I started out writing poetry, and although I feel it is my strongest genre there are times my poems don’t say enough. Poems are like the sharpened tips of pencils, a focus point of an idea. Some hint at stories I want to tell, but long poems don’t suit me.
If I tell a story out loud I am eager to get to the point. My writing is not much different. I enjoy blogging for this reason, mostly in the form of memoir vignettes, little bits of life’s adventures with a sprinkle of humor thrown in to amuse. Entertaining my reader is important, and my tales are a way for me to stretch my ideas.
I write short, because I enjoy reading short, works like Steinbeck’s The Pearl, Alice Hoffman’s Illumination Night, and Hugh Prather’s Notes to Myself. The latter, a yellowed copy written in 1970, has been on my bookshelf for years. Poems like Mary Oliver’s “Spring,” and “Quiet Girl” by Langston Hughes are proof that the less said can be powerful.
On occasion I will pick up a thick book; just recently, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, a National Bestseller. Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner, one of my favorites, is a dog-eared copy given to me by my aunt. Authors who can sustain the power of a story in a long work have my respect. How do they do it?
For now, I feel a sense of pride for the short stories I have published. They force me to slow down and develop my ideas through one scene after another. My journals are filled with beginnings, writing prompts, first lines, character notes and dialogue trials, but it’s up to me to reveal the rest.
Poems help to expand thoughts too. In the anthology Wisdom Has a Voice: Every Daughter’s Memory of Mother my short story, “Moon Song,” was adapted from my poem, “Singing Star.” I wanted to tell more.
Now I’m working on lengthening a flash fiction piece. The idea came from a recent blog post at my website, “Free.” Patience is the hardest part in developing scenes for a long work, but worthwhile. “Cut the fluff,” my inner poet says.
“No,” says the patient editor, “leave the padding in, and while you’re at it, add a few more pillows, and plump them for a comfortable story.” I am apprehensive about what comes next in my writing, but excited too.
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