Type Faster
My name is R. Jurjevics, and I'm one of those writer-people.
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  • PROMPT FIC: KENTUCKY - BOY GEORGE - CATHARSIS

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    Photo by Tyler

    As soon as the plane touched down, Effie felt her heart sink. The woman next to her, an energetic senior with a drawl and bright orange lipstick, shifted in her sleep; forty minutes of solid jabber into the flight and she’d finally knocked out, much to Effie’s relief. There was only so much a person should reasonably be expected to take, she thought, and her plate was full. No room could be made for pictures of a stranger’s grandchild and a full review of low-toxicity crabgrass killers. Effie didn’t even have a lawn.

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    PROMPT FIC: MARS, MADONNA, MUSHROOMS

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    Photo by Reclaimed Home

    “You know,” Clay said. “You know when…”

    He stopped, looking off into the distance. I could see he was nervous; it was there on his face which, instead of all toothy grin and bright eyes, was pinched and drawn. “Having a think,” as Dad would have said. Clay turned and I could see Grandmother’s cheekbones, Dad’s wide nose, Mom’s dusting of freckles, right there in front of me. He looked like all and none of us at the same time.

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    BABY - SEATTLE SPACE NEEDLE - BUNNIES

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    Photo by Tanya

    “Do you remember The Experience Log?” Uncle Kirby asked.

    He turned to Nula, eyes as pale blue as they’d ever been. It surprised Nula how unchanged he was, how she’d driven up to the house in her rental car to find him mowing the lawn in his cutoffs, as though she’d just gone around the corner for some milk and not come back for fifteen years. Nula did some quick math; Kirby would be about eighty-five, but didn’t look a day over sixty.

    “Of course,” Nula said. “How could I forget that?”

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    PROMPT FICTION: Samantha, Minsk, Potato

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    Photo by Gudmunder D. Haraldsson

    “Whose idea was this?” Samantha asked. She was shaking her legs a bit, even though Amiel had asked her, quietly, to please stop, it was making him seasick. But it’s cold, she’d told him. I’m trying to stay warm. This was a lie; Amiel knew it, but kept his mouth shut. Samantha wasn’t cold. Samantha was never cold, it seemed. It was some kind of miracle, Amiel thought, that they both hadn’t frozen to death. 

    “Um, yours, I think,” he said. 

    Samantha looked at him darkly. “Right. Yes, Ami. I said, ‘let’s take a fucking train with no heat or vegetarian food around the coldest place in the known universe. Without cell phone service.’ Of course. Of course I would say that.”

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    PROMPT FICTION: itsy-bitsy teeny-weenie yellow polka-dot bikini, sunflower, chocolate milk dairy farm

    Photo by Lammyman

    There had been a time when Velma had regarded herself as somewhat of an intellectual. Her father took a picture of her once with his Voigtlander, a simple, chrome-and-black-bodied camera that had captured Velma just as she tilted her head toward the sky in contemplation. In the photo, her eyes appeared large and soulful under long, dark lashes. The light was perfect, diffuse enough to make her look a bit ethereal—and, she thought, almost pretty. Like someone she would want to know.

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    PROMPT FICTION: Nun, burlesque, peanut butter

    Photo by Podnox/Wapster

    “I’m nervous about this,” Maddy said. She looked it, too; her forehead was creased in the center, just like our father’s, and she’d chewed her way around the rim of the red plastic cup on her vanity counter.

    “Why?” I asked—a stupid question. Yet that’s how it was with Maddy. If you didn’t ask the obvious, you’d never get an answer. At all.

    Still, she glared at me over her mascara wand. “Seriously, Simon?”

    I shrugged.

    “Ugh.” Maddy fluttered her eyelids, which were thick with false lashes at the ends, and surveyed her reflection in the vanity mirror. “This is the first time I’ll have seen Mom since, well, you know.”

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    Small Victories

    If you’re like me, your writing is both work and fun. And when the typing-for-pay (or for what you hope is *eventual* pay) becomes a slog, a race to the next step or phase or revision or rejection, facing the computer/notebook/manuscript (and yourself) can feel like… Well, failure. Or at least a marked lack of success.

    To combat this, I’ve embarked upon an experiment: flash fiction. To keep a loose structure to it, I’ve been soliciting three prompts for each - a person (specific or general), a place, and a single word. This is wholly for fun. No glory, no money, just words flowing on out. From start to finish, in one or two sittings. Minimal editing. 

    And I love it. I recommend doing it. At the end, you have a complete, tiny story, a snow globe of a tale, something to put on the digital shelf and admire. Each and every one is a small victory and hey, these days, I’ll take ‘em.

    So read on! Write on. Right on. 

    Under the Bed: What Makes Us Not Write

    I know, I know.

    It’s been forever and a day since I’ve updated this thing. Let’s just say life and work took over, and I’m just now getting my head right, as the expression goes.

    But a conversation I had last night has gotten me thinking. I was chatting with my dear friend Allegra,* who is an ace of a writer with a fierce wit and quirky sense of humor to match. To read Allegra’s work is to be pulled into the page; that is the kind of, albeit subtle, command she has. As I’ve told her, she structures her stories with a grace people shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars on higher education in the hopes of achieving. She, however, comes by it naturally.

    In the wee hours of the morning, Allegra explained to me her recent bout of… Well, not writer’s block, per se, but something akin to it. “I can’t write,” she told me, and recounted the reasons why. I won’t go into detail, but they all related to situations and circumstances that have left Allegra feeling despair, frustration, anger, and sadness. But something else was there, too, something I’m only now putting my finger on. What Allegra was describing to me, what was really hindering her ability to write, was a sort of mental claustrophobia. The trials of life had come down upon her cumulatively and in a way that had simply crowded her brain, sapping it of energy and the will to prep herself for work.

    This isn’t to say that all nastiness leads to blocks. In fact, unfortunate events often spawn fonts of genius – loss of jobs, death of loved ones, divorce, natural disasters, etc – but some are less than inspiring. I find that there are definitely certain types of woe that actively act against any kind of creativity, the sort that sneakily and steadily invade one’s life and headspace until there is nothing to do but mentally cower under the bed and wait for the awfulness to pass. Allegra was under the bed last night. I’ve certainly been under the bed, over and over and over again. I’m sure you have been under the bed your fair share of times.

    But “under the bed” – and not writing – is not a permanent state, as I said to Allegra. I’ll confess here that, during my hiatus from blogging and hacking at my book, I often found myself on the floor, staring up at my proverbial mattress. Overwhelmed by a string of complicated matters, I panicked every time I picked up a pen or sat down at the computer. No matter what I did, no matter how calm or comfortable or soothed I attempted to be, nothing would come out of me. This paralysis is just now stopping, or at least slowing down enough for me to get a word in edgewise, and I know it will fade for Allegra, too.

    She is, after all, simply too good.

    *Name changed  

    Occupy

    Today, which is a Sunday, is usually my writing day.

    This Sunday is no exception… But I am using it to write about something else.

    I have just watched several videos of the police brutalizing peaceful protesters at the University of California: Davis campus. They stand in a clot, rolling on the back of their heels, casual but alert as students prepare for what they know is coming. The cops, as though in slow motion, ready their weapon of choice: Military-grade pepper spray, hot and searing and, at times, lethal. One stout fellow, who we later learn is Lieutenant John Pike, shakes his can, displaying it to the gathered students, who cluster on the ground, unmoving.

    Then the madness. Pike, with astounding calm, steps over protesters and begins to shoot them directly in the face with his spray. The students begin to roll and scream, covering their faces, coughing and gagging. They are pushed to the ground, forced onto their stomachs, and are cuffed behind their backs with riot zip-ties.

    But these are not rioters. These are students.

    *

    I was once a protester. I had just turned sixteen years old. I was doing it for the wrong reasons, with the wrong people, and at the wrong time, but I was there. Caught up in a movement I did not fully understand, I took a week-long leave from my beloved arts camp to go to something called Philly Freedom Summer, a protest against the Republican National Convention put on by the now-largely defunct group Refuse and Resist and their sister group, the “formerly” homophobic and paranoid Revolutionary Communist Party. I was part of a cadre of about fifteen men and women occupying one room of an apartment on the west side of Philadelphia, sleeping on the floor, and – at the urging of our group leaders – using an assumed name. We were cautioned to be careful of large trucks and vans because they could contain listening devices. Signs adorned the walls of our crash pad: “Pigs have ears.” FBI files were mentioned. I was terrified.

    During my time there, in addition to being terrorized by the delusions of the group leaders (I doubt to this day that any of the cube trucks parked outside contained a single officer with a microphone) and listening to endless meetings, I had a choice to make: To participate in direct action – a type of peaceful protest that can often lead to police intervention – or not. After much agonizing, I stood down, content to shout slogans on the fringe. “The whole world is watching!” we screamed.

    When all was said and done, most everyone came back unscathed. There was one woman who sustained an arm injury, so there was some discussion of what to do, but her situation was unique. I returned to camp with many stories but not a scratch on me.

    *

    I never returned to organized politics again – for various reasons, which are another story entirely – but recently felt the heat and pull of Occupy Wall Street as I stood on the sidelines a few nights ago. Microphones bleated out garbled messages to thousands of people assembled in and near Zuccotti Park. Police stood in throngs outside barricades. Signs waved and people cheered and cheered into the dark night.

     Do I understand completely what the movement is about? No. Do I agree one hundred percent with what they are standing for, or think that there is a concrete statement they are making? Also no. But do I want them to be safe? Do I think they have a right to do what they are doing?

     YES.

    As the students writhe in pain on my computer screen, tears fall down my face. The cops step on a young man’s lower back. Batons fly. The Chancellor of UC Davis walks to her car in eerie silence, her path lined with students who do not speak a word. These are brave young men and women, far braver than I was then and I am now. They may not have a concrete handle on what they wish to accomplish, but who does? And does it matter?

    Something needs to be done to stop this, and in my heart of hearts, I believe that it will.

    Because, this time, the whole world is watching.

    CRITICAL LINKS: 

    Police PEPPER SPRAY UC DAVIS STUDENT PROTESTERS (youTube video)

    UC Davis Chancellor Katehi walks to her car (youTube video)

    Assistant English Professor Nathan Brown’s open letter to Chancellor Katehi

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