August 26, 2014
UCF Storyteller Project – Final Artistic Portrayal

This was the final assignment for my Creative Non-Fiction writing course. We had to interview a WWII Veteran and write about one of the most significant experiences from the conversation. 

Bill Richardson is 88 years old and will turn 89 this June. He lives in a quant and colorful one story home, nestled in between drooping moss trees in Winter Springs, FL. Entering his house felt like I was walking back in time. The home is decorated with vintage furniture dating back to the 1970s, dark wood walls, and old photographs that showcase different moments throughout his life. One of my favorite photographs was the one he proudly showed us that included him and his wife from the 1940s; a typical staged photograph for any couple from that era. Bill and his new wife were absolutely stunning in the photo, full of smiles and looking forward to the future and their long marriage, lasting 68 years.  

The room we interviewed him in was white and full of sunshine, we all sat on cushioned wooden furniture. Bill is smart and quick witted. He instantly cracked jokes with us when we met him and as we were setting up the camera equipment for the interview. Bill has piercing light blue eyes and his face is warm and friendly. Bill towered over us yet the weight of his age pushed down on his shoulders, giving him a slight bent posture. He moved slowly and delicately, carefully positioning himself on the couch in front of us as we began our interview.

Bill was a WWII bomber pilot in the Army Corp 38th Bomb Group, 71st Bomb Squad and piloted the B-25. He obtained 100 hours of combat while in service and was chiefly stationed in the Philippines and Okinawa, Japan. His main job during each mission, some tasks lasting up to 7 hours, was to primarily bomb bridges, base camps and similar structures in order to hinder any movement from enemies during the war. Bill was even responsible for sinking one of the last Japanese ships in WWII. When Bill mentioned these attacks, he described them so cinematically that I could picture the events in my head, as if I was watching a classic film with stars like Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart taking the helm of the plane. Bill detailed the heroic sinking of the enemy ship as him swooping above the vessel, escaping gunfire as he continued to bomb the living daylights out of the boat.

“You should see what I’m seeing right now!” Spoke one of the other pilots, navigating a separate plane during the attack.

“I’m a little busy,” responded Bill as he dropped the last bomb that was responsible for the sinking.

Bill’s sense of humor poured through his dialogue as he continued to tell us about different missions. One of the most prominent moments that he discussed was the raft rescue mission of fellow pilot Carl Hinshaw. While he was recounting this important memory in his life, he immediately began tearing up and I too was on the verge of tears.  

Carl Hinshaw and his crew went missing on a mission and it was reported that their plane had crashed after being shot down by enemy planes. Bill and others had searched the reported area for hours and found no signs of the missing crew. As his commander ordered him to return to base, Bill had a thought that he should go back and do a final check for them just in case. As Bill was surveying the area one last time, he spotted Carl and his crew on a raft in the water in the corner of his eye; something that he could’ve likely missed if he wasn’t paying attention. If he had never gone back, those men would’ve perished. After the war, Bill became good friends with Carl, whose family owns the acclaimed Chalet Suzanne in Lake Wales. Bill told us that when Carl finally introduced him to his family, Carl spoke touching and honest praises of how, “If it wasn’t for this guy, you wouldn’t have a daddy.”

Bill also briefly mentioned the droppings of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “One bomb saved a million lives. If it wasn’t for the bomb the Japanese would’ve never surrendered.” He saw what the wreckage of each bomb had done in the cities. In Hiroshima only 3 houses were left standing. It was chilling listening to Bill describe the devastation of the bombs and the fact that no one fully realized the power of those weapons when they were first created.

After the war, Bill had a tough time readjusting to civilian life. The first 6 months were some of the hardest of his life. He had horrible dreams of the bombings almost every night. His wife helped him slowly get accustomed to normalcy and he soon found a job at a post office before going back to college.

In short, listening to Bill discuss his life, during WWII and now, was truly inspiring. Everyone has a story that deserves to be listened to. Bill taught me to treat everyone with kindness and to look at life optimistically, no matter what obstacles are ahead. There’s nothing more important than life itself and like so many others nowadays, we’re so caught up in technology that we fail to realize what’s truly important: enjoying the simple things in life. 

August 26, 2014
Creative Non-Fiction Writing - Rants

Write a rant of your own:

Forget Birthdays, Halloween, and even Christmas; my favorite part of the year is when I visit the dentist. What could be better? I can’t be the only one who eagerly counts down the days until my latest appointment? As a child, I fondly remember those daydreams spent in the dentist’s chair, having my teeth cleaned and my cavities filled; frolicking through the hallways and causing a ruckus with the x-ray machine and the fancy tools used by the hygienist’s….okay, okay….I can’t do it anymore….frankly, I hate the damn place. I could never be caught saying such positive things about any dentist, not even with a gun pointed at my head or someone offering me a lump sum of 10 million dollars.

To begin with, when I walk into my dentist’s office, why does it always feel like I’m entering hell? A hell more along the lines of No Exit, except I’m stuck in an office with other miserable people and I’m forced to have my teeth brutally cleaned for an eternity. I can deal with the pits of fire, dining with Hitler, and the Devil’s fiends whipping me with their spikey tails; but not this hell.

I always get a kick from watching all the other individuals saunter into the office. They enter all alike: the door slowly creaks open, there is a slight pause before the said victim enters; when they cross the threshold, their color changes, as if their heart drops to their stomach; they sigh, linger around the room before walking to the front desk and signing in.

Inquiry: Do the dental hygienists realize that when they’re cleaning our teeth, we can’t answer their periodically asked questions? Perhaps it’s due to the fact that our mouths are ajar, their hands are in our mouths, there’s drilling, and we obviously can’t respond with words? I don’t get it. I would prefer the dead silence as they cleaned my teeth, not the annoying sound of their voices.

Inquiry: Do the dental hygienists know how violent they are when they’re cleaning our teeth? Who in their right mind flosses that rough? Do you clean your own teeth as if you’re trying to skin an animal? I hate the little spike tool they use to get deep down in the gums. My guess is that it’s a modern torture weapon. The hygienist usually goes around my teeth twice digging into my gums, causing me to nearly scream out in pain. She’s face to face with me, is she oblivious to the pain on my face? You’re torturing me, woman! What the hell did I do to you? The last time I checked, this isn’t Marathon Man! “I don’t know what you mean…I can’t tell you if something is safe or not…!” I also hate the twisted tool they give us to suck up all the water after they clean our teeth. Its loud sucking noise irritates me; it doesn’t really mix well with the drilling sounds. I wish they’d let us spit out the water in a bucket so I can accidently spit on the hygienist. “Oh, sorry…I’m so sorry. I guess I missed the bucket. I apologize for spitting blood stained water on your pants. Maybe you shouldn’t be so…rough?”

Inquiry: Do you know that the dental hygienists do more work than the dentist himself? He comes in at the end and checks my teeth for about thirty seconds, repeats everything the hygienist told me, and he’s off. I’ve noticed they usually speak a few words in code. Don’t alienate your patient with silly code names for cavities and molars! “This patient has a 358 with 287 on the 298 with an irregular 29837.” I’m supposed to head back to the Dentist sometime in April to get a cavity filled. They discovered a new one on my last visit. Fantastic news! They used this machine that beeps when it comes near cavities. It makes me feel like they found gold in my teeth. I wish that was possible…

I suppose some people would argue that the brief torture during each visit is worth it. The ones who have near perfect and healthy teeth, their ridiculously white molars intimidating me with every smile. I mean, it is one of the many benefits of not living during the Middle Ages. I can’t even fathom having to deal with wooden teeth, molars turning black and yellow, crooked and gaped filled teeth, or how excruciating the pain must’ve been when cavities went undetected; don’t even get me started with root canals or teeth falling out with malnutrition. I’ll never be able to come to terms with the torture or why they can’t treat their patients with a little more care. But in the end, I am a little thankful for the problems that I’ve avoided my whole life by going to the dentist; a torturous thirty-minute appointment seems bearable compared to endless untreated teeth problems that worsen with age. 

May 18, 2014
Creative Non-Fiction Writing - Charlie Chaplin

Write about a book or film that has influenced you:

I’ve been obsessed with classic films since I was a child.  Everything seemed so much better in black and white. How the characters spoke, how they carried themselves, the clothes they wore, how they delicately smoked cigarettes in every scene, to even the romantic situations they almost always found themselves in; it all seemed so magical to me. Who were these people and where did they come from? I desperately wanted to build a time machine to travel back to the 1940s so I could rub shoulders with these artists I put on a pedestal. I still find myself daydreaming for actors long gone; fantasizing about Humphrey Bogart pulling me in close for a kiss or getting drunk off martinis with William Powell. There was one person in particular that always captivated me and that was Charlie Chaplin.  

There isn’t anyone more uplifting than his Tramp character. His films mean the world to me and have helped me get through some of the toughest moments in my life. They’ve helped me cope with death, breakups, failed business adventures, job rejections, and those bad days at work where all the customers just seem to be in a bad mood. From City Lights, The Kid, Modern Times, and The Circus; it never fails, whenever I’m feeling down his Tramp character has always been there to lift me up. The thing with the Tramp is that his life really sucked. He was always poor, alone, hungry, judged, bullied, beaten up, and yet that never stopped his smile, that never stopped him from living his life. He always moved forward despite all the obstacles in his life. The Tramp always put others before himself, even if he’s the one who truly needed the help or if they wanted the same thing as the Tramp.

In The Circus, The Tramp is madly in love with a performer. Every time she looks at him, his eyes brighten. But the performer is in love with another man. Instead of trying to compete for the performers love, the Tramp works to push the two love birds together. He ends up alone in the end of the film, with only a suitcase to his name. In City Lights and The Kid, Chaplin puts a blind woman and a child before himself. Despite his social status and lack of finances, he manages to help these people, putting his life at risk in the process. He even goes to jail in order to help a blind woman pay for an operation. The Tramp never took a second to think about himself, never complaining about being poor or bad mouthing others around him. Throughout all of Chaplin’s films, he has influenced me to be kinder to other people when others are in need; putting other people’s situations before my own trivial problems. He has taught me how to be brave and think optimistically about life. He has taught me that no matter how bad I think my life is, smiling will make things better. I hope Charlie Chaplin knows how much his films mean to me. How much he has inspired me as a person, a student, and a storyteller. Without his films I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would be somewhere dark, mostly depressed, already given up on life on my first failure alone. His Tramp character is a symbol of hope. He has motivated me throughout my life and I hope to one day to do the same for other people. To inspire, enlighten, and give a helping hand.

May 18, 2014
Flash Fiction Story - HUNGER

This was the final for my Fiction Writing Workshop, focusing on people in contemporary situations. It had to be 1000 words or less: 

“I’m hungry,” Lucy whispers.

“I know,” I respond.

“When are we going to eat?”

“Soon.”

“You promise?”

I nod. My sister lies on a rickety bed. The only thing Lucy has to snuggle with is a wool blanket full of holes. The clothes she has on sag around her 9 year old body. Her face is sunken in and her legs are boney, reflecting her terminal liver cancer. When I look at her my heart sinks. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I wish it was me instead. An unworthy 24 year old. Empty prescription bottles litter the floor next to her bed.

The rest of our home has no furniture. I sold everything except her bed to make money after I lost my management position. Even that wasn’t enough to pay for the medical bills. Soon after we were dirt poor.

The windows are taped together with yellow decaying paper. Dirty newspapers and random boxes filled with junk surround us. Wind flows through the hole in our ceiling. A pan sits underneath it, full of dirty rainwater. Moonlight softly creeps through the hole and illuminates the room.

#

I wake up early the next morning. I check to see if Lucy’s breathing before I leave. She might not make it another day. Her breathing is slow and comes in long waves. She looks so peaceful when she sleeps.

I spend most of the morning aimlessly walking the streets. Peering into windows of stores and restaurants; watching people enjoying their lives, living so easily, taking so many things for granted. Some people avoid my eye contact and others look at me like I’m a freak. I haven’t looked at myself in a mirror in ages. I’m afraid of what I might see.

“Did you look at her?” one woman says.

“Absolutely disgusting!” responds another.

Their comments make my cheeks burn but I get use to it. Sometimes if I’m feeling like I’m in a good mood, I proudly wear their disapproval on my chest like a badge. So what if I look like a bum. I’m a better person than you.

Soon I find myself slugging through a mall. The best part about getting up early is most of the time the malls are deserted. It’s peaceful. Having it to myself, listening to the sound of the water fountains mix with the jazz music seeping through the speakers. This is heaven, as if I’m in my own film. I sit by one of the fountains and stare into the water, avoiding my reflection. I run my hand through the liquid. It soon begins to fill with dirt. I stare at my fingernails, they’re as black as coal.

My mind races back and forth through time. When our parents were still alive. Time together as a family before their car accident. Lucy when she was healthy; frolicking through the playground, cheeky, full of life and color. Lucy in the ambulance; suddenly sick and gasping for air, pale as a ghost. Lucy being turned away by the hospital; nurses pulling the IVs from her arms, and shoving us out the door. “I can pay for it!” I said. “No health insurance,” they responded. I stood outside the hospital and watched as the nurses walked back inside. I screamed so hard I almost passed out. The tears couldn’t stop. Lucy never cried. All I could do was hug her and offer my apologies. Others offered outside help for her cancer but Lucy’s sickness soon grew terminal. There was nothing else we could do but wait for the end.

I left Lucy alone for 2 days in search of a job. I was turned away at every attempt. I was desperate to find any job but no one was hiring in our small northern town. The recession was growing. I felt the scrutiny from people when I entered the stores; their stares felt like knives through my back. I must’ve covered the whole area. My soles were bleeding by the time I made it back home.

“It’s okay,” said Lucy. Little by little the furniture started to disappear. Parts of our lives vanishing along with these objects, money replacing them but only able to last for a limited time.

My thoughts are soon interrupted by the sound of security guards, they ask me to leave. They say I’m making people uncomfortable. I leave without a fight. I’m done fighting. One of the older security guards hands me a five dollar bill as I exit. His pale blue eyes are filled with kindness. A lump fills my throat; words are unable to escape my mouth. “For your troubles,” the man says. All I can do is nod.

I drag my feet to a McDonalds. I can hear the whispers as I walk towards the front of the restaurant.

“A Big Mac please.” 

“Would you like to make that a meal?”

I shake my head. Not enough money, even for a meal. I throw the crumbled bill on the counter. The most money I’ve had in a long time. The cashier picks it up carefully, as if the bill is infected; pinching the sides with her thumb and index fingers before placing it securely in the drawer. She hands me back a few pennies. I place them in the tip jar.

When I get back home Lucy is still sleeping. Still breathing, but for how long? I wake her up and present her the Big Mac. Her eyes light up, showing she still has some life left in her.

“Do you want some?” she asks.

I shake my head. I watch her delicately unwrap the burger. She starts to eat it like a bird. My lips curl into a smile. I can’t help feeling triumphant as she eats the burger. This may be the last moment I get to spend with her, but we’re together. She’s eating and happy. That’s all that matters.

“I love you, Lucy.”

“I love you too.”

May 18, 2014
Flash Fiction Writing - Exercise 5

Describe a significant event from three points of view: 1st person, second person, and third person.  Your entire exercise should be no longer than 200 words.

I held my child in my arms for the first time. He was silent, sleeping calmly. His body snuggled towards the mother and searched for warmth. He seemed so small in her hands, as if hers were slowly swallowing him. I was in constant fear that he’ll disappear if I took my eyes away from him. He was wrapped in white cloth, his wrinkled face barely visible. He had no thoughts going through his new mind but felt happy being in his mother’s arm. A smile curled on his lips as he slept. It’s amazing how fast you can bring life into this world and how fast you can take that gift away. It seemed like such a complex idea before but when you think about the notion, it’s so simple. A few hours ago I was pregnant, about to burst, anxiously waiting for him to come into this world, and now here he is. You don’t experience true love until you look into the face of your child. I glanced down and kissed his warm forehead. He stirred, tried to open his eyes, but yawned instead. He nestled into his cocoon and went back to sleep.

May 18, 2014
Flash Fiction Writing - Exercise 4

Go into a character’s head and describe in 200 words or less an internal conflict being suffered by this character.  What questions are burning in this character’s mind?  How can you illustrate drama=danger+desire through this character’s thoughts?

I really need to stay off the Internet. I should be busy distracting myself, thought Amy. Her boney hand hovered over the keyboard, the blinking clicker gave her a sense of impending doom. No. Just one search. It wouldn’t hurt. It’ll put my mind at ease, I know it. But what if something’s wrong? What if I wait when I could’ve had the chance? I can’t sit here and not do anything! Amy clutched her stomach. She placed a hand around her abdomen and began gently massaging it. No, no, no everything’s fine. I know it is. I’m too young for this. This doesn’t really match the rest of the symptoms. So it can’t be cancer, right? No. It’s definitely not cancer. But what if it’s terminal? Oh God. Amy’s heart dropped. Her pulse began increasing. A sharp pain hit Amy in her stomach. She slumped over her computer. Please, please, please don’t let it be cancer! Amy opened the drawer under her desk and took out several colorful pamphlets ranging from Symptoms of Cancer, Symptoms of Strokes, Symptoms of Heart Attacks, and Symptoms of Leukemia. She frantically began flipping through them as tears formed in her eyes. 

May 18, 2014
Flash Fiction Writing - Exercise 3 

Describe a place in 200 words or less.  Be sure to use figurative language and STRONG verbs.  Be sure to engage as many of the senses of possible:

The bark from my grandmother’s tree is as rough as a rock. As I run my hands over the surface, it scratches my palms, leaving deep red marks. No matter how many times I try to pry away a layer of wood, more seems to emerge, the trunk never losing it’s deep shade of brown. The tree towers over me. I look up and I can’t see the sky because all the branches sweep over the garden. The sun tries to peek its rays through the leaves and in result patches of light is scattered over the floor.  It’s enough to keep the multicolored flowers always blooming. The grass surrounding the tree is thick and lush. The grass tickles my ankles whenever I run through it. Sometimes I can feel the soft soil beneath my toes. If I close my eyes I like to imagine I’m at the beach and sticking my feet in sand. Occasionally when I find myself looking at my soles, they’re always black and moist. As I’m playing my grandmother’s angel statues keep me company. Their graceful gestures reassure me. They never move, but sometimes I like to think they do when I’m not looking. 

May 18, 2014
Flash Fiction Writing - Exercise 2

Create a brief scene in which one character is trying to get the truth out of another. Your scene should be no longer than 250 words:

Jessica sipped her tea; she placed her hand over the opening of the cup and watched the steam as it moved past her fingers. Amy watched Jessica, her eyes never moved from Jessica’s face. 

“So are you going to tell me or what?” asked Amy.

Jessica shrugged and took another sip of her tea. Amy pulled the cup away from Jessica.

“I know something is wrong. If you don’t tell me I’ll find out from someone else. Is that what you want?”

Jessica finally gathered the courage to look at Amy in the eyes.

“C’mon Jessica. We used to be close. What happened?” Spoke Amy.

“You remember Michael?” retorted Jessica.

“The tall one, with that ridiculous head of hair?”

Jessica nodded and placed her hands over her cheeks, she began to blush.

“Well…we met up one night and after a few drinks I found myself in his flat.”

“Yeah, okay. You had sex. Big deal. Is that what’s bothering you?”

Jessica’s eyes quickly filled with contempt, this was the first time all afternoon that they exhibited some kind of emotion other than apathy.

“I’m pregnant. It turns out condoms aren’t always baby proof.”

“How long have you known?”

“It’s been a couple weeks.”

“Damn, Jessica. Why didn’t you—”

“I’m thinking about getting rid of the baby.”

Amy leaned forward and grabbed Jessica’s hand. “You can’t do that.”

Jessica pulled her hand away and stood up. “I don’t need your approval anymore. It’s my life, not yours.”

May 18, 2014
Flash Fiction Writing - Exercise 1 

Present a character in 200 words or less:

We always knew that James was about to come into a room because of his cough. Before opening the door he would clear his throat with three distinct low grunt like hacks. If we were fooling around trying to avoid work, hearing these cues gave us good motivation to at least pretend we were being productive with our time. As soon as he entered the room, like clockwork, he would adjust his tie, as if struggling for some air. I never saw him wear the same tie once; he must’ve had a closet solely dedicated to exotic ties. The suits that he wore with his accompanying articles of clothing were always ironed meticulously. Even after meetings that lasted hours, he would rise and there wouldn’t be a wrinkle in sight. A small mustache rested over his pale curved lips that so rarely showed any kind of smile. Staring into his black eyes gave no consolidation, it was as if I was being sucked into an abyss. His hair was black and slicked back in an attempt to hide his pre-mature balding.  James spoke in a whisper, it was hard to understand his speech because the room swallowed every word. 

June 19, 2013
Creative Writing Exercise 5

And finally, the fifth exercise. 

The prompt: Recall an experience that changed you. Write about it with one of the traditional openings of story.”

Once upon a time there was a young girl that played alone in the woods. She enjoyed frolicking through the trees instead of taking naps after school. She lived a carefree childhood and grew up with a loving family. Her mother and father supported her with everything she did; whether it included art lessons, horseback riding, or visits to the playground, her parents offered their loving hands at every step of the way.

Being a child, she didn’t have to worry about what really happens in the ever so scary world of adulthood. She was lost in her books and constantly carried around her imagination with her. She played alone in the woods with all her friends she met in the different stories she picked up over the years. She overheard her parents talk of adult matters but the words simply flew over her head as she continued on with her childhood and dreams.

At the time of her grandmother’s death, she was only 8 years old. She wasn’t very close to her grandmother, but she enjoyed her weekly visits. She enjoyed how her grandmother made her feel as they were both snuggled in bed, and her grandmother told her special stories. The child’s favorite story was about all the stars in the universe and how they represented their ancestry. Her grandmother would whisper stories of when ancestors passed away, their stars appeared bright in the night sky. Each night the child would look up at the sky in wild fascination as she wondered about the members in her family that lived before her.

The child didn’t pay much attention to the declining health of her grandmother or the sad faces of her family that accompanied her. She knew something was wrong but didn’t pay much attention to it; she had more important matters to contend with, like conquering the recent level in her new video game.

When her grandmother passed away, that was the first time she had heard the word death; the first time she had seen the tears, the mourning and the blackness. She understood that her grandmother was gone but not the severity of it all. A child should never have to deal with death. Though the child did notice a new star in the night after her grandmother’s funeral. There was a familiarity with the brightness and she knew at once it was her grandmother waving to her from the sky.

In her adult years, the girl looked back at the experience and her heart filled with sadness. She wished she could have shown how much her grandmother meant to her and properly mourned her death. Now the girl looked at life in such a strange and delicate way, wishing that she was once again a child.