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Let's Talk Authors

 

1) Write 250 words or less about a character on the Fourth of July. The character can be one you have already or one you create on the fly. Your 250 word story must be FICTION and must include a dandelion AND the American flag. However, your 250 words may NOT include fireworks in any form, because that's too easy!

 

Winner: Bev Clay Freeman, Silence of the Bones and Where Ladies Slippers Grow

 

“NEWS”

Rex Ransom's car passed a line of people observing the 4th of July American flags display at the Smokey Mountains’ Visitor Center. He exceeded posted speeds and raced toward Dandelion Cove, ignoring the Patriotism of the day. He always had to be first to get the breaking story. Today, it was Native American Artifacts discovered in the cove, where previously white settlers were thought to be first. But the latest unearthed items might change that belief.

 

The car slid into a curve as he caught the Channel 5 News Van. Rex floored the accelerator and whisked past them. "Not today, Ms. Sarah. This one is my story." He shook his fist, calling out the window, and passed on double yellow lines.

 

Torrential rain all day and night brought creeks out of their banks. The steel bridge where Dandelion Creek joined Roaring Fork was inches from flooding.

 

As Rex drove onto the wood planking, he saw a wall of water bearing down on the structure. Determined to cross, he continued, but a fifteen-foot wash engulfed the bridge, crushing it like a soda can.

 

Rex thought, if only I hadn’t gone back for extra camera batteries, or stopped for coffee, I’d be there now. How will I get the news on time? It is my story; damn that water!

 

Rex struggled to catch his last breath as the car rolled, when it dawned on him, “Tonight, I AM the NEWS.”

 

2) Write 250 words about a summertime experience you've had. Your story must be based in your hometown, must be NON-FICTION, and must be set in either July or August.

 

Winner: Victoria Ann Fletcher, Fletcher’s Fables and Fletcher’s Fables Too

 

“Beatle-Mania”

My birthday is in July. When I was getting ready to turn 10 years old, my mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday. Before I tell you what I said, I need to give you some background.

 

I stayed with my grandparents while my dad taught school and my mom worked at the power company. My uncle still lived at home since he was the baby at 18 years old. He was the coolest guy I knew. He loved The Beatles' music. Since he did, so did I. He told me they were from Liverpool, England which was a long way from Damascus. They came to America to be on the Ed Sullivan show. Needless to say, Tom and I were in front of the TV for that. I think my grandparents were glad when that was over. Now, back to my answer.

 

"Mom, more than anything I want a Beatle shirt," I said.

 

"Okay, I will go shopping during my lunch breaks this week," Mom said.

 

I couldn't wait until after birthday cake and ice-cream to open my gift. First, I looked at it disappointed. Then, I became hysterical.

 

"What is wrong," my Mom asked.

 

"Nothing, Mom. I got what I asked for," I said with tears streaming down my face. It was a shirt with a beetle on it.

 

3) Write 250 Words about the changing of the seasons. Your 250 words must be FICTIONAL and must either discuss the change from summer to autumn OR fall autumn to winter. Your story must include a PICKUP TRUCK and a STAINED GLASS WINDOW.

 

Winner: Amber D. Tran, Moon River

 

“Virtue”

She sees the figure of Jesus in the stained-glass window of a passing church. Flesh-colored shards contrast with the sharp green pieces that orchestrate his crown of thorns. Red lines run down his paper-thin face, blood at his feet. She returns her glance between her sneakers as they dangle in the passenger seat.

 

Her father clears his throat. “You okay, baby?”

 

She sighs through her nose. “Uhh, yeah, I’m fine.”

 

“Talk to me if you need to,” he whispers, shifting the old Chevy S10 into a lower gear to migrate one of the many hills of the Appalachia. The truck lurches forward. She bites her tongue.

 

After a few minutes, the vehicle eases into the crumbling parking lot of an old gray building with bunker-style windows. Her throat is dry as she swallows, her stomach somersaulting at the sight of protesters holding picket signs of ultrasounds, unborn fetuses, and the faces of saved children. Her small hands curl on the hard curves of her knees.

As she opens the truck door, dead leaves crunch beneath her boots. She realizes the camouflage of her outfit—oranges and reds that bleed with the oncoming autumn season—but not even the warmth of her clothes can hide her from the eyes that find her.

 

Her father kills the engine. “You don’t have to do this, baby girl.”

 

“I know, but—” The young girl walks inside.

 

She is stained glass. She crawls on a path of thorn. She can’t have her rapist’s baby.

 

4) Write 250 words about the best experience you've ever had while doing a stereotypically mundane activity. For example, the best experience you've ever had getting gas, doing chores, grocery shopping, walking the dog, driving to work, etc. Your 250 words must be NON-FICTION.

 

Winner: Charlotte S. Snead, A Place to Live and Always My Son

 

I was on the phone praying with a friend who called, while battling a severe bout of flu. Trying to be upbeat, I couldn't stand up and sank to the floor. Our three-year old sank down beside me.

 

"Are you OK, Mom?"

 

I whispered that I felt really sick. He ran back to our bedroom, coming back with my Bible in his hand.

He threw it on the floor at my feet, hollering: "Do you see that, debil? We believe every word in this book. Get your filthy hands off my mama!"

 

Instant healing! The faith of a child! I hugged him, got up, and did a full day's work.

 

5) Write 250 words about the family of polar bears on an icy landscape in our photo. Did the photographer stumble upon them or track them down? Do you want to include the photographer at all, or are the bears looking at something more interesting? Your 250 words must be FICTION.

 

 

Winner: Susanna Connelly Holstein, Anthologies Easter Lilies and These Haunted Hills

 

Ice hung from his eyebrows and beard as he trudged across the expanse of frozen white and blue. Beside and below him stretched the lake, frozen twenty feet deep. It made for good walking.

 

He had planned this hike for years, determined to test his endurance against the wilderness that had killed his grandfather and driven his grandmother south, to the beaches of Florida. There he had grown up, but always he dreamed of snow, of Northern Lights and polar bears.

 

All this way, and not a bear to be seen, he thought. He dropped the pack from his back and sank to his haunches. Time to make tea, warm up.

 

It was a sound as soft as rain. There, so close he could see their breath fog, a mother and her white cubs stood immobile. He froze, one hand on the stove. The mother took a step, nose in the air as she caught his scent. The cubs gamboled behind her, innocently uncaring about this stranger in their land.

 

The mother came closer, her wild blue eyes locked on his. He didn’t blink, didn’t twitch, paralyzed by her gaze. A cub ran up and chewed on his mother’s leg; she batted him with her huge paw, turned and lumbered across the ice. The spell was broken.

 

He watched the bears until they disappeared from sight. Then he made his tea and drank it as he looked back at the way he had come. It was time to go home.

 

6) Write 250 words about the emotions that the date September 11th evokes for you. Where were you on that day in 2001? Have you been to the memorial or would you go if given the chance? The goal of this prompt is to be descriptive in your emotions. Your 250 words must be NON-FICTION.

 

Winner: Kathleen M. Jacobs, Honeysuckle Holiday, Marble Town, and Collected Curiosities

 

“9/11”

“Oh, my God. Oh, my God,” my husband’s assistant, Barbara, repeated in a tone that was unidentifiable. A tone unlike any other I had ever heard, as if it had just been introduced – a mix of trepidation and incredulity, one that I would never hear again.

 

I had not yet turned on the television that morning, instead calling my husband at his office first, to remind him of a dinner party that we had been invited to attend that evening. I put the speaker phone on to spread a more than generous amount of Land O Lakes butter on my cinnamon toast.

 

Barbara was a lady of deep faith and a spiritual awareness that was so genuine that she seemed to glow from within so powerfully that she appeared to walk with not just grace, but a shining light that let everyone around her yearn to spend time with her. She was not the type of person to use those three words lightly, but in an invocation of God’s mercy.

 

“Turn on the television, Kathy,” she instructed in a near-whisper. “I’ll put John on the phone.”

The images that appeared were as foreign and unidentifiable as Barbara’s plea to God. And my husband’s certain and familiar tone had been shaken to its core. And all I could emit, next to the tears that fell without provocation, were the words, “Oh, my God. Oh, my God.” And the only sounds from the other end were deafening, childlike sniffles.

 

7) Write a 250 word detailed description of an object without explicitly saying what the object is. The goal of this prompt is to practice descriptive language and imagery. If you really want to say what your object is you may do so ONLY in the last line of your entry.

 

Winner: Bev Clay Freeman, Silence of the Bones and Where Ladies Slippers Grow

 

You stand alone, grounded yet surrounded by gold and green. They bow as if to touch the hem of your garment, a wrap, rough in texture, life sustaining, encasing your core, your soul. Concealing rings in time are a memory of your life.

 

Lift your arms toward heaven’s light by day, and shelter those who rest in safety at night. Your grace be honored by all who kneel next to you. You bring forth fruit to those who hunger. Carved by sharp edge, you bleed. Scars heal, leaving deep-cut letters, such a shame. You are old, majestic, and strong but wither at the touch of flames. Your enemy is fire, from which you cannot run.

 

Spring brings life in sprouts of green and delicate bloom. In summer, you cool the world and replenish cleansing oxygen into the air. With autumn, your color blushes shades of red and orange. Winter’s wind rips through your limbs, leaving you naked. Snow blankets you against the cold. You stand alone.

 

8) Write a 250 short story that involves a count down. Start the story at FIVE and end at ZERO. The story may be either fiction OR non-fiction, but must include SNOW and HIDDEN TREASURE.

 

Winner: Susanna Connelly Holstein, Anthologies Easter Lilies and These Haunted Hills

 

“Treasure Mountain”

Five of them. Out of the settlers huddled at the fort during the Shawnee raid, only five were taken prisoner. Nancy struggled through the deep snow, gripping her son’s hand. She, her son, and three men were shoved along the trail by their captors. She tried not to think why only these few were selected.

 

Behind her two Indians struggled with a large iron kettle they’d taken from the fort. She had seen them throwing things into the pot and now knives, silver and other items clanked in the kettle. The two men looked like they were having trouble; they soon dropped behind the others. The group stopped, and the two Indians who had dropped behind reappeared, empty-handed. No one mentioned the kettle. They seemed to be arguing about what to do with their captives. Nancy’s heart thumped with fear for her little son.

 

At that moment gunfire burst from the trees. Men rushed from the forest, yelling and whooping. The Shawnee ran swiftly into the gathering dark as soldiers appeared like avenging angels. Tears coursed down Nancy’s cheeks. “We are saved! Hallelujah! We are saved!”

 

This story is based on a Shawnee raid on a small settlement in Pendleton County, West Virginia, in 1758. For years, people have searched for the lost kettle and its treasure. At the annual Treasure Mountain Festival, there is a treasure hunt as part of the activities. But of the kettle and its contents, the number of items found to date: zero.

 

9) Write 250 words about overcoming a fear. It can be fiction or non-fiction, your fear or someone else's. Describe the fear, why it is frightening, and how it was or will be overcome.

 

Winner: Victoria Ann Fletcher, Fletcher’s Fables and Fletcher’s Fables Too

 

Some people are afraid of spiders, snakes, or other animals. Not me. Some people are afraid of dark or closed spaces. Not me. Some people are afraid of doctors and dentists. Not... okay, maybe the dentist a little bit.

My main fear is of heights. I even have trouble getting on the 2nd step of a step stool. It is a little frustrating not being able to change a light bulb because I am so short that I can’t reach it without the before mentioned 2nd step.

 

I won’t live in a 2-story house. I don’t even like to visit my friend’s house with a deck off her 2nd story. Once she saw me clinging to the wall and we went back inside. I admire people who can sky dive, take chairlifts, stand on overlooks, or just enjoy their deck. I am just not one of them!!!

 

There was a brief time that I became comfortable with climbing a step stool. However, after falling head first off the church steps, that was short lived.

 

Since I am old as the hills, I doubt the fear will be conquered in this life. I bet it will be cured when I am walking on golden streets way up high. That doesn’t scare me a bit.

 

10) "It makes me seem whimsical."

"Your definition of whimsical is stunningly different from my definition of whimsical."

These lines were said by two different characters. Write no more than 250 words, no less than 200 words, about these quotes. You do NOT have to include the quotes in your story or word count, but continue the conversation. Who is speaking and what about?

 

Winner: April Ford Hensley, Anthology These Haunted Hills

 

“Tallulah! We are going to be late to the Christmas Eve service!” I pounded on her bedroom door.

 

“I’m coming Mary! Hold your horses!”

 

Tallulah had been late to everything except our birth 82 years ago. She was the first-born. We were identical twins in looks but opposites in many ways. It was one of the reasons I adored her. I was reminded of our extreme differences as I turned towards the click of her door.

 

“Tallulah Belle! No! Just no!”

 

“What?” She grinned merrily.

 

‘You cannot wear that hat!” Was that a pear? And a bird?

 

“Why not? It makes me seem whimsical.” Tallulah adjusted the extra wide brim of crimson felt covering her halo of hair.

 

"Your definition of whimsical is stunningly different from my definition of whimsical."

 

Tallulah huffed. “It’s for someone special.”

 

There was no time to debate her. We had less than 15 minutes to get to the church. We rushed to my compact and peeled out the drive. When I swung a hard left at the intersection, Tallulah’s hat knocked me sideways.

We made it with moments to spare. Scanning the crowd, Tallulah spotted a crying baby chewing his soggy fingers. When he saw Tallulah, his face broke into a gurgling grin. Beaming, Tallulah lifted her great-grandson as he raised his arms to her. Tallulah’s hat worked its magic on him. He spent the entire evening cooing peacefully, staring at it in innocent wonder.

 

11) Write 200-250 words about an "Alien Thanksgiving." Is the holiday called the same thing? How did it come about? When does it take place on this foreign planet?

 

Winner: Victoria Ann Fletcher, Fletcher’s Fables and Fletcher’s Fables Too

 

“Alien Thanksgiving”

On the tiny planet of Zircon, all the beings were blessed to be free from their enemies, the Gargantuans, after years of battles. King Zark announced a day of celebration to show thanks for their freedom. He decided to name the special day Free Feast Day. He invited all 1000 beings of Zircon to attend.

 

On the day of the feast, all the beings came with food to share and the day was enjoyed by all. The tiny beings sang to the adults. The king arranged rides to the nearby galaxy, Xavier, and back. They used the planet’s moons, which were a perfect diamond shape, to play baseball using their jet-ski boots to run bases.

 

It was a great day of fun, food, and fellowship. During the feast, the king asked each being to share why they were thankful. I think tiny Zubidia said it best. She said I am thankful for freedom, my family and friends, and most of all to have a God of the Universe watching over me.

 

At the end of the day, King Zark told the Zirconias that he was declaring Free Feast Day to be an annual event. We will hold it on the 20th if Zeldathan to commemorate the day we became free. All the beings of Zircon cheered.

 

12)    Write 200-250 words about a winter love affair. This story can be true or fictional, but MUST include snow like all truly great winter love stories do.

 

Winner: Willie Dalton, Three Witches in a Small Town and The Dark Side of the Woods

 

“A Love Like Winter”

I had missed him. I hadn’t seen his face since spring, but that’s how it went every year. When the air started to chill and the sky started to gray, that’s when he called. And when the snow began to melt and flowers started to bloom we would inevitably part ways, even though neither of us really wanted to. He was my winter lover and the only thing that warmed my cold heart in those dreary days.

 

We met at our spot just off the highway at the head of a hiking trail that led through a tunnel. We weren’t supposed to be there this late but no one would be coming to close the gate in this weather. The roads were icy and we were crazy to be out in it ourselves but seeing each other was worth it. He took my arm and smiled at me, reminding me of everything I had been missing for so many months.

 

We walked arm in arm through the glittering snow with the street lamps casting a dreamlike glow across the ground and our faces. And that’s what it was really, a dream that lasted from December to March. He kissed me there in the cold with snowflakes in our hair and I knew there was no other love like my winter love.

 

 

 

 

JCP holds a bi-weekly contest, exclusively for our authors, on our JCP Authors Facebook Forum.

 

On this page, we list all of our writing prompts and winners. Check back on Monday, January 22nd to read our 13th Writing Prompt Contest and the winning submission!

 

Are you one of our authors, but can't access our JCP Authors Facebook Forum?

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