Since the last post was about challenges and end-of-the-year goals, I figured a story that came out of such a challenge would be fun to put up as free fiction this week. And besides, it’s a Christmas story. Sort-of.
The story below, “Sprinkle on a Memory” sold to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and has been reprinted once before I put it up electronically. The story has a story of a challenge behind it.
Okay, back up twenty-three years to a workshop in Eugene, Oregon, around 1987 or so. Nina Kiriki Hoffman and I were both past the story-a-week challenge we had started in 1982 and were selling regularly. In 1987 and for a number of years after, a bunch of professionals got together every Christmas Eve for dinner, dollar presents, and to read Christmas stories we had written especially for the night. It was great fun and I have very fond memories of those wonderful nights and the tradition.
But Nina and I decided that since we were already writing one Christmas story, why not write five. In six days.
So the challenge was simple. We would write five Christmas stories on some theme in six days, then on the last evening we would take our stories (before anyone had even read them, including first readers) and go to a copy store, make copies in in the form of little chapbooks, put a silly cover on it, and give them away at the workshop. We numbered the chapbooks 1-50 and Nina took half and I took half. And we just gave them to friends and family. Again great fun. And if you happen to have one of those, they are very collectable now. (grin)
We did the challenge right before Christmas for four or five years and then it faded. One year we did Christmas presents as the theme, another year Christmas food, another stocking stuffers. One we did called Christmas Gifts and I wrote Jukebox Gifts in that one, then sold it. I sold a number of the stories, actually, from the challenge, and so did Nina. But to be honest, many of the stories were just too slight to even bother mailing.
Then back about ten years ago Nina suggested we do the chapbook challenge again, write the five stories in six days, and give them away. So we did it again. I think both of us managed four stories in the six days that last time, on the topic of Christmas Guests. I wrote four Poker Boy stories, three of which I have put up here for free, and all of which I have sold. That was a good year for the challenge.
Then a year later we were going to try it again about Christmas cookies, but if my memory serves, we cancelled. (I don’t have a copy of the chapbook, and I don’t remember putting it together, so I think we cancelled the challenge in the middle or something.) I managed to do a couple stories. I put up one of the stories for free a few weeks back called Santa’s Snack. I never bothered to mail that one to a real editor for some reason. However, the story below is called “Sprinkle on a Memory” from the same challenge and it sold to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, much to my surprise. The only reason I even mailed it was another New Year’s challenge to get my race points up.
And for those of you who get a slight hint of Dexter out of the story below, I wrote and sold this story far before that show came out. (grin)
So that’s the story behind the story. And behind a number of other stories you folks have read here. Challenges are great fun and a great way to produce more stories, stories you might not have written without the challenge.
Thanks, Nina, for the great years of fun with these challenges. I treasure those silly little books we did. All six of them.