Friday, January 15, 2010

Reconnaisance

The image below was the visual prompt for 'Silhouette', the twelfth Clarity of Night flash fiction contest held by Jason Evans (and supported by his awesome spouse, Aine.)



You can read my entry a little farther down, and if you don't care about my unique state of mental health, you should just skip to it.

I have to defend some earlier whining I did on Facebook.  I had problems with writing this entry, as I always have, because I'm such a perfectionist.  Every word must be right.  I had three ideas that seemed decent, but none of them wanted to be transcribed.  This resulted in a few "Woe is me" type Facebook status updates, one of which was taken as me saying that I can't write.

However, here's what I meant:

The thrust of being a writer is for other people to read what you've written.  Hence, what you've written must be disseminated somehow.  If you can't make a deadline by which what you've written shall be disseminated, then being a writer may not be the most appropriate vocation for you.

I didn't mean to say that I have no talent as a writer, but my perfectionism often results in procrastination and down-to-the-wire work.  I know this about myself, but I can still be surprised by the ways in which my fear-of-failure manifests.   And, while I do have some talent as a writer, I'm still learning the skill of showing-not-telling (take that, undergraduate creative writing professor who said I would never learn).

Um. 

Are we all clear now?  Moving on.



Reconnaisance

Blonde upswept hair, black pinstriped pantsuit, lacy pale camisole. She’s like walking moonlight. Tim mistakes her for a reporter.

“I’m sorry, this is a restricted area. You can contact the front desk in the morning for an interview.”

“No, Dr. Dalton, I’m here to see you.” She advances on him with predatory stealth and berry-moist lips. He lets her push him back into his office, onto the immaculate camel-colored leather couch.

Tim flashes the smile that says “Here I am, brilliant and single, corporate success at the age of thirty-seven, perfect hair, and a rock-hard six-pack. Of course you’re here to see me.”

He almost doesn’t hear her ask about the bird.

“Excuse me?”

“BIRD - Bio-Imaging Regenerative Device. Nanotechnology that facilitates the connection between synapses, like a bird flying from branch to branch. Research conducted by Dalton Labs. Paid for by a private Alzheimer’s foundation.” Her crisp recitation efficiently snuffs his flame-bright smile.

“How…?”

“Secretly sold to the CIA to rewire the brains of suspected terrorists.”


Shit. He knew that contract would bite him in the ass.

“Look, if you want exclusive rights to the story, I’d be willing to work something out.”

“You underestimated your backers.” Her voice slices through his bluster. “Don’t worry. After I rewire those charming synapses of yours with your own technology, you won’t even remember to feel guilty.”

The full-pane windows display the skyline, drowning in the inky darkness of the Bay waters.

Commenting on 'Silhouette'

Dear fellow CoN entrant:

I have utmost respect for all of your efforts; truly. Previous CoN contests have taught me, however, that I will drive myself insane (literally) if I spend as much time commenting as I have in contests where there were less than 150 entries.

As I said, I know how much time and effort writing this piece may have taken you. I want to acknowledge and support the process by offering constructive criticsm.

My goal, therefore, is to choose one thing I love about your entry and one thing I might suggest changing.

Thanks for helping me become a better writer.
Cheers,
Aerin

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chasin' Dreams

Breathe in, breathe out, it brings me closer
It's okay, it's alright, it happens every night
I've been chasing dreams all my life
Now life is but a dream.
-Chasing Dreams, Magnet         

Chase Donovan C-Q
December 20, 1989 - January 5, 2010


(left, Chase at 12 yrs, with a 15+ halibut;  right, Chase at 19)

I had not kept in touch with this family, but on my FB page this morning was a message from my former boss, telling me that Chase had passed away yesterday.  Nothing I say here will help, nothing will ease his mother's heartbreak.  But as I watch the snow falling, hundreds of miles away, I find myself hoping that the threshold was bright, and smooth, and that there's lots of fishing on the other side.  Peace be with you.

Thresholds 

written August, 2005 

For five years I had the privilege of working with an amazing group of people in Laguna Beach. These people were smart, funny, insecure, beautiful, silly, and made life for me both unbearable and tolerable. They were also all between the ages of 12 and 18. I served as Director of Youth and Family Ministries, which is really just a fancy title for a youth minister who does some other stuff, too.

My job was not only to connect with the "regulars" - the ones who came every week, who participated in every car wash - but to account for the ones we hardly ever saw. These "occasionals" were some of them busy, some of them cynical, some of them both, but they were all dear to me. Whether by trips to Starbucks or visits to sports practices, I kept fairly close watch on almost all of them.

One of my occasionals was a boy named Chase. When he was 12 years old, he was diagnosed with a rare form of soft tissue cancer. Although neither his mother nor his grandmother would ever admit defeat by saying the words out loud, it was not likely that he would survive. The community rallied 'round him, but all the love and good cheer could not help this energetic baseball player from becoming pale, thin and weak.

I tried to visit as often as I could, but Chase had never been much of a talker, least of all to me. Mostly, we'd watch movies. Chase sprawled on the sofa, I'd curl up on the floor with their huge chocolate-colored dog, and Chase's mom would run errands or shuttle around one of her three other sons. He visited the Mayo clinic, worked with the best doctors. We all gave blood at the Children's Hospital, and took meals when we could. There would be up days and down days. But I, novice that I was to anything resembling pain and suffering, could finally take it no longer. I could not pretend that everything was fine, that this was a cold virus just passing through.

Seminary had not prepared me very well for this moment. I had studied the New Testament in Greek, the history of the various Councils, the effect postmodern thought was having on the church. I'd had pastoral counseling with women, but there was no course on the death of children.

In addition, I considered myself a Universalist. I don't believe in hell. But I found, as I searched my soul and the things I'd been taught, I didn't quite believe in heaven, either. The more conservative idea that this life is easily discarded, that it has no meaning because the afterlife is what matters, held no promise for me. It sounded too much like a line fed to soothe the masses. I read and read, thought and thought, prayed and prayed, and continued to come up bereft.

Although I hated to admit my theological ignorance, I had to ask for help. My boss and the minister of that church was an incredible woman I hold in highest regard. She was sitting behind her desk on a typical, sunshine-filled California day. I asked her bluntly, "What happens when we die?"

She grinned wryly at me. "So how's Chase?" I started crying and admitted how scared I was for him.

"The way I've had it explained," she said, "is that our life cycles are made up of thresholds. We enter through a threshold, and leave through one. I don't know where we go, or where we come from. But when babies are born, they are trusting, and loving, and innocent. They have come from a place where they learned to be trusting, and loving, and innocent. There's no reason to believe we don't go back to that place."

*******

Chase did successfully beat his cancer, although there's still a chance it could recur. His face has filled out, he's back in school. Life goes on. But I am less afraid and more hopeful. And when my son was born, two years later, I looked in his face and saw a beautiful place that I know I will go back to someday.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Clarity of Night Flash Fiction Contest NOW OPEN!

Jason Evans has officially opened his twelfth flash fiction contest.

I'm a bit feverish with dread. 

You may not have put the two together, but I literally quit blogging (and began my six-month hiatus) due to the burnout I experienced on the last flash fiction contest Jason held. 

It's not the writing that tires me - it's the reading.  Rather, the commenting.  To do so for each and every 125+ entries makes me cross-eyed.  Then I get a headache.  Then I drink.  Then I get grumpy so I drink some more.

Okay, not really.

Still, I feel as though I need to work out a strategy for making it through all the stories that are submitted.  Any tips? 

"Silhouette" Short Fiction Contest




Welcome to the 12th Clarity of Night Contest!! Before the post-holiday doldrums gain a foothold, let's get a little juiced up, shall we?

Here's how the contest works. Using the photograph above for inspiration, compose a short fiction (or poetry) piece of no more than 250 words in any genre or style. Send your entry to me by email at jevanswriter at yahoo dot com before 11:00 p.m., Wednesday, January 13th (Eastern Time, United States). I'd prefer attachments formatted in Microsoft Word (please see the format request below), but if you have something more exotic, you can paste the text into the body of an email (no docx formats, please). Each entry will be posted and indexed.

Now for the goodies. The following prizes are up for grabs:

  • 1st Place: $50 Amazon gift certificate
  • 2nd Place: $30 Amazon gift certificate
  • 3rd Place: $25 Amazon gift certificate
  • 4th Place: $20 Amazon gift certificate
  • 5th Place: $15 Amazon gift certificate
  • Readers' Choice Award 1st Place: $25 Amazon Gift certificate

But this is about more than prizes. I hope you take advantage of the opportunity to meet and interact with your fellow writers. Our different perspectives, styles, and skills shine when we all start at the same place. It's a great opportunity to learn from each other.

Rules:
  1. 250 words maximum.
  2. Titles are optional, but encouraged. Titles do not count toward your word count.
  3. One entry per person.
  4. Any genre or style is welcome. If you choose to submit poetry, you must have narrative movement within the poem if you wish to compete with the prose pieces for the prizes.
  5. The copyright remains with you, the author; however, you grant me worldwide first electronic publishing rights to post your entry on this blog indefinitely.
  6. Judging will be conducted by me, Jason Evans. For an explanation of the judging criteria and scoring system, see A Note on Judging. You can also read the winning entries from past contests.
  7. Please provide a name for your byline. If you have a website or a blog, I'd be happy to link your site to your byline. If you don't have a website or blog, feel free to include a short bio. A bio does not count towards your word count.
  8. At the close of the contest, I will give the date and time for the announcement of winners.
  9. After the winners are announced, I will post what I liked most about each entry in the comments.
  10. The Readers' Choice Award is awarded by vote of the contest participants. The entry with the highest number of votes wins. The rules for this portion of the contest will be posted after the entry period closes.
  11. Public critiques in comments are encouraged, but must remain respectful. I reserve the right to delete comments and ban participants who do not abide by the collegial spirit of Clarity of Night contests.
  12. For prior contests and their results, see the links on the sidebar.

Format Request:
These are not rules, and I will not reject an entry which does not conform, but if you follow them, my work in running the contest is much less. For that, I will be eternally grateful!
  1. Single space lines, and double space paragraph breaks.
  2. No tabs or indents for new paragraphs.
  3. If you have italics in your text, please code it for html by putting a begin italics code < i > where it starts and an end italics code < /i > where it ends.
  4. Although it's rarely used, handle bold < b >< /b > and underline < u >< /u > the same way.
  5. Write your title at the top of the document left justified in title case (first letters capitalized). On the next line write your byline left justified (example, by Jason Evans). Add two blank lines, then begin your story.

Welcome to this latest contest! Entries will be posted starting January 6th.

Help spread the word!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010, here I come.


The one thing I know about 2010 is that I will not, at least for the first few months, be accepting any books for review. I will still occasionally review the books I do read (acquired on my own). I will still comb my fellow book bloggers' sites for recommendations.  If I'm going to pressure myself to do anything, though, it's going to be to write.  Then y'all can review my book.



Ultimately, I rarely have success with resolutions.  I end up completing exactly the opposite of that which I've set out to achieve.   This year it's going to be different.  This year I'm making a list of resolutions which can last the entire year, a list of things I want to accomplish that I know are within my grasp.  (And....if by some strange, random chance I once again complete exactly the opposite....well, c'est la vie.)

Here are my Resolutions for 2010:

1. Gain 20 lbs.

 2. Lose patience with my children at least twice a day.

3. Set aside time to write and end up whittling it away playing around on Facebook.

4. Never respond to emails, inbox messages, or phone messages.

5. Eat my weight in junk food each day.

6. Read only garbage, like books written by Ann Coulter or people with names that end in "y."

7. Blog once a month.  Never mention Stephen Parrish.

8. Wait until 2011 to read the third Hunger Games novel and the third Kristin Cashore novel.  Ignore Quencher, Plum Blossoms in Paris, The Tavernier Stones and Paranormalcy altogether.

9. Refuse to have dinner with Brendan Fraser when he discovers my winning Clarity of Night entry.

10.  Lose any interest in finding a cure for autism, or even in finding coping mechanisms to help those children and their parents.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Best of....Wrapping Up the Year

The End-of-Year-Post I Wish I'd Written

"Online Friends Not Forgotten"

The Book I Read in 2009 That I Think Everyone Should Read

by Denise Brodey

(oh, you wanted fiction?)

by Karen Russell

The Book I Read in 2009 That I Don't Think Anyone Should Read

Valeria's Last Stand
by Marc Fitten

The Only-Sort-of-Okay Book I Read in 2009 That Was Overhyped

by Aprilynne Pike

The Blogger I Loved to Read

beth revis at "writing it out"

My Favorite Commenter

Betty.  Hands down.

And, elsewhere in the Blogosphere, here are the Best of...

...Books

....Book Bloggers
....various Blog Buddies
....Authors

.

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