Reprinted with permission from Los
Angeles Downtown News. 28 October 2002, p. 11:
Counting on Words
Downtown Worker Finds Big Success With Micro Stories
On the 41st floor of 333 S. Hope St., Alan C. Baird
glances at the clock as he wades through a sea of legal documents, processing
words for Sheppard Mullin's law team. He finds a thread of drama running
through the legal rhetoric piled on his desk that fascinates him, calling
forth a fury of his own words. Once at home, in the peace and quiet, he will
set his mind free and see where these words take him.
has followed his trail of words in many directions; most often they have led
him down the road less traveled. Perhaps his quirky 1987 debut, when he sold
the short film "A Night in the Day of a Night Receptionist" to the ABC
series "Max Headroom," was an indication of what lay ahead.
has painted his words on many canvases since then, including bumper stickers,
T-shirts, posters, mouse pads, screenplay software and even music. "I've been
writing my whole life. But then I became really disgusted with my lack of
talent and gave up for awhile," says Baird. He describes his 30s as a period
"filled with doubt and self-loathing." But during the past several years, he
welcomed back the words that wouldn't be ignored.
outlet for Baird is so-called mini and micro stories, where a writer creates
an impression in a very few, well-chosen words. Micro stories may employ as
little as 150 characters, including spaces and punctuation. "In order to
write a micro story, you have to look for words that evoke memory," says
micro stories can be glimpsed on the website the-phone-book.com, which
specializes in the quirky field of marketing short stories for mobile phones.
Baird, whose stories "Forsaken" and "Rewrites" appear on the site, recently
sold another group of 6 micro stories to another website, which he is superstitious
about naming before publication. In addition, he had a micro story about 9-11
always been interested in miniatures, like the small netsuke carvings in
LACMA's Japanese Pavilion, or the tiny items at the Museum of Miniatures
across the street," says Baird. "I discovered that Ernest Hemingway wrote a
classic six-word micro story to win a bar bet, 'For sale... baby
shoes... never used.' And now I'm always trying to reach his
The Flashplay's the Thing
plays called Flashplays are another medium that Baird uses to create an
impression in the blink of an eye. Baird's titillating flashplay "Both Hands
on the Keyboard, Chucko" recently won second prize in the quarterly competition
of the eZine Flashquake and has been published on CD and the web. "Chucko"
follows an adolescent romp with a computer-synthesized hottie and offers
a glimpse of Baird's love affair with computer messaging.
affection for the Internet prompted him to self-publish his first book,
9TimeZones.com, which was inspired by correspondence that flew between Baird's
home computer screen in Glendale and Anikó Bartos' computer in Budapest,
Hungary. The book, less a narrative than a journal of e-mail correspondence
and an instructional manual of sorts for adapting a screenplay from the
Internet, details Bartos' stories of her childhood in Hungary with a
screenplay included in the epilogue.
e-mails, which led to a full-fledged love affair, included tales typed in
broken English, of Bartos at five, running into an air-raid shelter in bloodied
clothes and asking a Russian soldier what time it was because watches were a
rare thing in those parts. When Baird suggested that Bartos write her stories
down, she said, "I'm not a good writer, you can have my stories." After putting
the pieces of the book together, Baird and Bartos put the pieces of their
lives together -- Bartos came to California in 1999 and they married a year
Baird still relies on the day job to make his living, he recently experienced
one mark of a widely read writer: He learned that a European country was banning one of his works because it uses a
precise anatomical reference to help describe the dysfunctional relationship
between two people.
first, this news was crushing," says Baird. "But then a friend cheered me up
by saying that I must be doing something right if my stories were considered
dangerous enough to be censored."
9TimeZones.com can be ordered at www.9timezones.com.
links to micro stories *** story behind
News is a 28-page newspaper (142,000 readership)
throughout the central business district each week.
The in-your-face pose shown
above was suggested
by their photographer, local legend Gary Leonard.
said, "Your editor will never use this one."
He shot back, "You'd be
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