I learned a lot at the Cascade Writers Workshop last weekend, but one of the most important things I picked up was the necessity of writing more. This is helpful for the obvious reasons, of course—but perhaps the reason that hit me hardest was that to be a successful writer, you must learn to write enough that no one piece becomes your heart and soul. Sure, you can love a piece, but in reality you have a next piece, and a next piece, and then that very next piece, all of which are equally worthy of your attention and love until you write the next one.
I love my first book, Kyresa. I spent many years on it, a fact due largely to a series of breaks that lasted for years at a time. Because of this, the novel became my “baby” of sorts, and sending her off to college (aka sending her out to agents) was a huge deal. But here’s the truth: I am certain that none of my next books will take that long, and I’m delighted for the experience. Will they be just as important to me? Absolutely! Will I pour my heart and soul into them? Yes! But do I need to get so attached that I spend years and years (and years and more years) on them?
That would be a big fat no.
The reason is that writing more will make me a stronger writer, eventually making it easier and faster. This is why I’ve decided that for the next six months, I’d like to devote most of my writing time to crafting short stories. In this way, I will have the experience of starting and finishing, repeatedly, at a quicker pace, before I start my next novel. Will every one of these shorts be amazing? Certainly not. Will they all be good practice in improving my art? Totally, and for that I’m quite excited about this plan.
That said, I’m introducing a new blog feature called THIRD THURSDAY FLASH. Every third Thursday, I will post a flash fiction piece—but there’s a catch.
YOU, dear readers, will be suggesting the themes!
It can simply be an idea, a couple of words you’d like mentioned within the piece, or a prompt, but every time, one of you will suggest it! I think it’s a fun twist on writing flash, and I do hope you’ll participate. The person whose theme is selected will also get a shout out to celebrate his or her awesome theme (unless you prefer otherwise). I will put out a call for theme submissions the Thursday before each flash week and will select one from the bunch for the Thursday that follows. The ideas can be zany, cute, fun, wild, intelligent, or whatever you wish, and I’m going to try to put a fantasy or sci-fi spin on them in 500 to 1,000 words.
Thanks to Mari Naomi for the theme of Maliciousness and Road Rage (and what an interesting theme it is!). Here’s what I put together for the first edition of Third Thursday Flash. I hope you enjoy it!
Clara popped the bottle back into Max’s tiny mouth, his long-eyelashed blues blinking in forgiveness and his cries quieting to long slurps on the nipple.
She turned forward, the crawl of traffic slow enough to justify her movement. Max had a pair of lungs that could blow an eardrum, and with the toll plaza approaching, she couldn’t handle more than five seconds of it. The sound was a gift from his father, and she shuddered every time Max wailed with the same sentiment of burning rage.
Clara turned the radio dial until she found some music, then took a quick glance in her rearview at the child’s shifting eyes. They’d changed from blue to red and back again in an instant, and she only calmed when he soothed himself on the bottle. She’d made a deal with his daddy, true, but she hadn’t anticipated Max would inherit the same temper.
A sharp sequence of tones broke into the song before a newsflash.
“Traffic alert! Three left lanes of the eastbound Rainen Bridge closed due to an injury accident…”
“Oh you’ve got to be kidding me,” Clara muttered. She glanced at the traffic ahead—all three lanes appeared to be blocked about a mile in front of them, leaving only one lane for every car to funnel into.
She was already late for Max’s daycare drop-off. Late for work, late for her meeting, and now she’d have to explain it all over again. She’d only gone back to work four months ago after a rough first year—how else could she explain the experience with a child like Max—and her boss definitely wasn’t thrilled. This single parent thing meant nothing to him except that she was late all the time.
Late and covered in spit-up and mashed sweet potatoes. And of course paranoid about when Max is going to—
Max let out a wail and Clara spun her head to catch him dropping the bottle on the floor. It rolled under the passenger seat.
“Crap,” she said.
When she spun forward she nearly collided with the blue Dodge in front of her. She shrieked and slammed both feet on the brake, the man in the truck throwing a middle finger out the window.
“Eff you, lady! Don’t you see the traffic? Watch where you’re going!”
“I know, I know!” Yelling probably wasn’t the best option with her window open, but the man kept waving his finger in the air. Max began to howl.
Clara peered into the mirror again, her precious little boy shaking his fists and beginning to remind her even more of the man who’d fathered him. Max’s eyes flashed red and wrinkles formed around his rippling lips. For the millionth time she wished she’d had the sense to say no to his father.
But how could she have? A lifetime of happiness if she’d do him this one little screaming favor….
“Shh, honey, it’s okay.” The traffic continued to merge into the single lane, a ruckus of honks spreading across the freeway. A small crack opened up in the lane beside her and Clara managed to move alongside the Dodge. The man waggled his finger at her and the hairs on the back of her neck prickled.
Didn’t these people know better than to throw their rage around at other drivers? It wasn’t a good idea, especially with Max able to see it all.
But they don’t know that, Clara.
“Shh, baby, come on,” she said, eyeing him. Max’s eyes widened as he cried, his sniffles turning into huffs and snorts. If she couldn’t calm him down, this wouldn’t end well.
A bolt of lightning zipped across the sky. It dipped close to the merging traffic, and when she sucked in a breath, another snapped above the blue Dodge. “Max,” she said, refusing to face her son. “I know you understand me. Don’t you do it. You keep yourself calm, sweetheart.”
She looked over at the Dodge driver and yanked her cheeks up in a bright smile, hoping a little flirtation would work its charm and calm him down.
That’s how I won Max’s father over.
Another bolt ripped inches above the Dodge, and the man threw his head out the window. “What the heck?”
“Hey, look sir, I’m sorry about earlier!” She hated apologizing, but if Max didn’t notice him calm down or hear him apologize…. Clara leaned toward the window. “Really sir, I’m so sorry!”
The man waved her off, distracted by the lightning. He spoke loud enough for her to hear him but kept his focus on the plume of black fog that rolled in over the water. “It’s all good, lady, I’m over it. What’s with this sky? Really, it’s no biggie. Just pay attention, you hear?”
“Of course!” She smiled in the mirror and Max’s cries stilled. “See, honey, he said he was sorry. Take a deep breath. No need to protect mama today.”
Max coughed one last gasp of anger before sticking his finger in his mouth. He suckled it all the way down to his knuckle and the sky turned right back into the sunny skies they’d had five minutes prior.
The radio crackled back to life. “All lanes opening on the Bridge! Great work to the fast clean up crew.”
Clara breathed a sigh as she eyed her child.
Thanks for reading the first edition of Third Thursday Flash. The next edition will be in three weeks, and I’ll put a call out for themes a week in advance. Start thinking of your suggestions now!