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Mini Sledgehammer: November 2013 Metlakatla Library


Elissa Nelson and her dog, Ollie

Now that I’m back in Alaska for the winter, we finally started up the Metlakatla Mini Sledgehammer again. This one went a bit differently than usual, though.

As many of you know, ardent Sledgehammer supporter Elissa Nelson has been ill for a while. Just a few days before this Mini Sledgehammer, she passed away. I felt compelled to honor her with a tribute activity, so I came up with writing prompts all related to Elissa. Although the other writers here in Alaska didn’t know Elissa, who lived in Portland, they joined me in honoring her with these prompts:

Character: someone terminally ill
Action: squinting one eye
Setting: on the front porch
Phrase: [silence]

While Sledgehammer was founded to help shatter the fiction writer’s block, this combination of prompts led us all to write nonfiction. Grief, it turns out, is a topic most people can relate with and most writers can convey.

It was a beautiful moment to hear the true stories as these writers honored someone they’d lost. And it was not a moment to pick a winning story to post on the website. We’ll keep our stories to ourselves this time, but we invite you to write your own story with these prompts. And we hope you’ll find healing in the process.



Mini Sledgehammer: May 2013 Metlakatla Library

Congratulations to Karen Thompson for wowing a judge who doesn’t like most dream sequences. Ali loved how Karen’s dream so realistically jumped from scene to scene and kept a sense of urgency.

Character: A sultan
Action: Running
Setting: A shadowy room
Prop: A book about Africa



By Karen Thompson

The fire added so much comfort to the hugh room.  The wet wood crackled with audible levels contributing to complete relaxation.

I could smell the alder as I drifted in and out of a deep, but still semi-conscious sleep.  The fire cast shadows against the bare walls.  In my semi-conscious sleep I was running through wooded trails at dusk or twilight.  So warm, so comfortable, the sounds awakened childhood memories.  It must be summer.

Vaguely I was recognizing a room through a haze; I sensed within my being the need to find something missing?  I was late, for what?  I continued with this inner sense of missing something.  I remembered always having books in a specific place and I could not reach this area.

Within an instant I was running in the wooded trail with shadows in front of me, behind me and sounds of someone with me, or following?  I could hear tree limbs snapping as someone stepped on them.  THe smell of alder smoke never left.

A hugh building, again the sense and urgency of being late and finding something.  Maybe I would find what I was looking for in this hugh building.  THe shadows danced around me as I approached…a castle?

Immediately I was in a dim lit room, feeling a familiarity.  I smelt smoke and the room was hot, was this because of my running?  I could feel sweat on my body, uncomfortable heat but crackling sounds gave me an assurance.  I needed to find my book storage.

The shadows were vivid and dancing on the walls.  I now saw someone with their back to me.  Dressed in beautiful satins that changed as the light from the flames glowed at different degrees.  A turbaned sultan?  SLowly the person turned and as the eyes came straight forward into mine.  His mouth distorted for speech while his eyes pierced through my very being… a loud sound jolted me awake.  It was my book on Africa falling.

My dream, was I looking for this book?  How did a sultan fit into my dreams?  The warmth of the fire, dancing shadows were now dimming.

© 2013 Karen Thompson

Mini Sledgehammer: April 2013 Metlakatla Library

It’s beginning to look like spring on our little island. Although there’s still some snow on the peaks, the marsh lilies are blooming and the fish are biting. And while we don’t have baseball here, it’s sure to be on a few fans’ TVs. Thanks to everyone who took the time to write with us amid all this. It was fun to hear your stories!

Congratulations to Kandi McGilton, a first-time Mini Sledgehammer participant who nabbed the prize.

Character: A baseball fan
Action: Grilling
Setting: An intersection
Phrase: “Put on your seatbelt.”



by Kandi McGilton

Jake put on his Yankees hat, scooped up the burgers, hot dogs and condiments and made his way into the back yard to prepare his dinner. As he stumbled over chew toys and did knee highs over tea tables and accessories, dolls and overly girly bouncy balls, he silently cursed the gods for making this one task so difficult.

“Honey! Don’t forget to put cheese on the burgers! And don’t burn the hot dogs!” Camile, his wife yelled from the kitchen where she was preparing potato salad, fruit salad and lord knows what other kind of salad the woman could think of.

“Yeah, right, uh huh…” He muttered back to her as he set the food on the table next to his charcoal grill. It was hot out, and the last thing he wanted to do was stand in front of a fire, cooking for a bunch of in-laws he could hardly stand being in the same room with. As he stoked the charcoal and added a splash more fuel onto the fire just to see the flames rise, a smug grin crossed his face. “Honey do this, honey do that… women!” He snorted as if he’d just said the most sophisticated words of his life.

“I’m a woman.” A tiny voice came from behind him. As he swung around in his ‘Kiss The Cook’ apron, tongs in one hand, barbecue sauce in the other, he looked down on the most precious face on earth. He chuckled as he answered his four year old daughter.

“Is that so?”

Alyssa replied with her tiny fists balled on her hips just like her mother. “Yes, that’s so!” With that, her size 6 foot stomped down the grass.

“Well if you say so. What are you doing out here anyway, woman?” He said to her playfully as Jake ignored the cooking hot dogs.

“Mommy said to get out of her way and bring that stupid mutt too.” Alyssa nodded once in absolution.

“Rex? I thought I had him locked up in the bedroom. Did you let him out?” He raised an eyebrow at her and tried to give his best stern father look.

“No! I didn’t do it, he got out all on his own! Just like he ate dinner all on his own!” Alyssa squeaked in her childish voice, pointing at the golden retriever as he slobbered down the last of the hamburgers. Jake took one look at the dog and before he could yell at him to get off the table, Camile was yelling at him through the kitchen screen door.

“The dog! Damn it, Jake! Can’t you do more than one thing at a time? The family will be here any second! Rex, get over here! You stupid mutt!” Oblivious to his trouble, Rex darted for the kitchen. Alyssa stood there with her eyes lit up, her hands covering her mouth to suppress her giggle.

“Daddy’s in trouble…” She chimed.

“No he’s not.” Jake mumbled trying to salvage any food left on the table.

Camile’s cold as ice voice hollered from the kitchen. “Yes he is, because not only did the dog eat the burgers, but daddy burnt all the hot dogs too!”

He let out a string of curses, looking at his watch he knew he had at least 20 minutes to run to the grocery store before the Yankees vs White Socks game started. “Come on munchkin, we’re going to the store.”

“Yay! Can I get cookies? And root beer? And, oh! I want ice cream!” Her little frame bounced around him in excitement as they made their way through the house and out the front door.

“Hurry back, you know my dad likes to eat on time!” Camile called out before slamming the front door shut behind him.

“Women…” He said as he buckled Alyssa in. He couldn’t help but smile just a little as she crossed her arms and pouted at him.

It only took five minutes to get to the store, but in that amount of time his wife had managed to call and rush him through almost every isle for things she HAD to have.

“I’ve gotta go, now, you’re breaking up…” He said as he began to check out, giving her not time to speak as he hung up on her.

“Did you just hang up on mommy?”

“No, and if you want those extra chewy chocolate chip cookies, you’ll get on the same page as me and tell her the service here sucks.”

Alyssa giggled and nodded, happy to be in on the scheme.

Back in the car he realized they were now ten minutes late and there was no doubt a mob of angry Red Socks fans waiting to tear into him about being hungry.

“Put your seatbelt on kid, daddy might break a few laws!” He said as he buckled her in. The shock was apparent in her saucer like eyes and the look didn’t go away until they flew into the driveway.

“Well lookie here. Jake decided to show his face after all. We weren’t sure you’d show up seeing as the Yankees are about to be slaughtered.” Laughter came from deep inside the house at his brother-in-laws words. With a tilt of his chin, he picked up Alyssa in one arm, the food in the other and made his way into the house where the mob had assembled around the television.

Taking his cap from her father and placing it on her own head, Alyssa called out from beneath it to the family, “Us Yankees are going to kick your White Socks butts!”

© 2013 Kandi McGilton