Up for a Writing Challenge?

Promptly regulars Mark James and Martha Warner are embarking upon a challenge that’s intense, awesome and perhaps even a bit insane (the good kind): They’re planning to tackle every Promptly prompt in 2010. Branding the effort The 144 Club, here are excerpts from Martha’s blog post (I’ll try not to steal too much of it so you can check out the full entry here).

“Back in November Mark James and myself committed to writing on the Promptly blog (comments section) with each prompt posted by Zac. It was fun, enlightening, and stretched my writing boundaries. We enjoyed ourselves so much that month we decided to continue.

“To give it an added dimension, for the beginning of a new year, Mark came up with this brilliant idea of the 144 Club.

1. Write to as many of Zac’s posts/prompts in 2010 as possible. Without any major life issues, we can safely say all of them.

2. For each prompt we post, we put a dollar in a jar. (Which keeps us accountable for writing on a regular basis.) If we forget to use the must-have [a predetermined element that needs to be in each story], it’s two bucks.

3. At the end of 2010 we will donate to a charity.

“The point being we will have 144 stories EACH to potentially make and mold into something bigger. Who knows where the next big story will come from? I don’t. So, I’m taking this opportunity (and good excuse) to write three times per week. In the end, we’ll do a little good for someone and a lot of good for our creative selves.”

I’m excited to be a part of the project, and I’m going to brainstorm some ways to match their efforts (donating books/materials to a charity? Matching funds?). Here’s to hoping my prompt generator can keep up with them—and you, if you want to get on board …

And don’t forget, if you’re in Cincinnati tonight, stop by and party with the crew of WD! Expect networking, giveaways, and last but surely not least, birthday cake—with our 90th anniversary magazine cover printed on it. (Remember the fuss I was making about the shiny silver ink? That’s right: Now it’s edible!)   

Hope to see you there.

WRITING PROMPT: Dining Room Enigmas
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings.

He takes his fifth drink and coughs. His companion takes his first and kisses a waitress on the cheek. Across the room, your associate’s palms sweat as she prepares to tell them the truth.

Great Creative in 2010: Tap into inspiration. Learn strategies for making time to write. Plan your own low key writing retreat. Check out 26 writing contests that can get your book published. Create a book trailer with cinematic flair. Learn Sue Grafton’s writing secrets. Click here to check the February 2010 issue of WD out!

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9 thoughts on “Up for a Writing Challenge?

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  2. Dorraine

    Great idea Martha and Mark! Thanks for jumping on board with this Zac. I would be happy to participate as often as I can, and donate for every story I post. Whee, here we go!

    Tell Me Something

    Why do I get stuck in the middle of everything? People tell me crap I don’t want to know. I’m too nice, that’s it. Darlene Day, secret keeper, smile giver, life fixer upper, crap collector. I knew too much the day I was born.

    Downing my chocolate martini, I watched Stan crunch an ice cube between his teeth. Leo kept kissing the waitress’s cheek until she finally yanked away.

    “Tell Leo to stop kissing your daughter.” I said it as nonchalantly as telling him he had a bread crumb on his jacket.

    Stan clapped hands behind his head and stared at the waitress with the mini skirt and make-up out the wazzou. There was no response and then, “Ha, ha, ha, ha. Get outta here,” he boomed. “You’re a hoot, Darlene.”

    Jenny’s shoulders drooped. Her eyes filled with big, drippy tears. She sat drinks down and stumbled away.

    A week ago we’d discussed how best to approach the situation after Jenny had contacted Stan’s office, claiming he was her father. I had taken that call and knew everything before the conversation was over. Stan had married a girl in Vegas, twenty-three years ago on a dare and divorced six months later, without ever knowing he’d fathered a child. He had been with Leo ever since, which explained why the marriage hadn’t worked, as if marrying on a dare wasn’t enough.

    Jenny told me she’d been battling drugs for the past five years and was now trying to get her head straight and was determined to find her father. When I found out she worked at the Cadillac Bar, I informed her it was Stan’s favorite watering hole. I couldn’t believe she’d been there all along, serving a father she didn’t know. We decided a visit to the club might be the best way to introduce Stan to the idea of having a daughter. He was always more cordial with a couple of beers in him.

    Stan was staring at me, glassy-eyed. His voice was small. “Why was that girl crying?” When I didn’t answer he went on. “You weren’t kidding, were you? What in the world?”

    “Her name is Jenny Peterson. She’s your daughter.”

    His eyes clouded. “Come here, Darlene. I need to tell you something.”

  3. Mark James

    Zac, thanks for your support. And umm . . when do we get pictures of the edible silver ink?
    Martha: vicious . . . I love it!

    If I survived the Trial, I went free. If I didn’t, I got buried for free.

    I looked at the shot glass in my hand. Was this really my fifth drink? That explained the cough.

    Lewis, he was on his first drink and he was already smooching a waitress. Who could blame him? Could be his last kiss in this lifetime.

    Cables criss-crossed the ceiling, running to cameras in the walls. The bar looked empty, but it was jam-packed with eyes. Thirty million folks all over the country were settling down to watch one of us die.

    I could almost see Lanie’s palms sweating. She was our Ref, and from the looks of things in her corner, she was ready to tell us the truth.

    She cleared her throat. “As you both know, this is the Final Trial.”

    If we didn’t know it, we’d sense it. It was like the whole world was deserted. The waitress was gone. Outside, dust swirled down the dark narrow street. The three of us could have been the last people on Earth.

    “Only one of you will leave here alive tonight,” Lanie said. Her voice was flat. Didn’t matter to her which one of us murderers made it out. “Weapons are hidden. Improvisation is encouraged. The death blow must be decisive.”

    Lew was a good guy. I liked him a lot. I’d been hoping he’d die in a Trial before tonight.

    From the corner of my eye, I watched him slide off his stool, get ready to run. He knew he didn’t have a chance against me hand to hand.

    Lanie was backing up, getting out of kill range.

    The lights dimmed. Thirty seconds to game time.

    I glanced up at the ceiling. One of the cables was hanging low.

    Just before whiskey splashed in my face, I saw Lew’s wrist flick. I closed my eyes a split second before he tossed his drink at me. Good move. Too bad it was gonna be his last.

    I wiped at the whiskey, stayed put. Lew was already on the other side of the bar, scraping bottles off shelves, looking for hidden weapons.

    When the start bell rang, I pulled up my long legs, then stood up on my stool. With the extra height, I could almost reach the power cable that was hanging low.

    Lew was still on the floor, a pool of liquor all around him.

    Climbing up on the bar gave the last few inches I needed. I leapt up the last few inches and caught the cable. It came away with a sizzle.

    I landed on the bar, lay down flat and grabbed Lew’s shoulder, shoved him on his back in the pool of liquor and broken glass. Then I dropped the live cable, and sprang back.

    Later, in the papers, they said it was the shortest game in history. I got an extra ten thousand for that.

    The world’s funny.

    I killed three men before I got sentenced to Gladiator School. I didn’t get paid for any of them. I killed one guy on national television, and they made me a millionaire.

    Go figure.

  4. Kristen Escovedo

    "You look like hell," Chief said as he slid into the booth across from someone who, if he showered and shaved, four drinks ago might have looked like his college roommate.

    "You can go to hell," Mark replied, draining his fifth whiskey in one smooth drink. He lit a cigarette and coughed in between drags, not from the Marlboro in his hand, but almost as if the upper East side bar’s air was too clean for a boy from Jersey to take in without the filter of tar and nicotine. "I almost didn’t think you’d show."

    "What? And miss a chance to walk down memory lane. You’re outta your damn mind. You still drinkin’ the same old thing?" Mark nodded and Chief lifted Mark’s empty glass in the direction of the bar and signaled that they’d have two more. "So what’s so important that you pull me out in the middle of the day?" Mark started to answer but stopped as a redheaded waitress in black shorts and a low cut red tank top delivered their drinks.

    "Chief, I haven’t seen you around in a while. I was beginning to think you’d forgotten me," the waitress leaned over the table setting their Johnny Walker Red’s in the middle of the table and revealing the lace trim of her black bra.

    "Now how could I ever forget that little butterfly tattoo, Angela?" He sipped his drink, kissed her cheek and slapped her playfully where Mark assumed the butterfly made its home.

    Chief had been that way since college. His looks were good enough, but there was something about him that women found irresistible. Mark found it irritating as hell.

    "It’s about the girl," Mark said, barely looking up from his drink.

    "You’re going to have to be more specific," Chief said, winking as he took one of Mark’s cigarettes.

    "The one from the Pearl Club. She’s here. And she wants to talk to us." Mark nodded to a table in the corner where a blond sat nervously sipping a glass of water. "Is there something you’re not telling me?"

    "What do you mean?" Chief was still looking at the blond ashing his cigarette in his empty glass.

    "She followed me to the gym yesterday and told me she needed to meet both of us here today. What the hell aren’t you telling me?" Mark looked at her as she walked over trying to imagine what Chief could have done to her that warranted this confrontation. She didn’t look like a hooker, exactly. Or a mobster. Mostly she just looked like most of the women Chief slept with.

    "Ummm. Hi," the blond said as she approached the table. "I’m not sure you remember me."

    "I could never forget eyes that green," said Chief smiling and leaning in to meet her gaze. "We met Saturday in the back room of the Pearl Club."

    "Try harder. We lived together in the Sig Ep house. Only these green eyes belonged to a boy named Kevin."

  5. Martha W

    Wow. Thanks, Zac! I think it would be awesome if ya’ll could match our donation (be it with books or $$) at the end of the year!

    If anyone is interested in joining us – just let me or Mark know…

    This is an awesome prompt today, BTW. Very fun.

    Mark — look! I killed someone!


    "Is that them?"


    Jenny smoothed down the non-existent skirt and picked up the tray of drinks. "Is it in there?"


    She sighed. "You know this was your idea."

    Katie lifted her head enough to catch Jenny’s eyes. "Take them the drinks. Let me know when it’s working, I’ll tell them."

    "Okay." Jenny put her hips into motion and headed over to the table in the corner. As she neared the two men seated there she let her lips curl into a false smile.

    The blond on the left leveled cold blue eyes on her. "It’s about time. What the hell took so long?"

    Jenny lifted an eyebrow. "We made them special for you, darlin’."

    The second man, dark brown hair and eyes, pale skin, snagged her apron and pulled her down on his lap. "What’s your name?"

    "Folks call me J." She wiggled slightly, working her end of the bargain. "You?"

    "I’m Danny. This one over here is Pete." His hand slid around her waist and she worked at suppressing a shudder.

    "Can’t you leave it in your pants until we finish here?" Pete picked up his drink and took what had to be his fifth swallow. He coughed, pulled at his tie, his ring catching the dim light. "Get outta here, girl."

    Must be kicking in already. "Drink up, Danny boy. This one’s on the house."

    Danny upended his glass, draining the contents, kissed her on the cheek.

    Jenny smiled and glanced over at Katie still sitting at the bar. She must be sweating, being the one to have to tell them.

    "Why are you still here? I’m not tipping on a free drink." Pete sneered at her, running his filthy gaze down her long legs.

    She leaned over, giving him a straight shot down her top, and purred in his ear. "No, sweetheart. I’m waiting for you to finish that drink. Then you’re all mine."

    His thin lips pulled into a snarl. "Maybe I’ll let you have me. What would you do then?"

    "Oh, you’d be surprised what I have in store for you." Jenny worked hard to keep the contempt out of her voice. From the corner of her eye she saw Katie slide off the barstool.

    Pete coughed again, reached a hand up to rub his neck. "I-" He tried to suck in a breath and coughed more.

    "He looks like he needs air." Jenny hopped up. "Let’s get him outside."

    Danny gave a little cough himself. "Okay." He looped an arm around Pete and walked his gasping friend out the door that Jenny held open. Katie followed.

    The moment the door closed both women pulled away. Danny loosened his collar, tried to draw in the cool night air. Pete lay in a pool on the ground.

    Katie leaned in close to Danny as he collapsed to his knees, recognition finally flickering in his eyes. "Eye for eye, Daniel."

    And she watched as the man who murdered her husband slumped to the ground.


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