HERDING CATS

Published February 13, 2017 by rochellewisoff

HERDING CATS

The Joys of Hosting a Blog Challenge

A few weeks ago former Friday Fictioneer  Karen Nelson invited me to write an article about my experience for her new online magazine entitled

literary-citizen-cover

Click here to read the rest of the magazine.

To learn more about the editor click here to read an interview with another former fictioneer and fellow author Jan Morrill.

Karen Nelson

Karen Nelson

Following is the article as it appears in the magazine. Warning! It’s longer than a flash fiction. 😉 

HERDING CATS

            Four years ago, as a newly published author of a short story anthology, writing and rewriting my first novel, I didn’t have much of a direction for my blog. The few articles I posted were met with overwhelming disinterest.

One April day I noticed a Facebook post by someone named Madison Woods on the Ozarks Writers League page announcing the time had come for Friday Fictioneers. I found the title intriguing so I asked her about it.

She explained that every Wednesday she put up a photo and each participant was to insert it into his or her own blog page and write a short story to go with it. I decided to try my hand at it. From the first hundred words, I was hooked. I quickly learned that less really can be more. This revelation spilled over into my longer pieces.

Even more addicting than the writing was the interaction of an international group of writers. Although it took me a few weeks to catch onto comment protocol, I soon learned how to give and receive. I was fascinated by the variety of stories and poems one photograph can inspire. The themes range from light and funny to dark and sinister.

Soon, I developed close friendships with some of the other writers. I looked forward to my weekly serving of magic until one morning my friend, Doug, on the Big Island asked, “Are you going to take over Friday Fictioneers?”

“Why would I do that?”

“Didn’t you get Madison’s email?”

Sure enough, I found an email from Madison saying it was time for her to move on. She offered Friday Fictioneers to anyone who might be interested in taking over after October. I felt like I’d lost my best friend.

When I shared the news with my husband, Jan and cousin, Kent, they, too, encouraged me to bid for the facilitator role. Never one to take on leadership roles, I couldn’t see myself in that position.

“Why not you?” asked Kent. “You know the ropes and you have the chops. I think you should go for it.”

Jan agreed with Kent.

I bounced the idea around in my head for a few hours. Nothing will change. I haven’t missed a week in six months. I’ll still post my stories. The only difference will be that I’ll be choosing the photos.  

Apparently the impassioned plea I sent Madison convinced her, too, for she announced my adoption of her baby that very week. The photo prompt she chose was of a bus and I knew I was in for an exciting ride. Here’s the story I posted:

FRIDAY’S BUS

Apprehensions whelmed the new driver. How could she steer this behemoth? Her feet barely reached the gas pedal.

A lithe maiden with pointed ears and iridescent wings floated past her.  Next was an imposing man whose black silk cape skimmed the floor. One by one, diverse passengers stowed their baggage and found their seats.

“Welcome,” said the last in line. “I’m Russell.”

Warmed by his congenial smile she tried not to stare at his plastic clown nose and grasped his offered hand.

Zzzzzzt! His joy buzzer sent shockwaves to her shoulder.  

He chortled. “Are we there yet?” 

Here’s a link to that post complete with comments from my fellow fictioneers. https://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/fridays-bus/

Russell Gayer, FF Class Clown

Russell Gayer, FF Class Clown 

***

            The first month or so went smoothly. I received a lot of support from other members and quite a few offers of photos for potential prompts.

As with any group, even those online, personality quirks and conflicts arose. One fictioneer I’d considered a friend, lashed out at me in a scathing email in which she accused me developing “an over- inflated Friday Fictioneers Ego.” Without going into detail about the situation, suffice it to say, her words stung like needles.

Another memorable time came when one member decided to use my page as a platform to preach her religion. This sent a flurry of complaints to my inbox.

I tried, via email, as diplomatically as possible, to persuade the would-be evangelist to confine her proselytizing to her own page. She never replied but, eventually disappeared from our midst.

Occasionally, a zealous blogger will link his unrelated blog to the Friday Fictioneers’ inLinkz in order to draw traffic to his site. In those instances, I will notify the person to let him know I’ve deleted his link and why. Most of the time there’s no response but in a few instances I’ve been called a control freak or worse.

For the most part, I enjoy the interaction and have learned from other writers. As a child I had a few pen –pals, one in Wales and another in South America. It was so much fun to get those letters and feel like I’d, in some way, traveled overseas. To me, Friday Fictioneers is akin to having pen-pals on steroids.

To my amazement, Friday Fictioneers has gained popularity and has been featured in three separate WordPress articles about blog writing challenges. Each time my following increased exponentially and participation has topped out as high as 100 writers in one week.

Pet Peeves

            In the beginning, I felt it my responsibility as facilitator to read and comment on each story. After a couple of years it occurred to me that I had neither the time nor the stamina. Perhaps it sounds selfish but I’ve come to the point where I mostly comment on stories of the writers who most often comment on mine. I understand we live in busy societies and not everyone has time to read every story. As I tell folks in the rules, reciprocation is half the fun. Some are great participants while others merely link their pages and neither comment nor reply. To those I return the favor.

And in the end, the love you send…

            An article about Friday Fictioneers wouldn’t be complete without a few examples. I’ll begin with the photo submitted by C. E. Ayr, who describes himself as a Scot who has discovered Paradise in a small town he calls Medville on the Côte d’Azur in France. The following five stories were inspired by this single photo.

PHOTO PROMPT © CEAYR

PHOTO PROMPT © CEAYR

 

HERO

By Himself, C.E. Ayr

Times change.
The floodlights still illuminate the night sky.
The crowd still roars as once it roared for me.
But no more.
The sound echoes across the water to where I sit, feet wet, in my little boat.
I think back to the good times when I was the city’s hero.
When everyone loved me.
When she loved me.
As the dampness reaches my knees I recall faces smiling, doors opening.
And I remember the mistakes that were made.
Followed by scowls, and impassable barriers.
And she said goodbye.
The lights go out abruptly.
The darkness closes over my head.

***

LONG DISTANCE CALL

by Margaret Leggatt – Lake Macquarie, NSW, Australia

‘Hello. Zack speaking.’

‘Hi, honey. It’s me. I’m going to be late.’

‘What’s happened?’

‘Well, I had such a long list of pickups. I travelled miles. The professor’s so particular about what he wants, but I did my best, and I’ve collected some great specimens. I’m sure he’ll be satisfied.’

‘So what’s the hold-up? You haven’t lost a specimen again, have you?’

‘Oh no – all sedated and secure. The problem is, these streets all look the same at night; I can’t remember where I parked, and now the portal’s closed and I’ve missed the last transporter beam out of here.’

***

THE MEET-UP

By Dale Rogerson – Boucherville, Quebec

It was supposed to be for a light lunch. Neither was hungry, so they had a drink: water for her, soda for him.

They sat at a table and exchanged pleasantries. He asked questions, his gaze intense and she felt like he was reading more than her words. She felt the tension build and squirmed in discomfort, feeling totally exposed, yet strangely excited.

Before she knew how, he made her feel things she never imagined.

As he left her, dazed, yet lit up, he said, “You’ll see, this will play out in your head all day.”

He was not kidding.

***

I SAW IT

By Kent Bonham – Olathe, KS. USA

My last trip to Spain won me a date with Alicia, an actress-model I had been trying to go out with a long time.

We walked arm in arm through the dark streets, like in the movies!

Pigeons flew from the ground, almost on cue.

I turned to kiss her lovely face.

A pigeon swooped down, pooped a nasty on my white pants.

Startled, I spun around, knocked Alicia into a fountain. Her skirt flew over her head … and “Victoria” shared ALL her “secrets!”

“C’est la vie,” I said.

She slapped me.

She thought I said, “Se la ví.”  

***

Lastly, another one from the author herself.

SWINGJUDEN

            In 1969 my mother packed me off to my aunt and uncle’s dairy farm in Wisconsin.

“But Mom, Uncle Otto’s weird. That eyepatch and those scars—ick.”

***

            One night he took my Jefferson Airplane record from the stereo and replaced it with his own 45.

“You tink das ist protest music? ‘It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing,’” He sang. “The SS ransacked our nightclub, but I danced all the way to Buchenwald.”

Uncle Otto taught me more than the jitterbug that summer.

***

            At his funeral last year I saluted my favorite uncle with, “Swing Heil!”
 

34 comments on “HERDING CATS

    • Dear Jan,

      Thank you for being in the co-pilot’s seat for the ride. I’m so glad that you and a couple of others noodged me into taking on the challenge. It has been and continues to be a fascinating journey.

      Love,

      Rochelle

      Like

  • Loved this bit of history and the future too is very bright. I for one feel incomplete and uncomfortable without my weekly dose of Friday Fictioneers, no matter how late I may be 🙂 Thank you for being such a wonderful and, as we would say in India, a bindaas hostess 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • Wow…that last story about your uncle… That really touched something in me.
    Did he tell a lot of stories? My dad fought in WWII and although if asked in the daylight hours, he wouldn’t talk about his experiences during the war. But once in a great while…if you caught him in the right moment (and after a few Canadian Club and Waters 😉
    he would start telling the tales.
    They stay with me to this day.

    Thanks for sharing this post, every week I learn something new about this wonderful community!

    – Lisa

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Lisa,

      Actually that story of ‘my uncle’ is pure fiction. And any relatives I might have had in Germany or Eastern Europe were sent to the camps for merely being Jewish.
      My dad fought in WWII also. He told great boot camp stories but anything about the actual battles were left to the imagination, except for the day he was wounded. He did give me a rather detailed account when I asked him about the scar on his shoulder.

      In any event, I’m glad you stopped by for a rather lengthy read. I’m pleased you’ve joined us. You never know where that might lead. 😉 Thank you.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Lish,

      This was a fun article to write. It was actually another fictioneer who dubbed me the ‘cat herder.’ As you can see it can be that way at times. Nonetheless, despite my complaints at times, the positives far outweigh the negatives.
      Thank you for being part of this diverse and sometimes wacky group.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

  • I think, m’lady, that you know very well my views on FF and your sweet self.
    The 100 word limit is a superb discipline, and forces each of us to consider the value and requirement of every detail of our story, especially the adjectives and adverbs.
    It also at times compels us to restructure a sentence, to express it in a different, more concise way.
    When I read how some writers here can tell a life history within these strictures, it inspires a desire to improve, and to emulate.
    You were running the show when I started, so I am forever in your debt for your efforts.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear CE,

      I don’t think I need to tell you just how important you are to this group. I’m glad you came in leading your pink elephant and have stayed for the duration. You and Pinky are part of the reason I’ve kept at it for so long with no plans of quitting any time soon.
      Thank you for such affirmation and support.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Like

  • Dear Purple-Obsessed Pigmy,

    You have made a fine bus driver. Even Ralph Kramden would be envious of the way you herd cats. As I’ve shared with you and others, FFF is the greatest thing that’s happened to me in my writing life. Not just because it’s helped me improve my skills and become more concise, but because of all the wonderful friendships I’ve developed over the years.

    Now, can I have my joy buzzer back?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Class (Act) Clown,

      I know what you mean about the discipline of 100 words having an impact on your writing. Thanks to FF I’ve been able to write the dastardly synopses for my books.
      I agree about the friendships. Those were already starting to happen for me when Madison announced her abdication from the driver’s seat. I wasn’t willing to let those go any more than I was ready to relinquish this wonderful writing exercise. I’m so glad to number you among those friendships. As for the joy buzzer…hmmm….I’ll have to give that some more thought. Now take your seat, please.

      Shalom,

      P-O-P

      Liked by 1 person

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