Write One Short Story a Week…

“Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”― Ray Bradbury

Sounds easy enough.

Short stories could be something as short as 500 words, so how hard can that really be? Well, I’m here to say that for me a short story a week is far from what I’ve achieved over the years. In fact, I’ve probably finished six short stories EVER.

The writing world is full of “professionals” trying to give inspiration to other writers. They mean well when they talk about their own magic formula, but writing is not a tried-and-true craft. What works for one writer may not work for another. We all live different lives, write different genres, and use different methods to reach success.

When I first started writing I was tempted to follow the formula of other writers, but I have since learned that every writer is unique. Additionally, every phase of the journey is unique. What works early in the writing process may not be the best rule to follow as you grow.

Adaptation is imperative for the writing life. If you find a formula that works for you it may not always be that way. If you are still trying to build a system keep the focus on yourself. Ray Bradbury’s method of a short story a week obviously worked well for him. He was a renowned author and his pieces were influential in so much of the sci-fi genre. He’s not a name soon forgotten. I wrote a post about him a few years ago because I am a fan. (5 Reasons to Read Ray Bradbury) But I am not Ray Bradbury. I cannot beat myself up for struggling to produce a short story per quarter (that’s my current goal.)

Gabriela Pereira, founder of DIY MFA, says it best when she explains that the only rule for writing is that there is no rule.

What about you? Have you ever found yourself tempted to take someone else’s advice?

The Ameri Brit Mom

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The Bone Clocks: A Book Review

Title: The Bone Clocks

Author: David Mitchell

Publisher: Sceptre

Copyright Date: 2014

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One thing I look forward to every summer when we visit England is stopping in Waterstones Bookstore and looking to see what is current in British fiction. Two summers ago, The Bone Clocks, was at the top of every list. I don’t tend to choose science fiction for myself, so I decided to buy this book for my sister with the intent to borrow.

It took two years, but I followed through with that plan.

The Bone Clocks is one of the longest books I have ever read. At 613 pages, this book is nearly twice as long as my usual reads. The text is divided into six chapters. Each chapter is a different POV during a different decade, but all are connected.

From the onset, the reader meets Holly Sykes, a British teenager in 1984. After arguments with her parents about her inappropriate relationship with an older man, Holly decides to runaway. She finds herself on a road to self-discovery during the time on her own. On the night of her escape, Holly encounters a strange elderly woman, meets her partner, and finds out that her younger brother has gone missing.

Hugo Lamb has always had the world handed to him on a silver platter. His parents are some of the wealthiest in England, and it has always been expected that he will carry out their legacy at an ivy league school. Over Christmas break in 1991, Hugo meets Holly while on a ski adventure with friends.

In 2004, Holly’s sister, Sharon, is getting married and her daughter’s father has flown in from Iraq to be a part of the big day. Ed Brubeck has spent much of their daughter, Aioffe’s, life overseas reporting on the wars of the Middle East. Some days Ed dreams of being married to Holly and having the family he always dreamed of, but his addiction to the thrill of battle keeps him from making that commitment.

Since she was a young girl, Holly has suffered from inexplicable dreams. Haunted by the apparent death of her younger brother, she finds herself communicating with the same elderly woman in her dreams. These strange encounters lead to Holly writing an novel, which eventually lands her amongst the greatest modern writers. While at a speaking engagement in Spain in 2014, Holly meets the acclaimed Crispin Hershey and begins to form a relationship with the author.

All of Holly’s strange dreams begin to make sense in 2025 when she is introduced to Horology, a group of souls that have survived death several times over. She meets Marinus who teaches her about the Great War between Anchorites and Horologists, and she becomes a pawn in the fight for Horology.

In 2043, after the collapse of the world-as-we-know-it, Holly finds herself taking in two orphans in her old age. Having survived so much heartache and terror in her own life, Holly tries to teach the orphans the most important things, and she learns to sacrifice herself for those she loves.

From its first page all the way through page 613, I was drawn into Holly’s life and those she meets along the way. Most of the story follows the rules of realistic fiction, but every so often Mitchell lays breadcrumbs for the reader leading up to the climax–a war between two entities beyond this world. In the end, the reader is left thinking about the difference that each decision can make and the chain reactions that they begin.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Prescription for Ratings: The Committee

About six months ago I was asked by a fellow blogger to read and review a short story installment to their anthology based on futuristic society of City-State. The first story was entitled Prescription for Ratings: The Contestants. On January 9th the authors released another segment in this series entitled Prescription for Ratings: The Committee. Below is my review and a link to the Amazon page where you can purchase the story for $.99.

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Prescription for Ratings: The Committee

By: Kaisy Wilkerson-Mills and James Courtney

In this second installment to the Prescription for Ratings anthology, the characters of a publicly televised fight-to-the-death reality show begin to reveal the values of this society. Tyler is the youngest member of the committee behind the calling of the shots. New to his career in the medical field and with his own ethics still intact, Tyler struggles to make some tough decisions pushed on him by other members of this committee. Once again, this was written with much attention to detail. I recommend this short story for all science fiction enthusiasts who enjoy some of the recent best-sellers of the genre.

5 Reasons to Read Ray Bradbury

This week I wrapped up a six week unit on Fahrenheit 451 with my ninth grade students. Leading up to this unit every year I question whether I will be able to capture the interest of my students with the story. This novel is being categorized in the Classic Science Fiction genre these days which tends not to be the kind of stories students pick to read on their own. Not because they don’t enjoy it, but because it seems intimidating to them. Throw the word “Classic” in front of any title and you’ve lost many of my regular education students.

Each year upon the completion of the book, however, I am overwhelmed by the number of students who ask about recommendations of other books by Bradbury. Somewhere in the journey of complicated themes, verbose vocabulary, and metaphorical language the students begin to fall in love.

I do not have these fears prior to reading because I don’t think the students will be able to read his books, but I think I fear that they may shut down before Bradbury has a chance to WOW them with his art. I enjoy reading the many works of Bradbury for several reasons. Below are five reasons to grab a Ray Bradbury novel, screenplay, short story, or essay and allow yourself to fall in love as well.

  1. Ray Bradbury is timeless. Although most of his works were done in the early 1950s-mid 1970s the stories are still relevant to popular culture today. Nuclear war, extraterrestrial life, and time travel are all common ideas in his writing. Today, if you flip through the channels of prime-time television or Netflix you will find an abundance of shows on similar topics. Bradbury nailed popular culture fifty years ago. Throughout the reading of Fahrenheit 451 I had to continually remind the students that the book was written in 1953 long before Bluetooth, automatic cars, and cell phones. It’s actually quite surreal how well Bradbury predicted technologies of the future.
  2. Ray Bradbury is honest. I’ve read countless articles about how Bradbury was inspired to write based on his own fears. Growing up during the height of the Cold War caused Bradbury to voice some of his own fears and observations in the major themes of his books.
  3. Ray Bradbury challenges the norms of society. Along the same lines of honesty, Bradbury looked at society through a critical lens and made predictions and assumptions about the direction it was headed. He exposed the dangers of censorship and blindly following the rules of society. He aimed at provoking individuality and questioning of the world. “She didn’t want to know how a thing was done, but why.” (Fahrenheit 451)
  4. Ray Bradbury causes us to say “what if…?” As I stated above Ray Bradbury was writing during the height of the Cold War. Living in this time period caused many people to ask the question, “what if…?” of the future for mankind. Today we are faced with similar questions for our world. What if nuclear war were to break out? What if there really is water and possibility of life on Mars? What if we don’t stand up for our rights? What if the government has too much control? What if technology takes over our lives? Bradbury challenges his readers to be critical of the world around them and to dare to dream about how to solve the problems that we face in our age.
  5. Ray Bradbury uses beautiful language filled with metaphors and figurative language. One thing I love about re-reading several works of Bradbury’s each year is that every time I read his writing something new stands out to me. Most recently I loved the way that at the end of Fahrenheit 451 that Bradbury compares society to a phoenix, a mythical creature which burns itself up only to rebirth itself from the ashes. As Montag stands outside of Chicago and watches it go up in flames, Granger, his new mentor, explains that the city is like a phoenix. It may be destroyed, but it was their duty to return to the city and help it to rebuild spreading the knowledge from the books that they possessed and had become.

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photo credit: http://www.openculture.com/2014/05/ray-bradbury-on-zen-and-the-art-of-writing-1973.html

A Book Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife

The following is a book review by The Ameri Brit Mom. This post expresses the genuine opinion and experiences of The Ameri Brit Mom and is in no way endorsed by authors, publishers, and outside influences.

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Title: The Time Traveler’s Wife

Author: Audrey Niffenegger

Publisher: A Harvest Book (Harcourt Inc)

Copyright Date: 2003

I know many of you may have seen the movie, The Time Traveler’s Wife, starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. I somehow escaped seeing this movie and reading this book until now. I found a copy of this novel at a book expo and paid two dollars for the experience and joy of reading it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and its unique plot and emotional pull.

Henry DeTamble has an uncontrollable condition that causes him to slip through the cracks of time. One moment Henry may be living his life in the present with his lovely wife, Clare Abshire, and the next he may be visiting a younger version of the girl he loves in a meadow behind her childhood home. Clare first met Henry when she was six and he was thirty-six. He told her of their life together in the future and she began to fall in love with her soul mate. Clare spent a majority of her life waiting on Henry to visit once again. She lived for the moments she had with him where he would tell her about their marriage. As a teenager she rarely dated, because she knew that one day she would meet Henry in his present form and the two would get married.

As adventurous as time travel may seem it didn’t come without some costs. Henry always appeared somewhere and somewhen else with nothing from the present. He would show up in the past or future without clothing or belongings. From an early age he mastered the art of pick pocketing so that he could survive in his journeys beyond the present. Also, as much as he tried he was unable to change events from the past. Certain things would aid Henry in traveling like fear, alcohol, and drugs while other things would help keep him grounded in real time like exercise and relaxation. At times it was a lot of fun for Henry to launch into another era, but there were also times of great pain that he experienced over and over again.

Clare entered their union very aware of Henry’s condition and was as patient as any wife could be with the mysterious comings and goings of her time traveling husband. She spent much of their married life waiting for Henry to return from visits to the past. Visits that she could recall from her own childhood. She would anxiously wait with food and clothes for her lover to return.

I found this book to be extremely emotional. I laughed at the funny scenes, cried during some of the painful and sad events, and cringed when some less than desirable characters took advantage of Clare and Henry. This story was one of unconditional love, heartache, and triumph. It takes a lot to draw me into a love story, but this unique tale of love beyond the limits of time had me engaged from page one. I will admit that when reading this book it is imperative to follow the timelines at the beginning of each chapter. It even becomes necessary at times to flip back and reread details from past events. But, if you are as addicted to this story as I was this makes the book even more engaging and profound.

So what’s next for me? Well, the movie of course. I’m looking to track down a copy of this movie and see if it measures up to this well-written and original novel.

Check back next week for a review of the new Harper Lee novel, Go Set a Watchman.