Archive for the ‘Special Events’ Category

Fifth Tuesday stories
April 30, 2019

Writing challenge: My worst critique ever. It can be fiction. Maximum length for your story, poem, or essay is 500 words.


My Worst Critique Ever

Chris Zoern

“And you do understand that this is a very selective program, correct?” the Sergeant asked.

His words were muffled, and I had trouble processing them.  Rejected? How? I had the best time on the course, and I was certain I had done well on the written exam. I slowly nodded.

“I’m sorry, I really am. You’ll have to collect your things from your barrack by the end of the day,” he continued.

“Do I at least get to know why I’m not allowed in?” (more…)


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Fifth Tuesday stories
January 29, 2019

Writing challenge: It’s January in Wisconsin. We’re deep into winter. Where would you rather be? Maximum length for your story, poem, or essay is 500 words.

Time to Jump In

Brandy Larson

A white brahma bull stands alone on a high hillside—red earth and tufted green grass. We drive past with meadow and acacia trees on either side. The small fruit stand is next to a rocky outcropping on the edge of the road. Stopping for a cold coconut, our vendor deftly hacks off the top of the green husk with a few strikes of his machete and offers a straw—cool and not too sweet—coconut wata. Down to the last drop, he whacks the shell in half and we scoop out the jelly lining with a wedge of green husk for a spoon. Food of the Goddess. (more…)

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Writer’s Mail
Tuesdays with Story
February 1, 2018


And the winner is. . .

Tracey Gemmell!

Novelist Kelly Harms, our writing contest judge, selected Tracey’s “Slip That Collar” as the best of our Fifth Tuesday stories. Kelly extended honorable mentions to Mike Austin for his story, “Dog People,” and Larry Sommers for his story, “Fowl Fortune.”

Tracey wins a critique of the first 50 pages of her novel to be provided by Judge Kelly. She also gets the pot of entry fees with which to take Kelly to dinner. It’s there that the two will talk through Kelly’s critique. (more…)

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Fifth Tuesday Stories

Fifth Tuesday stories
August 29, 2017
Writing challenge: Write a fishing story.

Max length: 500 words

The tree and He

Amit Trivedi

He poured himself a glass of wine and gazed outside through his window. The pain was still there, and he knew it would get worse. The long shadow of the barren oak tree reminded him of the long, unadorned tresses of a poor bride. What do I remind the tree of? he wondered.

They both had grown together – his father had planted the tree when he was born nearly ninety two years ago. He would not last much longer, but the tree had many years left to suffer!

Memories wrapped themselves in tears. He saw himself climbing the tree, gathering its leaves, tying a hammock and breaking his wrist when the rope had come loose. Instinctively, he touched his wrist and ran his finger over the mark that was still there. And he saw his wife lying in the hammock, reading Omar Khayyam.

There was the Door to which I found no Key;
There was the Veil through which I might not see;
Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
There was – and then no more of Thee and Me.

“Do you remember?” he asked, looking at the framed picture of his wife next to Khayyam’s book. (more…)

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Fifth Tuesday stories
May 30, 2017

Writing challenge: You are cleaning your house (apartment, dwelling space, etc), and you come on a room you have never seen before. What’s in it?

Max length: 500 words

Life on a Shelf

Lisa Jisa

I crouched down on the closet floor to shove the last box out of the way. Although I had moved in eight months earlier, this box hadn’t been touched since. As I placed my hands down for leverage to stand up, I noticed a small door. I pushed the box over a few more inches and twisted the door’s latch. It popped open easily.

I peered into the opening and discovered a small room no bigger than a twin-sized bed. I crawled in and saw a short wooden bookcase along the opposite wall. A white hurricane-style lamp with pink flowers sat on the top shelf, and to my surprise, it turned on when I tried it.

A Moroccan-patterned cushion rested next to the bookshelf. With one hand, I pulled it over to sit on while my other hand reached for a book. The spine of the salmon-colored cover said COURAGE. I crossed my legs and leafed through the pages.

My eyes rested on a page that said 1984. “Spanish teacher let me speak to our class about the meaning and purpose of life. I knew I had to do it after brother of another student took his life over the weekend.” That sounded vaguely familiar. I turned a few more pages. 1990. “First day at Woodland Elementary. 29 students, all in my care for the entire school year.” That was familiar, too. Was this book about me? (more…)

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Fifth Tuesday stories
August 30, 2016
Writing challenge: A superhero makes a career change. Do not identify the superhero you select in your story, but do plant enough clues that readers can guess who it is.

Max length: 500 words


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Fifth Tuesday stories
March 31, 2015


Writing challenge: Many writing seminars use lists of prompts to provide ideas for short stories. For this challenge, create your own list of six prompts to read to the assembly.  They must be amusing, at least enough to help fight off sleep.

Ruth Imhoff has offered an example: How to survive the Zombie Apocalypse! (well Ruth thought that was funny, but you’ll do better.)

Jen Wilcher plans to bring her laugh-o-meter so we can scientifically select the winner. The winner will receive an award, a prize or large bag of cash. Jen, as sole arbiter, hopes to receive bribes, of which she has offered generously to provide half of to the cash bag.

*Note: Rebecca Rettenmund won the bag of cash.

Alicia Connolly-Lohr, first-and-third

  1. Janet visits her new gym, lifts some weights then enters a treadmill room. It’s loud with the buzz of treadmills going, patrons running. There’s one open. She walks to it, sets down her water bottle, towel, keys and steps on. Thwack! She is thrown backward, slams against the back wall, falls to the floor, dazed. A man gets off his treadmill, comes over to help her up. “Did you hurt yourself?” She answers, “No, this is my usual warm up.” Write the remaining dialogue exchange for a romance novel.


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Fifth Tuesday Stories
July 29, 2014

Writing Challenge: What if your character could tell you what he or she thinks about your writing? Maybe she doesn’t like how you portrayed her, or he hates what you’re doing to his life in the story. Your character’s rant or diatribe is your 250 word challenge piece.

King of the Pectrites
Katelin Cummins, 2nd and 4th

My name is Pectitus, king of the Pectrites.
I am telling you because I think you have forgotten.
Do you not realize that this is my race’s last and only hope for survival?
Do you WANT us to die and become extinct? (more…)

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Fifth Tuesday Writing Challenge
July 30, 2013

Writing challenge: Here it is: Fortune cookie fortunes. Select a fortune from the following list, then write a story, poem, or essay in which you use the fortune in some way. Maximum length, our ever-popular 250 words.

Andy Pfeiffer, first-and-third

Fortune: The object of your desire comes closer

Cracking. A message in a bottle, if you will. A gateway to the dream. Meaning. Life. Love. Death. What is it about this time? The future?
What is it about? How can it be so vague? Is this open to interpretation for the masses? For each individual person?
Clarity. That’s what I desire. But what is clarity? Clarity about what? This message? What I desire? Clarity about clarity itself? Something more, something less?
Am I clinging on to hope or hopelessness? It remains unclear. Is it hope I want, or can I not have it? I ask myself again, again, again, but nothing is clear. Nothing will ever be clear.
I feel a cool breeze, the whispers of the wind, calling my name. I split. I run. I go towards the voice, but it manifests nowhere. Where am I? What is this place? There is nothing here.
Rolling hills of green. No, a long array of snow. No, a vast, endless desert. Why is it changing? What has happened? Clarity. I need clarity!
I look outward to the horizon. I see it. A blurry image comes into focus.
And then I wake up.

Sixty shades of red
Millie Mader, first-and-third

*Writer’s note: My “authentic” fortune cookie says: “You Will Make a Name For Yourself”

I can hardly believe it. Here I sit across from Robin Roberts, who is interviewing me for Good Morning America.
“So, your protagonist is named Red Ford,” she says. “Any connection to Robert Redford?”
“I never reveal my sources,” I say.
“Well, another question, then. You write under the pseudonym of Grandma Moses. Can we let our audience know your real name?”
“I never give out personal information.”
Taken aback, Robin asks, “How did you come by all this information? Were you an acrobat or a contortionist in your youth?”
“I may have exaggerated a bit for the story.”
“Well, we are here to promote your ‘imaginative’ work of fiction. What did you hope to accomplish with this triple-X rated novel? Does it have a message?”
“I’m here being interviewed by my favorite anchor. Also, I will no doubt end up quite wealthy. I guess the message is to be a ‘creative’ writer. The Grandma Moses’s name will once again be on everyone’s lips.”
Robin seems perplexed. “Will the public ever know if a real Red Ford exists?”
“No, but public speculation will continue for a long time, and that’s what sells books.”
Robin seems frustrated. “Do you plan a sequel?”
“No, there is nothing left to write about,” I say. Our interview is over.
I am being honest here, as the whole novel was a figment of my imagination. Grandma Moses will enjoy a life of luxury—and will become a household name.

The anti-charmer
Brandy Larson, second-and-fourth

Fortune in my cookie: “A beauty is someone you notice, a charmer is someone who notices you.”
charm – to delight or captivate, from
charme – Middle English, a magic spell
Charming was an adjective sometimes applied to me back in the day. Perhaps charm has no expiration date?
Once upon a time, on a Thursday night at a popular eastside club, I sat at the bar surveying the crowd. The blues band was on a break. He sidled up to the empty bar stool on my left. He was not someone I noticed, but apparently someone who noticed me, an ordinary looking guy, tall and seemingly self-possessed.
He opened with some predictable small talk. Then, apropos of nothing, he said, “Prove to me how creative you are in three minutes.”
I am known by my friends for my wit and the ability to think on my feet, or in this case on my shapely behind. I found myself nearly speechless – for once. Happily I kept my jaw from dropping. Any charm I possessed was vaporized on the spot.
The logical thing to say, “Why not prove to me how creative you are,” unfortunately never entered my head. I continued speaking, proving nothing and struggling to swallow the cocktail of surprise, disgust and indignation in the back of my throat.
What registered on my face? I can’t imagine. Having been a teacher, I must have managed to keep my expression somewhat neutral, practiced at saying one thing while thinking or feeling another.[You jerk, why should I be in the position of impressing you?]
Mr Charmer was not proving to be charmed by my stream of consciousness remarks on the topic of me, and happily decamped to try this on another unsuspecting female. He’d probably come up with this line reading an Esquire advice column – how to pick up girls. Perhaps this was an improvement on (and quicker than) him launching into proof of how creative he could be in three minutes. And maybe slightly less annoying.
The band returned and I soon hopped back onto the dance floor displaying some spontaneous, free-spirited dancing.
Let him who hath eyes to see…

Fortune cookie rap
Judith McNeil, first-and-third

Never wanted to be the chocolate in a Godiva bar
Never wanted to be an astronaut surfing planets or stars
Never wanted to be the star of stage or page
Never the color red, but more the color beige
So all this not wanting came to a head
When today’s fortune cookie I read
Had to fling myself to bed ’cause of what it said
“In your future lies wealth and fame and many people will know your name”
No, no, I screamed in psychic pain
’Cause I’ve been there, done that, and it didn’t end well
In fact in a couple of life times I spent time in hell
So I’m just as happy being an average joe, with an average life,
With not far to go
I can smile into the mirror and I can sleep good
Without fortune cookie wisdom telling me what I’m due
And what I should be
No more fortune cookie advice for me.
Wait up! There is no dilemma, just crazy schemes
To lure me down to earth
With fortune cookie dreams

Excerpt from the chronicles of fortune-cookie man
Katelin Cummins, second-and-fourth

I have a super power. Fortunes come to me when I eat cookies. It doesn’t even have to be a fortune cookie. Any cookie works. So I keep a stash in my backpack. When I’m walking around town, I’ll eat a cookie. Then BAM! It hits me when I see a particular person.
I munched on an Oreo when a girl with curly red hair from the 5th grade walked by. Bingo! I knew her fortune and ran up to her.
“Fortune-Cookie Man!” She jumped in clear excitement.
“Yes, it is I!” With my hands on my hips, I puffed out my chest to show off the bold yellow “FC” printed on my blue t-shirt. My cape flapped in the breeze. Someone should’ve taken a picture.
“Do you have a fortune for me?” She clasped her hands together under her chin.
I cleared my throat and held up my finger. “A book is in your future.”
She gasped and spread her hands apart. “Oh! I’m going to be an author!”
A baby’s cry came from the house we stood next to and a book flew out of the window. Unfortunately, it hit the girl’s red curly head.
“Ow!” she said with her hand to the bruised spot.
An angry voice shouted out the window. “I finally got this baby to sleep and now you’ve woken her up! I’m gonna strangle you loud kids! ARGH!”
We scampered away in a flash.
All in a good day’s work for Fortune-Cookie Man!

What I did on the weekend
Jerry Peterson, first-and-third

Derek Wilson
Mrs. Beaumander’s class
Marshall Middle School
May 6, 2013

It all started when my friend Cody Debbs and me broke open our fortune cookies at the Sizzling Wok. Mine says “There’s a book is in your future.”
Cody laughs and tells me it’d better be a new X Men comic.
Well, on our way home, we decide to ride our coaster wagon down Courthouse Hill, on the sidewalk. Not many people use it, and you can get some real speed going. So Cody piles in the front and I jump in behind him, and we push off.
Part way down the hill, he makes a hard swerve for the cut in the sidewalk by this driveway, almost pitching me out, then whips us through the cut on the other side of the driveway and back up on the sidewalk. We’re really moving out now, and Cody’s looking back at me, howling like a maniac, and he doesn’t see this guy coming out of the courthouse with this armload of books. I yell, but it’s too late and we wipe him out. He comes down on top of Cody and I get this lap full of books and we’re heading for this bush at an awful speed. We crash right through it, hit a tree on the other side, and all spill out of the wagon.
When we quit rolling, the guy hauls himself up and he’s mad and he’s a judge. He sentences Cody and me right there to read this book he’s got with him that’s now in the grass, a book about some Spanish dude who tries to knock over windmills. He tells us we gotta write a report on it in a week if we want to stay out of jail, and, Mrs. Beaumander, it’s a really big book.

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Fifth Tuesday Stories

Fifth Tuesday stories
January 29, 2013

Writing challenge: You, or a character of your creation, believe the world is going to end on a set date. You or your character get ready for it . . . then it doesn’t happen. What do you or your character do now? . . . Maximum length, our ever-popular 250 words.

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