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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Black (10/15/09)

TITLE: Black Sparks a Breakthrough
By Debra Martinez


Black widow, blackmail, Jack Black, Meet Joe Black, Black Tuesday, black licorice, in the black, black and blue, black cloud, Men in Black, Black Tie, little black dress, black eye, little black book, Shirley Temple Black, Black Sabbath, black-list…

Marci turned to a clean page in her writing notebook, hopeful that more “black” terms would google up in her brain as she worked. “Stream of consciousness, my foot,” she thought, rereading the teacher’s writing assignment: Select a color and write whatever comes to your mind. Once the initial stream is completed, follow up with a short story, nine hundred word minimum. Due Friday.

“This must be what writer’s block feels like,” she said aloud, pen poised over the clean white page. She was actually dying to dive into a story, to watch the productive flow of her new gel pen on the pristine page. She knew that she had a lovely script, the result of years in an elementary classroom. She just needed The Idea to get the ball rolling.

So far, the writing was a slow go. She had thought to transition smoothly from over thirty years in the classroom to writing for those that she now found she missed so much. After reading aloud wonderful classics like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Charlotte’s Web, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, she had just known that a good book lurked within her, ready to burst forth. But, alas.

Marci tried to jerk her mind back to the task at hand, but it meandered on: Take a community college writing class. Get into the swim of things by writing to assigned topics. Keep a notebook of ideas. Remember times in the classroom when opportunities of interest developed. (If only she’d written them down as they occurred!) “Spilled milk,” she murmured, and once again attempted to corral her mind.

“Black sheep!” she crowed excitedly, flipping the page back to add it to her paltry list. Immediately, the form of her younger brother danced into her head . Was there a story there? “Worth thinking about,” she said aloud. “Definitely worth thinking about.”

Bobby. What a master of mischief! Two years her junior, he had liked nothing better than getting her goat. It seemed, now that she thought about it, that it was a BLACK gum tree that he had attached her to with that giant roll of plastic wrap, getting his friends to help lift her at least three feet off the ground before plastering her to it, arms secured at her sides. “I guess I should count myself blessed that the tree was beside the driveway, so that Mom found me as soon as she got home.” She could laugh about it now, and should have laughed then, since everyone else in the neighborhood had found it hysterical.

“Black-eyed peas!” she chortled, thinking of her Grandma Norma’s favorite meal of peas and greens, sopped with a fresh piece of cornbread made in the round iron skillet that now sat in the bottom drawer of her own stove, now with its third generation. Maybe she could work up a story about the time the lid flipped off of the lard while she was sitting on top of it. That had been quite an experience.

“Oh!…black lab!” A new wave of memories washed over her. It went like this: Daddy had always refused her pleas for a pet, so, as soon as she had her first place, a small black puppy had taken up residence with her. It wasn’t long before she saw the error of her ways, but by then, her heart was committed. Sammi grew, and grew, and chewed and chewed, and one day met her at the door with her five foot ficus tree clenched between her teeth, tail wagging. A trail of moist black soil led back to the scene of the crime, an overturned pot next to the sliding glass door leading to the small back yard. “That day gave a whole new meaning to mixed feelings,” thought Marci, some forty years later as she scrolled through her initial horror, then anger, followed closely by laughter and tears. “Spilled milk,” she said again, and considered a story based on a precious pet. Soon, her gel pen was rolling.

Taking a deep breath, Marci looked at the returned assignment. “Nice job!” it said beside the large black A. “These characters are worth expanding. Let’s talk.”

This old girl had a new favorite color.

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This article has been read 388 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke10/22/09
I usually don't care for stories that revolve around writing a story but this was fresh and endearing. Great writing!
Jan Ackerson 10/26/09
Cute idea, and very much the process that I usually go through! I had lots of the same black ideas that you did (and I wrote about one of them!)

This was a very fun read.
Allen Stark10/27/09
Yes, most of us go through the same process when searching for some unique and fascinating idea that will capture the reader's attention. What is proven week after week in the writing challenge is that we each possess a story we alone can write.