With 123 recent views, 45 likes, and 69 comments, Cathy Cade has culminated Story Chat 2021 with her touching Christmas Story, “On the Streets.” Cathy’s Story Chat contribution last year, “Out of Character”, went into the anthology, Windy Christmas (available now from the Whittlesey Wordsmiths).
This is YOUR blogging event. Without authors there is no Story. Here YOUR comments matter. Without comments there is no Chat! I thank all of you for the privilege of hosting the monthly event.
One of the things that makes Story Chat so fun is the interplay between the author and the readers. It’s all there – speculation, teasing, encouragement, questioning, digging for the deeper themes, and suggestions. This is what you can’t do when you read a book.
Be sure to read Cathy’s story, “On the Streets” and the complete dialogue if you missed it.
December Story Chat Attendance
- Cathy Cade author – “As a mother of four (all now grown), I sometimes feel I perhaps wasn’t always as supportive as I could have been. … I mean, what teenager ever listened to her mum? …It’s Dad I feel a bit sorry for. He seems to have given up and, at 1000 words, gets written out of the story. … In fact, Dad didn’t disappear, but he gave up his musical aspirations. … I (also) hadn’t thought of ghosts… I need to think ‘outside the box’ a bit more (I wasn’t sure where I was going when I started this one. I think it was a writing group prompt but can’t for the life of me remember what the prompt was.) It’s interesting to see what different directions writers go off on from the same prompt. (One of our writing group writers would probably have seen them as dimension-hoppers or time-travellers.) … One of our writing group just had his book ‘Shuttlers’ published, about dimension-hoppers.”
- Marsha – me, the hostess “I loved the twist at the end. I just finished two books in a series on time travelers. The Chronicles of St. Mary’s.”
- KL Caley – ‘Aww what a joyful, heart-warming story. I loved the mothers transition from disappointment to supportive. The author really captured the young lad’s performers nerves well. Very enjoyable read.”
- Whittlesey Wordsmiths “I think we could sneak in a 10% allowance without causing any problems, but I’m biased because I always struggle to keep to a word count.”
- FenlandPhil – “A great story, it paints the pictures beautifully.
- And it’s the sort of things Mums and sisters do.”
- Borden’s Blather – “wonderful story; loved the surprise ending…”
- Six Crooked Highways – “I had to set aside two major impediments before I could concentrate on the story itself because: #1 When it comes to Christmas, I make Scrooge look like a saint. and #2 Like the bagpipes, a gentleman is someone who can play the accordion, but doesn’t. There’s a hint that Mum once risked an opinion about her husband’s choices, and he took off. Apart from thinking ‘good riddance’, I wondered if she really thought that what she’d said would provoke a similar reaction from Matt. Seems a little over-dramatic, especially when Matt is clearly having his own doubts about his choice of career. – I think the story would have worked better if the two women generating his audience were rugged up or disguised in some manner and he only works it out at the end. – A dog bowl for donations to the homeless? A bit jarring. I wish Cathy every success as a writer.PS – I’ll crawl back into my misanthropic cave now and eat my dinner of roast reindeer and elf pudding.”
- Aroused – “Great writing, and I love the twist!”
- Jane – “A lovely story and as a parent of sons I can relate to saying the wrong thing or giving an unwanted opinion. Equally, as a mother, I always try and support them in any way I can. I really enjoyed listening in to his thoughts and fears, as it made me feel I was getting to know him. ( it also made me feel quite protective and sympathetic towards him) Well done Cathy.”
- TanGental – Most enjoyable lovely warm tale. It flows well and you capture Matt with all his angst and frustrations very well. He has depth. Which as Doug points out rather contrasts with Mum and Jess. I had to re-read that little section where we get mum’s Pov twice in order to appreciate what was going on and even so the bit about her 20-year-old worry at what she said to her husband I missed. I think you’d improve the experience with a little more there without compromising your neat ending. *I understand Doug’s point about the fact you hide from us who they were even though Matt clearly knew, and you might have added something there – say, how his heart sank when he saw the two women and was about to give up before the one with the dancing eyes cajoled him into white Christmas. There needs to be more tension between them until it is clear their intervention and participation- singing along, clapping etc. brings in the others and gets the crowd going. *Two other things. The dog bowl issue. I disagree strongly with Doug. Like you Matt didn’t think about how using a dog bowl might look, didn’t make Doug’s jarring link even if, once pointed out it’s obvious. Indeed, you could have the woman criticising him at the end because that’s what mum does, or end with his sister pointing it out ‘well done bro, but on thing…’ ‘yeah?’ ‘A dog bowl collecting for the homeless?’ ‘Oh shoot’. *However why would you censor such a natural if thoughtless action? Are we to make our characters politically correct? It makes him more human, more like a teenager wrapped up in his own world trying to do the right thing and getting it half right. So, I ask what does it matter it might jarr?
- Hugh Roberts “Well, you had me going off in a different direction with this story, Cathy. When I read the line, ‘When he looked up, the young woman with the dancing eyes was gone. So was her companion,’ I thought we had a Christmas ghost story on our hands and that Matt would glimpse them or find something they left behind that made him question if they had been really there, at the end of the story. So, I’d gone entirely up a different path. All in all, an excellent warm, comfortable read for the festive season. Full of nice feelings, with a bit of intrigue thrown in. Well, I was undoubtedly intrigued. Another reason why I enjoyed reading your story, Cathy, is that it’s so well laid out. Lots of white space between paragraphs (that aren’t ‘blocky’) make for a far more comfortable read. It all adds to the enjoyment. I agree about how it’s great to read and hear all the different directions when responding to prompts, Cathy. One prompt can produce many different stories, some of which can be miles apart in content. The same is true of how readers do the same thing when reading a story. Our minds are mysterious, with the results being a great discussion amongst everyone. That’s where ‘Story Chat’ comes into its element.”
- Gary A. Wilson This was a fun and satisfying story. I felt the frustration of the teen musician getting torqued by mum. I think teenagers are wired to unconsciously try to make their parents hate them and I thought Cathy leveraged this in a balanced way. It felt natural and annoyingly normal. I also sympathized with mum who felt like she’s stepped in it again. The dog bowl was no speed bump to me, and I did not connect it to the homeless charity because Cathy didn’t put it there. It was just something he likely found with the right shape that would tolerate being re-tasked. Then those two women in the crowd. I’ll admit I wondered right off if they were mum and sister. I’ve done enough teaching and speaking in front of large groups and can tell you it’s easy to miss faces you know in a crowd because well, stage fright and musician concentration. The crowd easily becomes faceless unless something huge makes them stand out. But the way Cathy tells the story, it doesn’t really matter, because he was beginning to succeed and enjoy himself about the same time and that would have been more front-of-mind than reacting to them. It also underscored potentially that he wasn’t all that mad at his family ladies – which is also consistent with a teenager getting sloppy attitudes with mum. He had to recognize them when they stepped out of the crowd, but it was working so well that he likely felt more endeared to his family for their contagious support. Finally, a point I’ve tried to make before. I really like clarity between the omniscient narrator and the thoughts of a character. I don’t think there’s a standard way to denote this, but it can be a powerful part of the story. A character’s thoughts are much more interesting and able to place me in the crowd watching the story unfold. Cathy, this story flowed smoothly between your narrator voice and some of Matt’s thoughts, but I did have to re-read to make sure I understood where you were putting words in Matt’s mind as opposed to narrating the next scenes. In one spot, it was uncertain whether the narrator was thinking out loud or Matt was just thinking. I stole someone’s ideas about using un-punctuated italics to be a character’s thoughts and freely use reminders to my readers that italicized words are someone’s thoughts. It seems to work well but someone else deserved the credit for setting this example for me. Bottom line, Cathy doesn’t often leave mistakes for us to find, and this story is one more example of a warm-hearted, family image that paints a picture of a young man taking his next steps in pursuit of music performance, tripping over his mum while she’s tripping over him, her and his sister showing up to support his effort, succeeding to draw in the crowd just enough to help him enjoy success and get back to the point of thanking mum. So – what’s not to love about this story?
99-Word Summary – No More No Less
Inspired by Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenges
Even though he is recovering from a cold, Matt balks when his mom tells him he should wait to perform in the streets.
“I don’t need your permission.”
Had she discouraged him like she had his father?
It wasn’t easy to find a suitable place on the street, but eventually Matt found a spot. The cold and competing with other performers etched his confidence. With a request for “Silent Night” complete with sound effects, he loosened up. As he swayed with the music, he attracted more viewers.
“Thanks, Mum,” he told the lady from the crowd when he finished.
Theme: A Mother’s Dilemma in Raising Children
Being supportive versus protecting the child from injury or failure
The Great Debates
- Should Story Chat allow stories that go over 1,000 words?
- Cathy Cade – “I think if it’s too long, busy people don’t have the time to read it and comment.”
- Geoff Le Pard – “Second the length. I think the cap you have is fine though maybe allow a plus 10 percent flex as sometimes you need that. Hope that helps.”
- Hugh Roberts – “As for the length of the stories, I think Cathy has a good point. If I see a story with lots and lots of block paragraphs that looks too long, I probably won’t read it. I’ve come to learn that many in the blogging world don’t like ‘long posts.’ Those posts may get lots of hits because SEO likes long posts, but the number of comments is usually a lot less than shorter posts. I’d personally stick to the current word limit and, as Geoff suggested, allow a plus 10 per cent flex?”
- Did the dad desert or die? What happened? He got written out due to length constrictions. His wife had squelched his musical performing interests. She determined that she would not make the same mistake with her son.
- Hugh Roberts – “Just as a matter of interest, do you write your Christmas stories at any time of the year or just when Christmas is on the horizon?” Answer from Cathy Cade – “From around March onwards I’ve been steeped in Christmas, editing and formatting and encouraging the group to ‘think Christmas’. And, of course, writing my own. I must admit, though, I’ve found it easier to get in the mood from November onwards.”
The Take Aways
- Everyone enjoyed the story, especially the ending twist.
- Story Chat could expand to 1,000 words with a 10% leniency either way.
- Mothers worry about being supportive enough.
Coming Up Next Month
Last month’s Story Chat author, Doug Jacquier, just had a book published and I want to let everyone know about it. I just ordered it on Kindle for $1.42. I can’t wait to read it. Here are the links.
You can buy it here in Australia for the princely sum of $1.99 at Raving and Wryting: Bite-sized low wit for our desperate times eBook : Jacquier, Doug: Amazon.com.au: Kindle Store
In the UK it’s Raving and Wryting: Bite-sized low wit for our desperate times eBook : Jacquier, Doug: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store
In the US it’s Raving and Wryting: Bite-sized low wit for our desperate times – Kindle edition by Jacquier, Doug. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.