Flash Fiction: How to Build a Pyramid Fire in the Rain by Natalie Schriefer


Photo by Marko Horvat 

  1. Collect wood. Look for fallen branches, as dead wood burns better than live. Keep your eyes on the forest floor, and hope for a pocket of dry sticks somehow protected from the pattering rain. Never look back at camp. Never look at your future suitemates—at Hana from Chicago fuming with the tent poles, and Liza from Boston crouching by the river, examining a forked birch limb, her back soaked navy.
  2. Separate your collection into tinder, sticks, and branches. If needed, break the wood into footlong lengths. You’re five miles from the car. Five miles from a roof, five miles from heat, and more than two dozen from a gas station, from fire-starting logs. A freshman mistake, not bringing one, even if it was supposed to be sunny. So much for being a sophomore. When Liza and Hana snap sticks in silence, don’t apologize for the…

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Micro Fiction Bonanza!

2020 has been a crazy year. That may be the understatement of the decade, but the truth is that everything feels outside of my control.

One of my favorite ways to cope with uncertainty has always been writing. I published a lot in 2016 when I was on the verge of leaving my job and committing to freelancing, a move that not everyone thought was right for me. Now, in 2020, the uncertainty is a lot bigger than me, but writing is still my go-to, this time in the form of micro fiction.

Though there isn’t a wholly agreed-upon definition, the most common caps micro fiction at 300 words. That doesn’t seem like much–300 words is little more than one manuscript page–but good micro packs a lot of meaning into that space, maybe because the word count is so restrictive: there’s no room for any detail or action that doesn’t move the story forward–and I love the challenge.

The following links are my best attempts, thus far, at this tiny form:

  • Relief,” a 166-word story at Fewer Than 500.
  • Safety Blanket,” a 50-word story at 50-Word Stories.
  • Stars,” Twitter fiction published by Cuento Magazine.
  • ISO,” Twitter fiction also published by Cuento Magazine.

Does quarantine have you writing more or less than before? What are your favorite micro magazines and stories? How much can you pack into fewer than 300 words?

Stay safe and well out there!

Interview: Kelsey Connolly

Everyone’s path to meaningful living is different, and today’s interview showcases Kelsey Connolly, who has shared her journey navigating the world of professional dance.

Kelsey lives and works in New York City. You can find her at The McKittrick Hotel–an immersive performance venue in New York City–home of Sleep No More, Manderley Bar, Gallow Green and the newly unlocked Attic. Her most current show is The Lost Supper.


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When I started this blog back in 2015, I felt lost. I wasn’t happy with my job, but I wasn’t sure how to remediate that. I liked writing, but that didn’t sound like a reliable career choice. I started this blog as a form of escape, writing and posting twice a month, always counting down the days until the weekend, hoping and waiting for something better to come along.

As I found out, things don’t magically change on their own–I needed to put in the work. And I did: in 2016, I quit my job, started my freelance writing and editing business, and went back to school for a master’s degree.

Suddenly I was a whole lot happier–and busier. In 2017, I posted here only five times. 2018 has fared even worse, thus far. All of which meant I was about to learn another lesson: Sometimes it’s about knowing your limits; other times it’s about knowing when you need to change your plan.


Image Credit: Shannon Kokoska. Creative Commons.

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The Importance of World Building

World building is typically associated with genre fiction like fantasy or sci-fi, but I’d argue that it’s just as important for stories set in the real world.

Why? Check out my full article on Pop Culture Uncovered!

World building is a key element of story craft in which an author creates and defines the universe in which he or she will write. Good world building is consistent above all else—and also gives the story meaning. A Google search of “world building” pulls up almost 150 million results, almost all of them relating […]

Make Your Own Luck

Recently I was asked to speak to a group of undergraduate students about my freelancing job as a writer and editor, answering the usual “How did you get your first project?” and “When did you know you wanted to write?” sort of questions. Those are easy to answer–my first project was for a friend, and I figured out I wanted to write as a career in 2014–but harder to do was create an actionable piece of advice. In the audience were students of diverse backgrounds and work experience. Some were in their 30’s; others were not long out of high school. Some wanted to work in creative fields and others didn’t.

What could I say that might help all of them?


Photo Credit: Nilufer Gadgieva

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Character Development in Harvest Moon

Howdy, everyone!

With the semester as busy as it’s been, I haven’t been able to write as much as I would have liked, but the good news is, I did have some time to put together a piece on one of my favorite video games of all time, Harvest Moon. Even better, I got to write about how some of the characters were especially well-developed for a kids’ video game.

Check it out! 🙂

Pop Culture Uncovered

Character development—the process of creating a believable, nuanced character—can be tricky. Spend too much time detailing a character’s past experiences and you risk boring your audience; don’t give them enough depth or information, and your characters feel flat and two-dimensional, Mary Sues less than fully fleshed out.

Video games in particular struggle with this—books and movies have to make us care about the protagonist to keep us watching or reading, but we don’t have to care much about Master Chief’s past or his relationship to Cortana to finish playing Halo; fun multiplayer, good graphics, a cool story mode, etc. are enough to keep people playing whether or not Master Chief seems like a believable, complex character (if you want more info on him, check out this interview with his voice actor Steve Downes).

Marcus Schulzke sums the character development issue up best in an essay anthologized in Game on…

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To Choose or Not to Choose: Biological versus Chosen Family in GOTG 2

I’m a big supporter of people doing what works best for them — and that includes choosing their own family when biological family isn’t treating them right, a theme brought up by the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

Check it out on Pop Culture Uncovered!

Pop Culture Uncovered

Haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 yet? Then you might want to bookmark this page and come back later – this is about to get spoiler-heavy.

Though some people are lucky enough to experience love and protection from their biological family, that doesn’t happen for everyone – and Marvel tackles the complicated problem of biological versus chosen family in their recent release Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. Unlike most movies – which feature a main character happily reconnecting or reestablishing a relationship with a family member, or forgiving an absent or cruel relation – GOTG 2 cuts straight to the chase: There’s nothing wrong with trying to connect with your biological family, but if they aren’t treating you right, you can choose your family instead. No guilt attached.

Quill’s relationship to Ego and Yondu, as well as Gamora’s relationship with Nebula, are far more complicated and nuanced…

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Choosing Your Family

When it comes to friendships, it’s easy to say “Cut ties” if the relationship turns toxic, a fact evidenced by the sheer number of articles published by all sorts of big-name sites like Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, and WebMD. The same can be said for romantic relationships — though emotions often run higher here, the final advice is the same: If your partner is mistreating you, end the relationship.

But when it comes to mothers, brothers, grandparents, and cousins — or any toxic family relation — cutting ties may lead to backlash from onlookers. “But he’s your father,” a well-meaning friend or family member might say. “You have to love him!”

No, no you do not.

Women on bed with head in hands, man sitting in chair across room

Photo Credit: smile_kerry

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