Writer’s Digest 12-Day Plan: Day 12

Challenge: Gather everything you’ve written over the previous 11 days. Pick your favorite. Edit it, polish it and either try to get it published or post it on the Web to share with the world. Be proud of yourself and your work.

Since I posted every challenge as I did it (oops), there’s not really anything for me to do on this last day. I considered not posting anything, calling it good, and moving on with my life, but this is the kind of activity that requires some closure, I think. Besides, making only eleven posts for a twelve-day plan seems just wrong. So here we are.

I decided to use this as an opportunity to reflect on the previous eleven not entirely consecutive days. Admittedly, I didn’t stick to the schedule I was supposed to follow, and some posts were not as strong as others (Days 1-5, I’m looking at you), but all in all, I think it was a reasonably successful endeavor. I did all of the challenges, and I got in the habit of writing every day—so, mission accomplished?

Now I just need to ride the productivity wave through the experimental rewrite of my manuscript…


In an effort to start the summer strong, I did Writer’s Digest’s 12-Day Plan.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11

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Writer’s Digest 12-Day Plan: Day 11

Challenge: Write the acknowledgments page that will be placed in your first (next?) published book, thanking all the people who have helped you along the way.

I’d be lying if I said that I’d never fantasized about the dedication/acknowledgments page of my first book. What aspiring author hasn’t? It’s so tempting to dream about the finish line, the end product, and the hard-earned introspection/wisdom/gratitude that comes with achieving a life goal. But, to be totally honest, I’m not there yet. Writing an acknowledgments page at this point would be premature, and I haven’t earned it yet. It’d be like eating dessert before breakfast, lunch, and dinner—no, worse. It’d be like eating just the cherry off the sundae, throwing out the rest, and declaring I’m too full for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Yes, I’ve got legions of people to thank, but not yet.

In the meantime, you know who you are.


In an effort to start the summer strong, I’m doing Writer’s Digest’s 12-Day Plan.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10

Writer’s Digest 12-Day Plan: Day 10

(Shh, I know this was supposed to be posted yesterday, but we’re just going to overlook that, okay?)

Challenge: Go sit in a public place and eavesdrop on a conversation. Turn what you hear into a short love story (no matter how much you have to twist what they say).

Despite the name of my WordPress, it turns out that I’m terrible at eavesdropping on command. This weekend I went on three outings with the express purpose of eavesdropping for this challenge, and all three times, I got distracted and failed to catch any juicy conversations—or any conversations at all. During the third outing, I did manage to hear a cashier tell a customer, “Here’s your coupon. There you go,” so I guess I’m going with that. Wish me luck?


It’d been exactly two days since an entitled soccer mom had demanded to speak to the manager, and Liza reveled in the new store record—until a hot mess of eyelash extensions and hellfire swept in and ruined everything.

Ms. Hellfire had purchased a dollhouse a week ago. Liza herself had completed the transaction. Then, this morning, Ms. Hellfire must’ve determined that the dollhouse was no longer good enough for her niece and that this problem was Liza’s and Liza’s alone.

Without a receipt, all Liza could offer Ms. Hellfire was a coupon, but that worked less like appeasement and more like kerosene. Ms. Hellfire tore the coupon into three pieces before throwing it in Liza’s face.

Liza spent her 15-minute break reapplying her eye makeup, and when she clocked out, she headed to the nearest bar.

By her second whiskey, Liza stopped fantasizing about quitting in a grandiose fashion—tossing all the cash from her register into the air and tipping a kiosk on her way out— and settled for shoveling peanuts into her mouth.

She finished off her drink and brought her glass down on the bar with a satisfying clunk. When she looked up to flag down the bartender, her eyes met a pair of baby blues nestled under eyelash extensions.

Liza immediately pulled her gaze down. “Shit.”

She inhaled a handful of peanuts and fumbled in her coat pocket for her phone. Without any new texts to answer, she busied herself with scrolling through her email—up and down, up and down, up and down.

Liza jumped a little when Ms. Hellfire, suddenly beside her, spoke: “Hi.”

Another handful of peanuts bought Liza a moment to decide how to proceed, and she found herself a little grateful that she’d finished her whiskey; throwing a drink in Ms. Hellfire’s face wasn’t an option.

But, man, it would’ve been satisfying.

Liza gulped down the peanuts she definitely should’ve chewed more and wrangled her voice into something more than a wheeze. “Hello.” Her customer-service voice surfaced against her will. “Can I help you?” She stared at her glass and swirled it as if it still contained liquid.

“I just wanted to apologize.”

“What?” Liza’s eyes snapped up and met Ms. Hellfire’s, which had begun to well with tears.

“The way I treated you at the store was completely unacceptable, and I’m so sorry.” Ms. Hellfire looked down. “I’m horrified at how I behaved, and I just hope that I didn’t upset you too badly.”

“I—um. I—” Liza cleared her throat. “Well, thanks. You’re not the first customer to, er, get emotional, but you’re the first to apologize. So thanks, I guess.”

“And if I caused any problems for you with your manager, I’ll go back to the store first thing tomorrow and fix it. You did nothing wrong, and you shouldn’t lose your job because I lost the receipt—or because I was stupid enough to buy a dollhouse for a fourteen year old.”

Liza didn’t mean to laugh. Really, she didn’t. But the image of good ol’ Joe firing her because of a customer’s temper tantrum was too much to bear.

She quickly turned the laugh into a cough. “Don’t worry about that. My job is safe.”

“Good, good,” Ms. Hellfire said, nodding. “Now, can I buy you a drink, you know, as an apology?”

“Whiskey neat.” Ultimately, Liza knew she shouldn’t exploit this woman’s guilt, but sometimes her minimum-wage job paid off in unexpected ways, and she’d learned to go with it.

“Sooo,” Liza said carefully, “a dollhouse for a fourteen year old?”

“I know, I know. I just—I haven’t spent much time around kids, and I only just recently reconnected with my niece, so I’m new to buying gifts for her.” Ms. Hellfire knocked back a vodka shot. “Her mom—well, this is my niece’s first Christmas without her mom, and I was just trying to make that special, you know? But I screwed up.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. The holidays are a lot of pressure for people.” Liza cracked a small sympathetic smile. “Believe me. You’re not the first person to throw paper shreds in my face—not even this week.”

“Oof.” Ms. Hellfire buried her face in her hands and peered at Liza through slightly parted fingers. “I am so sorry.”

Liza sipped her whiskey. “Lucky for you, I’m easily bought.”

Ms. Hellfire smiled and extended her hand. “Hi, ‘easily bought.’ I’m Allie.”


In an effort to start the summer strong, I’m doing Writer’s Digest’s 12-Day Plan.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9

Writer’s Digest 12-Day Plan: Day 9

Challenge: Turn on your TV. Write down the first line that you hear and write a story based on it.

Blue Bloods, Season 8, Episode 7: “Raymond, open up.”


Jackson leafed through the wad of hundred-dollar bills and split them into stacks of $1,000 each. He didn’t turn when he heard Anthony enter the room.

“We’ve upped our profits this week. By my calcula—”

Anthony cut him off: “I’ve been getting complaints about Ray.”

Jackson paused as he lost count. Exhaling, he began to count the money again, hoping Anthony hadn’t noticed him stiffen.

“Your lil bro has been shorting the customers,” Anthony continued as he stepped up beside Jackson. Taking the cash from Jackson’s hand, Anthony replaced it with a gun. “Take Mikey and go take care of it.”

Jackson looked down at the gun. “You’re sure they’re not lying?”

“Do we have a problem?”

Shaking his head, Jackson cocked the gun and led Mikey to the beat-up sedan Ray had boosted last month. They drove to Ray’s apartment in silence.

Outside Ray’s door, Jackson turned to Mikey. “You can go wait in the car. I don’t need a babysitter.”

“Anthony thinks you do.” Mikey pulled his own gun from the waistband of his jeans and gestured to the door. “Come on, let’s do this. I’m supposed to meet my girl in an hour.”

Jackson nodded and slammed his fist on the door three times. “Raymond, open up.”

Mikey tired of waiting almost immediately, and he kicked open the door before Jackson could knock again. Ray greeted them with a gun, and Jackson barely had time to jump to the side before Ray emptied his revolver into Mikey.

“Jesus, Ray,” Jackson said as Mikey thudded to the floor.

“What? You said ‘Raymond.’ That’s the signal, isn’t it?”

“Well, yeah, but you shouldn’t have wasted the bullets. Two or three would’ve done, and I don’t know if we’ll be able to get more on the road.”

“He’s a big guy,” Ray protested, waving the revolver in the direction of Mikey’s hulking form.

“I know. You did good.” Jackson peeled Ray’s trembling fingers off of the gun and slapped Ray on the arm. “Now grab the money and let’s get going.”


In an effort to start the summer strong, I’m doing Writer’s Digest’s 12-Day Plan.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8

Writer’s Digest 12-Day Plan: Day 8

Challenge: Rewrite a fairy tale from the bad guy’s point of view.

When he stole from me the first time, I could hardly blame him. Truth be told, I took it as a compliment. Who could resist my lush green garden?

The second time, I took a breath, made a bit of tea, and checked the property line. Maybe the poor bumbling fool had gotten confused and mistaken my rapunzel for his own. But I found the stones stacked just as they belonged, dividing my estate from his dinky cottage.

The third time? Well, I made room for a new lawn ornament—right between the man who’d made me drop my basket when he bumped me in the town square and the woman who’d shrieked at me when I’d trod on the train of her dress.

His groveling was near immediate, which came as a surprise to me. I suppose I’d thought a man bold enough to steal from me three times would have a little something more—more nerve, certainly. But no. He cowered in the soil like an unearthed mole. How disappointing.

He raised his grubby hands to shield his face. They all do that at this stage, a last-ditch effort to save themselves by trying to block my curses with tiny paddles of inch-thick flesh. Or maybe they thought I had the object permanence of an infant and expected they could peekaboo their way out of death’s clutches.

Infant. The man’s pleading began to register; he was going on about needing the rapunzel for his pregnant wife. Impending starvation of a little one—now that’s something that tugs on the heartstrings.

In that moment, I devised a solution that would keep the little one and her parents from starving.


In an effort to start the summer strong, I’m doing Writer’s Digest’s 12-Day Plan.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7

Writer’s Digest 12-Day Plan: Day 7

Challenge: Write a letter to yourself telling you what you need to improve in the coming 6 months.

Yay, introspection and setting goals! My favorite things!

Dear Me,

Do you really need to rewatch Brooklyn Nine-Nine for a sixth time? You’ve got writing and other self-improvement tasks to be doing, and you really don’t need to watch Cheddar steal the belt again even though it’s really cute and the Halloween episodes are some of the best and—

Uhh, that got off topic. Let’s try that again:

Dear Me,

It’s time to stop messing around and to start getting stuff done. Soon you’ll be an actual adult with car insurance payments and electric bills and worries about making ends meet, and it’ll be even harder to focus on writing, so you’d better get a jump on your writing career now before it becomes unfinished and forgotten like that mosaic of the New York skyline in your garage. “I do mosaics,” you say, like a liar (John Mulaney, anyone?). You’ve got an outline of a few skyscrapers. Sit down—

Hm, maybe that’s a little too aggressive. How about we just go with a list of goals instead?

  1. Finish the experimental rewrite of my manuscript (more on that later)
  2. Submit to at least three writing contests
  3. Launch the “Devil’s Road Trip” series here (more on this later, too)
  4. Come up with a regular blogging schedule and stick to it

With this list, I’ve tried to strike a balance between setting goals challenging enough that I actually improve while also not being too ambitious. I have a tendency to overshoot when I set goals, and that just ends with soul-crushing defeat disappointment. This time, I’ll be more realistic.

I realized while writing this that the end of the year is in about six months, so these goals will bring me to 2019. (What? 2019? Already??) Maybe I’ll do another post around New Year’s to give an update and set goals for the next six months. We’ll see.


In an effort to start the summer strong, I’m doing Writer’s Digest’s 12-Day Plan.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6

Writer’s Digest 12-Day Plan: Day 6

Challenge: Select a book on your shelf and pick two chapters at random. Take the first line of one chapter and the last line of the other chapter and write a short story (no more than 1000 words) using those as bookends to your story.

Since I was out of town this weekend, I decided to look for a book for this challenge in one of the airport shops. Mary Torjussen’s The Girl I Used to Be (not to be confused with April Henry’s novel of the same title) caught my eye, so I picked two random chapters from that. The two sentences from Torjussen’s book are in bold italics.


It was so good to be sitting in a bar in Amsterdam with my old friends from university that first afternoon. We’d talked many times about getting together for a trip back to our old stomping grounds, but it seemed that something always got in the way. Joey’s daughter got sick. Lynn lost her job. My mother died.

And so on.

We finally wrangled our schedules—and our finances—nearly a decade after our year abroad had ended.

As we sat there, Lynn jabbed Joey’s ribs with her elbow and pointed at the bar. “Remember that time you barfed all over the bartender when—“

“Yeah, yeah, when I went to order another pint.” He massaged his forehead a little and peered up at her from under his cupped hand. “I swear I was hungover for a week. Hand to God.” He held his palm skyward. Of course, he’d also sworn he could outdrink me that night, so maybe God should take his word with a grain of salt.

I laughed a little and looked out the window to my left. “Boy, that was a good night for me. I got some money—what was the stake, Joey? 20 euros?—and a Polaroid of Joey standing on the bar. Actually, I think I still have—” My voice dropped off when I saw a mop of golden hair across the street.

The boy under the hair stood near the edge of the curb, absentmindedly kicking a bottle back and forth as he watched traffic go by. He had to be almost ten, and I couldn’t stop myself from staring because it was just so damn uncanny.

That rounded nose, those wide blue eyes, those big ears—he looked just like a man I’d met ten years ago in a club down the street, a man I’d known for just that night, a man I hadn’t been able to contact when those two pink lines appeared.

I’d left Amsterdam eight months later without my baby boy—Rory. I’d have called him Rory. After my father, a kind, generous man who put up with my shrew of a mother longer than any saint would’ve.

A car horn sent me stumbling back onto the sidewalk just in time, and rainwater splashed my jeans as a red sports car flew past me. I took that as an opportunity to pause, to think, to reconsider.

I’d done this before—in London, in Toulouse, in Philadelphia, in Montreal. Once, in El Paso, I’d followed a boy two blocks before realizing he had free earlobes. I had attached earlobes, and so did Rory’s father.

Standing outside the Amsterdam bar, I tried to tell myself that this was just like those other times. I tried to convince myself to turn back around, join my friends, and squabble over who should pay the check.

But this boy had those same crooked dimples I’d swooned over ten years ago.

I crossed the street, and his hand was in mine by the time my friends had rushed out of the bar and started shouting my name.

A man called after us, yelling for us to stop. I knew we had to move fast if we wanted to get away, so I tried to get Rory to keep up with me by encouraging, coaxing, pulling him—whatever I had to do. If we didn’t run fast enough, the man might see us turn into that alley up ahead. He might catch up with us.

He might take Rory with him.


In an effort to start the summer strong, I’m doing Writer’s Digest’s 12-Day Plan.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5