The Merry Writer Podcast: Episode 018 Now Live!

Do You Use Writing Prompts? | Ep. 018 | The Merry Writer Podcast | RachelPoli.com

The Merry Writer Podcast

The Merry Writer started as a hashtag game on Twitter and Instagram. Hosted by Ari Meghlen and myself, The Merry Writer Podcast is a fun, friendly show about all things writing and bookish. Join us as we ask all the “write” questions.

Episode 018: Do you use writing prompts?

In this week’s episode, Ari and I discuss our thoughts on creative writing prompts and how they can boost your writing. Be sure to give it a listen through the YouTube video below or any of the links below.

New episodes are published every Wednesday at 10:00 am EST (2:00 pm BST). Please subscribe to the podcast so you can be notified when a new episode goes live. Also, give each episode a “like” wherever you enjoy tuning in. It’ll help the podcast grow and we’d really appreciate it!

Thanks for listening!

Podbean | Spotify | iTunes | Stitcher | TuneIn | YouTube | PodLink

What are your thoughts on this episode? Let me know in the comments below so we can chat! Please feel free to share this post.

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Short Story Sunday: “Virtue” [310]

Short Story Sunday 310: "Virtue" | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | RachelPoli.com

The words stared back at her. She flipped her pen over the knuckles of her right hand, though it kept falling onto the paper where the words were listed. She had seen people fiddle with a pen in their hand – weaving it in and out of their fingers, though she was never able to master it. (Sure, she had mostly seen people do it in the movies, but it must have been a little possible, right?)

Noelle pressed her lips together not sure how she was going to get through this assignment. She had just finished her homework for school and now had to worry about this task. Was it legal for a therapist to give their patient homework? If it was, it definitely should have been illegal.

She had only been seeing her therapist once a week for about a month. They were slowly getting to know each other but Noelle wasn’t sure how this list of words would help her. She still wasn’t going to feel confidant in anything she did – her soccer team, homework, any creative work she’d done. There were still going to be days when Noelle wasn’t going to want to get out of bed and go to school, see or talk to people, and not want to do anything at all.

A knock came at her bedroom door and when Noelle looked over her shoulder she noticed her friend in the doorway. She must have left her door open which was a mistake. Noelle had no intention of seeing anyone or talking to anyone tonight.

He walked into the door and stood over her at her desk. “Hey, you were missed at school today.”

“Okay,” Noelle said. How else was she supposed to reply to that? She wasn’t sorry she missed school. Besides, it wasn’t her fault she missed school anyway. Her brain didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. She was lucky she wasn’t back in bed right now.

Also, she certainly wasn’t going to go back to school because people missed her. Who missed her anyway? The teachers? Of course they were going to say that. She knew her classmates didn’t miss her. Aside from Alexander, she had no friends.

Noelle let out a sigh. She turned around in her desk chair and placed a tick mark on a sheet of paper in the corner of her desk. It was one tick mark of many covering the page.

“What’s that for?” Alexander asked.

“My therapist told me to mark whenever I begin to over think. I think she wants to gauge just how much I do it,” Noelle explained.

“Ah, okay. Did you want to talk about it? You don’t have to, but I’m here if you want.”

Noelle gave him a small smile. “I appreciate that. I always knew you were here even though I don’t act it at times.”

“I know.” Alexander placed a gently hand on her shoulder. “What’s that list there?”

Noelle rolled her eyes. “It’s a list of virtues. My therapist wants me to circle five to ten words that describe me.”

“Oh, well that’s easy.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “They’re a list of virtues. You know, positive words. How am I supposed to circle five of these things? I told her I might be able to get one but she said I needed at least five. She wasn’t going to accept any less than that. Do you know how stressful this is?”

Alexander frowned.

Noelle continued. “She said it gently, of course. I like my therapist, I really do. But I don’t think it’s fair that I have to really think on this when it stresses me out. Virtues aren’t exactly something I have too many of. How am I supposed to pick a couple out that explain who I am? Not to mention I’m going to totally sound arrogant if I do circle a couple of these words. Who likes arrogant people? No one.” She paused. She wrote another tick mark on the other sheet of paper.

“Okay, I hear you. But let’s just take a look at this list,” Alexander replied reaching over his friend. “There are a lot of words here and I bet there are way more than five that describe you.”

Noelle snorted.

“Hear me out.” Alexander stared at the sheet. “I can easily point out some words that describe you.”

“Of course you can. My parents could too but you guys are just being nice,” Noelle said gently. “Besides, my therapist told me I need to pick the words out on my own without any influence from anyone else.”

“That’s fair.” Alexander nodded.

Noelle turned back to the list and grumbled under her breath about it staring at the words.

“Why don’t we talk about something else and take your mind off of that list?” Alexander suggested.

“I’m seeing my therapist tomorrow afternoon though. I really should get this done. I’ve honestly lost sleep over this,” Noelle replied.

“Be sure to tell your therapist that,” Alexander said. “But let’s just talk for a little while. I won’t stay long. I don’t want to distract you too much but it seems as though you need a break.”

Noelle sighed. She turned away from the list of words once more. She didn’t know why her mother had allowed Alexander to come up to her room in the first place. She loved him, they were best friends, but she wasn’t in the mood to see or talk to anyone. Alexander was just about to use up the last bit of strength she had for the day and once he left, she wasn’t going to want to think about the list anymore. Though she couldn’t argue with him – she really did want to do something other than think of that list.

“What do you want to talk about?” she asked.

Alexander sat down at the end of her bed and grinned. “Do you remember how we met?”

Noelle furrowed her brows in confusion. “Of course I remember. Why do you want to talk about that?”

He chuckled. “You tell me. How did we meet?”

“One of our classmates outed you before you were ready. You were pretty embarrassed and upset,” Noelle recounted.

“And who punched that classmate in the face and got suspended for it?”

Noelle paused a moment before throwing her head back and laughing. “I forgot about that… I must have blocked it out of my memory. My parents were so mad at me.”

“I wasn’t mad at you though. We became fast friends after that despite not really talking to one another before that day.”

“Yeah, that was a good time. I mean, I’m sorry you went through that though.”

Alexander shrugged. “Hey, my job was done for me even if I wasn’t ready to tell people yet. And I made a new friend that day, so how can I look back at such a day with a sour face?”

Noelle nodded in agreement with a grin still on her face. That was a good day despite Alexander being upset and her getting in her first (and last) fight in school. Also, her first (and last) time being suspended.

“Hey, aren’t some of those words on your list?” Alexander asked.

Noelle frowned. He had to bring that up now? They were just having a good conversation.

“I mean,” Alexander amended his statement, “are there any words on that list you can find that remind you of us meeting?”

Ah, she saw where he was going with this. She picked up her pen and scanned the list of many words that faced her. Two jumped out at her.

“Acceptance, I accept you for who you are.” She circled the first word on the list. “Friendliness? We became friends that day.”

“I would say you’re friendly. You’ve always tried to make sure someone had somebody to sit with at lunch, for example,” Alexander agreed.

Noelle circled the word. Then she chuckled to herself and crossed out the word, “peace”.

“You’re a peaceful person,” Alexander argued.

“I punch people in the face.”

He laughed. “Okay, but that was one time.”

She looked at the list again. “What about creativity? I was creative in sticking up for you.”

Alexander narrowed his eyes. “I wouldn’t exactly call that creativity… I’m not so sure your therapist would like to hear you talking about how punching people in the face is a creative way to get them to stop doing whatever they’re doing. I would say you’re creative in other ways though.”

“What do you mean?”

“You think of new ways to do things or to fix things. Remember we worked together on a science project freshman year? We worked so hard on it and had many late nights and spent our weekends on it.”

“Well, yeah. That was our final project, right? It was easier than a test and, if I recall, we were both doing pretty lousy in that class,” Noelle added.

“We didn’t have the best science teacher that year though. I wouldn’t go so far as to blame us for our lousy grades,” Alexander corrected.

“That’s what all dumb people say.”

“We’re not dumb, we just talked a lot in class. Do you remember the project? The solar system?”

Noelle nodded. “I remember we thought it was weird to be learning about the solar system in high school when that was something we went over in elementary school.”

“I agree, but you remember the actual project?” Alexander egged on.

“You mean the food?”

“We didn’t make it out of food at first. It was all Styrofoam pieces and we had tried to think of other materials. But we took the easy way out and painted Styrofoam and attached them to Popsicle sticks. But then my dog got to it?”

“Oh, yeah…” Noelle said trying not to laugh. “That was an interesting day. The project was due the following day and for once we didn’t procrastinate.”

“So, what did you do?”

“We went to the grocery store and we bought a bunch of baking supplies and ended up remaking the solar system using cake and cookie dough.”

“That was all your idea and it was the most fun we’ve ever had. I’d say that’s pretty creative,” Alexander stated.

Noelle looked back at her list and circled, “creativity”. She read the other words and circled another. “Determination? We could have given up the whole project but we didn’t.”

“That makes sense to me.”

“Flexibility?”

“Why?”

“I didn’t get angry that you left the project on the table where the dog could easily get to it. I saw an opportunity to improve upon on our project. Despite our hard work the first time around, we were both flexible in just doing the whole thing over again,” Noelle explained.

Alexander smiled and gave her a nod. “I think that makes sense.”

Noelle circled the word and squealed with excitement. “Hey, that’s five!”

“See? I knew you could do it. There are many other words on there that describe you too. But you have your bare minimum for your therapist. Maybe you can get some good sleep tonight.” Alexander stood up from the bed and leaned over his friend’s shoulder.

Noelle looked back at the list and circled two more words. “Loyalty and thankfulness,” she said. “I am thankful for your company and friendship, especially since I’m having a hard time lately.”

Alexander put his hands on her shoulders. He gave them a gentle squeeze before massaging them.

“Loyal because I believe we’ll be friends forever no matter what. I know that sounds corny but we’ve both been through hell and only came back because the other got us out.”

“So you do believe you’ll make it out of this rough time?”

Noelle hesitated to reply but she nodded. “I do. I know it’ll take time, but I understand my parents, my therapist, and you are all here no matter what.”

“Exactly. That’s what we’ve been trying to tell you all along. I’m glad you see it for yourself. However, if you lose sight of it again, we’ll point out these words and have a chat,” Alexander explained.

Noelle chuckled. “Who knew this exercise would actually be helpful? Honestly, I can’t wait for therapy tomorrow.”

I hope you enjoyed the story. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Please feel free to share this post.

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The Merry Writer Podcast: Episode 017 Now Live!

The Merry Writer Podcast | Creative Writing | Podcast | RachelPoli.com

The Merry Writer Podcast

The Merry Writer started as a hashtag game on Twitter and Instagram. Hosted by Ari Meghlen and myself, The Merry Writer Podcast is a fun, friendly show about all things writing and bookish. Join us as we ask all the “write” questions.

Episode 017: Do you keep writing goals?

In this week’s episode, Ari and I discuss writing goals and how to keep up with them. Be sure to give it a listen through the YouTube video below or any of the links below.

New episodes are published every Wednesday at 10:00 am EST (2:00 pm BST). Please subscribe to the podcast so you can be notified when a new episode goes live. Also, give each episode a “like” wherever you enjoy tuning in. It’ll help the podcast grow and we’d really appreciate it!

Thanks for listening!

Podbean | Spotify | iTunes | Stitcher | TuneIn | YouTube | PodLink

What are your thoughts on this episode? Let me know in the comments below so we can chat! Please feel free to share this post.

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Podcast | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double Jump

Short Story Sunday: “Format” [309]

Short Story Sunday 309: "Format" | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Mae had seen a lot of things in her many years of teaching. She had students put in more effort than what was expected from them. She had also seen some children put in way less effort than they should have. Some kids had a good excuse for why they did this or that and others… well, they lied through their teeth. There was one student who almost didn’t get caught at all. Mae was impressed by their elaborate lie with full eye-contact and serious tone of voice. However, they were caught in the end and Mae had to pretend she wasn’t impressed at all and was, in fact, upset with her student.

There were some students on the other hand who seemed to take everything literal or they didn’t understand the directions no matter how clear Mae thought she was. She would ask a question in class and some of the kids would overthink it, thus coming to the totally wrong conclusion.

This was how some of her rubrics went when she assigned essays to her classes.

Mae had always been particular with a certain format for her essays. It was a creative writing class, yes, but there were some essays that needed to be written when it came to the “rules” for writing. These essays weren’t necessarily formal content in the case that the essay topic had a right or wrong answer. She was always curious where each one of her students was when it came to various pieces of writing advice.

With that said, there had always been a generic format for when it came to submitting your work of writing to a publisher, agent, or magazine. Mae knew a lot of her students had already begun submitting some of their short stories and poetry to different websites, magazines, and contests. She wanted to help them through that process by showing them how to submit each piece in the proper, professional manner.

Most submissions were wanted in a certain font such as Courier New. The font size should be around nine to 12-points with double line spacing. There were never any cover or title pages. The first page was the same page the story begun, but not until halfway down.

At the top left corner of that page was the student’s name and contact information. Of course, for the sake of the class, Mae always had the students write their name, which class day and time they were part of (she taught five creative writing classes and each semester got more difficult to tell them all a part), and the date as well as their school email. At the top right corner they needed to write the exact word count of their piece, excluding the heading and the title of the piece. Halfway down the page, centered, was the title of the piece. Then the story began.

Mae always thought she was pretty clear about those instructions. She wrote it all out in the rubric and she even included an example with her own information on it. It was the first page to an actual short story she had submitted long ago for publication.

Now she was at a loss. Mae had always looked forward to reading the various works of all her students. They wrote such an array of pieces and genres. She had a few poets, some who wrote in different genres such as different areas of fantasy, mystery, drama, general fiction, and more. She enjoyed every bit of it and she certainly loved seeing the various levels of creativity come from her students. Mae always got a smile whenever she noticed an improvement from one piece to the next from some feedback she had given her students.

Of course, feedback was always taken with a grain of salt. That was something Mae had always drilled into her students’ heads. Feedback was helpful and needed, yes, but in the end, it’s their story. They should listen to the feedback but the final decision for what’s right for the story is always up to the author.

So now Mae was reading some of the stories her students had submitted to her. This was their final project for the semester. They had been working on these particular stories since the beginning of the semester with smaller projects here and there as well as working on draft after draft of their longer story, their final project. Peer editing and self-editing have all been part of the process as homework and group projects for grades. She was eager to finally read these pieces since she had yet to look at their longer works. She always wanted to save these until the end so she could read the final works as not just a teacher but also a reader and truly be surprised about what was to happen at the end of whatever her students came up with.

The format for one particular student, however, stuck out to her like a sore thumb. Not only was this their final project as a huge grade for the class from the whole semester, but Mae had drilled the format into their heads and… well, now she wasn’t so sure if this was a mistake or if one of her students had given up after a semester of working hard.

The example Mae had given the class was her own information for a short story she had submitted a long time ago. She had students in the past input her information instead of their own believing they were meant to do so. Mae didn’t understand why some of them thought a magazine would want their teacher’s information rather than the actual author’s, but that was an entirely different conversation.

This student did not do that. No, they forgot to plug in all their information. Instead of their name, they had written, “[Name]” on their paper. They didn’t even fill in the day and time of which creative writing class they were a part of. (Now Mae needed to do some trial and error. She had to save this piece of work for last and figure out which student hadn’t been corrected yet so she could give it a proper read knowing which student wrote it.)

Mae had been teaching college level creative writing classes for quite a few years. In all her many years of teaching, she had never seen a student pass in a short story with a format such as this one. Surely, the student knew their own name and their class day and time so there was no need to put placement text. She didn’t understand the logic behind it.

She moved the story to the side not wanting to read it quite yet. She’d move onto the next story and, when she figured out which student forgot to input their own information, she’d roll their story up and bonk them on the head with it.

I hope you enjoyed the story. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Please feel free to share this post.

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The Merry Writer Podcast: Episode 016 Now Live!

The Merry Writer Podcast | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

The Merry Writer Podcast

The Merry Writer started as a hashtag game on Twitter and Instagram. Hosted by Ari Meghlen and myself, The Merry Writer Podcast is a fun, friendly show about all things writing and bookish. Join us as we ask all the “write” questions.

Episode 016: When should writers be present online?

In this week’s episode, Ari and I discuss our thoughts on marketing where we talk about online presence for authors and social media. Be sure to give it a listen through the YouTube video below or any of the links below.

New episodes are published every Wednesday at 10:00 am EST (2:00 pm BST). Please subscribe to the podcast so you can be notified when a new episode goes live. Also, give each episode a “like” wherever you enjoy tuning in. It’ll help the podcast grow and we’d really appreciate it!

Thanks for listening!

Podbean | Spotify | iTunes | Stitcher | TuneIn | YouTube | PodLink

What are your thoughts on this episode? Let me know in the comments below so we can chat! Please feel free to share this post.

Blog Signature | RachelPoli.com

Podcast | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double Jump