Breaking Labor News
Our job was to lubricate the time machine and keep it oiled, but man, we just now found out we’re being paid by the hour.
—Ron Carlson, Hint Fiction
When I was a kid, one way that I knew I could have a positive interaction with my late father, after a stressful day, was to watch comedies with him, whether it was old Abbott and Costello movies from his childhood or one of his favorite sitcoms, Sanford & Son. Sometimes he would laugh so hard that he had to rub his face with both hands, and then he’d finally be relaxed. One of my dad’s favorite sayings was, “It doesn’t have to be therapy to be therapeutic.” That explains why most nights I enjoy a good dose of The Daily Social Distancing Show with Trevor Noah on Comedy Central. For me, humor isn’t just an afterthought, it’s essential to my daily wellbeing and emotional health.
To that end, you might want to try this exercise that I assigned to my students recently in a class called “Microbrews” (dedicated to studying and writing very short literary forms).
A few years back Robert Swartwood published a little book (it fits in a back pocket) called Hint Fiction, a collection of postage stamp-sized stories. Each hint fiction has a title, but the body of the text can only be 25-words or fewer. Super tiny, eh? Yes!
I’d like you to try to write five or so hint fictions that are intentionally funny. Remember, even though the form is miniaturist, it’s still a story. You’ll want a narrative point of view. You’ll want to have a character or two in some sort of conflict or tension with one another or a situational context. Miscommunication, misunderstanding, a missed opportunity—all of those things make for productive, comical tensions. Dramatic irony (where the reader understands something critical that one or more of the characters don’t) is wunderbar! Generational or other cultural impediments to communication are fun peppercorns to add to the pot. Egocentrism and narrative voice are also helpful ingredients. So, have at it and have fun and see what you come up with!
More from this series
Tarot Recall: A Visionary Exercise for the PresentPrompt #35—Laurence Ross
Queers in Love at the End of the WorldPrompt #34—CJ Scruton
WORKBOOK FOR CHANGE: TWO PROMPTSPrompt #33—Kate Schapira
Preparation for the PromptPrompt #32—Lisa Fishman
Collage Your Own Writing PromptPrompt #31—Helen Hofling
Prepared StatementPrompt #30—Mike Hauser
Repeat Repeat WritePrompt #29— Lewis Freedman
Poetic CorrespondencePrompt #28—Eric Baus
EKPHRASIS YOURSELFPrompt #27—Jennifer Nelson
POETRY IS FOR THE PEOPLEPrompt #26—Angela Trudell Vasquez
MAIL ARTPrompt #25—Siwar Masannat
VISUAL POSTCARDSPrompt #24—Portia Cobb
A [LONGER-TERM] DEEP LISTENING PROMPTPrompt #23—Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Humor as Medicine for the SoulPrompt #22—Mauricio Kilwein Guevara
Personification: A Social Justice PromptPrompt #21—Derrick Harriell
Ponge ExercisePrompt #20—Tyrone Williams
Occult DocupoesisPrompt #19—Kimberly Alidio
Junk Drawer SongPrompt #18—Hoa Nguyen
TALK TO THE POETSPrompt #17—Stacy Szymaszek
Make-Do Origin Stories & Concrete FuturesPrompt #16—Ching-In Chen
The Family PhotographPrompt #15—Rosa Alcalá
Writing Advice for Your Younger SelfPrompt #14—E.J. Koh
Note(s) to SelfPrompt #13—Stacy Blint
Embracing ConfusionPrompt #12—Bryon Cherry
Writing/Playing the ArchivePrompt #11—Jay Besemer
CAPTURED & FREEDPrompt #10—Dasha Kelly Hamilton
Poetic Exit StrategiesPrompt #9—Ana Božičević
Proyecto ConbífPrompt #8—Erick "CK" Ledesma
TRILOGYPrompt #6—CA Conrad
Utopian CompromisePrompt #7—Paul Druecke
A Series of RoomsPrompt #5—Laura Solomon
Two Variations on N+7Prompt #4—Jenny Gropp
T H E A P A R T / TOGETHERPOEMPrompt #3—Margaret Rozga
An Exercise in WindowsPrompt #2—Marla Sanvick
Erasuring AnxietyPrompt #1—Peter Burzynski
We acknowledge that in Milwaukee we live and work on traditional Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, and Menominee homelands along the southwest shores of Michigami, part of North America’s largest system of freshwater lakes, where the Milwaukee, Menominee, and Kinnickinnic rivers meet and the people of Wisconsin’s sovereign Anishinaabe, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Oneida, and Mohican nations remain present.
We further acknowledge the grave evil colonialism introduced to these lands through genocide as well as slavery, and also via racist and xenophobic beliefs, laws, and practices that continue to inflict harm upon Black, brown, and Indigenous lives. We honor those who have lived—and do live, now—at these intersections of identity and experience, and are committed to the active dismantling of white supremacy.
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