#Story Chat: Jenny’s Bumpy Start

Introducing Story Chat – a unique way to promote Hobby Bloggers who love to write.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. I’m Marsha Ingrao from Always Write, a blog dedicated to promoting hobby bloggers.

Hugh Robert’s story, “The People Under the Stairs,” published on Always Write just before Halloween was a huge success.

I want to open up Story Chat to any writer who would like to submit a 750-1,000 word previously unpublished story. It might be a chapter of an unpublished book, like my sample below.

After publication on Always Write, reblog the story on your own site, and/or invite your friends to reblog to increase the dialogue. Anne Goodwin suggested using the story afterward as a newsletter enticement. Great idea Anne!

A few weeks after publication, I will summarize the commentary, interview you, the author, and publish a second post about the story.

Jenny’s Bumpy Start

By Marsha Ingrao 

Sandy Lassiter looked over at Jenny and mouthed the words, “Behind you,” then looked down at her paper as if her eyes were filled with iron filings, and her desk was a magnet.

Jenny looked around the room. The teacher had stepped out of the room.  Jenny Hatfield did not need to look around to know that Sandy meant Jeremy Crawford. He had been poking her in the back with his pencil all morning. All of the kids quickly looked away as she tried to make eye contact. 

Only one ally in this room, and Sandy was obviously not popular with the other kids. As usual, being the new kid at school was already off a bumpy start.

Jeremy stood and loomed over her staring down at her paper. “You think you are so smart, don’t you, Nerd?” He grabbed her paper, and stuck it in his math book.

“You’d better hope I’m smart, if you’re going to copy all my answers.” Jenny looked up but didn’t smile. 

“What’s wrong with your mouth? Did your dad punch you in the face?” Jeremy whispered loudly enough that other students around her looked up, then buried their noses right back into their books. He started laughing loudly enough that the teacher looked back in the room. 

“Jeremy, what are you doing out of your seat?” Mrs. Miller called from the door. “Sit down, and don’t let me see you get up until I tell you to.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” The thud when he sat down shook the floor.

“You’re ugly, new girl,” he whispered again leaning forward in his seat.

“That’s your opinion. You are a bully, Jeremy Crawford. Didn’t anyone ever teach you how to make friends?” she hissed without turning around.

Jenny knew she had to be strong. She couldn’t ignore him, threaten him, insult him back, or even tell the teacher. Many others before Jeremy had asked her that question about her face before. Sometimes she answered, and sometimes she didn’t.

“Like I would want to be friends with you, Freak. Here’s two cents. Go buy yourself a new smile. You need one.”

Jeremy threw two pennies on her desk and laughed as they slid to the floor. Jenny leaned over to pull out her binder from under her desk, ignoring Jeremy as best she could. Her grandmother always told her to be friendly if she wanted to have friends, but she didn’t want this misfit as a friend.

Jeremy’s thick hair rested on his shoulders and looked and smelled like he had not washed it all week. Like a mangy stray dog, his smile, chocked full of crooked yellow teeth, looked more menacing than friendly, and Jenny didn’t want to get close enough to smell his breath. She certainly did not feel like giving him a smile, even a crooked one.

She put the two pennies in her pants pocket and wished for the millionth time that she was back with her friends in Portland rather than god-forsaken Latham School in the middle of nowhere. She quietly placed her binder on her desk, opened it, took out a new piece of paper, and began redoing her homework. Jeremy poked her again.

“I’m not afraid of you,.” Jenny mouthed. She already had three problems finished. Glancing behind her as she spoke, she could see that Jeremy hadn’t even copied one of her problems yet.

Other kids stole glances at Jenny, but quickly looked away, whispering among themselves.

“Oooh, I’m scared,” Jeremy’s voice must have carried beyond the classroom.

Mrs. Miller returned to the room and stood between Jenny and Jeremy. Jeremy pretended to work on his math homework. Mrs. Miller was so close Jenny could smell soap on her hands.

“You’d better be scared of me, young man, and your homework better be started. You’ve only got three weeks before Christmas break to bring up that F in math,” Mrs. Miller said as she hammered a ruler on his desk near his fingers. “Now get to work.”

Mrs. Miller clicked to the front of the room, her just-brightened red lips in a straight line. Jenny wasn’t sure which one of them was the bigger bully as she heard the rivets on Jeremy’s jeans scrape the wooden seat of his desk as he slumped down in his seat. Miss Magnolia at Grandview would never have told the entire class someone’s bad grade no matter how awful they were.

Jenny felt a slight breeze as she  heard Jereny’s book slap the formica top of the 1940s metal desk as he opened his book. Papers slid onto the floor and skittered towards her. Jeremy cursed. Mrs. Miller stood up as though she was going to come back over then turned and wrote Jeremy’s name on the board. 

Jenny picked up the papers, kept hers and gave the rest back to Jeremy. As he grabbed them and growled, she thought of an abused dog. Jenny wondered if Jeremy’s parents were as mean to him as Mrs. Miller was.

What are your thoughts?

To submit your story email me at marshaalwayswrite@tchistorygal.net or fill out the form below.

Blog Challenges

If you host or participate in blog challenges, and want to write a guest post or have an interview about the experience for my Blog Challenge Series, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

Story Chat #1

Priorhouse on Blog Challenges with Marsha Ingrao @ Always Write

Somehow I messed up and missed this great summary post on Priorhouse Blog of the interview I did with Yevette Prior.

AI think all of us get overwhelmed with the internal as well as external pressures of blogging. Yvette offers great advice to help hobby bloggers to keep the fun in blogging. Her readers have offered several additional ways of “challenge blogging.” You won’t want to miss this concise post full of great advice from experienced bloggers. 🙂

Continue Reading

Book Chat: The People Under the Stairs

Scary as it was, there was a deeper message to Hugh Roberts short story than a mere Halloween horror story.

Welcome to the first Always Write edition of Book Chat. If you have a short story you’d like published on Always Write for our next book chat, contact me below or by email.

What started out to be a spooky short Halloween story by Hugh Roberts turned out to be something real and sinister. 

Nine-Word Summary of People Under the Stairs

People under the stairs tormented Gloria, suffering from dementia. 

Progression from Scary Story to Menacingly Real

Hugh thought that his readers might focus on fear of the ghoulish people under the stairs like children worry about the Nightmare in the Closet.  He and many of his readers toyed with the fear of imaginary people in the comment section.

“I hope Gloria’s story doesn’t give readers too many nightmares. It may be worth not looking in the cupboard under the stairs for a few days.”


Readers responded to the fun spookiness of the story. However, most took the discussion in a different direction and focused on the protagonist’s struggle with mental illness.

“…Are they real? Or are they figments of her dementia?”


“…Gloria’s dementia fueling her ghosts under the stairs, especially since she sees herself. Just vague enough though to make you wonder, though! Reminds me a little of the movie The Others(?) with Nicole Kidman, thinking she and her kids were haunted by ghosts, when in reality they were the ghosts!”


Some readers inferred facts.

“Apparently she carries a love hate relationship with the people under the stairs. I see them as her alter ego, her bad side maybe even having murdered her husband some years ago. …No, I think she’s living with the guilt.”

Mr. Ohh

While readers played along with the idea of the people under the stairs being scary, they always turned back to ponder Gloria’s dementia.

“Luckily, we don’t have stairs in our camper van! …I cannot imagine Gloria having dementia for thirty years, so she must have an incredible imagination.”


The Dreaded Disease – Dementia

Diana drew the discussion to a conclusion and moved it from being scary to being one of society’s most unnerving health issues.

“Eek. A scary story, Hugh. The element of dementia complicates the reality. … The unreliable narrator was a great addition to the story.”


For me, the phrase, “unreliable narrator” unlocked all the mysteries and discrepancies that troubled me about the story. Hugh responded with incredible transparency.

“My mother had dementia, and some of the elements of this story were what I picked up from her. I often thought that she seemed to be living in a book, yet other times I wasn’t quite sure what she was saying was true or just what the dementia was showing her.

My mother died at the age of 78. We first noticed the signs of dementia when she was in her early 70s, so she went through the different stages of the condition at a slow rate, Marsha. It was heartbreaking watching what I can only describe as something else taking over her body. The worst part for me was when she could not remember who I was. 

Dreams fascinate me, especially when they include strangers. I’ve often wondered if they are figures of my imagination or are people who are real and who I may have had a fleeting encounter with.”

Hugh Roberts

After reading Hugh’s comment, there wasn’t much left to say. The story of a demented narrator trying to share her dream world with those on the outside made perfect sense.

Thank you so much, Hugh, for sharing, not only the story, but the amazing discussion in the comment section.

Understanding and Preventing/Decreasing Dementia

Book Chat 2

I am looking for more brave souls to send me their short unpublished stories to publish on my blog Always Write supporting hobby bloggers. Following the publication of your story and the discussion, I will do a follow-up summary of the comments – typical teacher -style. Hugh suggested that I include a pingback to your blog as well, which sounded like a great idea to me.

Stories should be no more than 750 -1,000 words. Please include a brief biography, a picture or headshot, and contact information. If you want to include a picture or photo with your story, please feel free to do that.

You are free to publish your story elsewhere after it appears here.

As always, thanks for visiting and commenting.

Marsha Ingrao- Always Write

#CFFC: White or Cream Colors Before COVID 19

Lens Artist Photo Challenge #124 Before and After

The entire world is adjusting to life after COVID. Now Vince plays free poker online and complains about it every time he does. “These people don’t know how to play.”

Vince in 7th heaven before COVID 19 got to play in a tournament in the Venetian.

Fortunately our friends Glen and Carol came all the way from Australia BEFORE the COVID lockdown. We had such a good time that they went back the third week they were in the US, and we went back in February. The clear blue sky contrasted so beautifully with the statue and the pharaoh’s head dress.

Because of the cooler weather, November through March or April were the best months to visit Las Vegas. Now travel is limited. Even though COVID had not reared it’s ugly head, when we went in February 2020, Vince was careful not to touch railings and to use hand sanitizer constantly.

These adorable polar bears visited the Bellagio for the winter. I’m sure they had to go home after COVID hit.

I just realized that I spent some worthless time putting white frames around all these pictures. So much for trying to impress you all with my Photoshop talents.

This next photo shows you how hot it gets in Las Vegas. This shade covering stands outside of the Shelby Car Museum. What interested me was the tree growing underneath the cover. The heat in the summer is brutal. I swore the last time we went in July for a Kiwanis conference that I would never do it again. It was easy to stay away this year. Because of COVID, Kiwanis put all their conferences on Zoom.

Finally, you all know I love history, but I was more interested in the contrast of colors in this picture of New York New York in Las Vegas. I think I was shooting for the doughboy on the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, but I can’t tell you for sure that’s what it is. I’m making an assumption based on the fact there is a Doughboy Park in the Queens in New York and I think his clothing and weapon look more like WWI than WW2. Agree or Disagree?

Before the destruction that followed COVID, I don’t remember any statues in my lifetime – controversial or otherwise that were torn down by rioters or protesters in the United States. Vandalized statues are something we no longer have to imagine in the United States. As of July 22, there were 179 monuments ruined including a 120-year-old statue of an elk in Portland, Oregon. History will tell if this violent method of protest was more successful in bringing about racial equity than the marches of the 1960s.

Visit the Challenge Hosts & Leave Your Mark

I hope you enjoyed my whites and creams for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which runs from Tuesday through Monday. I barely squeaked in this week. Click to see some other samples of whites and creams and to learn how to submit your own photos.

CFFC runs weekly challenge starting every Tuesday.

Amy of the Lens-Artist team invited us to reminisce about life before and after COVID in Challenge #124. Check out her comment section to visit other contributors. Their challenge comes out each Saturday at noon.

Talk to Me

If you host or contribute to a photo or writing challenge, I would love to interview you and get the word out to other hobby bloggers. Contact me below or by email- marshaalwayswrite@tchistorygal.net

Awkward Seating Starring in #CBWC

#Any Kind of Seating

Cee’s Black and White Challenge invitation this week was to take pictures of any kind of seating.

Do you remember crawling over people to get to your seat in a theatre? I took this before the start of “Ka” in Las Vegas in February, 2020 when finding your seat in the dark when the show was two seconds from starting was awkward.

These beach chairs our son discarded at our house when he moved were awkward to use. You had to straddle the chair and drop into it. I demonstrated to one of our garage sale customers and he bought it. I guess he figured if I could get into it anyone could.

Now, if you want to experience awkward, imagine getting out of this seat after rowing all morning with your legs 90 degrees from your back. Mine didn’t work at all, and my friend Diane and her daughter had to roll me out of the kayak.

Sitting at my desk admitting that this was my first try at color popping is awkward. I used Photoshop Elements 15 – Guided. When I finished the hills, Diane’s hat, face, and arms were still tan. I used the lasso tool and added tons of adjustment layers to erase most of the offensive residual color after the pop. It was an awkward way to achieve the purpose, I’m sure.

I had nothing on these two dolls at the Best of the Valley Quilt Show. They look serene and cool in their deep turquoise pop of color, but deep inside I think their legs are all twisted into an awkward pretzel shape.

My third try using the pop feature was this wistful doll sitting awkwardly on her tiny chair with her tinier marionette.

So what’s your favorite seat or do you like to sit down? Join Cee’s Black and White Challenge and see what other folks are doing.

Here are a couple of examples besides Cee’s that inspired me to go beyond park benches.