Dictionary Stories

Very short stories composed entirely of example sentences from the dictionary.

News — Dictionary Stories: Out now! Reviews, excerpts, and such.

At last! The book is out (in the US, at least) and a generous handful of folks have written about it, or shared some exclusive story excerpts and illustrations.  Read more

First Words

The valley was enclosed by rugged peaks, security fencing and annihilative firepower—a state secret. Nothing for miles around. They sat opposite one another they sat in the shade of a tree.

Repeat the words after me: A fish is an animal.”

“A fish is an animal.”

“A cow is an animal.”

“A cow is an animal.”

“We go to the zoo to see the animals.”

“We go to the zoo to see the animals.” She nodded in affirmation.

Very good.”

Very good.” She looked up with an absent smile and burst out laughing. Its mouth snapped into a tight, straight line and there was a fraught silence. Her body tensed up.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to insult you!” She leaned forward to take its hand and a cross-current of electricity seemed to flow between them. She felt guilty now, and a little uneasy. She looked at it warily, this naive, simple creature, with its straightforward and friendly eyes so eager to believe appearances—a shimmering evanescent bubble of cycloid scales and yellow fur agleam in the sun. Circuitry that Karen could not begin to comprehend. Since Parker’s research did not pan out too well, now she was the linchpin of the experiment. Her voice wobbled dangerously, but she brought it under control.

“I’m really sorry if I hurt your feelings.”

To her astonishmentit smiled and emitted a sound like laughter. She felt an inward sense of relief.

“I want an apple.”

“When you ask for something you should say, ‘Please.’”

Please give me an apple.” It rolled the word around its mouth. She smiled distantly.

“Ill think about it, amigo.”

News — SF/NY Events in April

San Francisco and New York! Come hear me and a host of wildly talented people at one of three events to celebrate the release of the book on 4/10. Here are dates and details you require.  Read more

News — Early Reviews: Kirkus/Booklist/Publisher's Weekly

With just over a month to go before the US release of Dictionary Stories, we have three monumentally flattering reviews already in our pocket, from Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and Publisher's weekly.  Read more

News — Introducing: Dictionary Stories

Say hello to Dictionary Stories: Short Stories and Other Findings, coming April 2018 from Harper Perennial and available to pre-order right this second Read more

Chin Up

As late afternoon merged imperceptibly into early evening, a warm September evening, I went for a long walk. A peaceful riverside amble before dark, where the blackwood, the box, and the bastard oak grew. Needed a change of scene.

The murmur of bees in the rhododendrons. 

The birds tweeting in the branches.

Planes passed overhead. 

A car horn.

A flourish of trumpet. 

The scratch of a match lighting a cigarette. (I have many vices but smoking is the big one. I blame you for that.)

There were echoes and scents that awoke some memory in me—we went for a swim in the river, but the water was a touch too chilly for us. The weather was terrible, do you remember? It was raining hard. We took a bus back to the city center, wet clothes dripping onto the floor. 

Where are you living now? Are you all right? Are you keeping company with anyone special these days? Have you lost your taste for fancy restaurants?

Your problems seem larger than life at that time of night. With a suspicion of a smile, I strolled around, muttering to myself, you’ll be okay, kiddo

In the Beginning

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, artisanal cheeses, the bleakness of winter, morse code, deviled eggs, erogenous zones, the feeling of fullness you acquire from eating brown rice, gendered occupations, healthy competition, copyright infringement, cherries jubilee, kicky high-heeled boots, lite beer, misshapen fruit, nonsense poetry, oral hygiene, postmodernist theory, quaint country cottages, roller hockey, scented soap, acid trips, unbridled lust, vegetative spores, whitewater rafting, xenophobia, young love, and zippy new sedans. Then he dried up and Phil couldn’t get another word out of him. 

Madame Eva

“You'll never amount to anything.” Her voice was flat and emotionless.

They sat looking at each other without speaking. He slapped down a fiver. She considered him coolly for a moment. Madame Eva bent once more over the crystal ball. Her eyes dilated in the dark. She sat back and exhaled deeply. 

“You'll get used to it.”

My True Love Gave to Me

Twelve labours of Hercules,
Eleven gallons of diesel,
Ten head of cattle,
Nine breeding pairs of birds, 
Eight Mbytes of memory,
Seventh-Day Baptists,
Six months of unclouded happiness,
Five venturous young men,
Four slices of bread,
Three spoons of sugar,
Two fundamentally different concepts of democracy,
And a sin in the eyes of God.


The whole world seemed to be sleeping, apart from Barbara. She found herself in bed in a strange place—a research station in the rain forest, a bird sanctuaryabandoning herself to moony fantasies: A research biologist with impeccable credentials was fingered for team leader, and she had been deputed to look after him while Clarissa was away. He had charm, good looks, and an amusing insouciance; she had a thing about men who wore glasses, men of culture, men with passions unruled. She had had plenty of flirtations—now she had fallen in love. Color bloomed in her cheeks. He leaned forward to take her hand. She looked down, terrified that he would read fear on her face—

A sudden sound in the doorway startled her. A shiver shook her slim frame. She lodged this idea in the back of her mind for future reference.

Underlined words are those responsible for each example sentence.