Tag Archives: NH Stories

“The Fenced Dog”

In this one-page story, I practice writing a character I am using in one of my NH Stories (which I am currently in the process of revising) called “Class Snake.” It’s fun to put him in a different situation and see how he acts.

As Edwin rounded the corner, taking a shortcut from Mr. Mike’s convenience store with a bag of fireballs in his hand and his lips stained red, a brown dog with a white muzzle and grey eyes shot out from under a porch and charged at him, snapping and barking. Edwin fell backwards, his fireballs rolling into the street. The property was lined with a chain link fence, high enough to keep the dog in, but the dog snarled and bared its worn-down and broken teeth.

Edwin had never owned a dog. When he’d visit his friend Henry, his mother wouldn’t even let him enter the house until their rottweiler, Johnny Rotten, was tied in back. He picked himself up, brushed himself off, and started recollecting all of the spilled fireballs.

“Stupid dog!” he shouted. “Bad dog!”

The dog kept on barking. Up close, despite its terrible shouts, Edwin could see how feeble and old the dog was. In the small yard, he could see the worn down track the dog had dug into the grass from years of running up and down the length of the fence.

Edwin kicked the fence, strengthening his nerve.

“Shut up!” he shouted.

The dog barked louder.

“Shut up!” he shouted again, this time kicking the fence back into the face of the dog.

The dog was stunned only for a moment, then resumed its noisy assault.

Edwin bent low and gathered a handful of gravel and tiny stones into his fist. “Shut up,” he said, this time calmly, and waited to see if the dog would obey. The dog continued to bark and bare its yellowed teeth and black gums.

Finally, Edwin whipped the dirt and gravel grape shot at the old, blind mutt, sending it yelping back under the lean-to by the porch. The dog was silent. Edwin popped a fresh fireball into his mouth and walked slowly down the fence, smirking at the huddled and hiding hound.

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Fresh Eyes

When we think of applying fresh eyes to something, it often means giving a piece space and then coming back to it. To revise, or see again. But sometimes, it is the fresh eyes of others that make the most difference.

Revision is no fun. Some people think that’s true. I know, for me, revision is where I do most of my work. My first drafts are rough. I use them to simply push a story out (the skeleton), but my characterizations, my themes, my images (the meat), they all come out in the revisions. For example, for my MFA apps this year, I must have revised my stories (“No Smoking” and “Boy in the Mountain”) over ten times each. So, yeah, some people don’t like the revision process, but for me, if I relied on my first, or even early, drafts, it’d be rough.

OK. So? Well, last year, I sent out a story for MFA apps called “Many Generations Dead.” You can read it on this site. It’s one from my NH Stories collection. So, I hadn’t read it for some time, and to be honest, I was rather displeased with it. But I had a chance to meet with a couple of other writers, people who had not seen my work before, and read this story aloud.

The response was outstanding. They spent the next hour asking me and each other questions about my story, but also about their own lives. It’s wonderful to have an emotional impact where the reader (or listener in this case) can compare the protagonist’s experience to his own life. I walked away from that reading with a renewed love for my story.

And what am I supposed to do with this? Well, it’s simple, really. I love working in writing groups, and beyond that, I have a number of friends that I use as readers (you know who you are), but I’d forgotten how great it is to expose my work to a new audience. It’s easy to keep going back to the same critical readers, but the reality is, we need to be putting our work in front of new eyes. Dedicated readers are wonderful, but they also know all of your tricks and have read so much of what you have done.

Point is, if you hear about a writing group that meets once a month at a cafe or a local library, try it out. Try your stories out on some new readers. I think you’ll find a new appreciation for your own work.

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Writing through rejection

I worked very hard to get my MFA applications set before I sent them out, but I was still rejected by every school I sent them to (technically I am still waiting to hear officially from UNC Greensboro, but it’s highly unlikely at this point).

It has been tough to get myself writing. I’ve been making excuses about school and work and being busy, but in reality, the real struggle has been how I see myself as a writer. It’s tough to be rejected so many times and then feel like I can still write. The whole process made me question my abilities … my path.

I realize a lot of people go through this. Doesn’t make it easier though. Still, I need to fight through this. I need to have a goal, and I need to attack it.

This morning, I tried to go back to my old writing routine, and it worked. I was able to finish a decent draft of a story. I don’t feel great about it. I’m a little rusty from having not written much in the past few months, so my sentences are clunky, and the dialog is a little weak. But I got something. That’s what counts.

I need to find a way to get over this so I can do this every day. Maybe it’s just an issue of doing it. I’m not sure. But though I’ve accomplished something today, and that feels good, it doesn’t take away my self-doubt.

It’s hard to see my peers move on. I’m happy for them. Still, I wish that was me. Now, I don’t know what I’ll do. I may do an MA in Technical Writing at EMU. This is not my first love, and neither is it what I had wanted to do, but it is a highly marketable degree. So, I might do it and hold off on the MFA for a couple of years. I’m waiting to find out whether or not I can get funding for this MA, because that will determine whether I do it.

I’m graduating next week. I thought it would feel better than this, but it doesn’t. It feels hollow. It doesn’t feel like an accomplishment … at least, not yet.

So, I need to accomplish something. I need to finish a book of short stories. That’s what I need to do.

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Gabriel Garcia-Marquez’s “There are no thieves in this town”

I have a great book of collected works by the author Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. He has become one of my favorite authors. It is his work that inspired me to work on my current NH Stories project.

I just read this great story called “There are no thieves in this town.” The title says it all. It talks about mistrust of strangers, of others. In the story, a black man gets blamed and punished (much harder than a native would be punished) for a crime that was committed by a townsperson.

It’s easy to point the finger at others. I see this as a religious person who hears way too often that it’s the fault of some person or group that the world is as it is. I see this as someone who (an independent) pays attention to politics, and I see how much people find identity in party, and these parties spend their days faulting the other side.

The main character in Marquez’s story is a handsome man who is short on brains and mercy. He’s violent and drunk all of the time, yet it’s hard to blame him. He lives in poverty, as does most of the town, and covets things for himself (and for his pregnant wife as an afterthought).

Marquez creates a story where the main character is also the villain that the reader hates. This story (outside of the strange cat character that only shows up when the main character is breaking and entering … guilt?) is not Magical Realism. An interesting break from most of his works.

Though the cat … I need to think about the cat. What’s up with the cat?

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