Tag Archives: Writing Retreat

Flash Fiction and Revelation

A life of integrity is the most fundamental source of personal worth.
-Stephen Covey

While sorting through old notes for a novel-in-progress, I encountered a tattered-edged piece of construction paper covered in hasty script, portions scribbled out or marked through. It is a writing warm-up assigned in a former writing group. I don’t recall the specific list of words or themes we were required to incorporate; however, given a few word and phrases that I would not normally use together i.e. unicorn and Don Corleone, I can guess.

We’d create eclectic lists of items, names, story elements, etc., and then we’d write furiously for, say, fifteen minutes. Our goal was to create a scene or a complete story within those limits.

I rarely met the goal, although tantalizing ideas might arise from the unexpected mix of elements.

The one written on construction paper is almost a complete flash fiction, and the ending line is an unconscious reflection of my own childhood (and grownup) feelings of being value-less and a failure.

Heartbreak.

—————————-

“Little Johnny!” Mrs. Callahan called from the apartment window and pointed toward the playground. “Yer kid’s stuck again!”

Johnny was no longer the neighborhood wimp, but he was still saddled with a nickname no self-respecting fortysomething would answer to, unless he was gangster for Don Corleone.

Sighing, he veered from the sidewalk and jogged toward the weathered playground equipment. The colors had faded on the plastic slides, and the paint was chipping off the swingsets.

“Lily!” he called. “Lily, it’s Daddy!”

A muffled sniffle betrayed his daughter’s hiding place. He crossed the spongy woodchips and rapped his knuckles gently against the plastic tunnel that linked two halves of the play fort.

“Go away!”

“Are you hurt?”

“I’ll get out by myself!”

Lily, unfortunate child, was as plump as he had been at her age. Why she insisted on playing in this tunnel, he did not know. It was as if she refused to acknowledge the impossible physics. Her girth would never sausage its way to the other side, but she seemed determined to make the tunnel conform to her dimensions.

His heart ached for her. If only her beloved fairy tales were true — “Oh, look! A unicorn has come to grant a wish to a pure-hearted little girl!” — except that his wish for her wouldn’t be the ability to traverse the tunnel but to see her own worth.

c. E. Easter

Found Stories

c2011, EE
c2011, EE

When I (briefly) wrote freelance human-interest stories for a small newspaper, my focus was on “found” stories: not major events, not orchestrated photo opportunities, but the everyday lives or histories of people in the community. If a story crossed my path, I followed it:  welcoming home a deployed spouse; surprising parents with a new house; caring for an indomitable adult son stricken with multiple sclerosis; hosting bluegrass and gospel jams each weekend at an old schoolhouse; reuniting with classmates fifty years after they scattered to serve in World War II.

Photography is much the same: whatever strikes my fancy will be captured by the camera. The photo here is from 2011, taken at sunset on my way home along a backroad. Wildflowers (weeds) in a ditch caught my eye, so I stopped and spent a several minutes shooting them. Most were discarded, but I liked the bit of whimsy here.

I also like pieces of history, such as this cabin, photographed several weeks before the clover.

c2011, EE
c2011, EE

Nearby is an old schoolhouse, a courthouse and jail constructed of stone, an old Army tank, a weathered barn, and a memorial to coalminers.

Something about the cabin, though, invites photographs.

A couple months later, a friend and I went on a writing-and-photography retreat for a weekend, and took a few shots of a town that clings to the mountains, full of history but now crowded with tourists, and overshadowed by social politics. Still, it remains a place full of photography opportunities.

c2011, EE
c2011, EE

We’ve been there many times on our own, I for writing conferences and history, she for exploring haunted places, but this time we decided to attempt a writing project together. After all, one of my favorite mystery series is written by a mother-son team; surely a couple of old friends who write all the time could collaborate on a novel, right?

Weeeellll, we attempted it, wrote a few pages and outline notes, and that’s as far as it went. Still, we had a blast, and those few days are a story in themselves, captured in memory and photographs that have, in turn, spurred imagination and the creation of fictional worlds.

Not so strange. A good photograph is like a story. It is a story.

The Blue Chair

c. 2010, EE
c. 2010, EE

For the confused among us, no, this is not a blue chair. It’s quite yellow, in fact, and it’s nowhere near as fancy as the one described in the poem below, but this is a favorite photo of mine, taken on a hotel balcony one autumn while I and a friend were on a writing retreat. The cropping is odd because there was clutter on the balcony, but the light was perfect.

The Blue Chair

It absorbs my attention
like a black hole vacuums light –
a lone blue chair
amid dull grey and faded black,

a flamboyant woman
attending a black-tie affair
in a periwinkle gown,

delicate scrolling arms
swirling in metallic mazes
leading nowhere.

c. 2004, EE