I could say lots and lots and lots about clergy. I knew some very well, but now I aim to keep a humongous canyon between them and me. However, I couldn’t resist expressing some ideas in a little piece of dark, slipstream flash called “Orthodox Bishops.” Thank you, Body Parts Magazinefor accepting it for publication. The story comes out in Issue 6: Grave Robbing.
I stayed home from work today because I’m sick, which was an opportunity to write, despite my achy body. It was an added treat to get my colorful copy of Toad Suck Review in the mail, shipped from the Department of Writing at the University of Central Arkansas. I turned the pages, which always fills me with a small amount of dread. I’m always afraid to look at my words, afraid I will see something in my story I don’t like. Afraid the editors will have made a mistake with my text.
The issue is thick, since it is annual, so I decided to go to the Table of Contents instead of paging through. “Central Market Women” did not appear under the “Fixion” category, but since they have other clever section titles, I kept looking, thinking maybe there was a “Flasch-Fixion” section as well. Instead, I found my story under “Nonfixion.” I thought for a moment about my story, about how in the story, blood spontaneously flows from wrists of shoppers; about how debit cards slip from hands and fly all the way to the rafters; about how arms spin until they rip off. I chuckled. Obviously this was a mistake. I can’t believe that the editors who chose this piece believe these events to be true, nor can I believe the young, ambitious writing students placing the pieces in the issue actually thought these things happened. No, instead, I was warmed by a different scenario. I imagined tired, hungover students throwing accepted pieces together at 2:00 am, past their deadline, not really caring anymore, and sending the issue off to production without looking back. Yes, it warmed me. It warmed me, too, to unwrap the issue, to free it from the entertainment section of The Echo, the university’s student paper. And it warmed me, before that, to first see the white, square, return-address label, Toad Suck Review, Dept. of Writing, etc., cut out and taped with nothing more than exhaustion, care, dedication and passion, just as I had done hundreds of times only with my name on the return address, shipping my story, my submission, to such places as this, in hopes that someone on the other end, in that university or basement office, would be warmed by what was inside.
Um, it happened again–before today, even. It happened days ago: Another story was not only accepted but already published. This one is called “Pier Boys,” and it appears in Dark Matter Journal. I sent it out, and two days later it was accepted. This editor did what the other one did: He quickly put it in an issue he was getting ready to publish.
I’m doing something special–for me, special for me–with these stories. I’m not ready to talk about it yet. It’s all happening so fast. I have a feeling that two more pieces I wrote on the bus and the ferry are soon to be published as well. I don’t mean to sound arrogant. And no, I don’t know anything for sure by any means. Maybe years will go by before another piece gets attention. But I think I’m tapping into a few internal and external things that are coming together at the right time. That’s all. That’s all I’ll say about that for now.
The first story that was accepted, “Buffalo Girls,” will be out next week. Be ready for more weirdness.
My flash-fiction test has produced results: an acceptance. Perhaps such immediate encouragement will never happen again; however, I’m going to take that encouragement and raise it. I’m placing another bet on the table. It’s about chance and skill and not much more than that. Art, yes, there’s gotta be art in this game, but that’s a given.
My story was strange, and I loved writing it: art and skill.
I found an editor who happened to be of like mind: chance and skill.
I’m writing another piece of flash: art and skill and chance.
I’m on a roll. It’s in the moment. The moment is all there is. A story can lock a moment into place. Flash is especially good at that.
I’ve avoided writing flash fiction for years. I had a goal to publish long stories with story arcs and developed characters and plots. When I achieved that, my next goal was to write a novel. Now that I’ve done these things, I’m ready to revisit my old instincts, to write about the gist of the thing, to write a story in a few hundred words.
It’s satisfying to write a tight tale in a couple of hours. Flash fiction is everywhere.
Every day, I take a rural bus to a civilized ferry to a city bus. I am flooded with flash. Flooded with different personalities doing wonderful, stupid and sad things that novels are built on.
Or maybe just paragraphs.
Maybe I have the wherewithal, once again, to spin the shortest of tales from a simple gesture that came into my view. Maybe I can make that moment live a bit longer, in a different form, for a period of time. And maybe one of these busy editors who can only make time and space for a few hundred words will give me a nod and publish my snapshot of make-believe.
I sent out a piece this weekend. I wrote it on the ferry, on the bus, and then in the car while my husband ran in the store. The entire process took about three hours. It was fun and easy to write. This story is my test: going back to my instincts and going forward into the current readership, the busy people, the digital readers, of our new world.