Saturday, November 23, 2013

Apocalyptic Lunch

Yesterday I had a delightful writer's lunch with my one friend who is writing short stories that feature the characters from Hindu sacred texts. Another friend joined us; she's writing a sociology of creativity. We ate our lunch while talking, and then we got down to the reading of our stories.

There are days when I show up to our writer's lunch without much in the way of questions for my readers. This time, I wanted to make sure that all the pieces of my story/collage worked.

I got inspired by this contest for "researched prose" which instructed: "Pieces should incorporate travel experience, archival research, ethnographic observation, interviews, technical vocabulary from specialized professions, schematics for future technologies, or otherwise explore the vast, undocumented wilderness that lies beyond contemporary fiction and nonfiction’s manicured, clearly demarcated backyards."

The theme?  The End is Nigh.  The instructions said, "Send us your dispatches about anxious endings, anticipated apocalypses, doomsday prepping, or getting right with God and family before it all comes crashing down. Or tell us about the aftermath of a less-than-total cataclysm. How do you move on after you literally (or figuratively) bet it all on END."

Well, apocalyptic tales are my favorite, although I don't always write them well.  I was intrigued by the researched parts we were to include.  It occurred to me, I could make them up!  And then, the fun began.

I created a fake government document that gave instructions for the spaceship travel.  I created a fake magazine article intro from Better Homes and Gardens, the April 2097 edition.  I used an actual document from work this week, a color coded guide to how to handle various disasters that might occur at work (including pandemic disease!).  To go with it, I created this tag line: 
From a declassified document from the Obama Administration’s Department of Education report on disaster readiness, circa 2013

In between, I had 3 stories, of a sort, with a poem.  I had planned to put the poem into prose, but my readers said to keep it as a poem.  Each of them involved some kind of quilting detail.  One of the stories is a short part of a larger story that I wrote about 15 years ago.

Like I said, it's more of a collage than a traditional story with a narrative arc.  I had such a great time creating it.

Will I enter the contest?  Probably not.  It's got a fee, and I tend to save my fees for book-length contests.  But at least I could get a subscription to The Carolina Quarterly.  I will send it out for publication, even if I don't enter the contest.

I likely wouldn't have written the story without the contest; likewise, I probably wouldn't have written the story if I didn't have the deadline of my writer's group.

Many things are making their way to my gratitude list this week, but I'm profoundly grateful that my work life can include a writer's lunch.  I'm even more grateful to have friends who are writers.  I'm grateful that we're willing to read each other's work and keep each other on track.  I'm grateful to still have ideas that make me thrilled to get up in the morning to write.  But I'm most grateful for those friends.  Not everyone has a group that supports and encourages them.

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