September Story Challenges

September means the Storyaday challenge I have been doing for years. This year is also means #septembersentences hosted by Caroline Donahue, and the continuation of daily Sarah Selecky’s freewrites.

Potentially, this could mean a lot of writing.

Caroline Donahue is posting prompts for her challenge of writing two sentences each day for September. Her prompts are shared on IG.

Sarah Selecky’s prompts are shared through her community CENTERED. You can find that link here.

For the Storyaday challenge, Julie reuses the prompts from May, so I have been diving into the Google file and revising those stories from 4 months ago. This is the first time I have done this. Usually I write a brand new story and add to the words and drafts in my drive. The prompts from May did resonate with me this year, and I was happy with most of the stories I wrote.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the amount of words and the quality of words I am producing and what to do with them afterwards [if anything.] The revision aspect seems to be working – these first couple of days anyway.

This morning while writing in my notebook I remembered that I had publicly reflected on the challenge!

Here was my agenda for May’s Challenge: If you would like to read my reflections from Day 4 in May click here

  • Reflect about how I approached the prompt – Did it resonate with me? Did I use it? Did I use something else or combine it with something else?
  • Write the story and analyze if it different as an outcome than what I expected when I started.
  • Would I use this prompt again?
  • Reflect if the writing surprised me.
  • Did I learn anything?

Today’s prompt is an ending line from my friend Neha. You can read the whole prompt here and find links to her work.

The story I wrote involved a character who emerged as a Mother Nature like figure and the story involves a magical gate.

Starting with an ending line leads you to where you are going.

Anchors for my May Day 4 story: gate, splinter, time, dark

Are you participating in any September writing challenges? I am certain we will be discussing them in my PUSH group. You should join us. This month we are using The Artist’s Way to drive our discussion. We meet every Wednesday evening at 7:30p.m. Central time.

#Day31- #StoryadayMay2021

We made it! The last day of the challenge! WHOOT WHOOT!! I wrote a story for 31 days and blogged about the process. GOAL ACCOMPLISHED!


Write a story about someone who has just completed a huge challenge. What have they learned? What did they sacrifice? Was it worth it?

Julie Duffy is the author of this prompt.


I am not resonating with today’s prompt as a story prompt as strongly today. Yes, my experience is that I did a challenge but it is too close to write a fictional story about it today. I need more distance from real life to story.

I like the idea of using a character named some form of Janus, the Roman God, since he is the symbol for looking forward and looking back. It is where the word January comes from. One of my other prompts is to write an angry letter to an object without cliches….not sure if I will be able to work that in or not.

I watched the Netflix show Midnight Dinner yesterday from a recommendation on a podcast. I am fascinated by food at midnight anyway especially from The Night Circus book. It is in Japanese with subtitles so it is not a relaxing show to watch. This concept influenced my story today.

Janus is walking from his cabin to meet his two friends at the little diner where they chat. One of the friends gives Janus a flight of books from his library that will become important later. At the end of the dinner they part ways but something tragic happens that prevents them from seeing each other for over a year.

anchors: muse fairy, book flight, enchanted gate, visit from a stranger

Happy Writing!

I am imposing a revision challenge to myself in the month of June. [Come back to the blog tomorrow for details and my poem, story, and essay selections.] In the spirit of that intention, I pulled a snippet from my drive from June of 2018 and added it to the story. It took the plot in an unexpected direction which I appreciated! This story is going to have to be a little longer than the first draft. I like it so far! What a pleasant surprise!

What did you write today? How did your challenge go if you participated?

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here.

#Day30- #StoryadayMay2021 + Reflection

Tomorrow is the last day of May and the Challenge.

How did your month go? Did you find it fueling [with whatever you chose to spend your time on?]

Reflection is an important part of the creative process. One of the reasons I love challenges is because in one sense it is a data collection of my own patterns. If I notice the patterns I can continue the ones that work and let go of the pieces that do not.

I use the same method in teaching.

Sometimes, it is simply asking 1. What is working? and 2. What is not working?

This May I followed the prompts fairly closely. I liked the prompts this year. I do not have to like the prompt to write to it however. I struggled with the happy story prompt but I also had several conversations with writer friends about this one prompt. If I reframed the idea of what was happy for a character then it worked better for me.

I often have a list of story ideas but it is in the form of my lists of 10. On certain days I searched my drive for a specific word or phrase to see if something I had saved popped up. On the spot writing seemed to trigger most of the ideas. I feel this is due to my strong freewriting practice. It is a habit I have cultivated.

I find that other things I do in life – shows I watch, places I visit, my daily walks, writing conversations – all fuel my writing. Sometimes it is more of an adjacent way as an idea will get logged and then used later.

My best time for writing is when I wake up but I can write at other times of day. I do enjoy writing with a small creative group on Zoom as well. The words flow easier in the morning for me.

I work best when I write everyday. This translates into other areas of my life as well. I guess I like the idea of streaks! Writing is fueling to me and is my happy place.

In the morning, I write in bed. I also write on my walks and in between activities at my day job. I always have my notebook with me.

I intended to write 31 stories for the month which I will complete tomorrow. To keep myself accountable I intended to reflect on my progress daily and post it to the blog which I accomplished. I also kept the theme of Everyday Magic. I liked that if I felt stuck I had that thread to come back to every day.


Take a story you wrote earlier this month, and write it again in a different way.

Julie Duffy is the author of this prompt.


I am not resonating with today’s prompt.

Yesterday, my family and I went to Devil’s Lake park. There was a hotel there that was removed in 1905 that I have become obsessed with. There is little documentation about the hotel and I want to put it into a story. I am thinking a Karen Russell sort of vibe for this story.

Cliff House Hotel

When we were there on one of the rocks that jut out over the treetops I caught the vision of someone sitting on a rock behind me. When I looked there was nothing there. A ghost in a dark blue jacket maybe?

This is the story I am writing today. Mysteries and disappearance of people and buildings from Devil’s Lake. It is a story that I have been wanting to write since we visited last time.

Here is the rock I “saw” him sitting on:

Happy Writing!

What did you write today?

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Day 29- #StoryadayMay2021

How do you feel about prompts?

Prompts are a gateway into writing. I inspire others, but I also have systems set up so I keep myself fueled. This has been trial and error of course. Also, when new learning comes in I change what I am doing to meet my needs.

I use prompts with students of all ages. Many are intimidated by the blank page and a prompt eliminates this problem. One of my teachers advises start the sentence and then just finish it. Then write the next one. It is simple but works. Whatever your brain wants you to write will come out no matter what prompt you start with.

I read poetry because I love it. I always have. I started writing poetry first when I was single digit age. I laugh it is because I love concise sentences and prose but also because I like to be cryptic. It becomes a game of sorts where you are taking these flashes of lightening and trying to figure out what type of storm it is. For this reason, I get several daily poem emails so I have new ones to read every day. Some days I read the whole poem, and others it doesn’t resonate and it gets deleted.

The Paris Review sent me this poem today: Poem Revised in a Twelfth-Floor Hotel Room After Seeing a Man in the Building Across the Street Holding What Appeared to be Binoculars
by Camille Dungy
Issue no. 230 (Fall 2019)

Isn’t that an amazing title? I am going to use it for inspiration for my flash title today.

It was a comfort to find this is common practice among poets of reading and discarding poems. When I took my poetry class with Chris LaTray in April we talked about it in one session and everyone was surprised that everyone followed much the same structure.

I keep lists of notes everywhere. I have tried to contain them in my Keep app on my phone and one “walking around” notebook.

One of the other emails I get daily is from Readwise. It is a service that takes the highlights from Kindle and sends me a list of 15 quotes I have highlighted in my reading. It is great for beginning lines for freewrites, new stories, or a way to play with the sentence structure another author used. It also reminds me of past books I haven’t looked at in a while.

I am a visual person and like piles, especially of books. I “lose” books on the Kindle when they go to the bottom of the list.

THE PROMPT for Today:

Write a story in three sections, each section recounting the same event from a different character’s point of view

Julie Duffy is the author of this prompt.


Today’s prompt is one of my favorites from Julie – a classic Storyaday prompt. One of the first stories that was published in my 100 Rejections project came from writing with this prompt.

The story I wrote today is about a dinner party. The three POV’s are from guests and they are all thinking about the square plates in the place setting in relationship to their lives and the conversation at the table.

The working title based on the poem title referenced above is: A Conversation Revised At The Dinner Party Argument with the Square Plates after what appeared to be An Experiment

Happy Writing!

What did you write today?

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Day 28- #StoryadayMay2021

A couple more days…

THE PROMPT for Today:

“Loretta’s face was hidden by the wide brimmed hat boldly covered in ribbons and one rose. Rising slowly from the fourth pew, she raised her chin towards the minister and declared, “I object.”

Leslie Stack is the author of this prompt.


Today’s story draft was written early in the morning. I reread several day’s stories and did some revision and cutting. It is a strange practice to go back into documents you don’t exactly recall writing! Early morning writing does this to me. I am in that half asleep mode and don’t always hold onto a story after it ends up on the page either digitally or in the notebook.

It is how I let go of things too. If I write them down, I know they are safe and out of my head.

Today’s story is about a secret that one person at the wedding has and is deciding whether to share it or not. She is struggling with her own motivation and decides she is going to ruin his life, in this moment, just because she can. There is magic in three words.

I do not like the name Loretta for this character so will change it. Names are important to me. In fact, I have been thinking about my own name and how it has never fit me. I cannot seem to land on one that does however. I have been doing some freewriting around this in my notebook this week.

Today is the day the thoughts were coming too fast and I wrote this draft on the computer.

Often, especially if I am drafting a lot of stories in a short time, characters have no names. I am not sure if this is a productive practice some days. A name lends itself to a character developing and also to the emotional connection a reader has to them. I sometimes focus too much on WHAT is happening even though I read a lot of character driven fiction.

Sometimes after looking back over a series of short pieces I realize they are all about the same character essentially and then I can combine the scenes and name the character. Then I can flesh out more of the details of their quirks and personality.

Writing is a funny process somedays!

3 days left!

What did you write today?

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Day 27- #StoryadayMay2021

We are nearing the end of the challenge and the month!

THE PROMPT for Today:

Write a story for children. Prompt is “The Golden Rule,” treat others are you wish to be treated.

Miriam Laundry is the author of this prompt.


Today a fairy tale like story came out about Azur who is the protector of the glass heart but is bored with his position. He is warned but falls into a hole and no one will help him. He has to answer three questions in order to be rescued.

The author of the prompt has a link to a video and a PDF, but I was unable to open it on my phone. I was going to try to use her blueprint for stories but didn’t want to get out the computer yet. I was handwriting in my notebook.

I heard on a podcast yesterday about an author who writes 1000 words a day. The following day she rereads and edits/deletes words from the previous day and then writes forward from her favorite sentence. I have always adhered to the rule of no editing while you are drafting but have an overload of words in my files. I think this may be a manageable way to get through some words.

June is going to be about revision for me. I plan to use my Bradbury Challenge of reading a poem, short story, and essay as inspiration for the changes I make in my own stories.

Anchors: glass heart, crow, horse, 3 questions

Visual: crow on top of a sign that reads: Danger- No Trespassing

What did you write today?

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Day 26- #StoryadayMay2021


Like the list story, this prompt encourages you to break the narrative rules. Let the story unfold through a series of updates, memos, social media posts, a technical manual, or some other document that creates gaps the reader must fill in.

Remember that each memo will be written in real time, reporting on an event, before the character experiences the next ‘episode’ and writes about it.

Julie Duffy is the author of this prompt.


I have been playing with Hermit Crab forms of flash fiction for a while now. I follow several people that do a wonderful job with this type of story including Cheryl Pappas and KB Carle.

Instead of a memo, I chose to use a lesson plan template. This is a form I have wanted to try for a while. It took longer than I anticipated but overall I am happy with the experiment.

What did you write today?

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Day 25- #StoryadayMay2021


Someone finds two dates listed on a piece of paper. The dates are in their own handwriting, but they do not know what the dates mean. They have to find out what the dates signify.

Anita G. Gorman is the author of this prompt.


For this prompt I wanted to move beyond the obvious so I wrote down several possibilities for the dates to get past what a reader would expect.

Time travel and warnings were the most prominent in my mind.

I didn’t write about that.

My prompt from Sarah was about writing a scene that doesn’t make any sense. I have been playing with some techniques and this seemed appropriate today since I didn’t know where the story was going when I started.

This happens often. I just start writing and see what happens. It is always more fun for me this way. I wrote and then it wasn’t going anywhere so I left it alone and went to work.

During the day I played with a couple more ideas. I rewrote a new version of another draft.

I felt I wrote around in circles.

I have my PUSH group tonight and we are going to look at a text so maybe something that is more cohesive will come out of the session later this evening!

I still wrote. It is a win.

What did you write today?

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Day 24- #StoryadayMay2021


I love concept albums, albums in which a singular story is told throughout the tracks. Some are silly, some are deep, but all of them are fascinating. Write the story that comes to you out of this lyric from Eagles’ Desperado album:

“The towns lay out across the dusty plains like graveyards filled with tombstones waiting for the names.”

Fleet Sparrow is the author of this prompt.


Once again I was up at 3 am.

I also keep thinking it is the 25th so somewhere along the way I lost a day.

Balance is not something that I believe in as a rule. There is scheduling time intentionally and living in the moment. There are non-negotiables in life and writing for me is one of them although I wish my body would respond to being tired with actual sleep.

The day’s story had a surreal tone because of when I wrote it. I lifted one of my own sentences from a flash class I took yesterday hosted by Chestnut Review.

I learned a few months ago the best place for prompts is my own freewriting. I call them the parts that sparkle. It is a concept I include when I teach annotation. In the past, we have only annotated other author’s writing, not our own.

The story today started with my main character leaving suddenly on a trip. It takes an odd turn and the main character ends up talking with an elephant. There is a section that is about a house that resembles a museum. I found out that the museum labels are sometimes called tombstones which was in line with the prompt.

What did you write today?

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.

Day 23- #StoryadayMay2021


Two options today: write a story in the form of a list, OR use this list of words in your story: gallery, contemplated, identity, point, behind, tastes, followed, forty, like, generations.

Julie Duffy is the author of this prompt.


I love a story that is made from a list and written from a list of random words.

In Meg Pokrass’ Flash Gym class yesterday we used a lot of visuals and lists of words to generate stories. This workshop had no chitchat at all. We dove right in when it was time and wrote for an hour and 20 minutes. Some people read or talked about their pieces at the end which was fascinating.

Today’s STAD story was written early in the morning before sunrise. I suppose it could be argued whether it was still night or morning. What do you consider 3:30am?

An unnamed little boy is the main character in my story and as become obsessed with lemons. I often use the lists of words that are given to me in a prompt in order. I am not certain why. Today I consciously used the words backwards from the list order given. He eats everything lemon he can and then grows up to be a painter. Of course the subject of his art is his beloved citrus.

There is something clean about lemons. I have a memory of lemon lollipops for Mr. L in kindergarten. When I started school there was a program called The Letter People that associated all the letters with a story and a song centered around a personified letter of the alphabet. Mr. M had a munchy mouth and ate everything that started with M of course. Mr. H had horrible hair. We grew grass in a styrofoam cup we decorated with a large H. These experiences have stayed with me all these years. I even use the Letter People with my kindergartners now. They were updated several years ago to make them look more modern but the videos are still available on Youtube for some of the letters. There used to be inflatable letter people that we played with on the carpet I remember as well.

Day 23 anchors: lemons, paintings, unnamed boy

visual: lemon tree in the center

What did you write today?

Do you freewrite as part of your writing practice? Let me know in the comments!

I am teaching a Fabulous Flash Fiction class June 9-13! You won’t want to miss it. You can register here. Space is limited, so don’t wait! Spaces are filling up.