Friday, July 26, 2013

a literary one-night-stand

Some really cool pub news I can't wait to share is on the horizon. But I can't yet, because, you know, it's not inked.

So, meantime, I'm writing a short story. Yep. Something less than 2500 words. Okay, friends, this might be a stretch, but what it feels like is dating after a long-term marriage. The pacing, the pressure. The wondering if and when you should make out. The tentative plunge into scary? I'm peeking out of a hole, you know? Do you have any idea what I mean? Okay, maybe it's even worse than dating. Maybe it feels like a one-night-stand. A stranger in the night. I'm hooking up. No, really, I am. With these characters I'm not invested in. All I have is an idea. A wee arc. Some mayhem.

I haven't attempted a short story in, uh, five years maybe? I feel bereft of a skill set. I'd hoped that the old adage it's just like riding a bicycle would apply, but, sadly, no.

There is indeed a reason for it. I've been asked to contribute to an anthology, and like the do-be I am, I don't want to disappoint. I mean, it's a fund-raising anthology, so there's a wee bit of pressure. What if my story sucks so bad it ruins the whole book? That sort of thing.

Gah. Double gah. Are any of you writing stories? What's your experience?

Saturday, July 06, 2013

52 at 52



Please welcome guest blogger, friend and colleague Sherry Stanfa-Stanley (or as I like to call her, SSS—one more S than Suzy Soulé). Her 52at52 Project was born as a way of shaking up her quotidian life in response to celebrating her arrival at age 52. She’s in the midst of a year of trying 52 things she’s never before done—a year of weekly experiences well outside her comfort zone. Today she’s going to share her adventures on her solo trip to Italy last—which sparked the idea.

While being interviewed for a newspaper article a couple weeks ago, I was asked how I got the idea for undertaking 52 new challenges. I initially answered the same way I have before: that it followed putting my house on the market and losing weight.

But as I gave it more thought, I realized the idea had been brewing longer. It actually started with a trip to Italy last summer.

I spent half of that trip with my youngest son, who was serving an assistantship there. The other half, I traveled the country on my own.

I'd never been to Europe. I'd never ventured outside the U.S. at all, except to Canada. And besides having to go through customs on the Ambassador Bridge, which is just an hour's drive away, that hardly counts as international travel.

I plotted an itinerary. I scheduled flights. I booked hotels in Rome, Florence, Siena, and Venice. I researched train and bus transportation, but was advised to wait and arrange that after I arrived. Here's an interesting tidbit about traveling in Italy: they seldom ask for your ticket or announce where that particular bus or train--on which you are already seated--is going. So you'd better be damn sure you're on the right one.

Somehow, I managed to arrive at all my planned destinations, find my hotels, and see all the major sights--without a tour guide or a travel companion to set me on track when I second-guessed myself (which was often). I also enjoyed fabulous meals and wine, without speaking a word of Italian.

In fact, I never did learn how to ask, in Italian, "Where is the bus station?" or "Where is the bathroom?" The only phrase I did master, by the end of the trip, was "Un altro, per favore." (Another one, please.") That proved sufficient.

I came away from that trip realizing I was far more independent, capable, and courageous than I'd ever imagined.  One of the things that stayed with me while I traveled solo was Cheryl Strayed's experience on the trail. I’d finished reading "Wild" the day before I left, and remember thinking throughout my trip that if she could get through that, I could manage several days in Italy on my own.

Most of us are, I would guess, more capable than we think, if only we choose to step outside our safety zones and challenge ourselves.

This year presents a new set of challenges in my life. Many are much smaller in scale than solo-traveling through a foreign country. But they're all exciting and enlightening, in their own way.

I hope a few of you are finding this 52/52 Project helps you to challenge yourselves. You may find that frightening or sometimes frustrating. But at the same time, you'll discover how reassuring and liberating it can be to push yourself beyond your comfort zone.

After the first couple times, you may just find yourself saying to yourself: "That wasn't so bad after all. Un altro, per favore!"
Sherry Stanfa-Stanley pens fiction, humor, and human interest stories. She was recently published in the anthology, Fifty Shades of Funny: Hook-Ups, Break-Ups and Crack-Ups, and received a national fellowship in 2011 by the Midwest Writers Workshop. She is currently changing her life through 52 enlightening, frightening, and sometimes humiliating new experiences. Follow along on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/The52at52Project.