Covewriter's picture
Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons September 7, 2013 - 5:29pm

I challenge everyone to stop what you are doing right now and write a few paragraphs or a story describing your surroundings at the moment you read this post. I did this for a small writing group in my town and it was fun. We got to know each other better by describing our surroundings. You could describe why you are where are you are, how you feel about being there, or focus on pure description. I enjoyed doing this, and it started me on another story -- not the description -- from my past that I am liking a lot.  Post in this thread. I will post mine below as well.

Covewriter's picture
Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons September 7, 2013 - 5:30pm

Here is my post:


I’m sitting at Fanny Lou’s big round kitchen table with claw feet and wood the colors of wet hay, golden streaks among shades of brown.  It’s not Fanny’s Lou’s table anymore though, and it’s not in the kitchen.
I inherited the table from her when she died, and put it in my own kitchen where it has sat for years.
“We have to get rid of this table,” my husband keeps saying. “It’s too big. We can’t even open the refrigerator all the way.”
“I can’t get rid of it,” I say. “It’s a family antique. I have to ask Mom, and Cindy and Leann.”
I finally asked my Mother if we could sell it, or if someone else in the family wanted it.
“Oh honey I don’t care what you do with that table,” she said. “It’s not a family antique. Your grandmother bought that somewhere.”
It was a bit unsettling to learn that a  family antique is an item passed down not from  my grandparents, but my great-grandparents, people long dead before I was born,  the woman with a plume in her hat in a faded tintype on Dad’s dresser. The wooden furniture on my porch would be a family antique, the butter churns and dough bowls.
This table meant more to me than those things though.  I remember suffering the long, windy drive to East Tennessee several times a year. It was worth it to see my grandparents   and  be welcomed with a huge dinner laid out on Fanny Lou’s kitchen table. 
Often the meal would be chicken and dumplings,  crunchy fried okra and garden green beans, served in colorful Fiesta Ware. Once, though, it was deer meat for dinner.  I ate mine after giving some sad thought to the animal. My mother, I noticed, had spent time cutting her deer meat into tiny pieces. When no one was looking she quietly scraped half her deer meat onto my plate. The cutting glance she sent me said “please eat this and don’t tell on me. I can’t eat a deer.”
Happy to be in a conspiracy with my mother, I ate every bite. One forkful went more slowly down my throat though, as I wondered how my sweet mother could not eat the deer meat, and I had gobbled down two helpings. What did that say about me?
When Fanny Lou died and I inherited the table, it became the place I served my home-cooked meals. It was the platform on which I’d  rolled out dough and cut Christmas cookies,  where my son decorated eggs at Easter, where appetizers and honey baked hams sat, year after year, at our annual summer work party.
But now we were going to sell the table.
“Finally,” my husband said. “It was always too big.”
Later that night I had an idea. I moved the table, inch by inch, from the kitchen to our great room.  Halfway down the hall the top nearly split apart, but I forced it back together.
I placed it in front of the sliding glass door, which looks out onto our leafy yard.  I put my lap top there, my writing journals and the print outs of my short stories. Single handedly, I had reincarnated the kitchen table into my writing desk, with plenty of space on the broad surface for me to spread out and write, finally, really write.
I smiled at myself, satisfied. This table, water rings and all, holds memories. It  may not be a family antique, yet, but it will be for my grandchildren.   It just needs a little more seasoning.


Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) September 8, 2013 - 6:25am

This is pretty mundane, but also kind of fun to write.



It doesn’t matter that it is Sunday, and most people are out enjoying their day. I’m still stuck here at my desk in the office, miles away from the warm embrace of family. It is a large desk, about the width of my outstretched arms, though it feels no less enclosed for that. The laptop is docked next to two large monitors which rest on stands, underneath which can be seen the stain that makes me swear at least once I day that I’ll buy some desk wipes. It has been there for at least two years.

At least I’m not alone here in purgatory. Almost opposite me is a quiet chap with a barely controlled mop of blond hair. He looks like Link Hogthrob from the Muppets, a fact that doesn’t please him but he tries not to let it show, laughing it off whenever it is brought up. When he talks to me, which is infrequently and usually about work, it takes me several moments to realise he is speaking. Sometimes I ask him to repeat himself, but other times I try to brazen through with a nod, and talk back in non-committal terms.

It’s an L shaped office and the two of us sit at the turn, visible to all in the office though we aren’t sat there due to trust issues. Open plan, there are a few offices on the inner part of the L, but the rest of us are flung to the outside. Allowing my eyes to drift to the left, I can see the Welsh girl on one of the other teams, sporting her recently dyed purple hair. The photos she takes and uploads to instagram are mostly selfies and pictures of her dog. Or both.

Behind me sit three women. One of them cackles when she laughs, a horribly loud sound which conjures images of cauldrons and broomsticks. I’d feel guilty thinking that if she were nice, but she’s one of those people who find constant fault in others, but never in herself. They were discussing news stories earlier, and casting judgement on a man suspected of rape based entirely on his looks - bang goes innocent until proven guilty. One of them has a fat man not blessed with good looks living on her block who she “just knows” is up to no good. Again this is based on his looks. On another day I might be tempted to turn and point out how ridiculous this is. Today I just sit and quietly get on with my work.

Occasionally I relieve the boredom my staring out of the window, but the view is hardly inspiring. Welcome to Slough. The power station is immediately to my right, the Mars chocolate factory nearby. Some days you can catch the faint whiff of cocoa in the air. There are a few trees out there too, but they can’t disguise the ugly industrial nature of this part of the town.

Of course mention you work in Slough to most people not from the area, and they’ll immediately mention The Office. If I turn round I can just make out the top of the building, instantly recognisable. Occasionally we have to point it to visitors, and they go off pleased to have seen it. It is an ugly building, typical of those built in the 70’s, dull light blue panels between the windows. Come gentle bombs…

Someone has a fan on. The air con is on and set up for an office full of people and computers generating heat. There are seven of us in the office. It is quite chilly in here, and the fan is noisy and annoying. Maybe the Welsh girl wants to take a selfie with her hair blowing in the fan’s wind.

The women behind me are now casting judgement on Kate Winslet for being pregnant again. She’s married again, this time to a younger man with a weird name. How scandalous. An old friend of mine had a nephew that was older than he was. The nephew went out with Kate Winslet when they were young, and dumped her for her friend. The friend is now a hairdresser.

So I’ll just sit here and sift through people’s personal details and credit history and try to resist the temptation to clock watch more than once a minute. Less than three hours to go.

Really must buy some desk wipes.

Covewriter's picture
Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons September 8, 2013 - 6:26pm

Thanks Adam. I hope  writing the entry made the day less boring for you. 

Amloki's picture
Amloki from Singapore is reading Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks September 8, 2013 - 8:32pm

I wrote this two weeks back, but it was the product of a similar exercise, so I'm posting it here:

I write often at a food court in one of the shopping malls in the neighborhood. Today I have 600 words already under my belt when I set off, so I do not feel that fear which always accompanies an empty page. But I do have to start a chapter, and that is hard.

Sometimes the best way to write is just wait for it to come, and surround myself with the hum of conversation, with the clatter of cutlery thrown against ceramic plates, the muted screech of chairs drawn out from under the tables, the whir of the food processor as yet another milkshake is born.

At a table near me sit four Chinese women, animated over their cups of black coffee, all short-haired, middle-aged, frumpily dressed, with big smiles as they discuss some achievement or the other in Hokkien. Must be related to badminton practice, because I see pink and blue and red racquets poking out of each bag.

The Hong Kong Roast stall near which I’ve picked my table is the most eye-catching. Red-browned, glazed piglets, ducks and chicken hang motionless under yellow incandescent lighting, the queue is witness to the stall’s skill at cooking and the reasonable prices. A large portion of roast duck noodle sells at SGD 4.

They’re not shy of promoting their culinary efforts either—each plate of sliced roast pork comes with a pink or orange or yellow plastic rose and plastic green leaves, which later lie sad and abandoned on the plates amongst a pile of bones. The elderly cleaning lady (all cleaning staff at the food court is elderly, the young generation mans the sales counters), cleans off the plates with brattles of sound off stage behind a screen, and I think of the poor crushed petals of plastic roses lying under chewed-up bones.

I pick at the pile of pineapple slices on my plate with a toothpick the fruit-seller served them with. Why you eat so many fruit, ah? he asked me today, by way of conversation.

Rare in Singapore, to be addressed about anything other than your food when eating at food courts. But he has seen me off and on for weeks and months, and with no waiting queue behind me, threw me a question.

I smiled back. Love fruits leh, but too lazy to peel them one. I mangled my English on purpose. I knew I didn’t get the slang quite right, but they say, Ha? if I talk with all the conjunctions and prepositions I learned in school. The fruit-seller smiled back, Healthy one, ah, and handed me the change. I’ve used this sort of conversation in stories before, but my novel isn’t set in Singapore, so today’s exchange at the fruit counter isn’t helpful.

In all this time today, I’ve just sat and typed at random about where I am, about the Indian man gobbling up his chicken rice, dressed in striped shirt and office gear, a red backpack beside him, fake golden Rolex watch glinting under the light.

Or the elderly Chinese lady in glasses, coaxing strands of noodles on to her ceramic spoon, garnishing each mouthful with a slice of pickled chili, and popping the whole thing into her mouth while swaying with the music from her headphones.

Beside her sit two white women, one of them making inroads into her vegetable and rice with fork and spoon, the other making a mess of it with crossed chopsticks. The Chinese lady doesn’t look at them, not once.

Now that I have warmed up again, written my way through the Food court and waited, I’m hoping the Chapter will come to me.

Covewriter's picture
Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons September 9, 2013 - 12:51am

Love it Amloki! Thank you.  Hope your chapter came to you. 

Natso's picture
Natso from Mongolia is reading Moby Dick December 5, 2013 - 9:45pm

Here goes my attempt: (practicing third-person narrator, would appreciate any feedback on grammar etc.)


At the same time the printer whirred at the corridor, in the corner of his eyes, Davaa caught the march of a thin lady in black -- Sally from Finance-- by the open door. She made a Duchenne eye-contact with him in that brief moment, and she had disappeared by the time he lifted his mouth muscles into an upward curve. Bummer.

Davaa stared back into his computer screen-- Microsoft Word 2010 file with red spirals under each line-- and brought his left hand under his chin. His right hand was on the black DELL mouse, index finger doing a dance of click and drag, click and drag.

There were stacks of paper on his left-- next to his white phone set-- with razzy spiral bind backs and blue Arial letters typed "REPORT".

The minimalistic shorthand of the white clock on the wall pointed to three. Two more spins by the longhand until the end of office hours.

There was a faint hum of fluoroscent light bulbs above him. Now that he listens to it, there were also intermittent mouse clicks: click-click, click-click-click, and keyboard taps, strong and weak, slow and fast: tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap. Squeak-squeak said the chairs, and ding-Ding! said someone's phone.

There were five of them in this 40 square-meter room, and he sometimes regretted having chosen to sit next to the door, for all the wrong reasons. One, if he was absent or late, the CEO could walk over and see it. Two, people behind him-- especially the lady in black shawl-- could totally see his screen, and this lack of privacy often made him jittery, and easily distracted.

His colleagues silently stared at the workstations, although his frowning boss sometimes sighed, the pregnant woman in her thirties across his desk occasionally sniffed up her nose, and people who walked over their door dropped lines of banter into his ears.

Another woman in forties-- the lady in black shawl-- stood up from behind her and and strutted out with a green mug in her hand. After she passed by his screen, Davaa stifled a sigh and quickly maximized the Google Chrome window on his computer, and clicked through the stack of tabs he opened there.

He quickly pasted few paragraphs of text into a beige colored forum page, and after he clicked on 'Post", the page disappeared and re-appeared. A white hexagon with the word Lit inside (red flame for i's dot?) and the word "reactor" appears as the picture loads further down.

Davaa sighs, and smiles, genuinely, for the first time in that day-- and wouldn't you know it's five o'clock already!

Covewriter's picture
Covewriter from Nashville, Tennessee is reading & Sons November 28, 2013 - 9:19pm

Awesome Natso! Love the ending. I thought third person worked nicely. 

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated November 29, 2013 - 1:11am

I'm writing now, but want to keep up on this.