Links to micro stories.Reprinted with permission from Los Angeles Downtown News. 28 October 2002, p. 11:

Counting on Words

Downtown Worker Finds Big Success With Micro Stories

by Sharon Palmer

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.

Baird 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.

Baird 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.

One 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 Baird.

His micro stories can be glimpsed on the website, 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 accepted.

"I've 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 standard."

The Flashplay's the Thing

One-page 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.

Baird's affection for the Internet prompted him to self-publish his first book,, 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.

The 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 later.

While 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.

"At 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." can be ordered at

Sketch by J. Mill, 10/18/02: Fancy party. Two caricaturists. Peer pressure. Big mistake.Morro Bay Clambake by Anikó J. Bartos, 11/99: in the shadow of a volcano.
links to micro stories *** story behind this article
Downtown News is a 28-page newspaper (142,000 readership)
distributed throughout the central business district each week.
The in-your-face pose shown above was suggested
by their photographer, local legend Gary Leonard.
I said, "Your editor will never use this one."
He shot back, "You'd be surprised."


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