So Long Sixteen, So Long Seventeen
all written in 2017
all written for the Palmwoods Writing Group
The Palmwoods Writing Group meets at 10am on the second and fourth Friday of each month. Members critique each other’s stories that have been emailed to each other in the group prior to the meeting. We alternate between writing to an open theme (we call this a freebie) and writing to some prompt, theme or other stipulation.
What follows is an outline of my participation in the group for the year 2017.
Jan 27th, 2017
Prompt: Write a story which includes all of the song titles from an album of your choice.
My story: So Long, Sixteen
I decided to use the song titles from Leonard Cohen’s last studio album, You Want It Darker. It is a great album, yes dark, and prophetic. Leonard died three weeks after it’s release. I have used the song titles in the same order in which they appear on the album.
Feb 10th, 2017
My Story: The ‘D’ Word
After an experience with a close family member being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016, I wrote “The ‘D’ Word” to try to make some sense of it all. It don’t have any answers, only a desire to remain fit and healthy in every aspect until the very day my number is up.
The story was published by Meniscus Literary Journal in October 2017.
Feb 24th, 2017
Prompt: Take the first line from page 100 of any book and use that to start your story.
To start my story, I used the line on the top of the 100th page of my paperback copy of Annie Proulx’s “Shipping News”. The line is “Eventually, I puzzled out something that I could build that would…”
Annie Proulx published her first book of fiction, a collection of short stories, at the age of 53 – how encouraging!
Mar 10th, 2017
Story: Wake Up and Smell the Humans
The issue of over population has been on my mind for many years. It is generally a taboo subject. Those who dare raise it are judged as racist and quickly reminded about China’s one child policy. The good thing about writing fiction is you can pretty much get away with writing about any subject you damn well please.
This story is soon to be published by The Fiction Pool.
Mar 24th, 2017
Prompt: Use the lyrics to the song “Did You Ever” (written by Bobby Braddock and most famously performed by Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood) to guide your story.
Story: It Happens All the Time
Use of song lyrics in a work of fiction, even just one line, can be a big issue for writers. I understand the need for artists of all persuasions to be paid for what they do. Bobby, if this story ever makes any coin, I’ll send you a fair portion.
Apr 14th, 2017
Story: Rocket Science
Every once and a while, I write in female first person. Is that gender appropriation? I’ll leave that debate for others.
Rocket Science is my take on the possible leap of humankind from off of planet Earth. For many people this endeavour confirms a common belief that humans are flawed and most of what we do is unnatural. I don’t hold that belief. If a plant seed, for example, somehow found its way from Earth to Mars and started a colony in the red dirt over there, would we call that unnatural?
The story was published by Bull and Cross.
Apr 28th, 2017
Prompt: ‘fan’ and ‘bun’
Story: Message in the Bottles
Sometimes in the Palmwoods Writing Group we brainstorm ideas for the next themed contribution. We were being silly one meeting and the words ‘fan’ and ‘bun’ came up. The word ‘bun’ materialised as it was Easter time, the word ‘fan’? – well that’s anyone’s guess.
This story was shortlisted in the Literary Nillumbik’s Alan Marshall Short Story Award 2018.
May 12th, 2017
Story: Well Heeled, Well Travelled
Sometimes in the early morning, I write before I have spoken to anyone or glimpsed any news on the TV or internet. Often, this approach yields not only good results but also stories that seem to effortlessly spew out from some mysterious part of my subconscious brain. If I was superstitious I might even say these stories are out there in the universal ether and that I am simply a medium that channels them onto paper. But that is bullshit.
This story did flow easily and without deliberate thought, but I do have a strong aversion to snobs who look down upon people who have not travelled extensively overseas. It’s as though if you haven’t been to Europe you have no understanding of western culture or history. When confronted with this brand of elitism I think about the billions of people on planet Earth that will never have the privilege of leaving their homelands to explore other nations and cultures. How deluded it is to think that these people are somehow ignorant or less worthy.
May 26th, 2017
Prompt: write a birthday story
Story: Cutting Cake
While on holiday in Bali in 2017 I picked up a copy of Haruki Murakami’s first novel, “Hear the Wind Sing” and absolutely loved it. I also was impressed by his editing of, and contribution to, a collection of short stories about birthdays. So impressed that I suggested to the writing group that ‘birthday’ be a theme for this meeting in May.
Jun 23rd, 2017
Prompt: ‘rubbed’ and an 800 word limit
Story: Every Story must have a Beginning, Middle and End
Each person in the writing group interpreted the word ‘rubbed’ differently.
Julie, the resident logophile, used every definition she could find for the word ‘rubbed’.
Pauline wrote a story about a man who ‘rubbed’ a pile of lamps to find a genie.
Ruth’s story was like an old B&W Western movie, where a card cheat gets ‘rubbed’ out.
Mary 1 created a young child with magical powers who ‘rubbed’ out her cranky school teacher with an eraser.
Mary 2 evoked memories of yesteryear with a tale that involved butter being ‘rubbed’ into flour.
And me, as previously mentioned I went to Bali in 2017 and of course got ‘rubbed’ many times.
The story I wrote was published in The Dirty Pool.
Jul 28th, 2017
Prompt: photo lucky dip
Story: Plaza Life
For this meeting we had to write a story inspired by a photo that we had each drawn out of a lucky dip. After the writing group read my story Plaza Life, which was in response to a photo of Stortorget Plaza in Sweden, I posted it on my website. A friend of mine supplied the picture for the website as the one I had picked out of the lucky dip was a cutting from a travel brochure.
It was pointed out to me that this particular story could possibly draw hate mail. It didn’t, which is an indication of the page’s visitor numbers rather than the inculpate content.
Aug 11th, 2017
Story: Somewhere Down by the Coast
Someone pointed out to me that I have never written a love story. I tried to argue that all my stories are love stories but was unconvincing, even to myself. So I wrote one and submitted it as a freebie to the writers group.
Aug 25th, 2017
Prompt: ‘the box’
Story: Out of the Box
After writing a love story I realised that I have never written a ghost story, and isn’t being part of a writing group sometimes about writing out of your comfort zone?
Also, is it acceptable to have humour in a ghost story? Of course it is.
Sep 8th, 2017
My story: The Joys of Country Life
Being a white heterosexual male in 2017 was a lot of fun. No one wants to hear your opinion because so many white heterosexual males that have come before you have been total arseholes, if not certifiable psychopaths. Fair enough. Being ignored can be a great boon to writers. We get left alone and ignored so that we can improve our work. We can even step into the shoes of different genders, sexualities and races, even when some people deem that type of appropriation to be as inappropriate as being a white heterosexual male. Frankly, I don’t give a damn.
Sep 22nd, 2017
Prompt: ‘the glass half…’
My story: Homo correctus
Do you remember all the lies told by the Turnbull government in 2017? One of them was about how allowing the public to vote upon marriage equality was such a progressive and desirable way to run a democracy. Excuse me while I either vomit or punch the refrigerator.
It would be fair to hypothesise that some of the media hype surrounding the same sex marriage vote managed to seep into my writing brain and then out onto the keyboard at my desk.
Oct 13th, 2017
My story: Correspondence Dated 13th October, 2017
I mostly hate competition yet frequently enter short story competitions and submit work to literary magazines and journals. What’s worse than a proforma rejection email is a total lack of response, even after parting with an entry fee or a reading fee. Black holes are real.
I got some of this frustration off my chest with this month’s writing group freebie.
Oct 27th, 2017
Prompt: ‘cross that bridge’
My Story: All That Harbourside Jazz
Astute observers may note that I submitted this story to my writing group in October, the very same month Harvey Weinstein was outed for sexual misconduct. The same month the Me Too hashtag movement began. I checked my files and note that the first draft of this story was created in August.
The main character in this story (possibly misogynistic, definitely sexually promiscuous and unashamedly selfish) is not me, and not who I wish to be. This is fiction, OK?
Nov 10th, 2017
My Story: My Friend the Essay
I have a casual job that involves giving feedback on essays. This story served as both my freebie for the writing group and an opportunity to exorcise some work related jargon. And again, I touch upon content (sexual misconduct by males in positions of power) that dominated the airwaves and the information superhighway. Good, it all needs to be outed.
Nov 24th, 2017
Prompt: write a story where the setting is unnamed but is described in enough detail as to be obvious to the reader
My story: Times and Places
Once upon a time I internet dated. Once upon a time I worked in the suburb in which this story is set. Can you work out where it is?
Dec 1st, 2017
Prompt: 15 minutes free writing at the meeting using the prompt ‘secrets on the lake’
My Story: It’s All Arranged
For our last meeting of the year, just before our Christmas party, we sat down and wrote with pen on paper for 15 minutes exactly. The prompt, ‘secrets on the lake’, is the name of the restaurant where we went to lunch that day.
I hadn’t given the prompt much thought prior to the meeting, but I did want to make some reference to the fact that this lake was formed by a dam that flooded and buried forever an important indigenous cultural site. And that really shits me off.
December 2nd, 2017
The day after the last meeting/Christmas party of the Palmwoods Writing Group, I moved from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland to the Central Coast in NSW. Still Somewhere Down by the Coast.
So Long, Seventeen