March 15, 2010
You would think that’s just common sense, wouldn’t you? But some folks have to learn the hard way that there are some people you simply don’t want to mess with.
Meet Chrissy Planganet, one of those slow learners. Read what happens when she tries to go toe-to-toe with the local swamp witch in my latest story, “The Conjure Woman of Bayou Torte”, published today on Write-In Magazine. If you like what you see, please come back and leave a comment!
November 8, 2009
I’m sure we all remember those elementary school assignments that required us to write a short story, then read it out loud for the edification of our classmates. The first time I can remember doing that was in 5th grade. Fifth grade was a nightmare for me. As an unnaturally tall child with no social skills, it was as if the terrors of junior high got a two-year head start. In the vernacular of more recent years, fifth grade totally harshed my gig.
My fifth grade teacher couldn’t even pretend to like me. Or perhaps she could have pretended, but decided not to, thinking that I wasn’t worthy of any artifice on her part. She wasn’t a very nice woman. I’m sure she’s making some poor man’s golden years a veritable hell in an assisted living facility in Southern California. In those yellow Fall days in the late 60s, she was my boogie for six hours a day, five days a week. I have to cut her some slack, though, and admit that there wasn’t anything necessarily likable about me at that age. I was a homely girl with stringy hair, a gap between my front teeth, and only two school outfits that I interchanged on a rotating basis. Sometimes one of those outfits would be dirty and I’d have to choose whether to wear soiled clothes or appear daily in the cleaner outfit until one of the adults at home got around to doing laundry.
Anyway, I remember that first short story assignment, mostly because of the chastisement it earned me. I let it go until the last minute, hurriedly scribbling it out the night before it was due. I always let my homework go until the last minute back then. That’s what kids who hate going to school do. When I was called on to read my story out loud the next day, I was more concerned with whether anyone would notice that my knee socks didn’t match (they were both white, but had different patterns of knit) than what kind of grade I’d receive on the assignment.
The story was about a young girl (me in a prettier, braver, and certainly not unnaturally tall package, of course) whose parents (mine in a sober, attentive package) take her to London on holiday. She spies a glass unicorn in a gift shop at the same time another girl her age (prettier, of course, and with much more sober parents). A physical altercation ensues; my heroine ends up pushing the other girl into the glass display case and comes away the winner on all counts.
About halfway through my reading, I noticed titters from my classmates. Some of them were actually starting to pay attention. By the end of the story, every shove my heroine delivered to her spoiled rival earned cheers from the class. When I finished reading, the class erupted into loud applause. Except for the teacher, everyone enjoyed it immensely. She stood up and gestured for silence, then castigated me on the level of violence in my story, saying that it was “completely inappropriate for a ten-year-old girl”. I thought the lecture would never end. On and on she went, holding my story up to the others as an example of what she would not tolerate in her class and pointing me out for the potential failure of a human being that she no doubt believed I was destined to become.
The recess bell saved me. I went out to the tether ball courts as usual, hoping to find someone who didn’t mind playing with a girl who loomed at least a foot taller than they, but that day I was surrounded by my classmates. Even the boys looked up to me as some sort of hero. My story had touched a nerve. I’d written about the anger so many children feel at an age when our feelings were disregarded and we were instructed to keep our mouths shut. There was no Prozac for kids in those days; we had to suck it up, baby, and so we did just that, and a few of us wrote stories about it.
I spoke out that day behind the facade of fiction. I see writers do that same thing all the time. Stephen King especially comes to mind. I have no doubt that alcoholism and cancer have reared their ugly heads in his life; those two diseases are as monstrously pervasive in his fiction as vampires, serial killers and megalomaniacs. Is that what we’re doing, then? Are we all surreptitiously trying to air our sorrows, torn between the hope that no one will notice and the burning desire that finally someone will understand – that someone will hold us in the form of our words to their figurative heart and whisper, “shhhhhhhh, hush now, it’ll be okay”?
November 7, 2009
If you want to read a story that will twist your head completely around on your shoulders, go to: http://www.everydayfiction.com/trajectory-by-mickey-mills/
Another fabulous, emerging writer. Another fabulous tale.
Mickey, I want an autographed copy of that first novel.
November 7, 2009
My partner (in crime, in writing, in life, love and raising a spoiled rotten dog) sent me a link to a fabulously witty blog today. A young lady who claims to be fighting brilliance with a daily dose of mediocrity wrote it with charm and humor. Frankly, I think she’s doing herself a huge disservice. I found nothing mediocre about her blog, but the premise set me to wondering which of two choices a writer should strive for: A steady diet of words that might at times seem mediocre, or infrequent and carefully crafted literary offerings of outstanding brilliance. After all, it does seem like we need to make that choice. How many of us can meet the goal of frequent genius?
Constant mediocrity has its advantages. Even if we don’t have anything profound to say, we need to keep our names out there. Mediocrity coupled with skillful marketing succeeds in this world. Take a look at pop music and try to deny it. You can’t honestly tell me I’m wrong, can you?
There’s much to be said in favor of keeping one’s name, face and craft “out there”. Fame is fleeting in the modern world. If the public loses sight of you for half a day, you’re history. Daily exposure seems to succeed just as well as – if not better than – true genius.
But what about art? What about the craft we’re all striving to perfect and excel at? There’s my dilemma. It’s a moral dilemma. It’s a matter of principle.
I call flashes of sudden brilliance “the Lighthouse Effect”. We’ve all seen it. We’ve all run across writers whose names are by no means household words. We don’t see their books in those specifically-sized paperback racks next to the magazines in grocery stores. Their tales aren’t made into Hollywood blockbusters, and they aren’t even published in Playboy where so many great authors got their start. But their works are sudden flashes of brilliance in the gray of the literary sea we’re all swimming in.
Michael Schiavone comes to mind. You MUST check out his work. Google him. His short, “No One Comes Up Here By Accident” took my breath away. I was so swept up in his story that I emailed him, which I never do, truth be told. His was a story of brutal honesty; it was so real and amazing and genuine that I had to tell him how it affected me. (Michael, “I could live in Bo” resonates with me daily.) Truly one of those sudden flashes of clarity and light and perfection – the Lighthouse Effect at its finest. I’m sure it isn’t his only amazing story, but it was the one that hit me viscerally. Brilliant. Sublime. I don’t have enough superlatives for it.
So, do I want to be a Pop Star writer? One who vomits a steady stream of words into the public consciousness for the sake of being there? Or do I want to be a lighthouse? Not a part of the everyday landscape, but when visible is seen from great distances and admired for its incandescence?
I want daily incandescence. A lofty goal, that’s for sure, and one that few writers ever achieve. But I believe in lofty goals and I believe in achieving them.
So please bear with me while I spew daily mediocrity. Wait for a flash of Blood brilliance. It’ll come, I promise. Eventually. Hopefully.