Be a Flasher

Not that kind of flasher, naughty bird. A flash fiction writer.

Why should I be a flash fiction writer? You ask. I’m glad you did. Flash fiction forces several wondrous talents upon you:

  1. Economy of language.
  2. Full-bodied plot in a tiny, weeny package.
  3. A stretch into new genres, styles, content.*
  4. Opportunity for you to turn away from a grueling, lonely novel-nobody-sees and hit publish.
  5. The thrill of weekly or monthly contests, like zeroflash, cracked flash fiction, and microcosms.
  6. Receive needful pets from fellow writers and learn to give same. Be in community.

I had this thought as I sat down today with my novel-in-progress: flash fiction should/could be part of Stephen King’s famed tool box for writers. Use it if it suits you. At first I couldn’t imagine liking anything less than a full-length novel, but the more I read and write flash, the more I appreciate its form. It’s like poetry and fiction made love and bam! Flash fiction.

*One such stretching happened to me just this month. The prompt for July’s Zeroflash is to write a metafiction piece. Metafiction? What on earth is that? The latin prefix meta means beyond, which I think of as above and beyond. Still, above and beyond fiction? I had to look it up. Luckily some of the examples were books I’d already read, so I understood that metafiction called attention to itself as a form or structure. Call me thick, it didn’t get much easier once I knew what the stuff was. But chew on a thing long enough and eventually it assimilates into you. Check out my metafiction flash piece here.

I Wish I Could Be…

Imagine this. My six-year-old wearing his fuzzy pj’s makes this imperious proclamation: “I wish I could be public schooled so I wouldn’t have to walk all the way to the kitchen to get my rods.”

Those rods, to which he referred, were little color-coded blocks that enabled him to learn his fractions and multiplication tables like a boss. Just, they were manipulatives. Manipulatives must be manipulated. One must touch them. One must get them out and place them on the coffee table next to the couch before one sits down to do his math. Else, one must expect to get back up.

A truer grass-is-greener thought was never uttered than when my son, who had zero-minus-infinity idea of what public school entailed– wished for it anyway because it was the antithesis of his present, horrible circumstances. That of having to walk the twenty steps from our cosy spot on the couch to the kitchen drawer, where his math rods were stored.

Nevermind we live barely less than two miles from the elementary school where code dictates he’d be walking to and fro every day, unless his mum rescued him with a car ride. Nevermind traipsing through the halls to get to classes, lunch, the bathroom. Each and every time, far more than the twenty steps to the kitchen to get his rods. And the pj’s: out of the question. Public schoolers have to wear clothes.

We all do it though, don’t we? Decide the grass is simply not green enough. Sometimes when life gives me a backhand I look longingly at the freeway and think how nice it would be to get in the car and just… go. Anywhere. King David had no freeway, but he and I comiserate: Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. (Psalm 55:6) He was a king and wanted to be a dove. My son was homeschooled and wanted to be public schooled. I am a homeschool mom and wanted to be a gypsy.

Better yet, I wish I could be a superhero, then this thing called adulting wouldn’t be so dang hard…


Not in Kansas Anymore

I am among the scores descending on Coe Lake to watch the 4th of July fireworks. We squish our blanket in with the sea of others and became part of the throng; the green is absolutely choked with people. The sticky smell of funnel cakes settles like dew upon us. From the pavilion, middle-aged men with day jobs belt out classic rock tunes, and behind us hastily cobbled rides tick and thunk and joyous screams punctuate the balmy night.  The perfect summer night.

Then I see him.

Look, if you’re going to wear all black and a quilted coat in 80 degree heat, carry a large old-style bag (the kind once used to hold portable video cameras) and stand in the middle of the walkway looking uncomfortable and talking on your phone, plotting with another terrorist like yourself working out the timing on your detonations…

Yes. I have an overactive imagination, but we were ground zero in a target rich environment, celebrating America.

Think I’m overreacting? I tell you this guy was one of three things:

  1. A terrorist.
  2. An idiot.
  3. A grad student writing his thesis.

He was standing in the middle of the walkway. Standing. While the rest of us were sitting. And wearing all black. And messing with himself under his coat like he was pawing an AK-47 under there.

I turn to Gabe and “joke,” Darn. Forgot my gun. Gabe wonders what on earth he could have in that fat bag of his. Gabe says, Dad’s cell number is X, right?

Yes, I say. And I know why he asked me that. In case we get separated. Gabe and I are smiling, but we’re not taking our eyes from him.

Bob arrives and I tell him there’s a weirdo, and Bob thinks I’m talking about the one dressed up as Mario from the video game. I drop it because I’m a writer and I see threats everywhere. I make them up.

A young woman comes over to me and says, You’re looking at that guy too, aren’t you?

I am, I say.

This is incredibly affirming and frightening at the same time. I can be counted upon to finish any scenario in a tragedy, so the fact that another human being sees the threat makes it credible. I’m going to get the police, she says.

And I’m glad.

Everyone wants to bash the police, but when an intruder breaks into your house, when you’re held at gunpoint or stuck in a bathroom while a non-police shoots his way into your personal space, you’ll be loving them. Loving.

I digress.

We don’t live in a world where you can waltz into the family fireworks display wearing a trench coat and carrying a duffel. The 2013 Boston Marathon and other similar events have set that ship to sail.

At length, a normalish-looking guy meets the terrorist-looking guy. Terrorist Guy hands over the duffel, and they walk toward the back of the crowd. Bob follows. He’d realized it wasn’t Mario I was talking about and came to the same conclusion: the guy was textbook suspicious.

The police show up, but Terrorist Guy is gone. People stare at us. The man behind us asks what’s up.

Because I teach I’ve had active threat training. As part of the training, we’re asked to “go there” in our minds, to lay down mental ruts that promote a knee-jerk response in the case of an actual situation. Did you know the correct response to an active shooter is to scream at them and throw things? It’s the exact opposite of what usually happens (people duck and go quiet, which allows the shooter optimal aim and focus). Those who wish to save their charge (teachers) and have not a bat’s chance in hell of coming through unscathed are directed to do exactly the opposite of what the perp expects: charge him. This is the counter phase in ALICE training and is, of course, a last resort.

So it was that I found myself “going there” on the lawn as we waited for darkness to fall. I felt myself “going there” when the first booms went off, and still “there” as they hammered away.

I wondered if he’d come around from the back and start shooting. Not the worst way to die, I told myself. Do you think I’m silly for thinking these things?

All that to say, a young man with no fashion sense and/or a thesis to write* put a damper on my 4th of July. I thought to myself: We’re not in Kansas anymore. This Oz forming at our feet, continually shifting, it sometimes feels like a dream.

*Students are sometimes directed to display odd behaviors and note the reactions of bystanders. I was an unwilling participant once at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The docent and the student were in cahoots with one another (or she just put up with it). A man in our room began scratching himself, harder and more vigorously, until he built himself into such a frenzy it was absurd. The docent went on droning about art as if nothing was amiss while everyone else in the room got uber-uncomfortable at this man’s lice or whatever ailment caused such dreadful itching. Then I noticed another student behind us holding a clipboard and scribbling away (thank you, Captain Obvious).

For my Husband on Father’s Day

Father moment: Bob walks in the door after a ten-hour workday, lunch bag in one hand, mail (bills) in the other, trying to shake the day’s garbage from his head and wanting very badly “to get horizontal for a minute.” Out of necessity Bob has perfected the power nap. Still, his head doesn’t get to touch the pillow. When he walks in it’s like a magnet just stepped inside and everyone turns to iron. Phoom! There’s the sucking sound of displaced air as we all beeline for the man with the answers, the wallet, the brawn, the sugar.

“Dad, will you swim with me?”

And another. “Dad, will you fix my windshield?”

Or this. “Dad, can I have X dollars to do Y activity?”

And I tell him, “The fridge is leaking. And I ask him, “What are you doing tonight?” It doesn’t really mean what are you doing tonight? It means, “Let’s walk the dog because I miss you.” I tell him about the fridge and ask him for a walk as if those two pieces of information exist in entirely different cosmos, as if the fridge needing attention and me wanting attention can be simultaneously acknowledged. This, we expect from fathers: superhuman strength and the ability to transcend time and space.

And his hamstrings are tighter than a compound bow from the running, but walk he does. Fix the windshield he does, swim, shells out X dollars for Y activity. This father works all day, sets himself aside all night and drops into bed. I am a witness.

Thank you for loving us so well, for so often putting your dreams aside for your family and in so doing– offering an example and a challenge to those of us blessed to be called yours.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. – Romans 12:10

Writer at work! A guide to acceptable writer interruptions #writing #amwriting

Writer at work! A guide to acceptable writer interruptions #writing #amwriting

Thank you, GL Cromarty for expressing my exact sentiments. If anyone has a soundproof chamber I could place in or near my home, I’m interested. It need only be big enough to sport a comfy chair and end table.

G.L. Cromarty

Writers know all about the writing zone.

About how easy it is to get distracted.

About how hard it can be to get started.

About how difficult it is to keep going.

And about how annoying it is when our nearest and dearest interrupt us in the middle of our writing flow.

So, for those who are unsure what constitutes an acceptable writer interruption, here is a handy guide.

To bring snacks or beverages!

Please drop snacks off promptly. Do not engage the writer in conversation or otherwise interrupt while leaving the treats. Definitely do not lean over the writer’s shoulder while dropping the snack off and speak the last sentence on the page in the voice of a pirate (as my husband does)!

The house is on fire!

First make all efforts to ‘deal’ with this before interrupting the writer. Only once the fire truck arrives and you have…

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Writing: My Quest

When I read something amazing I think, wow, this author must be extraordinary to be able to create this world, these people, this conflict. The Bible says we can know God in this way too, that His invisible attributes are known by His workmanship: our world. On any given day I can be impressed with God’s creation. All I have to do is look at a sunset or a storm or cows grazing silently.

Likewise, when I enter a fictional world held together not by atoms and magnetic forces, but by words and sentences, I ascribe to that creator an amount of awe. I think:  Only a beautiful mind could create such beautiful minds…

That’s why I wrote, initially. I was on a quest for a beautiful mind.

I still remember the first time I wrote fiction. The assignment was to create a scene from several different points of view. I created it, just a little junky park scene where two lovers passed by an old woman sitting on a bench.

I walked around the rest of the day like I had a secret, like I was a wizard or Captain America or just plain SPECIAL. I may look ordinary to you non-writers, but I just created a WORLD. Can Donald J. Trump do that? I think not.

I was hooked junky-style on world building and character creation. Still am. Some days I carry my chapter around in my head and smile to think of it. What began as a quest for me, a proof I’ve got something beautiful inside, became a passion in its own right.

Was there a specific moment you decided to become a writer? Please share! 🙂





What I Would Say to Graduates of 2017

Graduates, this is good stuff. But not just for graduates, for anyone who sees life as still full of possibilities.

Russell J. Fellows


I live in a fantasy world, I know this. My wife is an actual queen. My daughter is part horse, and my son is an adventurous knight (Nexo Knight to be certain…if you know what that is).

I say all this to let you know that it is only in this fantasy world that I would be allowed to impart any wisdom toward those graduating high school or college this year.

I take what I can.

Friends of ours have a daughter that is graduating high school this year. We’re all very excited for her and proud of what she’s accomplished. She’s quite the artist and has a bright future ahead of her. It’s this event, and the fact that you can’t look anywhere right now without being reminded of these young souls venturing out into the great wide world now, that got me thinking. What would I say, if…

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