Short fiction story: Capturing the idea

I submitted this to Writer’s Digest last year. Didn’t make the cut, so I thought I’d post it here to give viewers an idea of what my fiction looks like. This went through about six edits before I finally got it to where I wanted it.

Capturing the idea

By Richard Zowie

Becky stopped, her blue eyes bulging, as if lost in a trance of excited concentration. She and Mike had been about to walk out the door of their home with their three daughters for a quick trip to the grocery store when she stopped on the carpet, right where it met the linoleum of the kitchen. Their girls were already out the door and were probably already getting into their seats in the car.

The glassy gaze remained on her face.

“Honey, what is it?” he asked, watching her reach with her left hand into her purse and produce a small purple notebook. After transferring the notebook to her right hand, her left hand then furiously fished for something else inside the purse.

“Becky, what is it?” he asked again, but she still ignored him, her eyes intensely concentrating on what they could see in the purse.

“Rebecca—” Mike began, knowing that when Becky was focused on a task like this, she completely ignored the world around her.

“I’m looking for my pen,” she finally said as her hand moved even more frantically, almost as if wrestling something inside the purse. “It’s in here, isn’t it?”

Becky’s disorganized ways, which he had long given up on trying to reform, didn’t surprise him as she always seemed to be losing something. But this time, things seemed urgent. It was as if the checking account was overdrawn and she was trying desperately to search the purse for any debit receipts she’d forgotten to have him ledger.

“I think so, why?”

Her hand moved faster still, as if about to tear a hole in the purse. Anger joined the excitement and scared look on her face. “I can’t find it, Michael! Where is it?” She only called him Michael (he detested his too-formal given name) when she was either angry or excited.

“I thought I saw you put it into your purse an hour ago.” He paused. “You had written some thoughts about that short story. Why?”

“So, the pen’s in my purse?”


“But I can’t find it!” her voice, a fevered shriek, was growing more frantic.

“But it should be in there, Rebecca.” She, like him, didn’t care for her given name but was far too consumed with finding the pen to notice him using it.

Ignoring his calmness and still unable to find her pen, Becky turned her purse upside down and shook it as hard as she could. Always one to hate clutter, Mike cringed as countless items cascaded onto the floor and plopped muffled onto the carpet: keys, compact, lipstick, a black day planner that she almost never used, change, cell phone and her wallet.

But no pen.

Exasperated and almost crying, Becky reached up to brush back a lock of curly black hair that had somehow come out of the ponytail on the back of her head. When she did, her left hand brushed up against her ear and hit something hard. Her brow twitched in confusion as she reached up to see what odd object was there.

Tucked behind her left ear was a blue Paper Mate Flexgrip Ultra.

Mike laughed as Becky snatched the pen, clicked it open, opened the notebook, sat quickly and started scribbling down words, so fast that only she would be able to read them. It took 30 seconds, but at the end, she felt relaxed. Her blue eyes sparkled as a wide smile crept across her face.

“Honey, are you ok?” Mike asked, his laughter subsiding as he started to help her gather the items to be put back into her purse.

“Better than ok,” Becky replied, oblivious to his laughter. They put the items back into her purse, including the pen and notebook. “I think I just came up with an idea for the next Great American Novel. You know that story about the woman who buys that old telephone?”


“I just thought of how to make it work.”

“Are you sure?” Mike asked.

Becky smiled again. “I’m as sure as I am that I love you.”

Mike shrugged, and Becky kept smiling. He wasn’t a writer and would never understand. Sometimes, these ideas come once in a lifetime. For a brief blip in time. Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. And fleeting ideas don’t care if you couldn’t find a pen in time. Or that you had to empty your purse.

© 2007 May not be reproduced without the author’s permission.

Ads on my blog

I saw today that there’s an ad from PETA on my blog. At the risk of offending advertisers and losing money, I’d advise against clicking on it unless you suffer from terminal morbid curiosity. I’m not a vegetarian, but I am tolerant of those who go meatless. My problem with PETA is that they base their arguments on extremely limited research. It’s always a kick to see how they take Bible verses out of context (such as Jesus overthrowing the tables of the merchants in the temple because they were selling animals, when what He was really doing was because they were turning it into an unscrupulous marketplace).

New blog photo of me

I’ve been considering tinkering around with this blog’s look and have decided, for the time being, to keep it as it is. Perhaps it’s part of my restless nature to constantly try to retool things. I did, however, post a new photo.

Think it seems odd for a 35 year-old man to be holding a rubber ducky? Let me explain: I love ducks. When I was 15, my Aunt Juanita (one of my Mom’s four sisters) gave me a baby duck as a gift. I fell in love with it instantly and from there developed what’s turned into a 20-year love for ducks. Since then, I have amassed a collection of duck pictures, figurines and even items of clothing (including a University of Oregon t-shirt and mousepad). I also have a couple of rubber duckies.

My wife got me this blue one in the photo recently, so I decided to take a photo of myself with it. Photo looked cheery and less psychotic than my previous one I had here, back when I was in the hippie stage of my hair touching my ears.

I showed the rubber ducky to the neighbor’s ducks, but they seemed disinterested. (Yes, I know it’s silly, but it’s part of my way of keeping myself entertained in this dreadful Seinfeld Era where the pointless mundane often passes for humor).


Upcoming feature story about a soccer player

Today I took photos and completed an assignment for the Davison Index regarding a young soccer player. Nate and I got to chat briefly about soccer and its failure to catch on as a popular sport in America. When you look at Europe, Central and South America and Asia, soccer tends to be extremely popular. Why not here?

I don’t understand, for instance, how sports talk show host Jim Rome* can talk about the “exciting” sports of golf and auto racing but talk about how boring soccer is. Soccer and golf both take great skill, but a minute is about all I can take of watching golf.

*Don’t get me wrong about Romey–I love his show and think he’s funny and witty. But I happen to disagree with him about the golf/soccer issue.

Conflicts of interest

For one of my freelance clients, I encountered a story idea regarding a new business opening up. Editor liked it. But since I currently work part-time for a competitor, I had to pass on it and let her assign it to somebody else.

Reminds me how, a few years ago, I told another client about how my wife’s Aunt C and her husband Uncle K fix up old cars and show them at car shows. One car in particular was the same type of car used by the infamous criminals Bonnie and Clyde. Editor loved it, but, since they’re family through marriage, I passed on writing it.

Great interviews

Earlier today, I did a phone interview of one of the relatives of The Big Three (Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens) for my series of February 2009 columns about the 50th anniversary of the Day the Music Died. Would rather not say yet whom I interviewed, but it was a very good one.

Also interviewed a lady yesterday in the fitness equipment industry for an article I’m doing for a recreation magazine. Again, lots of good stuff.

Stephen King’s class versus Simon Cowell’s, Piers Morgan’s, et al’s classlessness

Yes, oh yes, I’ve heard it all before: Simon Cowell tells it like it is when he gives musical wannabes a vicious tongue lashing. So what if aspiring young singers have left his presence in tears, further humiliated in front of millions on television? They need a stiff reality check to remind themselves that while they either enjoy singing or simply wish to use a singing career to achieve fame and fortune, they should definitely not quit their day job.

Of course, Piers Morgan is the same way on Cowell’s show America’s Got Talent. This last season (I don’t watch this show anymore and have only seen American Idol in previews and short clips), one insulted performer went as far as to call Morgan a “Simon Cowell wannabe”.

For this reason, I’ve never liked Morgan and especially don’t like Cowell. As celebrity judges, that is: Cowell is said to be a much friendlier man in his private life. I simply believe that it’s unacceptable to humiliate people on television for the sake of ratings–especially when they’ve been led to believe they have something worth showing.

I am reminded how, several years ago, author Stephen King held a writing contest through his semi-autobiographical work On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. He presents a scenario and encourages aspiring writers to send him their stories. King published the top stories and had this to say about the entries. Keep special attention to the italicized, bold-print remarks below in the text:

On Writing contest winners from

Dear Constant Reader:

I think a lot of people harbor the secret dream of being a fiction writer. Why not? You don’t need any special tools, brushes, or even classes. All you’ve got to do is power up your laptop and you are ready to go. So when I suggested that fans of my work and/or readers of my writing book submit a writing exercise to my website I wasn’t surprised to get over 1,000 responses. Not many of them were good, but that didn’t surprise me either. What did surprise me–a little–was how many could have been good if the people who wrote them had tried just a little harder, or had brushed up their skills a little bit before trying their hands at what I think of as the Dick and Jane story. I should add that quite a few were, frankly, abysmal. I am not posting any samples of these. I have always believed that it’s very bad form (not to mention unsporting), to shoot cripples. [Emphasis mine] But here are 3 “good” stories and one which is close to brilliant. Read and enjoy. Better yet, get in touch with these people and tell them what you think about their work or what you didn’t. Like the human beings who create it, writing does not exist in a vacuum.

Best wishes,
Stephen King

Very proud of myself!

Today my wife sent me to the dollar store to get some supplies she needed for her job. While there, I picked her up a belated anniversary gift. Yes, it was inexpensive, but it’s something that she really, really liked.

While at the office supplies aisle to get her some manila envelopes, I saw a package of Papermate Flexigrip Elite pens. Two black pens for $2. Very cheap. I could use some more, since I have only a blue, red, black and purple one with no backups. When it comes to acquiring another Papermate (again, my favorite), I go by these guidelines:

Round 1:
1. If you don’t have the expendable income, absolutely not.
2. If you do, proceed to the next round

Round 2:
1. Are these a new style of Papermate pens OR a type of Papermate pen that I don’t have?
2. Is this a type of Papermate that I already have but don’t have any “backups”?

If the answer to either is yes, then I proceed to the next and final round.

Round 3:
1. Do I really, really, really need it?

If yes, I buy. If no, I don’t.

I decided I didn’t really need it, so I passed.


Saw this on the WCRZ (a Flint radio station) website and thought I’d fill in info on myself:

Richard’s List

Worst habit is: Speaking/Doing before thinking.

Pet Peeve: People who major on the minors

Turn Ons: Feeding ducks, spending quality time with my wife.

Turn Offs: Any episode of Seinfeld. People who insist on the nonsensical way of doing things. Reality show hosts (a la Simon Cowell) who find sport in shooting cripples…if they sing that badly, how on earth did they ever make it onto the show to begin with?

I may look innocent but: [Richard chooses to plead the fifth amendment on this question]

If I could be anyone other than myself I’d be: King Solomon. Must’ve been fun writing Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon.

If I was good enough to play professional sports I’d play: Baseball (with football running a close second).

Get us a list of your favorite beers: I hate beer and think it smells and tastes disgusting.

How about your favorite magazines: The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Christianity Today, Reader’s Digest.

Thought of the moment: Tired, but too much to do.

Would you rather live in a country run by super models or football players? Whichever one decides to govern through pragmatic conservatism.

Would you rather be considered annoying or dull? To be honest, neither. Besides, life’s too short to sweat what others think of you.

If you were in prison for five years how would you pass the time? Reading and writing.

What mail-order catalog would you most likely be a model for? Hmmmm….dunno.