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The 100-Worders

I met a 100-worder at a birthday party for an old friend who is now, literally, old or older—an octogenarian, but still vibrant, funny, alive, a person who encourages all her artist, writer and musician friends, of all ages. She is not an artist, but there is something about her uninhibited persona and challenging political riffs that attracts and inspires artists. All art is acknowledged and celebrated at her parties: a new book, a new canvas, a handmade scarf, an unusual appetizer, a photograph. Whether the work succeeds or fails is not important. It may be good, or brilliant, or good enough, marketable or unmarketable, a work-in-progress, a work revised, a work discarded on the pathway to another work.

The party itself is a creative event as it unfolds. And it becomes a story, as this one here. It was during a lull—after the food and wine had settled—that the conversations slowed and hummed. The 100-worder was listening to me talk to a visual artist who lives in Westbeth, a utopian community of artists on the lower West Side of Manhattan. I was commenting on her 1940’s dress/costume, when I remembered that I’d worn something similar to a reading from my book of novellas, “Sitting for Klimt,” based on the lives of five artists. She had invited me to Westbeth to read, though I knew that painters, in particular, might object to my fictionalized rendering of Klimt. I was not mistaken: the Q & A was heated. I had been inspired by a great artist and his work, it was as simple as that, and my audience that day was offended by my “distortions.” I reminded them that I am not an art historian, I am writer. But we couldn’t understand one another at all. Impasse.

“Ah, you are a writer," the 100-worder said as I was finishing my reminiscence about the frustrations of reading at Westbeth.

“Yes, I am. Are you?”

“I write a hundred words every Monday,” he said.

“That qualifies you for attendance at this party,” I said facetiously.

I was bristling at the thought of a dilettante attending my friend’s party. Was he a pretender to the throne of artistry? No he was not; he was deadly earnest. He pulled out his phone and called up his email to show me a thread of 100-word mini-stories. “Most of us are businessmen. We enjoy the freedom of writing about anything we want. We have to stay in the word count," he said.

Well, this was very intriguing. How did this get started? I asked.

“By invitation only,” he said. “We’ve never even met. We’re planning a party, though. It will be interesting.”

“Indeed,” I said. “But I don’t think it will make any difference. It’s the work that’s important.”

“Are 100-word stories considered a ‘work’?” he asked as I disengaged from my writer-pedestal. I was suddenly moved to welcome my new 100-worder friend into the pantheon of writers.

“Of course,” I said. “Remember Hemingway’s five-word memoir: FOR SALE, BABY SHOES, NEVER WORN.”

“Oh, I’ll have to try that,” he said. And he took out his little notebook and began to write.

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