That Chocolate Kiss

On October 1, 2013, the online writers group LimeBird Writers UK posted a fun little writing contest for their second anniversary:

[C]omplete this sentence: “Chocolate is…”. Write your sentence in the comments section below. We will allow up to 3 entries per person. After the deadline, the Limebirds will decide on which sentence is the most creative, and that person will win a yummy box of Celebrations chocolates!

I submitted the entry below….

…and, I won! It was just a box of Celebrations chocolates, but it felt great to try my hand at something and get chosen as a winner. Winning doesn’t happen that often, for me. Plus, those UK chocolates were darn tasty!

I miss the days of fun challenges like this one. My weeks used to be full of exercising my writing skills between WIPs. Back in those days, I got so much joy out of writing stories, sharing them, hearing what others thought and reading theirs, too. Nowadays, I write and I share, but I don’t get a lot of feedback. I don’t read a lot of other people’s blogs, either. I’m not sure if that’s because my life has gotten busier, the temperature of the writing groups online have changed, or I’m simply not as interested any longer.

I miss my friends the LimeBird Writers, too. I do stay in touch with many of them, and I’m always happy to hear how they’re doing, what successes they’re having, and how they are meeting the challenges in their lives. It’s become more personal, where we know each other as more than just writers. (“Just writers.” Like that’s a thing.) There was a tender simplicity to that old way, though. Maybe what I miss is that feeling of not being as much of a grown-up concerned with politics and global issues. It was fun to be “just a writer” for that little while of my life.

It’s also funny to me, though, to think that the outwardly innocuous act of reading and becoming engaged by an informal online writers group could bring me into touch with so many talented, wonderful people. These are folks for whom I feel no envy, only gratefulness for being allowed to get to know them. They were like family, for a time. They came to know me, too, I think.

Maybe that’s what I really miss, what I really long for. The connection that existed once between me and these would-have-been strangers who found a common thread in our lives as writers poking and pulling at our art and craft.

Happy anniversary, LimeBirds, wherever you are. Your time may have been brief, but I, for one, enjoyed it.

Confettifall Christmas Contest – Processing a submission

Earlier this week, LimebirdVanessa over at Limebird Writers posted the 25th edition of their Writing Competitions and Opportunities Digest. The series in itself is full of great opportunities for writers of all genres, interests, and skill levels, but one of them stood out in particular: the Confettifall Christmas Contest. Head on over to the Limebird Writers post to get the full details (and more!).

You back? Okay.

As you’ve read, the Confettifall Christmas Contest is to create a 140-character story. Confettifall’s site says there is no particular theme for this contest, so we could write whatever we wanted, with a few caveats (no profanity, no pornography, and no poems this time around). Ordinarily, these guidelines alone would hamper my ability to tell a story, but with only 140 characters to do the deed, I couldn’t waste my character count on foul words or play. I’m wordy enough as it is!

I wanted to have a very simple theme – romance/revenge – and a moment from my past struck me. On a lark, I’d gone to a palm reader with some friends of mine. We each had our pasts/futures read, with varying degrees of accuracy. The experience was mostly just a five-dollar jaunt into something silly we’d never done before, a fun way to pass the time while we waited for the guys in our party to show up. But, one line from my fortune teller stuck with me that night, and has continued to stay with me for many years. You’ll see what I mean….

Below is the process I took for this particular challenge. It’s pretty standard to my normal challenge process, though I’ve put in some of my internal monologue, just to keep things interesting:

Goal: Write a story in 140 characters.

First try:

The tarot reader had been spectacularly wrong on most counts: she had no children, no white picket fence, no important job. Certainly, the loving, faithful husband bit was a joke. But, the old woman had said one thing that had resonated with young Cecilia: “That which you cannot create, you are destined to destroy.”

Jace, her “loving” and “faithful” husband, never saw the shot coming.

Character count: 386. Okay, that’s way too long, but I’ve got an idea going. Now, to start whittling.

Second try:

While wrong on most counts, the psychic had made one correct prediction: What Cecilia couldn’t have, she’d destroy. Shame Jace didn’t hear it, too, or he’d have known about the gun.

Character count: 181. Not bad, but it doesn’t punch. And, 41 characters too many.

Third try:

What Cecilia couldn’t have, she would destroy. That had been her tarot reading.

Jace had called it cryptic nonsense. Maybe if he’d listened, she wouldn’t have shot him.

Character count: 167. I like this one better. It’s closer, but STILL too many characters. Need to whittle it down by 27.

Fourth try:

“What you can’t have, you will destroy,” the psychic said.

Her husband called such advice money-grabbing malarkey.

Maybe. She still shot him, though.

Character count: 147. I’m drifting into slightly more black comedy territory, here. Maybe not a bad idea.

Fifth try (Starting to wear thin):

“She told me, what I can’t have, I’ll destroy.”

“Bull,” her husband said, swinging his wandering eyes back to her.

“Really?” she said, and shot him.

Character count: 146. I’m starting to hate this contest. And my writing.

Sixth try:

“The psychic said, what I can’t have, I’ll destroy.”

“Bull,” her husband said, swinging his roving gaze her way.

Maybe. She still shot him.

Character count: 140 (tested in a Twitter window). Huzzah! Perhaps this isn’t prize-winning material, but I’ll leave this one where it stands. While fun in terms of a contest challenge, it’s not quite worth it to spend any extra time on.

The whole exercise took me about an hour, from first initial draft idea to what I came up with at the end. Even though this is an “official” contest with a prize and everything, I decided I wouldn’t spend more than an hour on it, just so it wouldn’t distract me all day from the rest of my writing projects. But, it was still fun.

What do you think? What sort of process do you go through for prompts/challenges like this? On a less writer-y note, have you ever had your fortune told?

Dissecting video

A few weeks ago, the fine folks over at Limebird Writers celebrated their first anniversary. To commemorate, they had a contest with a bunch of fantabulous prizes that would make any aspiring writer’s quill quiver with eager excitement, mine included. My video didn’t win, but the process was such fun – and so easy – I thought I’d share a few of my production steps.

1. Text.

Every story starts with text. (Well, every story starts with an idea, but you need to put the idea on paper if you want to be able to share it.) I wrote a (very loose and very silly) poem, which you can read below:

“Happy birthday, Limebirds!”

Just one short year ago today
The Web was graced with an idea so bright
A place for writers to tell their stories
To craft and let their words take flight

Safe harbor from the fright’ning storm
Of jealous trolls and arbalests
Where artists could be free and nurtured
‘Til they’re ready to leave their nests.

The word rang out to authors round
And the name came to be known.
Storytellers settled in
And so the family’s grown.

No matter what your pen may favor –
Poetry, horror, SF, YA –
You’ll always have a friend with
The Limebirds UK.

Yes, I know the meter is inconsistent, and the sentiment is a bit heavy-handed…but I wanted to do something fun, especially since it was going to be sung.

2. Audio.

Despite it being called a “video,” audio is perhaps the most important part of any video project. You can cover up crappy video, but you can’t cover up crappy audio. I recorded my audio using Audacity, a great piece of cross-platform shareware  available from Sourceforge. I recommend Audacity mostly because it’s easy to use and free to download, and exports to MP3 with very little issue.

audacity

An example Audacity window.

(As for the tune, B came up with that herself. I was trying to find some music to go with the cadence, but she just ran with it, so that’s what I kept.)

3. Video/Images.

This isn’t really a video, per se, since it’s just static images sewn together with Final Cut Pro.

limebirds final cut

My Limebirds anniversary project, in process

I use FCP because it’s what I’m used to, but Adobe’s Premiere product is very good, too. (For those of you who are students or work at a college or university, make sure to ask for the educator’s discount!) If you’re not interested in shelling out lots of money for either of these programs, Apple’s iMovie and Windows Movie Maker are adequate – if not very powerful – substitutes.

I sized and cropped each of the images for video (720×480) in Adobe Photoshop (again, because that’s what I’m used to). If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on Photoshop, though, check out a nice little freeware program called GIMP, which is, frankly, a great alternative. (GIMP does not have quite as many bells and whistles as Adobe’s products, but it is a powerful little program.)

I did make sure to use public domain images so I wouldn’t infringe on anyone’s creative art. Wikimedia Commons is a great place to get royalty-free, open-access imagery. Just make sure to pay attention to the usage rights attached to each image, as these are specified by the original artist, and we don’t want to exploit anyone else’s work. 🙂

The Wikimedia Commons front page. All you need for royalty-free.

So! Here’s the full video. At 01:19, it’s a bit long for what it is, but it’s difficult to tell a kid to hurry it up. 😉

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6IGm6GucXs?rel=0&w=420&h=315]

Have you ever experimented with video? What kind of video did you make…or would you like to make? Let me know! Oh, and do make sure to stop by the Limebird Writers. They’ve always got great things to say!

Log in here!