few words left!

Fancy having a go? Choose a number between 1 and 100, go to This Website and find the corresponding famous first line. Then think of an additional 200 words that tells a story following on from that first line. If you are familiar with the novel from which the line comes try to go in a different direction than the plot of that novel.

My line?

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

I haven’t written my 200 words yet, but as soon as I do, you’ll know about it!

xo
A

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Sandie at A Bloggable Life has come up trumps again with another unusual writing prompt!

Just like the last time, Sandie posted a picture on the site and urged readers to use it as inspiration for an original piece of writing. This time there was no stream of consciousness suggestion, so I went my own way with it.

Here is the picture:

photo credit - Sandie @ A Bloggable Life

Here is the description of the photograph from A Bloggable Life:

Last summer, my family and I were out for a leisurely weekend drive, exploring some of the small towns that surround Kansas City. After a particularly flat and barren stretch, I noticed my hubby and kids had fallen asleep in the car, leaving me to experience portions of northwest Missouri on my own.

An hour later I happened upon this strange sight, stuck smack in the middle of a field: a lone tree, perched curiously upon a tall mound of soil. There was nothing else around for miles. Striking me as odd, I pulled the car over and snapped this photo from the side of the road. To this day, I wonder why that tree was left like that.

Here is my (written on lunch break at work, so forgive the roughness) story:

The old man trudges resolutely, bent low against the violent storm. He is dressed in ill-fitting clothes which blow behind him and snap like a banner in the wind. His sparse hair is filthy, framing his head like a halo in the dim light. One gnarled hand clasps an old rag against his withered face – his only capitulation to the invasive dust although it does not stop his coughing. His other hand clings desperately to the frayed guide rope which struggles against his weak fingers.

It is not a great distance but his strength is waning and it takes him the better part of an hour to navigate the path from his house to the barn. From where the rope is anchored he turns right and walks three shaky paces, hand held out until he feels the rough tickle of branches against his palm. In the storm he dare not open his eyes.

He tucks the cloth away to free both hands and then creeps blindly forward until his toes bump against the circle of fence posts– a protection he has built around the base of the tree. He kneels as if at an altar, feeling down towards where the posts are buried in the earth. It is as he thought it would be; the wind has worked its black magic; only a few of the posts remain buried.

He gropes around beside him until he grips the handle of the hammer. He stands, positioning himself for the next task. He takes very careful aim, raises the hammer and brings it down against the top of one post then judges its depth by its neighbour. The posts slide roughly into the dry earth. When he has finished the circle he lays the hammer down and once more covers his face with the cloth from his pocket.

As he struggles his way back to the house he considers again the futile nature of his actions. He knows that the tree is dead; there has been no rain for too long. The earth is disappearing beneath him and he knows that the wooden enclosure he has built does nothing but prevent the wind from carrying the tree away, roots and all, to blow across the countryside.

He also knows that it was her tree and that he cannot bear to lose it like he lost her.

The old man trudges resolutely, bent low against the violent storm.

****

His sons arrive after the rains come, but they are too late; the old man has died. The house and the barn have collapsed yet their foundations rise above the ground like grim monuments.

They are amazed at how much of the earth has vanished, the destruction is devastating. Still, there is life on the old farm; their mother’s apple tree, brought with them from back East so many years ago, has survived the drought and the dust both, though they cannot imagine how.

The men stand for a long while staring at the tree, its fresh green shoots defiant in the barren landscape. They do not need to dig far to free the roots from the ground. They work silently as the wrap the roots in burlap and load the tree into the back of their truck.

With one last look at the ruination and a quiet acknowledgement of grief they get into their truck and drive home to Missouri.

So, yeah, I went with the Dust Bowl. I like the idea that the tree is a relic of bad times past which was saved as a reminder of good times. I had to relocate the tree to an area devastated by the dust bowl, but solved that at the end by having family members moving the tree to its current location.

I had a lot of fun writing this piece, picturing the sad old man walking back and forth every day to protect the tree, an homage to his late wife. I just like the image, I suppose.

What about you? What do you think that tree in the picture is doing stranded on top of that impossibly tall stack of soil? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Thanks again to Sandie. I love her blog and you all should, too. (That’s an order!)

xo
A

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using the unusual…

A blog that I follow regularily may have inadvertantly helped to solve my writer’s block. Thank you Sandie (A Bloggable Life)!!

I subscribe to this blog and therefore get automatic updates every time she posts anything. Which is a good thing, because I’d hate to think I’ve missed something.
Anyway, during my lunch break at work today I checked her website for updates and lo and behold, I read the about the following: Using The Unusual, Prompt 1, in which Sandie encourages fellow bloggers to take an image or event from their every day lives, that they would perhaps have totally ignored otherwise, and use them as prompts for writing exercises. She’s focusing at the moment on Stream of Consciousness writing, which is always fun.

This week she has posted this photo on her site to use as a prompt:

photo credit - Sandie @ A Bloggable Life

 You can see her creative stream of consciousness piece on her website HERE, and I encourage you to go visit because you’ll be there for a few hours enjoying all her blog has to offer…

Here is what I came up with:

There’s a Tide detergent box up in that three. Why? How did it get there? Do you think maybe someone threw it up there as a laugh? Maybe they were playing a game with a friend – what’s the name of that game where you try to stop the other person getting the ball… Keep away! That’s it – do you think maybe they were playing keep away with the Tide Box and tossed it up into the tree as a joke? Maybe their friend is super eco-conscious and they were teasing them about littering when, accidently, they littered by throwing the box up too high and out of their reach? Maybe no one put it into the tree on purpose. Maybe they left it in the parking lot and a strong wind came around and caught the edge of the box launching it into the tree. Either way the box was left alone and in the parking lot…

I bet its enjoying the view from way up there, though. Lording it over all the other detergent boxes…look how high up I am! It’s funny to think of the world through they “eyes” of an inanimate object, it is weird the ideas you can come up with when you don’t need to follow the rules. For instance I have an old coffee mug beside my computer at work that holds my pens and pencils. It has sat there in the same spot since my first day at this desk. I wonder what the world looks like from its viewpoint:

She’s back again. Hello! Why doesn’t she ever say hello back to me? It’s been like a year and a half since we met and she still ignores me. Never mind. Oh! She’s opening the blinds, thank goodness. I hate it when they’re closed; I have nothing interesting to look at then… It’s raining outside again. Again. Still, the sun is trying to come through, you can tell because there are little purple flowers out there pushing their way through the… oh, she’s sat down now and I can’t see the window any more. She doesn’t look like she’s very awake this morning. She does look busy, though. There’s the computer getting switched on and yes, there it is, the day planner. Now she’ll search the desk around me in vain for a writing utensil and come to me after finding none. I have all of your pens!!! I always have all of your pens!! Why do you look around the desk first when you know I always have all of your pens!! Hello? Hello!!!

See? It can be funny to see the world from a different perspective. I like that. Maybe others would find it foolish to waste time writing about what the world looks like from the point of view of a pencil jar, but I disagree. If we all started trying to see the world from different points of view then maybe it would be a better place? But I digress…

So that’s my contribution to Sandie’s prompt exercise this week. A fun photo that is sure to spawn many fascinating stream of consciousness pieces.

Thanks for your help, even though you didn’t know you were helping!

My lunch break is over which means I need to get back to work. Now, if I could only find a pen…

xo
A

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