Archive for November, 2012

Still Not Short Enough

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

No, there really isn’t anything there.

Short fiction is, of course, not new.  Hemingway famously rose to the six word story challenge with, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”  But, in a world of Twitter, it does seem that not only is short increasingly popular but also increasingly shorter.  It used to be that no respectable short story was shorter than 2000 words, but with the advent with flash fiction, the story was to be no longer than 250 words.  250 words is not a bad length, I think.  Still room for something to be said – not just the bare bones of the story but perhaps even a sense of character.  This it seems, however, is too long for the modern attention span.  The new challenge is less than a 100 words, which hardly seems worth it.  But even this does not necessarily pass muster.  I was recently on a one-day course instructed by Prof. Malcolm Sparrow of Harvard University who was asked by client (who was paying on the order of US$20,000/day for the good professor’s services) to summarize his book on regulation in one sentence.  The esteemed PhD came up with, “Find problems; fix them.”  At which point I thought, I can do better.  I can summarize it one word, “Trite.”

Retract Retract

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

In case the connection isn’t clear, it’s the retractable roof.

I will not, as indicated last week, post another ultra-short story because upon further research (which I really should have done earlier) found that such posting … wait for it … qualify as publication.  This thus disqualifies them from many contests and journals.  This, of course, caused me to Google what is normally meant by publication.  According to the Berne Convention – and you know the Swiss rarely get these things wrong – it is to make content available to the general public.  So there it is, I am way more published than I realized.  I’ve already noted the downside of this.  Is the upside that a publisher will now be more willing to consider my submissions due to my extensive publishing record?  For some reason I think not.  Next week, back to regular programming.

In other news, my play Bangkok was accepted for production at a local Wellington theatre!  But in one those classic one-hand-giveth-the-other-hand-taketh scenarios the theatre space may be shut down for … wait for it … earthquake strengthening.  Final engineering report due this Friday.  Fingers crossed.

Flash Fiction

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

I have been terribly undisciplined in writing my third book, but the one thing I have been doing is my writers’ group homework in the voice of my protagonist.  Most of the pieces have been depressingly short – less than 250 words – but it’s on that basis that I have been encouraged to submit them to various flash fiction contests (where short is not only a virtue but a requirement).  So I thought I would take the opportunity to get your views on the “stories” and your opinion on which one I should submit.  Below is the first one and next week I will post another.  The title comes from the word prompt that formed the basis of the writing exercise.


The birds are back.  I would say “all of a sudden” but how else would it be?  There aren’t any for months on end and then one day, there they are.  Not exactly in abundance – two – but that’s an incalculable increase since you can’t divide by zero.  The first one was a red-winged black bird arriving in spring just the way it’s supposed to from I don’t know where.  I’m not sure I would have remembered its name if its name hadn’t been so much a moniker as a description.  And it looked exactly how it’s supposed to.  I took comfort in that.  It even tweeted and gave me an angry look.  And though I know my heart is just a muscle, it was gladdened.  That’s exactly how it felt.  Not as if a weight had been lifted from it, which you could imagine could be a physical sensation centered around your chest, but heartened right in my left breast.

Later in the afternoon I saw a red-breasted brown bird listening for worms in the dead yellow grass.  I know that’s not what the bird’s called.  I just don’t remember what it is called and I have no way of finding out.  But I figured if Adam got to name everything as the first person on earth, why shouldn’t I get to rename everything as the last?

The gladdened feeling in my heart had disappeared by then and playing Adam did nothing to get it back.