On the 15th of February, I took a walk up the hill. The following day, I toured the beach in this picture. No snow either day. Balmy.
Today, grey cat woke me early. The trash can was knocked over and the recycling was scattered. I stopped at the end of the driveway to pick up what I could before the truck – at the crest of the hill – arrived. The man on the back mentioned it had been windy, and we waved as he pulled away. I picked up the rest of the farther flung cans, then drove to the post office with wet feet because I wore shoes to “pop into the post office” not chase yogurt cups through the wet yard. This is weather that tries a person’s soul.
Everything has been trying recently.
On the walk of the 15th, I witnessed the drama of a dead pine tree close up and raw. Most February’s are too cold or snowy to consider such a walk and that’s the way it should be, I think, to have spring buds surrounding you when you encounter dead friends.
Or to temper your anger upon finding evidence of a two-story building on our neighbor’s lot that is highly unlikely to have been issued a permit to be built. Why would they bother when “no one” can see it. What do they care about drainage issues or killing an animal’s habitat?
Ah well, at least – at this second in time – there is fruit.
What do you do when your goals conflict? You’ve asked yourself that before, haven’t you? As an activist, artist, acrobat, airplane designer, or by whatever term you use to describe yourself. (Human being the all-encompassing reality, but a) how generic and b) I shan’t digress…)
My 1st world, white woman problem is that I told myself and others that my goal this year was to have 25 submissions out at all times. As of the most recent, gorgeous, informative Sunday morning, I was down to seventeen. Twenty if I count the In-Progress or Received entries on Submittable, one of which will soon turn 7 years old. It’s getting a cake this year. I’ve already brought unicorn ear and horn birthday candles and a tub of chocolate frosting for the big day.
So, I have failed with that goal before the month is out. Part of me knows I can get right on that; sending out roughly ten submissions is not exactly easy, but it is doable. I scratch my ear and reason that if I averaged submissions like banks averaged daily balances, I’m probably still at 25 a day, but my calculator doesn’t know how to do that kind of math.
Inspired by Rory of Gilmore Girls which I’m binge watching again, I made a list. A mental one. (I wanted to go with “I went mental …on a list” but it isn’t that funny, I mean, it’s so unfunny, I’m explaining the idea of the unfunny joke I didn’t even tell – it’s that bad. It reminds me of the little skit Paris Geller the guy she ended up marrying did when they switched editorships.) (I’m not that far in the series yet, but it’s close.)
It wasn’t a list either, more an assessment of desires and priorities. Thoughtful reflection, long walks in the woods, meaningful deliberation. Psyche! I watched some TV and realized it didn’t matter if I did or did not have (or keep) 25 things out. If all my ready pieces were accepted at once then I’d be in a pickle, wouldn’t I? Yes, I do know that is called rationalization and I mixed it with a little wishful thinking, but you know what? I have had two acceptances this year already and I hope you’re half as excited as I am!
The wonderful, gracious, amazing Laura Black accepted one of my pieces forFictive Dream’s Flash Fiction February! It will go live on Saturday 4 February 2023 so check it out – as well as the rest of the month’s posts – some of the most interesting things I read all year are in this series. Be sure to especially check out Nina Fosati’s piece which comes out on the 24th!
On top of that, the amazing, gracious, wonderful Tara Campbell and Michael B. Tager of Mason Jar Press have also accepted a piece of mine. The original story was written back in ancient times and was titled “Two Wrens for a Farthing,” then “What Isn’t Silk” – which I kept when I sent it out recently. I reworked that thing laboriously, had the fantastic Nina Fosati look it over for nits, retitled it and sent it the first day of the submission window for The Jarnal. I am seriously thrilled it was accepted – and the suggested edits were minimal. (Such relief and happiness!) Now, secretly, I jump up and down every so often when I remember I’m going to be in this print anthology! I still can’t believe it. Occasionally, I squeal. It scares one cat, concerns the other. The Jarnal III : Transitions, edited by Tara Campbell with managing editor Michael B. Tager will be out in May.
So, I’ve got that going for me, holding up that rationalization, which led to another where I downgraded the goal into an aspiration; I do want to get back to it, and will, but right now, well… I’m working on a novel.
Do you know how loathe I am to speak such a thing – even if it’s only in my head, or now, on a screen? Lucy. Charlie Brown. Football. Here I go again, and I’m not sure I want to, but – knock on wood – so far it seems okay and therefore I’m full of doubt. What ifs cling to every dust mote in my undusted house. Breakfast dishes leer. If I clean the house my anxiety will go away, but perhaps that’s where a lot of stories go, dumped out in mop water, flushed down a tidy bowl.
In 22 days, I’ve written 26,000 words. Three betas test drove the first 20 pages and said, “Keep going.” (I went to that file to count days and it took all my strength to not to open it anew.) So, like Rory to Yale, I’m going somewhere I was not headed, though I was headed there all along.
Well this month went fast. Until 6:45pm, it didn’t register that today was the last day of February. Speaking of which, if for any reason you are not reading Fictive Dream, you should. I am honored that Laura Black chose to include an experimental story of mine in Flash Fiction February alongside other fabulous pieces by Nina Fosati, Len Kuntz, Meg Tuite,Jude Higgins, Rosie Garland— the whole month is stellar. Please enjoy them all and the accompanying artwork by Claudia McGill. I thought her piece paired perfectly with mine.
I finished the bird story and resurrected an old one. Most of it was written 10 years ago, but there was no ending. I thought about it, reread it, even swapped it with another author for insight (Fun fact – that author was Tommy Dean whose workshop inspired “All the Love You Cannot See Told in Three Parts.”) When On The Premises announced contest #39, I went back to it again, cut the first two paragraphs, rewrote the beginning, and the ending finally arrived. We’ll see how it does, but I’m happy with the outcome.
For a short month, this February was packed. Two Star Review, a favorite piece of flash written during the summer of Tara and Pete was published in Emerge Literary Journal. The Rains went live in Fictive Dream as part of Flash Fiction February. If you haven’t yet, check out both of these places; they print some seriously decent stories and poems. I am grateful to have my work included in them.
Also, randomly out of Taipei, I received an invitation to talk about characterization. Todd Sullivan contacted me because he came across My Song for Majabin. During an interview, which you can catch here, I read part of the story and answer some questions.
Barrelhouse held a virtual conference and I was there for it. Great experience all around and I produced new drafts I’m letting sit for a bit. Editing is never done, but until some of it gets caught up on, I’m not working on new things…which can be problematic. Attempting to write this post yesterday, I ended up with a micro, two flashes, and the outline of an essay.
I absolutely adore the problems I have, including the creepy hand icicle…it may not be my favorite thing, but it didn’t grab me, so I’m good.
There was a lot of snow. Too much time was spent dealing with doctors, insurance companies and that ilk. Okay, I did have a few pleasant exchanges with one doctor, but that was a friendly with XO Man. Another bit of happiness was a long overdue chat with Mary Akers and Gina Detwiler. (Happy early birthday Gina!) Other awesomeness was the sanity and comradeship I so delighted in during weekly Zooms with the talented Nina Fosati. Thank you SO much for your friendship, loveliness, and being a bright light!
So, March is howling at the door with both a reading and a check in/write in scheduled. I’m off to hone pitches for Thursday’s PitMad and then edit some more. Thank you for stopping by and for the read! I appreciate it!
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