Monday, December 27, 2010


For today, sketch a brief autobiography -- written in the second person -- detailing as many or as few years as you'd like.

Isolate your most influential decisions in your narrative and reimagine the story, using these choices as pivot points in a choose-your-own-adventure story.

We imagine that you are all familiar with the genre, but just in case:

At decisive moments within your narrative, the reader will be given two or more optional paths to follow. If they choose Option 1, they turn to page X. If they choose Option 2 (or 3, 4, whatever), they turn to page Y. The pages will dole out the alternate consequences of each respective choice and continue the narrative along a new, unique route.

An example:

You thank Jeremy for listening after you describe how awful and exhausting it was having to commit your sister Meredith and first-cousin Becky on the same day to two institutions fifteen miles apart. You tell him that you love him a totally hetero way. He pauses and looks down. In this moment, you dwell in the profound, quiet comfort of being understood. No more words are necessary. You put your cigarette out in Mrs. Cofield's long-dead potted plant and resettle into your fraying lawn chair. Jeremy turns to you and, in what seems like mere fractions of a second, leans in to kiss you.

In response, you.....

1) ....reluctantly accept a brief kiss with no tongue and terminate the friendship slowly over the next two weeks. Page 345.
2) ...passionately explore the kiss, and fall into the sublime tailspin of an intense affair. Page 190.
3) ...refuse the gesture outright and utter a litany of homophobic slurs. Page 64.
4) ...start coughing and excuse yourself to the bathroom. Page 32.
5) ...politely inform him that he must have misunderstood and that you don't share his feelings, but, even so, you're still BFFs. Page 2

..... and then you write corresponding results for each of the choices.

Sounds fun, right?!

While we don't consider ourselves qualified to tell you how to write, we will suggest that imagining options far outside of your perceived comfort zone might yield the best results.

Send your multitude of potential lives to

Friday, December 24, 2010


For today, completely forget every bit of historical or religious background concerning Christmas. Everything: Jesus, Germanic paganism, fourth century Greek saints, Saturnalia, and all the rest. Forget it all.

But let's preserve the exhibition. Keep in your mind the tree, the lights, the jolly fat guy with presents, the wrapping paper, the cards, the stockings, the calendar date, the mistletoe, the nog, the red and green everything, the candy canes, and anything else that comes to mind.

Now, your job is to come up with a Definitive Grand Unified Story of Christmas. All the details, from the red and green lights to the jolly fat guy and the egg nog should be folded into one completely original story, set wherever and whenever you'd like -- but give Western civilization enough time to adopt the celebration in a natural manner. Make it magical, make it sensible, or combine the two. We don't care. Try to include as many elements as you can without devolving into incoherence. Pull everything together into a happy holiday bow of explanation. Your Christmas gift to humankind will be a fresh start regarding the historiographical confusion and philosophical apprehension surrounding "the most wonderful time of the year". Get at it.

Send it to

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


For today, indulge us as we try to class the joint up a bit.

First, devote your entire attention to this heartwrenching aria from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro:

Next, write suitable words to accompany the scene. Suit your words to the facial expressions and gesticulations of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. The lone stipulation: assume she is not singing about romance.

Essentially, you need to create a string of words that is somehow worthy of consideration alongside the music of Mozart.

You're good enough for this.

Do it.

Send it to

Monday, December 20, 2010


For today, write a brief dialogue piece (little to no action cues, please) concerning a lovers' quarrel. Some household appliance provoked the dispute, which escalates to brutal violence. All other details are yours to decide.

Now separate the comments of each character (you'll need to remember which is which, so labeling them in some fashion will be helpful). Now, take the dialogue for Character #1 and feed it, line by line, into an internet translator. Convert it into a non-Western language. Choose a different internet translator (they are legion) and different non-Western language for the dialogue of Character #2.

Next, convert Character #1's dialogue back into English using yet another translator. Do the same for Character #2.

Finally, use these new strands of dialogue to reconstitute the sequence of the original piece. Lastly, take a moment to recognize how impossible the task would have been without the internet.

Send it to

Sunday, December 19, 2010


For today, craft a detailed Wikipedia entry for the sadly forgotten Swedish anarchist Lev Nyksson. He was the 19th century man who almost single-handedly brought a grand reception for the Stockholm Merchant's Association to its knees using a troupe of black-market circus animals and a network of well-placed explosives. A literary man, Nyksson finished fourteen novels and three books of verse before falling in with a group of Scandinavian radicals that helped him formulate his plan. He is also notorious in Sweden for claiming several well-known inventions as his own. Among these: the motion picture, the automated sewing machine, the grammar of Esperanto, the modern chimney, and the waffle iron.

Do some research and help create a place within our collective memory for this complicated and neglected historical figure.

Send it to

Saturday, December 18, 2010


For today, write a short story (maybe 600 words or so, but feel free to go over) about a plucky teenaged dragon named Ifans, who lives in a fantastical world of delight and magic and perpetual sunshine. He really loves garlic and was born with a noticeably weak breath of fire. You can imagine the hostility of his peer group regarding this last eccentricity.

So.... take your finished story and crack open your thesaurus. Sentence by sentence, replace each action verb attributable to Ifans with another verb taken from the thesaurus entry for the original word. Pick the most far-reaching, barely-synonymous entry for the best results.

Now you have a new, vaguely off-putting, story. Cheers!


Take your post-Thesaurus roster of new verbs and use each of them sequentially in a story of similar length detailing an hour-long adventure of Tom Nichols, an account supervisor for Pensacola & Kollecki Business Machines, LTD. Today is the day he hopes to coax the Turkish government into severing its ties with IBM in order to sign up with P&K. It is the most important pitch of his life.

Send both stories (or just the one) to

Friday, December 17, 2010


BONUS ASSIGNMENT! (thanks to a major bummer in the world of music.)

Captain Beefheart died today. In honor of the legendary weirdo's passing, write a surreal piece of short fiction including the line "I'm gonna take up with a mermaid, and leave you land-lubbin' women alone." (a lyric from the Beefheart gem "Grow Fins".)

Fans of The Big Lebowski probably know this track better.

Send your tale to


For today, make your least favorite person (with whom you've actually had contact) into an unequivocably flawless superhero. Write a brief adventure for this superhero, who is admired the world over for his/her perfection. They don't need to have tights and the whole bit, but they must be a Hero to billions, and they cannot be merely concealing their imperfections and doubts from an adoring public. End your tale with a large group of assembled persons smiling in unison.

grudgingly send it to

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


For today, let's dig deep:

First, sit down with a sharpened pencil and at least 10 sheets of unlined paper.

Next, write a brief story (250-500 words) detailing your doings between waking up and eating lunch earlier today.

Then, sit for a few minutes and try to think of something other than words and writing.

After your mind has settled, take the next piece of paper and begin writing with great speed in a stream-of-conscious-style. Begin by describing what went on internally while you were crafting the brief story about your morning. From there, go wherever your hand takes you without lifting your pencil from the paper for a significant (more than a few seconds) period of time. Write until you run out of paper.

Finally, take the final product and scan and e-mail it to

(We're aware this may seem a convoluted exercise, but the results should be worth it.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


For today, write the bibliography for a short manual titled "More Effective Micromanagement: A Beginner's Guide."

Send it to:

As a refresher:

Monday, December 6, 2010


For today, set a two-character short story within a local art gallery. Food-processing company Kraft Foods has offered to purchase a new 12'x18' painting provocatively titled "Giant Corporations Have Ruined Our Digestive Tracts: We Ought to Be Angry (!!!)" Your story will feature the gallery owner and the artist, lifelong friends, ruminating over the ethical dynamics of the deal.

Send it to: