BY LES McCARTHY
June 3, 2015
I am a rambler. Oh, not the automobile that my grandparents had that they drove every other Sunday, if the moon was full or the sun was high…the car that still had that “new car smell” 15 years after it rolled into their garage for the first time, back in the early ’60s. That is, until my brother purchased it, took the plastic covers off the seats, stuck a doll’s head on the front hood ornament, rearranged (and deleted some of) the letters on the face grid from RAMBLER to MABEL and then subsequently drove it into the ground.
And that, my friends, was 100 words. It goes quickly. A lot or a little can be said in just a paragraph of that length.
Just last week I attended Chris Spencer’s 100 Word Short Story Smash contest at WICA—my second time attending this event and it did not disappoint. The premise of the contest is that people from our island community are asked to submit one or two original stories of exactly 100 words. No more, no less. These (roughly 60) stories are read on stage (think theatrical performance), given fabulous faux book covers that are shared on-screen while the story is read (always a thrill!), judged and, at the end of the night—after all the stories have been read—prizes are awarded.
I don’t go to hear great literary works (though some are pretty darn good!); I go to hear creativity. I go to gather inspiration. I go for the sheer wonderment of the human brain. What makes people think these things? What sparked this idea? Where did this story come from? It’s simply marvelous what people come up with and share in a mere 100 words!
I’m of the ilk that if someone said—“Les, your job (for the next century or so) is to come up with 500-1000 words every day on whatever trips your trigger”—I’d be ecstatic! I’d give them a big, not–so-PC hug, take that job and run with it. License to ramble! How fabulous would that be! But no one is saying that to me. And, most of the time when I write, I am reminded that I need to EDIT. CUT IT BACK. In other words—slash the words that spill from my brain via my fingers onto whatever page (be it paper or screen). Mincemeat comes to mind.
Alas, that is hard for me to do. So, consider telling a story with a very restricted word count!
Last fall, I entered the contest. Somehow (sheer beginner’s luck, I’m sure) I walked away with Second Place. This year no such luck—however, the thrill of someone reading my words, ON STAGE, is just such a rush that I’ll do it again and again, for as long as this event keeps going on.
Listening to the stories sparks emotions; was the story based on some true/real event? Some, I hoped not. But, they were all amazing and shared a commonality…they are all 100 words and all creative…whether sad or funny, out-there or thought-provoking.
That night there was one story about Little Bo Peep. It made old, storybook images come to mind and I found myself wondering, too—what did happen to those sheep? Did she find them? Did they finally come home? And for that matter, what color and kind were they? Was it a large flock? Where were they when they disappeared—in the meadow? Was there some sort of weather condition (fog, heavy rains, blizzard) that made them lose their way? Or did they simply veer off course and fall prey to a cliff or predators? I would like to know!
And there are another 100 words. Albeit, my first rendering of that paragraph was 132 words! See? Rambler!
In any case, before my thoughts turn to the chickens outside my window learning how to squawk or how the sound of the lawnmower in the next yard has taken me back about 50 years to my childhood home, I query you to think about this exercise in creative brevity. I urged a friend to give this a whirl. She kept saying she wasn’t a writer. I kept telling her she is.
Everyone is a writer. We all have something to say. Put your pen to paper. Speak into your recorder; are there really recorders still around today? Type something up.
Let your thoughts flow. Try it. Give it a shot. And if you really want to challenge yourself, say it all in a mere 100 words…or you can just ramble on like me!
Read more about the 100 Short Story Smash in this WLM feature: https://www.whidbeylifemagazine.org/the-guy-in-the-gold-sequined-shoes/.
Les McCarthy is an author, entrepreneur and IPPY bronze medalist for her yearly “Healthy Living ~ Healthy Life: 365 Days of Nutrition & Health for the Family” calendars. She’s been almost a year on the island and in the NW and loves every green bit of it. She joyfully tends to her geriatric fur factory and is happy the slugs are back!
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Thank you for the write-up and the support. I’d love for this to catch fire and find an even bigger audience to stick their toes into the literary lake of experiences. See what nibbles or bites or bursts from the waters.