Color Stories

color-wheel

A typical workshop sessions lasts for about 2 hours. Within that time, we write in chunks of time, anywhere from 5-25 minutes. A few years ago, I added what I like to call “quick-writes.” These are done at the beginning of the workshop session and are a great way to help us move from the outside world of work, traffic and everyday business, and into the world of creativity and inspiration. The first writer to arrive gets to pick the color.

“Sally was here first. What’s your favorite color?”

And then we’re off! Quick-writes on a color get about 7-10 minutes.

My unofficial record of which hue gets called the most would put blue at the top of the list, with green coming in a close second. The most unique color we’ve had is teal.

Whatever the color, the writing is always fun, surprising, and unique.

Below are five color stories I think you’ll enjoy.

Read. Comment. Share.

And thank you!

 

Pink…

by Darlene Peters

The color of my childhood room.

The color of my bright pink patchwork dress worn to my grandfather’s funeral.

Pink . . . My favorite color all these years.

Pink . . . The color of a beautiful Coach bag that will last forever.

Pink . . . The color of my favorite flowers—all types—Roses, Plumerias, Cala Lilies, and Petunias.

Pink . . . I was to never know . . .

It was the color for Breast Cancer.

Something that has now come, and gone.

No more cancer for me!

Just a lovely symbol

A lovely pink ribbon.

Darlene began writing in 2015 after a bout with breast cancer. In her class, Writing Through the Cancer Journey, Darlene discovered her love of poetry. She gets most of her inspiration from her beautiful backyard garden, which she lovingly calls, “The Enchanted Fairy Garden.” She also does needlepoint and other creative endeavors.

 

Blue Dopamine

by Julie Greenberg

Blue increases my dopamine levels.  Seeing blue activates my neurotransmitters by sending a surge of euphoria to my brain.  It all started when I was child strolling the aisles of Kmart waiting for the announcement. “Attention Kmart shoppers, Blue Light Special for fifteen minutes throughout the store.”  My mom would get a certain look in her eye, blue lights would start flashing, and we were off.  Any toy I wanted on a Blue Light Special was mine.  I recall, most of my back to school clothes for the year were all Blue Light Specials. A whole store of people getting high on a blue light. For fifteen minutes the possibilities were endless.

As a youth I found myself subconsciously attracted to all things blue: hair, nails, walls, cars, food, drinks, shoes, and clothes.  As an adult, I now click on all things blue: Twitter birds, log in, username, password, next, like, send, go, accept, handles and hashtags.  After I finish a term paper or an essay, clicking the little blue “save to disk” is so satisfying!  I feel a surge when I see little blue dots because that means I have notifications from something I posted, that most likely contains a blue link that leads to another blue link that leads to another with very important information.

Fortunately, I don’t need electronics or Blue Light Specials to get a dopamine release.  I turn on my portable my record player that looks like a little blue suitcase, close my eyes, breathe and listen.  Currently spinning,  Tangled up in Blue, by Bob Dylan.

Julie is a writer, teacher, librarian and book nerd. You can follow her on Twitter @MydJules

 

Teal

by Danuta Janiszewski

The underbellies of their feet burned and tingled from the hot heat of the sunbaked blacktop. They’d first kick off and leave their sandals in the grass and dare each other to walk or stand on top of the cracked asphalt for as long as possible. The two children would do this often in their young summer days whenever the homemade tarred spot was free of the big, rugged, metal truck they thought of as more of a beast than a tool (after all, this same beast would swallow their father whole and take him away for weeks, sometimes months at a time and spit him out worn through and chewed up).

When their father was away for work or on a load, the blacktop (when too cool to play chicken on),  was the children’s canvas for chalked Mona Lisas’ of their mother, long-legged caricatures of their dogs and their attempted reinterpretations of their dreams from the night before. In the summer, the New England sun would bake the blacktop until the cracks within it would ripen and burst along the top of it, like the veins they saw on the backs of their old aunts’ legs and arms. These cracks later became highways for Hot Wheels car races and the Grand Canyon for ants, as the two children had once decided. They’d often narrate the trials and tribulations the bands of ants had to face to survive, and would take turns playing God, bringing cups of water or sticky juice to flood the canyons out. The ants would never die, they promised their mother, just tumble around a bit. For all they knew, they were telling the truth.

Sometimes the blacktop would burn their little soft hands and feet too much, and the duo would wait until evening, when the sun would set and the crickets would chirp, to lay their little bodies across it and absorb any heat it could give, like a still animal in rest or a bosom. But that was only when the children wanted softness and stillness to make up for a day of chaos and heated frenzies, both enjoyable and frightening, some even of their own making.

The younger of the two, a boy, would hop onto the asphalt and close his eyes so tight that he felt like the white light bursting from his eyelids was from the heat of the ground itself. In the first few summers they shared consciously together, the older child, what was understood to be a girl at the time, would beat any record set by the younger boy. Fifteen, twenty, twenty five seconds…Later, when the boy was older, there would be no sister daring to beat his record; no, he’d carry on the tradition with his neighborhood gang instead. And he, through years of practice and the thickening of his soles, always won. Fifty-two seconds was the closest he ever got to catching fire.

On this particular day, however, the two children, chalk dusted and sun kissed, were excited. Their father, a sinewy and gruff but loveable character was headed home.

“Where’s he comin’ from?” the younger boy asked.

“Somewhere called Mini Sodas,” the older one replied, pleased with her knowledge. “Mama said to be good or he wouldn’t give us a surprise.”

“I been good!” screeched the little one.

“Nu uh. Remember Grace caught you peein’ in the yard and yelled out her porch? And then came over mad and was gonna talk to Mama?” tattled the elder, at the peak of her wisdom.

“Ya, but mama laughed. It’s okay then, she laughed!”

Before the elder could reply, a distant growl and gear studded exhaust tooted from down the grey asphalt street. Curved, horn-like exhaust pipes rounded the corner and the industrial beast’s metallic teal flesh shined brightly in the afternoon sun.  The two freckled children looked at each other and cheered; their father was finally home.

Danuta is a twenty-something aspiring storyteller and creator. Danuta goes by they/them and is lucky enough to have touched both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, swam in many rivers and lakes in between and found solace in the Midwest’s prairies. They hope to never settle but rather find pieces of home everywhere they go.

Pink

by Sally McCarty

Pink is evolving. It has traditionally been, and still is to some extent, regarded as a markedly feminine color. Some see it as a color for little girls’ rooms and dresses. For many it stands for frilly, girly, and weak. But pink is evolving.

Many of today’s women defy tradition and decorate their little girls’ rooms with primary colors, eschewing some of the less flattering connotations associated with the color pink. Even little girls have taken a stand on social media against toymakers who offer pink options for girls and more powerful color choices for boys.

In many minds, pink has evolved beyond its association with frills and weakness to become the color representing the fight against breast cancer and for the freedom to choose Planned Parenthood for healthcare.

Yes, pink is evolving.

Sally Baker McCarty is retired from a career in health insurance regulation, advocacy, and policy analysis. She is relatively new to Long Beach and began with Rose Writers about a year ago to develop her creative writing skills. She appreciates the opportunity to morph years of business communications and research writing into stories and essays.

 

The following story was not written in workshop. The author, a long time RW participant, was inspired by my submission call for color stories. That, plus the quote— found online—was all the inspiration she needed to write this intriguing story.

 

Neatly Folded Colors

By Carol Anne Perini

“Missing person cases are beginning to form clusters in mountainous

regions around the globe. People – children mostly – are vanishing

into oblivion under unexplainable circumstances. Sometimes the only

clues left behind are just their clothing, neatly piled.”

 

When Bobbie Nelson went missing the only thing left behind was his blue sweater. It had been folded as neatly as a quartermaster sergeant would on inspection day. Tom Downing, the sheriff, had found the sweater in the weeds just a few feet off Interstate 21, south of Hamptonstown, after an unidentified caller telephoned the office. “We were all shocked,” one of the family members, who wished not to be identified, said to the deputy that called for more information. “We thought Bobbie would just walk in the house, afterschool, say hello and throw his infernal backpack on the floor like he always did. We fully expected his momma would get after him telling him to take his things upstairs…” The person continued talking but the officer was interrupted and ended the call.

When Eileen Pickering went missing they found her hair barrette in a hole in the bottom of the oak tree in the woods that bordered the Pickering’s farm. She liked to play there pretending she was visited by fairies and wood nymphs. The family wasn’t surprised to see the pink barrette and yellow hair tie, nestled into the hollow of the tree, side by side, as though the child had just left them there for a moment to go pee in the woods. Eileen was fond of pastels, girly pastels her daddy called them when he was being interviewed by the news station at KCRC radio in Duwayne.

Bonnie Revelson was never found either. There were no remnants of her to be found in the woods or by the side of the road or stuffed into a storm drain. But she did leave her naked pink and brown baby dolls in her room, lying side by side on Bonnie’s neatly made bed. She had been on her way to school and wanted to take them with her, but her parents said no. They were afraid she would get bullied by the big kids for being a baby. Bonnie wouldn’t have cared. She was braver in school than she was at home. The day after Bonnie’s disappearance the family found the babies clothes neatly packed into a small Barbie Doll satchel Bonnie had gotten for Christmas. There were two matching pair of brown corduroy shorts, two pair of pink and yellow striped socks and two pair of white and brown saddle shoes for the dolls. There were also two matching t-shirts in hot pink with the glittered letters “maximum girl” emblazoned on the front. “Bonnie would never have been allowed to wear such deplorable clothing,” Bonnie’s parents, embarrassed, told the minister.

Timothy Richards was a brave boy. That’s what the kids at school said about him. Two of the bigger boys from school found his red checkered bandana tied around the handlebars of his purple Schwinn bicycle with an orange banana seat. The boys found it in the irrigation ditch that bordered the Pickering farm, next to the path they rode on their own bikes on the way home from school. Even though neither Bonnie’s nor Timothy’s bodies had been found, and the families joined together at the church for their individual funerals, it was easy to see there was some kind of uncomfortable business between them.

Kelly White wasn’t found either. Her white communion dress was discovered under the front stoop of the old homestead, the house the great-grandparents built a century and a half earlier, a decaying relic on the land that now housed the big house the family lived in. It had been neatly laid out as though her mother had done so in preparation for the fancy Catholic celebration. Kelly’s white patent leather buckle shoes stood side by side and her white socks with the frilly lace lay as though they were going to walk into the shoes. Her veil was laid above the dress. One might assume she had just stepped out of it, carefully preserving the solemnity of the moment.

None of the children were found. The sheriff said he did his best to find the children, but he never had much to tell the families and friends and churchgoers of the First Pentecostal Church of Mayton. That’s where they all went to church, except Kelly White’s family who attended The Church of Our Savior, in Duwayne, the larger city, which was quite a trek for the family. They commonly attended only once a month. The others in town looked askance on this and gossiped to themselves about the importance of regular church attendance.

The families despaired of their losses. But there were more to come. One child’s red and blue bugle had been found in a hayloft neatly displayed as though the young man revered it as a part of his arsenal; another child’s bright green whistle had been found with the brown leather cord neatly rounding it and placed, visibly, in a storm drain in Mayton; another’s child’s lunch box had Buzz Lightyear etched onto the front and back reflecting the blue and green colors of his suit and the rotating red and white rollers of his retractable wings. The rollers looked like those of an old-time barber’s poll once they were open and ready for flight. The lunchbox was found, ironically, in the child’s cubby at school, with the food wrappers his mother had used in preparation of the child’s lunch, neatly folded and placed on one another in order of size.

After ten or so years the police and FBI and state law enforcement officers discontinued their searches, putting them into the “cold file”. They were no longer interested in the past and had to maintain law and order in their small communities, “In the present,” they had told the townspeople who occasionally questioned them in town council meetings or at the Memorial Day parade picnic. There had been some discussion of suspicion surrounding the old police chief who had initially investigated the disappearances. The sheriff, a tidy man wore his brown uniform ‘regulation’ he called it; sharply ironed seams down the front of his pants and shirt had to align from top to bottom; his badge and brass were placed in perfect symmetry on each side of his chest; his cap was shined along with his shoes, every day. He had been rejected by the armed forces due to congenital cataracts, something that was easily “cured” his doctor had told him and was forever angry about this unfortunate status. But he had died of a massive coronary at age 47. He had diabetes and heart disease, a side effect of his sweet tooth the doctor had told him, which lead to his surprisingly youthful death. And of the two deputies that had been there ten years earlier, one had moved away and the second retired.

Unfortunately, there was no one left with much interest to pursue further investigations.

Carol Anne Perini has been a member of Community Literature Initiative for three years, this last year teaching short fiction. She earned her MFA in theater with a concentration in play writing and directing. She has been published in Rose Writer’s, Postcards, and an anthology at Duke University. She won a national play writing award for her short play m&m’s and her collection of short stories is due out this year.

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Write What Comes

In AWA workshops facilitators are trained to encourage participants to write what comes. Sometimes I’ll notice a writer cringe or look startled after contemplating the prompt. That’s my queue to gently remind them that, “What you write today is what you’re supposed to write.”
A few weeks ago, I had to swallow my own medicine. It was bitter, and I had to fight like hell to keep it down.
The prompt was: Begin with a twinkle in someone’s eye.
I imagined I’d see a kind, elderly old man, or a cherub like child smiling and ready to tell his or her story of love, happiness and butterflies. Nope. What came surprised and frightened me. In our 25 minute writing period, I had to fight with this man who would not go away. So, I took my own advice and gave in.


He hated when she looked at him that way; dark grey eyes twinkling with the beginnings of tears. Tears that would puddle in the corner of her eyes, and then slide down the sides of her face. She never sobbed or wailed or whimpered. She was the calmest crier he had ever known. After he finished, after his last blow, he would step back, dazed with anger and rage, mad more at himself, and unable to remember what had set him off. This time.

She, his wife, would look up at him and not utter a word. He would later swear to himself that sometimes she looked like she was begging him for more. But he knew that couldn’t be true. So he would keep staring, his chest heaving up and down, his fists clinched. He never knew what else to do.

His mother; now that was a woman who knew how to put up a fight. When his pop came at her, usually after a night of drinking and god-knows-what, his mom would pick up the nearest frying pan, broom stick, shoe, or whatever she could get her hands on and defend herself.
“Get away from me you sonofabitch!”
Pop usually got it as bad as Ma, both of them waking up the next day with bruises, scratches and sore throats from all the yelling they done.

Love is a fight and you do hurt the ones you love. He learned that early. He needed to teach his wife that same lesson.
****

This is a first draft and, if you asked me today, I would tell you it’s the last draft too. I have no desire to come back to this story, this monster. But, I suspect, he will appear in another story, or as I continue work on my second novel. Since I confronted him this time, I think I’ll be better prepared to deal with him—or someone like him—next time.

Image

Tough, but true.

Tough, but true.

I just held a small workshop where the theme was: I need to get motivated! Everyone agreed that they had all these great ideas in their head, but getting them on the page was proving difficult. Someone even shared how an idea they had been musing over was “taken” by someone else and made into a movie. That’s happened to me too. (Sunshine Cleaning – that was MY idea!)
But I couldn’t hate the producers of that movie, no matter how much I wanted to. Great ideas do not belong to just the privileged few. Everyone has them everyday, a thousands times a day. What separates the dreamers from the doers is action.
For writers that means, butt in the chair, goals and deadlines. And a lot of self discipline. A lot.
Sorry, folks. No great secret here. Just basic stuff. Which is both good and bad. Good because, Hey! It’s not rocket science; anybody can do this.
Bad because, Hey! It’s not rocket science; anybody can do this.
In the end, we may have no good excuses to offer. Just the sad fact that we choose not to act, not to follow through, not to follow that dream.
Take a risk. Write your story. Explore your creativity, however it comes to you. Don’t let the constraints of time hold you back. The time is going to past whether you do it or not. I’d rather look back and say, yeah, I did it.
Wouldn’t you?
Keep writing, keep believing and keep in touch.
Desiree

How NOT to Respond to a Bad Review

Today I set up a Twitter account. Mostly because I wanted to follow my daughter (17) but the minute she found out, she made me “unfollow” her. Her exact words were, “That’s creepy, Mom. Stop following me.”

So I did. The point of all of this is to show how I found out about a new e-book called The Greek Seaman, by Jacqueline Howett. While on the Twitter site, someone tweeted something about an author (Ms. Howett)  having a “meltdown” over a bad review. Never one to speed by a car wreck, I checked it out.

Wow. The author of that tweet was being nice. Meltdown? I’d say a full-blown fit.

BigAl’s Books and Pals is a blog dedicated to book reviews. Specifically,

“Book reviews, news, commentary, and other fun stuff for readers and authors with an emphasis on the Kindle world and independent authors.”
 
This is a direct quote from his About page. As of today, BigAl’s Books has 145 FaceBook fans, and 216 Twitter followers. Pretty small numbers comparatively speaking. He has reviewed a lot of books though, so I assume author’s seek him out, send in their submissions, cross their fingers, and hope for a good review.
  
So what’s an author to do if that review is, well, not so good? I’ve heard from many seasoned writers that the best course of action is to ignore it. I’ve even heard authors say to not read ANY of your reviews. “It messes with your head,”  they say.  “The good ones and the bad ones.”  By reading J. Howett’s comments following BigAl’s review, I can definitely say that, yeah, that review really messed with her head.
 
BigAl begins his review with a compliment. The book was “compelling and interesting.” But then he follows up by saying that the chances of someone making it to the end of the book are “pretty slim.” Why? The spelling and grammar errors. He states that there are so many of them it makes it difficult to get into the book. Readers are jarred into reality by Ms. Howett’s many errors. Ouch!
 
These comments hit home for me because, quite frankly, my grammar sucks. But I know that. I’m never shock when someone tells me they found a mistake. I quickly correct it, and then I thank them.
Ms. Howett’s response was swift and petty. I have to wonder if this is the first time anyone has told her she needs the help of an editor.
 
Her first comment to the reviewer states that HE read the wrong copy of the manuscript (in other words, It’s your fault). She then goes on to copy and past a few 4 and 5 star reviews from Amazon; which are soon discredited and called fakes by one of the  300 or so comments that followed her internet temper tantrum. (The post went up at 8am. By 6pm there were over 300 comments. Most of them–didn’t read them all–were not favorable to the author.)
 
The ones I did read stated that they would not buy the book because the author was acting like a child and was “very unprofessional.”  Double ouch!
And, no one was  talking about the book. No one was talking about the characters or the plot. They were all talking about the writer and her over-the-top reaction.
 
Ms. Howett took a bad situation and made it badder. (I know . . . couldn’t resist.)
So, what’s a writer to do?
 
While getting a bad review would not make the reviewer a bully, I would say that the best thing to do would be to follow the advice our parents gave us about school yard bullies. Ignore them. Say nothing. So instead of 300+ negative comments, tweets turning her “meltdown” into entertainment, and bloggers like me spreading the word, the review would have come and gone, without anyone really noticing. 
 
This is really sad. We all know how much energy and time it takes to write a novel.  I truly hope this author can recover from this sad fiasco. In addition to an editor, she should seriously consider hiring a publicist One that specializes in damage control.
 
Or in her second book, she could try this.
Have you ever received a negative review? How did you handle it? (Please, no confessions of anything illegal.)

Let’s Write!

So we meet at last . . .
RWwrites is the blog for Rose Writers Workshop. I began these creative writing workshops in 2008 and have been going strong ever since. Recently, I became an official Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA) Affiliate which means I follow the AWA method in all my workshops– a wonderful and successful method that builds creative and confident artists.
Way back in the 1980s, a wonderful writer and poet named Pat Schneider began working with women from low-income and underserved populations. She designed her workshops to be nonhierachical, safe and supportive. Under Mrs. Schneider’s gentle guidance, writers learned how to unearth and honor their true voices. She named it the Amherst Writers & Artists and has been working with and training others to use the method in their own communities.
What a wonderful gift, and I have seen it work myself in the many workshops I have led.

This blog is dedicated to the many writers who have honored me with their presence in my workshops. It is also for writers and artist everywhere who can enjoy a good story, and maybe looking for new and diverse writing prompts.

Thanks for stopping by and check back soon!

Desiree