826 Valencia: Character Studies

Howard and Mae have been together as long as it’s reasonable to expect two people to be together without one gruesomely murdering the other. They know each other’s habits–Mae is partial to pistachio ice cream on Sunday evenings and can’t sleep if her feet are cold. Howard enjoys a Scotch and a cigar every evening. This will surely kill him, as Mae is fond of telling him, but to both of their dismay it’s been 48 years and he hasn’t developed so much as a cough. This annoys Mae, who doesn’t want Howard to die, but does want to be right in all things. Her annoyance at being wrong is precisely why Howard refuses to stop.

They are going on vacation. Mae got a call one day from someone Howard was certain could only be a charlatan, selling them things they only wanted because they didn’t need.

Hello Friends!

I hope you’re all staying healthy out there. It’s an interesting time to be alive. Our aunties have been telling us for decades that we’re living in the last days and I can’t help wondering if they’re not finally right. Time will tell, I suppose. But jokes aside, please do whatever’s necessary to ensure the safety of yourself and your loved ones. Alternately, crisis situations are not the time for bigotry or racism. Treat your fellow humans with respect. Help your neighbors. Don’t be that asshole stockpiling TP. Love & be loved.

As I told y’all a few weeks ago, I recently signed up to be a volunteer at 826 Valencia, working with high school students on their writing and storytelling abilities. During each session we guide students through examinations of a specific topic or technique, then there’s a 15 – 30 minute free-writing period, and afterward we all practice giving critiques. Hearing the way students interpret pieces, coming to conclusions so much different than my own, has been really eye-opening. They see the world so clearly, and I know learning to understand their perspectives will make me a better writer. I hope I influence them as much as they’ve already influenced me.

Unfortunately, sessions are cancelled for the next three weeks due to Coronavirus. However, once we start back I’m going to begin posting the snippets I write during our free-writing sessions. I think it will be a good exercise for me–both in making sure I post something to the blog at least once a week, and in getting back to writing for pleasure every day, which is something I’ve gotten away from the last couple months as I’ve adjusted to my new role at work.

This snippet was based on a character study exercise. We took pictures from the site Humans of New York, and were instructed to create backstories for the people in the photos. I won’t be expanding on the piece at this time, but it was fun to get into the minds of Howard and Mae for a little while.

Stay sane out there guys,



While reading my piece one of the other volunteers (a grown up) literally laughed out loud, which is the second time this week someone has full-belly laughed while reading my writing. Not to let the praise go to my head though, while critiquing my work one of the students goes “It was funny. I mean, I didn’t get it. But she laughed so I guess it’s funny.” The kids are alright, bro.


I forgot to take a picture of the pic I used to base these characters on during our meeting so was scouring Humans of New York to get the image for this post, found the story….and the guy’s name is actually Howard. This pic was posted to HONY 4 years ago. How’s that for memory recall lol.

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