Tag Archives: Non-Fiction

Story Shots: Shakespeare

Story_Shots

Today, in 1616, William Shakespeare, beloved playwright and poet, passed away. For the past 399 years, Shakespeare has continued to live through his work. An author, you see, can die twice. Once is his or her actual, physical death, and the second death is when no one reads nor remembers your work any longer. While Shakespeare has died once, he has yet to experience this second death. This blog isn’t about Shakespeare’s death, but rather is about his continued life through his works.


Sonnet 74

But be contented when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away,
My life hath in this line some interest,
Which for memorial still with thee shall stay.
When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
The very part was consecrate to thee:
The earth can have but earth, which is his due;
My spirit is thine, the better part of me:
So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,
The prey of worms, my body being dead;
The coward conquest of a wretch’s knife,
Too base of thee to be remembered.
The worth of that is that which it contains,
And that is this, and this with thee remains.

– William Shakespeare


I am a rumor – a story. I just happen to be true.

I started one day in a Shakespeare course at Cal Poly Pomona.

They were paired up – the brightest and most talkative girl in the class – big in size and personality. And he was the handsome, fit, and quiet boy – quiet because he slept through most of the class.

He had all of the lines, literally. He was Henry V and she was Catherine – his French speaking princess. Only, she didn’t speak French. But Catherine did in eight lines of the scene they were assigned.

Henry V had issues remembering his long-winded speeches. It might have been because they were so long. It was most likely because he had put off practicing them until the day of the scene.

Catherine had issues remembering how to say things in French. She tried to write the lines down on her hand, but she realized she also had issues reading French. French, overall, was the issue for the princess of France.

Henry V and Catherine, while never having practiced the scene completely through together, did have one agreement though – they would end their production of Henry V right before Henry’s line “Catherine, you have witchcraft in your lips.”

Catherine was happy with that plan. Henry V had a surprise.

This is where the rumor was born. This was how I was made.

Henry V pulled the teacher aside before class and begged to use his copy of Shakespeare’s play to remember his words.

Catherine declined and tried to read her horribly scribbled French lines off of her hand.

Henry V and Catherine both forgot about Catherine’s maid, Alice. An Alice was pulled out of the audience and stuck into the scene.

Alice didn’t know her words either nor any of the staging. She assumed there would be staging. Henry V and Catherine never really got that far.

Alice was standing between Catherine and Henry when the dreaded line was said “Catherine, you have witchcraft in your lips.”

Catherine’s eyes opened wide and a slight look of horror swept across her face as Henry pushed aside Alice and took Catherine in his arms.

Henry V pulled Catherine close. His hand touched her cheek.

His thumb found itself over her lips, so when his lips approached, they were both kissing his thumb.

The class gasped.

Catherine exhaled.

Henry V thought himself clever.

Overall, the performance was awful. The Bard was probably rolling over in his grave.

The teacher gave Henry V and Catherine a solid B.

And now everyone remembers me as that time that one girl got kissed in Dr. Aaron’s Shakespeare class.

– Amanda Riggle


Story Shots: Be Mine

Story_Shots

Love is an interesting concept. I’m not sure I quiet grasp it – especially romantic love. All of a sudden, we stop being a “me” and we start being a “we.” What’s one is the other’s. Thoughts and feelings and decisions and plans start becoming a topic of discussion rather than a choice you just make. Love is about union. About sharing. About belonging to one another. But is it ever really possibly to posses another person? Little chalky candy hearts proclaim it is – “BE MINE!” they shout as loud as any candy has ever shouted. “Be Mine” is the theme of the holiday, and the theme of our stories.


Dollar store chocolates. On sale dollar store chocolates. We put on a movie.

“Raspberry. Eww. Do you want it?”

“No. Want my coconut?”

“I guess. What’s this one?” She points at a dark round one.

“I don’t know, I haven’t tried it yet.” I take a bite. “It’s gross too.”

“If I ever get a boyfriend, he’s going to buy me expensive chocolates. And teddy bears. I want roses, too. He’s going to be so romantic.”

“Okay.” She has this idealized version of a man that doesn’t exist. She always spouts off this long fictional list of what her one-day, long-awaited boyfriend will have.

He’ll be emo.
He’ll be rich.
He’ll hate his parents, like she does.
He’ll give creamy kisses.
He’ll want to marry her right away.
He’ll take care of her.
He’ll be a little nutty.
He’ll teach her how to drive.
He’ll wear eyeliner.
He’ll listen to Green Day.
No, now he’ll listen to Fall Out Boy.
He’ll be sweet.
He’ll be romantic.
He’ll take charge.
He’ll be dark.
He’ll always text her back.
He’ll visit her at work with surprise lunches.
He’ll get her flowers to brighten her day.
He’ll pick her up from school when she gets out of class early and won’t make her wait.
He’ll want 2.5 kids.
He’ll worship capitalism.
He’ll be milky and smooth.
He’ll spoil her.
He’ll love her.
He’ll understand her every need.
He’ll be a little crunchy.
He’ll melt in her hand.
He’ll watch all of her reality T.V. shows.
He’ll tell her she’s perfect.

She wants all of these things in one person. She is unforgiving. She is unrelenting. She insists he will be hers. This mythical creature is both beautiful and horrible. No man can live up to this image. But what do I know? Whenever I doubt her monstrosity of man, this is the question I’m greeted with.

Her list grows every year. She’s 20. She’s my sister. Right now she doesn’t have him, she only has me. So we get dollar store chocolates and we watch movies and I listen and I don’t agree. I just nod my head and try another chocolate.

“This one is toffee. It’s crunchy. It’s good.”

– Amanda Riggle


She kneaded my abdomen. “How long have you been experiencing pain?” I was clay.

“A few weeks.”

She peeled off her gloves like fruit rinds, all elbows and moles.

“How often? After meals? After exercising?”

“Most mornings. I usually feel nauseous riding the bus to campus.”

Her face changed, as if she recognized the word in Hangman, gaps in its teeth. “Is there a possibility you’re pregnant?”

The exam room leaped to life, pulsing and yellow. “That I’m what?” But I didn’t want her to say it again. “No.”

“Are you sexually active?”

“Well, yes.” My heart sprinted. “But we practice safe sex.” Dirty and safe.

“Let’s do a pregnancy test. I’ll put in a lab order.” She sat in front of the computer.

I was levitating, suspended in midair.

Story Shots: Fireworks

Story Shots: Fireworks Our monthly column featuring creative nonfiction from our contributors—stories so short you can read them in the amount of time it takes to drink a shot.

When I think of July, one thing comes to mind: fireworks. July is a month that is full of barbecues, beer, family, and fireworks. Americans love to celebrate Independence Day by playing with mild explosives after probably a few too many hot dogs and Bud Lights. So for this month, we asked our writers to create a story shot with the inspiration of fireworks.


“I don’t want to see fireworks. None. I’m too mad at America today.”

“Okay,” he replied.

“And I don’t want American food, either. No cheeseburgers – in fact, fuck cheeseburgers.”

“Got it.”

He listened to my stupidity so well. He shared my anger, I think, or at least he let me vent it. The Fourth was not a day of celebration for me; indeed, the fireworks depicting independence and sovereignty were lost in irony to me. Earlier that week, the Supreme Court had ruled that corporate religious rights outweighed individuals rights of free choice and privacy when it came to medical treatments. The night before the Fourth, the Supreme Court had extended this decision to include not just Christian for-profit companies, but non-profit companies as well.

I showed up downtrodden. He gave me a smile and we went inside. Nothing was red, white, and blue. We sat and watched Blazing Saddles and then grabbed some Indian food for dinner. Later that night, we both comforted his dogs through the loud bangs that echoed in the dark. For a bitter, sad lefty like me, the night was perfect.

As I drove home, I couldn’t help but see fireworks going off in the air. They sparkled, but I saw no reason to acknowledge their shinning. I lost the awe and wonder of shiny things long ago, and instead of being dazzled by the brief and wondrous flash of chemicals burning up the night’s sky, leaving behind a pollutant tail of ash, I saw the burnt up cinders of freedoms and rights we had fought so hard to win not too long ago being blown away on a wind bellowing in the wrong direction.

– Amanda Riggle


When I arrived at George’s house, I pulled down the mirror and checked my makeup, spreading more balm on my chapped lips. They were at the park down the road, waiting for the fireworks to go off, and I was late. I had tried on my entire closet before settling on a gauzy, tie-dyed top and a pair of jean shorts. I made it half way out the door before realizing I had forgotten to shave. I stared down at my legs, where a thin layer of hair had begun to sprout. “Shit,” I muttered. Now, as I walked down the hill, I rubbed my ankle against the smooth skin on my calf, casually trying to get rid of the itching sensation that had begun to spread across my legs.

When I saw him, my heart began beating so loudly I could feel it rattling in my skull. My breath came in sharp puffs. I tried to summon the rhythmic chanting of my yoga instructor, breath in and out. Or was it out and in. I no longer remembered. Half the time, I lay curled up on a mat at the back of the classroom—the dark, musty atmosphere lulling me to sleep. They were headed in the opposite direction, and when he saw me, his lips curled into a smile. His sharp canines spilling over his full lips.

“Leaving already?” I asked as I joined them.

“George forgot the whiskey,” he said, lightly punching his friend’s arm. Later, the night grew foggy and dense. Ice clinking in a glass. Billiard balls smacking into one another. My torso bent over the green cloth as I closed one eye and aimed, his palm resting, for a moment, on my hip as he passed behind me. And later, spilling onto the carpet, together, because the bed we shared creaked too loudly under our weight. It was the first time I missed the fireworks. I could hear them, the high-pitched whistle as they shot into the air. The crackling, staccato explosions as they descended, their willowy branches dissipating as they reached the earth. I was nostalgic for them, even then. It felt like I was turning my back on something, leaving it behind like my belief in the tooth fairy or Santa. Like my belief in God.

– Melanie Figueroa


Characters and Their Names

I’ve always had a rough time coming up with names for characters. When I write non-fiction, it seems simpler. The people I am writing about already have a name–there is no need for me to create one. But to be honest, many of the fictional characters I write about are also based on people that I have met throughout my life, so for me, it isn’t really about whether the name is real or not but that it fits the character.

But how does a writer do that? When I think about names like Harry Potter or Huck Finn, I wonder how the authors that developed those characters knew that the names they had chosen perfectly fit the characters they were given to. Maybe a name like that is a stroke of luck, but through my own research and questioning, I have discovered a few tips to increase your chances of finding that perfect fit:

1) Research Root Meanings

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. – Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare may be right about a rose’s smell, but I beg to differ about the importance of names. Sure, names can be random. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Sylvester Stallone named their kids Apple and Sage Moonblood. And while, like any good English major, I could sit here and create some obscure way in which these names represent the people they belong to, a good writer shouldn’t have to explain that meaning (nor should they ever pick names like Apple or Sage Moonblood–unless, you know, being weird is what you’re going for).

So how do you choose a name that means something?

One way to do this is by researching the root meanings of names. As Brian A. Klems writes in his article “The 7 Rules of Choosing Names for Fictional Characters:”

It’s better to call a character Caleb, which means ‘faithful’ or ‘faithful dog,’ than to overkill it by naming him Loyal or Goodman—unless you want that for comic/ironic purposes. Some readers will know the name’s root meaning, but those who don’t might sense it.

The Art of Letter Writing, Part 1

I don’t have the privilege to be able to say “I remember the days when  everyone used to send each other letters to communicate.” I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Technically, if I wanted to, I can still write a letter and mail it to a family member or a friend. Unlike email (even those are starting to dwindle amongst the younger generations) or social networks, a response would not be as fast. Yet, I would like to do that, either by handwriting a letter or typing one, to send letters and be involved with the experience of sharing ideas with friends and receiving their deepest thoughts and feelings in return and to share the art of writing.

Keith Sharon, a writer for the OC Register and supporter of revitalizing the art of letter writing, wrote about his recent experiences of letter writing in the article “Lettering in futility: the art of being ignored.”