Story #35- The Swings



By my 2-year old niece!

This is amazing. I received this letter a few months ago. It’s time for the world to read it, too.

The sparse, heavily concentrated words read as pure poetry, so I’ll try to format them that way:

(get ready for brilliance)

Brinley’s letter:

In those swings was Mommy and Gideon.

Brinley with a heart.

There was a flower.

There were more hearts.

Robin Hood came.

He married his mother.

A big chicken played with Robin and his mother.

They climbed up a flower.

There were hearts at the top.

They got the hearts and a snowflake.

They put them into a computer.

The end.

By Brinley.

This is going to be my best pen pal ever!!!


Story #34- Dream Prompts

Hullo, readers!

For this post I would like you to be the storytellers.

A few days ago I was cleaning out my bookshelf, which seems like an act of evil, I know. But I love collecting books and sometimes three copies of the same book is too much. Sometimes. I did find three copies of The Hobbit and all three are staying put.

While looking through my books, I came across an old notebook of mine. I used to throw away old notebooks, but then, once I realized what a terrible habit that was, I began storing filled-up books on my bookshelf.

Let me say, though, this notebook was not filled. It was a curious find, as I did not recognize the cover, and thought for certain I was pulling out a book. When I opened it up, I learned that in college, I had used the notebook as a dream journal. But I only wrote down a handful or dreams.

As I read through the pages, I decided that these dreams might make for interesting stories. So I’m going to post the dreams as prompts. If you’re up for it, write me a story. I would love to read (and possibly post) your work!

We’ll see what you make of this nonsense…

Rosewater dreams:


  • Write about someone who is walking through a thrift store, when they find an old dust-covered box in back. Inside the box, they find stacks of undelivered letters. They take out the top letter and open it. Once they read the words, they realize they must get this box to the person all the letters are addressed to.


  • Write about someone who takes a journey to the ends of the earth, where they’re promised a glimpse of “the backside of the moon.” As the rumors go, a person who sees the moon from this unusual angle will see that there were once life forms on the moon, who left a message for mankind.


  • Write about someone who is introduced to a secret theatrical society. The society is made up of three types of members. The first group is called “the dark members,” or the people who work backstage. The darkness refers to the black clothes they wear to go unseen. The second group is called “the bed members,” or the people who act on stage. They are called the bed members because until they arrive for evening rehearsals and performances, they sleep far into the day. The third group is called “the silent members.” No acting member of the society knows who these members are, or what the silence refers to…


  • Write about a strange candy confections shop that in fact sells everything but candy. There are oddities strung out on the shelves and the walls. A young boy enters the store and finds a pair of binoculars in the corner. When he looks through, he sees the same store, but something has changed. As he lowers the binoculars and looks around, he realizes that he was seeing the shop from the storekeeper’s eyes. The binoculars allow the user to take on the vision of someone else in the same room.


  • Write about a little girl who loves playing on the beach. One day she finds a seashell with a piece of paper folded and placed deep inside. The paper has a list of directions for finding a special lemon tree. Once the girl finds the tree, she is instructed to pick the largest lemon and squeeze it over the shell. When she does, a new secret emerges.

Get to writing! Comment back with your thoughts or your own good story ideas and dreams!

Story #33- Teacher Writers


Correspondence taken from an e-mail interview for The Advocate, a student-run newspaper based in the school I teach at.

STUDENT: Hi Ms. Rosewater, I am writing an article for the Advocate on teacher-writers, and was wondering if you would like to answer some questions for me! Here are the questions: 

How did you find the time to write the book? How long did it take you?

I actually started writing my current novel back in college. It was my busiest semester, but somehow, I set around twenty minutes aside every night before bed and wrote paragraph by paragraph until my first draft was finished. While the writing turned out to be terrible, it gave me a canvas to work with. Over the years I’ve paused on writing, wrote plays instead of novels, turned to writing my graduate thesis, and even wrote another manuscript last spring. But now I’ve returned to this one. So it’s taken me around six years thus far, though past drafts have won a few scholarships and contests, as well as received full requests from seven agents and one major editor. So not all six years have been lost entirely.

Did you find it difficult to balance school work and your writing?

When I taught English I found it very difficult to split my brain between the writing of my students and my own writing. My editing eyes were often completely spent on marking papers. That is probably one of the reasons I decided to start a new manuscript last spring. I wrote it in about a month, and I hope to return to it for edits next spring. Now that I’m teaching drama, it has become easier to have a teaching hat and a writing hat. I write whenever I have time. Whenever. I’ll take my mini-laptop everywhere I go. Right now it’s in an Ashland cafe with me as I’m finishing the latest version of chapter 8.

Was it difficult to keep yourself motivated throughout the process?

It’s incredibly difficult to stay motivated as a writer. So many people have given a name to the tiny voice in the back of your mind that tells you you’re a fraud and will never create anything of value. Since I’m currently writing a book that features the devil, I’ll call this little voice a demon voice. It strikes at all hours, and loves to ride on the coattails of a great writing session. “Everything you just wrote is terrible,” it whispers the next day, after the high of productivity has worn away. I’m constantly waving a stick at the voice, telling it to stay away, trying to not strike myself in the process. I already let the voice win before, when I decided not to be a creative writing major in school, because I thought I wasn’t good enough. I’m trying my best to win round two.

Were there other difficulties that you found with writing your book, such as with finding a publisher or with the editing process?

As far as outside difficulties have been, yes, it’s awful to be in the trenches of querying. The gatekeepers (agents and editors) are meant to butt us out of the industry. When they do bet on an author, their own reputation is at stake, so they tend to pass on manuscripts when unsure. I should say I’m not yet in the magical world of published novels. I’ve had a short play of mine published and performed on the Boston stage as well as in several North East high schools. But as a middle grade writer I’m still crawling through the mud. The best way I can describe moving forward is like going out into an ocean. As the wave recedes, I try to walk out as far as I can. I know that the wave is going to eventually come in and try to take me down. But I stand my ground, let the force of wave knock into me, as every rejection does, and when the pain of the wave recedes, I walk forward again.

What was the best part of writing your book?

The best part of writing a book for me is connecting the pieces. I love it when the plot not only works, but is engaging and twisted and flowing with aspects that connect all the characters and their desires. In middle grade fiction, my chosen genre is mystery and dark fantasy. So I really love when a good twist works in my favor. The second best part of writing is hearing back from a CP (critique partner) that your last section was fantastic! That it made them grin, or sigh, or hurt. Critique partners offer a tiny taste of what having true readers would feel like.

Would you recommend this process to other teachers? Or to the general public?

Would I recommend writing to others? Oof. I’m going to pass along some harsh words: If you can get away with not writing, then don’t write. You do it because you love it, you have to do it, and because you have a story to share. If you’re looking for a hobby, there are lots of wonderful activities that won’t claw your heart out.

Credit to The Advocate.

Story #32- To the Moon


Time for my own story.

In my About Me page, I share that I’m trying my hand in the writing world. I mean the real writing world. As in querying, contests, agents, critique partners, and getting your heart ripped out by anyone who will give you the time of day to read your words. It’s a pretty scary and intimidating place. So intimidating that when I was in high school and college, I tried to pretend I wasn’t a part of it.

Recently, I’ve gotten into some social media as well as some writers groups and for the first time am putting myself out there to find writing friends, peers, and critique partners. I’ve raked through tears, anger, and frustration to find people who I can truly reach out to. My current CPs, Joy and Megan, have already been such a gift. I can only hope to one day repay them for their support and incredibly insightful observations on narrative construction.

Enough on that for now.

I chose this photo because it represents a piece of my past, as well as a piece of my future. I have written approximately six or seven manuscripts. Believe it or not, five of them are on the same story. But they are all different; all have been entirely re-written, re-plotted, re-everythinged.

My real problem thus far has been wrangling a protagonist who will actually listen to me. Six years ago I had this brilliant idea about a kaleidoscope, and then none of my fictional kids cared about it at all. I’ve been through as many main characters as manuscripts. One of my first characters was a quirky girl, who maybe acted a bit young for her age, named Cory.

I set Cory aside a long time ago, let her be on the shelf to stew. The Kaleidscope just wasn’t her story. It didn’t satiate her need for adventure enough, I get it. In her version, the adults were controlling her, and it became more their story than hers. I even wrote in an affair between two of the adults that pretty much kicked Cory out to the sidelines. Needless to say, she did not want to have anything to do with that stupid kaleidoscope or any legends behind it. She had to spend a few years cooling off.

Then, last week I saw this photo on reddit and for whatever reason, I knew it belonged to Cory. That was going to be her adventure.

I wish I could say that I’m in between stories now, and could dive right into this new world of astronauts and space bouncing. But I’m not. I’m finishing what I think is THE LAST form the kaleidoscope story will take. Fingers crossed. (We’ll see what Joy and Megan have to say about that.) So I have to look at this photograph as a reminder of two things. One: It’s a reminder of the girl I wrote about six years ago. Two: It’s a reminder of the great narrative I may possibly write next year. Old meets new. Benched character meets open position.

I see the photograph and I see a story. Isn’t that the point of this whole challenge?

The Storyteller

Story #31- The Feather

Me again, the storyteller.

A word on Brinley. Brinley is my niece, now the eldest of the two nieces (I want to go with “neese” as in “geese” here) I have. It’s strange when you don’t think you’re fully an adult yet, and then there are tiny children running around you and you realize that time has gone by without your consent. 

I’m going to be brutally honest here. I have always been excited to be a cool and close aunt, and I doubt I will be that person to these two girls. This has nothing to do with them personally, of course. They’re darlings. But we live very far away, and by the time they would be able to visit my husband and I on their own, we will hopefully have little ones to care for. 

When I first realized that I would never get to be the cool, young aunt, I may or may not have cried like a totally normal adult for a few days. It’s never easy to accept when something both unpleasant and unchangeable comes to pass.

Then, a little over a month ago, the idea struck me to send Brinley letters. I was giddy over my brilliance. My husband was nervous.

‘Don’t expect anything,’ he said gently, probably thinking of the day almost two years before when I blubbered like an idiot. 

‘I won’t,’ I told him. And that’s true. I have no idea what happens with these cards when they get to her. Okay, maybe with the last one I do, but that’s not the point. The point is that it does not matter what happens, how Brinley takes the letter, if she likes it. The point is that I’m sending my love to her. I love her and send her letters, so why would I expect anything in return? The act in itself is freeing and lovely. 

Here’s the second letter of what I hope will be a tradition.


Dear Brinley,

The other day I was out on a walk with Sadie when we came across the most peculiar feather. Sadie thinks it came from the mysterious house across the street.

The house has a large wrought iron gate that spans the entire front yard. A tree sprouts up from the middle and shades everything. Two cushioned chairs are stationed under the tree, yet never sat in. But the truly mysterious part of this house is all the animal noises!

“Maa,” go the goats. “Cock-a-doodle-doo,” cries the rooster.

The chickens cluck and the cockatoos squawk.

There is never a bark or a meow.

Sadie and I have never seen this menagerie of animals, but we know it exists. The day we found the feather was the proof.

It’s a brilliant green feather, tipped blue on one end and red at the other. Sadie thinks this feather belonged to a very special bird, a queen bird, who escaped! She is the queen, Sadie says, because she wears such beautiful colors. But she is not Queen of the mysterious house.

She is Queen of the Bombagoots, a sea of colorful birds that lives in the Galapagos Islands (a small cluster of islands not far from Panama, where you visited!). There are parrots (like the Queen), and cockatoos and herons and hawks and mockingbirds. There’s even a vermilion flycatcher or two, which are blazing red birds that look like they swallowed a light bulb (go find their picture on the computer)!

Sadie also thinks there are LOVE BIRDS in the Galapagos Islands, just like the ones you saw with me!

And guess what Sadie says all these birds are doing? They are having a Bird Party! Probably with cake and ice cream to celebrate the return of their escaped Queen.

That Sadie’s idea anyway, and she is a dog, so she tends to think parties are always involved. I’m sending the special feather to you.

What do you think happened?

Love, your Aunt Rosewater

Story #30- A Change

Holy meowza. The Story Challenge is turning 30 stories old. It’s going into a potential existential crisis on what its doing with its life.

Maybe that’s me.

Truth be told, I’m not turning 30, and I’m not exactly going into a crisis, per se. But I have been contemplating the purpose of this blog. At the time it was a big “coming out” party for me as a writer. I never talked about my writing before, so I took a big leap and decided to dedicate a blog to it. But I’m realizing that the more I work on my (real) projects such as manuscripts and pitches and plot maps, the more stressed I feel about the blog that was supposed to relieve my stress.

To remedy this, I’ve decided that I need to allow the stories to sink on the quality index a little (not that they were high up to begin with.) Okay, I’ll say it: I need to let them be… bad.

I mean really bad. Twilight meets Old Man and the Sea bad. 

And maybe, just maybe, I should try putting a little more of myself in this blog. More storyteller, less story. See where I’m going?

So here’s my story tax:


Once there was a popcorn kernel, and all it wanted in its popcorny kernally life was to get stuck in someone’s teeth.

That was the purpose of popcorn kernels, after all. It’s how they fulfilled their purpose.

Then one day someone ate that piece of popcorn and swallowed the kernel right down. The kernel never got its wish, because life is not fair.

As he scraped past the throat he realized that everything was pretty meaningless, especially when you were a popcorn kernel.


More updates on the storyteller to come…

Story #29- The Pity Party



WHAT: The Pity Party!

WHERE: My living room.

WHO: Anyone… or no one… but definitely my thick, wool socks… and also all the ice cream.

WHY: Because you have nothing better to do and you know it. Or maybe that’s me. I can never tell anymore.



Harriet stared at the small postcard that had appeared as if by magic in her mailbox. There was no postage attached.

She looked down to her left. Rows of small houses stood, too afraid to move, to even shiver, in the heavy afternoon winds. She looked to her right. Two more houses stood, then a road, with a big red sign in front that read STOP like it was begging you not to leave.

The neighborhood had always been anxious, always had that ‘pretend-like-you’re-okay’ tone to it. People mastered the quick wave during walks and turning their heads back down as they passed. They quieted their dogs before disruption should erupt amongst the block. They stared suspiciously whenever a new car drove by.

Everybody always stayed quiet, huddled inside their doors, away from everyone else. So who in the world who send an invitation for a Pity Party of all things? Who?

Harriet studied the houses around her. Mrs. Donnell used to stand on her front lawn every morning, watering her grass, cooing at her yapping dog, waving as her husband left for work. Then one day: SNAP. No more Mr. Donnell, which meant yellow grass, a yapping dog that got no cooing back, and maybe, just maybe, a Pity Party.

But there was always the house next door. Nice older couple. Always in the front lawn with the grandkids. “Come see my grandkids,” they said every day. Harriet smiled and waved, but the truth was that little kids kind of annoyed her. Then one day there was a fight between the older couple and their daughter. And SNAP. No more visits. No more annoying kids. Nobody out in the front lawn. Closed curtains. Possible Pity Party.

Harriet looked at the other house next door and remembered that their son had just gone off to fight in the army. She looked at the house down the street that was getting foreclosed, which according to her mother meant shut down and emptied. There was the couple that always fought, and the other house that had kids rotating in and out, in and out, but never staying.

‘Anyone could have sent this,’ she realized, looking around her.

And then a really tiny voice inside her head said: ‘I could have sent this to myself.’

She hadn’t, of course. Sending things to yourself through the mail was a pretty silly waste of time. But even Harriet had to admit that she needed a Pity Party. Her Spanish test on Monday had been awful. Then her cat got sick. And her mother made her do laundry rounds twice just because she let the cat jump into the laundry basket and puke all over the clothes.

If she really thought about it, everyone kind of deserved a Pity Party.

So Harriet found a pen and wrote YES right at the top of the postcard. She slipped it back into her mailbox and went back inside. Then she put on her warm fuzzy socks, got out some leftover ice cream from last month, and sat down on her couch.

And somewhere, in her lonely and quiet neighborhood, she knew that at least one other person was doing the exact same thing.