"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've been avoiding putting this together, because a part of me really doesn't want this year's Litquake festival to be over already. The other part of me is still cranky-tired, wandering around trying to get to all those projects I said I'd get to after Litquake, and feeling post-Christmas like.
In short, this year's Litquake was AMAZING. Every year has been awesome, but this one was particularly special for me because I got to actually help plan the awesome. As a volunteer during the festival for the past several years, I definitely felt like I contributed to making each event I helped at awesome, but this year, being on the committee,* I got to witness the tremendous build up to the festival that happens the whole year prior. The amount of love, sweat and time that goes into it is incredible, and I'm not sure I've ever been part of something so cool. Which is not to say I'm not still cranky-tired and looking forward to feeling fully recovered.
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…
Having a baby is not unlike accidentally slipping into a science fiction universe, everything you know is so completely upended. I wrote an essay about how my sense of time shifted out from under me in the first months of my daughter's life.
Excerpts in italics are from
the essay The Beginning Of Time, by Stephen W. Hawking
1. The time scale of the universe is very long compared to that for
human life. It was therefore not surprising that until recently, the universe
was thought to be essentially static and unchanging in time.
The Longest Shortest Time is
the name of a podcast on parenting that I heard about several years before
becoming a parent and filed away mentally. “The days are long but the years are
short” is another phrase used to both comfort and cajole new parents. The
implication is that parenting shifts your experience of time, as if life simply
advancing in years wasn’t enough to do the same. One hour of an infant
screaming inconsolably after her two month immunizatio…