We writers are a sensitive bunch; okay, what I’m really saying is I’m sensitive. I work hard at writing the best prose I can. It’s an obsession and a passion, and there’s nothing I love more, outside the actual the process of writing, than when a reader tells me they’ve connected with my story — whether they were entertained or moved — that’s my goal. But even so, validation from readers in the industry is something that writers seek—it gives us credibility and helps us believe in ourselves. To this end, I’ve entered a few competitions and generally never gotten anywhere.
Recently, I entered two flash fictions in competitions, and my stories failed to even make the long lists. It leaves me wondering what I’m doing wrong. Why aren’t the judges connecting with my stories? What the hell am I doing thinking I can write? There’s lots of writers much better than me, so why should I keep trying? Because I love it; that’s why. So, rather than spend more than one day moping about it (the time I give myself to deal with rejection), I’ve decided that I’d rather post my stories here for free than pay to get rejected (what other crazy bunch of people does that, right?).
I know some of my readers will enjoy these flash fiction pieces, and that means I haven’t failed. And, to be honest, I could never give up writing, as I love putting words down, one after the other, and see meaning and emotion fill the once empty space. Please enjoy these two flash fiction pieces, ’cause I’ll have to cheer myself up by eating a whole tub of ice cream if you don’t.
Just in Time
Tick . . . tick . . . tick. Elsie looks down at the small clock on the plastic tablecloth. Her eyes, even with glasses, can’t make out the numbers anymore, but the bright-red cherry motif decorating the tablecloth catches her attention, as do her wrinkled hands. Skin so thin, blue veins ghost through—a shadow of life glimpsed behind rippled glass. When did that happen? Her hands rest on the table, each one cupped around either side of the clock. She runs one thumb over the smooth plastic face.
Tick . . . tick . . . tick. “Bill, do you remember when we bought it?” she asks of the empty room. Her faded lips — more the pink of a dried petal than the lively pink of sunsets, lipstick and baby clothes, the pink of then — curl up. She lifts her head and looks away from the clock, her gaze slipping beyond.
Tick . . . tick . . . tick. The chair across from her is pushed in, vacated long ago. Alone is lonely. Waiting is hard. So slow . . . time, it passes so slowly. Will she keep fading until she’s invisible, like Bill? The clock, curved and lacquered black, its white face as pale as death, calls to her.
Tick . . . tick . . . tick. What is it like, in that space between the clear glass and the clock face? Even if she squints and leans closer, the time eludes her. Time eludes her. Blurry hands, blurry numbers. Always counting down to something, yet counting up.
Tick . . . tick . . . tick. So long. She’s waited so long. Her insides feel as hazy as the numbers she can’t make out on the clock face. As hazy as Bill, who now sits across from her. The clock is forgotten as Bill’s silhouette grows stronger.
Tick . . . tick . . . tick. She smiles—his face, it’s good to see his face. She reaches her hand toward him. Instead of cool plastic, she feels….
Tick . . . tick . . . tick. For the first time in so long, she can’t hear it. Silence. The ticking has finally stopped.
“Goodbye, mum,” Ellen whispers as the first thud of earth strikes the coffin. It feels like there is too much space in her mind, where reality escapes her desperate attempts to contain it.
She is a little girl again, snuggled in her mother’s arms, inhaling the scent of her perfume. Waiting for the bus, icy wind swirls around them. The little girl smiles, knowing the chill can’t break through and take her mother’s warmth. But now, standing at the edge looking down, past her sensible black shoes into despair, her tears join the clods beating a slow rhythm in the crisp July afternoon.
Another bitter wind blows at her back, and she knows it was all a lie — the cold has stolen her warmth. She shivers. Staring beyond the coffin, imagining the confines beyond, loneliness spreads endlessly in front of her, like an arctic landscape. She wraps tired arms around herself.
A warm hand grasps her fingers. Through blurred vision, she looks into her daughter’s blue eyes, so like her mother’s.
“I’m cold,” the little girl says.
Ellen crouches and gathers Ava into her arms, hugs her tight. Breathing deep to steady her voice, she says, “I’ll keep you warm.”
Dionne, your writing wins all competitions with your readers. Both pieces are beautiful – very poignant.
Thanks Tima xx. You’ve saved me from eating too much ice cream!
Hey, enjoy the ice-cream. Who needs an excuse! Lol!
I thoroughly enjoyed them both… You write very well Dionne.
Thank you so much, Hamilton. You, too, have saved me from a slow death involving ice cream :).
Reblogged this on Banister's Mind.
Dionne I wake up and see your Blog.I read and find I have interjected my self into the story.You make it so easy with your descriptions.5 stars as always.This is what you are ment to do.Thank you
Robert, your support is amazing. Thank you so much for always letting me know how much you enjoy my work :).
These are both lovely, Dionne. Any ice cream left? 😉
Thanks, Susi :). Just a little bit. I thought I’d better save some for next time.
Reblogged this on authoraamir.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Dionne, you really know how to ‘hit the belly!'(London’s young people slang for ‘Hitting the jackpot!) – from an old mother trying to stay relevant! LOL…
It’s true don’t take the competitions thingy to heart, the main thing is that your readership appreciate and love your work. I’m loving your Flash Fiction – So keep doing your thing and thrill us all!xxx
Hey, Veronica! Thanks so much, and it’s awesome to see you – long time no tweet ;). It’s great to learn some young person London slang too.
Those damned competitions. I’ve entered them too, and have been rejected. 🙁 It is great if you win, but if your stuff doesn’t sit right with a judge then bad luck. I’ve had one judge give me an almost perfect score, while another judge has told me that there was nothing to like about the story. Yeah, I know I can expect more of that!
I also saw a post a long time ago from an author who submitted to a competition and was rewarded with terrible feedback. She was so upset that she nearly gave up, but then she sent the very same manuscript to an editor who loved it and decided to sign her up.
There will always be someone better than you (and me for that matter), but gosh, darn, jeez, there is no-one like you. No-one can write like you can, just as no-one can write like I can.
Push hard, keep improving and sooner or later we will make it.
Thanks, Georgia, you make some great points for me and for other writers. Never give up!
Reblogged this on Masaoota's Blog and commented:
Always good to learn from you Dionne 🙂
Nothing wrong that I can see, girl. Damn the critics, I believe is the phrase. just keep writing and loving it.
Thanks, CC :). I sure will.
My favorite way of dealing with rejection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Me0aYMZtzQ
Watch it, watch it, watch it until it seeps in. Take that!
LOL thanks :).
You inspired me by the way, and I posted this: http://talesfrombabylon.com/2015/08/29/how-do-writers-cope-with-rejection/