Ms. Houston uses what she calls glimmers to compose her stories. Glimmers, she explains, are moments that resonate within you. Sometimes they happen several times a day, but you have to be paying attention. She writes down the glimmers she experiences and later finds a way to string them together into a story. But she doesn't really connect, she explained to us. She just fits them closely enough together that the reader can easily make the jump between them.
Another writer who spoke briefly said something very similar. She concentrates on the mechanics of the story and lets the real message come out in the gaps she's too busy to notice. And she also said, "Pay attention to the things they tell you not to notice."
Ms. Houston, as a good professor, gave us 15 minutes to write three glimmers of our own. One was to have happened in the last 24 hrs. One over ten years ago, and the last, any time. Here are mine:
OVER TEN YEARS AGO
The young girl woke up and peeked out of the window into the ravine. It was the middle of the night and she had no idea what had woken her. A blue light glimmered in the trees, moving slowly, and she could see the outline of a person. The hovering craft was just large enough for one.
She picked up her son from the airport. He'd spend the last two months in Tajikistan. As she filled him in on what had happened in Tulsa since he'd left, he remarked, "Mom, you're SO American!"
And she thought of all the battles she'd fought and sacrifices she's made to give him the opportunity and understanding to make that statement. And she smiled at him in the way a mother does.
IN THE LAST 24 HOURS
The couple watched the movie, sitting at the bar in the kitchen, sipping wine. The woman in the movie was hesitant to believe in love again. The man pursued her.
"She can't accept him yet!" protested the woman watching.
"Why not?" asked her husband.
"Because you can't let most men win to easily. You know why I love you? Most men will not let a woman love them. We have to learn to be hard. In you, I finally found a man who would let me love him."
Ms. Houston's blog: