Thursday, December 2, 2010

Elf Abba Is On Her Way!

Each year for the past three years, as a Christmas card to my friends and family, I write an original story in the ongoing adventures of Elf Abba. Instead of a card, I mail out little booklets furthering the tale of Abba and her friends. I always tell myself that I'll work on it throughout the year, but I don't. I never start until at least Thanksgiving, and this year, I started the tale on December 1st. After a few misgivings about where her story might lead this year, (I never work with a plot outline) I plunged in and am happy to say Elf Abba's misadventure this year has begun!

Here is the cover from the first volume:


Thursday, October 14, 2010

100 Greatest Opening Lines From Novels

Here is a list I found that lists the 100 best opening lines from novel. Of course any list like this is highly subjective, and I do not know how American Book Review came to these conclusions, but I for one found a few omissions that belong in my humble opinion. What do you think? What are some of your favorites?

The most glaring omission for me is the opening of To Kill A Mockingbird:

"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow."

Her then is the list as presented to me:

1. Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

3. A screaming comes across the sky. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (1973)

4. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)

5. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

6. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)

7. riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. —James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)

8. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

9. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

10. I am an invisible man. —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

11. The Miss Lonelyhearts of the New York Post-Dispatch (Are you in trouble?—Do-you-need-advice?—Write-to-Miss-Lonelyhearts-and-she-will-help-you) sat at his desk and stared at a piece of white cardboard. —Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts (1933)

12. You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. —Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)

13. Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested. —Franz Kafka, The Trial (1925; trans. Breon Mitchell)

14. You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. —Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler (1979; trans. William Weaver)

15. The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new. —Samuel Beckett, Murphy (1938)

16. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. —J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

17. Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo. —James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)

18. This is the saddest story I have ever heard. —Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier (1915)

19. I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly considered how much depended upon what they were then doing;—that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;—and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost:—Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly,—I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that, in which the reader is likely to see me. —Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (1759–1767)

20. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. —Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)

21. Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. —James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)

22. It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. —Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)

23. One summer afternoon Mrs. Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue to find that she, Oedipa, had been named executor, or she supposed executrix, of the estate of one Pierce Inverarity, a California real estate mogul who had once lost two million dollars in his spare time but still had assets numerous and tangled enough to make the job of sorting it all out more than honorary. —Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)

24. It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. —Paul Auster, City of Glass (1985)

25. Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. —William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (1929)

26. 124 was spiteful. —Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)

27. Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing. —Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (1605; trans. Edith Grossman)

28. Mother died today. —Albert Camus, The Stranger (1942; trans. Stuart Gilbert)

29. Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu. —Ha Jin, Waiting (1999)

30. The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. —William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

31. I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground (1864; trans. Michael R. Katz)

32. Where now? Who now? When now? —Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable (1953; trans. Patrick Bowles)

33. Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. "Stop!" cried the groaning old man at last, "Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree." —Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans (1925)

34. In a sense, I am Jacob Horner. —John Barth, The End of the Road (1958)

35. It was like so, but wasn't. —Richard Powers, Galatea 2.2 (1995)

36. —Money . . . in a voice that rustled. —William Gaddis, J R (1975)

37. Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. —Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

38. All this happened, more or less. —Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

39. They shoot the white girl first. —Toni Morrison, Paradise (1998)

40. For a long time, I went to bed early. —Marcel Proust, Swann's Way (1913; trans. Lydia Davis)

41. The moment one learns English, complications set in. —Felipe Alfau, Chromos (1990)

42. Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature. —Anita Brookner, The Debut (1981)

43. I was the shadow of the waxwing slain / By the false azure in the windowpane; —Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (1962)

44. Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. —Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

45. I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story. —Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome (1911)

46. Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex's admonition, against Allen's angry assertion: another African amusement . . . anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa's antipodal ant annexation. —Walter Abish, Alphabetical Africa (1974)

47. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. —C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)

48. He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. —Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea (1952)

49. It was the day my grandmother exploded. —Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road (1992)

50. I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. —Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002)

51. Elmer Gantry was drunk. —Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry (1927)

52. We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall. —Louise Erdrich, Tracks (1988)

53. It was a pleasure to burn. —Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953)

54. A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead. —Graham Greene, The End of the Affair (1951)

55. Having placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes' chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression. —Flann O'Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939)

56. I was born in the Year 1632, in the City of York, of a good Family, tho' not of that Country, my Father being a Foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull; He got a good Estate by Merchandise, and leaving off his Trade, lived afterward at York, from whence he had married my Mother, whose Relations were named Robinson, a very good Family in that Country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual Corruption of Words in England, we are now called, nay we call our selves, and write our Name Crusoe, and so my Companions always call'd me. —Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (1719)

57. In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street. —David Markson, Wittgenstein's Mistress (1988)

58. Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.
—George Eliot, Middlemarch (1872)

59. It was love at first sight. —Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (1961)

60. What if this young woman, who writes such bad poems, in competition with her husband, whose poems are equally bad, should stretch her remarkably long and well-made legs out before you, so that her skirt slips up to the tops of her stockings? —Gilbert Sorrentino, Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things (1971)

61. I have never begun a novel with more misgiving. —W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor's Edge (1944)

62. Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. —Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups (2001)

63. The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. —G. K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

64. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. —F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)

65. You better not never tell nobody but God. —Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982)

66. "To be born again," sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, "first you have to die." —Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses (1988)

67. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York. —Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (1963)

68. Most really pretty girls have pretty ugly feet, and so does Mindy Metalman, Lenore notices, all of a sudden. —David Foster Wallace, The Broom of the System (1987)

69. If I am out of my mind, it's all right with me, thought Moses Herzog. —Saul Bellow, Herzog (1964)

70. Francis Marion Tarwater's uncle had been dead for only half a day when the boy got too drunk to finish digging his grave and a Negro named Buford Munson, who had come to get a jug filled, had to finish it and drag the body from the breakfast table where it was still sitting and bury it in a decent and Christian way, with the sign of its Saviour at the head of the grave and enough dirt on top to keep the dogs from digging it up. —Flannery O'Connor, The Violent Bear it Away (1960)

71. Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there's a peephole in the door, and my keeper's eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me. —GŸnter Grass, The Tin Drum (1959; trans. Ralph Manheim)

72. When Dick Gibson was a little boy he was not Dick Gibson. —Stanley Elkin, The Dick Gibson Show (1971)

73. Hiram Clegg, together with his wife Emma and four friends of the faith from Randolph Junction, were summoned by the Spirit and Mrs. Clara Collins, widow of the beloved Nazarene preacher Ely Collins, to West Condon on the weekend of the eighteenth and nineteenth of April, there to await the End of the World. —Robert Coover, The Origin of the Brunists (1966)

74. She waited, Kate Croy, for her father to come in, but he kept her unconscionably, and there were moments at which she showed herself, in the glass over the mantel, a face positively pale with the irritation that had brought her to the point of going away without sight of him. —Henry James, The Wings of the Dove (1902)

75. In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. —Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (1929)

76. "Take my camel, dear," said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass. —Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond (1956)

77. He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare which made you think of a charging bull. —Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim (1900)

78. The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. —L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between (1953)

79. On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen. —Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker (1980)

80. Justice?—You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law. —William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own (1994)

81. Vaughan died yesterday in his last car-crash. —J. G. Ballard, Crash (1973)

82. I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. —Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle (1948)

83. "When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets," Papa would say, "she made the nipping off of noggins such a crystal mystery that the hens themselves yearned toward her, waltzing around her, hypnotized with longing." —Katherine Dunn, Geek Love (1983)

84. In the last years of the Seventeenth Century there was to be found among the fops and fools of the London coffee-houses one rangy, gangling flitch called Ebenezer Cooke, more ambitious than talented, and yet more talented than prudent, who, like his friends-in-folly, all of whom were supposed to be educating at Oxford or Cambridge, had found the sound of Mother English more fun to game with than her sense to labor over, and so rather than applying himself to the pains of scholarship, had learned the knack of versifying, and ground out quires of couplets after the fashion of the day, afroth with Joves and Jupiters, aclang with jarring rhymes, and string-taut with similes stretched to the snapping-point. —John Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor (1960)

85. When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon. —James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss (1978)

86. It was just noon that Sunday morning when the sheriff reached the jail with Lucas Beauchamp though the whole town (the whole county too for that matter) had known since the night before that Lucas had killed a white man. —William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust (1948)

87. I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles) who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as "Claudius the Idiot," or "That Claudius," or "Claudius the Stammerer," or "Clau-Clau-Claudius" or at best as "Poor Uncle Claudius," am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach the fateful point of change where, some eight years ago, at the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the "golden predicament" from which I have never since become disentangled. —Robert Graves, I, Claudius (1934)

88. Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I've come to learn, is women. —Charles Johnson, Middle Passage (1990)

89. I am an American, Chicago born—Chicago, that somber city—and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent. —Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March (1953)

90. The towers of Zenith aspired above the morning mist; austere towers of steel and cement and limestone, sturdy as cliffs and delicate as silver rods. —Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt (1922)

91. I will tell you in a few words who I am: lover of the hummingbird that darts to the flower beyond the rotted sill where my feet are propped; lover of bright needlepoint and the bright stitching fingers of humorless old ladies bent to their sweet and infamous designs; lover of parasols made from the same puffy stuff as a young girl's underdrawers; still lover of that small naval boat which somehow survived the distressing years of my life between her decks or in her pilothouse; and also lover of poor dear black Sonny, my mess boy, fellow victim and confidant, and of my wife and child. But most of all, lover of my harmless and sanguine self. —John Hawkes, Second Skin (1964)

92. He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. —Raphael Sabatini, Scaramouche (1921)

93. Psychics can see the color of time it's blue. —Ronald Sukenick, Blown Away (1986)

94. In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together. —Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940)

95. Once upon a time two or three weeks ago, a rather stubborn and determined middle-aged man decided to record for posterity, exactly as it happened, word by word and step by step, the story of another man for indeed what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal, a somewhat paranoiac fellow unmarried, unattached, and quite irresponsible, who had decided to lock himself in a room a furnished room with a private bath, cooking facilities, a bed, a table, and at least one chair, in New York City, for a year 365 days to be precise, to write the story of another person—a shy young man about of 19 years old—who, after the war the Second World War, had come to America the land of opportunities from France under the sponsorship of his uncle—a journalist, fluent in five languages—who himself had come to America from Europe Poland it seems, though this was not clearly established sometime during the war after a series of rather gruesome adventures, and who, at the end of the war, wrote to the father his cousin by marriage of the young man whom he considered as a nephew, curious to know if he the father and his family had survived the German occupation, and indeed was deeply saddened to learn, in a letter from the young man—a long and touching letter written in English, not by the young man, however, who did not know a damn word of English, but by a good friend of his who had studied English in school—that his parents both his father and mother and his two sisters one older and the other younger than he had been deported they were Jewish to a German concentration camp Auschwitz probably and never returned, no doubt having been exterminated deliberately X * X * X * X, and that, therefore, the young man who was now an orphan, a displaced person, who, during the war, had managed to escape deportation by working very hard on a farm in Southern France, would be happy and grateful to be given the opportunity to come to America that great country he had heard so much about and yet knew so little about to start a new life, possibly go to school, learn a trade, and become a good, loyal citizen. —Raymond Federman, Double or Nothing (1971)

96. Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. —Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye (1988)

97. He—for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it—was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters. —Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

98. High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of 1969, two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of 1200 miles per hour. —David Lodge, Changing Places (1975)

99. They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did. —Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)

100. The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. —Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (1895)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July Writing Prompt

Many of you know I am judging a writing contest for the City of West Covina. You will find the writing rules further down in this blog on another post. If you are interested, here is the prompt for the month of July.

During a rainstorm there are two kinds of people; those who don't use an umbrella, and those who do. Of those that do, some walk directly into the rain, opening their umbrellas as they go, while others stand beneath shelter until the umbrella is safely open. Warren Klepke was of the latter type

Let's see what you've got!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Writer in the Window: The Challenge

The challenge was to create an original short story in an hour. The audience would shout out six words that you would find in the old west, and I had to incorporate them into an original short story on the spot. When time was up, I had to read what I had...finished or not...good or not. I've done them before with mixed results. This time, however, it had to be a kid-friendly story, which meant I had to write a western with no gunfights, cussing, or whiskey.

Now, watching a grown man type on a laptop for an hour is not as riveting as you might think for kids, so while I did my thing, there was a cartoonist named Jonathan Burrello who entertained our pint-sized audience until I could finish. Barnes and Noble along with the City of West Covina sponsored and hosted the event and gave away raffle prizes every fifteen minutes. This event kicks off six months of writing and photo contests sponsored by West Covina and judged by yours truly.

In the end, I created a tale fit for the kids, read it for them and got a rousing round of applause from them and the scattered grown-ups in the room. I like my little tale. I think I am going to ask the cartoonist if he would be interested in bringing "The Adventures of the Two-Cookie Kid" to life in pictures and perhaps seek publication for it. A kid's book...from me...who'd have thunk it?



Monday, June 14, 2010

Writer in the Window series!

I am appearing Thursday evening at Barnes and Noble in West covina from 7-9:30pm for the latest in my Writer in the Window series!

For those who don't know, I have accepted a number of challenges from bookstores and events to create on-the-spot short stories based on suggestions from the audience.

People shout out things you would find in a western and I then have two hours to create a story using all those elements. Most times I am able to finish with a fairly cohesive story, which is then read to the crowd. A few times I have failed, but must still read the work to the crowd!

It is called Writer in the Window, because at the first event for the Gene Autry Center, they literally put me in the window of the museum store, like a monkey at the zoo. People even tapped on the window!

So come on out for a fun evening! There will be raffles, activities for the kids, and even a movie! See if you can stump me...and support the arts!


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Short Story Contest!

Creative Writing Contest

The City of West Covina’s Community Services Department is proud to partner with Bill Wilbur on a photography and creative writing contest, spanning several months. Mr. Wilbur is an artist and published author; his most recent western-themed novel is Saragosa, written for his father.

In an effort to recognize more local artists, Mr. Wilbur will assist the City with a large-scale photo and creative writing contest over the next several months. Now’s your chance to have your own work reviewed by a professional writer and photographer! For participation rules read below or call (626) 939-8430.

West Covina Artist
Creative Writing Contest
For information, call (626) 939-8430.

The City extends an open invitation for West Covina residents to participate in an on-going creative writing contest for youth and adults. Each month the contest writing prompts will be posted (see prompts below), and winners will be selected. Judges will include local artist Bill Wilbur and members of the West Covina City Council. Both amateur and professional writers are welcome to participate.

Winning contestants will receive a certificate of recognition from the West Covina City Council. Entries must be submitted in PDF format and sent to; see contest rules for details.

June: Youth Writing Prompt
Ages 10-17

Tommy Noonan was late. Dusk was creeping along Main Street toward the spot where it crossed Hamilton Parkway and left the town behind. The night echoed with the fading sounds of a summer day as Tommy duck walked the last few feet and pushed his way deep into the bushes. The guys were already there.

June: Adult Writing Prompt
Ages 18+

Bobbi Singer never really wanted to be a hero. In fact, she’d never really wanted to be anything.

No purchase or payment necessary to enter or win

Entry Eligibility
To enter, you must be a West Covina resident capable of proving residency (utility bill/license etc), and age if necessary. The writing entry must open with the exact words from the writing prompt, according to the month of submission, and submitted by the last day of the corresponding month. All entries must be submitted as a PDF file.

Writer / Copyright
Entries must be submitted by the original writer. Do not submit a story by someone other than yourself. You must be the sole owner and creator of the story. Your submission of the story and entry form is your guarantee that you are the writer and copyright holder of the entry.

Number of Entries
An individual may submit only one story per writing prompt, per monthly contest-according to the appropriate age category.

Creative Writing Restrictions
Stories must be appropriate for posting on a public government website. Obscene, provocative or otherwise questionable content will not be considered. The City of West Covina retains sole discretion as to what constitutes inappropriate content.

Ownership / Use Rights
Writers retain the copyright to their story. By entering the contest, writers agree to have their submitted entry used in City publications, including the City’s website without any fee or other form of compensation, and agree that the City may make and retain copies of the entry for archival purposes. Stories will be credited to the writer named in the entry form. Entries (including non-winning entries) may be selected for use in City publications/website at the City’s discretion. In the event that ownership of any story submitted to the City of West Covina is contested in any manner, the City retains the discretion to disqualify that entry and discontinue use of the story.

How to Enter
Creative Writing entries must be submitted in PDF format, and emailed to Each entry must include the full name, age, address, and telephone number for the individual responsible for writing the story, as well as the name of the story. Applicants needs to submit their entry under the appropriate category: Youth (ages 10-17, 1000 words or less) or Adult (ages 18+, 2000 words or less). The category of submission is meant to correspond with the age of the writer. The writer’s name should appear on every page of the submission. All work must be the original work written by the applicant. Should work be discovered as a copy or contain plagiarized materials, applicant/writer will be disqualified.

Entries will be judged on the basis of creativity, writing quality, and effectiveness in conveying the monthly writing prompt of the contest category. The panel will judge the entries and all contest decisions are final. Entries that fail to comply with the Official Contest Rules will be disqualified. The panel will include published author Bill Wilbur and members of the West Covina City Council or their designees.

Judges will select one winning creative writing submission, per age category, for each of the monthly contests. At the discretion of the panel, one or more honorable mention winners may be selected. Winners will be notified approximately 2-3 weeks after the contest deadline by phone and email using the information collected in the submission. No financial compensation is provided to winners.

Additional Terms and Conditions
The City of West Covina (the City) is not responsible for computer system, hardware, software, or program malfunctions or other errors, failures, or delayed computer transactions or network connections that are human or technical in nature. Furthermore, the City is not responsible for: (i) lost, misdirected, misplaced, illegible, unintelligible, incomplete, or late entries or (ii) any act, failure to act, or delay regarding the transmitting or processing of entries. The City reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to cancel or suspend all or any portion of this contest without notice if factors beyond the City’s control, including technical difficulties, disrupt or corrupt the fair or secure administration or operation of the contest. Void where prohibited. The City is entitled to interpret these rules as needed and its decisions are final. The City reserves the right to disqualify any entrant that the City has reason to believe is not the original work of entrant, or does not otherwise meet the contest rules. If a winner is disqualified or determined to be ineligible, an alternate winner will be selected using the same judging process/criteria described above. Alternate winners are subject to all requirements set forth in these Official Rules.

By participating in the contest, you agree to release and hold harmless the City and its employees, officers, affiliates, agents, and advertising and promotional agencies from any and all damages, injuries, claims, causes of actions, or losses of any kind resulting from your participation in this contest, including infringement of intellectual property rights. The City and its employees, officers, affiliates, agents, and advertising and promotional agencies assume no responsibility or liability for any damages, injuries, claims, causes of actions, or losses of any kind arising in whole or in part from this contest.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

One Artist

Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Try not to repeat a song title. It's harder than you think. Let's hear some of yours!

Your Artist: Bon Jovi

Are you male or female: Good Guys Don't Always Wear White

Describe yourself: It's Just Me

How do you feel about yourself: Just Older

Describe where you currently live: I Love This Town

The first thing you think of when you wake up: I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Destination Anywhere

Your favorite form of transportation: Mystery Train

Your best friend is: Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen From Mars

Your favorite color is: Blaze of Glory

What's the weather like: Dry County

If your life were a TV show, what would it be called: Outlaws of Love

What is life to you: It's My Life

What is the best advice you have to give: Dyin Ain't Much of a Living

If you could change your name, what would it be: Joey

Your favorite food is: Too Much Of A Good Thing

How I would like to die: Last Man Standing

My soul's present condition: Right Side Of Wrong

How would you describe your love life: I Got The Girl

What are you going to post this as: Lost Highway

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Another 20 Minute Story

This one comes from my friend Suzi, who writes two pretty cool blogs herself. Check them out here and here. Suzi had a pretty tough combination to work with here, but I think she pulled it off very well!

Character: a priest who's lost his faith
Conflict: digging up the wrong grave
Location: a mall

Father Joe sat in the food court, pushing his food from one side of
the tray to the other. He hadn't said grace before eating. What was
the point? What was the point of anything?

He slipped his hand into his pocket and let his fingers slide over the
cool shape of the trowel in his pocket. The only point left was this
one last job. When he was done with that-well, he didn't know what.
Death? Arrest? Possibly. He refused to think about the future held
after tonight. He imagined that an atheist must feel this way all the

The activity in the mall was winding down as it closer to closing.
Father Joe stood and dumped his untouched dinner in the trash can and
then made his way to the public restroom at the back of the food
court. With a little luck, though he no longer believed in luck, he'd
be able to stay in the mall the rest of the night. The trowel banged
against his hip, reminding him of his duty for the night.

Having safely evaded the janitor and the security guard (neither of
which seemed devoted to their jobs) he stopped up to the planter in
the middle of the mall. Why, why had Father Clemons passed this to
him? Why did he feel the need to fulfill the dying priest's last

Father Joe knelt before the largest stone in the planter. Almost, from
habit, he crossed himself, but pulled his hand down after the opening
gesture. He dug in the dirt, one ear listening for the guard who might
suddenly feel a need to do his duty. No footsteps echoed to him, but
he did hear the clink of the trowel on something, just as Father
Clemons had promised.

His hand trembled a little, as he reached into the makeshift grave.
There was no better word for it. Grave. Father Joe couldn't lie to
himself anymore. He knew that Father Clemons had done something
terrible and hidden the evidence here.

When Father Joe pulled out the little tin he opened it up and threw
his fist into his mouth to stifle the howl that wanted to burst
through him. It wasn't the hand and rosary that Father Clemons had
told him he'd find here. This was a set of teeth and fingernails and a
religious medal of another priest.

It was the wrong grave.


20 Minute Stories

Some writer friends of mine and I got together for a little fun. The idea was, can you write a complete story in twenty minutes, no matter how ridiculous the subject? We pulled our inspirations from the proverbial hat and tried to make it all work. We each received a character, a setting, and a conflict, sometimes creating pretty outlandish combinations, and then had twenty minutes to craft a story out of those elements. Here is one of mine from that evening and remember, it went from idae to story in twenty minutes:

SETTING: A Biker Bar
CHARACTER: Trash Collector
CONFLICT: Good vs. Evil

The dumpster behind the Piston Ring Bar was always overflowing and if Randy was in a playful mood he’s sometimes engage in a little dumpster diving before slipping the forks in and tilting the whole mess into the back of his truck. He’d found dozens of skin mags and a few pornos. Sometimes there were drugs and twice he’d found a handgun. Nothing ever really surprised him any more. Or so he thought. But when he lifted the lid and saw the glowing red eyes of the Demon Strum starting up at him he got the shock of his life.

A wide grin stretched the beasts black cracked lips and it climbed menacingly out of the trash and into Randy's gaping mouth.

The Demon took control of his body and after a few wobbly, tentative steps, pulled open the back door and entered the dim, dark, biker bar.

“What are you doing in here?” growled one of the bikers. Strum reached out a finger form the trash man’s hand and touched the biker’s forehead. Said biker burst into an orange flame and suddenly collapsed into a smoldering pile of gray ash.

“Who’s next?” Strum hissed, ready for a good fight.

“I am.” Came a high pitched voice from the ice maker behind the bar. The door slipped open and from behind the ice cubes came a blinding light as the anti-demon Cord leapt out. He looked around quickly and wriggled his way up the left nostril of the bartender.

After falling into the bottles behind the bar and sending them crashing to the ground, he found his footing and leapt over the bar.

“I can’t let you leave here.” Cord said, in a voice that sounded like angels singing.

“Try and stop me.” The demon Strum said in a voice that sounded like every politician you’ve ever heard.

They leapt at each other and the battle raged, sending the bikers running into the street.

For nearly a month the fight inside the Piston Ring could be heard from the street and every night the bikers waited to see who would emerge.

Finally on the thirtieth night, the war ended, and while nearly a hundred bikers waited at the front door, the fight's winner slipped out the back, down the ally and disappeared.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Clowns and Vampires

My good friend Kim and I continuosly challenge each other to write short stories about absurd things that wouldn't normally go together, our first was vikings and butterflies, and if you'd like to read some of those, check out Kim's blog. Our latest challenge was to write a story about Clowns and Vampires. Stories have to be at least 1,000 words. Here is mine. Feel free to give it a try if you like.

Bill Wilbur

The world had moved on. Darkness and decay became the norm, where once there was hope.

At the beginning only small towns fell, and then cities and states, and eventually, as the darkness grew to unimaginable power, entire countries succumbed until the world finally became united. World wars no longer mattered when every day was a war of survival for those who remained. Of course, his father had seen it coming. He’d called it. Long before the rest of them recognized the apocalypse for what it was, his dad had pronounced the end times’ arrival and he’d been silenced for it.

But he’d been right. And Stanley supposed the joke was finally on those who claimed power. They were dead now too, or worse and all that remained was the daily fight for survival.

Stanley meandered through his fortress, feeling the weight of the new world, allowing himself a few moments of self-pity before moving on. They’d lived here once, he and Penelope, and they’d been happy. An uneasy laugh escaped him in the darkness of the room. Happiness was such a foreign and distant concept now that the word itself held no meaning.

He found himself in the bathroom doorway, staring at his reflection in the mirror. Christ he’d gotten old in a hurry. As near as he could remember, he’d turned thirty-two a couple of months ago. He looked fifty-two. Deep lines spread out from the corners of his eyes and his forehead held deep fissures created by worry and sorrow. Fighting vampires could do that to you.

He was still alive because they hadn’t known who he was or how to find him. He’d been careful to conceal his identity, traveling only on sunny days.

But somehow they’d found him.

He’d hidden his face every time he’d gone outside. Survivors soon discovered that the vamps shared a single consciousness. If one knew something, then they all knew it. That was one thing the movies and books he’d seen as a boy had never mentioned. Stanley smilled grimly. A boy, he thought. That had been a lifetime ago, when the monsters stayed at the back of the closet or tucked neatly beneath the bed.

He’d met Penelope after spending countless weeks alone. Back then, when he’d still allowed himself to hope, he’d stayed on the move. Every day he started at dawn and walked until late afternoon searching for normalcy, for a world he recognized, but that world was gone. Still he kept going, his search now focused on finding other survivors. After nearly a month, he’d discovered Penelope looting what was left of a convenience store.
They’d been cautious of each other from the start, circling one another like warriors seeking an uneasy alliance. Somehow they’d found a way to trust long enough to become friends, and over time, lovers.

Travelling together, they’d found others and soon had a mobile community, but when their numbers topped twenty it was time to settle down in one spot. Others would find them eventually and they’d soon have a small town full of people...real people.

Hope began to return.

It wasn’t long before a group of Vampires found them. The demons travelled in packs, another surprise the movies never mentioned. They moved fast and they were smart. Half our population was wiped out that first week and we learned to start hiding better and disguising ourselves. In our war paint we went out in teams and hunted them during the day. It was slow, disgusting work and it drained us both mentally and physically.

Penelope was like a machine in those days. She had more kills than anyone and Stan soon began to worry that she was enjoying the work a little too much. Her hatred grew and eventually blossomed into a mushroom cloud and all he could do was get out of the way.

Three months ago the Vampires took her. Stanley didn’t know how they’d found her, but early one morning she went out on a recon mission and never came back. They’d searched for days but nobody expected to find her. Stanley only hoped she’d died quickly and without pain but he doubted it. The vamps enjoyed causing pain.

And now they’d come for him. For all of them really.

Sometime in the night, he’d awoken to deliberate scratching at his front door. The heavy oak had been infused with garlic juice and splashed with holy water, and whatever creature scraped the words there endured considerable pain to do it.

Tonight, the crudely etched message read, bring them all. Paradise.

The Paradise, he thought. A run-down strip club in its best of days, now a pit so dark that vamps could sit inside and watch the street. Stanley opened up his makeup kit and grabbed the whiteface. He sighed deeply. What did it matter anymore? Why bother to conceal his identity now that they knew who he was? Closing his eyes, he applied the white to his already pale skin. The makeup was symbolic now more than anything. One day other survivors would come and they’d recognize the fight that he and his small group endured.

This morning at the town hall meeting he could see it in their eyes. They were tired, ready to fight or die and he suspected most didn’t care much one way or the other. Fight or die? Breathe or feed? Every man and woman in the room agreed to a single winner-take-all battle. A rumble from hell. A few of them even thought they could win.

Ringing his sad, bloodshot eyes with a bright, cheerful red makeup, he started to cry. Luckily for him the colors were waterproof. There was no hope left inside him and his body convulsed with the sobs that overtook him. When finally he’d regained control, he put on the finishing touches but he refused to redden his lips. No painted red smiles for him anymore. It looked too much like blood.

There was a knock at the door and he could see through the window the rest of the clowns standing and waiting. They all carried a shoulder bag filled with wooden stakes, but most had accentuated their arsenal with knives and swords as well.

Stanley slipped his bag strap over his head and picked up his shotgun. It couldn’t kill them, but it sure as hell slowed them down some. With a last glance in the mirror, he opened the front door and headed for Paradise.

It would be good to see Penelope one last time.