Not Your Mama’s Fiction

We live in a world of confusing messages about what it means to be a woman. Are we supposed to be diamonds, daisies, or snowflakes? Tinsel on a tree? Chasing rainbows?

Then there’s the question, “Who can turn the world on with her smile?” Women in the workplace, beholden to benevolent counterparts for their willingness to allow us onto an equal playing field, just without equal pay, are not a thing of the past. This remains an unfortunate truth.

Now our daughters and sons are out there on their own. The days of ramen noodles and cold pizza are behind us, and yet, we still feel it, that uncertainty that makes us ask what the hell is going on here? This week I experienced one of those moments when I watched a young professional deliver one of the worst presentations I’ve ever had the misfortune to endure. Five minutes into the talk it hit me, I could do a better job than this guy. I felt sick. Why? Because I inquired about the job a year ago and wasn’t even considered.

Throughout my life, it has been necessary for me to be highly flexible and adaptive to change for the benefit of my family. I’ve done double duty and made the best of bad situations. I’m not ungrateful. I just feel cheated. I am not that girl. I’m that other one.

dale-rogerson-pizza
Copyright Dale Rogerson

Women’s Work

Every guy she had encountered eventually became someone she wished she’d never met. Long days, proving herself on the job, enduring endless mansplaining and indecent proposals bled into even longer nights. Instead of waiting by the phone, she studied. A choice she knew would pay off one day. A thousand broken promises had left her with only one to keep, one she made to herself. Then he came along and everything changed. The guy who made her life worth living and gave her a reason to work harder. The one she would love forever. The one who called her Mom.

*****

If you’ve made it to the end of this post, congratulations! I realize my mixing fiction with reality is difficult for some readers. I make no apologies. If you want to read something better, check out the Friday Fictioneers. Thanks, Dale, for another inspiring photo. As always, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields brings it to life with her own take on this week’s prompt.

One more thing. Elinor Burkett’s article, “What Makes A Woman?” in the New York Times is brilliant, articulate, and every single thing I think about the difficulties of presenting a united front for gender equality. Thanks for reading.

One Hundred Words 101

Friday Fictioneers has become a staple on my blog. Creating a story using only 100 words has impacted my writing in ways I did not expect when I first discovered the group of talented writers led by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Now everything I write goes through a rigorous edit to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I’m often knee deep in chaff.

A photo is where the story begins, usually. There are times, however, when an idea that has been percolating in my mind mingles with the prompt in mysterious ways. The result ends up on the keyboard. I don’t question it. I just close my eyes and let it fly. Winging it is what we pantsters, as in fly by the seat of one’s pants, do best. There is no outline or structure, no discernable method to the madness that ensues when I am writing. That is why editing is an indispensable skill. The key most used on my laptop is the backspace, second only to delete.

I had a professor once who tried to instill, or was it impose, rules to be followed when writing anything. I resisted as much as my GPA would allow, but in the end, what she had tried so hard to get me to understand stuck with me. I use it, but probably not often enough. I’ll share it and you can decide for yourself if it is as easy as she made it seem.

Each idea must be supported by a sentence that answers one of three questions about the idea. How is it true? Why is it true? In what way is it true? The simplicity of this practice is deceptive because it can be difficult to admit that you are making a claim that cannot be supported.

I hate when that happens.

Today I did a lot of writing. I published a blog post. I wrote an article that will most likely never be published. I wrote two versions of a cover letter for my ongoing job search. A deluge of ideas caused me to work on several documents simultaneously. I could not separate my ideas fast enough to bother asking how or why or in what way any of them were true. As a consequence, I spent the better part of the afternoon and early evening editing. Right in the middle of all of it, I had to stop myself so that I could start this post. It was nagging at me to be let out, like a sneeze that stings so bad it makes your eyes water.

That’s it. Be open to possibilities. Decide for yourself what is good and what isn’t. Let others help you along the way. Know that sometimes you’ll need to let go of one thing in order to accept something better. Know the rules. Know that you can bend the rules. Know that some rules aren’t worth the torment you feel obligated to endure for them. Know that it isn’t a sprint, it’s a summersault sometimes followed by a face plant. Have the courage to stare failure down and make it pay you back with interest. That’s how to write a story using only one hundred words.

Here is my story prompted by the prompt courtesy of Sarah Potter.

january-snowfall-nighttime
Copyright Sarah Potter

Since You’ve Been Gone

My mug is piping hot. I take out the biscotti, leaving one in the jar. “I’ll be back for you later,” I whisper. My heart flutters beneath layers of wool and flannel. The flashes are gone now, but the covers still end up on the floor. For old time’s sake I guess, when lava in my veins forced me to open a window. He hated that. The silence is louder than ever. I won’t miss being stuck in this place. The checklist, still on the kitchen counter, is incomplete. Perhaps I’ll have that last biscotti. Tomorrow might be too late.

*****

Lately my mood, and my writing, has been bluer than blue. I make no apologies. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Thanks for reading. I owe you all a debt of gratitude for the generous comments and thoughtful support.

Measured Response

My creativity was temporarily out of order last week. The constant demand to prove my worth took its toll on my dignity, and in my weakened state, the Friday Fictioneer prompt wrestled me to the ground. I knew where the prompt was leading. I did not want to go there. I tried for a day or so to come up with a positive story, to no avail. The scene was always brutal and crushing. Just like my week was turning out to be.  Finally, I gave up.

A person’s positive outlook can come to an abrupt end with the realization that they must sacrifice more in order to contribute more. What a vicious problem this is to solve. The list of rejections I have received grows longer every day. Months of searching and hundreds of job applications have led me into a deep pit of disappointment. It seems no matter how precise the plan, trial-and-error is how I am destined to explore problems, a method that makes it difficult to see what to do next to get where I want to be.

The thought occurred to me to post an open letter to the organizations whose talent acquisition software has dispositioned me out of hand because my resume doesn’t contain the correct key words. I decided even a well-written rant would give me no pleasure. I suppose we all have a tendency to respond to things that we don’t need to respond to. I am determined to resist the temptation to let frustrating circumstances defeat me.

It turns out that even when we are methodical and deliberate, life can knock us off our feet and steal our lunch money. Luckily, new information can break through the darkness in the wee hours of the morning and give us just what we need to face another day. Below is my response to Liz Young’s formidable prompt.

broken-face-liz
Copyright Liz Young

 

The Sum of My Parts

Blistered feet carry me to the edge where I have fallen to my knees more than once. I’ve lost my way a dozen times, chasing someone else’s dream. My heart beats a mile a minute as I land on my ass with arms outstretched toward a seemingly unattainable goal. Why waste time wringing my hands when there is so much work to be done? This question strengthens my resolve. I ask, if not me, then who? The reply comes quickly. There is always someone else more desirable. The words sting. They ring in my ears. They will not break me.

*****

Thanks for reading. More punctual Friday Fictioneers are here. Thanks to Liz and Rochelle for keeping the light on for me.

Nothing But Net

The original title of this post was “Things NOT To Post On Social Media When Looking For A Job.” Upon further review, in the morning light, it became clear that Chianti does not pair well with late night blogging. The best thing I can do for myself right now is to curtail my freedom of speech – so ordered, so edited. See how self-governance works?

I know this SNL skit has been youtubin’ down the river of social media, but when something’s got wings, you gotta let it fly! Melissa McCarthy is brilliant. I love her and everything she stands for or against. The chick’s got game.

Speaking of slam dunks, this week’s Friday Fictioneer prompt, courtesy of Ted Strutz, made me think I was in over my head at first, but in a flash of inspiration, Millie Hollingsworth came to mind, and 100 words rolled onto the keyboard. SWOOSH! Thanks Ted.

mystery-chair-ted-strutz
Copyright Ted Strutz

Hell or High Water

Eternal damnation terrified Millie. She was forever confessing one selfish impulse after another to keep the devil from walking into church and snatching her right off the pew.

“Sanctify my soul, oh Lord, that I may be worthy of forgiveness.” Millie’s plea was often recited with desperate urgency as the deacon caressed her shoulder.

“We’re gonna keep you on the straight and narrow come hell or high water, Child.”

His haphazard plan to instill some virtue he thought she naturally lacked didn’t work. His good intentions paved the road to Millie’s hell, a trip easily managed with her eyes closed.

*****

Readers new to Friday Fictioneers will want to visit Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for their reading pleasure and further instruction on how to join her supporting cast. Thanks for reading.

Optimal Methods For Neutralizing Grief

The world is stricken! Stricken, I say, with global grief! The word on the tweet is nothing but he slammed so-n-so and he bashed such-n-such. Misery’s harmony is warped and worn out, and the world is sick to death of that lame old song. The Black Death killed fewer people, for goddsakes! Everybody needs some grief counselling. Well, here you go:

Feed a soul, starve a narcissist!

The direction the affliction is headed is clear, and that means it’s time for a different tack. There are plenty of things happening in our communities that are more worthy of attention than the Fee-Fi-Fo-Fiefdom in Washington. If media is supposed to give a voice to the people, then it’s time to get outside and explore the good stuff going on with the people. If it’s cold where you are, put on a jacket first.

Here’s what’s happening over at Friday Fictioneers this week, where image meets imagination. Sometimes they fall in love. Sometimes they don’t. One thing is for certain, people are sharing good stuff. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields makes sure of it. This week’s photo prompt is courtesy of Roger Bultot. My 100 word story is a tale of a sad sack in need of a night out. Names were not used in order to protect the innocent. Thanks for reading.

roger-bultot-flowerCopyright Roger Bultot

A Wallflower’s Window on the World

Another gloomy afternoon, another strained ballad of mistrust and disgust wafts from the room below. Harsh reflections slide on long shadows toward another night alone, watching bits of cellophane dance along the alleyway where the addicts mingle. A slow betrayal of mind and body provokes a longing for those sepia toned days when life was still a mystery, before the weather and world affairs conspired repeatedly to wrench the senses. Only now, as memory fails, does the pain relent, a tender mercy. “Always trust the trees,” my father told me. “They never lie.” If only I could see some trees.

*****