Subtext & Dialogue: Hidden Emotion

A work-in-progressthe following piece is a writing assignment produced for The Center of Fiction’s Active Storytelling course taught by Judy Sternlight.

An Innocent Banter

“I forgot.”
“It’s not that big of a deal, really …”
“Yeah, right.”
“So, what now?”
“Uhm, I’m not sure.”

Subtext Version 1

Clutching the calendar with today’s date circled in bright blue and highlighted in yellow marker, Mallory felt her stomach drop. 

“Oh God, I forgot,” she mumbled. He’s going to hate me, she thought as she dialed Jack on her phone. The phone rang three times before going to voicemail.  

“Hey Jack, it’s Mallory. I’m so sorry about this afternoon. I’ve had a lot on my mind lately with work, and …” She paused then, trying to collect her thoughts when prompted for a call waiting on the other line. Mallory clicked through. 

“Hello, this is Mallory.”

“Hey, Mallomar, it’s me,” said Jack. His voice sounded jovial despite the echo on the line. “Don’t stress, it’s not that big of a deal, and everything actually worked out for the best. My flight landed an hour early and I was able to make it to Dan’s graduation after all.” 

“Oh Jack, that’s such great news,” Mallory heaved a sigh of relief, she hadn’t missed him at all.

“Yeah, right, I know how that goes,” Jack said with a chuckle. He was notorious for being late but since his divorce it seemed he had turned over a new leaf.

“So, what will you do now?” Mallory asked. 

“Hmm, I’m not sure,” Jack replied, “Do you have time to grab a drink with your kid brother?”

Subtext Version 2

I forgot,” Mallory retorted. “What’s the big deal?”

“Mallory Michaels, we’ve gone over this before. You cannot walk out in the middle of group therapy without asking for permission,” Dr. Jack Lyons replied.

His words were met with a stone cold silence and a roll of the eyes. This was the second time Mallory had been reprimanded for breaking the rules, one more time and she good kiss her scholarship good-bye.  

Mallory surveilled Dr. Lyons from the corner of her eye and with a dramatic sigh replied. “Lyons, I’m sorry, really I am but I’ve got a lot on my mind lately, what with tests and applying for college and being here, without my family.” 

“Yes, yes, well of course, and about that,” the doctor’s voice trailed off.

Mallory’s parents had filed emancipation papers this morning. This was the first time he and his team of therapists had ever witnessed such a thing; everyone was scrambling for what to do next. 

“Oh man,” Mallory grumbled, pushing herself to stand up and face the sandy-haired administrator. “What now? Did something happen to my brother?”

“No, nothing like that, Marcus is okay. But Mallory I have something to tell you, and I’m not sure how you’re going to take it exactly. Your family, all of them, including your brother, have filed separation papers against you.”

Word Count: 472


The Backstory on Eloise Frump

A work-in-progressthe following piece is a writing assignment produced for The Center of Fiction’s Active Storytelling course taught by Judy Sternlight.

Summary Character Development

Eloise Frump, a 27-year-old socialite from Water Mill, NY. She lives with her fraternal twin, Marcus at a condo development in Bushwick, one of her father’s pet projects. Marcus manages the sales office in the building, interfacing with new owners.  Eloise works in the back office fielding concierge requests from residents and coordinating moves in and out of the building. 

One of Eloise’s guilty pleasures is watching The McMasters, an elderly wealthy Scottish couple’s movements from the closed-circuit webcam in their private elevator bank. Shy and quiet on the outside, her brother and parents are completely unaware of her hidden talent for hacking into security cameras. And more importantly, her side-hustle working with local gangsters to pull off jewelry heists at buildings in developments nearby. 

The twins take after their mom with their sallow complexion and sparkling green eyes. Eloise is the younger of the two by 10 minutes. One of her most discerning features is a tattoo of her name written in Hindu on the inside of her left bicep. In the crime world, she’s known as Lucky-mi a play on the name of Lakshmi the Hindu goddess of wealth, love, prosperity. 

Where in the timeline would I start the story?

Eighteen months earlier, with the first encounter with Trevor, a new resident at her dad’s building, an admitted con artist and jewel thief.

The following excerpt was written during class on 9/19/19.

A chill hung in the air. 

Goosebumps appeared on her skin even before the phone rang. 

The driver watched Eloise intensely, motioning her to pick up the phone.

Eloise hesitated.

One ring, two rings. 

“Now,” he growled. 

Startled, she reached for the clunky receiver, her body shaking. The receiver slipped from her clammy hands and clattered to the floor, she gasped. 

The driver eyed her from the rearview mirror, with a raised brow. 

Eloise pulled the blue receiver to her lips and whispered, “Daddy?”

Word Count: 315

A New Point-of-View of The Giving Tree

A work-in-progress, the following piece is a writing assignment produced for The Center of Fiction’s Active Storytelling course taught by Judy Sternlight.

A New Point-of-View of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
prepared by Andrea Preziotti

Boy, please tread softly, as your feet dance wildly across our bodies. You may be young but we are aging faster than you can breathe. Your story will continue for years while ours are individually short and finite.

Where shall we begin? In your innocence, you embraced Tree with all your heart. And how could you not, she loved you freely without expectation and enveloped you in her branches. My favorite days were those when you played hide-and-seek, your body hiding between the rocks, her leaves grazing the forest floor, rustling our blades. 

To feel her love unconditionally, if only once in a lifetime, is the thing of legends. We’ve pondered days away wondering if it was the same for her, with you. There was never the right time to ask, not that she would have noticed us at all, of course, especially once you carved letters on her bark. 

Tree may have lived alone in the forest but green grass is everywhere, and we have a network. We knew what was coming, all the warnings about humans were passed down from one genus to another. And even as the eight hundred and twenty-one generations of our family witnessed the hundred years of love notes shared between you and Tree, we hoped for the best all the while knowing the inevitability of Man. 


Shades of Pink


Why what?

Why is it,
so damn cold in here?

We may have forgot to pay the heat.

Why on earth would we do that? It’s winter, it gets cold,
like every single day until the first day of spring and then, well it gets colder until global warming changes and—

This has nothing to do with global warming and everything to do with the fact that we just don’t have the means to spend money on frivolous things, like those colored pencils and paper.

Oh no, don’t you start in on that again. How else am I supposed to do my work? This project, that by the way pays to put food on the table. Why would you force me to see everything in black and white when absolutely nothing is what it seems amid these shades of pink?

(quiet silence)

Shades of pink. You’re probably thinking you stumbled into a syfy futuristic fantasy novella, right? I’m here to tell you that it’s real, I’ve seen every shade of pink. The shades of roses in winter and spring, the pink of a rolled tongue inside out, the willowy undertones of a newborn’s cheeks, and more. We are all surrounded by shades of pink–not just Millennial pink, but the color of orchids at daybreak, Miss Piggy pink, hot summer nights pink and the pink that you can’t see until you bleed.

I know what they’re thinking when I start talking about the color pink but you have to understand that I know what I’m talking about. I may not have been around when it was born but pink is a legend. And I’ve seen the color’s evolution from a billion-year old rock to a mold of paraffin in a brightly colored box. Pink is more than a brand (especially by today’s standards) and its vibrancy is ten times what the dilution of red and white will lead you to believe. It strives for new heights all on its own without having to lend its name to the latest euphoric synthetic opiate lurking on the street. Pink is everything. Not a who or a when but a whatsit intersecting the space between living and breathing, where your heart beat slows down and you can almost imagine…

Photo Credit: @pixabay

take bold risks with determination

DAY 10: The Writer’s Happiness Challenge: Audacity

I don’t know that I necessarily understand this next writing exercise. It reads more like a meditation than a contemplative path toward writing happiness. So rather than read it again, I’m going rogue and interpreting it from a selfish point of view.

Choose one quality of someone you admire that you’d like to emulate or bring more of into your life. 

I choose audacity, followed by tenacity. The willingness to take bold risks, with determinedness. I’ve been practicing the part about being bold in this part of my adult life but sometimes I let things and situations get the best of me. So, that’s where the persistence part comes in handy.

As for folks who I admire that have both qualities, there are some known (Lady Gaga, Katharine Hepburn, Taraji Henson) and not so known (Lulu, Suzie, Gabriele, Sharon, Anne).

The Writing Happiness Challenge is offered by @splendidmola, for more information click here.

Choosing Kindness for Myself, for Others 

DAY 9: The Writer’s Happiness Challenge: Remembering Kindness

In today’s exercise, @splendidmola asks us to reflect on the last few days, remembering any small kindnesses performed by yourself or for yourself. Now set the timer for (5) minutes and write them down.  

Consciously Choosing Kindness for Myself, for Others

  • Sending cards to loved ones in celebration of their birth or as encouragement
  • Treating a friend to a movie or dinner
  • Giving back to the community with donated goods and time
  • Being good to myself by practicing yoga and meditation
  • Exercising self-care measures with massage and eastern therapies
  • Going to bed early
  • Assisting a disabled woman in need at a public bathroom
  • Being kind to myself on my mom’s anniversary
  • Smiling
  • Snuggling with Finn

The Writing Happiness Challenge is offered by @splendidmola, for more information click here.

Photo Credit: @pixabay, reneebigelow

How to Channel Your Superhero Strength

Day 8: The Writer’s Happiness Challenge: Channeling Your Inner Superhero

This year’s flu is the gift that keeps on giving. The first time was at Christmas, and now it feels like it’s back. Body aches, a foggy head, I’m in no condition to channel my inner superhero. You know the one I’m talking about, right? It’s the power pose from Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk. If you’re a Gen-Xer, it might remind you of your childhood, when the 1970s version of Wonder Woman Lynda Carter perfected it.

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 12.39.30 PM.png

I may be in a fluffy robe and slippers, but I got this.

Set your timer for (3) minutes. Then get your wild self up from wherever you are sitting. Stand with your feet wide apart, your hands on your hips, your shoulders back, and your chin raised slightly. Yes, this is superhero stance, and it’s a crazy powerhouse of amazingness and confidence.

Feet hips distance apart, hands on my hips, shoulders back, chin raised slightly. Three minutes is a long time. And like any meditative or yogic pose, I can feel myself in this space. My feet rooted to the earth (well, actually it’s a wood floor), my breath calm. I find myself smiling, first with my eyes and then with my mouth. I can feel it working. I am resilient and strong, and yes, I CAN do anything.


The Writing Happiness Challenge is offered by @splendidmola, for more information click here.

When I think about my muse, I feel guilty

DAY 7: The Writer’s Happiness Challenge: Getting to Know Your Muse

When I think about my muse, I feel guilty. We used to have amazing conversations, but over the last two decades we’ve lost the frequency as if our communication is concretely tangled. I’m not sure if it’s possible to unwind them. So yes, I’m guilty as charged for neglecting you, for not giving you the attention you deserve. But it’s not just my fault Muse, because you, too, could have tried to help me find a solution, a way to break through the static, to awaken the creativity and let the words flow. I occasionally wonder why you didn’t.

Are you disappointed that I’ve flipped from fiction to non-fiction, that I’ve been writing a personal essay, or that I’ve started writing newsworthy pieces? It’s a good thing that we’re finally getting paid for our craft, right? I believe that every type of writing sharpens our technique, it makes what you and I do together even more possible. It makes the writing stronger.

Do we even know what we want to do together? Is it a book or a shorter piece, maybe a scripted podcast? Sometimes I feel like there are just too many mediums, how can we choose. Perhaps we need to go back to the beginning, back to basics, maybe revisit that old manuscript, the one about ….

The Writing Happiness Challenge is offered by @splendidmola, for more information click here.

living the good life one feels at a time

DAY 6: The Writer’s Happiness Challenge: Your Happiness Replay

In today’s exercise, @splendidmola explores the idea of happiness and how in taking the time to savor our happy experiences we can quite literally rewire our brains to live a more positive life.

Set a timer for 3-minutes. Bring to mind an experience where you felt happy. Choose something that is easy to remember. Now, until the timer goes off, remember in detail how you felt during that positive experience. Do your best to focus on the feeling itself — what you felt in your body, your heart, let it seep into your skin. 

Now set the timer for two more minutes. And write down everything that you felt.

Buoyant, coasting, light as air. I can feel the sea salt lifting from the water, settling on my skin. Tickled pink by my toes in the sand mingling with the Mediterranean’s foam. Warmth settled in my bones. Knowing this is my body temperature. No thoughts lingering. Absorbing the sunshine willingly, I am blissful, I am free.

The Writing Happiness Challenge is offered by @splendidmola, for more information click here.

Day 5: The Writer Happiness Challenge: Know Your Strengths

You probably know some of your strengths already. And, if you’re like a lot of people, it’s also highly possible that you brush them off as being unimportant or common. For the next 2-minutes, list as many of your strengths as you can think of.

  1. Remembering people’s names and/or faces
  2. The details
  3. Writing
  4. Synthesizing phrases and context into readable text
  5. Baking Chocolate chip cookies
  6. Handwriting
  7. Being there for a friend in a cinch
  8. Listening
  9. Willing to try most things once
  10. Communication
  11. Taking notes
  12. Discovering fun things to do
  13. Researching facts and ideas
  14. Networking
  15. Engaging people in a conversation
  16. Driving
  17. Intuition
  18. Picking up on social cues (most times)
  19. Letterwriting

Set the time for three minutes. Scan the list and focus on 1-2 of your strengths. Close your eyes if possible. And then, with your whole being, but without having to move or do anything, embody that strength. Feel how it feels. Savor how good you are at it. 

The Writing Happiness Challenge is offered by @splendidmola, for more information click here.