Monday, January 31, 2011


For today, pretend that a man named Christopher Jensen approaches you in your darkest hour.

Three hours earlier, the government shut down the avant-garde restaurant to which you had dedicated the past decade of your life. After months of surprisingly good attendance rates and a slow climb out of debt, you had just made a name for yourself in the burgeoning Chicago food scene with an eclectic menu, superlative customer service and charmingly warm ambiance. Yet your ex-spouse has a new squeeze, and this venal, ill-tempered person works for the Health Department. Strings are pulled, petty vengeance is swiftly wrought and your place is shut down indefinitely via the ice-cold machinations of a spurned lover and a corrupt wonk.

You mull your deadened future over a case of Natural Light on the front steps outside your mortgaged home. You've just come straight from the restaurant and you can't bear to ascend the stairs and face your significant other with the devastating news.

Enter Christopher Jensen. He is riding a bicycle and has apparently been riding for days nonstop to reach you. He gently asks for some water and a comfortable place to sit before he tells you something important.

After the two of you have settled, he nonchalantly agrees to help you solve your problem(s). You are humbled and a little embarrassed, but eternally grateful. What luck!

Decades pass, and your reopened restaurant has become an international sensation. George Clooney eats there alongside Turkish diplomats and the lady who invented chalkboard paint. They film a bunch of movies there; it's always very difficult to get a table. The whole thing is a dream. The current President of the United States, John Martinez, got his first summer job there as a server while in high school.

All along, one dish stands above the others: The Jensen Special. This is what George Clooney and the Turkish diplomats split after a Blackhawks game. It's a five-course array of culinary delights, exceedingly simple yet unquestionably brilliant in its confluence of flavors and consistencies. It inspires the fifth red star on the Chicago Flag after U.S. and Chinese officials broker a deal for total nuclear disarmament while splitting a Jensen Special.

As your restaurant prepares to serve its millionth Jensen Special, you decide to organize a special appearance by the man himself, but he has pursued a monastic path since your last encounter and is skeptical of making public appearances, especially after his legend has traveled to each corner of the world in light of this most famous meal.

For today, write Christopher Jensen a letter of extreme gratitude. Include reports from several dignitaries, celebrities and regular Chicagoans who have for years enjoyed the wonder that is the Jensen Special. Earnestly plead with him to attend the festivities. Describe the Jensen Special to him, and then elaborate on how this particular combination of foods represents an appropriate salute to the man himself. Ultimately, persuade him to cycle down from his secluded hill on a distant horizon to your restaurant in order to enjoy the millionth dish that bears his name.

Send it to

Saturday, January 29, 2011


For today, write a three-page rambling monologue, the would-be centerpiece for a prize-winning novel. The scene takes place during a foreclosure auction held to liquidate the assets of a failed commune.

Your character should hit the following targets:

- foods that smell better than they taste
- your character's recent divorce
- a possibly forged manuscript detailing the private fears and fantasies of a North Korean nuclear scientist
- a recurring dream
- a Joan Jett b-side so obscure that your character is the only living person to have heard it
- the election of Barack Obama

Punctuation is optional.

As always, send the results to

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Hello All,

As you probably know, we are well into the process of creating Issue V (Winter 2011).

Despite unprecedentedly high sales for Issue IV, we recently experienced an unforeseen financial setback that has made the printing of Issue V precarious, to say the least.

Community-minded folks that we are, we have established a project page with the hope of generating enough funds to cover the printing for Issue V.

This should be a one-time operation, as our sales have traditionally been able to subsidize the entire cost of publication. If we raise enough funds to print this issue, the journal's financial state should reach a stabilized point of long-term self-sustainability.

We remain an ardently not-for-profit venture, so you may rest assured that every dime of assistance we receive is committed to putting the best, handsomest publication possible.

We have always relied on you, dear readers, to supply the journal's content. Now, we must rely on you, momentarily, for a different type of support.

ch-ch-ch-check it out:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011



For today, write a playlet about twin sisters turning 50 on February 25, 1950. Each sister will be given 50 lines; each will line consist of 50 syllables.

One sister, however, did not survive the birth. The living twin, in this playlet, is driving along the majority of US Route 50, completing her annual visit to the other sister's gravesite.

She has always felt a cosmic connection with her deceased twin, occasionally lapsing into "inhabitations" during which she assumes the spectral (clairvoyant) identity of her sister.

During these spells, the channeled sister has often spoken of an " indescribably beautiful occurrence that I've seen that will visit you on our fiftieth birthday."

Your playlet will culminate with this event.

Send your work to

Saturday, January 22, 2011


For today, write a short story that could be appropriately titled "Our Conceptions Were Recorded".

Sunday, January 16, 2011


For today, invent a robotics-themed replacement for each of the following American idioms:

  • "making a mountain out of a molehill"
  • "useless as tits on a bull"
  • "dead as a doornail"
  • "the grass is always greener"
  • "put the cart before the horse"

Send them to

Saturday, January 15, 2011


[This piece was submitted in a response to Writing Assignment #47]




By John Wilmes


- soapy: the bubbly sensation covering my washing hands daily and sometimes multi-hourly, germs a fear of the still-running mind when i awake unwarranted in the 3 AM winter, making sure that i'm okay and getting my paws all wet and warm.

- soar: high and winged, the sky blue and almost empty, the occasional white around there, too.

- Soares, Raphael: responsible for the invention of the monocle.

- soaring: like when I've told a girl I like her---regardless of whether she likes me back.

- soave: to cut in half, if food, and of a pale hue.

- sob: to be hurt and not realize it until weeks later, the guitar loud through the speakers in your room, your friends having just left, your limbs trembly and your face-skin renewing as the wet stuff pours over it.

- S.O.B.: a red-faced father, trying to make his son red-faced, too.

- sobeit: the shrug of acceptance when a necessary bad happens, like every day if you don't me doing saying so.

- sober: a typing-mooded condition, not for everyone.

- sober-headed: like how i am when i make myself a grilled cheese, cutting the tomatoes and peppers nicely, squarely and slice-like to put them strategically onto the melting dairy nourishment, the bread browning and my head looking to forward to un-bogging as i feel more fibrous and right, fed.

- suberize: to bloat into big, concrete-and-steel something with bodies running circadian through, green flying stacked from their hands into drawers and leather pouches.

Friday, January 14, 2011


For today, consider the following group of words, which are listed consecutively on page 1,810 of Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary (Random House, 1996):

- soapy

- soar

- Soares

- soaring

- soave

- sob

- S.O.B.

- sobeit

- sober

- sober-headed

- suberize

Now, WITHOUT consulting a single reference source, craft a thoughtful definition for each word. Please use only your mind, we're not grading for accuracy.

Send it to:

Saturday, January 8, 2011


[We hope that this project will become a standard feature on the blog and readers will regularly contribute interviews conducted according to these guidelines.]

Instructions [to be followed carefully]: Choose a cooperative person in your life. Present each of the following questions/prompts to your subject without elaboration. Record the full extent of their response. Upon completion, preface the interview with as much biographical detail (name/age/occupation/etc.) as your subject desires.

Send it to

  • When and why did you come to Chicago?
  • At what age did you first fall in love?
  • What do you read for pleasure?
  • Name your most essential "only in Chicago" moment/place/person/phenomenon
  • Are there secrets you have yet to share with another person?
  • What has been your biggest regret?
  • Where do you get your news?
  • What, if any, electronic device would you subtract from modern life?
  • Would you want to live in an alternate world in which both men and women could naturally bear children?
  • Describe your single most profound moment of creative inspiration.
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?


For today, in honor of Georges Perec write a short story about the most important object in your life without using any words that contain the letter "e".

If you feel compelled to whine about the assignment's difficulty, remember that Perec composed an entire book using this strategy. Check it out.

We don't have anything against the letter, but it is the most-used in the English language.

Send your story to