Bonus episode today! Instead of sharing a new story, Susan is sharing her thoughts on the stories she told in episodes 66 to 69.
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 70 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 this bonus episode of Freely Written, I’ll chat about my last four stories, which will be the stories from episodes 66 through 69. If you want to avoid any spoilers, please listen to those episodes first.
If you’re new, or relatively new to Freely Written, here’s a reminder of how this podcast works. For my regular episodes—which are currently posted every other Tuesday—I sit down with a writing prompt and write whatever comes to mind—with no planning and very little editing—and then share that story here.
Every fifth episode, like this one, is a bonus where I share some quick thoughts about the previous four stories. These bonus episodes are posted on the Thursday of an off-week, so you still get a new story every other Tuesday.
These are all stand-alone stories, so you can go back and listen to them out of order. A few revisit the same characters or have other connections, but that’s just a bonus. You can also pick up my recent book Freely Written Vol. 1, which includes a selection of 20 stories from previous episodes.
This podcast is a fun side project, but my main focus is on writing novels. I write contemporary fiction that often has a sci-fi, mystery, or psychological twist, and I’m currently working on the third book in my Psychic Traveler Society series.
You can learn about my books on my website: SusanQuilty.com. Links are in the show notes.
Moving on, let’s talk about the stories in episodes 66 through 69.
First up, episode 66, The Frog and the Lotus. I love this story. As I said in that episode’s intro, the prompt came from a statue of a frog sitting in lotus pose. As always, I didn’t have a plan when I sat down to write. I had just finished practicing yoga, so I was in a lovely, dreamy, peaceful state of mind. I suppose that’s why the story has a fable quality, almost like a bedtime story or a parable.
However, that mood doesn’t really account for the story’s ending. Which takes a little bit of a dark turn. How dark depends on how you view nature, the circle of life, and that sort of thing. To me, the ending just naturally evolved as I explored the character of the frog, and that was a little strange, since I’m not sure why I wrote the frog that way.
Sometimes, freewriting just catches you by surprise. And that’s one of the things I love about writing without a plan!
The prompt in episode 67, Getting Lost, came from my friend’s son Lincoln McMullan. Lincoln’s mom, Wendy, has been my friend since she was three and I was five. We grew up down the road from each other and she’s been a devoted listener of my podcast, and avid reader of my books, from the beginning.
One day, out of the blue, she texted me a picture of Lincoln reading Freely Written Vol. 1. I was delighted to hear that he’d picked up her copy and was enjoying the stories. I was even happier when he suggested a writing prompt.
Sometimes, a suggested prompt adds a little anxiety because I hope to write a story that the person who suggested it will like. But I also want to stick with my “no planning” approach to freewriting whatever comes to mind.
This story wrote itself. I imagined some young-ish kids at a fair and one of the boys getting lost in a maze of mirrors. I didn’t know whether it would be a funny or scary story, but as I imagined what he might see in the mirrors, it ended up being just kind of weird and eerie. I’m happy with the result and was glad to hear that Lincoln liked it, too.
The prompt for episode 68, Cheese, came from Lincoln’s older brother Myles McMullan. And, of course, I love that he’s also getting involved. These boys are basically my nephews and I miss them very much since we haven’t visited in person since the pandemic began. I really need to correct that, but one thing after another has complicated our efforts at travel.
Anyway, Cheese is a deceptively tricky prompt. Those one-word prompts can go anywhere, and “cheese” has so many meanings and directions. My mind initially jumped to pet mice or a chef that specialized in carving intricate cheese sculptures. But when I sat down to write, I couldn’t shake the idea of a photographer… so I started with a photoshoot and a photographer who wanted more “cheese.”
The story wandered from there and I sort of knew where I wanted it to end up… with the cheese mix-up on set, but that meant getting the photographer out of the building and that’s where the mood kind of shifted. I like the idea of a successful photographer who’s kind of jaded and needs something weird to jolt him into a quirky idea. If I’d planned out this story with that in mind, I’d have taken a different approach and made it more polished.
It’s a bit jumbly as is, but, for me, that’s part of the fun of this podcast. You get to see how ideas emerge while freewriting. Maybe you can even take that idea and give it your own twist. Or use the prompt to come up with a completely different story! If you do, I’d love to hear it! Reach out through social media or my website, and we can chat!
Episode 69, Up, Up, and Away, is one of the rare episodes where I chose a prompt based on an event in my life. In this case, it was because I’d recently gone for my first ride in a hot air balloon. I thought it would be fun to capture some of the feel of that experience in a freewritten story, so I chose a prompt that would give me that opportunity.
This is a bittersweet story, which is something I felt in my hot air balloon adventure. It was a nebulous sort of feeling while I was in the air, sort of buried under the surreal rush of taking in the views and details of the journey. There were certainly a jumble of emotions and thoughts during the flight, which become clearer on reflection the next day. In a way. In another way, I’m still processing. The flight sparked a surprising amount of deep and not-so-deep thoughts!
One thing this story leaves out, intentionally, is the landing. Our landing was okay, I guess, but fairly rough. I have no frame of reference since it was my only hot air balloon ride. The balloonist and our friends, who had gone up before, said it was rougher than usual, though the balloonist said he’d definitely had worse landings.
Because of the surroundings and air conditions, we had to drop sort of quickly at the very end. That led to some jarring bumps that were pretty unsettling. Everyone was relatively okay, though my friend did bang her knee on one of the tanks and has a bruise that hopefully won’t be anything serious.
I think that landing was in the back of my mind when I started writing this story. I think a lot of people go on hot air balloon rides to celebrate a special occasion, but I wanted to explore something other than a birthday or engagement. With kids recently heading off to school, I liked the idea of friends saying good-bye on a balloon ride… and that morphed into the bittersweet notion of not wanting the ride to end, while knowing it can’t last forever.
And that takes us through the last four episodes of Freely Written. If you have questions about those stories, or any past stories, or if you want to suggest writing prompts, please reach out! You can get in touch with me through social media or my website, SusanQuilty.com. Again, links are in the show notes.
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]