Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not; practising flash fiction.

Posts Tagged ‘OLWG

OLWG#71 – haiku and shadorma – #micropoetry

with 4 comments

Time has condensed, disappeared, filled up with lots of other stuff that has to come first, which is why I’m answering the New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild prompts for last week before the previous one’s, and I’m not going to look at this week’s in case they take me on another journey.

To make sure I get something posted, I’ve reverted to micropoetry and I’m hoping time and life return to normal soon.

Thank you Thom for another set of stimulating prompts. I am working on the monsters’ one – I have a setting and characters, but the plot’s a little thin right now.

 

 

snakes are everywhere

come rain or shine she carries

a knife in her boot

 

 

Trend expert

in must have items.

Art deco

designer

wants fine and unique objects;

searches world markets.

 

 

start with baby steps

hop skip jump fall recover

stride with confidence

 


This week’s prompts are:

  1. a knife in her boot
  2. art deco
  3. start with baby steps

 

Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun

 

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Written by Sarah Ann

October 14, 2018 at 12:09 pm

OLWG#67 – Folding Syndrome

with 7 comments

Thom created a word cloud for last week’s New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild prompts and I tried to include all of them in my fantasy that follows. I think I’ve only missed out one. Thank you Thom for another great challenge this week.

 

 

Folding Syndrome

It is hard to conceive of the silence that followed the Folding Syndrome epidemic. After all the voices that rang out, the choirs that formed and lifted the roofs off churches. After all the richness and resonance that united the world, the quiet was startling. The development of a collective activity where people worked and sang together instead of taking to war should probably have sounded alarm bells. It was the opposite of usual human behaviour after all. But the harmonies and spontaneous a cappella movements were soothing, enjoyable, and lulled all into a semi-conscious state. When it stopped no one could have imagined that singing would finish forever.

The end began with a singer on a television talent show. She faltered on stage, restarted, couldn’t find her voice, and stumbled crying into the wings. It was no great shakes, nothing to worry about; amateurs overstretch themselves. When the whole series’ cohort lost their crooning abilities questions were asked, investigations made. What could be causing the sickness? Initially throats swelled up and some thought it could be anaphylactic shock. Had someone poisoned the coffee? It had tasted off, a bit sour. When the symptoms spread to the church choirs, so too did the scope of enquiry.

In most cases the problems started with a change in pitch – a minor tonal variation up or down before the voice was all over the place. It was almost like being tone deaf, only the singer could hear they were going wrong, and no amount of repetition straightened them out. For those with newly acquired voices, it was easy come, easy go. For more established songbirds, and those whose voices were their careers, a dose of Folding Syndrome was an arrow to the heart. They began to avoid public appearances in case it was catching, but no regular activity was ever isolated as causal.

With other observed epidemics there was a recognised cycle, a flow followed by an ebb as infection peaks were reached and medicines introduced to alleviate symptoms. But not this time. Standard over the counter pills, herbal remedies, electric shock treatments direct to the vocal chords, all were tried. None could stop the folding of the chords, the minute rippling that gave the syndrome its name. Six months into the crisis the minsters of health of the world made a joint statement: ‘You will all know someone who has been touched by this. To date it is only singing that is affected. No one has lost their voice completely. That said, our scientists are at a loss. Research is ongoing but there are no grounds for optimism a cure will be found. We haven’t worked out the cause yet.’ It was a sad indictment albeit an honest one.

Years later there is no known cause and no cure, or at least none spoken of. And there is no singing. There may be people in the world who still sing, in the bath maybe, but no one attempts it in public. There’s a belief that if one is not heard singing then the sickness cannot fall upon them. There are conspiracy theories that it was an untraceable disease put about by AI because it is incapable of the human trait of singing. There are seeds of an idea that it was a superfast evolutionary process – after all what use is singing other than entertainment and who needs entertaining with so much work to be done. Folding Syndrome remains one of life’s inexplicables, left for great scientists of the future to solve.

 

OLWG#66 – Let’s Party

with 5 comments

Sometimes I look at the New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild prompts and think they belong together. They could almost tell a story all by themselves. Hence my short and sweet offering of 100-words this week. Thank you Thom.

 

Let’s Party

‘I’m having a party and I’m inviting all my favourite people: You, of course, and Melissa and Josh and Pippa and Freddie and Lena and Charles and George and Dominque and Isabelle and Pete and –

‘When’s this party?’

‘Next Saturday. I’ve hired the bowling alley.’

‘You want us all to shoot pins all day?’

‘Well, that was the idea. Me and my bestest friends.’

‘You booked the venue already?’

‘Yep.’

‘You gonna phone or email everyone to invite them in time?’

‘Hell no, I’m posting to Facebook. Telling the whole world.’

‘Well, you won’t be able to tell anyone else.’

 


 

This week’s prompts are:

  1. you won’t be able to tell anyone else
  2. well, that was the idea
  3. all my favourite people

 

Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun

 

Written by Sarah Ann

September 6, 2018 at 7:47 pm

OLWG#63 – Morning Misunderstanding

with 8 comments

Please find below a short story as my response to this weeks New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild prompts. I’m not sure the title of my short story fits, and I wish I had more than 25-minutes to develop these characters. I’m intrigued to know what Spencer has done so may have to work with him again.

Thank you Thom for the prompts.

 

Morning Misunderstanding

Maisie Grainger spots a young man she hasn’t seen in the district for a while.

‘Good morning Spencer. You’re up and out early.’

‘Yeah. Got things to do.’

‘You out running before breakfast?’

‘You know me, Mrs. G. I’m always on the run. I’ve just got to pick up a few things.’

‘You’re such a good boy. I was talking to your mother just the other day and she was telling me how you’ve been away doing good things. Africa was it?’

‘Something like that. Look I –’

‘Oh don’t let me keep you. Me and my gassing. I just wanted to let you know how much we all think of you. Keep up the good work.’

 

Spencer watches Mrs. G toddle towards the newsagents. His energies drain, shoulders relax. He looks at Mrs. G’s house, full of riches he knows having been spoiled there as a child with ginger cake and home made strawberry ice-cream. He looks at her retreating back and knows he can’t do it.

He was only supposed fly in, say hello Mum, and be off again before they started looking for him. But Mum had insisted he stop the night. ‘It’s years since I’ve had you under my roof. You know how much I love to watch the way you sleep.’

And he had given in, because that’s what good boys do. But she hadn’t had any money to give him so he’d scoured his memory banks wondering where he might gain enough funds for the next leg of his adventure. If only Mrs. G. had still been in bed, he’d have been able to creep in and take the silver tazza her husband got as a retirement gift. But she’d been up and she’d treated him nicely, dammit.

Time to say goodbye to Mum and head-off before the wooden-tops arrived and carted him away yet again.

 


This week’s prompts are:

  1. you’re early
  2. always on the run
  3. the way you sleep

Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun

Written by Sarah Ann

August 16, 2018 at 6:49 pm

OLWG#62 – 100-word stories

with 5 comments

For this week’s New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild prompts I’ve gone with the tried and tested and written 100-word stories to each prompt.

Thank you Thom for the fun 🙂

 

Mad Jack

Sylvia arrived at her brother’s house expecting to go to lunch to celebrate his birthday. The door was opened by his flatmate.

‘Jack’s gone to Brighton to play Jacks.’

‘What?’

‘There’s currently an international Jacks’ competition on there.’

‘And?’

‘He’s a champion.’

‘Jack told you that?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Do you believe everything he tells you?’

The flatmate shrugged. ‘Don’t you?’

‘I’m his sister. What do you think?’

‘He said they used to play Jacks in Egypt with a wooden ball and the toe bones of sheep.’

‘Yeah, I read that online too. But then I was expecting a good lunch today.’

 

Conversation In the Piazza

‘What’re you lookin’ at?’

‘You.’

‘Why?’

‘Can’t I?’

‘You’re obviously physically able to. I asked why?’

‘I don’t suppose saying you’re an attractive woman is the right answer.’

‘Is there a right answer?’

‘There must be something you want to hear.’

‘Only ever the truth. I am tired of people second-guessing what they should say. What happened to answering a straight question with an honest answer?’

‘People got hurt.’

‘Lies hurt more.’

‘You’ve been hurt before?’

‘You have to ask?’

‘I’m looking at you because you’ve a very attractive female figure.’

‘You’re a very perceptive and gracious pigeon. Thank you.’

 

Childhood Reflections

Grandpa and grandma were the best. Most kids say that I’m sure, but mine truly were wonderful. Gran baked constantly. I would wake or go abed to the smells of scorching butter and sugar. I use her recipes daily. Grandpa taught my sister and I how to turn wood, to work with the beauty of grain. I learnt everything from him and so became the cabinetmaker I am.

But every perfect carpet has a flaw. They taught us to fear the dark, with vivid, arresting stories of bogeymen, phantoms and ghouls.

I’m 47 and still sleep with the light on.

 


This week’s prompts are:

  1. Jacks
  2. what’re you lookin’ at?
  3. they taught us to fear the dark

Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun

 

Written by Sarah Ann

August 9, 2018 at 10:20 pm

OLWG#57, 58 & 59 – Missed Connection

with 2 comments

Hmm, well the least said about why I haven’t been keeping up with the New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild prompts the better in terms of testing anyone’s boredom threshold. Herewith a story hopefully seamlessly incorporating the last three weeks’ prompts.

Thank you Thom for hosting as ever.

 

Missed Connection

It’s Friday again. Time to visit Nanna and make sure she eats. She will tell me she had corn flakes for breakfast smothered in strawberry yogurt. It’s what she always has. Always had. But I know the cereal packet will weigh exactly the same as last week and there will be the eight-pack of yogurts I left in the fridge last Friday untouched.

I no longer bite my tongue when Nanna tells me she eats her breakfast and prepares her lunch everyday. She has been telling herself, and us, these stories for years now. I will make her beans on toast; nutritious and filling, easy to swallow and digest, and tasty. Something we can share.

I find her watching The Walking Dead. Nanna used to hate watching the TV in the day, seeing it as a form of depravity, something the lower and non-working classes did to fill their time. All she has is time now, and a Sky box with buttons she doesn’t understand, so the telly blares daylong and she watches some really weird, age-inappropriate stuff. But it stops her wandering, and us wondering.

‘The dead don’t care much for fast food,’ she tells me as I stand in the doorway to the sitting room to let her know I am there. It does no good to surprise her, although by the time I have lunch ready I will probably have to introduce myself again.

Nanna remembers the dress she wore in 1936 when she sat on her father’s shoulders to watch the King and Queen pass by. Is it a sign, before the rot sets in, when people choose to show what a good memory they have for recalling way back then? She always used to tell that story, long before it was obvious she was leaving us.

‘Put that away,’ I hear her call out as I check the cupboards to make sure there are beans to eat. You never know when Nanna might have a lucid moment and regain who she once was. It doesn’t last long, but she has been known to prepare a meal, put it in the oven and forget, only for it to be found again when the smell and flies start to multiply. As for her admonishment, she might be telling the zombies not to eat their forebears or moaning that the adverts have come on. She never liked programmes being interrupted by ads.

The worst of it is, that when it started few could see it, and once it was obvious to all, she made excuses, had explanations, couldn’t, wouldn’t admit and seek help. It was hard to say she wasn’t lying to us, and much easier to talk about the stories we tell ourselves. The stories we use to make sense of the lives we lead. But how come Nanna couldn’t see she wasn’t coping when she called the fire brigade because the smoke alarm wouldn’t stop beeping? Surely even she could see that was inappropriate? Nope. And until she did something dangerous or talked complete gibberish to her GP, there was no one to help. She was convinced she could cope and convinced all those professionals she came into contact with the same. It was only the family and neighbours who saw, and screamed silently for things to be better.

‘The time got away from me,’ she said of burnt dinners, cold cups of tea, washing left flapping on the line for days and in need of re-washing.

The TV blares, zombies and humans screaming as I put the beans on to cook to mush. We both like them this way, not just reheated, but boiled until the beans collapse and the sauce reduces, a nice russet pulp. Yeah, I can only have beans like this when I visit Nanna. Everyone else complains, and so I don’t mind the weekly ritual. A full plate of beans on toast will keep her going until tomorrow when Sylvia comes.

I move to the sitting room door and say, ‘The beans are on Nanna. I’ll just do the toast and then come and get you.’

‘It’s going to be cooler this weekend,’ she says, not moving her eyes from the TV. It’s one of her stock responses, a space filler for when she knows she should say something but doesn’t know what. Or that’s what it’s become. It used to be a space filler whenever there was silence in a room. It was as if silence woke her and Nanna had to say something, anything, to maintain her connection with the world. And so began the nonsense conversations that were put down to her sense of humour and not recognised until much later as an early sign of her deteriorating neurones making surreal connections.

I toast the bread to mid-brown. There’s nothing nice about over or underdone toast. Nanna likes it perfectly cooked in the middle. It’s cooked, the beans are pulp, and I go to call Nanna from the sitting room. I have to switch the TV off, break that connection, to get her to move, but she stands happily enough and follows me to the kitchen table. Her legs are strong, and her arms. She could do for herself physically if only her mind was fitter.

‘A young man with a bad haircut came by,’ she says, fork loaded with beans and paused at her lips. ‘He looked a bit like you.’ She sucks the fork clean then examines my face, tilting her head to see me better, ‘Only he was younger and better looking.’ That was me then, last week, or a month ago, or three years. These days take their toll, and I only do one.

Carers come in to get Nanna up and put her to bed. That’s all they do, the washing, the personal care that family do not want to do. Nanna would hate to think any of her children or grandchildren were wiping her backside and so none of us do. But we feed her and shop for her and talk to her and love the woman she was. We are all tired. A day with her is enough for anyone. Mum has had it worse; being the closest child she takes on more. Her brother and sister really want to help, but mum is a bit of a control freak and says she’s fine. ‘Did you really think it through?’ Aunt Janet sometimes asks, ‘Did you think what a burden it is for you all?’ Because Janet is 50-miles away she does not do a daily run. No, those are for Mum, Dad, Josie my elder sister, Mum again, me, Sylvia my cousin and Janet’s daughter, and Patrick, some other relative of Nanna’s whose relationship to her escapes me. He’s a good egg that’s all I know, as patient as a saint, always cheerful, and not seeming to suffer as much as the rest of us do. He’s not ageing like the guy with the bad haircut.

Nanna and I eat quietly. I would like to fill her in on my week but I don’t have the energy to explain for the umpteenth time what work it is I do. It frustrates me when she can’t grasp what I’m talking about. I need to start making up stories for myself to tell her, stories about how I spend my days, with stock answers for her repetitive questions. She won’t remember the answers or be able to tell me when I say the opposite of what I said last time. Why haven’t I considered it before? My taste-buds are suddenly tasting smoky beans. No, I didn’t add barbeque sauce, but still they have taken on that soothing comforting tang.

‘I can’t find it anywhere,’ Nanna says, halfway through her lunch. She is very particular: eats one slice, cleans up all the loose beans, and leaves a second full covered slice with no beans on the plate.

‘What’s that, Nanna?’

‘I can’t find the hole in your soul.’

‘No. Oh well, maybe we can look for it after lunch. We’ve got strawberry yogurt for dessert. How does that sound?’

‘Very nice. I had a strawberry yogurt on my corn flakes this morning.’

‘I know, Nanna. But two strawberry yogurts in a day won’t hurt.’

 


 

This week’s prompts are:

  1. the dead don’t care much for fast food
  2. the time got away from me
  3. the hole in your soul

 

Last week’s were:

  1. a young guy with a bad haircut
  2. did you really think it through
  3. put that away

 

And the week before that were:

  1. cooler this weekend
  2. I can’t find it anywhere
  3. the silence woke her

 

Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun

 

Written by Sarah Ann

July 18, 2018 at 8:33 pm

OLWG#56 – When Paul Was Five – #amwriting

with 6 comments

He is my response to this week’s New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild Prompts. This was fun to write, but didn’t take 25-minutes at all. It took a while longer and still needs re-editing and tweaking to make it better. Thank you Thom for the prompts that could only go one way for me this week.

 

When Paul Was Five

Clare decided long in advance that Paul should have a pirate-themed party for his fifth birthday. She collected together suitable detritus from the local charity shops – a squawking purple parrot on a perch, a sailing boat made of matches that was strictly hands-off, and various plastic chests of dubious treasure. With all the props she needed, Claire spent the two weeks leading up to the party making individual hats for the children expected, and hoped there would be no last minute invites as Paul made and broke buccaneers, or pushy parents approached with grappling irons. Paul was tasked with making all the swords, in cardboard of course. He and his father spent the month of weekends prior to the party’s launch decorating each sword hilt to match its owner. Paul was up on piratical law and myth, and there were runic decorations and symbols that had to be attached to explain the power and mastery of his crew in marauding and other plundering pastimes. Various pasta shapes, cotton reels, glitter, dyed string, and lots of paint, were used to make these messages clear.

As far as Clare was concerned, the only thing missing before the day was a pirate-themed magician. True, one wasn’t strictly necessary, but she needed some form of entertainment to keep the excitable little sea rats enraptured to save the tears as flimsy swords collapsed. A clown was not appropriate, balloon benders a bit old hat, and Clare searched long and hard but came up with no one suitable.

She discussed her dilemma at church and Phil, the cousin of the pastor’s wife, volunteered to come along. He had been in the merchant navy years since and had some treasures of his own he said he could bring, as well as photos and tales of tattooed peoples and brain-eaters. Clare was grateful, but pointed out the kids were only five and brain eating wasn’t necessarily appropriate. And could he please steer clear of voodoo and zombie tales. Clare didn’t want to be responsible for twenty families experiencing nightmares in the following weeks.

The day arrived: the kids played and ate, with only two throwing up from overindulgence. They fought and won their battles, cardboard swords starting to droop, leaving pasta and glitter all over the floor, and then they sat down to hear from Filibuster Phil, a man who had been to sea and see, and seen it all. Phil, as well as adopting a new moniker, revelled in his role and regaled them with stories of spotting enemy ships from the crows’ nest, being lashed to the mast to survive humungous storms, visiting islands of painted peoples, and the abilities of shipmates with peg-legs and hooked-hands. The children gaped and gasped in all the right places.

Phil’s last tale was one about the ghosts of Glummer Caves, that stole the breath out of you should you espy them. There was a rumour that if you ever stood inside the cave, a ghost might follow you all your life and use the least expected moment to take your breath. Phil paused before the punchline, his head forward like a stretching tortoise, his arms and legs akimbo like a cartoon scaredy cat, and then he tumbled gently to the floor. The kids loved it, and after a moment’s silence were cheering and crying for more. They carried on hooting, picking up their swords, as half the parents shooed them from the room and the other half picked Phil’s still body from the floor. With the children safely around the food table or in the garden, the first-aiders laid Phil on the floor, administered CPR, called an ambulance. All to no avail.

At school for the next six-months, Paul’s party was the best to have attended, ever. Clare, while not wanting to rush her baby boy to grow up, did look forward to the day he no longer hankered for birthday parties. It had been hard enough trying to keep up with Joneses, but topping the Glummer Ghosts catching up with Filibuster Phil was inconceivable.

 


 

This week’s prompts are:

  1. covered with glitter
  2. playing pirates
  3. life can end in the middle of a sentence

 

Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun

Written by Sarah Ann

June 29, 2018 at 9:34 am

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