Writing short fiction suits my personality. It’s kind of episodic. You gotta get in quick and figure stuff out fast. I approach it the way I do my daily work-outs. I try to mix them up. Example, today I shot a bunch of hoops, then in between, ran through an obstacle course, did some weighted hula hooping and finished up with a bunch of push-ups, all while throwing frisbees to my three Golden Retrievers. I just finished a two-week flash fiction class where we wrote a 500-word story every day then posted it online so members of the class could make comments. At first, I was so stressed. That’s just me. I’ve been writing a long time, but to do new things under a quick deadline with strangers commenting on your work can be scary. The surprise was that I got such wonderful feedback.
One writer said my work was beautifully cinematic. Another said I was a sentence-level writer. I had to look that one up. I took it to mean I love putting words and phrases together in a lyrical way, which I do. Someone else said my writing had beautiful movement, a quick rapid-fire pace and startling imagery. I was lucky. This was a really kind group. If any of you are wondering what the definition of flash fiction is, the instructor described it as combining the prism of the poem with the just slight indulgence of a short story. For the past year I’ve been working on my third book, a collection of short fiction called Little Earthquakes. Here’s an excerpt from a story I’ve titled “Teyana Lee”:
She spits her gum out in my hand. I don’t know how old she is. She could be 20, she could be 17. Her father/director/boyfriend/captor hands me his gunmetal grey suit jacket. No eye contact. Mr. GQ flies First Class often. My work husband James gives me the side-eye when we both realize the girl is barefoot with a brand new white band-aid on her pretty face. With much work to do for both of us on this New York to London flight, I forget about them.
The take-off is shaky, storm winds, a flock of birds maybe. I struggle to push my cart of drinks down the aisle. James will follow with warm nuts and exotic cheeses. Mr. GQ asks for two glasses of Champagne. It’s late.
The girl came onto the plane with no carry-on, so probably no ID. I pretend both drinks are for him. The girl looks at me, her eyes waxy raw, her body turned into itself. Her feet are filthy. She’s not a girlfriend or his daughter. I sense this girl is playing a dangerous game. ‘I was the Trivia Dancer today on Kelly & Ryan,’ she tells me. Mr. GQ smiles. His eye mask is around his neck, ready to block out the world for the next eight hours. ‘They let me co-host during the Win-A-Trip segment,’ she says. ‘I wanna be a co-host for real someday.’
The plane hits a bit of weather.
‘She’s got quite the imagination,’ Mr. GQ says.
The girl lifts her hand to her face as if suddenly the overhead light is revealing too much. She quickly turns it off. Before their mini-suite goes midnight dark, I read the word SECRETS on her see-through skin. James snatches the drinks off the tray table. ’That’ll be all, miss,’ Mr. GQ says to me, covering himself and the girl with a blanket. In our stewardess training program, the instructor said to think of turbulence as angry air wrestling its demons. Smooth air is never far away. The girl pokes out from under the blanket, lights a match, holding it very close to her face.
I reach over and blow it out. The girl pinches my cheek hard. ‘Hey,’ I say, ‘that hurt.’ I push her arm away. ‘It means I like you,’ she says defiantly. Something keeps me standing there. ‘Should I worry about you?’ I ask the girl. ‘No one ever has,’ she tells me as if she was a piece of sky…
Thanks for having me, Delilah and readers! Find out more about me on my website: www.rp-author.com/MKE
I’m on Twitter #Word Actress or on Instagram @wordactress
BONUS: If any of you like entering writing contests, check out the Soul-Making Keats Literary Contest: www.soulmakingcontest.us
Deadline is November 30th. I’m the Flash Fiction Judge.
Other categories include: Novel Excerpt, Short Story, Poetry, Humor, Memoir, Young Adult Poetry & Prose.
Winners come to San Francisco to read from their winning stories. I’d love to see you there!