I got back from the San Diego SoCal Writer's Conference, and really hit the ground running, as they say. Yes, it's a cliche, but do you know a better way to describe getting back into town just in time to complete the arrangements for my son's choir's dinner theater? I was in charge, which meant fielding phone calls, assigning tables, decorating, running errands, talking to the caterer, and making sure everything ran smoothly on Thursday and Friday nights. I'm happy to report that we've got one night down, and one to go, and it was perfect. I couldn't have been happier with the adults and the children who volunteered. If you want to see my son's choir, go here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsTKbM-9k78. They're amazing.
But let's talk about San Diego. It was fun, as usual. I got to hang out with my publisher, Karen Syed, who is just so funny and outspoken, and my friend, Alicia Bien, who makes me laugh until I cry, and Claudia Whitsett, who is really nice. And, of course, there were Michael and Wes, fun folks to decompress with at the end of the day.
My very first workshop this trip happened by accident. I meant to go hear Andy Peterson talk about how bad you can make your good guy, but instead I went to the Flash Fiction workshop with Julie Ann Shapiro. I was so surprised at falling into the wrong room, when she asked if I'd ever done flash fiction, I couldn't think of a thing.
What a dolt!
First of all, I LOVE to enter the SCWC Topic contest every year, 250 words of any kind on the topic chosen Friday night. I've been to 6 SCWCs - I've won three and been runner-up once. I entered the Southern California Writer's Association topic contest once, and won that. Let's face it, I'm very popular at 250 words.
At a little longer, I was also runner-up in the WOW-Women on Writing flash fiction contest, with my entry, "Quarter Life." Here's the interview I did with them when I got my award: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/2009/02/interview-with-gayle-carline-runner-up.html.
When I write one of these little ditties, my good buddy, Kip Mistral, always emails me with the same question: How do you come up with this stuff? My answer is always the same: Many things remind me of many things.
I thought perhaps I'd use one or two of these posts to discuss how I think of these things, in a little more detail.
During the Flash Fiction workshop, Julie produced a group of trinkets: fur boas, plush stars and butterflies, foamboard crowns and pirate hats. She challenged us to write a 100-200 word story about one or more of these things. Here's what I wrote:
"The boa slithers across her arms and around her waist. It is yellow and matches her outfit, what there is of it. She clings to the pole on the stage, gyrating to her heartbeat while speakers spit out a seductive dirge.
The fat man is here today. He sits in front and lets the drool slide down his mustache, his rheumy eyes feasting on her body, but not her soul. Today, she smiles at him, white teeth surrounded by crimson. She leans forward and lets her boa drop from her shoulders, feather light as she drapes it around his neck. His eyes, bright with desire, open wide. They continue to bulge as the snake tightens its grip."
How did my mind work with the materials? First, I think you should know I like my stories dry with a twist, so I don't want a straightforward tale of a pirate or a butterfly or a queen, etc. Let someone else do that. I looked at the fur boa and began to think about a boa snake. But who could hold a feather or real boa? Hmm, an exotic dancer. That put me into a strip joint, at least as I've seen them in the movies (no, I've never been, but that's another story). Then I wondered how I could write a tale that made you wonder what kind of boa the girl was holding until the last possible moment.
What do you think? Did I succeed?
"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times