Friday Flash Fiction

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Photo Courtesy of Roger Bultot

Glowering clouds threaten rain – this scene looks like one I’d see here in the Pacific Northwest, but I have a feeling this was taken elsewhere.

Word count: 100

Lines of Music

The gloomy clouds made the village seem more cantankerous than usual. Mary trudged along the path toward market, Anna at her side, skipping along, humming.

‘What’s that song, Anna? It’s a lovely tune.’ Listening, Mary’s mood lightened.

‘It’s the birds, gramma. See?’ Anna pointed to the birds on the wires above.

‘They aren’t singing – you are!’

‘No, silly – they are the music!’ Anna laughed, tripping further ahead.

Mary marveled. They did look like notes on a musical staff. Shaking her head, she was smiling as they reached the center of town, feeling as if the sun had suddenly come out.

To see other stories, please visit the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site here.

© Erin Leary

Life Goals – A Review

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Life Goals

My list from 2005:

  1. Be as great a parent/grandparent as my own
  2. Write a book
  3. Own a cottage on the water
  4. Be and stay healthy
  5. Retire early enough to do something new
  6. Be able to help my kids financially; be able to give back to community
  7. Visit Norway and Ireland with the kids
  8. Be on Jeopardy
  9. Become a master gardener
  10. Not worry about $$

I found this list in an old .txt file when I updated my phone recently. I remember writing it about 10 years ago and thinking that these were things that I really wanted out of life. Not exactly a bucket list, because there are other activities I might add to it for that, but key things that I felt would add value to my life.

I was pleasantly surprised while reading through it that I had done quite a few of them. For some, I can’t be the final judge (be a good parent), but I can make an educated guess. And some, I really don’t have all the control over (health) but I am an active participant in the outcome. For both of these items, I think I’ve done pretty well. My kids are happy and well (no grandkids yet, which is just fine by me) and my health is hanging in there. I’m dealing with what I’ve got.

It really pleased me to see that I have done #2 and #3 – I finished my novel and am working on another. It was interesting to me that my goal was to write a book – it wisely said nothing about publishing it. I guess my younger self knew that part was going to be a different sort of effort. And as to #3 – we bought our water view property a couple of years ago and are in the planning stages for the home we want to build there. It is going to be lovely.

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My youngest son was just accepted at Reed College starting in the fall. I have four more years (sounds like election time!) of tuition payments. Once I’m free of those, however, I can make a career change and start my new full time writing life. I am making headway now in terms of what I want to take on and how I can do it – but retiring from my full time world of technology and moving toward something more literary is exciting. I can’t wait to make it happen.

I’ve already been able to help my kids financially, with two kids through college. I’ve helped my older son in his transition to a new land and getting his business off the ground and helped my daughter buy her first house. Our third child will most likely go on to grad school and we’ll do our best to help him there, too. I’m also actively volunteering for the PanCan organization and will continue to do so until we move to our new home in a new community. Even then, I’ll figure out a way to stay connected.

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We visited Norway this summer as a family (only our daughter opted not to go) and we had a marvelous time visiting the homeland. We saw the old Stave Church where my mom’s family name is on one of the pews from sometime in the 1200s. Two of my three kids have made it to Ireland independently – I’d still like to make it a family destination, so I haven’t given up on that one.

The next two are things that were more important to me ten years ago. We used to watch Jeopardy with our kids in the evening and I always thought “I could do that” – however, in the big scheme of things, it really isn’t a top wish for me any longer. I’m willing to let that one go. As for Master Gardener, I looked into the qualifying process for it and realized that it involved a lot of procedural and political stuff – things that for me would suck the fun right out of puttering around in the garden. So I will stay a putterer and be happy with it. I don’t want to feel like I have to put in so many hours or teach so many classes – it just isn’t that important.

Last but not least, the money thing. I have our next four years mapped out for the tuition crunch. After that, I have the retirement transition spreadsheet drafted and I’m pleased to say it is all doable. I feel ready for that next phase of life and while I don’t think I’ll ever not stress about money (because that is my nature), my data shows that all should be well. And that’s a heck of a lot better than impossible.

So – in looking at life on the balance, I feel pretty good about the progress I made against those goals from way back when.

It must be time to set some new ones.

Flash Friday Fiction

Melanie Greenwod

Picture courtesy of Melanie Greenwood 

The dappled light filtering through the trees brings to mind a time and place where memories linger.

Word count: 102

Amazing Grace

The sun rippled through the weeping willows, dappling her bare arms as they wrapped around her waist. Memories played at the edges of sight, laughter echoing as John chased her through the maze. Her breath caught, remembering how she wanted to be found, to turn to him and surrender to his touch.

The gazebo was their safe spot, but he’d pushed too far. Grace lay on her back looking up at the roof, wondering if he was watching from wherever he was. His final touch, so cold, the fire in his eyes gone. Time dims some memories; others remained forever. She’d said no.

© Erin Leary

To see other Friday Fictioneers, please visit here.

Flash Friday Fiction

Jean L. Hays

Picture courtesy of Jean L. Hays    

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs, blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind…

Now that I’ve dated myself, this picture brings a lot to mind. One, my husband has a traveling exhibit about Route 66. Another, my father traveled west on Route 66 as a teenager as his parents looked for work at the end of the depression. And last, I love Chicago. It is a place near and dear to my heart. It’s a toddling town.

With that, I’m sticking with the theme of stealing song lyrics for this week’s entry.

Word count: 100

A Long and Winding Road

– I don’t care if you ever come back, Joan yelled as the tail lights faded away. She’d kicked him out one last time. This time, she told herself, it was for good.

Postcards began arriving, town names from their past – Springfield, Joplin, Amarillo, Santa Fe, Flagstaff, Needles – places they had travelled before and had been happy.

Memories taunted her, their promises, their history. She wasn’t taking him back. No way.

A phone call, collect.

– Come to Santa Monica. I’ll send you the fare. You know I love only you.

Packing a bag, Joan knew. This time, things would be different.

© Erin Leary

To see other Friday Fictioneers, please visit here.

Year In Review – a look at my journey as a writer

I like to look back in December on the year that is ending – and when I think about this blog, I think about my goal of being a writer. It was here that I declared that goal to the world. I can say that I am closer now than I have ever been. In fact, there are some days when I willingly accept that is part of who I am and not just a game of pretend. I write a lot – and I am working on it in one fashion or another every day.

Over the past year, I’ve been busy – working full time, taking care of family, organizing and throwing a wedding for our only daughter – basically, a full plate and a busy life, all by itself. That’s just how I roll – busy is a usual state for me.

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I added a new twist to the mix this year by volunteering to be an intern for a Literary Agency. That has added a lot to my load, with the expectation that I’d read and review about two manuscripts a week. Some are short (35K words) and some go on for three times that long. My reading and blogging time has taken a hit – but I’m learning some really valuable lessons in the process.

As an intern, I’ve read 45 manuscripts in the past 8 months. I took a few weeks off while on vacation and around Laurel’s wedding, but my average is about 1.5 per week. Of those, 41 were fiction and 4 were non-fiction. The genres were all over the map – some took me way out of my normal zone, but that’s a refreshing exercise. My average reader’s report was about 2,250 words long for a total of 101,250 words. That’s a boatload of writing. Heck, that’s a fair sized novel.

I’ve learned a lot more about what makes a good query letter and have honed my ability to spot good writing versus crappy writing versus solid writing. There’s an indescribable something that good writers have that makes their manuscript stand out. I have had that experience only 2 times so far out of 45 – one time, it was something I thought I’d like and was pleased when I did, the second time, it was something I was sure I would not like and found it was wonderful. So – reading a lot of different authors’ works gives me a better insight into my own. I’m not a bad writer. I’m pretty good. But I have things to learn as well.

Out of these 45, I recommended 21 for revise and resubmit, 18 for rejection and 6 for representation. I don’t know if that’s what ultimately happened – I’m not in that part of the loop – but I do know that I find myself rooting for the writers and may be a little over generous about the revise and resubmit. I empathize with their plight.

I queried my completed manuscript to 20 agents, had 6 requests for partials that turned into 1 request for the full. It is still in the revise and resubmit zone. I got it back from the agent who’d requested it and am now trying to figure out how to incorporate the suggestions.

I’ve also been working on a new story. It’s at about 60,000 words and has kind of taken over my brain. I need to figure out if it’s worth pursuing or if it’s just a pile of words. So far, I think there’s a pony in there somewhere. I’ll keep digging.

I entered 6 writing contests and didn’t win a single one – but was a finalist in one and an honorable mention in another.

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A piece I wrote years ago was accepted into an anthology and is now available on Amazon.

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I participated in a Blog Tour and enjoyed learning more about how others approach their writing. It was a fun exercise and I am looking for more opportunities to expand my network with other writers.

I finalized a writing project that I’d been working on for over a year. It was a Guide to Mentoring handbook based on my experience as a mentor during my career. I put it together and shared it through our company’s mentoring organization and it has been provided to many of our new hires as they join the company. I feel good knowing people are reading it. I continue to write articles at work for our various platforms and provide editorial services where needed.

Last but not least, I continue to try to do the Friday Flash Fiction piece and was successful about half the time this year. I have not been a very good blogger, but I have not abandoned it, either. I will aim to be more dedicated in 2015!

All in all, it was a busy and good year. I have had a chance to learn, I’ve honed my own writing skills and I’ve stretched myself in new directions. I feel good about the progress I’m making, even though there are many days when I kick myself for not writing more regularly. I think that’s part of the writer’s process. We like to kick ourselves. Just for fun.

I have a sign in my home office the simply says “Believe”. I put it up there, feeling slightly ridiculous, because what are the odds that I could really make the transition to being a writer? But I look at it and every now and then I find myself smiling. I am making this happen. And I do believe. I do.

Believe

Letters from a Housewife

I’ve learned something about my mother that I sort of knew, but didn’t truly appreciate.  She wanted to be a writer.  She wrote a lot over the course of her life and I now have those writings.  She wrote short stories, she wrote historical novels, she wrote mystery novels, she journaled about things she experienced – in short, she was a a closet writer, like I am.  I have been reading through her work and have found some interesting things. 

I find I like her voice as a writer much more in the writing she did in her journals or observations.  In her fiction, she tends to sound “writerly”, if that’s a thing.  I remember one time she shared a story with me that she was working on.  I was about 15 and considered myself fairly experienced with fiction – as a reader.  I told her that people didn’t really talk like that, so it sounded fake.  She took some offense at my comment, and didn’t share much of her work with me after that.  I have a feeling she didn’t appreciate my critical review.  In hindsight (and re-reading), I stand by my assessment.  I will try to remember that in my own work – along with learning to be a little more sensitive in giving feedback in the future.

I wanted to share this piece with you today, mostly because mom is on my mind a lot, as it’s the first anniversary of her death. I also wanted to share it because it provides  great insight into who she was as a mom.  This piece was written in the summer of 1959, I believe.  She refers to her 3 pre-school kids – I was far from school at that point, but suffice it to say she had her hands full – 5 year old Jan, 2 year old Kev, and me – about 6 months, I guess.  That’s a lot of work, but she seems to just take it in stride.
 
I learned from this that I attended an Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops concert at Golden Gate Park.  Of course, I have no memory of the concert, but apparently, I was there.  How cool is that? I also learned that tacos were a novelty at that time and homes could be purchased in San Jose for $99 down.  It is a remarkable snapshot into their lives from that era.
 
I tried to type it up exactly as she had it. What is missing are the overtypes, the corrections and the feel of the old-time typewriter.  It was on yellow paper and ran about 7 pages long in the original.  I envision her, typing in the evening after we are all asleep, maybe sitting outside so the noise wouldn’t bother us so much in the small trailer.  I expect she also typed up my dad’s school papers.  She was the typist in our family – dad was all thumbs.  One thing I remember most about his doctoral years was the sound of mom typing at night, working on dad’s dissertation for him.  And she did more than type – she was a good editor and knew how to make things read better. 
 
I hope you enjoy it and do as I will today – think about your mom and all the rich experiences you’ve had with them.  Mine was a wonderful mother. I hope this gives you the chance to know her as I do – and that you feel a little closer to her for the time it takes to read it.  I know it did for me.
 

Office Space

An amazing Christmas gift was given to me this year – something that I had wanted for a while, but hadn’t been able to realize. I now have my own place to work at home! I have an office set up that is all mine which will allow me the opportunity to do more writing in my spare time. This refuge is truly that – a serene place with a desk, bookcase, a bulletin board for ideas and inspiration, as well as a door to close if I need to work without interruption. I am grateful beyond belief for this gift.

It was inspired by two things – one, a book that Lori gave me by Elizabeth Berg called Escaping in to the Open – The Art of Writing True, about becoming a writer. In it, she recommends a place where you can work that will stay set up and be ready whenever the mood strikes. The second was a visit to The Container Store earlier this month where I saw desks and supplies that made me long for a place of my own. The execution was all Seth! He put it together in a part of our guest room / Trey’s room that is just perfect. I feel settled already and working here is a delight.

I have a window that looks out in to the trees of the greenbelt and I feel as though I am perched in a tree house. The sun filters through the branches and plays on the boughs of the evergreens. Squirrels skitter through on their highways to and from home and birds make themselves known by their calls. I am able stare into space and see the story in front of me, wrapped in the green comfort of home. Even the rain feels soothing.

I have set some writing goals for myself and am planning to work on a couple of ideas that have been on my mind. I can’t be sure they will work, but I am positive of one thing – I know they won’t if I don’t try. Here’s to 2012 and the year of possibilities. I am confident that this year will bring good things.