This is a summary of my experience participating in Clarion West’s Write-a-thon for the very first time. I joined the 2020 writers workshop with the goal of improving my writing skills while disciplining myself to write more consistently than I had before. Failing to get into one of the formal groups, I joined an informal critique group with three other participants and committed myself to writing one brand new piece of flash fiction each week, using the prompts posted each week in the Slack channel for inspiration.
June 24 2020 – Started off with Andy Duncan’s prompt to write about the strangest experience you’ve ever had. I wrote “Footsteps on the Stairs”, about an experience I had many years ago when an invisible visitor came up the stairs and knocked on the door of the house I was living in at the time. Writing about this allowed me flex my writing fingers, so to speak, and find my footing in this brand new territory.
July 3 2020 – Release the weird! Eileen Gunn said. Maybe not in those exact words but the implication was clear, let yourself go writing wise, Make friends with strangeness, free your inner weirdness and don’t hold back, see where it takes you. I’d always allowed a fear of writing things that didn’t make sense hold me back, even when I just really wanted to write something in strangeland that didn’t necessarily need to have a reason for being. Spurred by Eileen Gunn I wrote “Starchild”, my first take on a magical realism story about a child who falls to earth in a star egg and lands in a small village where the people are no less strange. Bird’s wings and fishes tails and scales accepted as normal features? A boy who walks the fields at night and sprinkles glittering stardust on the ground to make the crops grow? Yep, I just let myself go with this story and was very happy with the result!
July 10 2020 – Unleash the cliche! From Tina and Caroline. Just because a subject is cliche does not mean you should avoid it like a writing plague. Embrace that cliche and make it yours! Alien abduction, alien impregnation, alien brain implantation, aliens using all those things just to invade little earth. Alien invasion was the subject of “Visions” the story I wrote for this week. I pushed myself with this one, and who says you can’t have fun writing a science fiction story even if you haven’t fully grasped the concepts of what constitutes the genre?
July 17 2020 – And Nalo Hopkinson provided a prompt that proved to be deceptive in its simplicity: write a recipe for an impossible dish and write it in the form of an origin myth. What a challenge! I almost panicked on this one before digging around in Caribbean folklore and my country’s history and national dish, among other things, to write “A Dish of United Diversity” about a land of six nations locked in an unending war with each other eventually finding fellowship in a good meal. Creating your own folklore can be an interesting experience when you have the richness of real folklore to draw inspiration from. week four was definitely a challenge but the fact that I actually produced a story gave me a real sense of accomplishment.
July 25 2020 – Tina and Caroline returned to provide this week’s prompts. I decided to go with the write a story in which a real world animal and a fictional creature features and have just completed “The Deer Horn Wife”. Once again drawing on local folklore to create a story featuring the jungle and a very tidy shapeshifter who becomes entangled with a rather naive human. Unfortunately, they don’t live happily ever after.
Throughout this programme I have also tried to attend as many of the online events, including live readings and workshops (including Writing for the World with Karen Lord and Deconstructing a Story with Siobhan Carroll) , as I could and I really do feel that each one has helped me to grow in one way or another. I feel a greater sense of confidence in my writing and, now that the Write-a-thon is winding down, the fact that I have been able to stick to my commitment to produce a complete short story each week has encouraged me to believe that my overall goal of writing one short story a month is quite possible after all.
The other three members of my informal group, Anna, Jaye and Nichole have been outstanding these past weeks. We set our goals for the write-a-thon and stuck to them, providing individual story submissions and critiques for each other’s work on time each week and we also managed to schedule two Zoom meetings for in depth discussions to date.
What I Write
Maurice Saul was at a crossroads. The time was half past eleven on the evening of the thirty-first of December 2019 and he was sitting on a cold stone bench at the crossroads just out of town waiting for the Devil to come. Behind him the broad, black asphalt road led back to the series of mistakes his life had disintegrated into during the past year. Before him the road continued straight on into the night to a yet unseen destination. A light drizzle had fallen earlier and the road’s black surface glistened dully under the pools of light thrown by the line of streetlamps; their misty, yellow halos getting progressively smaller as they marched in a long unbroken line beside the roadway, finally disappearing into the vanishing point in the distance. The roads on either hand, with their rows of yellow unblinking eyes, led to their own isolated destinations, but Maurice was not concerned with them. All of his interest was focused on the point where the roads met and departed. He had heard that if you went to a crossroads at midnight the Devil appeared and was prepared to bargain with whoever was there. The price was always the soul of the mortal but Maurice was at a point in his life where his soul had become of little use to him and bartering away its immortal burden seemed a small price to pay in return for a chance to atone for the myriad of sins committed and, hopefully, save what was left of his mortal life.
The night was dark; the darkness pressing in like the walls of a tunnel against the halos of the streetlamps. It was windy; the stars hidden behind thick, scudding clouds, and it was cold, a deep, heavy chill that sat solidly on the darkness and condensed into beads of moisture that fell in steady drops from the lampposts and gathered in a clammy film on the stone bench. None of this troubled Maurice, on the contrary, he welcomed it as a reflection of his own inner turmoil, he was the night and the night was him and now he sat at the crossroads waiting for the Devil to show him a way out.
|What I Write||
I write speculative fiction. Stories with supernatural or surreal elements, elements of magic, fantasy and science fiction. I like stories that bend or blurs reality or exists in a reality that is different from what is considered normal. Otherworldly stories.
So far I have had two short stories published in the Sunday Edition of a local newspaper, the Stabroek News. In August 2019 The Birds was published and in January 2020 they published Crossroads, from which the above excerpt was taken.
My Write-a-thon Goals
My hope to become a better and more consistent writer. To discipline myself to write, and complete, one story a month would be great.