Bonus episode today! Instead of sharing a new story, Susan is sharing her thoughts on the stories she told in episodes 56 to 59.
Check back for new stories every other Tuesday. Every fifth episode (like this one) will offer bonus commentary on the previous 4 stories. To avoid spoilers, listen to those story episodes before this one!
More about Susan Quilty
Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society. Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.
The Freely Written Book: Freely Written Vol. 1
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Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 60 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:
Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction.
[Light piano music]
Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty. On every fifth episode of Freely Written, I chat about the last four stories, instead of telling a new one. Today that will include episodes 56 through 59. If you want to avoid spoilers, please listen to those episodes first.
Before getting to that commentary… did you know that some of the stories from this podcast are now collected in a book? Freely Written Vol. 1 is currently available on Amazon and will soon be released on additional platforms. It features 20 stories from the podcast in a slim book that is easy to take with you for story breaks on-the-go. It also makes a great gift, and buying a copy helps to keep the podcast going.
You can find out more about this new book, and my novels, on my website: SusanQuilty.com. If you’ve already read my books, please consider leaving reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. Good reviews help authors more than you may know!
Moving on… let’s talk about the stories from episodes 56 through 59.
The writing prompt for episode 56 is The Academy. That was inspired by this year’s Academy Awards—which I never watch—and it was written before the awards aired, in other words, before the slap heard round the world.
The story has nothing to do with that controversy or with the award show. The only link is the word Academy, which in this story, refers to a collection of secondary schools in a mystical universe.
I like the idea of students not knowing where they will be placed for the next phase of their training. It sort of captures the uncertainty of teenagers finding their way through our real world, while also touching on the expectations someone else has set for them.
The Academy Door in this story reminds me a bit of the Ceremony of Twelve in The Giver by Lois Lowry or the assignment of the apprentices in The Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan. I suppose it could also be similar to the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter, though this mystical door receives its orders from a panel of teachers who know the students instead of making the decision itself.
This is one of those free-written stories that could lead me to writing a much longer story someday. I’ll file that thought away for now and see where the future leads.
Episode 57, Forgiveness, was partially written as a way to sort through some thoughts I’d had after reading a passage on forgiveness in a book by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn. The passage is on page 61 in his book titled How to See. In part it says:
“You can’t force yourself to forgive. Only when you truly understand the causes and conditions that have made someone act the way they did, can you have compassion and forgive them. Then, forgiveness and release arise naturally.”
That idea connects with something I’ve often felt when faced with an apology that I really want to hear but don’t feel ready to accept. For me, I’m sorry, is not a magic phrase. I don’t want to hold a grudge, but I need a little more. I need to understand the why behind the hurt before I can let it go.
This story wanders through that feeling and the doubts that can come when you want to forgive, but just aren’t there yet.
After working through complex feelings in the last story, I hoped Episode 58, You are My Sunshine, would be a little lighter. The prompt came from one of my newest coffee mugs by my favorite potter, Barbarah Robertson. It’s a yellow mug that has “Hello, Sunshine!” carved in a cheery script.
I had absolutely no idea what this story would be about when I started typing. It begins with sunshine, after 10 days of rain, and meanders through some local reactions to that before I decided to bring in a specific person: Gene.
Gene developed as I wrote. His job, co-workers, and new co-worker—also named Jean—were also created on the fly. I knew I’d have to bring it back to sunshine at some point, fitting in the writing prompt that started the story, and I like that it worked itself in in such a sweet way.
Episode 59, What Did You Hear?, was prompted by a phrase that caught my attention.
I was watching TV and one of the characters asked, “Why? What did you hear?” It hit me that there can be a lot of levels to that question. There’s the simple words or story that was heard, but it could also mean what message did you hear in-between the words.
We’ve all had those moments where we read into something someone says… and maybe we read too much or pick up the wrong meaning. Which made me think of family communication.
While I wasn’t sure where the question (What did you hear?) would fit, starting with a seminar on communicating with teenagers seemed like a pretty safe way to open some possibilities.
The resulting story is pretty simple and straightforward, though it leaves some room for listeners to fill in the blanks about this mother daughter pair and the situation that brought them to a new town.
I guess that’s all I have to say on the last four stories. I enjoy the freedom of free-writing new stories, and I’ve also enjoyed hearing from some readers who have picked up my new book Freely Written Vol. 1. It’s lovely to know that the stories in the book are being enjoyed by people who haven’t listened to the podcast yet. And if any of those readers find their way here because of the book: Welcome to the podcast!
For anyone who enjoys this podcast, please share it with your friends and, as always, feel free to reach out to me through social media or my website, SusanQuilty.com.
You can also buy a Freely Written t-shirt in my merch shop, check out my novels, or subscribe to Patreon.com/SusanQuilty. (Links are in the show notes.)
Thanks for listening!
Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you.
[Light piano music]