Saturday, April 26, 2014

Acrostic Stories

Earier this year, The Brucedale Press of Port Elgin, ON, held an acrostic story contest. The story was to be 26 sentences long. Each sentence was to begin with a letter of the alphabet; that is, the first sentence with A, the second with B, and so  on. The first sentence had to begin, "Airborne at last..."

I was  runner up in this contest with a story called "A Lovely Family Visit" which is soon to be published in The Brucedale Press's magazine, The Leaf. Because it is as yet unpublished, but promised to them,  I don't think I can legally publish it on my blog. However, I can publish the other story I entered, which I thought was better, but which did not make it into the finals. Below is this second, unsuccessful entry, "How We Fell in Love."

(c) Ruth Latta

Airborne at last, the flu virus gleefully looked for a warm, moist target. Belinda walked through the fast food restaurant into the cough of an elderly man who had a sore throat and felt stuffed-up, but had decided that a morning stroll in the crisp air and a coffee and an English muffin might clear his head.

Characteristically, Belinda had good intentions about getting the flu shot, but just hadn't gotten around to it, and kept telling herself, "I'm young and healthy, so I won't catch it." Down her nasal passages and throat the virus penetrated and latched on.  Expertly, Belinda balanced her coffee as she walked the block to the TV station where she was a receptionist, hoping anchorman Zach Carter would pause at her desk and chat. Formal and ultra-efficient on the outside, she turned to marshmallow whenever he walked by.

"Got something for you," announced the UPS man, presenting her with a cardboard box addressed to Zach. Heart pumping, she signed for it, and after stashing it in her foot well, she resolved to bring it to Zach's dressing room after he had finished the noon hour news broadcast.

In his dressing room, Zach was applying his make-up and feeling hung-over and exhausted. Just as Mom used to say, too many late nights in the bars would wreck his looks and his health.

"Kind of bloodshot," he murmured, squirting drops into his eyes. Looking for someone special wasn't as much fun as it used to be. Mom would say that bars were the wrong place to look.

Now, heading to the anchor desk, he stole a glance at the lovely ice-maiden in Reception, and wished - he wasn't quite sure what. Overall, the noon news program went smoothly, but left him drained. Plopping down on the sofa in his dressing room for a nap might be a good idea.

Quickly and silently, Belinda stepped into Zach's office with the parcel, and, finding him snoring on his sofa, she was seized with frustrated desire. Risking awakening him and looking like a fool, she bent and kissed his half-open mouth.

Since Zach was moving in and out of sleep, he thought at first that he was just dreaming that a goddess was in his dressing room kissing him. Though he'd been scared to approach Belinda, worried that she'd turn him down, he realized, as he lay there feigning sleep, that she was attracted to him, and he would have reached up and embraced her, had he not been so tired and had she not darted out of the room so quickly.

"Utterly irresponsible not to get the flu shot!" muttered Belinda's mother as she nursed her penitent daughter with aspirin, echinacea, chicken soup and every other remedy she could think of.  Vitamin-C-stuffed and feeling better, Belinda returned to work the morning of the first big snowstorm of the winter, which Zach, looking wan, covered in detail on the news.

When she was back home that evening and was heating some soup for supper, she started feeling lonely and sorry for herself. Xylophone sounds, however, made her pick up her ringing phone, and who should be on the line but Zach Carter, asking her to let him crash on her sofa, because he was too sick to brave the drifts and drive back to his apartment.

Young love bloomed over the next few days, as Zach received tender nursing care in a bed so soft, yet so exciting, that he never wanted to leave it.

"Zach,"  Belinda would say in years to come, "tell the story of how we fell in love, the year we both forgot the flu shot."

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Kim Goldberg's "The Sacred Cow of Editing."

British Columbia author Kim Goldberg has written a must-read article in the Winter 2014 issue of Write, the publication of The Writers' Union of Canada.  To be honest, I had not heard of Kim Goldberg until I read this article, and as soon as I did, I used a search engine to find her contact information and wrote to her to congratulate her.

"The Sacred Cow of Editing" is the title of her article. Goldberg points out that, out of all the creative arts, only in the literary arts are creators made to feel that they need a second opinion (that of an editor) before going public with their creation.  She writes, "I would far rather look back on and live with my own weaknesses in my work than with someone else's poor choices that I allowed to be imposed..."

Goldberg believes  writers should do whatever they feels comfortable doing to achieve and realize their vision. In some cases, that may mean hiring a proofreader. In other instances, it may mean going for a walk and musing about what one wants to achieve.

Goldberg concludes with some thoughts about becoming philosophically at ease with one's work, and having a sense of wholeness or completeness within oneself without needing to seek the opinion of others as to whether one's work is good.  She expresses it better than I have and I urge you to read her article.

I have thirty-five years of experience in getting published and being paid for my writing. Recently I offered to do some book reviewing free of charge in order to publicize my latest novel, The Songcatcher and Me, in the byline. I had a book review column for Forever Young Ottawa for fifteen years (before it folded) and now have reviews published frequently in Compulsive Reader, Canadian Materials, and the CCPA Monitor - evidence that I am not ignorant of the art of reviewing.  I found that the editors of the two new publications who had "accepted" me as a reviewer were fond of futzing around with writers' work for no good reason.  Consequently, I qui, and at present am reviewing for the three publications mentioned above.

I receive the newsletter of a writers' organization (not TWUC) which is offering a course on editing. For $75, aspiring authors are invited to a workshop in which, according to the leader, "we are going to hack each other's work apart."

Buyer, beware!