Nov. 9, 1989: I was lying in bed when I thought I heard the phone ring. The next morning, there was in fact a message on my answering machine from about 3 a.m. “Hi Marlena! You won’t believe where I am. (Pause) I’m in the West, at my Aunt’s house in West Berlin! It’s just unbelievable!”
o here I am in famous Montmartre next to 50 other unknown artists who all do the same thing – draw famous people. Ironic, isn’t it? It’s October, and the leaves are fading. I call it fade, not fall because when you stand on this mountain all year long, you see how everything fades away. The view is fading, the heat is fading, the customers are fading. What can I say, you get used to it.
The first years, I still shaved and kept my hair short, but you let go of those vanities after a few cold winters out here. And you realize: Nobody cares. The only thing your customers care about is that you’re wearing a beret. I guess they think it’s artsy and French. Hypocrites.
Government Springs Park was once the pride of Enid, Oklahoma. During my childhood, government was considered a good thing, so we often used that full name in admiration. Today it’s usually called simply Springs Park. Every school child knew it had been a camp site on the old Chisholm Trail, the best known of the routes used to drive cattle from Texas to the Kansas railroads after the Civil War.
It was a perfect campground: hills overlooking the flat land where the cattle grazed and, most important, the drinking water from natural springs that fed the lake. These things also made a perfect park for children: the flat land – then punctuated with unsafe but exciting wooden swings, hand-operated merry-go-rounds, and seesaws – was great for running. We could drink from the springs, at that time corralled by a pipe. I’m sure the water was less than pure, but I never knew anyone to get sick from it. We could climb the gentle hills to the swimming pool, and, on special occasions, my father would spring for a quarter to rent a rowboat to take us on the lake.
It was a child’s paradise except that we could never climb the steeper hills on the south side of the lake. That was reserved for the “colored people,” as the other two-thirds of the park was reserved for whites. I was curious, as children are about anything forbidden, but never dared to go. I understood my parents didn’t agree with the law, but it was the law, and arguing was not permitted.
Flash fiction is not only a fun and quick read, but also a fun and not-always-so-quick write. The key is to create a succinct story – ranging from 250 to 1000 words – that preferably focuses on one specific character and ends with a twist or epiphany for the character in question. In my creative writing seminar, “A Way with Words – Away with Words,” Rebecca rose to the flash-fiction challenge and composed a three-piece collection entitled The French Connection – an homage to the artsy and quirky characters that populate the Parisian landscape. The first instalment, “Belle Époque,” recounts the musings of a somebody from a small town who always dreamed of making it big.
”Lose your mind and come to your senses.” Fritz Perls
In an age of never-ending parallel conversations, screens and second screens, and an even more interesting story just one swift move away from your fingertips, the most natural and humanly intuitive things suddenly don’t come easy anymore. It’s not easy to just go for a walk. To feel the earth give way under your feet. To listen to the wind whispering cold gibberish into your ears. To feel the sun on your skin, that warm yellow massage of light. To smell the green of the trees, to gratefully breathe in what they so lovingly breathe out.
Since our feet are already in ‘vignetty’ waters, let’s go for a dive!
After participating in an inspiring writing workshop with Jayne Anne Phillips as part of The 15th International Conference on the Short Story in English in Lisbon this past June, Jayne Anne kindly agreed to answer a few questions for the ASB. The resulting email interview gives our readers a glimpse into the many roles that Jayne Anne plays and her take on creative writing in a post-literate society.
Sabrina: Please use three adjectives to describe yourself.
Jayne Anne: Three words: these might change day to day, but today I’d say: Determined. Questioning. Hyper-sensory aware.