Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Fiction: Four Flew Over the Cuckoo Tree

I know it's not Christmas-time, but my life recently resembles aspects of this twisted comedic story. :) Enjoy.

Four Flew Over the Cuckoo Tree

As the small band of misfits dribbled from their rooms for breakfast, they murmured amongst themselves about the boxes in the center of the common space.

When Meagan noticed the group assembling, she emerged from the glass enclosed nursing station. She flinched when Clarence sprung out of nowhere; he had used the plastic ficus tree for cover. Mental note: we need to address that blind spot…

“Why are you here? I thought it was your day off? What’s in the boxes, huh? Are they from the government? Is it a shock treatment table? It is, isn’t it?” Clarence narrowed his eyes and raised his right eyebrow suspiciously.

“I am here today because I brought you guys a present.” Meagan said as she approached the boxes and opened one in front of her captive audience.

“Is it booze?” Paula asked, “Please tell me it’s booze…I’ll take anything you got…seriously, anything.”

Meagan rolled her eyes at Paula as she plucked the top third of artificial Christmas tree from a box. “I bought a new one, so I talked the doctors into letting me donate my old one to the Ward.”

Sherry squealed, ”Oh, goodie-goodie-goodie! I love Christmas trees!” Without any prompting, the group began pulling the branches out of the boxes and assembling them.

“Let me check it for bugs,” Clarence snatched the tree stand from Sherry, “This is probably just a ploy to listen to our private conversations, ya know.”

“What’s that?” Josh’s head snapped to attention as he wiped the drool from his chin.

“Nurse Meagan brought us a Christmas tree!” Sherry clapped her hands as she delivered the news.

“Hey, that’s great. I’ll help, too…” but before he could get off the couch, his chin slumped back down to greet his chest, and the soft snores started immediately.

Clarence pointed at Josh, “See, that’s what the government does to ya when you register to vote, they plant a little chip in your…”

“Nah, that’s what can happen when you mix bourbon with your meds,” Paula oozed nonchalantly as she lit a cigarette, “so you all should be making sure he ain’t getting my mail.”

Sherry began to dig through the last box, “Hey, where are the ornaments? And the garland? There’s nothing in here but old craft supplies.”

“Well guys, here’s the thing,” Meagan began laying the supplies on the table for them,” after the incident last year they gave the Ward’s Christmas tree to Oncology. We had to make some serious concessions to get them to agree to let you have a tree at all. That means definitely no lights, and no glass ornaments either…though we can make some with the craft stuff. We have glue and construction paper, some popsicle sticks and stuff like that. You can even use photos of your family if you want to. The only thing is that the charge nurse has to approve them to make sure that they are all safe.”

“Yippee…Nurse Ratched gets to be the fun police. Imagine that…” Paula blew rings of smoke like she was already bored with the whole project, “I guess I’m out of the loop. What happened last year?”

“Well, without going into too much detail, a patient…” Meagan unconsciously swallowed hard, “…a patient ate all the light bulbs from the tree and had to have emergency surgery on Christmas Eve.”

Clarence snorted, “Come on…no one’s that crazy!” All eyes suddenly wandered over to Josh, who was on his feet and standing in front of the bathroom holding the door open wide.

“Well, we all have our issues, don’t we?” Meagan caught Sherry’s attention and emphatically brushed her bottom lip. Sherry’s eyes bulged as she quickly wiped the glob of school glue off her mouth. With most eyes on Boris, everyone missed this exchange…except for Clarence.

“It was you!” he barked at Sherry, “You are certifiably crazy!”

“Yep, and I got the papers to prove it…” Sherry defiantly scooped up a tube of glitter and stomped past Josh to go sulk in front of the television.

Meagan went over to Josh to see what he was staring at, though nothing looked out of place. “Do you need some help, Josh?”

“I’m just looking for bacon and eggs to cook for my wife. It’s my day to make breakfast.”

As Paula sashayed past, she paused, “If he’s looking for food in the bathroom, perhaps we should put the Christmas tree up on a table. Heaven forbid he dreams that he’s taking a walk in the woods...”

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday Fiction: Among the Ancient

The air carries a familiar scent, and I gaze up to the sky. The expanse above me is adorned in shades of hyacinth; the horizon beyond the city is framed by bulging white clouds, towering to the precipice of heaven itself.

The hour is surely near…

Though I tremble in anticipation of His arrival, I am just a fragment of the remnant who witnessed His departure. From this very garden—in the shade of the Mount of Olives—I watched Him go up to the clouds like a bird on the wind; the angels told us He would come again.

This I believe…

I was so young then; barely mature enough to provide fruit; my silvery leaves offering a paltry canopy of shade; a mere sapling in a garden grove of ancients; a shoot from one who had seen the days of David. Unworthy of His presence. Yet He chose me. He often knelt beneath my branches to pray. His back leaned against my already gnarled trunk as He taught His followers. I can still feel Him resting between my exposed roots.

He was truly God among us…

They laid their garments on the ground before Him, bowing down with palm branches in hand. Not a stallion did He ride, but a humble donkey. As He rode over the Mount, and past me in the garden, they worshipped Him as their king—their Messiah. Hosanna.

Scorned by the ones he came to save…

With glints of moonlight gracing the garden path, he laid prostrate on the rocky soil beneath me. He cried out to His Father; he spoke of a terrible cup—a cup of wrath—and prayed for it to pass over Him. Above that, He prayed for the Father’s will to be done. The soil is still tinged by the blood of His sweat. I yearned for lightning to strike me down so that I might crush those who came to take Him away.

The unblemished Lamb of God…

When the cup was poured out on Him—over and beyond on that dreaded hill of the skull—the foot of this holy hill felt the chill of darkness instead of the warmth of the sun; this garden shuddered in unison with all of creation. The ripe olives fell from my branches in mourning; the wind whined a dirge through my leaves. It was finished.

Sacrificed for the sins of the world…

But death held no power over Him; on the third day the tomb was empty; the shroud fell limp and vacant on the cold stone. He is risen.

He is risen, indeed…

And now I am an ancient myself. I can still hear His words being carried down the gentle mountain slope; He once foretold to His flock that this Holy City would crumble and fall. Yea, hardly a single temple stone was left in place, and the soldiers decimated this Garden of Gethsemane—we were trampled as the spoils of war. Though singed and scarred, I somehow survived. I survived to see many more wars and rumors of war, plagues and famines, earthquakes and great sorrows.

Come quickly, eternal Temple…

So as the last glimpses of twilight illuminate the clouds in shades of crimson, I search them earnestly for His familiar face; His hair blinding white like new wool; His feet like fiery brass. He will set His foot down above me on the Mount of Olives, splitting this holy hill in two. Every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess. The rocks will cry out in praise, and the trees of the field will clap their hands. New Jerusalem will descend from the heavens in all its glory.

Oh, Ancient of Days, come restore Your Garden…

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"You Make Me Feel So Young..."

The girls Aunty Marsh sent them a vintage circa 1973 Fisher Price Little People “Play Family Village” for an Easter gifty.

Complete with a firehouse (and wind-up siren), post office, theater, police station (with a jail cell, lol), barber shop and an auto repair garage with a lift and gas pump.

And all the Little People accessories.

It’s identical to the one Marsh and I played with, and probably every other child born anytime in the 70’s. I have a time machine in my living room.

EBay rocks.

So does Aunty Marsh. :)

Thank you Easter Bunny! Bawk, Bawk!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust

It was a beautiful sandwich. A Dagwood for a lady. Thin turkey, Colby jack cheese, little bit of mayo and brown mustard, all stacked between two slices of multigrain bread from Joe Fazio bakery (via Sam’s).

I was almost done assembling my lunch when Abby streaked down the hall saying, “I have to POOP!”

I giggled and told her I’d be right there to help.

Not thinking much about it, I left the empty kitchen and headed to the bathroom, where Abby was already finished with her business. I patted her front dry with tissue, but while I was busy trying to separate a wet wipe from the container, Abby‘s neked little tushie bolted down the hall to the living room.

“ABIGAIL! You need your butt wiped young lady!” I had no choice but to chase her with a wipe in hand.

As I passed the kitchen, from the corner of my eye I saw black. I looked in horror to see Zoe, aka Dogzilla, devouring my dainty Dagwood in one gulp.

“ZOE! You %^@&!#) $!^@#!” Surprised by getting caught, she retreated back up the stairs, mouth full, with a What? Me? I’m innocent! look on her face. My husband, Jerry appeared at the top of the stairs, and I proceeded to tell him what HIS dog did to my lunch. I stomped back through the kitchen, butt wipe still in hand, to find the elusive Abby monster.

As I approach her she points to my once beautiful cream colored couch cushion. “Looook, Mommy. Brown poop!”

Three skid marks embellished the lovely brocade pattern. I looked at the ceiling and screamed like the woman on the edge that I was. Jerry came running to find me wiping Abby’s tushie, but as I pointed to the poo streaks and told him what she said, I started laughing.

Lysol wipes removed Abby’s butt painting, but I’d strongly advise against napping on my couch. Especially with your head facing south.

And if there is any justice in the world, that stupid dog got horrible indigestion from eating my sandwich in one giant Dogzilla mouthful. She’s up for adoption if there are any takers out there.

No? Didn’t think so…

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Fiction: The Bride of His Youth

I stood naked beside our marital bed, gazing at myself in my grandma’s antique vanity mirror. A surreal fog swirled at my feet, and I was amazingly alert.

I knew it had to be a dream.

First of all, I absolutely never sleep nude. Not even in July. I hate it, and I always end up having weird dreams, kind of like this one.

Also, my aunt possesses Grandma’s coveted vanity, and any type of smoky aura in the house at three AM is usually a bad sign. None of this fazed me for a millisecond; therefore, a dream did this make.

The full-length oblong mirror cast a subtle illumination on me. I observed the lines and contours of my figure—the tight, womanly curves that created sultry shadows in their dips and hollows.

A familiar voice spoke from the corner, “God sure did know what He was doing when he made woman. We’re so pretty we can’t help gawkin’ at ourselves.” She laughed from her belly, exactly as I remembered.

I blushed, “Hi, Grandma. How’s Heaven treating you?”

“Not too shabby, bebe-gurl. I am ‘bout ready for that big ol’ trumpet to blow so I can try out my glorified body. Ya’ know who you get that gorgeous body from, dontcha? Moi.”

I thought of Grandma when I saw her last: gaudy clothes, chunky jewelry, gaudy shoes, chunky midsection.

“Oh, bebe-gurl, I know whatcha thinkin’—I didn’t get old and fat overnight, ya know. Look for yourself.”

The mirror appeared to be rippling water. As it gradually stilled, the image of Grandma in her early twenties—also frighteningly nude—stared back at me. The resemblance was overwhelming.

“Well, bebe-gurl, after you pick your jaw off the floor, I’ve got somethin’ to show ya. I know you and that lovely husband of yours have been talkin’ bout started your family…”

“Grandma, gross! Oh, please tell me you don’t visit us—“

“Get a hold a yourself, gurl.

“Now, think of this as an informed consent presentation. Ya ain’t gonna be able to say ya didn’t know what hit ya…ready?”

“I-I guess so.”

The mirror shimmered, and my reflection assumed a time elapsed rapid gestational period. My flat stomach swelled till my navel protruded; my chest inflated until it rested on my ginormous belly.


“Turn around a tad, bebe. Same issues in the rear. And notice the deep, red grooves everywhere.”


Grandma chuckled, “Just wait.”

The time elapse continued. The giant belly was evacuated, leaving a wilted, permanently puckered balloon of flesh dangling from my torso.


“Yeah, and don’t forget about the stitches, bebe-gurl.”

“Ohh…I’ll have a cesarean?”

“No. Fewer stitches—worse location.”

“Huh?” It took several moments before it hit me fully, “Oh…Ohhhh!” My entire body shuddered.

“You betcha, bebe. That smarts somethin’ awful. But keep watching.”

My chest got even bigger and dark circles formed under my eyes. There was a flash of me nursing a tiny infant with soft curls on its head.


Grandma’s mirror showed my full figure again; I could see my pouch-o-deflated-skin, my widened hips capped with the dreaded “muffin top”. The shadows beneath my eyes began to ease, but simultaneously my bosom withered and drooped miserably.

“Your twin fawns of a gazelle will truly be browsing among the lilies then, bebe-gurl.”


“And those feet of yours will be almost two whole sizes bigger. Not a single shoe in that big ol’ closet will ever fit again.”

“That’s just plain mean, Grandma.”

“Yes, bebe, but you tell me, is it all worth the trade?”

In a sliver of time, I saw a lifetime of images flash across her mirror: three different baby faces, pink dresses, school buses, birthday cakes, graduation gowns, wedding dresses, and many more precious tiny faces. I barely noticed my aging image in the peripheral of the scenes. The streaming vision pummeled my senses, filling my chest like the crescendo and climax of a powerful hymn. I began to weep.

“Oh, yes. A thousand times, yes...” I looked to our bed, “But will he still think I’m beautiful?”

“Oh, yes, bebe-gurl. A thousand times, yes.”

I awoke with a jolt. Grandma and her prophetic mirror, gone.

A thousand times, yes…

I sighed. In all its frightening glory, my dream bestowed me with something remarkable—peace.

I reached for my husband, who was already watching me.

He smiled. “What are you thinking about, Beautiful?”

I smiled. “What do you think I’m thinking about?” I eased towards him.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Soapbox Saturday: Why Lent Annoys Me…

I  never fast during the Lenten season. By fasting, I mean “giving up” some creature comfort in my everyday life, as the modern custom goes. Honestly, I’m tainted when it comes to this subject.

I grew up hearing this most peculiar phrase…

”I’m giving up chocolate for Lent.”

”She’s giving up shoe shopping for Lent.”

"Little Jason is giving up Nintendo for Lent.”

As a kid in a nominal Christian home, watching this custom from the benches left me feeling…

Unrighteous. Unholy. Unworthy.

Of coarse, as a child those weren’t the exact phrases I thought of. More or less, just a general sense of “Un”.

Now, fully understanding the concept—and the many degrees—of Mortification of the Flesh, the custom irks me even more.

Not the fasting, or the sacrifice of one’s creature comforts to relate more to Christ and His sacrifice. It’s a wonderful tool to draw near to Him.

It’s the announcing it to anyone who’ll listen that makes me cringe.


I want to shout, “No! You’re not supposed to tell me! What’s the point if you tell people?”

Sure, you might find yourself needing to explain to someone WHY you aren’t watching American Idol or eating the fantastic chocolate cake their served for dessert. That type of revelation is usually not boastful. Usually. I’m sure there are exceptions.

I am not a theologian, but I know this: fasting, prayer, and charity are NOT meant to be done for the approval of man. God knows our hearts and intentions.  

If you love the Lord, and fast during Lent, that is awesome. He is where our righteousness rests.

If you insist on telling everyone and their brother that you are “giving up Starbuck’s for Lent”, I hope your audience is impressed.

Don’t get your hair shirt in a bunch, but I’m not. And I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one.

Matthew 6:16-18

"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Fiction: Three Inches Closer

For this week’s Friday Fiction, I am posting my story that semi-finaled and received an Honorable Mention in the WOW! Fall Flash Fiction Contest.

Three Inches Closer

Micah awoke in the dining room. The house hummed loudly of a hundred murmured conversations all bleeding together. It made her ears buzz and her head feel cloudy.

Though she couldn’t recall where she had been in the moments before, she found herself staring at the deep pink freckles of a Stargazer lily bouquet displayed on the buffet server. The obnoxious fragrance exploded in Micah’s face, clinging to her like a plastic bag held over her head. Her heart quickened and she became fearful of the blooms; their orange pistils seemed to reach out as if to strike her. They wanted to steal her breath—punish her for something. She imagined smashing the vase to the floor and crushing the lilies under her feet.

Instead, Micah opened the top drawer that held Mama’s silver set. Her knuckles brushed against the velvet lining as she removed a serving spoon. She stood captivated by her inverted reflection in its shiny bowl, stretching her face like a melting monster. Finally, she slid the spoon into her pocket and disappeared out the back door.

The steady rain pelted her back as she pried up the corner of lattice board on the wraparound porch, her secret entrance to her private oasis. As Micah squeezed through the opening, the black tulle that lined her dress tore, its scrappy ribbon dragging behind her in the dirt. She didn’t notice.

Ironically, in the dim and dank crawlspace, Micah was finally able to breathe. She sat cross-legged next to her box of prized possessions: a parrot feather, a robin’s vacated egg shell, a fossil she found in the creek bed. Inconsequential things to anyone else, but the familiarity of them in her hands calmed her.

She flinched as the screen door above her screeched open, and its weathered spring drew it violently back into the doorframe. And then again. The creaking footfalls above her caused small puffs of dust to rain down on Micah. She heard them settle into the porch swing where Mama always sat, followed by the gritty sound of a match being struck.

“Thanks for the light,” a woman said.

“No problem,” an equally unfamiliar man replied.

Disappointed, Micah returned to inventorying her memory box.

“Did you know her well?” he asked.

“Vaguely. I’ve worked with her husband, Jack, for a few years now. She tried this last fall, too.”

Absently, Micah crushed the delicate, speckled shell in her hand.


“Mmm,” Micah heard the extended exhale of smoke, “and a couple years before that. It was really just a matter of time.”

Micah drew the spoon from her pocket and began to scoop the dirt floor.

“Jeez, poor guy.”

“Yeah, but I think my heart breaks most for their kids,” she paused, “especially the girl. Ya know…she found her.”

Her hands began to tremble, but Micah dug more furiously.

“For the love of…”

“Oh, yeah. Came home from school and found her in bed. Poor kid lost her mind and climbed under the covers next to her mom…Jack came home and found em’ both covered in blood.”

Micah thought she could smell the lilies again, suffocating her.

“I heard the blood soaked all the way through the mattress. At first he thought they were both dead, but the little girl was just catatonic from the shock.”

She began to hum and rock on her knees; Micah stabbed the spoon as deep as she could with her left hand, and paddled the dirt away with her right.

“Well, that’s why they’re having the funeral ten days later—Jack had to have her hospitalized and medicated. She’s still not really talkin’.” Exhale.

A sheen of sweat covered Micah’s face. Her heart pounded against her eardrums.

“Gosh, I can’t even imagine the shrink bills for this family.”

“Amen to that.” The woman flicked her cigarette butt over the rail. Micah watched it smolder in the wet mulch next to the hydrangeas. Part of her wanted to reach through the lattice and clutch it in her fist. The swing groaned in relief as they stood, “Worse yet, someday that kid’s gonna realize that her mama’s burning in hell for killin’ herself…”

Micah crumpled to her side, squirming to fit in the excavated hole that was not much bigger than her memory box. It was too shallow to swallow her up, unlike the earth that devoured the mahogany casket just a few hours before. But she was three inches closer to Mama.

Which was where she desperately needed to be.





Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fireflight: God’s Music on Steroids

About a month ago, I left the kiddos at home with their daddy, and went to Winter Jam with my sister. I had not been to Winter Jam since I was a brand new believer, and was then drawn to the show by Third Day (who, btw, still rocks). At that concert years back I discovered Nicole Nordeman and Bebo Norman. That show made an impact on me, seeing so many young people so enthusiastic about Christian rock. Then again, it certainly wasn’t the same Christian rock that was floating around in my youthful years (Amy Grant comes to mind…not too high on the “cool” scale).

With Third Day headlining again, touring with their latest EP, Revelation, I had to go. Being so far removed from the new music scene in any genre, I was anticipating getting to hear some of the fresh artists out there on the Christian rock scene.

Fresh doesn’t begin to describe Fireflight. Intense, high-decibel, and not an iota of fluff. I heard three songs and knew I was going to purchase the CD at their merchandise table.

I hit the restroom before intermission (not my first rodeo, baby), and went on a search for their table. When I got there, I found about twenty middle school aged girls lined up to buy their stuff. That definitely stalled me a moment. I typically do not make purchases—ANY purchases—in the same demographic range as a thirteen year old girl. Perhaps a three song sampling wasn’t enough. Then it occurred to me: Fireflight was the only group with a female lead at Winter Jam. So I took a leap of faith and bought their first two CD’s, as well as their five song Unbroken and Unplugged CD.

I was not disappointed. I loved the driving tempos, the great lyrics, the metal guitars. I equally loved the contrast given on their unplugged tracks; cellos and other classical stringed instruments took the place of the raging guitars, and the melody slowed a few paces, letting me really experience the depth of Dawn Michele’s vocal talents.

Today Fireflight’s new CD, For Those Who Wait, has its official release. For a limited time, you can purchase it for $6.99 via iTunes (you can find the link on Fireflight’s website). In the right margin >>> is my MixPod, which has two tracks off  For Those Who Wait, and several more of my favorites.

I found an excellent article that gives the band’s history and profile—check it out HERE if your interested.

I am certain that Fireflight’s style would be too loud and intense for my parents. But for someone like myself that gets slightly nauseated by the bubblegum Christian pop music that is typically played on the commercial “Christian music” stations (could you hear me gag a little?), then the new Fireflight CD has the potential to be your latest driving CD.

Just remember to buckle up:)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Pronunciation Learning Curve

We call her chatterbox. She never stops talking. She talks in her sleep. Since this video was captured she has added oodles of words to her repertoire, but still cannot properly pronounce the “cha” prefix of this particular word. Go figure.

I really hope they never, ever, give Reagan anything chocolate at church. Seriously.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Fiction: Immersed

I used to rest on the southern bank of this river. Back then, when it was all I had ever known, I thought it was a good place to be. I could see the emerald forest on each bank; the water shimmering in the sun, the wildlife coming to its edges to drink.

On the surface I was coarse and shrouded in filth—my edges sharp. And I liked that.

It’s strange, but I don’t recall exactly how I ended up in the water. It was more like the river swelled and covered me. Suddenly, an eon of accumulated dirt was washed away…pushed as far to the east as the current could carry it. And even though everything had changed—and I had no idea what was going to happen to me—I liked it so much more than resting on the bank.

For the first time, I felt alive. When the swollen river waters rushed over me, it stirred me; caressed me; smoothed my sharpest points. After a while, I barely resembled my old self. The water made me something new…something different. I felt safe, and like I was where I was always meant to be.

Eventually the swollen banks receded some, and the water calmed and cooled. Even though the river was always surrounding me, it did not pursue me like it had in those first days, or so it seemed to me. I came to rest in the shallow shoreline, a mere measure from the bank that once held me. I thought then that it was the best of both worlds. I could see the trees though the calmer waters; I could almost touch the wildlife the skirted the edges. And some part of me liked that—being able to glimpse at my old life.

However, the longer I remained there—in that shallow water, in the absence of the current—I settled my weight into the mud…seemingly content.

But then another change came.

It happened so slowly that I didn’t notice it for a long time. A spot here and there, mostly on the side facing away from the water’s flow. But before I knew it, my somewhat smooth surface was covered. Covered with the most uncomfortable green algae. It permeated every pore, hid in every crevice. I felt so ugly, so ashamed.

The worst part was being so helpless, like this slimy curse was devouring me. Occasionally, a small sucker fish would come along and attempt to remove the hideous green film from me, but the more mature fish stayed in the depths of the river, where it was safe. They would clear a spot here…a spot there, but never enough of it to make me feel clean again. I yearned for the cure from my stagnant plague. I begged for it.

And slowly, the water began to warm again.

I heard my cure coming before I felt it. The roar of the waters echoing off the towering limestone walls filled me with fear. For a moment, I wished that I could just stay put; tethered to the shallow river bed in my murky green prison. And I hated that.

But the river’s will does not heed to the whim of one of its frightened limestones, for it cuts its own path, and bows to nothing. The raging flood waters pummeled me; the uprooted trees and debris loosened and scraped me from the river bed. With a multitude of other fragments of creation, I was swept downstream in the river’s wrath.

I was thrust against a boulder, dashed across a log. I felt a pointed corner break clean off when I was dragged along a gravel bar. A fleck of green left behind here, a fleck there—a tiny work in progress. It was such a joyful pain to endure. I hated the hurt, but embraced the cure.

It seemed like an eternity the river carried me, over miles…even years. I felt it sheer strength when it was at its most fierce. But now that the waters have calmed, and it has gently rested me in its depths—where the living water smoothes me a little more every day in its hands—I feel its sovereign grace.

And I love that.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Facebook is Killing My Blog

I am probably not alone in this, but it’s true.

Why write out a five hundred word blog post about the wisdom behind using the word “pants” around your toddler instead of “britches” when I can just throw out a witty line or two in my FB status update? I mean, instantly it’s on more than one hundred friends computer screens, yielding multiple comments and endless whimsical banter…it’s just too easy.

Some people use their Facebook page as bait to get people to their blogs, but I have succumbed to just tossing out my little quippy minnows and nothing more. Bad, writer, bad. Lazy, tired writer, too, but that’s no excuse.

So, from here on out, I will put on my comfy writing britches pants, and try to pound out a blog post more often than quarterly, as well as post some of my stories for Friday Fiction. 

Sleep is overrated anyway.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Open Letter to My Friends at FaithWriters

Dear FaithWriter Friends,

It’s been a long week for me. I struggled with the choice of writing this letter, or just taking the easy way out and letting this cloud disperse unexplained. I am aware of the behind the scenes “shock and awe” that my story has created. Since I was only able to converse with the people that chose to leave a comment, I felt it was necessary to address the remaining three hundred plus readers that have been pointed to or stumbled upon my Challenge entry.

I first want to apologize for any offense that my story might have caused any of you. I should not have submitted it for the Challenge. A dear friend and writing mentor told me that I shouldn’t ever apologize for something I wrote, but I am truly remorseful for placing this story on this particular venue.

On Wednesday I had an email exchange with Deb, and I gave her my full permission to pull the story before it went live. She decided to leave it on the list, and we would “see what others have to say”. Beyond the fact that it’s in the rules that entries will not be removed after they are submitted, I believe I understand the heart of the reason why Deb left it up; a mistake almost made would leave me void of the teaching moment at hand. Fielding the comments, emails, and this letter are my deserved penance. I actually praise her for the decision to let the chips fall where they may; part of Deb’s mission is to help make us better writers, both in skill and the realities of the writing world. This week has re-taught me one of the cardinal rules of any art form: know your audience. I should’ve known better.

In fact, I did. Before I submitted it, I asked a few people to read it to make sure it wasn’t too edgy for the challenge. My sister in law thought it might be too much. My husband told me that I shouldn’t unless I have the “Archangel Gabriel swoop down and rescue the girl and smite the creep.” I shrugged off two of the people closest to me in my walk, on the grounds that they were not writers or FW members, and chose to ask yet a third person who met those criteria. That person gave me a yes, but attached some practical, sound advice. Finally getting what I wanted, I snatched the former without applying the latter. I had already been told “no” by that small voice, and then three doses of Godly counsel. I knew better, and that is what I mourn about all this; I blew off the Holy Spirit, and pursued what I wanted to hear.

The piece of writing itself, however, I do not regret, nor do I believe it was inherently sinful [to write] or reflective of some dark, evil spirit in me. It was a writing exercise; an attempt to stretch myself beyond my norm.

During the conference last summer, something in one of Cori Smelker’s seminars resounded with me. She said—and I am paraphrasing from memory—that sometimes we need to “dare to be dreadful”. Write from the point of view of someone completely unlike us, who believes different things, or who is even despicable. I have been at FaithWriters for almost two years now and have read hundreds and hundreds of your stories. A very large percentage of them—mine included—are from the POV of the protagonist. Since I started my novel I have become increasingly aware that it is easier to get into my protagonist’s mind versus that of the antagonist. Every piece of writing of almost any length needs conflict, and in most cases that is inflicted by a person. So, inspired by the prompt, I set out to write a first person, present tense character sketch of a sadist. And I vowed not to give it a happy ending. If I were writing a longer piece with this character in it, I believe I would try to achieve justice, but I chose to just portray one scene—a glimpse into a sick, twisted mind. And honestly, I was pleased with the result.

Anyone that has read a sampling of my writing knows that I often have an edge. I strive to write from an angle or POV that no one else would think of; typically, I try to produce something subtly didactic if possible, and strongly emotional. Whether that is a comedic look at vasectomies, or a child that has been orphaned by suicide, I strive to make my reader feel something. To me, that’s what good story telling is. However, I think that is what bit me with A Twisted Slice of Life. Not so much the violence—which I really did try to minimize and still convey the topic—but it was the emotion it created. Fright. The fear of an evil we don’t understand, and don’t really want to understand. I totally get why it disturbed so many people. Believe me, it was disturbing to write.

The Writing Challenge has been instrumental in my growth as a writer these past two years. I have submitted forty eight entries, judged in six quarters, and have been honored and blessed to receive eighteen EC’s. I love FaithWriters and the people that make it what it is. I would encourage everyone who reads this to not be afraid to “dare to be dreadful” in their writing, even if it means face planting in front of three hundred plus colleagues. If you’re as lucky as I am, a few of those colleagues will help you to your feet, and nudge you back up that high dive. You never know if you’re going to hit blue water or painted concrete unless you jump.

Just don’t forget—know your audience. :)

Grace and Peace,

Michele (Chely) Roach