"In the midst of winter I found in me an Invincible Summer." - Camus ...On exploring strength in its many forms:
strong people, strong writing, strong curiosity, obsessions, stances, and loves.
Strength as a concept wide enough to encompass fear, truth, vulnerability, and joy.
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My Three-Minute Fiction submission
They have finally announced the winner of NPR's Three-Minute Fiction contest and it is not me. I really like this contest because it's such an interesting challenge to write a compelling story in 600 words or less, especially when you are required to begin it with a very particular sentence, as provided by the contest. I highly recommend checking out the winning entry by Carrie MacKillop, it's really fantastic. Another feature of this contest that I like is that it's free :) which makes it wonderfully accessible. Of course they don't track how many folks entering the contest really think of themselves as writers, but I'd bet that quite a few people enter this contest that would never submit a short story to any other kind of opportunity for publication.
I took inspiration for my story from the San Francisco DMV, a place where every resident dreads having to go. Here it is:
She closed the book, placed it on
the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door.Security required seven more procedures
before she’d be inside, but the book was the most important.It scanned your energy to get an exact
lock on your temperament so you’d be queued into the appropriate line when you
finally got inside.Helen had
heard stories about the scan linking you to the worst possible outcome and
believed them.So she’d had four
cups of boiling anger with breakfast and sneered when she signed in.If they paired her with an aggressor
she’d get through more quickly.
the fifth level of security, the body cavity excavation, she’d cleared her mind
of anything but getting through.If she didn’t, she’d have to come back twenty times next month, just
like she had the previous three.The
only good thing about getting inside, other than the possibility of never coming
again, was that the sulfur didn’t scorch your nose hairs quite as much.It was the only government compensation
offered here: semi-adequate ventilation.
gargoyle behind the glass at the final security station didn’t even look
up.He grunted at her logbook that
she offered him, stamped it Pending and gestured with a clawed hand to lane
seven.Helen counted forty-two people
in front of her.There was nothing
else to look at: the walls were grey, the floor was grey, even the ceiling was
a dark fog.The only decoration in
the place was the “Talking Forbidden” sign, which was grey with black
played mental tricks to keep from screaming.Screaming got you thrown out.She’d learned that accidentally on her fifteenth visit.She made up stories in her head about
those in line in front of her: that woman murdered animals; that guy over there
was clearly a politician who hated women; and that young man was a child star,
ruined before he had a chance to choose his own life.As for her, she knew exactly why she was in here.They hand you a logbook when you
arrive, your crime printed boldly in red ink in the upper right hand
corner.“Wasted talent” hers
read.It had been a shock at the
time of course, but so was everything else.
six hours, she arrived at the front of the line.
the lizard commanded.Helen handed
it over and steeled herself for what would come next.The lizard flipped through page after page of Failed stamps.“Luisa,” she said to her neighbor
behind the desk.“How much longer
till our smoke break?”The
administrator in line six, a beetle, coughed back: “Five minutes.”The lizard placed her webbed hand on
the Pending stamp from today.She
clicked her nails across the stamp and sighed. With a quick look up and over at the line that snaked
up to her desk, the lizard grabbed a stamp, pressed it sharply on the page.
can’t wait that long,” the lizard hissed, and shoved the logbook back into
Helen’s hands.Sliding her purse
strap over her shoulder she turned and said in a hoarse voice:
“Congratulations.You may now
proceed up to the sixth circle,” and slammed a “Back in 45 minutes” sign on her
desk.The line behind Helen groaned.They knew that the DMV in hell was like
this, but couldn’t help themselves from hoping it’d be different this time.She took a deep breath of the
ventilated air and got in line for the escalator.
If you also entered the Three-Minute Fiction contest and are willing to post your story in the comments, I'd love to read it!
I lost my mom twenty-one years ago today. She died from
complications related to a long battle with chronic-progressive multiple
sclerosis. I was a week away from turning twenty-one. Which means I have not
had her as long as I did have her.
It used to make me unique among my friends, to have lost a
parent at such a young age. But I’m no longer young and many friends have
joined this depressing club. The dues are astronomical and no one prepares
People, moms are important. Don’t let anyone tell you
differently. Whether you were once a child or are currently a mom. They are the
sun, moon, and stars, even when they are completely obscured by darkness.
I wish she mattered less. She doesn’t. She matters more than
almost anything: that first hit of love, that childhood sense of safety, that
initial understanding of what it means to be a woman in the world: mom.
Memory is funny when it comes to dead people: I can remember
her any way I want. Which means I can also mis-remem…
Some people just naturally walk around the world feeling like they are hot shit. I'd wager most weren't writers. Oh sure, there are some exceptions: some cock-sure arrogant types who truly believe every word from their pen is golden. They've either been praised too much in their youth or never been workshopped before.
In general though, writers are a needy unconfident bunch. An unexpected side effect of going part-time and tripling my writing efforts is to get way more in touch with this part of myself.
My job has its own cycle of feedback and reward, and mine is not generous in either but I generally know how I'm regarded, and I'm quite confident in about 60% of what I do. The other 40% are either things I'm getting better at, or things I don't care if I ever get better at.
It took me a solid one and a half to two years at this job to feel confident. That's a really long ramp-up time, but universally true for my role in my organization. It's compli…
I inadvertently found myself in possession of an advance reader's edition of Elizabeth Strout's newest book, Anything is Possible. It's set to drop on April 25th.
Scrabble's response to the title:
Does this mean I can eat ten times a day?
It's a companion, a follow-up if you will (but not a sequel) to her last novel, My Name is Lucy Barton. Which was fantastic and spare and a perfect example of Strout's phenomenal carefulness in her writing. I loved it for all those reasons. I love Anything is Possible for completely different reasons.
It's a collection of linked stories, not unlike Strout's Olive Kitteredge. Each of the stories showcases a particular character referenced in My Name is Lucy Barton. In My Name, conversations with her mother over the span of a few days reference a host of do-you-remembers, and whatever-happened-tos involving offscreen characters that are delightfully interesting in their own right. Anything is Possible is full of these ri…