findingtimetowrite

Thinking, writing, thinking about writing…

Archive for the tag “flash fiction”

Flash Fiction: 55 Word Challenge

A quick little challenge for you: can you write a piece of Flash Fiction in just 55 words?  That’s what G-Man is challenging us to do each Friday over here.   I was planning a different blog post for today, an interview with a famous French crime writer, but that will come later on, as I could not resist this.

She’d forgotten the milk again. Never mind, dry cereal strengthens the teeth.  She watched their little jaws chewing, but the thought of eating any herself made her feel nauseous.

After walking them to school, she felt the familiar waves of blackness engulf her.  She opened the second bottle of vodka and thanked her lucky stars.

 

Gone fishing…

… for pesky adverbs, overemphatic descriptions and stilted dialogues, that is.  I am going away on holiday and will not have access to email, Twitter, Facebook or WordPress.  In short, none of the comforts and distractions of present-day life.  So I can dedicate myself whole-heartedly to the children, the beach and editing my first draft.

Or so I thought.  Then, slowly, slowly, other (professional) obligations started creeping up on me, including a few things that I had promised to do before the holidays but never got around to doing.  And some enjoyable tasks, such as reading my friend Cristian Mihai’s first novel Jazz, and then preparing to grill him in an interview.

So now it looks like I’ll be lucky to get any rest over the next few weeks…

However, you will get a rest.  From me.  And my very prolific (and no, I do not mean proficient) blogging.

Should you be suffering from withdrawal symptoms, however, here are a few that I made earlier:

1) Book review – the one that started it all

‘The Expats’ by Chris Pavone

2) Poetry – two of my personal favourites

Things I Have Lost

Then and Now

3) Flash fiction

Harness

4) Random musing and waffling

Developing the Creative Habit

The Angel and Edna (Part 1)

And if it’s popularity that you are after, this seems to be my most popular blog post of all time.

Thank you for bringing so much joy and understanding to my life, my dear readers. Have a wonderful holiday if you can and hear/read you all again in three weeks’ time!

Gone fishing in the sea…

Kindred Spirits

One of the pleasures of dedicating myself to writing (once more) is that I am rediscovering old friends whom I haven’t seen in years, and whose creative talents have matured like good wine.  Our lives have taken such different paths, we are scattered all over the world, we may struggle with small talk and yet…

Our love of words unites us: in some ways, we are perhaps closer now, sharing the best of of our thoughts, than we were when we were living together side by side.

Let me introduce you to just three of these.  First, Paul Doru Mugur, a friend from high school, the only one who kept pushing me (sometimes ruthlessly) to write.  Here is a beautiful and rich essay of his about time, published in an online journal which he co-edits. He also translates Romanian poetry into English, has published several volumes of short stories and poetry, and is generally very active in the arts world – all while holding down a demanding job as a physician in New York.

Secondly, I have a niece who used to pull my hair as a baby, but whom I have barely seen since. She is now all grown-up, has just graduated from university, writes searing prose in Romanian and occasionally in English.  We barely speak to each other at the big family reunions, but have grown close through our online love of writing.  A facet of ourselves well-hidden from the rest of the family.  Here is a poem in English, but I think her real talent lies in flash fiction or polemical pieces.  Here is a lovely example called Tutus and Cigarettes.

Finally, a friend from university who writes like an angel.  Her blog House of Happy has made me just that: profoundly happy.  I think she has a direct window into my heart and head at times. Here is one of my favourite recent entries. I wanted to reblog it, but our different platforms means I will cut and paste instead (oddly appropriate for this poem):

The Game

Get some paper
Chop it up into small squares (a hundred freckles-wide by exactly four snails)
Retrieve bits of your life and write down trigger-words on the shell-and-freckle paper: trigger words are those words that drag behind them large, live memories, the type you can still see, feel, count, smell (but not always spell…); the kind that roll off the shelf, jump out of the bottle and burn your eyes.
Put them all in a hat, shake well.
Watch them settle inside, now still but still whispering their burnished secrets, a lake of life inside a hat.
Go fishing.
Clutch the trigger word you caught tightly inside your fist.
(eat it up if you must – chew well, swallow carefully; this may be helpful but remains entirely optional)
In any case, hold that word, smell it, consume it or, better still, let it consume you.
Then write about it. Write as if your next breath depended on it.
Prose, verse, a picture, anything that would help you understand
why your heart still roars
although your life, bruised burden
and time itself
stand still.

Oh, all right then, here is a terrible picture from those days, to counteract all these lovely words!  And no, I’m not sharing which one of the wild-haired people was me!

The Washing Machine Chronicles

As a child I enjoyed spending time in the bathroom.

Not that I was vain, you understand.  I scraped my knees along with the boys, cut my own fringe and let my mother buy clothes for me, usually two sizes too big so that I could grow into them.  I did occasionally long to have red hair and freckles, in the belief that might make me as strong as Pippi Longstocking, but I didn’t lose too much sleep over it.  I seldom looked in the mirror and even resorted to the age-old trick of wetting the soap to simulate handwashing rituals I had no intention of observing.

So, no, it wasn’t vanity driving me into the bathroom.  The reason I disappeared ever more frequently in there was that this was where the washing machine was busy at work.  And at some point during the tenth or eleventh year of my life, I discovered the pleasure of sitting on the washing machine during its spin cycle.  Its rumbling vibrations brought unexpected pleasures.  I would cling on for dear life, unsure of the exact position to adopt, simply trying to avoid the sharp corners.

I must have felt there was something slightly reprehensible about this sudden passion for doing the laundry, as I used to lock the door.  I could almost slice through my mother’s rising dough of disapproval.  We were a family used to seeing each other naked.  No shame culture in our house!  But I instinctively knew that these pleasing thrills were best kept to myself. And the bathroom door was the only one with a lock in our house.

It took me a few more months – or maybe years (I was not a precocious child in this respect)- to realise that these delicious sensations could be replicated without the baritone growl of the washing-machine, or a cramp-inducing climb.  I made sure I made up for any lost opportunities.  Seasons came, seasons went, and so did family, friends and lovers.  For a while, I went astray and betrayed the washing-machine with a succession of dry-cleaners.

The next washing-machine, the one in my marital home, was no longer all sharp, masculine corners.  The modern forms were softened, rounded, pure femininity, a collusion in my oppression.  Its location now moved to the kitchen, where there never was any privacy, it now became subject to tantrums and food-throwing, and witness to my staggering up and down the stairs with overfilled laundry baskets, in search of the perennially lost sock.

I had no tender feelings for the washing machine.  Its noisy yammering reminded me too much of a petulant toddler.  Its mouth too wide and hungry, never quite satiated, never quite done.

I wish I could talk of redemption, of how the washing machine, in whichever of its incarnations, inspired me to or reconciled me with or taught me about something.  But that would be untruthful.  Real life does not offer neat, circular solutions. Instead we stagger off into endless linear distances, petering out in our own boredom.

So the truth is this: despite my best care and Calgon, the washing machine developed clogged arteries and flooded messily at random intervals.  I couldn’t really use it much, so it became a repository for magnets and a jar of change.  Postcards from places with names that still had the power to provoke the dreaming: Samarkand, Seychelles, Salvador de Bahia.

Now that I seldom use it, I miss it.  Its virile force, its clueless humming, the daily bustle.  I watch it in its idleness and I wonder where it all went wrong.

Clone Trooper Wins Again

We reach the park. It doesn’t take long for Mum to get bored: ‘Enough of swings!  I’m tired.  Run about, do something!’

It’s cold, windy.  The monkey-bars are icy, and there are too many children on the climbing wall and see-saws.  My baby brother sticks out his lower lip. ‘Don’t wanna!’

Mum rolls her eyes. ‘First of all, it’s “I don’t want”, not “don’t wanna”.  Secondly, tell me clearly what don’t you want?  Talk to me!  Can’t help you if you don’t tell me!  When will you learn to express your thoughts instead of just crying and whingeing all the time?  Waa, waa!  Is that all you guys ever do?’

She’s off again.  No one can say Mum is stuck for words.  Press a button, and she goes on forever.  I have my pocket remote and switch her off like the sound on telly.  Only let a few words slip through, just to make sure she isn’t suddenly saying something important, like lunch or time to go home.  But no, it’s the usual stuff…  How could she have given birth to such lazy children?…  Sports are so good for you – unhealthy, stuck indoors all the time – only interested in Wii… Nobody will be our friend if we behave like this…

She folds her arms and sits, muttering, on the bench.  Jake stands stiffly beside her. Face all screwed up and snotty.  Refusing to have fun.  I shrug and start playing Star Wars.  I always play this on my own – no one else, not even Jake, may join in. I’m a clone trooper, fighting enemies with my light sabre.  I run around with sound effects. Mum hates this game.  She says only Jedi knights have light sabres and clone troopers are stupid. But I want to be stupid, I want to look like everyone else.  All Mum’s brains, all those college scarves in her sock drawer that we’re not allowed to touch… and she has to go to hospital every month. Feels sick like a slug afterwards.

Besides, Jedi knights are boring, like grown-ups: they talk too much, they’re always right, always winning.  Light sabres should belong to everybody.

The Storyteller

This is a short story that I edited right down (much against my better judgement) for a flash fiction competition.  Needless to say, it did not win, although it was published in a now defunct web magazine called ‘The Brevity Thing’. Someday, the original version will be improved and completed.  For the time being, here is the short version.

I can write.  I can make something out of anything.  The old lady who showed me the way to the tax office.  Her limp now a wheelchair, eyes harbouring a sinister gaze, twitch taking over her features.  And is that a slight cackle as she points me to my doom?

I carry my notebook with me everywhere, scribble in it all day long.  A thought, a quote, a random person in the street…  How I swoop, whir, flutter in like a vulture.  To dissect, examine, pin down.

I do not love words, no!  I analyse them, pour over them, roll them about like slave girls, prod them with my pen as if undressing a coy lover.  Quite frequently, I hate them: with their wriggly, slippery ways, their lack of nuance, for daring to resist me and my art.

One day I’ll write her into a story too.  Ever since I first saw her, I have not ceased to attempt to describe her.  Blushed peach skin.  Flicking back that silky hair.  Nostrils flaring as she invokes, ‘ Cappuccino for you, sir!’  The spell she casts, with sound, with touch.

For weeks I’ve been trying to nail that butterfly into its case.  She brushes against my clumsy fingers and flies into the summer sky. Each time she escapes, the taste grows bitter.  Like truant words, her essence escapes me.  My soul becomes enraged.  I know she laughs at me.

Witches, old and young, someday I’ll show them all!

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