The Thing with Feathers (A Short Story)

by @AnnieDaylon

 

 I love to enter short story contests (see previous post: Why Enter Story Contests?) In my 2014 goals, I listed that I would enter a few. (One done in January, one in October. Yay!)
I enter to learn, not to win. I enter for the fun and for the feeling of accomplishment that the marathon of the novel does not provide.

Here is an entry that did manage to land second place this year:

The Thing With Feathers*
© Annie Daylon

shutterstock_121881667 woman birdsAirborne at last, after a lifetime of longing.

Bittersweet memories float past, memories of emerging from the womb, hoping to fly, flailing like a nestling, disillusioned by gravity. Childhood slips by in a blur of fairy stories and bluebirds and magic carpets and angels’ wings. Deeds of derring-do slide in: toppling from tree branches, leaping from monkey bars, jumping from a second-floor balcony. Echoes of painful cries ring out as I recall dropping like Icarus to broken bones and harsh reality.

Footfall (not free flight) was to be my transportation.

Grounded, literally, yet one day I fluttered with hope when I spotted a skein of Canada Geese scissoring the sky. Hope is the thing with feathers, Dickinson’s apposite metaphor, instantly flitted in. I stared at my bony arms which were peppered with freckles and wisps of hair, nary a feather in sight. Juxtaposed with tears of frustration was dissolution of hope. Knowing that I could never soar with birds, I shelved the dream and faced the future, determined to live my life to the fullest.

Love tapped on my door and I ushered it in.

Marriage followed and, with it, the free flowing joy of motherhood.

Never planned for divorce, but there it was and there I was.

On my own.

Plop!

Quickly, so as not to dissolve in a puddle of loneliness, I found a platonic partner with whom I happily shared more than two decades of living expenses, childrearing, and world travels.

Retirement years loomed, yet I, still committed to living large, never gave them, nor money, a thought.

“Save for your golden years,” warned my adult daughter, “else you’ll end up residing in my den.”

“The truth of the matter,” I replied, “is that life is short and I intend to experience all the joys of this earth, and that I will continue to travel until…”

“Until death do you part this mortal coil?” she grinned.

Vibrations shook me momentarily, a cold shiver passing through.

Was it really days later, after a minor surgical procedure, that doctors told me I had mere hours left? X-rays confirmed their diagnosis and soon I was gone, my body cremated, my ashes residing in an urn, in my daughter’s den, just as she had predicted.

Yes, my earthbound life was over and my loving daughter, knowing my deepest desire, chose a blustery day, this very day, to fling my ashes into the wind. Zillions of tiny particles, the remains of me, now sweep through the air like a murmuration of starlings, joyous, soaring, and I, after a lifetime of longing, am airborne at last.

*****

 

The above story was written in January for an Alphabet Acrostic contest. The opening, “Airborne at last,” was given. The criteria? “Complete your story in 26 sentences, each beginning with words in the sequence of the English alphabet.”

The learning? I have entered this contest before, each time loving the experience of  reading the dictionary to search for words.  (Yes, X is limiting, but there are ways around it.) The fun? Love it! (This particular contest is available annually through The Brucedale Press. The sixteenth annual Alphabet Acrostic contest will be announced sometime this month (October, 2014.) Check their website!

*The Thing with Feathers was first published by The Brucedale Press in The Leaf #34, Spring 2014.

My questions for you: Did you notice as you read the story that I was progressing through the alphabet? If not, did you go back to check? 🙂

 

(Please subscribe to my blog by including your email in the space provided on the upper right.)

My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue

Favorite Quotes about Writing

by @AnnieDaylon

I’m  drawn to quotes about writing. Here are ten of my favorites:

shutterstock_110397353 (2) writing1. “There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham

2. “Be obscure clearly.” ~ E. B. White

3. “I do not like to write. I like to have written.”  ~ Gloria Steinem

4. “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” ~ Gene Fowler

5. “When you take stuff from one writer, it’s plagiarism but when you take it from many writers, it’s research.” ~ Wilson Mizner

6. “Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted.” ~ Jules Renard

 7. “Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.” ~ Author Unknown

 8. “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.” ~ Winston Churchill

 9. “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” ~ Douglas Adams

10. “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” ~ Stephen King

 

Got any favorites you think I should add? Please let me know.

Please subscribe to my Author Newsletter by placing your first name and your email address in the space provided on the right.

My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue

Bonus quote:  “Strong nouns. Strong verbs. Kick descriptors to the curb.” ~ Me

 

 

Make Writing Your Priority

by @AnnieDaylon

shutterstock_110397353 two

Today I am guest blogging  at BookMarketingTools. Here’s a snippet:

Indie authors today are faced with an overwhelming array of choices. Herein lies a paradox: there are too many choices, especially in social media. It is easy for writers to lose sight of the most important thing, the writing itself. Yes, there is a need to develop an online presence but, first and foremost, there is a mandate to create product. In order to do that, writers must place writing above everything else.

Here are some tips to help you do that:

Read more here…

 

My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue

 

 

In the Company of Readers

 

by @AnnieDaylon

shutterstock_134073986Little did I know when I grumbled over precious time spent getting my novel onto the shelves of a local food chain that the effort would result in a magical evening in the company of avid readers. I was invited to a meeting of the Book Travellers, an octet of women whose group demeanor is a combination of the delicacy of porcelain and the strength of spider silk, women who have woven friendship into a book club that has endured two decades.

The Book Travellers are so named because each member returns from every trip with souvenir bookmarks for the group. The group chooses their books a year in advance, at a sleepover, in a cabin, on a nearby lake, each June. Through their meticulous ‘bookkeeper’, they keep track of every meeting (attendance, books read, and comments) and have done so since 1998.

They take turns hosting the event and, during my visit, they appeared to be as comfortable in their host’s home as they would be in their own. (author note: a wonderfully infectious state of ease.)

Our evening began with tea and dessert and progressed to discussion of my novel and books in general.

Elizabeth made Lemon Pavlova. Delicious!

Elizabeth made Lemon Pavlova. Delicious!

Personal details slid through book talk, information about connections made through vocation—librarian, teacher, nurse, accountant—and avocation—curling, volunteering, walking, travelling. There were snippets with giggles about surprise birthday jaunts and fragments with sighs about thoughtful memorial gifts.

Overall, a delightful evening  in the company of readers, one which served not only to deepen my fervor for reading but also to re-ignite my passion for telling stories. More importantly, I experienced a surprising gift: the joy of being in the presence of unmatched  strength and vitality. Truly Canada’s Steel Magnolias.  

And so, to: Elizabeth, Bonnie, Judy, Randi, Nancy, Magda, Leona, and Kathy, I express my heartfelt thanks.

My best to all of you, always,

Annie Signature Light Blue

 

Please subscribe to my Author Newsletter by including your first name and email address in the space provided on the upper right. 

P. S. Dear Writers, Marketing can be a pain in the posterior: In my case, it took five trips to the store, several forms that had to be filled, trashed, replaced, filled again and edited; it also took a few emails to the wrong people before finding the right people. I was left wondering if time-consuming grunt details are worth it. They are. Do it.

 

Reflections on Writers’ Retreat

 

by @AnnieDaylon

2436f1768357fa419a5e6d05fc17a365

This past weekend, I took part in the 2nd Annual Federation of British Columbia Writers’ Retreat at the Rosemary Heights Retreat Centre in South Surrey, BC . Such a welcoming venue! The staff was friendly and accommodating and the food was delicious and nutritious. Each attendee had a single room with ensuite bath. The wing assigned to the group had a meeting room, a living room, a dining area, and a kitchen.  In addition, there were quiet places (both inside and out) for reflection.

So what did I do there?

I wrote. I chose the tactile approach this weekend, meaning that I printed out my three-hundred-page manuscript and took it with me. I read through it, looking for plot holes and character blips, liberally marking it up as I went along.

I attended workshops. There were three excellent presenters (Lois Peterson, Ben Nuttall-Smith, and George Opacic) and a smorgasbord of workshops: Character, Point of View, Voice, Show vs Tell, Oral Reading, Query Letters, Writing to View, and Digital Publishing.

I had a Blue Pencil Session.  I greatly appreciated seeing my manuscript through the eyes of another author: strengths glowed; weaknesses glared. (These insightful sessions were available daily. Thank you, Ben and Lois!)

I met other writers. In between sessions and at meals, we shared life experiences, suggested great reads, and tossed around writing ideas.

I reflected. I abandoned the grid in favor of a time free of distraction, a time to focus, a time to create ‘white space’ in my overworked brain. I frequented the chapel to meditate, found space to do Tai Chi, and wandered the wood path  (nothing like nature— a symphony of chickadees, the scent of pine and cedar, the sponge of mossy carpet, the vibrant green of ferns, the rustle of autumn leaves—to  bring stillness to the soul.)

This was my first writers’ retreat. I returned home with a better handle on my manuscript and new avenues to improve it.  Oh, yes. And inner peace.

Overall, a fabulous experience, one that I highly recommend!

My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue

Pick of the Twitter, October, 2013

Pick of the Twitter 005

 

 

 

Looking for writing tips? Here are my top ten Twitter picks for October, 2013:

  1. 50+ Things to Blog About When You Have Writer’s Block by Caitlin Muir  @AuthorMedia

  2. “The Truth about Overnight Success” by Ali Luke @aliventures @copybloggerRSS

  3. Why You’re Not Selling Your E-Books by Judy Cullins @CoachJudy

  4. Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors: Professional Resources for Writers by @KMWeiland via @EricStoffle

  5. How to Get in the Zone and Stay in the Zone with Tom Evans   @thecreativepenn

  6. 5 Tips for Writing Historical Fiction    by @ChuckSambuchino @WritersDigest

  7. 5 Reasons You Should Embrace Rejection by Linda Formichelli @LFormichelli

  8. Cut Thousands of Words Without Shedding a Tear (How to Tighten Your Manuscript) by @RachelleGardner

  9. What makes a good short story? by Heidi Pitlor @BAShortStories @HuffPostBooks

  10. Atypical Protagonists: Six Anti-Heroes From Great Works of Fiction   by @ChrisCiolli  @readlearnwrite via @elizabethscraig

Many thanks to Tweeters and Bloggers alike!

My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue

From Poetry Line to Headline: 7 Stellar Titles and their Origins

by @Annie Daylon

Ever wondered how an author came up with a stunning title? Many have come from poetry.

shutterstock_17039719
In an earlier post, What’s in a Pen Name, I mentioned Annie Murphy, my grade eight teacher from whom I learned to appreciate poetry. My love of poetry continues and, over time, I have discovered many phrases which have made their way from poetry line to headline. Here are seven stellar examples:

 

1) Novel: No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy.
Poem: Sailing to Byzantium by William Butler Yeats
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.

2) Novel: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Poem: To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough by Robert Burns
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

3) Novel: The Crimson Petal and the WHITE by Michel Faber.
Poem: Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font;
The firefly wakens, waken thou with me.

4) Novel: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Poem: Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays:
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

5) Novel: Who Has Seen the Wind by W. O. Mitchell
Poem: Who Has Seen the Wind by Christina Rosetti
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

6) Novel: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Poem: Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar.
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!

7) Novel: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Poem: Meditation XVII by John Donne.
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Seeking a title for your book? Check out Public Domain Poetry, a website that allows you to search for poems by author, title, first line or latest poetry added. There is no shortage of choices: nearly thirty-nine thousand listings!

Castles in the Sand Thumbnail

 

My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue

The Business of Writing: Promote and Protect

Reality Byte VII:  Promote & Protect

Lately, I have been busy, promoting my novel, Castles in the Sand. Promotion, a necessary part of the writing business, can be an all-encompassing whirl of activity: preparing a Media Kit, sending shutterstock_104551601email, tweeting, adding pics to Pinterest, putting an author page on Facebook (just managed that one, little time on it), updating website and yes, blogging. Still another aspect of promoting is giving back, sharing what one knows. I recently shared a Power Point Presentation about short story contests with a very receptive high school class in Clinton, BC. A great experience. I recently turned down an opportunity to present that workshop as a webinar to a group in Ontario; I do not yet have the skill required to do that, but acquiring that skill is on my To Do List!

So, yes, I’m busy. As mentioned in a previous post, I try to achieve balance, but every now and then, I need a little jolt to help me set priorities and keep me on track. When I watched the open show of Smash this season, I got that jolt from a single line: “Protect the work.” It was the response given to an up-and-coming performer (played by Katharine McPhee) who asked a superstar (played by Jennifer Hudson) what advice she would give to a newcomer in the entertainment world. The response? “Protect the work.” Three words. That’s all. Just a well-honed line from a script? Maybe. But it was delivered like a message from the heart.

What does ‘protect the work’ mean to me? It means cherishing and honing the writing craft. Constantly. Despite all the busyness of the business. Despite all the demands of daily life. Always, in the back of my mind, as I am promoting one project, sits the gnawing awareness that there are two unedited novel-length manuscripts awaiting my attention, that one of those is especially near and dear to my heart, and that I must make time to give it the attention it deserves. It is ‘the work.’ It is all about the work. The writing.

Yes, by all means, writers must promote. But we must also set aside the time to write. Daily. We must shutterstock_107880212‘protect the work.’

Now, excuse me, while I pull an unedited manuscript from cyberspace….

My best to you,

 

Annie Signature Light Blue

Castles in the Sand Thumbnail