Posted in Writing

Nowhere and Everywhere

I used to wonder where writers got their ideas. I read Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine and tried to imagine where he came up with the story of Bill Forrester and Helen Loomis and the dish of lime-vanilla ice. I read To Kill a Mockingbird and speculated about the character of Boo Radley. Where in Harper Lee’s mind did he live before he arrived on the paper? Then I started writing, and I never again asked an author where the ideas came from, because I knew.

They come from nowhere and everywhere.

Some stories sneak up on us from our own lives, and we don’t even notice until someone points it out to us. You. There you are. I see you. Others spring from the news or photographs or prompts created to push us into new territories. But most of my stories don’t come from such concrete places.

One of the first short stories I ever wrote was about a disturbed man who blew up a hot air balloon full of his enemies and also, due to a last minute glitch in his plans, the only person in his life who he truly cared about. I never intended to write such a dark story. In fact, the day it came to me I didn’t intend to write anything at all. It was Christmas Day. I was on an airplane with my husband, flying from my family’s home to his. One minute, I was holding a piece of stationery with a hot air balloon on it and looking out the airplane window. The next minute I was furiously scribbling the first draft of “A Fair Day” on a notepad. I had no idea where it came from. I still don’t. The story went through a few rejections and many rounds of revisions, but the basic idea stayed the same, and eventually it found a home in Darker Times Anthology, Volume 5, as runner up in one of their monthly contests.

20150423_095459 (1)
The inspiration for “The Night Children,” published in Havok Magazine in October 2016, came from this library book. I wanted to know who “The Day Children” were. And, if there could be Day Children, didn’t that mean there could also be Night Children? What was their story?

My first published short story was “The Jack-in-the-Box,” which came out in Issue 12 of Dark Moon Digest. That story was born from a combination of experience, memory, and “what if.” I was sitting on the floor of my cousin’s house, playing with her three-year-old daughter. She had a jack-in-the-box with a dragon inside and she begged me to turn the knob over and over and over, delighting each time the lid popped open. As I turned the crank again and again, I thought back to my own childhood jack-in-the-box. It had a clown inside, and the surprise of the POP, though predictable, terrified me so much that I refused to play with it. As I watched the dragon emerge time and time again, I thought, What if one time something was different? I held on to that idea, and when I got home, the first draft of “The Jack-in-the-Box” flowed from my fingers.

613WbpAYwML._SL1024_
The idea for “The Other House” came from my friend’s three-year-old. I like writing stories that scare children, but I love writing stories that scare their parents.

Sometimes though, letting go of an idea is as important as holding on. The story I wrote for Growing Pains, the YA horror anthology from Horrified Press, was inspired by a Facebook post. A friend wrote: Omg. Something in my attic is *knocking*. Like, “Hello? Is anyone home?” knocking. If I don’t come back, don’t send anyone after me. While my friend was dealing with her attic guest, I was typing the first draft of “The Girl in the Attic,” a tale about a twelve-year-old girl who hears a knock coming from the inside of an attic door that has been nailed shut for sixty years. She decides to pry the door open. But the more I wrote, the more I realized there was a problem. It was the knock. It didn’t fit with the rest of the story, and the more I tried to make it work, the more the story fell apart. Finally, I realized I had to let that part go. While the eerie knocking sound had been the instrument of horror in my friend’s real life, in the story I’d created, it was superfluous. It was hard to hit the delete key, but the piece was made better by the cut. (By the way, my friend DID investigate the sound in her attic, and she made it back just fine.)

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 1.11.42 PM
“Teardrops and Watermelon Seeds” is my favorite of all my stories. It was inspired by an article about magical realism in this issue of Writer’s Digest. “Teardrops” was first published in Spark: A Creative Anthology in 2016 and will soon be appearing in Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things.

Our ideas come from everywhere and nowhere. They slip in through cracks. They whisper in our ears while we’re sleeping. They pounce on us from shadows. Some of them even knock. Our job is to let them lead us, and then know when to let them go.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Random, Writing

Who Wants to Illustrate My Muse? 

20160104_003902-1

I’m not much of an artist (obviously), but I’d love to have an illustration of the muse I created in my “The Night Before Deadline” poem. Here are the lines that describe her:

For only a moment, my vision was blurred,
then on my desk perched a girl like a bird.
Her fingers were pencils, her toes were erasers,
her teeth, when she smiled, were sharper than razors,

perfect for cutting unneeded description
and murdering darlings with flawless precision.
Her feathery hair was purple and long,
and her delicate wings were the color of song.

She wore loose-fitting clothing with numerous pockets;
around her neck, hung trinkets and lockets.
Her colorful pants were rolled up to the knees
and ornamented with stitched memories.

She wiggled her nose and winked one green eye,
then stretched out her wings and started to fly.

Are there any artists/cartoonists/doodlers out there interested in bringing my muse to life for me? If so, send your picture to cariejuettner[at]gmail[dot]com by February 14, 2016 with the subject Your Muse. I’ll share the best images on my blog and then give a prize to my favorite representation of my fickle little friend.

Have fun! And be careful—she’s been known to bite.

Posted in Poetry

The Night Before Deadline

TheDesk

 

The Night Before Deadline

‘Twas the night before deadline, and all over my desk
not a character stirred—the manuscript was a mess.
The computer was on, the cursor was blinking
in hopes that a plotline would soon enter my thinking.

The coffee cups were empty, the blogs had been read,
yet nothing—no nothing!—danced in my head.
I’d just poured the wine and sat down in my chair,
lamenting the fact that life’s so unfair

when suddenly in the back of my mind came a spark,
a tiny dim flame that lit up the dark.
Away to the keyboard I flew like a bat,
toppling my wine and disturbing the cat.

The monitor glowed with a whiteness so bright,
illuminating a screen empty of type
when my desperate eyes, full of repentance,
saw letters and words and even a sentence!

With such clever language and the skill to enthuse,
I knew in a moment it must be my muse.
At eighty words per minute, her ideas arrived,
and she crafted and molded them, brought them alive

with similes and metaphors and unique turns of phrase,
without tropes or adverbs, nor worn out clichés.
From exposition to denouement,
she filled my story with suspense and awe.

When the last word was written, the document saved,
I thanked my muse and decided to be brave.
“Please,” I said, “will you show yourself?
I’ve no idea if you’re human or elf.”

“I yearn to behold the face of the being
who inspires the writing I do that’s worth reading.”
There was a jingling sound, a flash and a shimmer,
and the air in the room seemed to get thinner.

For only a moment, my vision was blurred,
then on my desk perched a girl like a bird.
Her fingers were pencils, her toes were erasers,
her teeth, when she smiled, were sharper than razors,

perfect for cutting unneeded description
and murdering darlings with flawless precision.
Her feathery hair was purple and long,
and her delicate wings were the color of song.

She wore loose-fitting clothing with numerous pockets;
around her neck, hung trinkets and lockets.
Her colorful pants were rolled up to the knees
and ornamented with stitched memories.

She wiggled her nose and winked one green eye,
then stretched out her wings and started to fly.
“Wait!” I called, finally finding my voice,
“Can’t you stay? Must you go? Is there no other choice?”

“Think of the work I could do in a year
if only you stayed by my side, always near.”
She blew me a kiss and tickled the cat,
and said, “Silly writer, where’s the fun in that?”

Then, with the jingle bell laugh of a sprite,
my muse fluttered out into the dark night,
but I heard her whisper as she took to the skies,
“Now that it’s written, don’t forget to revise!”

© Carie Juettner, 2015

*

HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all the writers out there! 🙂

*

[Remember– if you comment on my blog posts between now and December 31, 2015, you’ll be entered to win my book giveaway!]