Tiny Truths

Since 2009, CNF has challenged writers to tell a story in a single tweet. We asked some of our most prolific #cnftweeters to reflect on how their style and/or stories have changed over the years.

Marion Agnew

@shuniahwriter

At first, I tweeted about nature (often birds) near my home on Lake Superior. Over time, as shown in this series about my husband, also a writer working from home, I practiced storytelling—not my strongest suit—by layering moments from the past, present, and future. 

DEC 20, 2015

“These are the good old days,” he said. She sang it back, adding “That’s Carly Simon.” “No,” he said, “That’s us.”

FEB 17, 2016

Wakeful at 1 AM, saw the aurora. My husband: “It’s like heartburn.” “Hot flashes,” I replied. We see what we are.

APR 4, 2017

Snugged under flannel sheets, I wake. “Hear the geese?” He answers, “Spring!” We clasp hands and drift off again.

DEC 14, 2017

Three years ago today, we flew to a heart-specialty hospital so his heart could be replumbed. He just drove off to a meeting in town. Sometimes it takes time for the past to pass. 

NOV 16, 2018 

We who live in this household eat a lot of toast. A lot. Loaves and loaves of it. And after some serious time at home together, all both of us, eating the toast, I will say only this: *some* of us eat it quietly.

FEB 10, 2021

At night, I rest my head on his shoulder, my fingers on his chest over the scar, over layers of tissue re-knit, over muscle now replumbed. Six years after, one more year than bypass. A pulse in my ear–his or mine? Yes. 

MAR 30, 2021 

Ask me, “How’s the pandemic?” and I say what my husband and I tell each other: “We’re lucky: not much is different.” But when he became eligible for vaccination, I leaped online and wept after booking his appointments. What else am I hiding from myself? 


Anika Fajardo

@anikawriter

I began writing #cnftweets in 2011 when my daughter was five years old and I was just embarking on my writing career. She’s now in high school and I have published two books, so both life and my writing are very different. But even as my micro-essays have evolved (most drastically from the increase in characters that Twitter gave us in 2017), I can see that parenting remains the same familiar contradiction of joy and anxiety.

Mar 25, 2012 

She wiggles her first loose tooth back and forth and my role as mother suddenly seems just as shaky.  

Dec 21, 2013 

I watch my daughter launch herself down the snowy slope and remember when I catapulted through life with that kind of abandon.

Dec 4, 2014 

After the indignities of a throat swab, penicillin is injected. The shot goes in her glutes but I, as mother, feel it in my heart.

Aug 15, 2016 

I listen to my daughter’s grammar errors without correcting her. Preserving her childhood is more important than past participle.  

Aug 24, 2018 

I try to savor each day with my daughter, each lengthy conversation about carrots and Broadway, each cuddle and cartwheel; after all, she won’t be eleven forever. I try not to count how many days until school starts again. (It’s four.) 

Jan 13, 2019 

The giggles, the screams and shrieks, the cacaphony of pre-teen girls invade the house. I clean up the spilled crumbs and make pots and pots of yellow mac and cheese. And I do it gladly, grateful as joy replaces angst for a moment.

May 20, 2019 

Her adolescent mood swings tilt and shift. I look at the lilac and crabapple blossoms that emerged today after the storm yesterday and hope that’s what her future holds  


Chris Galvin

@ChrisGNguyen

My earliest micro-essays—observations about nature, life and writing—resemble haiku or senryu. When Twitter’s character limit doubled, they became story-like. They also reflected the evolution of my mindspace as I moved into several years of turmoil: Living with a condo construction project pounding and screeching on my doorstep round the clock; becoming sole caregiver for my dad, with his dementia and severe arthritis, in my home; losing my home to the developer and searching for a new place to live; losing my ability to write anything beyond flash tweet essays. 

After COVID-19 took my dad, I didn’t write at all for a time, but the brevity and artistry of the cnftweet lured me back. 

Nature remains an overarching theme, and the #cnftweet has been the one thread keeping me writing through anger, frustration, and melancholy, carrying me full circle as I travel through recovery and a return to my old observing, writing self. 

Oct 14, 2011  

My driveway repaved / in shimmering red and gold / one more leaf drifts down  

Jun 19, 2015  

Blackbird couple. A flurry of feathers, a flash of red and yellow epaulettes. Sometimes fighting and flirting look the same. 

Oct 8, 2017  

The dump truck hydraulic shovel pandemonium stops only Sundays. On our one quiet day, even the fridge-hum is too much noise. 

Jan 20, 2019  

Trees, bird feeders, snow, all horizontal in the wind. A mouse dashes from a hole in the white, grabs a fallen seed and scoots in again. A woodpecker clings to the suet cage. Blizzard or not, we all need to eat.  

Feb 24, 2019  

Caregiving for a parent with dementia is trying at best, but also rewarding in unexpected ways, like the gift of poetry in what first seems like garbled words. “All ice today. Awful,” he says, “cars falling down on slippery.” I hide my smile and write it down.  

Feb 10, 2020  

Outside my home, the roar of a tree cutting crew. Though the tree was dead, I’m sad, losing an old friend—one who obscured a huge road sign, housed squirrels and chickadees, and graced the landscape with its gnarled and twisting form.  

Mar 23, 2021  

Cleaning out my sent emails, I find: “Also, bunnies! A tiny one on the patio this evening.” About to click delete, I hesitate, recalling the palm-size rabbit—a rare good memory from an exceedingly difficult year. The email stays. 


Laurie Granieri 

@lauriegranieri 

During a period in my life when a sustained daily writing practice seemed impossible, tweeting was a means of inviting delight, wonder, and memory. I grabbed these snatches of language to pin down and solidify the seemingly mundane observations that we tend to cast off as we sift through our days.  

Perhaps because I had just moved to a new town where I had few friends and an epic slog to work, noticing became insufficient. I longed to soften the edges of my dislocation and hand over what I saw, felt, and heard to someone, anyone—even strangers. 

Three years on, the impulse to (as Henry Miller once described it) “record the passing show” has morphed from a digital show-and-tell into a kind of insistence.  

Essentially, I’m declaring, This happened, and it matters.  

This happened, it matters—and here, in this well-lit corner of the internet, a seemingly small, quiet moment is invited to gather itself into 280 characters and amplify itself.  

Feb. 24, 2019 

I want to trace my fingers over all the broken places in the house I grew up in—the doors he shoved his body through, the cratered wall they covered with a calendar. I’ll whisper, “Where does it hurt?” The aching wood and wallboard will answer: “Here. Here. Here.” 

March 10, 2019 

C. had a quiet divorce—they’re friends on Facebook—but her mom was hurt enough for the whole family, so she cut C’s. ex out of the wedding photos. I imagine C., a paper doll in her Belgian lace gown, clutching nobody’s tuxedoed forearm, gazing into nobody’s blue eyes.  

May 1, 2020 

On the library’s website, a bit of poetry and wonder: “No items are due; no fines will accrue.” 

Oct. 23, 2020 

Yes, my ex-husband has a first name and a last name, but here, in this house, when my mother speaks of him, he’s that “sonofabitch,” forever and ever, amen. “He owes me $10,000,” she says, visions of cabbage roses and open bars dancing in her head. 

Jan. 28, 2021 

Returning from the woods, this view of our house, the windows glowing gold squares of lamplight. From this angle, at this distance, I stand in dry grass, an appreciative stranger. Though I filled the fridge today, I half doubt that I even know the people inside.  

March 6, 2021 

The heel of the bread, the pink stripe in the Neapolitan ice cream, the middle seat in the Buick—all the things we didn’t want. 

April 9, 2021

The only house I’d ever known never felt like ours when we returned from those road trips. It was the feeling of the place, I suppose—Mom switching on hall lights she never used, the silence so much bigger than us, clean dinner plates, shut up in cabinet. 

June 28, 2021

I wonder about the people who appear on the edges of our family photos—the little girl digging her own sandcastle, the couple splashing in the pool. Those are entire worlds right there, and we are bit players in their photos, too, all these years down the line.  


Jane Hammons

@JHammons

Most of the creative nonfiction I write—and read—is personal essays, so when I began tweeting, I focused on my past, and particularly on people and events that shaped me as a writer. My all-time favorite #cnftweet is the first one, and also the shortest. As I continued to tweet, I moved into the present, concluding this set with one of my longest, appreciating the detail and amount of context 280 characters allow: another Thanksgiving, this one occurring in a global pandemic.

27 Nov 2009

My grandmother’s Thanksgiving recipe: tumbler of vodka. No ice.

5 Aug 2009 

I heard it on the radio: Eddy County rancher murdered. I’d never thought of my boyfriend in those terms. Oblivious, I listened. 

30 Sept 2009 

Our grandfather saw Satan in every dust devil and fell to the ground speaking in tongues. We learned to taste God in the wind. 

24 Aug 2009 

Our mother hid candy in old purses. Spongy circus peanuts, sugared orange slices, iced cherry discs. We ate it. Her lipstick, too. 

2 dec 2009 

We rode the hobbled, drug-addicted horses our father won at Ruidoso Downs, our farm a rehab for gamblers and other losers.  

5 sept 2019 

 “The water tower is a good landmark,” I say. “The lake is better,” my son replies. I point out that we can’t see it from where we are. My son holds up his phone: Google maps displays a blue shape. “I can,” he says. We continue our hike. Same destination. Different maps. 

18 nov 2020 

No Thanksgiving dilemma. My folks, who I have not seen in over a year, said back in March: Do not travel; stay safe. Mom, 87, fell and broke her hip in March. My stepfather, 79, fell recently and had 8 stitches. This is hard on them and us. But we all want to live.  


Jennifer R. Hubbard

@JennRHubbard 

Some themes are ever the same: nature, for example. And I always noted the passing of time in the migration of birds, the loss of a pet, the election cycle. But this set of tweets also deals with the passage of time in a way I could only have constructed in hindsight. Who would have guessed how poignant the 2017 tweet about a concert would feel in 2021?

25 Sept 2015

We hiked the Kittatinny Ridge, clambering over rock. Above us streamed a thousand hawks, called south again.

14 Oct 2016 

Age has chopped the world into segments by distance, each segment viewable with a different pair of glasses.  

20 Oct 2017 

We sang together in the darkness, a whole auditorium full, making me wish such unity weren’t so rare. 

26 Jul 2019 

Letting go happens in stages. We got rid of the litterboxes quickly, but today I noticed the pile of cat toys in the corner, still sitting there after six months. They will sit there for a while yet.  

31 Oct 2020 

We hiked through brilliant October woods under a blue sky, the air fragrant with wet leaves and pine needles. And I tried not to talk about the election.  

14 Nov 2020 

The office was empty, silent. The calendar stopped at March. Strange growths bloomed in the bottom of a water glass that had been full 8 months ago. That the phone still worked in this Sleeping-Beauty hush seemed a miracle. 

23 Apr 2021 

The maples have uncurled their leaves, opening their hands to light. Just that suddenly, we passed another milestone of spring.  


Connie Kuhns

@conniekuhns

It began as a personal challenge but soon grew into a diary. My #cnftweets became recorded history, fragments of memory, and quick notes of what was flashing by in the now. I wrote what I saw while sitting in my car or in the line-up at the grocery store. I made connections while staring into space or ordering take-out, actually (still) searching for meaning. I wrote of lovers, my childhood, and friends long gone. I returned again and again to the day and night of my past. Sometimes my realizations could be told a sentence. Sometimes the joke was on me.  But it wasn’t for nothing. True stories are often the small ones. This has been my way of telling you (and reminding myself) who I am.

22 August 2016

At dusk, we would come in from playing in the alley, all hot and sweaty, and sit on the porch with dad while he watered.    

 June 25, 2017 

I’m trying to be more “present” in my life. So, I put on Joni Mitchell and lit a candle while stirring the peanut butter. 

14 October 2018

Drove through town today, windows down, radio on, Doobie Brothers turned up LOUD; just living my best life. But it’s a very small town so it was over quickly. 

27 August 2018 

It had been 50 years for most of us (husbands and wives lost, even children) but we showed up at that hotel off the interstate to find ourselves among the aging faces. Our class had graduated in the dirt and wind of the high plans. We came back to smell the air.  

3 March 2019 

I make popcorn on the stove with a pot that was my grandmother’s. I learned my shaking “style” from my first husband. The sprinkled yeast idea is from an early women’s commune. I eat from a bowl given to me by my daughter. When I make popcorn, I come from somewhere. 

6 March 2020

A woman has gone missing in the neighborhood. Her family heard the front door chime in the early morning hours. There had been some trouble with her husband (but that’s a distraction.) She left in her pajamas. Nearby the river flows into the ocean. 

14 May 2021

I miss the days of believing in something that wasn’t true. 


William Reagan 

@WilliamReagan

Public transit offers a curbside seat to every stage of love’s rich pageant. The world may be continually evolving, but the crescendo and decay of ordinary romance still fills the bus with strange and beautiful music.  

15 July 2014

She’s trying to read. He’s trying to flirt. Neither of them very successfully. 

8 October 2014

Making out on the bus stop bench, shameless in their passion, unable to imagine a day when they’ll just sit and talk. Or just sit. 

21 July 2015 

On the bus with a leafy plant in a terracotta pot, she explains, “It’s his version of roses,” rolling her eyes to a female rider. 

25 February 2016 

Adorably close, each with an earbud of the same headphones, I imagine the breakup beginning, “No, we’re fine, I just miss stereo.” 

17 April 2016

She ticks off a list of ways she’s made the man’s life better. He nods at each item, not gratefully but willing to cede the point. 

7 November 2017 

They’re playing the “no, I love YOU more” game, which is fun until it eventually becomes clear to both players who the winner is. 

1 February 2019 

“Why won’t you hold my hand?” she said to the boy on the bus, as if there might be a reassuring answer to the question. 


Karen Zey 

@zippyzey

At 60, I joined Twitter as an emergent writer. The Tiny Truths micro essay seemed a good fit for my twinges of aging angst. My early efforts were couched in humor, but my #cnftweets soon shifted to more nuanced observations of both self and others—an ongoing effort to seek understanding and contentment at this stage of life.

10 August 2017

“Senior discount?” asks a young clerk, unsure. “No thanks!” I reply, believing for one sweet second that my face cream is working.”  

  14 July 2018

Old lady me orders a low-fat London Fog. 20-yr-old barista serves me, bopping to a Queen song. I join her and sway to Freddie Mercury. Her fun moment of retro cool, my decades-old memory of carefree dancing resurrected. Kindred spirits rocking it in the village café. 

  11 February 2019

Glaring ice on the road, freezing rain pinging on the windshield. I grasp the steering wheel with thick gloved fingers and drive slowly, cautiously, like a paranoid old woman afraid of calamity. Wait, I am an old woman afraid of calamity. And winter is out to get me.

7 May 2020

Sometimes I can’t see beyond this pandemic. So I look back. Students I once taught, their stories lodged in my soul. The son I’ve raised, now a good man. The silver-haired soulmate I still kiss each morning. Then I see it. The gift of another day. 

  23 May 2020

The middle-aged wear masks, push oversized grocery carts toward the store. I wait in parking slot #2 for pickup. Leaning on a cane, an elderly lady shuffles to her car, clutching a single box of chocolate cake mix. Everyone has priorities.  

  19 July 2020

A kayak the colour of daffodils slices through the water, paddled by a grey-haired, old woman with muscled arms. A man on a bench, head bowed over his phone, misses out on the wonder of her zipping by.  

  20 July 2021

I spot a grandmother in the village, a children’s bookstore bag in one hand, her wee granddaughter’s fingers entwined in the other. The old lady dances to the parking lot, singing some nonsense song. Oh, the look of glee on that little girl’s face.  

About the Author

Anika Fajardo

Anika Fajardo was born in Colombia and raised in Minnesota. Her work has appeared in various publications including Brief Encounters: An Anthology of Short Nonfiction, Literary Mama, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Hippocampus, and others.

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Jennifer R. Hubbard

Jennifer R. Hubbard is the author of four books, including Try Not to Breathe and Loner in the Garret: A Writer’s Companion. She participates weekly in Creative Nonfiction’s #cnftweet challenge as @JennRHubbard.

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Marion Agnew

Marion Agnew’s book, Reverberations: A Daughter’s Meditations on Alzheimer’s (2019), a collection of personal essays about dementia, family, and her Lake Superior home, was shortlisted for the Louise de Kiriline Lawrence Award for nonfiction about Northern Ontario.

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Chris Galvin

Chris Galvin divides her time between Montreal and Huế. Her writing has appeared in Prism International, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Room, and other journals and anthologies in English and Vietnamese.

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Laurie Granieri

Laurie Granieri is a former newspaper reporter. Her work has been broadcast on NPR and has appeared on American Public Media’s On Being blog and in Image, River Teeth, Elle, and others.

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Karen Zey

Karen Zey is a Canadian writer from la belle ville de Pointe-Claire, Quebec. Her creative nonfiction and craft articles have been widely published in literary magazines. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and is featured in Getting to the Truth: The Craft and Practice of Creative Nonfiction (Hippocampus Books, 2021).

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William Reagan

By day, William Reagan is a mild-mannered marketing copywriter intent on sneaking clever wordplay into corporate collateral. At night, he’s a short-fiction writer bent on taking the shortest possible path to profound truths and/or preposterous lies.

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Connie Kuhns

Connie Kuhns has a forty-year history as an essayist, journalist, photographer, and broadcaster. Her essays have been finalists for Canada’s National Magazine Awards, Western Magazine Awards, and Prism International’s CNF contest.

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Jane Hammons

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