30 Short Stories in 30 Days: The List

Last year, for the month of January, I read a short story every day. I set this challenge for myself as a concrete goal that would expose me to many authors, genres, and writing styles in a short time and collectively improve my own writing. And it did: After each story I’d reflect on what I’d read in terms of both content and writing, and then I’d write a blog post about it.

What I forgot to do was post a complete list of the 30 stories. So, requested by a reader and terribly belated, here it is– the 30 (actually 31) stories I read for this challenge. The links included are to the blog posts I wrote for each story, most of which contain links to where the story can be found online.

Enjoy!

30 Stories in 30 Days: The List

  1. “The Saucier’s Apprentice” by S.J. Perelman (Day 1)
  2. “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe (Day 2)
  3. “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury (Day 3)
  4. “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck (Day 4)
  5. “The South” (El Sur) by Jorge Luis Borges (Day 5)
  6. “The Door” by E.B. White (Day 6)
  7. “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” by Gabriel García Márquez (Day 7)
  8. “Three Questions” by Leo Tolstoy (Day 8)
  9. “The Tale” by Joseph Conrad (Day 9)
  10. “A Hunger Artist” by Franz Kafka (Day 10)
  11. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson (Day 11)
  12. “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant (Day 12)
  13. “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry (Day 13)
  14. “Graven Image” by John O’Hara (Day 14)
  15. “The Nightingale and the Rose” by Oscar Wilde(Day 15)
  16. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor (Day 16)
  17. “The Standard of Living” by Dorothy Parker (Day 17)
  18. “The Happy Man” by Jonathan Lethem (Day 18)
  19. An Upheaval by Anton Chekhov (Day 19)
  20. “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs (Day 20)
  21. “Almost No Memory” by Lydia Davis (Day 21)
  22. “The Three-Day Blow” by Ernest Hemingway (Day 22)
  23. “The Second Bakery Attack” by Haruki Murakami (Day 23)
  24. “Putois” by Anatole France (Day 24)
  25. “The Ghosts” by Lord Dunsany (Day 25)
  26. “Nicolas was…” by Neil Gaiman (Day 26)
  27. “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut (Day 27)
  28. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Day 28)
  29. “The Last Question” by Isaac Asimov (Day 29)
  30. “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen (Day 30)
  31. *Bonus story! “The Apostate” by George Milburn (Day 31)
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Writing Challenge, Day 24: Target Audience

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 24: Who are you writing for? Do you have a target audience in mind?

Depends what I’m writing. My current writing project is a novel I intend for high school and college-age readers (the protagonist being a college student) but I would secretly hope that the story is so good it compels people of all ages to read it!

I think that I haven’t written enough, or enough of any one category, however, to say that I have a writing niche (and therefore a general target audience). I’ve been writing all my life but have dabbled in many genres – humor and romance, fantasy and sci-fi as well as literary – not to mention the various modes of poetry, short story, and novel. I also do some writing purely for myself.

But if I had to pick a general demographic for the sort of books I think I’ll be writing, I would probably say teens and beyond. I’ve wanted to be a novelist since I was little and that’s one aspiration I plan to continue pursuing regardless of all other factors in life.

On the note that life has other dimensions besides writing, I want to share something that had me quite excited today:

I learned how to play this! “First of the Gang to Die” is a sort of tragic rock ballad originally by Morrissey. The lyrics are poetry and Zee Avi’s cover is acoustic, melodious, and almost has a bit of island flavor to it.

Now speaking of flavor, I also made a blackberry peach cobbler today. YUM! I may have to cut this entry short so I can go grab a serving before bed… 🙂

12 Reasons To Read Julie Israel. You’re Welcome.

A delicious dozen reasons to read yours truly

 

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 22: Why should someone read your work?

To experience something I painstakingly unearthed from the sands of my mind like a buried civilization one fragment at a time and then translated into a cohesive sum for your verbal pleasure, entertainment, and intimate window into human experience? *Takes breath*

There’s also my list of fictional reasons, which is less realistic, but more fun.

12 Reasons Why You Should Read Julie Israel

  1.  Studies show that reading Julie Israel in the morning helps increase metabolism.
  2. Those that read Julie Israel are happier and laugh more than those that don’t.
  3. Reading Julie Israel has been shown to significantly improve IQ and SAT verbal scores.
  4. Julie Israel promotes universal understanding and world peace.
  5. Reading Julie Israel helps reduce crime and world hunger.
  6. Every time you read Julie Israel a unicorn is born.
  7. Reading Julie Israel can make snow fall on a school day.
  8. Those that read Julie Israel on a regular basis are 50% more likely to develop super human powers such as wit, ambidexterity, and the ability to reach something in the back of the fridge without taking anything out to get to it.
  9. Julie Israel repels vampires (especially those pesky glittery ones).
  10. Reading Julie Israel is a natural cure for allergies, migraines, flu, insomnia, chicken pox, restless leg syndrome, gamer’s thumb, and doughnut overdose.
  11. Julie Israel will help save the economy and prevent global warming.
  12. Julie Israel is a known aphrodisiac.

Oh, and all the cool kids are doing it.

Writing Challenge, Day 14: Besting Writer’s Block

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 14: Share with us your strategies for overcoming writer’s block.

There are two basic things I do to overcome creative challenges, and they work in almost any combination:

  1. Get away from computer.
  2. Engage body.*

First order of business is a change of scenery. That allows time to step back and space in which to do it. It’s a mental refresher.

Second item: engage the body. Easiest fix ever.

Often when I’m stuck it’s simply because I’ve grown restless. It’s not good for our bodies or our metal processes to be sedentary for long periods of time. They shut down. In fact, from a holistic point of view, doing the notorious “butt-in-the-chair” writer thing is terrible not just for our health but for our writing, too! How do you spell counterproductive? C-H-A-I-R.

NPR suggests taking routine hourly breaks, even for just a few minutes at a time, to get up, stretch, shake your limbs, lift weights, dance, march in place, etc.—anything to get moving! A little movement goes a long way as far as getting the blood (and thus creative juices) circulating.

*A few of my favorite ways to engage the body:

  1. Go for a walk or a run. A little time alone with your thoughts—and exercise to boot—can be the perfect solution. Go on, grab some vitamin D and fill your lungs with fresh air while you’re at it! Who knows: when you change your scenery and break the mold, you might even see something that resolves your problem or gives you new idea altogether! Inspiration is a lot easier to find when you’re out in the world looking for it.
  2. Play guitar. I have a strap. I stand up to play, and when I get into a song I’ll often start stepping or bobbing in time. More importantly though, music engages a different part of the brain than writing. Especially when it comes to playing an instrument and muscle memory is involved, you’re really delving into the creative, intuitive part of your brain. How better to overcome a creative block than to get in touch with your subconscious and intuition?
  3. Do laundry. Alright. Nothing special about this one. I just figure, if I’m not making any progress in my writing, I might as well do something else productive! Acceptable alternatives: make tea, bake cookies, feed the birds, water the plants, play with your pet, practice shufflin’.

What do you do in a creative jam?

P.S. Right after I posted this, WordPress gave me this quotation:

“My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.”

Anais Nin

I rest my case.

Deadlines, Girl Jams, & 5 Good Reasons to Write

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 13: What motivates you to keep writing?

Deadlines. Deadlines and coffee.

OH, you mean the POSITIVE things.

Well, let me first say this: deadlines have their positive attributes, too. If you have them, it means that someone is expecting your work, which means that someone will be reading your work (and why does a writer write except to be read?), probably that somebody has already admitted to liking your work, and it may very well mean that there is money involved. I just finished my second paid freelance gig ever and actually have a check on the way. Ain’t gon’ lie: had myself a wee bedroom dance party just now.

DANCE PARTY??? Cue the girly jam-a-thon!

But let’s be realistic: I didn’t become a writer for the money. Nobody who wanted to would blow 5-10 years worth of regular freelance gigs on a university education in creative writing. Ha, ha, ha…

So what are some of the other things that regularly motivate me to keep writing?

1. Fans. Having loyal readers is priceless for motivation—they encourage us writers in so many ways. From friends to family to online followers (and yes, ideally, one day we all want to be the next J.K Rowling with readers all over the world), fans motivate me with everything from praise (“loved your story!”) to pressure (“why haven’t I seen anything from you lately?”) to the simple anticipation that what I’m writing will be read by somebody else. That in itself creates a beautiful space for meaning.

2. Challenges. I’m no Type A, but a good creative challenge really fires me up. Even though it might initially stress me out, I like prompts that push me to think on my feet and make new connections and try something utterly foreign and scary. This last freelance gig I did? (My second real paid one. Ever.) It was a script-writing assignment for a potential commercial.

I’d never written script before.

Also, the client needed it within 36 hours of the time the assignment was described to me.

Excuse me while I get up and dance again.

3. The Need. The need for expression is twofold for me: on the one hand there is the need to express myself creatively (it is my lifeblood); on the other is the need to record. I’ve kept many, many journals over the years, often haphazard and scattered accounts. But every single entry—no matter how inconsistent or boy-crazy—captured a single moment in time. Put it in amber. I can relive the moment in clear detail and feeling whenever I leaf through the pages.

4. The Learning Curve. I’ve recently realized that even fiction (sometimes even poetry) requires a great deal of research in order to be convincing. For me that’s no concern—I love learning! The only issue is that research time takes away from actual writing time… But really. How cool is it to have a [hobby] [profession] [need] that keeps you mentally agile and privies you to loads of awesome, unsung info?

5. Good Writing. When in doubt, look to your writing idols and role models. They made it and so can you. How did they do it? What wisdom do they offer? There’s a trove of motivation / inspiration to be had right on your bookshelf.

Writing Challenge, Day 6: The Spinning Wheel

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 6: What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a writer?

The work is the reward. For me writing is a struggle to convey myself, to portray thought and emotion and senses in words and structures and rhythms. Expression is creative problem solving, and like any problem to be solved can make nests of our hair and sawdust of our pencils, and otherwise generally be a maddening ordeal. And yet, the greater the frustration, the greater the passion; the greater the challenge, the greater the victory. Finding the right word, image, or the perfect line of dialogue is so satisfying! Finishing a short story or reading a completed poem aloud for the first time? Magic.

Another great thing about writing: (at the risk of sounding like Chandler), can there be anything more magical than creating something from nothing? A writer is an imagineer. A writer spins whole worlds.

Apologies for the short length of entry; I’ve really got to start writing these before ten o’clock at night! I’ve plenty of time before the midnight deadline, but not if I can’t keep my eyelids from fluttering…

Writing Challenge, Day 2: Turtle

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 2: What is your biggest writing weakness, and what do you think you need to change to work on it?

My biggest weakness when it comes to writing is first draft perfectionism. I spend so much time trying to make the initial run coherent, flowing, and detailed that at the end of the day I’m lucky if I’ve hammered out an entire page! In theory this approach should be easy to change: all one must do is accept that the first draft of anything will be flawed, and write recklessly on in spite of that. In practice it takes deadlines. Word count goals, and deadlines. Those are the only things that seem to push me past turtle speed!

Turtle, turtle!

At the same time, I also wonder whether there might be some merit in my natural slow method. My drama professor once said that there are two kinds of writers: the meticulous and the reckless. The reckless are “word vomiters,” she said; first they get it all out and then they clean it all up. For them the hard work is in the revision. The meticulous, on the other hand, revise as they go. It takes a long time to finish anything, but by the time the first draft is out it will be near completion and need very little fine-tuning. Does a word vomiter spend as much time cleaning up their words as I do coughing up mine?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. When in doubt I like to remember the following:

“It’s easier to edit crap than air.”