A Mouse, Doubt, and a Ginger Beer

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Writing Exercise: Short Story using ‘Mouse, Doubt, Beer’

Frank had to book the holiday online if he wanted to be in the competition. And, he not only wanted to be in the competition, he wanted to win.

His eyes had lit up when he saw the ad on telly. It would be the best surprise ever for Marge. She had been talking about a cruise for the last twelve months. And if he won? Well, that would be the icing on the cake. All that extra spending money!

The screen in front of him came to life. Following the instructions they had been given in computer class, Frank put his hand on the mouse and clicked on the little multi-coloured circle on the desktop. He had it all there in front of him. Step by step, in pictures – how to order and pay online.

He could hear the instructor now, ‘Frank, don’t despair. It’s easy when you get the hang of it.’

But what if he didn’t have the hang of it? What if he pressed the wrong button? What if he put in the wrong details? What if he was too slow? What if he booked the wrong cruise? What if he was still in the middle of it all when Marge got home? Frank was overwhelmed with doubt and apprehension.

‘Don’t be silly,’ he told himself. ‘You can do this Frank!’ Employing his careful one-finger typing, he put in the website address. Up popped a kaleidoscope of colours, moving pictures, and even a talking video. Staring at the screen, Frank felt more confused than ever, when he heard, ‘Hey Pops, whatcha doin’?’

It was young Clare, Frank’s granddaughter, holding up her keys, ‘Pops, you didn’t hear the door!’

‘Oh Clare, pet. You don’t know how glad I am to see you.’

Before he could say easy-peasy, Clare had done it all. Would he ever get the hang of this Googling, surfing, and ordering online? He didn’t think so. But then, he knew what he had to offer was worth much more.

Clare had come to ask for his advice.

So, on this hot summer day, it was time for a refreshing homemade ginger beer and a chat.

© Inara Hawley

(361 Words)

Amelia – Part 4

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Amelia’s Lucky Day

Amelia was feeling on top of the world. She was almost skipping along as she headed for work. This was her last day.

The magazine had been a great training ground, but Amelia was ready to take the leap. Her stylist business, The Barefoot Fashionista was on its way, and today, at midday she was hopefully signing up her first big client – Maggie Barker, an up and coming actress.

Amelia was ready, willing, and able, and she couldn’t wait!

She was bouncing along happily as she thought of the meeting. She was smiling at everyone she passed. As she got closer to the office, she waved to the pop-up coffee shop owners and to the sales girl from the boutique next door. She sidestepped the courier who was delivering parcels, and as she was about to walk through the front door, she noticed the camera crew further up the street. Wonder what that’s all about, she thought.

Life was good and everything was going exactly as it should be. Even the sun was shining.

The morning passed uneventfully. Amelia was handing over the last bits and pieces to the new girl, recruited from fashion school. She remembered when she started and how daunting the magazine was. She looked at the clock…. 11.30 a.m. Not long to go.

They were meeting at Maggie’s flat, not too far away. It should only take 10 minutes to get there, so she had fifteen minutes up her sleeve before she had to leave. Maggie had slotted Amelia into her tight schedule so she couldn’t afford to be late. She quietly gathered together the personal portfolio she had prepared for Maggie so she could scoot out the door quickly. She hadn’t made it public knowledge that she had a meeting and didn’t want anyone asking questions. After all, she hadn’t clinched the deal yet.

Satisfied, she was giving herself a big mental tick for organisation – not always her best strength. Just as she was about to leave Amelia noticed Bev, the head secretary purposefully hurrying towards her.

“Just popping out for lunch Bev.”

“Could you spare a minute,” Bev said, as she steered Amelia towards the Board Room.

“Can’t this wait.”

“No, not today,” said Bev, as they reached the door.

Bev stepped forward, opened the door and there stood at least 20 people – all with a glass of champagne in their hand. Amelia was stunned. This was the last thing she expected. The magazine was not one of those girly friendly places. It had been all work, work, work in the five years that she had been there. Deadlines and pressure didn’t make for a chatty social environment, but here, in front of her were all the important people, and even some of her clients – all, holding their glass of bubbly.

Surrounded by happy faces, Amelia couldn’t think of a thing to say. She couldn’t run and she couldn’t stay. She needed to get to a phone and she needed to do it quickly, but the minutes ticked by as she walked around with a smile plastered on her face.

“Thank you. This is so thoughtful.”

Tick, tick, tick.

Fifteen minutes later she was in a loo cubicle with a mobile in her hand, but Maggie wasn’t answering. She heard the door to the ladies open.

“Amelia, are you in here?”

“Yep, be out in a sec.”

“The boss wants you.”

Oh geez, what now!

Andrea waved her arm as Amelia walked back into the boardroom. There was no way she could escape the boss. She would just have to keep ducking out and ringing.

Fifteen minutes later, and Maggie still wasn’t answering.

Amelia looked at the clock. 12.30, and just as she was about to make her excuses, food trollies were wheeled into the room. Oh, I give up, she thought. I will try Maggie once more, and if she doesn’t answer, I’m going to relax and enjoy this.  Maggie didn’t answer and Amelia did relax, and she enjoyed herself immensely.

Much later, after she’d tidied her desk for the last time, and was heading down the street towards home, she saw the film crew up ahead. Right in the middle was Maggie. She had seen Amelia walking towards them, and was smiling.

Maggie had been called away to her shoot much earlier than she had expected and had turned off her phone. She’d left a note on her door.

All was well.

The Barefoot Fashionista’s reputation was intact.

© Inara Hawley 2017

The Writing Exercise for this piece: 
Create a ticking clock situation for the main character who has an appointment and can’t be late.

Amelia – Part 3

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The Barefoot Fashionista

“This is going to be fabulous!”

Amelia loved her job as a stylist. Working for a magazine was a great job, but today, she was the stylist for a local fashion show. It was a charity do, but the best promotion Amelia could ever get if she was ever going to start her own business. And that’s what she wanted to do.

The air was buzzing with excitement. All the right people were in the audience.

Amelia had always had an eye for fashion. And, she knew precisely what an outfit needed – a scarf, beads, a hat or a splash of colour. That was why she was the stylist in charge of getting the models onto the runway looking exactly as they should.

One by one her girls hit the lights and did their thing. It was going like clockwork. The usual backstage chaos was humming along surprisingly smoothly. Of course, Amelia’s wardrobe assistant, Jeannie – perky, bubbly, enthusiastic little Jeannie was an absolute gem.

With hair and makeup done, it was, dress on, accessories, shoes and then out they went. The music was throbbing, the lights were flashing, and the dress rack was thinning – only three more to go, and then the finale. The show-stopper and only one model could do it – the fabulously tall Jo.

Putting the finishing touches to the last outfits, Amelia started to relax. She peered through the curtains – yes, it was going well. She was feeling more than chuffed when suddenly, a panic-stricken Jeannie rushed towards her.

“Jo isn’t here.”

“What do you mean, Jo isn’t here?”

“She’s not here yet, I haven’t seen her.”

“Jeannie, why didn’t you tell me? She needs to be here now!” Amelia could feel herself getting hot. She couldn’t afford anything to go wrong. She was depending on this show.

But the seconds were ticking and no Jo. How could Amelia not have noticed she was missing? Because Jeannie was so organised, that’s why, and Amelia depended on her to get the models into their dresses.

“I am so sorry. I was so busy, I didn’t notice.”

None of the other models fitted into the show-stopper.

“Oh God! What am I going to do?”

Be calm! Be calm! Amelia told herself. There has, to be an answer.

“Amelia, you could do it.”

“What?!!”

“You’re the same size, and you’re tall enough.”

“What?!”

“Amelia, listen to me – you can do it, you have to do it.”

“But my hair!”

“I’ll fluff it.”

“But makeup? There’s no time.”

“Just lipstick.”

“Oh, My God! There’s no time.”

“Quick, here… put it on.”

The dress slid on like magic. A glittering sheath of beauty. Oh, how wonderful it felt!

“Sit down.”

Jeannie went to work on Amelia’s hair. She ripped out the clip and let Amelia’s blond locks fall loose. Oh, yes, this will be easy. She put a loose comb through it and grabbed the hairspray.

“Bend down, let your hair fall forward,” said Jeannie, already spraying madly.

When Amelia put her head up, she couldn’t believe it. Her hair was fluffed and really, quite spectacular. She rummaged through the lipsticks. Yes, there it was. The bright red. That’s the one.

She looked at herself. Not bad. Not bad at all. Only two minutes to show time. Amelia reached for the shoes. Oh, no, no, no! They didn’t fit. Amelia’s feet were too big.

“What next!”

“Bare feet, that’s what,” declared Jeannie

Looking around wildly, Amelia’s eyes fell on a long sheer scarf. Bright red, just like her lipstick. Yes, the perfect thing to trail along the floor.

“Thank God I painted my toenails this morning!”

Red lips, red scarf, red toenails, fluffed hair – it would have to do.

She grabbed the scarf, fluffed her hair for confidence, looked down at her big feet with the fabulously painted toes and knew she was ready.

The music cued. Amelia straightened her shoulders, lifted her chin, mentally crossed her fingers and out she went.

The finale was a huge success. And ‘darling, wasn’t it just marvellous how the stylist wore the show-stopper’. Amelia’s talent was duly, noted and some even started calling her the ‘Barefoot Fashionista’.

Her business as a personal stylist had begun.

© Inara Hawley 2017

The Writing Exercise for this piece:
Create a two-level problem for your main character

Amelia – Part 2

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Got It!

Flooded with relief, Amelia rushed forward and grabbed the envelope that was stuck in the screen door.

“Thank God. Bless you, whoever you are!” she shouted to the heavens as she waved the envelope above her head. She had the letter in her hand – a good Samaritan had returned it. Amelia wasn’t about to lose it again. But then, just as she was dancing a little jig of triumph, she stumbled and lost her grip. At that very moment, the breezy afternoon whipped up a colossal gust, grabbed the blue missive and shot it up into the air.

“Oh no! Kids, help me!”

Amelia and her three children began twirling and jumping, trying to grab the flash of blue that was flurrying about in the wind. But to no avail. Suddenly, it lifted and off it went across the street.

“Kids! Go next door,” shouted Amelia. “I’ll go after the letter.” She knew her neighbour was home and would look after her brood.

“Mum!” Andy, her oldest yelled back. “You won’t get it – it’s too high.”

“Don’t you worry. I’ll get it,” shot back Amelia. Your Dad will kill me if I don’t, she thought, as she charged after it.

Across the street, she tore, not taking her eyes off the more and more distant speck of blue.  How can this be happening? It must be payback for my flighty ways. If I catch it, I’m going to change, she bargained with herself. Yes! She would take herself in hand. As each foot hit the ground, she spurred herself on chanting: “New me! New me! New me!”

Amelia was hoping it was slowing down a bit. And surely it was getting closer to the ground too. She was now three streets away from home, still running. But, if she had to turn the next corner, she would be on the main road. Please, no, not the main road, she thought.

She was now a touch breathless. It was hard work, this running after a speck in the sky, but she couldn’t afford to lose sight of it. David had been waiting weeks for the letter. How could she lose it twice in one day? First leaving it in the library book, and then letting it fly right out of her hand!

Amelia knew how much it meant to him – the first letter from his birth mother. It had taken years of searching. He would never forgive her if she lost it. As she turned the corner onto the main road, she saw the letter fly out into the middle of the street. She considered rushing out to stop the traffic, but thought better of it, and instead kept her eye on its floating path.

Then abruptly, it swooped back towards Amelia and straight into the leafy tall tree on the corner. Amazingly, it stayed there, wedged within the branches. I’ve got this, she thought, I’ve really got this now, she repeated as she headed towards the benches underneath the tree. And she did. As afraid as she was of heights, she climbed that tree and retrieved David’s letter.

She never did tell David about her escapade and she swore the children to secrecy. That night, she dreamt of chasing a blue speck… she is running, running, the blue speck falls into the back of a ute. Hang it, she thinks, I’m going after it. She commandeers a motorbike and takes off, her hair flying wildly in the wind. Crap, she thinks, was that a speed camera that flashed me? Not caring, she charges on, her quest thrilling her to the core.

In her dream, Amelia was last seen heading out of the city following a white ute.

Secretly, she loves her escapades.

© Inara Hawley 2017

The Writing Exercise for this piece:
The main character does something selfless that makes his or her life more difficult

Amelia – Part 1

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Where Is It?

Amelia was frantic. She’d looked everywhere, but couldn’t find it.

Frustration was getting the better of her. ‘Where did I put it!’ she said out loud.

“For goodness sake!” she stomped her foot in exasperation.

And she’d told David about it too. He’d been waiting weeks for the letter to arrive and she had texted him from the post office the minute she had it in her hand. And now she’d lost it!

It was still in its blue envelope, somewhere. But where?

Amelia sat down, took a deep breath and backtracked her steps. It had been one of those meandering work-free days. After she’d dropped off the kids, she picked up the mail, had done a bit of shopping, gone to the coffee shop, and then to the library.

She’d put the bundle of mail into her carry bag, then gone through it at the coffee shop before she opened her book to finish it.

She closed her eyes and pictured the scene, and suddenly, remembered. It was in the library book! She’d put the letter in the book to hold it open while she checked the rest of the mail. And then without thinking, moved it to the front inside cover as she finished the last chapter. Full of satisfaction at having read a wonderful story, she then blissfully closed the book.

Glancing at her watch, Amelia grabbed her keys and headed back out to the car.

She made it with 15 minutes to spare before the library closed. Stepping up to the front desk, she tapped her fingers impatiently.

“Yes, what can I do for you?”

“I dropped off a book earlier, and left a letter inside the front cover.”

“Name of the book please?”

“Pearl In A Cage by Joy Dettman.”

“Just a minute.” The librarian clicked at the keys, blinked at the screen and looked up.

“The book is out.”

“Oh no! I need that book – the letter’s in it. How can I get it?”

“Well, you can’t. Not right now. We’re about to close. I can ring the borrower tomorrow if you like and see if it’s still there.”

“No! No! No! I need it now!”

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”

Amelia closed her eyes and let her chin drop. How could she be such a scatter-brain, she thought as she left the library. Lost in the characters of the book, she’d returned it without a second thought.

How was she going to tell David? Driving to the local pool to pick up the kids after their swimming lessons, she tried to put it out of her mind. She would have to face the music tonight, but there wasn’t a thing she could do about it until tomorrow.

It was still warm out and the car was full of happy children-chatter, so they stopped off for ice creams all round – she needed it more than the kids! It was either that or chocolate!

And then she headed for home.

As they walked up the path to the front door, Amelia admonished herself once again for being so careless…. until…. she saw something stuck in the screen door.

It was a blue envelope.

© Inara Hawley 2017

The Writing Exercise for this piece:
The character needs a particular book from the library

Putting it Out There

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Writing Exercise – 500 words beginning with ‘I can’t help myself’

I can’t help myself, thought Nina. Never could keep anything to myself.

But this time she was doing it on purpose. After her chatty cuppa with Annie, Nina knew she would tell Jean, and Jean would, of course, tell her husband Dave. And Dave, always a good talker after a few beers, would hopefully tell Jim.

With any luck, it would be as easy as that. Nina knew Jim was planning something, but she wanted something special. After all, it was her fortieth birthday, and what she wanted most of all, was a few days away. One of those fancy overnight stays. It didn’t matter to where really. Just want to be looked after and pampered for a bit. No cooking, no washing, no bed making.

The kids could be easily organised. And Dave and his mates could look after the animals. So, easy to organise. So very easy. She’d given enough clues. Raved about how she’d love it. Had the magazine open. Pages and pages of holiday places. Shared all the pictures with Annie. Did her very best. Even talked about it to Jean afterwards as well.

Now for the wait. Her birthday was a few weeks away, but plenty of time. Jim wasn’t much for celebrating birthdays, and as he never asked, she never said. But her wish was out there, floating, ready to come true.

In the intervening weeks, Nina tried to put it out of her mind. No point in worrying, but lots of point in hoping. So, she did just that – dreamed and hoped.

The day arrived. A perfect day. Sunny, a slight breeze. She woke with a smile on her face.

Jim rolled over and gave her a quick birthday peck, and he was off. A busy day ahead of him. She understood. But there was tonight. He’d said to be ready at seven, and to dress.

It had to be a candlelight dinner – not too many of those in her life these days. And then over desert, the gift. She was sure that’s how it would go.

When Jim walked Nina into the private room of the best restaurant in town, a cheer erupted.

‘Surprise!’ roared the crowd.

A party. She was getting a surprise party. So, that was it. Looking at all those happy faces, how could she feel disappointed. But a part of her did feel a small stab.

Then came the speeches. Sincere words from good friends, lovely friends. That’s how it was in a small town. And then it was Jim’s turn. A man of few words, he said what he had to say, and then with a big grin, handed her an envelope.

She opened it. Her eyes widened – a booking voucher for a weekend at the Hydro Majestic. Tears welled, vision blurred for a moment. Jim looked at her with love and she looked right back at him with just as much love.

Tomorrow, she would have to cancel the reservation she had made… the just-in-case reservation. But tonight, tonight was a night for wishes that come true.

(510 words)

© Inara Hawley 2016

A Beautiful Thing

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Writing Exercise – Minimum 500 words using Vase, Bucket, Curiosity

The vase is a beautiful thing, thought Jeannie. Tall and green. Of course, she could not see it as well as she would have liked as it was so high up, but she was sure it would be just right.

Jeannie furrowed her brow as she looked up. She had noticed it last night as she lay in bed, examining the ornate ceiling. Just the top of it was peeking out. So green and inviting, her curiosity was peaked. Why was it sitting on top of the wardrobe where no one could see it? Jeannie thought it was far too lovely to be hidden away. Nanny must have forgotten about it. And Jeannie was sure of the reason. It was because she didn’t have any flowers.

Of course, Nanny was too busy to pick flowers. She had to feed the horses, the pigs, and the chickens. Not like at home where Mummy had lots of flowers and vases full in almost every room. Jeannie loved helping her mother with the flowers, and being almost ten, she considered herself a bit of an expert. She knew exactly how to hold the clippers and where to cut, from the bottom of the stem, and to do it on an angle.

Today, though, she didn’t need any clippers, or Mummy’s help either for that matter. Nanny’s kitchen scissors would do, and today, Jeannie was going to do it all by herself.

She could see her grandmother out of the bedroom window. A tiny figure way down the paddock with a bucket, feeding the horses. Now was the perfect, time. After a quick detour to the kitchen to get the scissors, Jeannie headed out the back door in the opposite direction. Oh, this was going to be so good! Jeannie was sure Nanny would love the surprise. After all, everyone loved flowers and Jeannie knew exactly where to find some.

Trudging through the long swaying paddock grass always put a smile on Jeannie’s face. The wind gently pushed it this way and that. She felt as if she was in the middle of a magic carpet as she walked, her fingers dancing across the top of the grass. It only took a few minutes to get to the patch of colour. So, beautiful! Nanny would be pleased.

Back in the kitchen with an armful of blooms, it was time to get the vase. Jeannie had it all planned. She put the flowers on the kitchen table, then pulled the small steps out from the pantry and carried them into the bedroom. Covered in paint splats she loved Nanny’s sturdy old steps. A bit like the magic carpet, until you folded them out, you wouldn’t know the little steps were there, so artfully were they made.

Unfolding them against the wardrobe, Jeannie began her climb. She held onto the door handles as she pulled herself up. On tiptoes, she reached. A bit higher. Yes! Got it! She was oh so careful. Holding the vase to her chest with one hand, she grabbed the wardrobe handle with the other to steady herself. Bit by bit, down she came as she found each step, letting out a big sigh of relief when her foot found the floor.

Now, to get the flowers in the vase and where to put it. Jeannie had thought about that for quite a while. The best place she decided was the kitchen table. So, that’s what she did. With all the flowers in and the vase filled with water from the kettle, she carefully pushed her masterpiece into the centre of the table. Then she looked down at the scissors. Not so clean. That, and getting the steps back into the pantry, would have to be a job for Nanny.

All was ready. Jeannie was beside herself with joy and excitement. Any minute now Nanny would walk through the door. And when she did, she found her sweet granddaughter beaming from ear-to-ear, standing next to the horrible old green vase filled with the next job on her list…. the weed of all weeds, Paterson’s Curse!

 (683 words)

© Inara Hawley 2016