The End of the Harvest

by @AnnieDaylon

What follows is a seasonal story, flash fiction, originally written for a 24-hour writing contest for Writers Weekly and currently published in Passages A Collection of Short Stories. It is definitely one of my favorites…

The End of the Harvest

© Annie Daylon

            The little boy stands at the log cabin’s rear window, peering out at us. The corn stalks rustle in the brisk breeze, waving at him. Laughing, he returns their greeting. I want to wave at him too, but my limbs are shrivelled now, useless appendages. I sigh. I observe the boy.

He seems happy. Does he know? Has he heard the news about the baby brother that his mom promised him? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe he is too young to be told.

But I know.

His mom, my caregiver, whispered many secrets as she planted the fields. When my seed sprouted and breached the surface of the rich soil, she stooped and told me about the life that was developing inside her own body. She promised that she would create siblings for me just as she was doing for her little boy. I beamed with pleasure for I did not want to live a solitary life.

In a short time, her truth became evident: I was surrounded by an abundance of relatives—long and green, round and yellow, plump and orange. So strong was my appreciation of my caregiver, so great was my loyalty to her that I tolerated without question the summer heat and the frequent watering and the incessant buzzing of the hordes that swarmed around, flitting from flower to flower. Without complaint, I obliged when she redirected the growth of my rapidly spreading arms. ‘Not here, but there’, was her mantra, as she donned kid gloves and shifted my limbs around. So much attention. So much care. I noticed that the bodies of both my caregiver and me were becoming spherical, and that hers seemed to achieve the desired shape more easily than mine. Obviously aware of that, she added regular rotation to my fitness regime. I responded by becoming corpulent and carroty.

The summer lazed away and autumn slid in to replace it. The rains came. And the mud. And the children, bus loads of children, laughing and trampling and squelching through the muck. Choosing and plucking and stumbling away with their heavy bundles. One by one, my brothers and sisters and cousins disappeared. I wondered how it was that so many school children whirled around me, brushed against me, slid past me, and yet, none chose me. My caregiver explained that she had great plans for me, that I was the chosen one, the one who would light her doorway on that important night—All Hallows’ Eve. I would be the first to welcome the newborn child she would carry to the door that very day. I would witness the smile on her little boy’s face when he first saw his new brother. All this she promised me.

But sometimes promises are broken.

 When I had grown to the size of a soccer ball, I looked to compare my shape with hers and realized that her spherical form had vanished. Her body had flattened, returned to its former size. Her spirit, too, had vacated, leaving only sadness, which bled through her pores. Empty in both body and spirit, she had no words, no whisperings. On most days, she just stayed away.

So now I lie here—alone. Leading a solitary life after all, the very life I did not want. But what of the boy? Is he still waiting for his new brother?

The dusk deepens on this, All Hallows’ Eve. The wind picks up and the front gate swings and creaks. Puffs of blue smoke rise from the kitchen chimney. The house is well-lit now, but here, in my resting place, it is dark and lonely. As night falls, my body sinks and just sits, marinating in mud.

Suddenly, the cabin door opens and she emerges. She dons her heavy boots and, with her head low, trudges through the mud toward me. Nearer and nearer. As she stoops, I long to console her, to slide my arms up her back and embrace her. But my arms are just flaccid vines and it is she who comforts me, talks to me, apologizes for leaving me alone for so long. I want to tell her that I understand. She reaches into her pocket, retrieves a knife and frees me from my vines. Then, she hefts me into her arms and straightens her back.

On the way to the cabin, my caregiver explains that there is a new plan—that she wants me to smile for her young son. This evening, she will carve a grin on my face and, while she is doing that, she will tell her son that he will always be a solitary child. We reach the porch and hover there, waiting for her body to stop trembling and her tears to abate.

Despite her distress, I am pleased with this new plan. I want her to carve me a ridiculous grin, tooth-filled or toothless, whatever it takes to ease a lonely boy’s acceptance of unwelcome news. I know of the difficulty of the solitary life. Unlike the boy, I have experienced the joy of siblings; however, many died before maturity and all the others were taken away. Like the boy, I represent the end of the harvest. I am the very last pumpkin from the pumpkin patch. Together, the boy and I—and our mutual caregiver—will face the night.

*****

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My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue

 

Self-Publishing a Story Collection? 6 Tips!

shutterstock_163750679 (2) story collection

by @AnnieDaylon

Are you about to publish a collection of your short stories? I have done that once and am considering a second. Here are six suggestions based on hindsight:

  1. Go for a ‘sense of book.’ Group stories around one theme, one character, one setting. My first collection is varied: most of its stories were written, not with the idea of a book in mind, but for contests based on prompts. It was long after their completion that I chose a theme.

  2. Give thought to the title.

    Take time to examine your collection. Perhaps, as book title, you might choose the title of one story or the name of a place that is common to all stories. After I read through my stories, I realized there was indeed a thread: the choices we make and the paths we take. Thus the title: Passages.

  3. Consider, as title/subtitle, “a collection of short fiction,” not “a collection of short stories.”

    I used stories in the subtitle of Passages and wished I had used fiction, especially after I dropped a narrative poem into the mix. (Yes, I know: could have eliminated the poem. Sigh.)

  4. Acknowledge previous publications.

    List the stories that have been previously published, and include publisher, publication, and date of same. In Passages, in acknowledgements, I thanked creators, administrators, and judges of writing contests, and named a couple of specifics. There was no ill intent in my lack of a list of previous publications; I was simply unaware of the courtesy.

  5. Share background of story.

    Many of the short stories in Passages were written for contests. In retrospect, I could have enhanced the reader experience by writing a paragraph or two before each short, revealing the prompt or inspiration for the story.

  6. Give thought to the placement of stories.

    You might consider placing your best story first and your second-best last. I went a different route: I put an award-winning short story first because I wanted to draw attention to the fact that it had grown into an award-winning novel. As for the last story in Passages, it is a very short piece called Final Passage, a piece that is more than appropriate for its position in the book. The only thing I would have done differently with it is listed above: I would have revealed the inspiration for the piece.

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    Why do I love story contests? Click on image to link to “Why Enter Story Contests.”

    Are these suggestions helpful to you? If  you have already published a book of short fiction, what were the steps that worked best for you? What, if anything,  would you do differently the next time?

     

    My best to you, Annie Signature Light Blue    

“Word Vancouver” is Coming!

by @Annie Daylon

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Word Vancouver (formerly known as The Word on the Street Vancouver) is Western Canada’s largest celebration of literacy and reading. It has free events taking place over five days (September 25- 29) in Vancouver at: Carnegie Community Centre, Banyen Books & Sound, Historic Joy Kogawa House, and Library Square.
Last year I participated as a volunteer at the Federation of BC Writers table and took in all the sights and sounds of the main festival day on Sunday.  This year? I’m attending on Saturday and presenting a workshop: Honing the Craft of Writing through Story Contests.

Power Point cover page 001 (640x478)WORKSHOP DETAILS:
Where: Vancouver Public Library
350 W. Georgia Street, Vancouver
Alma Van Dusen Room
When:
Saturday, September 28, 2013
3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Synopsis: What is it like to compete in a story contest?  In her Power Point presentation, Honing the Craft of Writing through Story Contests, award-winning author, Annie Daylon, talks about the story contest experience and how it can help to sharpen writing skills. Topics include: reasons for entering, availability of contests, types of contests (24-hour, themed, no theme), meeting deadlines, and giving the editors, publishers and judges what they are looking for.  Information on contests in Canada and the U.S. is provided.

My workshop is one of six Word Vancouver  workshops taking place at the Vancouver library on Saturday, September 28th. The others are:

  • An Introduction to Story with Nancy Lee
  • Poetry and Relevance with Heather Duff
  • Creating Content for Social Sharing with Lisa Manfield
  • Finding Work: First Steps-Next Steps A Workshop for Freelance Writers with Colin Moorhouse
  • A Literary Agent’s Take on Book Publishing Today from an Author’s Perspective with Robert Mackwood.

 

Learn more about this five-day literary festival at Word Vancouver.

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My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s in a Pen Name?

 

by @AnnieDaylon

shutterstock_163039295My legal name is Angela Day. A perfectly good name but, as I discovered in my quest for a domain name, a ubiquitous one. Chefs, writers, real-estate agents, doctoral candidates… so many Angela Days. I even located and angel-a-day website: all angels, all the time.
My choice then? A nom de plume.
I opted for the surname Daylon (a combination of my maiden name and married name) and chose Annie in lieu of Angela/Angie. Why Annie? My middle name is Ann, the middle of my surname contains the name Ann, and, years ago, I was influenced by three extraordinary women named Annie:

  • Annie Sullivan,  Helen Keller’s lifelong teacher, a.k.a. The Miracle Worker. I admired her dedication and perseverance.

    Keep on beginning and failing… you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose.” ~Annie Sullivan

  • Annie Oakley, sharpshooter, star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, egalitarian. I admired her confidence, her belief in the equality of women, and above all, her persistence.

    Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second, and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally, you’ll hit the bull’s-eye of success.” ~ Annie Oakley

  • Annie Murphy, my eighth-grade teacher, lover of poetry and prose. I admired her dogged determination and over-the-top optimism.

    Today we are starting ‘The Rime of the ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and… you will memorize it. ~ Annie Murphy (paraphrased)

All of the above quotes relate to setting high goals and hammering away at them. I’m working on mine. Did I ever memorize Coleridge’s classic? Not a chance. My teen-rebellion years kicked in as soon as I realized that The Rime of the Ancient Mariner contained more than one hundred verses. However, I did memorize a lot of poetry in grade eight; to this day, I can recite Magee’s High Flight and McCrae’s Flanders Fields. And I will be forever grateful to Annie Murphy because it is she who taught me to love literature.

So, there it is. The Annie Daylon story. I have had no second thoughts about the choice of surname but I have, on occasion, questioned the choice of the first name simply because there are instances when people are at odds over whether to call me Angie or Annie. (Annie will do just fine, by the way.) Other than that, no regrets: the use of a pen name works well for me. With regard to submissions, I sign Annie Daylon (ndp) and beneath that Angela Day (legal name). As for copyright? Legal name only.

Do you have a pen name? If so, what’s your story?

I invite you to join my author journey: subscribe to blog or newsletter or both! The newsletter contains news about books, links to some blogs, and occasional fun facts about my beloved island of Newfoundland. To sign up, simply place the required information in the spaces provided on the right. Rest assured your email address will not be shared for any reason. 

My best to you, eNovel-Round-Logo

Annie Signature Light Blue

 

 

 

Short Story: “A Button in Time”

 

shutterstock_89518414A Button in Time

Heads turned as Gerald stepped out of the midnight-black limousine. One woman even stopped and lowered her sunglasses to stare at this tall, silver-haired man in the dark, pin-striped suit. Oblivious, focused on the task ahead of him, Gerald climbed the stone steps of the cathedral. At the top, he paused.

From his suit pocket, he pulled a tiny, pink-and-white button. He gazed at it, fingered it and returned it to its place. Then he pushed open the mahogany doors and stepped inside. The doors slammed behind him, creating a rumbling echo.

No one here, he thought. Do I have the wrong day? He adjusted his tie and headed into the nave of the church. Once there, he sighed with relief.

Pink flowers adorned the main altar, pink carpet covered the aisle floor and pink bunting draped the empty pews. Definitely the right day. He smiled. After looking around, he walked to a side aisle, plopped into a back pew, closed his eyes and folded his hands—not to pray, but to remember.

Gerald was only thirty-two when his wife died. He plummeted into a black hole then and would have stayed there had it not been for their baby daughter. She was all he had left and he adored her: reveled in holding her chubby hand, experiencing her toothless smile and hearing her first words.

He wanted to be with her all the time, but that was not possible. Even though he found an excellent daycare facility, Gerald cringed every morning when he left his little girl in the care of strangers. He wanted better. He wanted relatives. When his mother-in-law offered to leave her home and husband in South America and come to Florida to help, Gerald accepted.

The arrangement worked well. But, after some time, Gerald noticed that, although his mother-in-law’s face brightened when she looked at her grandchild, it darkened when she looked at him. Soon, she started leaving the room whenever he entered. She’s avoiding me, he thought, puzzled. Maybe she’s lonely. Maybe she misses her husband. And maybe I can help.

“Would you like to go home to South America for a while?” he asked.

She kept her eyes down and did not respond.

“I will pay for a return ticket.”

Her head popped up. She grinned and nodded. “The little one, she come with me?”

Gerald’s eyes widened. “I’ll think about it,” he said, furrowing his brow. After a while, he decided it would be okay; it was only for two weeks and he would be joining them for the second week anyway. So he made the arrangements, took them to the airport and bid them good-bye. Everything seemed fine.

However, after twenty-four hours of trying, and failing, to contact his in-laws, Gerald knew that everything wasn’t fine. He looked up the emergency phone number. His heart pounded as he remembered how reluctant his mother-in-law had been to give him that number. Hands sweating, he picked up the phone and punched in the digits. He listened. He counted the rings… One, two… eight, nine…

Finally, “Hola.”

“Hello, hello,” panted Gerald. He stumbled out a question. He waited.

“They move. Leave no address, mister.”

He dropped the telephone and slid from his chair.

Gerald tried everything to find his daughter: phone calls, e-mails, police, letters and private detectives. Over and over, the powers-that-be reminded him that his daughter had left the country with his permission and in the care of the guardian he had selected. “It’s out of our jurisdiction, sir.”

No one could help. Even his many trips to South America were fruitless. His in-laws never stayed in one place for long. Every time he got close to them, they moved. Again and again.

Eventually, he gave up.

Devastated, he burrowed into darkness. Sat for days in his basement, curtains drawn, no hope. In his hand, he clutched his last connection to his only child: a white button with a pink tulip engraving. She had given it to him at the airport.

“A button fell off my sweater, Daddy.” Her eyes were filled with tears. “Can you fix it?” She held it up for him to see. Gerald gently removed it from her hand.

“How about if I hold onto it for you? I promise I’ll keep it safe in my pocket until I see you again. It will be my good luck charm.” The little girl smiled and her misty eyes twinkled.

Gerald kept that button with him, always.

As time went on, Gerald began living life, or at least going through the expected motions. Every day, he got up, placed one foot in front of the other and just kept going. Hour by hour, minute by minute. Just killing time, he told himself. Yet he knew that the truth lay in a quote he read somewhere once: Men talk of killing time while time quietly kills them. It didn’t matter. He felt dead anyway. No hope. No light. On and on. Days. Weeks. Months. Years. Decades.

Then, just last month, a letter arrived. And with it an invitation.

He read the letter four times to comprehend it. He read it four more to believe it.

Dear Gerald,
You barely know me but I am your father-in-law. We, my wife and I, have caused you much pain and I need to set it right. Please try to understand—the loss of our daughter was too great for my wife to handle and she had to have her grandchild with her, here, in her homeland. She desperately needed that and I could refuse her nothing.
My wife is dead now, and our grandchild—your daughter—is getting married in a few weeks. It is you, not I, who should be giving her away, Gerald. She wants that and so do I.
You do not need to respond to the attached invitation but I hope you can attend. Nothing would make me happier than to see you when I walk into that church. Can you find it in your heart to forgive the unforgivable?
Yours in regret,
Antonio

The sound of the church door snapped Gerald back to the present. He looked up to see an elderly, well-dressed man shuffling down the centre aisle. The man appeared nervous, glancing this way and that, searching. Gerald continued to watch as the man stopped, sighed, and shriveled into a stooped position.

“Antonio.” Gerald’s voice was a mere whisper. Yet Antonio heard, straightened and turned. He began walking fast now. The anxiety in his face had transformed into a smile by the time he reached Gerald. There he hesitated, tentatively extending his gnarled hand.

Gerald stood to accept Antonio’s hand, and fearful of placing undue pressure on the crippled fingers, shook it gently. At first, he sensed tension in the older man’s body but, within seconds, that tension seemed to just melt away. When that happened, Gerald noticed, with great surprise, that his own body was calm as well. For a long time, he had fantasized about this moment and, in his mind’s eye, this time was always one of revenge. Where had the rage gone? When had it left?

“You’re here. Thank you, God and all the saints. You’re here!” exclaimed Antonio.

“Yes, Antonio. How could I stay away?”

“I am sorry, Gerald. So sorry. Can you ever forgive me?”

With truth and tranquility, Gerald replied. “I didn’t think I would ever be able to. Forgiveness was a foreign word to me for a long time. But I am here. I am grateful to you for contacting me. And yes, Antonio, I forgive you.”

“Gracias, Gerald, gracias.” Antonio placed his other hand over Gerald’s. “You will give her away, then? You will do that?” His gaze was direct, pleading. Gerald’s eyes flooded with tears.

“I gave her into someone’s care before, Antonio, and I lost her. And now,” he sighed, “she won’t even know me. It has been too long. She was just a little girl. Time has surely dissolved her memories.” He slowly shook his head. “She won’t even know me.”

Antonio just smiled and looked over Gerald’s shoulder toward the door. From behind him, Gerald heard a rustling noise. Releasing himself from Antonio’s clasp, he turned. A beautiful, dark-haired bride stood before him.

“Time could never dissolve my love for you. My only fear was that you may have forgotten me,” she whispered.

With tears streaming down his face, Gerald reached into his pocket and withdrew a tiny button with a pink tulip engraved on it. He held it up for her to see.

She, in turn, held up her bouquet. Woven among its flowers were replicas of the same tiny button.shutterstock_89518414 “There’s just one missing, Daddy,” she said, “but I always hoped you’d return it, just like you promised.” She held out her free hand.

Relinquishing two decades of darkness, Gerald stepped toward his daughter and placed the treasured button into her waiting fingers.
******
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Why Enter Story Contests?

by @AnnieDaylon

shutterstock_163750679My primary aim when I started writing was to pen novels. One day, I veered from that path into the world of the short story. The result? An immediate burst of accomplishment and, surprisingly, a joy in the genre itself. I still participate in the marathon of the novel, but am always up for a short story sprint.

In order to get my work out there, I entered story contests. Rejection? Yes, lots of it. But considerable success, too. Knowledge crept in: the contests, especially the twenty-four hour dashes, were helping to hone my craft. I kept entering…

Reasons for Entering Short Story Contests

  1. Fun. You have opportunity to play with styles and voice.
  2. Readers.  Your work is seen by objective readers.
  3. Inspiration. Topic is often given. You get to brainstorm around it.
  4. Blind judging. You can dip your toe into the water anonymously: no query letter; no dreaded synopsis. You are selling your work, not selling yourself.
  5. Motivation. You have a deadline, so you have to put BIC (butt in chair) and just write.
  6. Feedback. Sometimes you get feedback.  Disagree? Reject. Agree? Apply.
  7. Word Count Limits. You have no choice but to tighten writing by dropping modifiers and using stronger verbs.
  8. Credibility. Published? Short-listed? Either gives you credibility… something to put under “Recent Awards and Publications” when submitting queries.
  9. Immunity to Rejection. Rejection gradually loses its sting. You simply edit your stories and submit them elsewhere.
  10. Collection. Stories accumulate. Before long, you have a collection.

 

Along with the above benefits comes the awareness that a lot of small publications are staffed by volunteers, many of whom are writers. They give their time to support you. You give a small fee to support them. The result? A writing community. A complete circle. Bonus!

My Best to You,

Annie Signature Light Blue