Ditch Shoes

I’ve started looking into competitions or literary magazines as a way to build a reputation or at least a portfolio of published work.  It’s something that is always mentioned in agent’s bios so maybe a couple of published works will give us some street cred.  So here we are researching places to submit, with a special place in my heart for the free ones.  One such magazine is called On the Premise.  They recently issued a call for a short story competition about a piece of clothing that runs through the story.  I chose shoes.  I chose shoes because of another real life inspiration, a gentleman who tried for months to find a home for a new pair of shoes he found in the ditch behind his construction trailer.  He would ask everyone with such a genuine persistence if the shoes fit with an obliviousness for the rest of the happenings in his life. I found it fascinating and hilarious.  So I decided to try my hand at a short story about these series of events and it ended up being a hard story to write.  It was difficult to capture the character because I was so baffled by his motives.  Why was he trying so hard to find someone to wear these shoes when it seemed the rest of his life was crumbling, when it seemed like he had a lot bigger fish to fry then some ditch shoes?  Maybe the reasons why it didn’t seem like a good idea were the reasons he thought it was. This was the premise I tried to convey and unfortunately it did not hit the home run I was hoping.

Dear RYAN:

Thanks for entering the 31st “On The Premises” short story contest. We received 231 entries. Of those, 10 were selected for the final round of judging. We’re sorry to have to inform you that Ditch Shoes was not among them.

Our next contest, a mini-contest, will begin the same day Issue #31 is published (in mid-April). Look for it, and keep on writing!


The “On The Premises” editorial staff


Yet it was a good learning experience.  It seems the short story is a great vehicle to practice your writing and hone your writing style…..find your voice as they say.  I think I’ll try again here soon.

Be Excellent to Each Other

Be Excellent to Each Other

I recently read how the story of Bill and Ted came to be. The writers wrote the script on yellow legal pads governed by one single idea. What makes us laugh. It was something written for them. They weren’t sure anyone else would ever read it, but they wanted to make something that they enjoyed and were proud of. Bill and Ted was meant for them, but it found its way into the world and now we all know how important it is to be excellent to each other.

This is a conversation Ryan and I have wrestled with over the past year. We have written a children’s story we are proud of and laugh constantly when we read it. Now matter how often we reread it. The story of a forgetful squirrel and the predicaments he finds himself in. Despite the joy we find in the story, it hasn’t translated to the world. Family, friends and random girls in bars enjoy it as much as we do, but the ‘right’ people don’t seem to want it. The people who can carry the silly story of a forgetful squirrel don’t seem interested. This has left us at a loss. We have something we are proud of, but we can’t get it delivered. We have wrestled with what to do. We have tried reproducing excerpts in other mediums. Looking for something that will stick. But after reading the account of Bill and Ted, I don’t think we should change anything. We have something we have enjoyed writing and we enjoy the finished product just as much. I say we stop trying to make it ‘right’ and stand by what we have. We have something we are proud of. We shouldn’t try watering it down just to make others happy. This is my renewed commitment to getting Forgetful Jerry, as he stands, published.

One Eyed Wild Winking John

I have a book that I write in on the train.  It’s a larger yellow book, a mustard yellow book with worn white marks.  White marks and dog ears from the startled packing of my bags every morning when my stop sneaks up on me.  While it seems I might mistreat it in my urgency, the book contains the contents of all those ideas that may or may not pan out as a story worth the pursuit.  Sometimes the story starts in the middle, sometimes it’s one rhyme or one line that I become particularly fond of and do my best to make something of it.  The poem below started from a gentleman who always has one eyed closed when he talks.  One eyed closed like the sun seeks out his face to shine the brightest whether One-Eyed Wild Winking John is outside or whether he is inside.  So that begs the question, how does one get dressed when one constantly winks?……

One Eyed Wild Winking John

tries to put his clothes on.

He stares at his clothes while he thinks

then makes a choice as he winks.

One Eyed Wild Winking John

tries to put his pants on.

Right leg first, then his ear

“This is going to help me hear.”

One Eyed Wild Winking John

tries to put his shirt on.

Left arm first, then his nose

“That’ll be warm I suppose.”

One Eyed Wild Winking John

tries to put his shoes on.

Right foot first, then his hand

” Watch this now, I can stand.”

One Eyed Wild Winking John

tries to put his belt on.

Around his waist, over his toes

“This’ll keep on all my clothes.”

One Eyed Wild Winking John

Says he has his clothes on.

With pants on his ears, and a shirt on his nose

Shoes on his hands and a belt on this toes

With a hat on his finger and a scarf on his knee

“Looks good” John says as he winks at me.

Now getting dressed while you’re winking

Must be harder than we’re thinking.

So unlike One Eyed Wild Winking John

who winks when he puts his clothes on.

When you decide to look your best

Open both eyes when you get dressed.

The Yellow Brick Road

The Yellow Brick Road

We’ve started anew, but there is a question that persists. A question that can bring this whole thing to an end if we aren’t careful. If we don’t answer it correctly. Leo’s story has become an open ended question. There is no real story to tell. We have the same starting and end points, still with nothing in between. As we have talk about ad nauseam, this no longer Leo’s story. It’s a new story. The story we’ve been telling since the beginning. The story of two guys and a hat full of dreams. It’s our story now. Leo is a set piece of sorts, helping move us along. The problem is that the story doesn’t have an ending. We can write it down, but it hangs there. With no neat conclusion. We have to solve this riddle to complete the story. We’ve discussed this endlessly, asking where this all goes. We have the beginning and the middle, but there is no real ending to it. The ending is the hardest part. Beginnings are easy. It doesn’t take much to get moving, but to end well takes skill. We’ve pondered over how to leave this story. Where do we finally end up. Inspiration struck and the hard work began. It’s about friends and dreams. That’s all it is, about two guys who found each other by accident and whose dreams just fit together neatly. That’s the ending but how to write it. That’s where the work begins.

One At A Time

When it all comes pouring down on you at once, how do you pick your medium?  How does one go from a short story about shoes in a ditch to a poem about racism to a children’s book about luchadores?  At times, it seems I spend more time capturing these blasts of potential brilliance than I do writing them out.  And then there’s the whole Pour on the Cool book, the story that started all these other stories, the eloquence that Bill continues to put out for everyone’s enjoyment. You work yourself up, up into these tangled ruminations of who you are and what kind of stories speak to you, of which ones are worth pursuing first, which ones will be the best of the bunch because you are ready for the harvest now.  It spins and spins until you find yourself overwhelmed with the prospect of what this whole thing is about.  But then that’s over, it has run its course, and you are surprised that a neat little cliché has come to the foreground.  A little mantra of a cliché that you can repeat to yourself when you flip through the ideas, eyeing your next pursuit.  You don’t know which ones will work best or which ones will bust.  So you take it one story at a time my friends….just one at a time.