Writing Prompt for Tonight’s Silent Writers’ Retreat

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Tonight at 9 EST and PST, the Silent Writers Collective holds its weekly online writing retreat.  All writers are welcome to join in and be quiet.

You can work on your own project or use the writing exercise provided below.  For those participating in the WordPress.com Post A Day challenge, it’s a great time to stockpile a post or two.  For those who aren’t sure what they want to work on, here is an interesting exercise from Poets & Writers’ new series, “The Time is Now.”

This exercise may be more writing than you can fit into one hour, but if you’re inspired to keep writing, that’s the whole idea!

As J-Lo would say, I’m “Waiting for Tonight!”

Resources: Post A Day, Silent Writers Collective, PW.org
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Time Machine Visits #FridayFlash Intro

Time machine to late September 2009 …

Spinning Optical IllusionIt’s a quiet Friday afternoon, and I’m trying to learn my way around Twitter.  A steady stream of tweets with the odd looking designation of “#FridayFlash” keeps catching my eye.  Easily distracted and always looking for an excuse to put off my writing, I’m drawn in.

“What could zees be?” I ask out loud.  (My alter ego always has a French accent.)

Curiosity gets the best of me.  I click one of the tweets and enter into a world I never knew existed.  It’s a world of horror and humor, intrigue and romance. Action, adventure, heartbreak and suspense.  I’ve entered the surrealistic wonder world of #FridayFlash.

What is this wonder world, you ask?  According to creator Jon Strother, #FridayFlash is an Internet meme designed to increase your visibility as a fiction writer.   According to me and most of the writers who participate each week, it is so much more than that.

Since entering that world over a year ago, I’ve met some wonderfully supportive and encouraging people, I’ve read some remarkable stories, and my writing has come a long way.  Finding #FridayFlash was like falling through a trapdoor into a hidden fantasy land, and it’s a land open to all; writers and readers, alike.

Icy Sedgwick offers more insight in this Fuel Your Writing interview posted this week:  #FridayFlash — Interview with Jon Strother.

There’s so much more to say about #FridayFlash, but the important information is covered in the interview and in the links I’ve included.  Now I need to hurry and publish this post, because that time-machine-depicting optical illusion up there is freaking me out.  It really is not moving.  Is it?

Resources: Post A Day, Flash Fiction by Olivia Tejeda

Flash Fiction: Christmas Past

© Olivia Tejeda

“My great-nephew over in Prescott invited me.”
“Say again?”
“MY GREAT-NEPHEW!”
“Criminy! Irene, what are ya hollerin’ at?”
“Turn up your hearing aid.”
“They’re up, they’re up …  Are you going?”
“Where?”
“To your damn nephew’s house.”
“Land sakes, Bea, your language!  Yes, I’m going.”
“Is he the one with the kids?”
“The screaming kids, the fat wife, and the drunk mother-in-law.”
“You gotta drive all that way for that kind of nonsense?”
“What else am I gonna do?”
“Stay home!”
“By myself?  No how, Mister!  Not on Christmas!”
“My sister-in-law is flying in from Utah.  We’ll have dinner.”
“Oh good, so you’re covered.”
“I’d rather be alone.”
“Oh heavens, Bea! It’s Christmas.  Why would you want to be alone?
“You never met my sister-in-law.”
“But being alone … on Christmas … what could be worse?”
“My sister-in-law.”

Writing this story, I was reminded of one of my favorite songs, Hello in There, performed here by Bette Midler.

Thank you for reading.  To read more flash fiction from a great group of writers, search #fridayflash on Twitter or visit Mad Utopia.


Now in Print: Best of Friday Flash – Volume One

There aren’t many shopping days until Christmas, so save yourself some trouble and give a gift that will please everyone on your list.

“Best of Friday Flash – Volume One”

What could be better?  This collection gathers sixty-seven of the very best flash fiction from writers around the world.  Mystery, intrigue, romance, sci-fi, horror, slice of life, humor.   Just about every genre is represented and each story comes in a quick hit, flash fiction format — one thousand words or fewer.

Don’t let the short format fool you.  There are some powerful stories here, including mine, “Bottom of the Ninth,” about a nervous preteen whose softball team championship rests in her pudgy little hands.

The flashes were written by members of the Friday Flash community, an online writer’s group that posts stories on their blogs and announces them via the #fridayflash hashtag on Twitter or Facebook.  The variety of styles and the amount of  talent included in this anthology will keep you turning the pages, and wishing for more when you’re done.

“Best of Friday Flash – Volume One” is available in paperback for $7.99, and  ebook for just $2.99.

Don’t wait!  Act now!

 

Best of Friday Flash – Volume One

Great news!  The “Best of Friday Flash – Volume One,” an anthology that includes one of my flash fiction stories was released today in ebook format at smashwords.com.

Bottom of the Ninth,” my flash about a nervous preteen whose softball team championship rests in her pudgy little hands, is part of the first collection by Friday Flash writers, a group of writers who publish flash fiction on their blogs every Friday.

The anthology is available via smashwords.com in just about every ebook format for just $2.99.

WHAT A BARGAIN!

To see the book and download a sample (or BUY it!), click here: Best of Friday Flash: Volume One.  The printed version will be released shortly.  Stay tuned for details.

For a little info on the book release, visit Mad Utopia, the site of Friday Flash founder Jon Strother.

As you might imagine, I’m just beside myself with excitement! I feel like I should be passing out cigars and champagne.

“Miles Davis “Kind of Blue,” Kind of Inspiring

On August 17, 1959, Miles Davis released “Kind of Blue,” the best-selling jazz record ever and considered one of the most influential albums of all time.

“Kind of Blue” has become part of the soundtrack for my novel “For Purple Mountains.” I find the music beautifully rich and moving, but there’s more to it than just that.  The history behind the music inspires me to reach beyond what’s easily accessible.

Mr. Davis was well established and successful, but was starting to feel confined by the boundaries of the bebop and hard bop styles of jazz he played.  Rather than accepting the restrictions, he created his own shit, as he says above.  He didn’t travel the road less taken, he paved a whole new way.

Jazz pianist Chick Corea said, “It’s one thing to just play a tune, or play a program of music, but it’s another thing to practically create a new language of music, which is what “Kind of Blue” did.”

Using pianist George Russell’s theory of improvisation based on scales rather than chords gave the musicians the freedom to explore rhythm and melody.  Their explorations created modal jazz, and it’s influence rippled into musical genres as diverse as classical and rock ‘n roll.

I could go on about the endless, well-deserved accolades, but I’d rather let the music speak for itself.   I’m hopeful that others will hear it and be inspired to go out and create their own shit.  Blue in Green from “Kind of Blue.”

Fred Kaplan’s article on Slate features musical samples and an easy to understand explanation of Why Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue is so Great.

Friday Flash: OMG at Barnes & Noble

© Olivia Tejeda

“Oh my God,” Fredrika’s husband gasped as she approached the table where he sat reading “The Portable Jung” at the Barnes & Noble cafe.

“What’s wrong with this?” she asked holding out the copy of Oprah she brought back with her.

Her husband looked up, eyes only, over the top of his glasses.  He said nothing and went back to reading.

She leaned in and said through tight lips and a clenched jaw, “I asked you if there’s something wrong with this.”

No response.

“Edward!” Louder this time.

Edward closed the book and slid his glasses down.  He pondered the pinched looking woman standing in front of him as he stroked his short salt and pepper beard.

“Can I … help you?” he said.

“Why did you say ‘Oh my God?’ ”

“You are truly pathetic.”

“Wrong again, Edward,” she said, pointing a sharp finger at him.  “You are an impotent troll.”

Fredrika sat down and noticed the woman at the next table, caught mid-sip and still staring, surprised and embarrassed by their candid contempt.  Fredrika smiled and began flipping the pages of the magazine.

Flip.  Flip, flip.  Flip.

“Did I do something?” she said.  “Is that why you said ‘Oh my God?’ ”

Edward sighed. “Really, Fredrika? Really?”

“Just tell me.”

“I’m reading.”

Flip, flip, flip.

“Want pizza for dinner?” she asked.

Edward grunted.

“Chinese? You want Chinese?”

Silence.

She flipped more pages.

“We can have dinner with the Crandalls.  You like the Crandalls.”

“Fredrika,” Edward said.

“Hmm?”

“Fredrika,” he said

“Edward,” she said.

“Fredrika,” he said.

“What?” she hissed.

“Can I tell you what I want?”

She sat mute.

“I want you to shut up,” he said.  “For one minute of one day in the entirety of your life, I want you to shut your mouth and be silent.”   Then he went back to reading.

Fredrika huffed and straightened her posture.

Flip.  Flip, flip.

After flipping the last of the pages, she took a deep breath and rubbed her forehead.

Edward looked up.  “Are you all right?” he asked.

“My contacts are bothering me.”

“Do you want to leave?”

“I hate to disturb your book, but yes, yes, I think so.”

He closed the book and stood up.

“Here,” he said reaching out.  “Give me your magazine.  I’ll put it away for you.”

When he returned, he took her hand and they walked together to the exit.

Thank you for reading.  To read more flash fiction from a great group of writers, search #fridayflash on Twitter or visit Mad Utopia.

Flash Fiction: Going Vocal

© Olivia Tejeda

Pat Sajak’s voice filtered into the bathroom as Catherine stood nervously doing her hee hees.

Hee hee hee.  She breathed.  Hoo hoo hoo.

Her vocal warm-ups usually settled her nerves, but this was a bad case and they weren’t helping.

Hee hee hee.  Hoo hoo hoo.

Knowing her courage could slip at any moment, Catherine stepped into action, standing straighter, and striding toward the living room.

“Aunt Dee,” she said focusing in the dark room.  “Do you have a minute?”

“Hi dear,” Aunt Dee absently waved Catherine in.  “Come watch Wheel with me.”

The light from the TV cast blue shadows around the room.  Aunt Dee never used the lamp when she watched TV.  “I’d rather not support the power company,” she’d say when Catherine used to ask if she could turn on a light.

“I-I’d like to talk to you,” Catherine steadied her voice.  “It’s kind of important.  Would you mind if we lowered the TV?”

Aunt Dee sighed, irritated by the imposition.

Catherine clenched her fists, her nails digging tiny crescents into her palms.  She had been living at Aunt Dee’s since being discharged from Sunnyvale ten years ago, and it still didn’t feel like it home.

After Catherine’s parents died in a car crash, she tried finishing her senior year at Juilliard.  She wanted to honor her parents by getting the degree in voice they had all worked for since Catherine was a child, but during her senior recital, Catherine froze on stage, unable to sing, speak, or move.  She was admitted to Sunnyvale after a botched a suicide and stayed for a year.

“I’m sorry,” Catherine said, her courage slipping. “I’m interrupting your show.”

“Yes, dear, Wheel of Fortune is on.”

“Yes.  Right.  Sorry.  We’ll talk later.”

“No,” Aunt Dee grumbled, waving again.  “I’m already missing this round.  May as well keep going.”  Her comment hit the mark as always, evoking in her subtle yet piercing way, the constant sacrifices she made for her niece.

Catherine looked for the remote to mute the TV, but Aunt Dee had it tucked between the seat cushions next to her. She tried to reach for it without Catherine seeing, and Catherine played along, pretending to notice something beyond the dark window.

“Well, out with it.  Are you in trouble?”  Aunt Dee asked lowering the volume one level.

“Oh, nothing like that,” Catherine said sitting opposite.  “Everything’s fine.  I-I just wanted to let you know that I’ve decided to sing at the Jeffersonville Talent Show next month.

Aunt Dee’s face turned stony.  Her ears pulled back, tightening the skin across her cheeks.  She looked furious, but stayed silent.

Catherine’s excitement boosted her courage again.  “I’ve been thinking about it for a while.  My voice teacher thinks I’m ready, and I think so, too.”  Her smile beamed.

“I see.”

“I know you’re worried.  I’m nervous, too, but I’m finally ready, and I have to try.”

“I see.”

Aunt Dee nodded, allowing herself time to form an argument.

“Catherine … Dear … I really thought we were done with all this foolishness.  You’re not a child anymore. I thought we let that silly dream go a long time ago.”

“No,” Catherine whispered.  “I never let it go.  You remember how much singing meant to you.  It’s the same for me, and now I’m ready to try again. My voice teacher says …”

“Your voice teacher!” Aunt Dee snapped.  “Your voice teacher doesn’t know you were a mental case.”

Catherine nodded.  “She does, actually.  I told her.”

“Catherine!  Why?  She couldn’t possibly understand.”

“But she does.  She does understand.  She’s taught me so much, and she’s been so helpful.”

“Is that so?” Aunt Dee sneered.  “Will she be so helpful you when go batty up on stage again?”

Catherine sighed.  “I’m not going to have another breakdown.”

“Well if history is any indication …”

“That was a long time ago,” Catherine pleaded.

“Maybe for you, but it seems like just yesterday for me.  What I went through.  Every week, I had to drive to that hospital!  I only thank God your parents weren’t alive to suffer through it like I did.”

“Aunt Dee.”

“No, it’s true.  It was terrible.  I’m sorry to say this, but they had you so drugged you don’t remember anything, but I do.”

“But I’m much older now, and stronger,” Catherine said.  “That was right after Mom and Dad died, and …”

“May God rest their tormented souls,” Aunt Dee interrupted.  She bowed her head and made the sign of the cross, a move that always worked to deflate Catherine, until this time.

“It’s just one song at one show.  I have to do this, and I’d like to have your blessing.”

“Dear,” Aunt Dee’s face softened. “You know I only want what’s best for you.”

Catherine realized at that moment that those words, “I only want what’s best for you” were the lynch pin for years of manipulation.  She looked at her aunt and tried not to believe what she knew was true.

Aunt Dee looked away as if she’d been caught.  “Oh, dear!” she said, changing the subject.  “We almost missed the end.”

The two of them sat together in the blue shadowed room watching the bonus round.  They guessed the answer at the same time, just before the contestant got it.

♦  ♦  ♦

When the talent show was over, Catherine was exhilarated.  She did it, and was awarded an honorable mention certificate, which surprised and thrilled her.  She was backstage congratulating the other winners when Aunt Dee found her.

“Poor dear,” Aunt Dee said.  “You did your best, but I guess that ship has sailed.”

“Didn’t you see?” Catherine said, holding up her certificate.

“That’s nice, dear, but you didn’t win.”

Catherine smiled and shook her head.  Aunt Dee continued.  “We’ll meet outside, dear.  Why don’t you go say goodbye to your friends.”

“Actually, Aunt Dee, I’ll see you at home.  I’m going to go to the after-show party,” Catherine said. “With my friends.”

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Thank you for reading my flash fiction. Please share any constructive criticism and feel free to let me know about any errors you find here. To read more flash fiction from a great group of writers, search #fridayflash on Twitter or visit Mad Utopia.

Flash Fiction: Waiting Room

I kiss him and hold onto his hand until the orderlies roll his bed out of reach.

“It’s a routine procedure,” the doctor assured us last week. “We’ve done it thousands of times.” I secretly Googled it when we got home and found out the doctor was right. It is routine, but Google also told me everything that could go wrong.

In the waiting room, my overstuffed tote sits stupid and useless on my lap. The doctor said between two and four hours, so I brought along enough diversions to fill the time. A pile of paperwork, sudoku, my iPhone, they all seemed sensible when I packed them, but now I can’t focus on anything but the gurney rolled into another room on another floor where I’m not allowed. What’s going on in that room? Did they cut him open yet? Did they find out what’s fucking everything up? Did they fix it? Can they?

He has to be okay.

“Honeyyy,” he teased, slurring from the sedative and holding up four fingers. “I’ll be out in five minutes.”

“I know,” I said, smiling, but I don’t know anything except all the things that can go wrong.

I try to settle in among the plants and the artwork that have been arranged to make the room feel homey, but waiting rooms are awful places. No matter how much they try to feng shui it, the hum of the fluorescents and the milky hospital stench that’s imbedded into every crevice tell the real story.

Magazines are fanned neatly on the coffee table. The linoleum is yellow with age, but it’s spotless and shiny. I keep looking into the corners searching for dust balls to see how careless this hospital is, but there aren’t any.

I appreciate the effort they’ve made in this room. I do, but I don’t want to be here. I want to be in the operating room making sure they do everything right. I Googled it! I know what could go wrong, and I want to be in that room with my checklist, making sure the doctors go over every single thing.

“Did you check everything?” I would ask.

“Are you sure?” I would ask.

“Double sure?”

He has to be okay.

I pick up a copy of Woman’s Day from the table. A picture of chili dogs on the cover makes me think of how much he loves hot dogs.  He ate six in one sitting once.  Mention them and his blue eyes light up like a little boy’s.

He’s amazing.

What he loves, he loves completely.  Hot dogs, travel, Lewis Black, architecture, and me.

He loves me. Completely. I don’t know why, but I’ll take it. I’ll take it, and I’ll gobble it up, just like he gobbles up hot dogs. I don’t care about the heartburn.

He has to be okay.

I decide to make him chili dogs when he’s feeling better. That will be our celebration dinner. I flip open the magazine to see the recipe, but someone’s ripped it out, and I burst into tears.

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Thank you for reading. I would very much appreciate your thoughts and any constructive criticism you would like to share.  To read more flash fiction from a great group of writers, search #fridayflash on Twitter.

Flash Fiction: Bottom of the Ninth

© Olivia Tejeda
Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs. It’s the final game of the Cinderella Softball League Championship, my team is down 4-1, and I’m up.

I haven’t hit the ball once this season and now it’s all up to me. The only way the team can win is if I hit a grand slammer.

We don’t have a prayer.

The championship title is in my hands, my sweating pudgy little hands. My stomach hurts so much I’m afraid I might poop my pants. I swallow hard and wish I could hide until this is over. I want to go home to my bedroom with my books and my Scott Baio posters.

I love that. I hate this.

When Kayla was up, I figured that if she didn’t make an out, I’d have to bat. I’d have to be the one to lose the game, because I know I won’t win it.

Even though there hasn’t been any divine intervention so far this season, I start praying again anyway.

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

This feels like the hour of my death.

If I do die, at least my parents won’t have to pay for the funeral. Our team is sponsored by a funeral home.

The Colonia Funeral Home …

Owned by my grandfather …

I have the same last name.

The embarrassment never ends.

Coach Rockman gives me four hard raps on the back. “We’re counting on ya,” she threatens through clenched teeth. She takes her game seriously, and even though we’re a klutzy group of 9, 10, and 11 year old girls, winning matters to her as much as it does to Steinbrenner.

I walk to home base with my shoulders hunched over, wishing I could disappear. The stands are quiet. Everyone knows how hopeless I am at this. They’ve watched me strike out all season, and they’re just as embarrassed for me as I am for myself. I can feel their pity. I see it when I look over and see my Mom hugging her arms in front of her. She cringes when she tries to smile and gives me the most feeble thumbs-up I’ve ever seen.

As I get ready to bat, I try to remember everything Coach has told me. Plant your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, keep your knees loose, stay relaxed. Check the opponents’ position.

The shortstop and second base are chatting. Right field is waving to someone in the stands. Third base is playing an invisible game of hopscotch. They know the ball’s not going anywhere. I know it, too. I’m just not any good at this, but I have to be here because of my grandfather’s funeral home. He says he sponsored the team for me, but I know he did it for the cheap publicity, and I have to stand out here and deal with the humiliation until it’s over.

Everything goes slow-mo as I watch the pitcher start her wind up. My hands shake as I grip the bat. I want so desperately to hit this ball. I want so desperately to prove to my team, to my grandfather, to myself, that I’m something more than a fat little pile of nothing.

I’ve daydreamed about hitting the game-winning home run, and my team carrying me around on their shoulders. I think about that now, and I want so desperately for that to happen, but I know it won’t. I hold my breath and feel sweat rolling down my back.

The ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, and I watch it sailing straight toward me. I keep my eye on the ball and try not to wince, like Coach told me.

Without wanting to, I shut my eyes. I pull back on the bat and swing as hard as I can.

My eyes open, shocked by the feeling of the ball cracking against the bat.

Holy Mary, Mother of God!

I hit it!

Stunned, I stand there with my mouth hanging open.

“Run!” Coach Rockman screams, “RUN!” And I do, with all my might, I do.

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Thank you for reading my flash fiction. Please share any constructive criticism and feel free to let me know about any errors you find here. To read more flash fiction from a great group of writers, search #fridayflash on Twitter or visit Mad Utopia.