The Short Stories of 2014, An Evaluation

Just want to wish all my readers a very happy New Year. And take a looksee back at the previeous year. So there it is. Fifty-five stories. All in all, 2014 was a great year for prompts and for writing. This past year of a weekly short story prompt has been such an enjoyable experience. First on Fridays, then on Wednesdays, it has introduced me to a number of wonderful writers, allowed me to touch base with some old friends, and challenged my creativity.

With each story, I had a conversation with the author. Each writer laid down their part of the dialogue. Then I responded with my own bit of the blarney. I was given the opportunity to experiment with: prose poetry, flash fiction, historical fiction, haiku, humor, essay and other forms. In the process, I explored so many different characters’ lives.

I am thankful for you who have shared my adventure. You are the Best. Even better than that. You are the Bestest of the Best.

THEMES ACCORDING TO UNCLE BARDIE

This is where I figure out what I am reading about.

Acceptance (The Birthmark)

American Dream (The Twilight of the Superheroes, Winter Dreams)

Art (Continuity of Parks, Paul’s Case, A Hunger Artist, Cathedral)

Communication (Hills Like White Elephants, Interpreter of Maladies, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love)

Community (Super-Frog Saves Tokyo)

The Conscience (The Tell-Tale Heart)

Cruelty and Compassion (A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings)

Death (A Death in the Woods, The Death of Ivan Ilych,The Odor of Chrysanthemums, A Rose for Emily)

Denial (The Jilting of Granny Weatherall)

Desire (The Monkey’s Paw)

Family (Barn Burning, Everything that rises must converge)

Grace (A Good Man is Hard to Find)

Grief (Shiloh)

Hope (Rita Haworth & the Shawshank Redemption)

Independence (Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, Why I Live At the P.O.)

Isolation and Loneliness (The Fall of the House of Usher, The Metamorphosis, A Perfect Day for Bannafish, The Swimmer, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place)

Love (A & P, Araby, Brokeback Mountain, The Lady With the Pet Dog)

Nature (The Open Boat)

The Past (Babylon Revisited, The Dead, Everyday Use)

Pride (The Necklace)

Reason (The Red-Headed League)

Religion (Young Goodman Brown)

Time (An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge)

Tradition (The Lottery)

Race (The Man Who Was Almost a Man, Sonny’s Blues)

Technology and the Future (Harrison Bergeron)

War (The Most Dangerous Game, The Things They Carried)

Women and their Lives (I Stand Here Ironing, The Story of an Hour, The Yellow Wallpaper, The Chrysanthemums, Girl)

Work (Bartleby the Scrivener)

FIVE FAVORITE SHORT STORY PROMPTS

Each of the fifty-five stories had something to offer. Each of these five sent shivers down my spine as I read it. They are extraordinary stories which I would highly recommend.

“The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright

“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“The Dead” by James Joyce

“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates

“Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri

FIVE FAVORITE CREATIVE RESPONSES

It’s hard to choose just five, but here goes.

“When She Wore That Dress” in response to “Winter Dreams”.

“Sam” in response to “A Rose For Emily”

“Aurora Farquhar’s Prayer” in response to “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”

“The Train Station” in response to “Hills Like White Elephants

“A High School Sophomore’s Book Report on ‘The Metamorphosis’” in response to “The Metamorphosis”

HARDEST SHORT STORY PROMPT TO RESPOND TO

“Connie” in response to “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”

CREATIVE RESPONSE I AM MOST PROUD OF

“The Thing They Carried” in response to “The Things They Carried”.

You can find all fifty-five stories I wrote as a response to the Short Stories under the From Prompts Category.

SOMETHING NEW

Some of you may have noticed that I have been putting a link to a You tube video at the beginning of each post. I am calling it Video or Song for this Post. The link is to a piece of music or some other video that may have inspired the post or that may reflect the mood of it. I began this practice on Wednesday, December 3, with the “When She Wore That Dress” post. For some time, I have been trying to incorporate music into my posts. I even thought about writing a third post for the week, using a musical number as a prompt for the piece. This new practice seems like a good compromise. Hope you like it.

REPOSTS

I don’t normally repost other blog posts but I have reposted twice post this year. One from Carrying the Gun blog called “The Battle of As Samawah” and “Xmas in the Hood” posted on DevynStella’s blog. Both were posts I thought should have a larger readership. (Not that I don’t think all those I follow shouldn’t have larger readerships.) Xmas in the Hood is about how a South African celebrates Christmas with her community. The Battle of As Samawah is the story of an American soldier’s first days of his sojourn in Iraq. Neither were a substitute for my regular Sunday and Wednesday posts. Hope you enjoyed them.

UNCLE BARDIE DOES HAMLET

When I began this adventure in January, 2014, I wasn’t sure how well it would go. Whether I would make it through. I like the idea that I was out there, walking a creative tightrope without a net. I hope you enjoyed the stories as much as I did creating them.

Now on to 2015. On Wednesdays, I will be posting 52 responses to William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. Each week I will take on a scene or aspect of the play, such as the opening scene or the costumes the characters are wearing. I might even write a to-be-ing with a chair in the room, giving the soliloquy. You just never know..

I am not a Shakespearean scholar. On top of that, Shakespeare has always scared the hell out of me. What would make me embrace this madness? Someone once asked Sir Edmund Hillary, “Why climb Mount Everest?” His response, “Because it’s there.” That seems about as good a reason as any.

It is always fun to go exploring. I never know what I will discover. Who knows? Uncle Bardie may just bring a whole new set of questions for Shakespearean scholars to work on for the next century or two. He might reveal that “Hamlet” in no tragedy but actually comedy. Now wouldn’t that be something. Really something.

So stay tuned as Uncle Bardie does “Hamlet”. One thing is for sure. It will be entertaining. As the Bunny used to say, “On with the show. This is it.”

ONE FINAL QUESTION FOR YE READERS

What was your favorite(s) of my Short Story Responses to the Short Story Prompts?

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Left hand, right hand

They say that left handers are the creative ones. Which means that we right handers have a lot to overcome to make art. Slay some dragons. Rescue a few virgins. Play quidditch. As George W. Bush used to say, “It’s hard.” God knows I’ve been after that Holy Grail for most of my life. All I keep hearing from the unknown: “On you huskie. On.”

That “On” has taken me down the road not taken many a time. There’s some scary stuff down that path. Lions and tigers, oh my. I never know just who I’ll run into down the Road. It could be Abby Normal or his sister, Abby So Lutely. Mostly I have been trying to follow what Dorothy and Scarecrow’s advise, when they sing, “Ease on down the road.” But sometimes that is easier said than done. When I come to a fork in the road, I do follow Yogi Berra’s wisdom. “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Still I ask, “What’s a fork without a spoon?”

I do try to follow Jesus’ advice. I try to never let my right hand know what my left hand is doing. “Shhh, it’s a secret,” I tell him. Have to tell you that is a good way to get clobbered. That right hand don’t particularly like it when he gets told what to do. That’s why I’m not letting him know it’s a blog I’m-a doing. If I do, he might not play nice. Could very well take over. Then what would you get? All that rational stuff that just isn’t any fun.

Xmas in the Hood

I follow this South African woman’s blog and I thought I would share her description of how they celebrate Christmas in her part of the world. Enjoy.

DevynStella

There’s no christmas tree or a chimney. You won’t find grandfather frost or any snow man. There’s no going from house to house singing christmas carols or the serving of mince pies as dessert. Its very anormal (and quite disturbing for some) seeing a house with christmas lights and decorations. And just so you know in the hood, we have absolutely no use for christmas crackers and there is also not a single drop of snow just an abundance of sunshine.

You will find presents, they are just not in a stocking under some christmas tree. If you’re hoping for a delicious taste of some good fresh roast turkey, forget it. There is however a variety of tasty meaty dishes. You also have the option to have all of our most favourable salads (mashed potatoes, coleslaw and a beetroot salad) in one plate to form part of our rare ‘seven…

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Something for Monday: My Santa Claus Kit

So now it’s Christmas Eve I must admit

It’s time to pull out my old Santa Claus Kit

Done it a thousand times, still it’s a hit

It must be done for it’s in the holy writ

First the bourbon to get delightfully lit

Then I stumble on down to the basement

And search under all the whatchamacallits

Till I am completely at the end of my wits.

After lots and lots of starts and fits

I am not about to call it quits

Till up it pops from where it sits

My one and only Santa Claus Kit.

My red suit is in it, so are my white mits

To keep my hands warm for the night’s trip

My boots black as coal and other condiments

Even some meds for my one true zit.

The night is ready, a sleigh to equip

Up on the roof I make for it

In my sweater Mrs. Claus did knit

It’s so snug it’s a just right fit

On the third floor I stop to try and get

The eight reindeer from where they sit

They care about Christmas not one whit

They want a raise or they say that’s about it.

Even Rudolph, he’s such a snit

He has a red nose, he thinks he’s really It

I go to pull them after me till I get bit

“Ouch,” I cry, then, “I’m ’bout out of my wits.”

“We’ll not go with you,” the reindeer spit

I’m ‘bout to sober up, I need another hit

Of the bourbon so I can get some grit.

I take a swig and it does the trick

I throw my rope ‘round the reindeer neck

Before they know what happened lickety split

They’re ready to have a go at it

Up on the roof. To the sleigh they’re hitched

Then it’s over to the elf’s closet

Where I grab my bag and I toss it

Into the sleigh it makes something of a dent

Then I jump into the seat and sit

I raise the reins and ready for the ascent

One last shot of bourbon and I am bent

For the heavens and the stars that are lit

To guide my ‘round the world event

The seat is hard in the place I have to sit

Tomorrow my behind will have one big dent

For there’s no cushion in my Santa Claus Kit

Next year I’ll ask Santa, a pillow I shall get.

Movie of the Week: It’s Christmas, 1183. Let the Games Begin

Video for this post. Lion in Winter, directed by Anthony Harvey.

Peter O’Toole is Henry 2, King of England; Katherine Hepburn is his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. What a pair. You don’t need to know a lot of history to know that this is “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” in a castle, only the George and Martha of this story have three sons. And all of them have knives. As Eleanor says, “Of course, he has a knife. He always has a knife. We all have knives. It’s 1183 and we’re barbarians.”

The movie, “Lion in Winter”, is set in a castle in the Middle Ages. The only way to heat the joint up is with a family fight. It may be Christmas but Eleanor hits that proverbial nail on the head when she lets out with, “It might as well be Lent.”

And what’s Christmas without a family get-together? The Plantagenets gather at Daddy’s place in Anjou for a jolly good time. Henry is the Lion and Eleanor the Winter, two great forces baring their teeth at one another and using their sons to do it. Henry wants John, the youngest, to be the next king, Eleanor wants Richard to take over the family biz from Dad. Neither parent seems to care much for Geoffrey. So he gets Burgundy. Isn’t that the way it is with middle children? Don’t they always end up with Burgundy?

Along the way, they’ll use Philip, the King of France, to get what they want. As Eleanor tells Richard, “Promise him anything.” It’s the Plantagenet way. But Phil has some tricks up his sleeve too. However, he is never a match for Henry–and Eleanor. The question is: Is Henry a match for his three sons? And his wife of thirty years?

For Hepburn, it is a new career. She had only completed three movies between 1957 and 1968. Much of that time she tended to an ailing Spencer Tracy. He had passed on in 1967 shortly after doing “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”. It seemed that now she was liberated, and she gave this magnificent performance, one of the best in a career of great performances. Here she is a match for Lawrence of Arabia, and he too delivers a stunning performance, portraying one of history’s great kings. In addition to these two, there’s a future James Bond as the King of France and Anthony Hopkins, years before he became Sir Anthony, playing Richard.

If you don’t think writers matter, think again. James Goldman’s script, adapted from his play, has some amazing dialogue. It only goes to show how good a director and actors can be with a good, and in this case, a great, script.

Here’s just a sample of a conversation:

Eleanor: You look fit. War agrees with you. I keep informed; I follow all your slaughters from a distance. Do sit down.

Prince Richard: Is this an audience… a good night hug with kisses… or an ambush?

Eleanor: Let’s hope it’s a reunion.

Give yourself a treat and see “Lion in Winter”. I think you’ll love it.