Category Archives: Kitchen Table Writers

Handout – High Road Flash Fiction Seminar

Handout – Flash Fiction Class 

53 word story: The Gift, by Nancy Jorgenson Topic: a lost sock

Esophageal, doctors said. She refused ports and pouches, clutched her needles instead. She flicked bamboo until knit two, purl two hugged my ankles, peeked between my boots and jeans and smelled of wet wool when it rained. The lost one wove a knot in my gut, twisting and twining until it was found.

From Randall Brown:
I find Maggie squatting on the kitchen floor beside the door to the garage. My eyes always go to her belly first, as if she has swallowed a globe. There’ve been two miscarriages, both early. Never have we gotten so far. Then I notice she’s picking something off the floor, putting it in her mouth. Get closer. They surround her. Hundreds of them. Ants. Maggie is eating ants.
Ending:
“She’s still hungry.”
The breakneck drive, the crickets, the hospital waiting for our arrival—it’s all part of the blur, something to hide the truth from both of us, that nothing matters except the desires of Fate for our baby to live. But that’s nothing to tell Maggie.
“It has to be a good sign,” I tell her.
“It does, doesn’t it?” Maggie answers, then opens her mouth and feeds our baby’s desire.

Searching for Samuel Beckett, by Kathy Fish
At the Cimitiere Montparnasse, he offers a girl his raincoat. I’m searching for Samuel Beckett, he says, and holds an umbrella over her as she consults her map. We’re close, she says, pointing. I’ll go with you. Then we can visit Simone de Beauviour. My name is Scarlet. She closes her eyes. And I have been widowed twice. But she looks too young for that. After, he says, maybe we can grab a pint? The sleeves of his coat hang, black and wet, to her knees. She smells like candy cigarettes. They stand in front of Beckett’s grave. A three-legged cat shivers raindrops off its back. Scarlet flaps her wings and flies away.

One Purple Finch, from Wild Life, by Kathy Fish
He would make pancakes for her, with berries and honey. And she would lift the hem of her skirt. And she would build him a fire. And he would make her a card, drawing a picture on the front, of trees and one purple finch. And they would look at each other at the end of the day and say now what should we do? We should be friends forever and hold each other’s hands and tell each other when we have something stuck between our teeth and trade anecdotes and say oh you told me this before but I love hearing you tell it, so tell it to me again. And you should untie my sneakers when I am weary and I will wear the silky aquamarine robe when you want me to.

Fragmentation, by Peg Alford Pursell, in Show Her a Flower, a Bird, a Shadow

She hated the story about how the old fisherman cut up the sea stars, throwing each arm into the sea—an abundance of mutilated creatures, five fragments then for every one—it frightened her to think about an ocean of broken living beings awash in their own weeping juices, working to recreate theselves, vulnerable and having to hide until they could become whole again; her eyes were red-rimmed in the mirror when she gave up trying to sleep and went into the bathroom for a cool drink of water to rinse away the salt.

HORSES BY GEORDIE WILLIAMS FLANTZ, in Wigleaf

“It’s horses all the way down,” said Smelgor, sitting on a log.
Smelgor had got a new religion. It was a horse cult. They believed that everything was made of horses. A tree was made of tiny horses. Those tiny horses were made of even tinier horses. The only exceptions were actual horses. They were one indivisible thing.
“But see here,” said Stevenson, sitting beside Smelgor with a fern in his cap. “What if I take my axe and chop the horse in two?”
“You can chop it in two a hundred times,” said Smelgor. “But you will not divide its horseness.” Stevenson had to think about that. He had grown up on a hog farm. His father never owned a horse. Instead, Stevenson spent his days splattered with pig shit. Even when he washed it off at the well, the other kids all recoiled from him at school.
“Pigs too?” Stevenson said, wrinkling up his nose. “You telling me pigs is made of horses?”
“Everything’s made of horses,” Smelgor said serenely.
Stevenson got up and went to the edge of the woods. There was a grassy hill, leading down to a burbling brook. Cows stood by the brook. Further off, there sat a windmill beside a little stone cottage. An old woman stood outside the cottage. There was a rug hung out on a gate, and the woman was beating the rug. To think, Stevenson thought, a little thrill gone through him. She didn’t even know that everywhere, up her arms, through her heart, down her legs, a great stampede raced through her blood.

Selected Favorite Flash Stories
Marlena Learns to Drive, by Kathryn Milam 1000 words https://flashfictionmagazine.com/blog/2018/11/13/marlena-learns-to-drive/
“Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff 2000 words https://www.shortstoryproject.com/story/bullet-in-the-brain/
Binary Code by Michelle Ross http://monkeybicycle.net/binary-code/
5 Stories by Lydia Davis https://fivedials.com/fiction/five-short-stories/
Lit Hub  https://lithub.com/11-very-short-stories-you-must-read-immediately/

Selected Favorite Journals and Competitions

https://jellyfishreview.wordpress.com/
https://flashfictionmagazine.com/
http://monkeybicycle.net/
https://www.fishpublishing.com/competition/flash-fiction-contest/
http://wigleaf.com/
http://www.smokelong.com
https://thetishmanreview.com
https://fivedials.com/

 

A Quilt, A Novel, A Field

AJ Quilt Indigo Field

Thomas Wolfe wrote,

“. . . a stone, a leaf, an unfound door;”

in his seminal novel Look Homeward, Angel. I was inspired in part by Wolfe’s incandescent sense of place to write my first novel, about a Field. A Field so full of layers of history and mystery, plants and animals, people and hauntings, that it shimmers with life.

Over the many years of drafting, my talented friend AJ Coutu has been listening to my frustrations, my wine-infused rhapsodies, my struggles and triumphs on the page. We go on regular retreats together, where I tear out my hair and write, and she calmly quilts, draws, makes other kinds of art.

This week she surprised me with a quilt.

A quilt so full of life, it shimmers. A quilt that spookily tells the story of my Field, though AJ has never read my book in whole, only parts. Gorgeous images, a fish that is a rainbow, a wild woman dancing, suns and stars, patterns and squares, gros-grain ribbon that could be just the thing to mark a passage in the Bible, and spirits loose in the land. My heart is full. I will sleep under this quilt and dream. I will dream that this novel will somehow get loose in the world. And AJ can finally read it.

The marvelous fabric designer who created the center panel is Laurel Burch, an extraordinary California artist who died in 2007. Her inspiring life story is here. 

Hemingway in Pittsboro

Hemingway - youngI used to think that as a writer I had to hole up in my little room and write and write, and never come out until I was done.

But it dawned on me that unlike in journalism, with creative work nobody really cared if I ever finished something. That gets a little weird after a while. It turns out that’s a bad idea for me to hole up that way, and a bad idea for most writers. Think about it. Even in those first days in Paris, Hemingway got out of his little room and went out drinking, got great coffee in cafes, hung out with a writing group at Gertrude Stein’s place, and got into fights for fun and exercise from time to time.

This Tuesday is the first session of my Fall 2014 Kitchen Table Writers at Rosemary House workshop, and it’s always a great time to reflect on creating a writing community. What we do in workshops like this is provide the structure, the deadlines, the group support–and the coffee and cookies that every writer needs, whether she’s in Paris or Chatham County. It’s important to set goals, to finish drafts, to keep revising until that draft is really really good, then revise again. And it’s important to know that somebody cares if you finish, and if it’s really really good. In this room, we are all each other’s Gertrude Stein. Lucky us.

Some of my students have heard me say the magic number 26. That’s how many deep revisions David Huddle gave his first story, Poison Ivy. It was the story that won him attention, got him a book contract, and made his career. When he was done revising that story, he’d learned that it’s worth it to keep going, and I’m guessing it was just a little bit easier the next time.

So, for 12 Tuesdays this fall, we are going to be keeping each other going. We’ll connect on the level of the work — which is a great privilege. Good writing goes deep, and we get to know each other quickly through its pages. The writers’ passions will show. Also their blind spots. We’ll point them out to each other, but always with respect and support.

By December 2, our last session, I hope all the writers will have completed at least one revision. I plan to be inspired by their passion and discipline to kick in my own revisions on my novel draft. And I hope they will know that although we all have to sit in that little room alone to do the work, it’s actually really fun to come out and share your work when it’s ready to see the light.

PORCH rosemary-house-bed-andAnd it’s especially fun in Pittsboro. To steal Carrboro’s slogan, this is my Paris in the Piedmont.

Something I learned in today’s workshop: in addition to giving your subconscious assignments before you go to dreamland each night (fix this character, what’s my next plot move, etc.), you can invent an imaginary group of mentors. Put your writing problems all in a line on an imaginary conveyor belt (yes, just like the luggage-go-round at the airport), then imagine they are all passing by your favorite writing/life mentors: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Gertrude Stein, Anne Lamott. They will do their magic and your work will be ready in the morning with blessings upon it. Be ready with pen and paper. You never know what might happen. Thank you, Adams!

Kitchen Table Writers Read at McIntyre’s

We’ve been talking about it for more than two years. First we thought we might read at the General Store Cafe. Then we thought Davenport and Winkleperry. Then, we thought, why not McIntyre’s Books, where the writers read?

Peter Mock checked the schedule. There was a Sunday afternoon open. Most writers could come. So we did it! Our first Kitchen Table Writers Recital with Reception. Parents and friends, professional writers, teachers, and fans of all kinds came to listen. We had been writing and revising for months — some of us for years. We had some good stuff to read, and the audience was riveted.

Some days a teacher gets to just sit back and enjoy. Today was one of those days!