Thursday, September 11, 2014

Craft & Kittens

This past Tuesday I was up in workshop for the first time this semester. I submitted the five flash pieces I wrote over the summer that I didn't absolutely hate, and one of the universal comments was, "these could be longer."

Sometimes I think such feedback derives from the fact that flash fiction is still not as common as longer short stories, nor is it given the same cachet as longer short stories. However, in this instance I think everyone was correct; even when I was editing some of the pieces, I noticed that they seemed crammed into the short format, forcing me to leave out details that could make the stories more poignant.

One reason I'm so scared to write longer short stories is I have trouble with structure. Another reason is that I'm bad at endings. Often I think of interesting premises for stories, but I have no idea where to take them. That said, I wasn't at all satisfied with most of the flash fiction I wrote this summer, either. I've been feeling anxious about my writing lately, insecure, wondering if I've somehow lost the ability to do it well. I have to keep reminding myself that they let me into this program because they saw something good in my writing, but it's difficult to remind myself of that when I can't see what that good thing is. I frequently do well with descriptions, I think, but descriptions do not a story make.

Then, of course, there's the thesis. Looming. Always. I have to write a thesis. I have no idea what I should do. One thought I had after workshop, though, was that perhaps it would be a helpful challenge for me to go big. Expand one of those flash pieces not just into a short story, but into a novel. Wouldn't that be absurd? If I came in writing flash fiction and left with a novel? It may be an interesting experiment as well, to see if it's even possible to expand such a short piece into a novel. Obviously, I'd have to build upon as well as expand. Of course, if I'm going to write a novel for my thesis, I ought to start...right now. Perhaps yesterday.

The thesis wouldn't have to be a final, publishable draft, but it couldn't be a rough draft, either. It would take a lot of work, and I'd have to become one of those terribly intimidating organized people I so admire from afar. My snarky Carrot to-do list app has been helping me stay on task to a certain extent (for once in my life I'm not behind on my reading!), but scheduling time to write a novel would be a whole different animal.

Maybe a novella. A novella would be more manageable...

Maybe this is a terrible idea.

You know what wasn't a terrible idea? Rescuing three adorable kittens!

Lulu found one when she was taking puppy for a walk, and then we found two more. So we gathered them up, put them in the dog crate, and took them to the Nevada SPCA--the only no-kill shelter we could find in the area. The craziest part about it was that one of the stories I workshopped that day was about three kittens. Coincidence? Yeah, probably.

I think we may have pissed off our scary downstairs neighbors, though. They're the ones who feed all the stray cats in the area. It's awful. The cats leap out at me at night, I've almost hit them with my car multiple times because they like to hide beneath it, and what's worse, they sleep and urinate on my soft-top convertible roof. So disgusting. I've considered asking these neighbors to either clean my car on a regular basis or pay for me to do so, since it's their fault--the cats don't know any better--but they seem like the type who might slash my tires if I cross them. 

When we picked up the kittens, they weren't in anyone's yard, and there was no mother cat around. We figured it would be far better to give them the chance for adoption, so that they could stay in nice homes, have access to veterinary care, and so on. But later that night the woman warned me that one of the strays had given birth to a litter and that I should keep an eye out for them, that I shouldn't confuse them with rats at night, all that. I didn't say anything. I didn't want to provoke her ire. But once she figures out that some of the kittens are gone, I bet she'll blame us. I don't think we've done anything wrong; she and her husband don't actually own any of these cats, but they act like they do. I don't think it's fair of them to raise a herd of wild, potentially diseased stray cats that roam around on a property that's not entirely theirs. If they want to rescue cats, that's fine, but they should go all the way. Take the cats into their home, take them to the vet, get them shots and get them fixed. 

I'd say all this to them, but I've never been one for conflict. I tend towards the doormat side of the spectrum.

Anyway, at least the kittens are alright. 

Tonight there's a BMI event on global conflict and human rights. You know what that means: free dinner! I mean, also Nobel prizewinners and intriguing intellectual discussion. But free dinner! 

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