Editorial note and reminder: In two weeks, Wednesday, October 23, at 7 p.m. we will host a second writing challenge (Writer’s Fourth Wednesday) featuring Victoria C. Slotto, novelist and poet. The subject of this next challenge-yourself exercise is stream-of-consciousness. So writers read on, enjoy, write and mark your calendars for next week’s event. Mr Linky, which enables you to share your work with everyone, will remain open for seventy-two hours. Victoria and Jamie will visit all participants to read and comment.
Here an accomplished story-teller, Karen Fayeth (pronounced “faith” by the way), shares her experience of inspiration, story, and the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction competition.
Each year I enjoy participating in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest. The challenge is to write a 1,000 word story over the course of one weekend.
But there’s more! The approximately 700 participants are divided up into groups and each group is given a genre, location and an object. All three must be incorporated in the resulting story. The tale must truly be in the genre, the majority of the story must take place in the location and the object must show up at some point.
It’s always amazing to see the wide array of stories that come from the same genesis. This assignment of genre, location and object can either be entirely freeing, allowing the writer a head start to leap from, or it can be incredibly constraining. It all depends on what genre, location and object gets assigned.
For the first round of the 2013 contest, I was assigned the romance genre. Bleah. Not my favorite but not awful. The location was a haunted house. Hmm. Possibilities abound, but not really for a romance? Hmm. Ok. And my object was marshmallows.
That was my place to start. Over the course of many of these contests I find the judges tend to like if you use the location and object in unique ways, so I always try to think of a twist or a different facet to use in my story.
I was quite busy over this first weekend of competition, doing some work for my employer and taking care of personal business, so there I found myself Sunday morning with nary a word written and a deadline of 9pm that night.
I opened the windows to my studio and let the light pour in. I felt the breeze through the screens and sat down at my computer to make magic.
Magic. Ha! There I sat looking at the curser on my computer screen, willing the magic to begin. It blinked. I blinked.
No magic was happening.
So I subscribed to the “just write something” theory and got started. I began typing words and thoughts and a character sketch. It was going. The magic was not quite lifting off, but it was certainly gaining speed.
That is when something caught my eye outside of the window. A little splash of orange on that first day of Autumn.
I was surprised to see a Monarch butterfly resting on the bush just to the side of the building where I live.
I rushed to get my camera, attached the longest lens I have, popped the screen out of my window, and began taking photographs.
I’m sure glad I did.
Photo Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth
This gorgeous lone Monarch Butterfly was hanging out in the warm sun, using the ol’ proboscis to drink some nectar and gathering pollen on spindly legs. You know, general butterfly business.
As I watched, a couple of bees were highly displeased at the presence of the butterfly and kept strafing him (I say him but I looked up Monarch butterflies online and I think this might actually be a female, but I’m not sure).
These bees were executing deep aggressive fly-bys that only caused the butterfly to flap his wings a bit but stay put. The bees were quite persistent. They dive-bombed and I kept snapping away. I have some crazy action shots that I’m still editing.
After a while, the butterfly flew off and I downloaded and looked through my photos, very pleased with the results.
Then I sat back in my chair and smiled. After the visit from Mr. (Ms?) Butterfly, I felt totally motivated and completely creative. I turned back to my story and banged out about 1,300 words in one sitting.
Then I set the story aside and let it percolate while my husband and I went to explore a local street fair.
When we came back I had fresh eyes and gave the story a hard edit. I managed to pare it down to 999 words and submitted it about 45 minutes before the deadline.
Man-oh-man, hitting send on that story sure felt good.
I owe an awesome creative surge to a visit from a pretty orange butterfly on the first day of Autumn.
© 2013, essay and photo, Karen Fayeth, All rights reserved
Karen Fayeth ~ is one of our regular writers. She is our tech manager, site co-administrator along with Jamie and Terri, and fiction and creative nonfiction editor. She blogs at Oh Fair New Mexico. Born with the writer’s eye and the heart of a story-teller, Karen Fayeth’s work is colored by the Mexican, Native American, and Western influences of her roots in rural New Mexico complemented by a growing urban aesthetic. Karen now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. When she’s not spinning a tale, she works as a senior executive for a science and technology research organization.
Karen has won awards for her writing, photography, and art. Recent publication credits include a series of three features in New Mexico magazine, an essay in the online magazine Wild Violet, and a short story in Foliate Oak. Her story “What Leibniz Never Learned” will appear in the Fall edition of The Storyteller.
10 thoughts on “Inspiration Takes Flight”
You just never know where inspiration will come from and time to “percolate” seems always to work. Thanks for another fine post, Karen.
A butterfly muse.
The “percolation,” in heuristic processes is called “Incubation”. Tacit knowledge…that pre-verbal, unformulated stuff beneath the surface of the mind, needs time to cook, before it can emerge as a new creative synthesis of many thoughts, experiences, feelings ~ all-a-soup from which is born the new idea. Thank you for this great post.
Karen: What a gift this morning! I have been reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior” and was reminded again of the many ways the Monarchs grace our lives and how delicate and determined creatures they are. You are indeed gifted to have been visited by these amazing beings!
Perhaps your muse held back so you could enjoy and capture the beauty of the present moment as nourishment for what was to follow. I enjoy the idea behind that challenge. I need to check it out. Thanks for an inspiring post, Karen.
@ Jamie – Thank you! I always appreciate your support!
@ Gretchen – Yes! And a much needed butterfly muse. I was very stuck. It really opened me up creatively. Plus now I’m obsessed with that shade of orange and am looking for ways to use it in my art pieces.
@ ontheplumtree – Thank you so much. Yes, I use the word percolate but incubate is probably more accurate. I remember as a child my mom would make coffee in an shiny old electric percolating pot. She and my dad would wait with anticipation as that thing burbled and bubbled and created something wonderful. That image stays strong with me.
@ rosselrob – I have always known about and seen Monarchs but seeing one this close and that it was so generous with its time was truly a gift. I read up about Monarchs and learned so much. The fact that these delicate creatures migrate such long distances taught me much about perseverance, even over seemingly insurmountable odds.
@ Victoria C. Slotto – Thank you, and good point. Perhaps being stuck and merging with nature was the whole point. I tend to get very dreamy and not grounded when its time to write. That butterfly snapped me into the here and now, and that made all the difference. Thank you for the comment!!