The Fairy Queen suggested that I submit something to Flash Fiction Forum - a fairly new enterprise in San Jose, run by a dynamic, trench-coat clad duo called Lita and Tania. The idea was to bring writers and readers/listeners together every second month to listen to local writers read a curated selection of Flash Fiction pieces. My initial reaction was that it was the wrong platform for me. I'd just published a 115,000 word novel - it was as far from flash fiction as you could get.
However, The Fairy Queen persuaded me to accompany her to check it out. What harm would it do? At the very least a night out with her was always going to be a treat.
The Flash Fiction Gals work to create an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere. They begin their evening with an optional "everyone's invited" dinner meeting in the nearby Cafe Stritch in downtown San Jose.
They pull the little tables together to make a crazy long higgly piggly stretch of diners - usually between 10 and 20 people show up for this part. That first evening I was struck by the strong atmosphere of friendship they generated. Everyone was introduced to each other by name amid laughter and gentle teasing if names were mixed up or forgotten. We soon realized we were all in the same boat and rowed in unison towards a common goal of mutual respect and support.
After dinner we ambled over, still in conversation, to the art gallery, Works San Jose, that generously hosts Flash Fiction Forum free of charge. We sat amongst the stunning and sometimes curious art exhibits as the writers took turns to read their work. Each piece is short, 5 - 10 minutes long, and all good, many excellent.
It set my brain whirring... Could I do it? Was I good enough? They did say we could read excerpts from our novels, but I had a little piece up my sleeve that I'd writing years ago. It was an anecdote about a farmer who tries to save a new born lamb that seems to have stopped breathing - based on a true story told to me by said farmer. Simply entitled "The Lamb," I submitted it and was excited when it was excepted for the next Flash Fiction.
I was nervous when the time came to perform "The Lamb," but the audience was generous and supportive. I got a huge kick out of their reactions as they gasped at the shocking parts, laughed at the funny parts and applauded at the end. I sold a few copies of March to November, but the best part was having strangers come up to me and tell me how much they'd enjoyed listening to my reading. To praised-starved writers, it's the best thing ever!
This week is Flash Fiction Forum's 3rd birthday. Over the last three years, Tania and Lita have given the arts community in San Jose a much needed intravenous drip-feed of culture that has helped take it out of intensive care to a stable condition that is rapidly improving all the time. They've had Literary Pub Crawls, taken part in Art Parties, been nominated for art awards and are now involved in the upcoming Los Gatos-Listowel Writers festival in October organized by Irish Culture Bay Area.
Lita runs a weekly workshop for local writers too. It is great value and very informative. She shares local events and contacts as well as giving us opportunities to explore beyond our comfort zones.
On one such occasion she had read a short piece of erotic fiction to us and we were exploring how the writer had achieved her goals. Lita gave us three writing prompts and 10 minutes to come up with our own piece of erotic flash fiction. The writers on either side of me set to writing furiously, but I was flummoxed. I didn't know what to write! I am an Irish Catholic - we don't do erotica - at least not out loud (or in writing) In a pure panic I froze... but I had to write something! Then I thought, what if I write about something else and make it sound sexy? Perhaps that would work!
I only had half the time left, but I scribbled something out. Lita called time, and when we shared our work sure enough mine got the laugh I was pitching for. In fact, Lita like it so much she told me verbally to submit it, then followed up with an email...
I polished it up and submitted it. It was accepted, but then I realized I had to read it, out loud, in front of strangers! The Fairy Queen, ever loving and supportive videoed it for me. And so here you can all see my attempt at erotic fiction...
For the record - I like mine boiled and fluffy and slathered in butter, with salt and a with a dab of brown sauce!
To find out why it's my last Flash Fiction Forum, keep tuned - all will be revealed shortly in future postings.