Monday, March 25, 2013

What the Leprechaun Said

I have been hanging out with a new writing community over at and I'm learning so much from these guys.  This month all bloggers were encouraged to join a chain, writing a brief piece with the prompt What the Leprechaun Said.  Easier said than done, my friends.  Here is my contribution to the chain and please take a minute to check out my fellow bloggers' posts in the chain below the story.  Enjoy!

                The first day that Kristoff Khaun showed up in all his fat, green glory to interview with the boss, I couldn’t help but thinking, “Oh, hell no, not another one.”  We’re going to all be out of jobs if these leprechauns continue to proliferate like this.  Ever since they decided, “We have rights too!  We shouldn’t have to live in the shadows anymore!” life has changed for all of us, especially here at The Sun Scoop newsroom.  Leprechauns are sneaky little bastards, and I could just feel the immorality and debauchery oozing from Kristoff Khaun like a poison slime.  From the moment he showed up for his first day on the job, decorating his cubicle with art deco prints of clover, the other leprechauns here have flocked to him.  I didn’t like it.

For twenty years I’ve enjoyed my corner office overlooking the city below, and the clack of typing keyboards has fed my soul.  I was the first full-time reporter hired here (a real catch for the editor, Mr. Jenkins, if I do say so myself), after just graduating from Columbia University… ahem, first in my class.  I played a major role in building this paper.  I helped develop our reputation as credible and exciting.  I put in long days and nights writing, editing copy, and chasing leads; and ever since the leprechauns came out of the closet, it’s been one terribly written story after another.  The problem—leprechauns don’t know how to listen.  They chatter nonstop at the water cooler, in the kitchen, even in the bathroom stalls.  Leprechauns are as blind to their character defects as they are to their inferior writing.

As the old-timer here, Mr. Jenkins had asked me to “help the new guy along” and I, being a team player, agreed.  His first two weeks on the job, Kristoff did not shut up.  Ever.  I’m not sure how he found the time to get any work done, so I anticipated tearing his first stories to shreds with my red ink pen.  I stick to the old school style of paper copy.  Don’t email me an attachment.  I want paper in hand, so I can comment in the margins.  It’s the tried and true method of editing from way back.  Kristoff didn’t balk at my instructions, and three days before his deadline, he sauntered into my office with a folder containing two new stories. 

“Thanks,” I said, not turning away from my computer.  “I’ll get to these this week.”

“I was really hoping you could look at them today.  Mr. Jenkins has already assigned me to cover the school board debacle and the Johnson trial, so I’m going to be out of the office for awhile.  I was also hoping to take my wife on a trip to the Hamptons this weekend, then my mother-in-law is coming into town next Monday.  Have you ever been to the Hamptons?  I’ve got a place there, if you ever want to stay.  Oh, and I’ll need those stories back.  I always like to keep a paper copy of my work.  This electronic stuff doesn’t work for me, I prefer—”

“Yes, I’ll get to it when I can.”

“Well, I’m really hoping that will be today.  See, I’ve got some things to take care of.  I appreciate your help and all, but I did this work before when I was at The York Courier.  I did all of the editing there, and I’m pretty busy these next few days.  I’m taking my wife—”

“Yes, I’ll get to it when I can,” I repeated and swiveled in my chair to face him with a forced smile. 

Kristoff rocked on his heels for a moment then forced his own smile before leaving my office.  Stupid, arrogant, piece of—

A newbie should know his place around here.  What could he possibly know about being busy?  And what’s this about the Johnson trial?  I wanted that story and had already interviewed seven people.  I always go ahead and start on the big stories since I’m the only one around here with any salt as a writer.  All day I recalled recent conversations with Mr. Jenkins, wondering if I’d irritated him somehow.  Even by 5 PM, when I stopped by the restroom before going home, my inner monologue was at a frenetic pace cursing Kristoff and replaying all my interactions with the boss. 

“Oh, hey there,” Kristoff said, coming out of a bathroom stall behind me.

He joined me at the bathroom counter, where I was already washing my hands.  Our eyes met in the mirror, and I wanted to look away but couldn’t.  He was still talking, talking, talking.  The image of the two of us in that bathroom mirror held me.  His eyes held me.  His words.  And amidst his barrage of meaningless chatter, I caught something he said.  I can’t even tell you now what it was; I only know my thoughts began tumbling from my mouth in an uncontrollable stream. 

“You think you’re hot shit, just because you worked at The York Courier?  I can’t stand uppity leprechauns like you, thinking you know more than those of us who have years of experience.  If you could just see yourself, standing there with that smug grin on your face….”  On and on I rambled, mortified, while Kristoff stood silent, smiling at our reflections in the mirror. 

“My mother was a crack whore who was killed by my father, her pimp.”  The words fell from my lips, and I gasped in horror. 

In an un-leprechaun-like silence, Kristoff pulled a brown paper towel from the holder, dried his hands, and nodded with a smile before leaving.  I stood there alone, avoiding the mirror, already able to see myself much clearer than I ever had before.  Disgusted and shocked, I saw my deepest parts, beyond the slim torso and Cartier tie clip, to a place I thought only existed in leprechauns.

Participants and posts:orion_mk3 - (link to post)
robeiae - (link to post)
writingismypassion - (link to post)
Sudo_One - (link to post)
randi.lee - (link to post) pyrosama - (link to post)
katci13 - (link to post)
MsLaylaCakes - (link to post)
Angyl78 - (link to post)
KitCat - (link to post)
Bloo - (link to post)
dclary - (link to post)
ConnieBDowell - (link to post)
Lady Cat - (link to post)
Araenvo - (link to post)
MichaelP - (link to post)
Ralph Pines - (link to post)
mdgreene50 - (link to post)
scatterjoy! - (link to post)
SRHowen - (link to post)
dolores haze - (link to post)

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Power of Words

Hello, blogger friends!  The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerted.  I am still alive and kicking.  Lots happening in my world.  I've been in novel-editing hell, working like a fiend on my two jobs, and caring for my two special needs babies.  Despite the busy-ness of life, I'm happy and well. 

I realize now how my 7 month break has actually provided an opportunity for writing fodder.  Lots of juicy insights have come over the last several months, so I hope to find the time to put some of those in writing here.  What I really want to sort through today is this idea I've been tossing around about our words.  It seems cliche to talk about the power of our words, and yet this truth is so simple and... well, powerful.  I am a woman of many words.  I talk alot.  I talk so much that sometimes I can't remember what I said or who to whom I said it.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does present a potential pit, particularly when you want every word you speak to carry its own responsible weight. 

I'm learning that our words fall into two main camps-- labeling v. judging.  The labeling camp of words are used to describe, observe, and give shape to.  The judging camp of words are meant to attach a value-laden meaning to an observation or description.  For example, if my husband hasn't put away the laundry, the judging camp of words might say, "You never help me around here!  You are so lazy."  The labeling camp would say, "I notice the laundry basket is still sitting here.  Would you mind putting those away today?"  This may seem like no big deal to some of you, but to me this is Life.  Changing.

I am a judger from way back, Honey.  I should have been a tax auditor or an editor.  If there is anything wrong with you or something you've done, I can find it in a hot minute.  I also have the ability to turn these super-powered judging lenses inward on myself.  I can and will find the faults within me then make a slew of shame-inducing negative comments toward myself.  What I'm learning is to slow down and listen before speaking to others or judging myself.  What a concept!  I listen for how the other person seems to feel and what it is they seem to be saying about what they need.  This is particularly difficult to do if the other person is actually trying to place their own anger, sadness, guilt, etc. on me, but it can be done.  Another example, a co-worker huffs into my office and with a tone says, "your report is still not done, and I can't finish up my final report until you do your job."  My first reaction is to not really hear this person but to fire back with an equally angry-toned remark.  However, if I pause and try to connect with what the co-worker is feeling, hear what she needs, and choose not to take anything personal from her comment, I will hear that she sounds stressed.  It seems like she's also saying that having her work done on time is important to her.  If I just hear those things and respond from that, she and I are much more likely to have a pleasant ending to this conversation.

Some folks call this "non-violent communication."  I like that, because it highlights the fact that communicating any other way is likely to feel "violent."  There are some wonderful booklets and websites about this as well, describing this as giraffe v. jackal language.  The giraffe seeks to connect, while the jackal seeks to attack.  Here's an article that says it much better than I can: .  I'll even go so far as to attach a value-laden label to the article and say it's awesome! 

I'm learning that when I am purposeful and thoughtful when choosing my words, I am left feeling clear-headed about myself and the situation.  Connecting, sorting through, and giving objective observations feels kind and gentle, both to myself and others.  All we really want is to build up others and ourselves, and it feels good to know that I can do the bulk of that work by carefully choosing my own words.  Now that is powerful.

The photo above can be found at: