April 20:  Urban Legends Day

This day is purported by some to be the day that Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin died, but don’t believe it. Although all three of these celebrities shared a background of drug use and rock ‘n roll, they each died on a separate day other than 4/20.

The date and number 420 has somehow evolved to connote drug use, and there are a number of stories related to why, such as the supposed common death date of the trio of dead rock stars alluded to earlier. Other stories claim that the Los Angeles police code for “marijuana use in progress” is 420, or that the number of chemical compounds in marijuana is 420. Both of these claims are untrue. No one knows for certain the origin of these stories, and this brings us to the topic of urban legends.

An urban legend is defined as a story that is “too good to be true” by Jan Harold Brunvand, a professor at the University of Utah and the world’s expert in collecting and analyzing urban legends. Brunvand says these stories are told “as if they are really true, attributed to a friend of a friend of a friend.” Each time the story is told, the basic elements (or motifs) are the same, but the setting and other minor details change.

For example, a friend might tell you about a story he heard from a friend of a friend that goes like this:

There’s this man, see, and he dresses up like a little old lady and accosts unsuspecting women in shopping malls. Usually, he waits in the car. When the owner of the car shows up, bags in tow, the stranger pleads fatigue and asks her for a ride home. Then the driver notices her passenger’s hairy legs, the wig and, oh yeah, the knife!

This is an example of a story that was reported in the Seattle Times on May 4, 1983. It was reported as a rumor that was running up and down the shores of Puget Sound, and no doubt a story that had appeared in various parts of the country if not the world.

Even in a modern, urbanized society, people still love to tell stories. Maybe this is because we were telling stories long before the invention of writing. Urban legends allow even strangers to connect with each other. Another bonus is that they can be easily reconstructed from the basic elements of the tale and don’t need to be told exactly the same way every time (1).

Urban legends come under the category of folklore: songs, legends, beliefs, crafts, and customs that are passed on from one generation to the next by word of mouth. An adjective that is frequently used to describe urban legends is apocryphal. The modern definition according to the American Heritage College Dictionary is “of questionable authorship or authenticity.” The roots of the word are from Greek, meaning secret or hidden. The word was used in Latin to describe the books excluded from the canon of the Old and New Testaments, and these books are still identified today as the Apocrypha.

Today’s Challenge: Tell the Tall Tale

What is a tale you have heard from a friend of a friend?  Tell your own version of an urban legend, but provide enough concrete details about the specific setting, characters, plot, and dialogue to make it sound true. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quote of the Day: The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers if a man only tells them with all his might. -Mark Twain

  1. – cnn.com

http://www.cnn.com/books/beginnings/9909/urban.legends/index.html?eref=sitesearch

April 17:  Story Contest Day

On this day in 1397, Chaucer read his great work The Canterbury Tales before the gathered ladies and gentleman of the English court.  It was not surprising that someone would read stories out loud. After all, in the 14th century, before Gutenberg introduced movable type, books were rare. What was surprising, however, was the language that Chaucer wrote in and spoke in as he read his stories: English.

Canterbury Tales.pngSince the Norman Invasion of England in 1066, French and Latin had been the language of the court and the language of power.  English was spoken, but primarily by the peasantry. Change began to happen, however, as England waged war against France in The Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453).  Anti-French attitudes opened the door for English, the vernacular tongue of the commoners, to become more and more acceptable among the nobility.

Chaucer’s work begins with a group of 29 travelers gathered at the Tabard Inn in London to begin their pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket, a Christian martyr, in Canterbury.  The pilgrims are accompanied by Harry Bailly, the host of the Tabard, who proposes a story contest. Volunteering himself as the judge, Bailly presents the stakes: the winner of the contest will be awarded a dinner paid for by the group when they return back to the Tabard Inn.

Thus begins the framing device for the collection of tales that became the first important work of literature in English and that earned Chaucer the title:  “Father of English Literature” (1).

Today’s Challenge:   Winning Storytelling

What are the essential key elements that make a good story?  What criteria would you use for judging the effectiveness of a story?  Brainstorm some criteria for storytelling and create a judge’s ballot that spells out each of your criterion along with the maximum points you would award for each of your criteria. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  Storytelling is a very old human skill that gives us an evolutionary advantage. If you can tell young people how you kill an emu, acted out in song or dance, or that Uncle George was eaten by a croc over there, don’t go there to swim, then those young people don’t have to find out by trial and error. -Margaret Atwood

1-http://thisdaythen.blogspot.com/2012/04/17th-april-1397-geoffrey-chaucer-reads.html

 

April 15:  Deliberately Bad Writing Day

Today is the deadline for a delightful contest for deplorable writing: The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (BLFC), where entrants face the challenge of writing the worst possible opening sentence to a novel. The contest began in 1982, created by Scott Rice of the San Jose State University English Department.

The contest is named after the prolific Victorian novelist Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). He was a contemporary of Dickens, and in the 19th century, his novels were nearly as popular as Dickens’. Bulwer-Lytton’s flair for the melodramatic has inspired more than twenty years of good bad writing, “writing so deliberately rotten that it both entertains and instructs,” according to Scott Rice.

Here’s the famous opening of Bulwer-Lytton’s novel Paul Clifford (1830):

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

An overall winner is selected in the contest each year, but there are also category winners for various genres, including western, detective, romance, and science fiction. Below is the overall winner for the 2002 contest, written by Rephah Berg of Oakland, California:

On reflection, Angela perceived that her relationship with Tom had always been rocky, not quite a roller-coaster ride but more like when the toilet-paper roll gets a little squashed so it hangs crooked and every time you pull some off you can hear the rest going bumpity-bumpity in its holder until you go nuts and push it back into shape, a degree of annoyance that Angela had now almost attained.

For more past contest winners, visit:  http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/

Today’s Challenge: The Good, the Bad, and the Funny

What are some examples of bad ways to begin a story?  Get a head start on next year’s Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Read the rules below; then, write your own one-sentence masterpiece.

The rules of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest are simple:

Each entry must consist of a single sentence but you may submit as many entries as you wish. Sentences may be of any length (though you go beyond 50 or 60 words at your peril), and entries must be “original” (as it were) and previously unpublished.

Surface mail entries should be submitted on index cards, the sentence on one side and the entrant’s name, address, and phone number on the other.

Email entries should be in the body of the message, NOT in an attachment. If you are submitting multiple entries, please include them in one message.

Entries will be judged by categories, from “general” to detective, western, science fiction, romance, and so on. There will be overall winners as well as category winners.

The official deadline is April 15 (a date that Americans associate with painful submissions and making up bad stories). The actual deadline may be as late as June 30.

The contest accepts submissions every day of the livelong year.

Wild Card Rule: Resist the temptation to work with puns like “It was a stark and dormy night.” Finally, in keeping with the gravitas, high seriousness, and general bignitude of the contest, the grand prize winner will receive . . . a pittance.

Send your entries to: Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Department of English San Jose State University San Jose, CA 95192-0090,

Quotation of the Day: The pen is mightier than the sword. –Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton

April 12:  Oxymoron Day

At 4:30 am on this day in 1861, the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Forty-three confederate guns along the coast of Charleston, South Carolina fired on Fort Sumter. On the following morning, the Union commander of the fort, Major Robert Anderson, surrendered after 33 straight hours of bombardment. No one on either side was killed, but by the end of the war four years later, 600,000 of the 3,000,000 who fought were dead (1).

FortSumter2009.jpgThe term civil war is sometimes classified as an oxymoron. An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which two contradictory words are juxtaposed – placed side by side — as in deafening silence. The word is from Greek and translates as “sharp or pointed” (oxus) and “dull or foolish” (moros).  Therefore, the word oxymoron is an oxymoron that means “a sharp dullness” or “pointed foolishness” (2).

Below are other examples of oxymora (Yes, as in some other words from Greek, the plural of oxymoron is irregular: oxymora):

jumbo shrimp, guest host, old news, dry ice, light heavyweight, original copy, festina lente (Latin for hurry slowly) (3)

In the Shakespearean tragedy Romeo and Juliet, a play about contrasts — love and hate, young and old, darkness and light — Romeo presents an oxymoron-packet speech when he reacts to the conflict between the Capulets and the Montagues:

Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!

O anything, of nothing first create!

O heavy lightness! Serious vanity!

Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!

Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!

Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!

(Act I.i.176)

Some individual words we use today began as oxymora. For example, the word sophomore originated from the combination of two Greek words sophos, meaning “wise,” and moros, meaning “foolish, dull.”

Today’s Challenge:  Serious Fun With Oxymorons

What are some adjective-noun combinations that have contradictory meanings?  Try creating your own oxymora by juxtaposing words that have contrasting meanings.  You can try any contradictory combination, but the easiest combo to start with is an adjective and a noun, as in “serious fun” or “successful failure.”  Just begin with an adjective or noun that comes to mind; then, couple it with a noun or adjective that has a contradictory meaning. Once you have generated a list, select the one you like the best and use it for the title of a short poem, story, or piece of “poetic prose” that captures the contradictory theme of your oxymoron. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  I am a deeply superficial person. – Andy Warhol

1- civilwar.com

2 – Grothe, Mardy.  Oxymoronica:  Paradoxical Wit and Wisdom From History’s Greatest Wordsmiths.  New York: HarperCollins 2004.

3 – Holman, C. Hugh and William Harmon. A Handbook to Literature (6th Edition). Macmillan General Reference, 1992: 338.

April 3:  Humorous Anecdote Day

On this date in 1862, Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserables was published.  The novel, which has been popularized through its numerous musical and film adaptations, took Hugo 17 years to write.  

Victor Hugo by Étienne Carjat 1876 - full.jpgWhile writing the novel, the French writer struggled with bouts of writer’s block that required him to develop a unique Ulysses contract:  he removed all his clothes and locked himself in his room with only pen and paper; he would then order his servants not to bring him his clothes until he had produced a complete chapter (1).

Once the novel was complete and published in 1862, Hugo was anxious to find out how it was selling.  One famous anecdote recounts the shortest correspondence in history. Hugo supposedly sent a telegram to his publisher which simply said, “?”  The publisher’s reply, by telegram, was just as brief: “!”

Another humorous anecdote related to laconic communications comes from the United States’ 30th president, Calvin Coolidge.  Known for his taciturn nature, Coolidge was nicknamed Silent Cal. At a White House dinner one night, Coolidge was accosted by a young female guest who said, “You must talk to me, Mr. President.  I made a $10 bet with my husband. He waged that you wouldn’t say three words, but I bet you would.” Coolidge then considered the matter for a moment and replied: “You lose” (2).

Often times anecdotes like the ones above seem almost too funny to be true, and in many cases they are.  One excellent source for exploring the veracity of such stories is the blog Quote Investigator, where Garson O’Toole doggedly searches for the truth (2).  Some stories and quotations are so old that we just cannot find out definitively whether or not they are true.  The term for these types of anecdotes is apocryphal — that is, a story that is widely circulated as true, yet is of doubtful or uncertain authenticity — from the Greek apokryphos, meaning “hidden or obscure.” (See October 11:  Apocryphal Anecdote Day).

Today’s Challenge:  LOLA:  Laugh Out Loud Anecdote

What are some examples of humorous anecdotes — short stories with a funny punchline?  Write a version of a humorous anecdote appropriate for all audiences in your own words.  It may be a true story, an apocryphal story, or a totally fictional story. Be brief, but also be funny.  (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face. -Victor Hugo

1-http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2017/06/29/victor-hugos-strange-cure-writers-block-9-things-didnt-know/

2-http://quoteinvestigator.com/2016/01/10/few-words/#more-12786

 

April 1: Invention of Punctuation Day

Today we celebrate the life of Kohmar Pehriad (544-493 BC), an ancient writer known not so much for his words as for his punctuation.  In the pre-Christian era in which Pehriad lived, written language was continuous, without any sentence or paragraph breaks. Pehriad’s reform, which today we take for granted, was the revolutionary idea of placing a single, small round dot to signal the end of a complete thought.  Pehriad’s invention did not end with the period, however. Concerned with a method for signaling pauses within a sentence, Kohmar devised the comma. For more than thirty years, Pehriad traveled throughout the ancient world — to Greece, Rome, Persia, North Africa, and Asia — to lobby for the use and acceptance of his creations.  Today, most have forgotten Kohmar Pehriad’s work, but his reward is that his name is immortalized in the anglicized names we use today for his two inventions: the comma (Kohmar) and the period (Pehriad).

It should also be noted that Pehriad’s son Apos-Trophe Pehriad followed in his father’s footsteps by creating another widely used form of punctuation.  His invention was a single mark that served double duty, either to signify possession at the end of a word or to denote the abbreviation of a word. Like his father’s inventions, the punctuation mark we know today as the apostrophe was named after Apos-Trophe Pehriad.

If some or all of the above historical information strains credulity, there is a reason.  None of it is true. What is true, however, is that on this day (April Fool’s Day) in 1956, The Saturday Review published an article by K. Jason Sitewell entitled “The Invention of the Period.”  In the article, Sitewell created a biography of a mythical inventor named Kohmar Pehriad, who, according to Sitewell, was born on April 1, 544 BC (1).

Today’s Challenge:  The Eponyms of April

It is true that many English words are derived from actual people who lived and walked the earth; it is also true that some are named for fictional persons.  These words are so numerous that they have a name: eponyms. Examples are cardigan, diesel, chauvinist, braille, boycott, atlas, and tantalize.  What are some interesting words that might make for good storytelling? Brainstorm some words.  Then, select one and write a fictional biography of a person behind the word. Connect the details from your biography to the meaning of the word in order to make it more believable. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.  -Mark Twain

March 17:  Your Brain on Fiction Day

On this day in 2012, the New York Times published a mind-blowing editorial by journalist and author Annie Murphy Paul.

In her article, entitled “Your Brain on Fiction,” Paul summarizes a variety of studies from neuroscience that reveal how reading fiction stimulates the brain and enhances human experience.

One study, for example, showed how specific sensory words related to smells, such as “lavender” or “cinnamon,” activated not only the brain’s language regions, but also regions of the brain that are devoted to dealing with actual smells.  Another study using brain scans showed that words describing motion, such as “kick” and “grasp,” activated regions of the brain that coordinate the actual movements of the body.

Another study showed that even figurative language had surprising neurological effects.  When laboratory subjects read a sentence like “The singer had a velvet voice,” the sensory cortex, the brain region that perceives texture, became active.  In contrast, when a subject read the sentence, “The singer had a pleasant voice,” only language regions were activated.

Additional studies revealed how reading fiction relates to social skills in the real world.  Canadian studies published in 2006 and 2009 revealed that frequent readers of fiction were more empathic and more able to see the world from the perspective of other people.  In Paul’s words, “This relationship persisted even after the researchers accounted for the possibility that more empathetic individuals might prefer reading novels.”

The studies summarized by Paul reveal that fiction is, in essence, the original virtual reality.  Reading fiction feeds our imagination with rich sensory imagery, evocative metaphors, and engaging details about the actions and interactions of people.  Long before we had computer simulations, fiction and storytelling gave us a way to simulate reality. In fact, one might even argue that fiction provides an enhanced reality because, as Paul puts it, “novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page:  the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings” (1).

Today Challenge:  All the World’s a Page

What are some works of fiction that you think do the best job of simulating the real world?  Select a work of fiction that you love because its story captures the essence of real life.   Identify a specific passage from the work that you think exemplifies that author’s ability to simulate real life through description of characters, setting, or plot.  Pay attention especially to effective sensory imagery, figurative language, and/or dialogue. Copy the passage verbatim; then, write an explanation of what makes the writing in the passage exemplary.  (Common Core 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life. -Annie Murphy Paul

1-http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-neuroscience-of-your-brain-on-fiction.html

March 11:  I Remember Day

American poet and artist Joe Brainard was born on this day in 1942. Brainard was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but he spent most of his adult life in New York City where he collaborated with a number of writers and artists.  As a visual artist, Brainard gained renown for his work in painting, drawing, and collage.

Brainard is best known for his 1975 memoir I Remember, a kind of verbal collage, juxtaposing vivid details from his life.  I Remember is a book-length prose-poem made up of one long list of sentences, each of which begins with “I remember . . . “

I remember the only time I ever saw my mother cry.  I was eating apricot pie.

I remember how much I used to stutter.

I remember the first time I saw television.  Lucille ball was taking ballet lessons (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Mining Memory

What are some specific ways you would complete the following sentence: “I remember . . . .”?  The simple two words “I remember” remain one of the best prompts for writers of all ages, opening the door to the mine of memory and helping them to practice recording sensory details that show, not just tell.  Create a list poem, cataloging at least five specific memories. Strive to show, not tell, using specific sensory imagery of what you saw, smelled, tasted, heard, or felt.

-I remember the smell of the freshly cut grass on a spring day in 1971 when I first learned to ride my bike.

-I remember my dad in the front yard, pushing the lawn mower, as I pushed my Schwinn Stingray with a banana seat onto its two wheels.

-I remember being too proud to ever use training wheels.

-I remember the overwhelming joy and freedom of finally staying up on the bike, pedaling up and down the street in front of my house in Renton, Washington.

-I remember the feeling of the wind in my hair, and, looking back, I think about the absence of a bike helmet, something that no one wore in the 1970s.

-I remember the smile that would come to my face each morning as I woke up and realized once again that I had a bike and that I knew how to ride it.

(Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  Writers remember everything…especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he’ll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar.

Art consists of the persistence of memory. -Stephen King

1-https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/joe-brainard-i-remember

March 10:  Dialogue Day

On this day in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell uttered the first words ever spoken on the telephone.

Born in Scotland, Bell immigrated first to Canada and then to Boston, Massachusetts, where he opened a school for teachers of the deaf.  Long distance communication became a reality in the 1830s with the invention of the telegraph, but messages could only be transmitted in Morse code.  Bell’s vision was to transmit the human voice over a wire. To help make his vision a reality, Bell hired Thomas Watson, an electrical designer and mechanic.

While working on a transmitter in his laboratory on March 10, 1876, Bell spilled battery acid on his clothes.  He called out: “Mr. Watson, come here! I want you!” Watson rushed excitedly from the other room, reporting that he heard Bell’s voice coming from the transmitter.  Without realizing it, Bell had just made the first telephone call.

Bell offered to sell his invention to Western Union for $100,000.  Western Union’s president, however, failed to see how Bell’s invention could ever become more popular than the telegraph.  Within two years the telephone was worth more than $25 million, and Alexander launched his Bell Telephone Company, which would become one of the world’s largest corporations (1).

Today when we make a telephone call, we take for granted that the person on the other end of the line will answer with “hello.”  The truth is, however, that when the first telephones were put into service, people were not sure what to say to initiate the conversation.  Bell suggested the nautical greeting “Ahoy,” the word he used for the rest of his life. His rival, Thomas Edison, who made improvements on Bell’s invention, suggested “hello,” a word that previously had been used more as an exclamation of surprise rather than a synonym for “hi.”  Edison won the war of words in the long run, primarily because the first telephone books suggested “hello” as the officially sanctioned greeting (2).

In addition to the telephone, Bell is also credited with another noteworthy invention, the metal detector.  After President James A. Garfield was shot by an assassin on July 2, 1881, Bell invented a metal detector to help doctors locate the bullet.  Unfortunately, the bullet was never found because the metal bed springs from Garfield’s bed rendered Bell’s metal detector useless. Garfield died from infection from his wound on September 19, 1881.

Today’s Challenge:  Telephone Tales

What are some possible dramatic situations that would involve dialogue between two characters?  Craft a short story or anecdote entirely of dialogue.  Use no narration and no tag lines to identify speakers.  Use a title to clue your reader into the context of your story, and skip lines between each line of dialogue.  (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Darth and Luke on Christmas Morning

Luke, let’s gather around the Christmas tree and open some gifts.

Okay, dad.

Here’s two nicely wrapped ones for you.  The tags say they’re from Yoda. I bet one’s a new lightsaber and the other is fruitcake.

Wow, you’re right Dad!  A new lightsaber and a fruit cake!  How did you know?

I felt your presents.

(Common Core Writing 3- Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.  -Alexander Graham Bell

1- http://thisdaythen.blogspot.com/2012/03/10th-march-1876-alexander-graham-bell.html

2-http://www.npr.org/sections/krulwich/2011/02/17/133785829/a-shockingly-short-history-of-hello

February 1:  From News to Novel Day

Robinson Crusoe 1719 1st edition.jpgOn this date we celebrate two influential works of fiction, both influenced by actual events. The first was Daniel DeFoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), a novel based on the real-life castaway Alexander Selkirk, who was rescued on this date in 1709.  

A black cover depicting a woman swimming and a shark coming towards her from below. Atop the cover is written "Peter Benchley", "Jaws" and "A Novel".The second work of fiction is the novel Jaws by Peter Benchley, published on this date in 1974.  The idea for the book, Benchley’s first novel, began ten years earlier in 1964 when Benchley read a news story about a 4,550 pound Great White shark caught off the beaches of Long Island, New York. The brief news story sparked Benchley’s imagination:  “And I thought right then ‘What if one of these things came round and wouldn’t go away?’” (1).

The true story behind the fictional Robinson Crusoe begins in 1704.  Alexander Selkirk was a Sailing Master aboard the Cinque Ports, an English frigate fighting with Spanish vessels off the coast of South America.  When the captain of the Cinque Ports stopped at a desert island to re-stock supplies of fresh water, Selkirk refused to get back on board due to the ship’s less than seaworthy condition.  When the Cinque Ports left him behind, Selkirk hoped to quickly flag down another ship. This, however, was a more difficult task than he imagined.

Selkirk spent the next four years alone on the island, surviving primarily by hunting and eating goats, which were in plentiful supply on the island.  Unfortunately for Selkirk, rats were also in plentiful supply.  They would gnaw at his clothes and his feet as he tried to sleep.  To solve this problem, Selkirk domesticated several cats he found on the island, employing them to keep his campsite rat-free.

Finally on February 1, 1709, Selkirk was rescued when two British ships spotted his signal fire. When the landing party came ashore, they were astonished by Selkirk’s appearance:  he looked like a wild man dressed from head to toe in goat skins.

In 1713 an account of Selkirk’s ordeal was published, and six years later, influenced by Selkirk’s adventures, Daniel Defoe published his novel Robinson Crusoe*.  Defoe’s book went on to become one of the most widely read books in history and is recognized today as the first work of realistic fiction.  Selkirk and Defoe also influenced world geography; in 1966 Mas a Tierra, the Pacific island which Selkirk inhabited for four years and four months, was renamed Robinson Crusoe.  A separate island, 100 miles west, has been renamed Alejandro Selkirk (2).

Like Defoe’s novel, the story of Jaws also follows an interesting path from fact to fiction.  The novel’s author Peter Benchley was working as a journalist in 1971 when he had lunch with a publisher from Doubleday.  They discussed Benchley’s book ideas which were all non-fiction.  At the end of the meeting the publisher asked Benchley, who had never written fiction, if he had any ideas for a novel.  At that point Benchley remembered the 1964 news story about the colossal shark caught off of Long Island.  He told the publisher,  “I want to tell the story of a Great White shark that marauds the beaches of a resort town and provokes a moral crisis.”

When Jaws was published on February 1, 1974, it made Benchley one of the most successful first-time novelists of all time.  The book spent 44 months on the New York Times bestseller list and sold over 20 million copies.  Benchley went on to co-write the screenplay for the book’s wildly successful film version; today the film Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg, is recognized as the movie that invented the summer blockbuster.

Today’s Challenge:  All the Fiction That’s Fit to Print

What story from today’s newspaper could you adapt for a short story?  Select a story from a recent newspaper, and use the facts from the true story to spark your imagination.  Generate a central conflict from the true story that might be used in a fictional story, such as an individual fighting to survive alone on a desert island or a town struggling to survive attacks from a killer shark. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth. -Albert Camus

*The complete original title of Defoe’s novel is:  The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates.

1-http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3400291.stm

2-http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/scottishhistory/europe/oddities_europe.shtml