My major event came on a school visit to San Juan Capistrano to witness the yearly return of the white swallows. After an hour of several hundred sixth graders fidgeting around the courtyard, bored with anticipation, everyone was told to go outside. I sat quietly and still on a bench in the middle of the interior gardens and refused to leave. They let me stay. Minutes later silence returned to the courtyard. With teachers lining the walls watching me I felt trusted for the first time. Then I heard a great gust of wind and the sky went dark. Moments later every inch of the open space was filled with chittering birds. I was covered from head to toe. I sat motionless as the small pure white birds hopped on and off of me. They tickled. Once the children realized what was happening they rushed back inside the walls. The birds were startled and with a whoosh they were gone. A week later I told the story of my experience to several hundred parents and teachers at the PTA meeting. I remember talking more about what I felt than what I saw. The reaction was so overwhelming that a new young story teller was born. I haven’t stopped telling my story this way ever since. My written emotions connect with people. I feel a sense of intimacy when this happens. When someone connects with me this way it’s like all those birds coming back to me again and again.
What inspired you to write flash fiction?
I love to create stories around anything I see or hear. The prompts we get are easily turned into something real in my mind so I start creating a story. I love to take what is presented initially as mundane and take it to places unexpected. I want to surprise the reader. Get them thinking “where are we going?” and lead them to places they wouldn’t normally be. I sort of feel like I can let my inner psychotic out to play. Flash fiction makes the process easy and fun.
Describe your writing process.
All of my writing follows the same path. I am stimulated emotionally by something I see or hear. Usually from a connection deep within me. I imagine what I would feel like to be in that place, that time of day and with or without the people involved. My imagination takes off (when I chose to allow the time) and I begin to tell a story about what happened and how I felt. I seem to tell stories to people all the time. Being in sales makes this a profitable use of my talents sometimes. My stories are all narrative. Always inspired at a moment’s notice. Once I create a story that captures your imagination (or just your undivided attention) and tell the tale I am finished with it. I hate going back and reading what I said because I can only feel a first time feeling once. I tell stories like a painter paints. Inspiration, expression, captivation and conclusion. You wouldn’t ask the painter to go over his work a second time to tweak it. When it’s done it’s done. Someone else can polish up the grammar. Thank GOD for spell check. If my editor says “tell us more about this person, describe them the way you see them” I will do that because it’s still a new process. I write on a blank canvas or tell a story that has never been heard or felt before. My paint is vivid and visceral. Love it or hate it once its dry it’s done.
What was the inspiration behind what was published on FewerThan500.com?
I thought about a traumatic event in my childhood. I inwardly asked my fifteen year old to tell the story of what happened, how he felt and how he survived it. It was a very emotional event in my life. Telling the story was easy. The following few days were tough on me. My feelings are powerful and people say they feel they become the person in the story. There is impact for both of us. I sent the story in but didn’t want to discuss it at all. I didn’t want to get any feedback from readers I was so raw. People said they were moved and really liked it. It scares me a little to think about it again in writing this. I keep being told people need to hear how I survived all that has happened. I have to go slow.
What are you working on now?
I have written several dozen stories both fiction and nonfiction. I am working on having them released as essays. My editor feels there is a market for them. They all come under the heading “Surviving My Life”. At this point I hope they turn into something that will help me write full time. If not they have still helped me process my childhood in healing ways.