Category Archives: short stories

Nanowrimo, or why it’s a darn good thing I’m an introvert

Ah, blissful solitude.

Solitude with the sounds of silence or rock and roll or even really old-time gospel music, while my fingers make strange movements and my brain creates a world in my head.
It’s a strange thing I spend most of my time doing – creating. Either I am wrestling with tiny bits of fluff and very very very sharp needles (with barbs), or I’m trying to get my  stabbed fingers to type coherent sentences, to create emotions with words.

It can’t be done in polite company.

I’ve just spent the last two weekends at craft sales, filled with delightful people who create worlds, too, who toil in obscurity for the love of what they do. Filled, too, with the people who like created objects, the ones who may shop at Walmart for this and that, but who appreciate the time that crating from nothingness takes.

And of course the others, the scoffers, the bargainers. “Is that your final price,”
one woman asked me, for a handstabbed sculpture that I worked on for hours. I wonder if she’d accept the same treatment from her boss. “So, I didn’t really appreciate that hour you put in the other day – how about we just split the difference in your hourly wage and what I think you’re worth and let it go for that?” Or the ones who asked, “Are those made out of dryer lint?” Sigh.

I find it amazing that it is only women who ask to bargain, even professional, well-paid women, like C D on CTV, who tried to get a sale price on one of my critters. It’s like they feel fellow women don’t deserve a just wage.

But I digress. Most of the passers by were lovely and I particularly enjoyed when they’d smile at the things on my table, their eyes lighting up, even if they didn’t stop.

But I’m full up with people now. I need to extrude them onto paper, take the characters and the facial expressions, the sayings and the smiles and extract the good stuff and make them into new real people on paper. Maybe.

I signed up for the Iceland Writers Retreat next April. Why? It’s a silly thing, really – I haven’t been published in years, I write here rarely, I’ve taken enough writing seminars by now that I can never make back the money in writing.

BUT! Iceland!!! Northern Lights!!! Writers!!! ICELAND!!!

(many many handsome northern men)f3b4ba47b9e999a871f1a618a12cdc9e

So I tell myself that the only way I can rationalize such unreasonable expense is if I get published before I go and by ye gods I shall do it if I perish in the attempt. I’m using Nanowrimo this year to jump start my writing, to force my unwilling hands and brain to the keyboard. Tomorrow, around working on some commissions from my sales: two chihuahuas, a gecko, a moose, etc., I’ll be looking for places to publish my past work and writing more to spec. I have a hot date with the Writer’s Market and Duotrope and Places for Writers and more to find people looking for what I can write. Nanowrimo is for the first drafts of these projects. I know it’s supposed to be so you can write your novel, etc etc etc, but I prefer to write short. 50,000 words is a lot of articles written, a short story or two, a novella and change. It can be done.

And bliss, I can do it in my solitude, with dear cat Bendicks and Betta fish Bob for company and the sounds of life outside my windows. And of course, the occasional refreshing foray into the world for refills of inspiration and madness. And characters. I’ll be looking at you….


I hope….

“I don’t read fiction”

images “I only read non-fiction”, some people say, as if there was only truth in history or political analysis or science. They refuse to waste their time on fiction. More’s the pity, for that’s where truth REALLY hangs out.

I’m reading the wonderful stories of Dorothy Parker and I have to say her understanding shines brighter, sharper, and stronger than any non-fiction book about relationships or human behaviour or the story of societies. Stronger than Alice Munro’s tales but often in the same area of what others tend to put down as woman’s stories (argh!), her message comes at you with like a thunderbolt, leaving you gasping as the realization of what she has done hits. I simply don’t understand why Parker is often described solely as the quick witted riposte queen, when she was obviously a writing powerhouse and always has been.

The story “Mr. Durant” is such a blast. She tells the story of a self-centred man in tones of such casual damning it’s not until you get to the last paragraphs that you realize how horrid he truly is. He is married, with two children, a wife he calls Mummy.

He has an affair. She gets pregnant, he insists upon and pays for an abortion. He is completely blind why she would want never to work with him again. Rather he thinks this is perfect, all tidied up, as it were. He won’t even have to run into her and suffer any embarrassment at work. He heads home, smug in his ability to put things away.

The children find a lost and starving puppy, and at first he is finally persuaded to keep it.

Until he learns it is a girl.

“Into his den, Mr. Durant preceded his wife, and faced her, still frowning. His calm was not shattered, but it was punctured….

“Now, you know perfectly well, Fran, we can’t have that dog around,” he told her. He used the low voice reserved for underwear and bathroom articles and kindred shady objects. There was kindness in his tones that one has for a backward child, but Gibraltar-like firmness was behind it. “You must be crazy to even think for a minute. Why, I wouldn’t give a she-dog houseroom, not for any amount of money. It’s disgusting, that’s what it is.”

…”Disgusting,” he repeated. “You have a female around, and you know what happens. All the males in the neighbourhood will be running after her. First thing you know, she’ll be having puppies – and the way they look after them and all!…I should think you’d think of the children, Fran. No sir, they’ll be nothing like that around here, not while I know it. Disgusting!”

He sends the dog away when the children are sleeping, so he never has to break a promise (he promised they could keep it) – “I’ve never broken a promise yet, have I?” he asks in his banally awful way.

“Again his mind wrapped itself in the knowledge that everything was fixed, all ready for a nice fresh start.”

Don’t you just want to slap this man senseless? This one nine-page story manages to install the kind of hatred for a man that makes you think of violence, everything from the being called “Daddy” by his wife, to his self-explanations for horrid behaviour, to his pride in “keeping promises” while laying waste to all the hearts around him.

And don’t you know people that are like this? Egad. Makes my skin crawl, but yes, I do.

Read all of Dorothy Parker’s stories. You won’t regret it, but you might need a drink afterwards. As for me, I have a new/old mentor. It will be fun trying to emulate her…

Ref: Dorothy Parker: Complete Stories, Colleen Breese, ed. Excellent forward by Regina Barreca. Penguin Books 2003