Make Something Happen

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A little more than a year ago, I started reading slush for an online flash fiction zine. I expected to learn tons about writing short stories and flash in particular. And I did.

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that in 2017, I took up the Ray Bradbury challenge to write 52 short stories. Bradbury says it’s not possible to write 52 bad stories, and I aimed to prove him wrong.

Honestly, my first five or six stories looked like 52 bad stories was a possibility. They were only good for the trash heap. But, with a little—okay a lot of—help from Anna Yeatts and my experience reading slush, I had five stories accepted for publication last year.

The main thing I learned about writing short stories was that something has to happen. It’s fine to have dark and stormy nights or bright and sunny days. Lovely prose is a delight. But if nothing happens, you ain’t got story.

This is where I think a lot of writers (based on my slush reading) get a bit lost. They have a great premise, but nothing happens.

For example, I wrote a story called “The Stain on the Wall” about a mother and son who move into a house where a tiny stain on the staircase wall keeps getting bigger. But there it stopped. All premise, no story. What’s behind the stain? Ghosts? Poltergeists? A doorway to hell? And what happens to Mom and son?

Never figured it out—at least not so far. So not a story. Yet.

Speaking of stories, my query saga for my completed novel, The Last Summer Queen, continues. Eight queries out the door with a ninth tomorrow. Two “not interested” replies. Notice, I’m not calling them rejections.

Please keep on sending lucky vibes my way. Fingers crossed.

Taking Stock

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Every year since leaving corporate America, I’ve set two goals. One for gardening and the other for writing. In 2017, I followed Ray Bradbury’s suggestion, to write 52 short stories. Bradbury says that you can’t write 52 BAD stories. I set out to prove him wrong.

But no. He was right. I came away from 2017 with 33 short stories, most bad. But what to do with the good ones? I had no clue.

And then, I stumbled on Anna Yeatts by signing up for a Write Stories That Sell course. Halfway through the course, I had to deal with a pantry moth infestation and stopped doing anything unrelated to killing bugs.

Anna sent an auto-reminder to finish the course.

Irritably, I emailed back that I’d get back to it when–someday–I vanquished the pantry moths hanging off my ceiling. And Anna responded with: Pantry moths are the worst! Impressing me with the hands-on touch.

After spending untold sums on books, groups, and programs to learn writing craft, I signed on with Anna. Now–18 months later–I’ve had five short stories accepted for publication, with two already published.

Goal accomplished? Yes, but achievement breeds more goals. It’s fall, a time for taking stock, and as 2019 looms, I count on the two things I learned this year.

  1. I wasn’t able to write 52 (or 33) bad stories. Thank you Ray Bradbury and Anna Yeatts.
  2. It’s never too late.

 

Pleasantly Surprised

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As a life-long pessimist, I like to tell people-who-call-me-on-it that optimists are never pleasantly surprised. It takes a lot of energy to search out that silver lining when the sky is filled with black clouds.

But early yesterday morning, I was pleasantly surprised—so much so that I lived the rest of yesterday in a fog of optimism.

Another of my stories sold and will be published this month.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested, go to The Arcanist for a quick five minute read, published at the end of August.

Who Should I Be Today?

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Last year, I took on the Ray Bradbury challenge to write 52 short stories in a year.  I fell a bit short, only writing 32 and most were bad. But I had a handful of not-half-bad stories, and three that seemed good.

One of the things I learned along the way was how to be another person. Never mind that I’m a–well let’s call it ‘senior’–female. I could be an out-of-work 30 year old male, a mean and murderous female school teacher, a male retiree bent on revenge … you get the picture.

Weeding the mermaid garden this morning, I wondered what it would be like to sing songs  to destroy men and ships.