Short Story: The Storyteller

Glenda listened as her great-granddaughter Emily spoke excitedly about her latest accomplishment, securing the movie rights to a book she never heard of before. That was her thing, the reason she woke up in the morning, the reason she went to work as a lawyer for a movie studio. She loved the thrill of competition, thrived in it, excelled in an industry more concerned for making money than for its workers. She reveled in making obscure writers famous, at having that immediate financial impact to make their lives that much better.

Glenda’s granddaughter rolled her eyes, and Glenda struggled not to do the same. At almost a hundred years old, she had lived a long life, though not necessarily a fulfilling one. There wasn’t anything she felt particularly excited about. She did what needed to be done, what she had to do in order to keep her family alive. There was no joy in it, no reward other than a meager meal most nights, and sometimes having to go without in order to feed her children.

She felt a twinge of jealousy whenever her great-granddaughter came over to visit, regaling her with tales of the celebrities she met, the places she visited, the life she led. It wasn’t for the fact that she rubbed elbows with the rich and famous that Glenda felt jealous. No, she envied that feeling of purpose and excitement, the feeling most people never felt in their entire lives. She envied her great-granddaughter, though she didn’t want to dampen that excitement by being bitter like her granddaughter, Emily’s mother was.

On that particular trip, Emily invited her to go to the bookstore with her. “I hear there’s another book people are buzzing about,” Emily confided in Glenda. “I need to read it and see if it’s worth pursuing.”

Glenda agreed and listened as Emily went on about another book, another movie being made, and another author becoming a little better off than they had been before. When they arrived at the bookstore, they saw a group of kids in the children’s section, looking sad that their reader hadn’t showed up, again. “Kind of sad, don’t you think?” Emily said, glancing in their direction. “I remember you bringing me here as a kid to listen to Storytime during the summer. It’s what got me interested in books in the first place. It’s why I do what I do now, help bring stories to life for another audience.”

Emily walked away, lost in the aisles of books, searching for who knew what, when a child caught Glenda’s attention. A boy, or maybe it was a girl, emaciated and bald, crumpled in a wheelchair, tears falling down their face. Glenda didn’t know why she did it, the compulsion to step forward beyond her conscious thought, but Glenda put her hand on the employee’s arm and asked, “Is there not a reader for the children?”

“No,” the employee replied sadly. “Third time this month. It’s difficult to find someone to read. If we can’t find anyone soon, we’ll have to shut down Storytime for good.”

“I could do it,” Glenda volunteered, surprised at having put herself forward.

“Could you?” The employee looked hopeful. “You would be a godsend, especially for Sarah,” she pointed at the young girl in the wheelchair. “Cancer,” she informed Glenda, “final stages. Probably only has a few weeks left.”

“I’d love to,” Glenda said, her eyes trained on the young girl, her own heart bursting with emotion for the moribund child.

“It’s strictly voluntary,” the employee said. “I wish we could pay someone, but we don’t have the funds for it. Used to be that the library hired someone to read, but they stopped funding it years ago. That’s why we have difficulty finding anyone to read.”

“That’s okay, deary,” Glenda said, taking the book from the employee’s hand. “I could do with getting out of the house every now and again.

Glenda sat in an armchair under the paper tree on the wall. The children that had begun to drift away noticed the new reader sitting down and opening the book and ran back with gleeful shouts and laughs, excited to have someone read to them. Sarah, looking sick and frail, looked up with an intensity that shook Glenda, seeing a life in her that yearned to escape the prison of her body, even if only through the stories told to her by a stranger.

Emily was shocked to see her great-grandmother sitting in the middle of a semi-circle, with children listening with rapt attention as she brought a story to life. Emily listened as well, the images coming to life in her mind’s eye, amazed that so old a woman could inject a mere child’s book with such life as to almost make it real.

That was the first time Glenda sat in the reader’s chair at the bookstore, and she fell in love with it. For the first time in her nearly one century of living, she had found something truly her own, something that excited her. She began planning her next Storytime, reading the next book the store gave her to read, learning the nuances, practicing until she could act out the story for her readers.

No one appreciated it more than young Sarah. She came to life during the weekly readings. Emily made it a point to join Glenda as often as she could, transfixed by the magic the simple act of reading could conjure. Storytime grew until a new sponsor came forward to fund the it, though the sponsor refused to be named. Glenda suspected it was Emily, but she would evade the question when asked with a sly smile.

Always in front, sat Sarah, and Glenda read to her, her hand usually on her knee or Sarah’s hand clasped in her own. Glenda could not let the children down, especially Sarah, whose cancer had gone into remission, and who had grown stronger with each successive week.

And then she was gone. Glenda noticed and learned that Sarah had taken a turn for the worse. Glenda found out where Sarah was at, and began volunteering to read at the Children’s Hospital as well. Even after Sarah had passed away, after listening to one final story, Glenda pressed on, reading at both the hospital and the bookstore, knowing that this was what she was meant to do, grateful at having found her place in the world.

And she continued for years, celebrating her 1ooth birthday with the children who would never even make it to their next, their joy infectious. She read stories of knights and princesses, dragons and aliens, of good and evil, life and love. She poured herself into each book, even as her own life began to fail. “They deserve an escape,” she protested whenever someone would suggest she give up her volunteer work. Even as her body faltered, her voice was strong, bringing life to new stories and new characters.

One day, after her 101st, Glenda sat in the middle of the room, surrounded by her children, “mine,” she thought with pride. They all came, sensing perhaps that this was the last time she would grace them with her presence, though she didn’t know it at the time. She began to read, and she looked up to see a child, healthy and happy at the back of the room.

Glenda continued to read, wondering why the girl looked so familiar, or why the other kids beside her looked familiar as well. It was only after she was done reading, after the hugs and the kisses from her children that she realized who they were. Standing out in front stood Sarah, the glow from her soul palpable. “We’ve come to bring you home, Nanna” Sarah said, offering Glenda her hand.

Glenda reached up and felt the aches and the pains fall off of her. She turned to see herself sleeping peacefully in the chair, the book resting on her lap. Then she felt Sarah tug on hand and knew it was time to go. Without a backwards glance, Glenda walked with Sarah, and the other children she saw pass away. They led her home.

Short Stories

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Giving planning another go

20150720_210140I bought myself a composition notebook yesterday after I left my writer’s group. I didn’t hadn’t planned on it, but I needed to buy a few things at the store and I saw that they had begun to set Back to School. I decided to check it out and lo and behold, I saw a stack of them for fifty cents. I bought two.

So today at lunch, as I sat in my car, I pulled one of them out and began to loosely sketch out who my main characters are, what their role will be and their probable motivations. I’ve tried to plan and plot before, but it’s never worked for me. I’m going to try again. I probably won’t create a strict outline, I know that won’t work, but I think I general idea of major plot points will suffice.

I should get going. I have a reality to create, a journey to figure out, and frankly I need a snack. I’m thinking cake. Cake goes good with writing, at least that’s what I believe. If anyone wants to bring me a coffee, that would be awesome, too.

My fickle mind

Ideas are fickle creatures, are they not? They flit in and out of your consciousness randomly, with no real reason, and it can drive a man to distraction. Earlier today, while taking a load of cardboard back to receiving to load into the baler, I was struck – and not for the first time – how inconsequential my job was. Regardless of what I have accomplished academically or in my career, I’m currently stuck in a menial job, trapped by circumstance and my inability to find something that interests me.

I’ve noticed how carelessly we, the workers, are treated, not just by rude customers, but also by a management team that cares more about their own pocketbooks than the lives of the workers they espouse to lead. And that’s not unique to where I work. It’s a universal theme, the lowly being taken advantage of by “The Man”.

That’s the story I want to tell, the story of my life. Well, actually the story of a middle-aged man facing a crisis of identity, revolving around his job, but also how that job affects his self-worth and trickles down to his relationships with family and friends. It’s highly personal, and it’s a story that I attempted to tell once, before I picked up writing seriously.

It’s also a story, therefore, that scares me. How can I make my experiences compelling? I guess I can make a zombie jump out of a desk, or maybe have a customer hold up the place, or maybe have the business blow up, but that’s not really what I’m going for. I’m striving for raw and emotional, personal in a way that I want people to relate to it as if they themselves are in the narrative. I want the character to become an avatar for the reader. I hope for the reader to experience the protagonist’s journey because they have been on that same journey before.

I believe we all want meaning in our lives, and I find that my work has no meaning. It’s a dull, repetitive task that drains me of time, energy, and sometimes the will to live. I know it’s not a sexy story, or even original, but it’s something I know, this life I have lived.

What do I know about knights and dragons? How can I write of teenage girls and of their trials in growing up? I know almost nothing about politics and religion. I know this life I’ve lived. That’s why so many of my characters have been cheated on and have had their hearts ripped out. That’s why so many of my characters are introspective and quiet,. That’s also why I give them voice, to say what I need to say, to validate my ideas, both brilliant and utterly stupid.

I want to tell the story of real life, my life, but with a few slight changes for dramatic effect. But then again, maybe I could try my hand at another teen-vampire-romance series. I hear they are all the rage. In mine, the vampires are the heroes while humans have shunned the light. Oh, and don’t forget the forbidden love between the human man and the female vampire. And maybe a big musical number, just for the hell of it, but definitely no bunnies. I have to draw the line somewhere.

And now the idea is gone. Crap….

The success of How I Met You Mother

Quick note, if you haven’t already seen the series finale and would like to, there are spoilers in my post.


himymI just got done watching the series finale of How I Met Your Mother for the second time. It’s been two days since it aired, two days since fans felt betrayed by the show’s creators, two days since fans had their hearts broken by the revelation that the eponymous mother was in fact dead.

It took eight seasons to meet her, but it wasn’t until the end of the finale that we are finally introduced to Tracy McConnell. What should have been the satisfying conclusion, and ultimately the beginning of a modern-day romantic fairy tale, became instead the requiem song of a lost love, of a man still in mourning but who wants to live, a man who feels compelled to ask his children for permission to move on.

The ending upset a lot of fans, and I want to say that that’s a victory for the creators of the show as well as the writers, the crew, and especially the cast. Together, they made us care about a group of five friends trying to make it in life and in love. Together, they made us root for them, to laugh and to cry with them. We fell in love with their journey, and it’s a journey most of us can relate to.

From the start, we knew it’s about Ted Mosby’s journey to find the great love of his life. We know that Ted will find her, and that they will have been blessed with two children. Still, we came back week after week for nine seasons, to finally have the answer as to how he met this mystery woman. We have the answer, and we are upset because we discover that the real reason for the story is not to tel about meeting the mother, but because it’s about asking for permission to date again.

Check out Twitter, read the countless other blogs and articles across the web and you will see what I mean, if you haven’t already. In light of all this anger, how can I say that this is a success? Easy, because we care enough to be angry. We care about Ted, seeing the ups and downs he had to endure on his way to meeting his wife, that we were blindsided by the fact that it ended so soon. Happily ever after only lasted about ten years, then the end.


The real reason we are upset is due to the success of the writers in creating wonderful characters, rich in history, their eccentricities on display, unique in a way that made them relatable. We know people like them or wish we did, and many of us would like to know them or to be in a group with them. They were our friends.

We saw in their struggles many of the same things we struggled with in life. They faced fears and doubts in their professional lives, in the personal love lives, and with each other. Not one of the five was one-dimensional. They were all complex, and had a range of attributes, some great and others quite ugly.

They became real through the telling of the story so that nine years later we felt a very real emotional connection to them. We were shocked by the mother’s death, a character we didn’t even know, because we cared for Ted and knew how hard he fought for his ideal of love.

It’s not an easy feat to have an audience accept a cast of characters to be genuine, but we did for them, and that’s a legacy that Bays and Thompson should be proud of. For all the writers out there, this is something we all want to emulate, to create characters that pulls the reader into the story we are telling, to make them care enough to laugh and cry, to feel joy or to become angry at our decisions.

On Monday, we finally became privy to the story HIMYM had been telling us for years. I hope those of you who were fans can take a moment to appreciate the magic we witnessed. Had we not cared, we would not have become angry when the moment of the grand reveal happened. For better or for worse, this was the story that they had wanted to tell all along. I for one applaud them, though I would have loved it if Ted would have been granted his fairy tale ending. He deserved it, as did we all.

In Memoriam


In Loving Memory
Tracy McConnell Mosby
We hardly knew you

Rewrite update: I’m still rewriting


DSC05316 (Photo credit: Fenix_21)

I haven’t written about my work in progress in some time now. The good news is that I’m still plugging away at it. The bad is that I’m still plugging away at it. Shouldn’t I be done with it? The only answer I have is that I’ll be done when I’m done with it.

Right now, I have about 87K words but that will likely increase quite a bit. I’m thinking I’ll end up somewhere in the neighborhood of 100k, give or take a few thousand. I think that’s a good round number to shoot for, don’t you?

Okay, I’ve answered where I am in the writing process, but I haven’t told you what I’m writing. I’m rewriting my NaNo from 2012, trying to expand upon what I wrote back in November, hoping that I am closer to a cohesive narrative. I’ve written out several plot points that have no bearing in the story. I thought they would, but as my first draft took shape they became unimportant, taking up valuable space that could be used to better define the story I am trying to tell.

It’s kinda like a jigsaw puzzle at the moment, but one where I’m throwing pieces out and trying to find room for new pieces, wanting to see how it changes the picture as a whole. I’m pruning and adding, tweaking words here, changing ideas all around, trying to find a better way to say what I’m saying. You know what I’m saying?

It’s hard since I never took a class on book writing. I’ve been writing for almost a year and half and I’ve yet to get to a place where I’m comfortable with my work. But I’m content in the process of creating and writing. I’m pleased with how my rewrites are going. Part of it is that I’m still learning what I’m doing and how to do it. I’m cool with that.

I keep hoping to reach some sort of magically place where I can look at what I’ve written and say “It’s perfect!” But not yet. I know I’m being unreasonable. I understand that I can find myself in a vicious cycle of writing and rewriting and rewriting some more, round and round, chasing perfection as a dog chases its tail, never to catch it. I know at some point I will have to step back and accept that I have done the best that I can and that I will have to let it go.

That’s why I have a few people read for me. I need that input and it’s a valuable resource for me to have. My readers can ask me questions, point me in a direction I need to explore, and help me whip my work into shape. My first drafts have all been read and the one I’m revising is the best one which needs the least amount of work, so that’s why I’m working on this one.

Will I publish? I hope so. That’s my ultimate goal. I know I still have work to do, but as long as I keep plugging away at it, one keystroke at a time, I know I’ll be done. Then all I’ll have to do is hope that you all will be interested in what I’ve committed to paper.