What was the last city you traveled to and how did it make you feel?


Last week, I went to Paris.

I would have posted excited pictures, breathless descriptions. I would have told you I saw the Eiffel tower, arriving there after two missed trains, just when the lights began to blink, that I stared up at it against the clouds, that it seemed to rise and hover in the air, like a golden tower made not of steel, but strings of light.

Paris evening

An evening in Paris

I would have told you that the bridges gleam day and night, that the coffee is lighter than in Rome, that the croissants and crepes disappointed me somewhat–not that they were bad, that sitting outside watching the world go by seemed overrated when tourists sat by the Seine in traffic smoke, that the Notre Dame looked like calligraphy in air, like a papier-mâché thing I dared not visit for fear that the illusion of its lightness would disappear.

That the Mona Lisa underwhelmed, the ladies taking selfies with her made more of an impact, but that the Louvre made me feel like I wanted to lie down and die, because surely then I would be reborn inside of it, as a guide, a cleaner, a waitress. And wouldn’t have to leave. That d’Orsay does not do justice to the Impressionists, shutting away all their shimmering outdoorsy light in a smallish hall, where you have to peer over heads and shoulders to see them from a distance. That Van Gogh looks sadder in his swirly blue self-portrait than I remembered from prints, that his starry night over Paris looks far better than the sky today. That Rodin’s Thinking Man makes just as massive an impression as I imagined from the pictures.

But it is the people who remain with me.

The waiters who looked down their noses as they took orders, unsmiling, the pretty girls in snug scarves, that tall man crossing an alley shouting in French on his phone trying to look manly, the Chinese model being photographed at the Tuilieres Garden, who joined us minutes later in the metro wearing frayed shorts and golden eyeshadow, the artist at Montmarte drawing a smiling little girl’s portrait who would be oh-so-disappointed in a few minutes, a group of old women dressed in black lace, hobbling uphill on walking sticks, laughing, lugging loaded Desigual shopping bags, the Arab women covered top to toe, being led along by their husbands in shorts, the tall black men at shops and restaurants, regal despite their valet coats, the young couples, kissing in parks, eating long sandwiches, sipping wine, smoking, always smoking. I’ll remember being stuck in a jam in a back alley, looking up at the sky, only to find a bald old man and his Persian blue cat staring straight down at me from their red-flowered window.

I will, of course, go back, given half a chance. And this time I would spend more time watching people in the less tourist-infested areas. I’ll sit down and get lost, merge, disappear. A writer’s job is to paint what she sees, not interfere with the picture.

But on our way back now, on this long haul flight back to Singapore this is all I can think of: each of us, the protagonist of our lives, is just a part of the picture in someone else’s eyes. Note to self: no matter where you go and what you do, you’re just a tiny, insignificant part of the picture, remember that. The world is bigger than you, it would go on. Be here, now, and let that be enough.

Been to Paris? What is the one thing you remember the most? Would you go back again? What was the last city you traveled to and how did it make you feel?

What’s Your Story? #socialmedia


Fishy thoughts

My thoughts on Social Media

Today, I had a minor setback. My first instinct– to go and share it on Facebook.

I don’t share much of my private life on my blog, nor on my Facebook or Twitter. But recently, I’ve noticed a tendency– or maybe a temptation– because I don’t give in to it, of sharing about my life on social media.

I recently read this article in the New Yorker by author Dani Shapiro, about exactly how damaging giving in to this temptation can be for writers:

I worry that we’re confusing the small, sorry details—the ones that we post and read every day—for the work of memoir itself. I can’t tell you how many times people have thanked me for “sharing my story,” as if the books I’ve written are not chiseled and honed out of the hard and unforgiving material of a life but, rather, have been dashed off, as if a status update, a response to the question at the top of every Facebook feed: “What’s on your mind?” I haven’t shared my story, I want to tell them. I haven’t unburdened myself, or softly and earnestly confessed. Quite the opposite.

In order to write a memoir, I’ve sat still inside the swirling vortex of my own complicated history like a piece of old driftwood, battered by the sea. I’ve waited—sometimes patiently, sometimes in despair—for the story under pressure of concealment to reveal itself to me. I’ve been doing this work long enough to know that our feelings—that vast range of fear, joy, grief, sorrow, rage, you name it—are incoherent in the immediacy of the moment. It is only with distance that we are able to turn our powers of observation on ourselves, thus fashioning stories in which we are characters.

There is no immediate gratification in this. No great digital crowd is “liking” what we do. We don’t experience the Pavlovian, addictive click and response of posting something that momentarily relieves the pressure inside of us, then being showered with emoticons. The gratification we memoirists do experience is infinitely deeper and more bittersweet. It is the complicated, abiding pleasure, to paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, of finding the universal thread that connects us to the rest of humanity, and, by doing so, turns our small, personal sorrows and individual tragedies into art.

I am given to Facebook updates and blog posts about the small things in life. Now I’ve begun to wonder whether that’s affecting my storytelling. Maybe I’m not building up enough steam over the years, by letting it out through my social media updates. Maybe the fact that I talk about small, impersonal-sounding details on my blog is affecting my storytelling abilities.

What’s your take on this? How much of your inner life/ rants/ life news do you share on Facebook and other social media? If you’re a writer, do you think sharing life experiences on social media detracts from an author’s ability to tell a story?

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: Z for Zebra crossings must’ve been designed by a psychopath


The A to Z Challenge is now coming to an end. Through the month of April I posted a story a day based on photographs by Joseph W. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Today I bring you the last of the 26 stories, and I thank each and every one of you who’s commented on the 25 stories so far. I came to know some of you during the challenge, and some of my much loved readers are from before. I hope to visit your blogs often in the coming months. I’m not a demonstrative person, be it online life or offline, but I do hope to return the support you’ve given me in what has been a difficult month!
Writing prompt: Zebra crossings must’ve been designed by a psychopath

Provided by: Guilie Castillo Oriard friend, fellow writer,  and one of the magnificent Seven of #TeamDamyanti

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#atozchallenge : Z is for Zebra crossings must've been designed by a psycopath

#atozchallenge : Z is for Zebra crossings must’ve been designed by a psychopath

          I dream in black and white, and that’s how I see life. What’s the point of color, anyway?

           Color’s like laughter, completely useless. Both make you look silly, is all. When you’re stabbing someone, all that red is a bit overly done, if you know what I mean. Black, now, black is soothing. It’s a color too, the only one I like, and wear, really.

           Black is the color of shadows, and I like shadows, love living in them, even on this hundred-year-old boat lit up like a Christmas tree on all days of the year. She’s a relic, she is, the Belle of Louisville. Long ways she’s come, from carrying braying mules and bleating lambs to ferrying touristy types from all over the world, who get sneetered with all this history and fork out a good sum to breathe the dank evening air from its decks.

            I arsle about on its decks in the evenings, wiping the glass windows here and there, looking for a likely one. Most evenings I draw empty. They mostly come in groups, the ones I like, the sweet-smiling curly blondes. Uncles, aunties, parents, friends— polecats all of them, setting off such a stink if their darling is missing for more than a few minutes.

            So I’ve got to wait for weeks, months, before I get the right one. Lonely, smiles right back when I smile at her. Traveling alone, finding herself. A divorcee, usually, or someone in her family just died, and she’s on a break, to get away from it all. I tell her I know how she feels, and her eyes widen. I don’t know, not really, not how any of this ‘feeling’ shit works, but I can fake it with the best of them. I’m not as much of a fool as the captain makes me out to be.

              In the end she gets to go away from it all, very far away indeed on the Missisipi, and I get to scratch my itch, know what I’m sayin’?

              I read up on folks like me, folks who don’t feel much, who don’t get stuff like ‘irony’, us folks who dream in black and white. I don’t see what’s wrong with me or black and white. I like zebra crossings, they call them crosswalks around these parts. Zebra crossings must’ve been designed by a psychopath, too. They say folks like me can’t be cured, but it’s good for us to talk it out, once they have us in the hospitals. I’m not going to no hospital, so here I am getting a crick in my neck, writing in this here, my notebook.

             Time for me to wrap up though, because I spot a blonde one boarding, right across. I just might get lucky tonight.

~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? Been aboard the Belle of Louisville?

(An added Disclaimer: This is absolutely a figment of my imagination, and any resemblances of my character with anyone you know is purely coincidental!)

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: Y is for Yes is such an easy word to say when


As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph W. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Writing prompt: Yes is such an easy word to say when

Provided by:  Csenge Virág Zalka, friend, fellow writer, storyteller, and one of the magnificent Seven of #TeamDamyanti

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#atozchallenge: Yes is such an easy word to say when

#atozchallenge: Yes is such an easy word to say when

        Yes is such an easy word to say when you’re tired.

         Tired of walking the whole day around the island, yes, but tired also of being told what to do, and what to stay away from.    

          Do not heed the siren calls they said, keep your eye on the road, do not eat or rest till we tell you to. You’re a babe in the woods, your sixteen years no match for the forest and its spells.   

           They never tired and strode on, hacking through the undergrowth, scaring away rabbits and snakes and other crawling things.  But he’d had enough of the empty stomach, of never sleeping longer than a few minutes on hard ground, of being terrified of shadows. It exhausted him.

         So, when she asked him to come rest next to her, he said yes.

          She looked shimmery in the twilight, her eyes swimming with unshed tears, as if it was him she’d been waiting for, for years, millennia. The air around them smelled of orchards, of over-ripe fruit, and the call of a lone nightjar cut through the distant murmur of the sea.

         He sat down and moved closer, into her arms. The arms closed around him, the stone of her body warmed in the sunlight, and turned to flesh. He smiled. No one would find him here. He could sleep.

In the morning they found him, a stone lover in a stone woman’s arms. Her cold unmoving eyes looked upon his closed eyelids, a veiled smile upon her white marble lips.

~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt?

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: W for With the heart of a lion


As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph W. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Writing prompt: With the heart of a lion…

Provided by: Cheryl KP, friend, fellow writer, artist.

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#atozchallenge : W for with the heart of a lion

#atozchallenge : W for with the heart of a lion

      Kill with the heart of a lion, her Pa used to say, slicing the air with his hands, tend with the heart of a lamb.

          She liked the shape of those sun-browned hands, his thumbs bent out of shape, joined back all wrong after he broke them during a butchering accident. A long time ago, he said when she asked him, he was more careful now.

          His hands worked just fine. They birthed calves, made her her dressing table with its dainty drawers, whipped up breakfast for her and her brothers each morning after her Ma took to bed.

            He baked them cakes at Christmas and folded them inside the spicy-sweet tang of pumpkins when he sat carving the rounded shells on all hallows eve, teaching her curly-haired brothers how to handle knives. They lit candles together in the evening, and he brushed her hair into a ponytail when they hung too near the flames.

            She often put her hand on his, and laughed at how different they were. Those same crooked hands cut down the rope she found Ma hanging from in the barn one evening. She couldn’t stop screaming, and held on to those hooked thumbs as she sobbed to sleep that night.

 

When they came at sunset and started digging she screamed once again. She yelled and shrieked, as did her brothers, now hefty young men, but they came in big black cars, waving papers and guns, in white cars with flashing sirens. They stood around in groups against the fading light. They took him to his room upstairs and wouldn’t let her brothers in. She made them tea while they dug up the vegetable patch and orchards, set up lights in the yard. They took shovels to the stables and the barn. She watched from the kitchen window.

       They found sacks, and inside each sack, hair, bones, clothes, grinning teeth. They slapped each others’ backs, exchanged solemn handshakes. The Old Jackal, they called him, in hushed whispers. They’d found his den, his hiding place.

      They took him out in the dark, the flashing lights on those misshapen hands, handcuffed behind his back. She watched as they walked him out the gate, her brothers by his side. He did tend to us, her soft whisper broke in to the night air, but no one heard her.

~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt?

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: V for Vagrancy had always been his calling…


As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph T. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.

Writing prompt: Vagrancy had always been his calling…

Provided by: Mary Wallace, friend, fellow blogger, and one of the Magnificient Seven of #TeamDamyanti

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Vagrancy had always been his calling

#atozchallenge: Vagrancy had always been his calling

         He turned to look at me so I shoved him and said, well, go on, or you’ll never catch the bus.

  He used to go to library and brought books home, about big words like space and time and how to write well by hand and fancy painting stuff, bright melty things drawn by a madman, Picasso he said the painter was, a yellow-billed toucan postcard stuck in one of them, from Peru, look Grandpa! All useless watchammacallits I wanted put in the burning barrel, but didn’t cos I wanted no library fine. 

         He wanted to learn hoity toity words like Shakespeare, Wildlife, Investment. Vagrancy had always been his calling, he said at dinner one day, he felt like a loser. I later sneaked a look in the word-book his dead grandma given him to reckon what he said.

I could tell him what he needs to learn.

       Tell him he’s not a loser. He’s lucky, not like his Ma who died giving birth to him, or his Da whose car crashed into a truck ten years ago and all that sod’s done is drool ever since. That I might be an old hillibilly but I fed him since he was small, cute as a bug’s ear, and saved enough he could take a bus to city. He’s young and healthy, not like this old coot.

          That we’re all stories, city, town, country, no matter, and stories begin and end, all pretty much the same. The middle is different, but all said and done, the middle don’t mean diddley squat.

           No schoolhouse would teach him that. I could tell him, but young un’s they’re stout as mules. He’ll learn with years, way I did.

           I shoved him once more, and turned back as he walked to the bus stop.

~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? Are you a parent? If you are, what did this story make you think about?

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: U for Uncharted worlds


As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph W. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.

Writing prompt: Uncharted worlds

Provided by: Samantha  Redstreake Geary friend, fellow writer, and one of the Magnificent Seven of #TeamDamyanti

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#AtoZchallenge : U for Uncharted worlds
#AtoZchallenge : U for Uncharted worlds

       First thing she noticed about him, he wore pale pink lipstick.

        They had to stand close, way too close, for the audition. She could feel his biceps under her hands, smell the coffee he’d just drunk on his breath, and the cologne on his shirt collar. The director urged them to stand closer, come on show some chemistry, did they want the role or not, he didn’t have the whole sainted day, all right?

       She had leaned in then, but today, in the flickering light of the fire, she tried not to look at where she’d left him on the grass. This was meant to be a reunion trip, camping together all by themselves in the middle of nowhere, only now she had a camp, a fire, and no family.

        She wanted to remember him from that first night, when he’d whisked her away from the dressing room, into his studio with its creaky bed, and the landlord had knocked on the floor, asking them to keep it down, and they’d kissed and giggled and kissed some more.

        She wanted to remember him reading bad poetry to Tara, who calmed down in her cradle, and listened to her father with big, droopy eyes. He talked of uncharted worlds, of adventures at sea, of frightened pirates, of stars, and haunted ships. When the book ended, he made up his own stories, and Tara chuckled. She wanted to remember Tara grinning, blowing raspberries, lisping words from her father’s poems, the words of which she barely understood.

        She’d been on movie shoots in different countries, not knowing that behind her back, he babysat by playing dress-up with Tara, put lipstick on her, everywhere. Her brain tried to imagine his hands on Tara, on her budding breasts, her throat, and her bulging eyes as he strangled her, till all she wanted to do was fling herself into the fire.

 

But enough about what she wanted.

          She hauled him, thank God he dieted and wasn’t too heavy to pull. It would smell, but bonfires often smelled like barbecues.

          She looked up, at the stars flickering from between the trees. Up there, somewhere, was her daughter, on a faraway, uncharted world. As his hair and clothes, then skin and flesh began to crackle and burn, she hoped Tara was watching. 

~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? What do you look for in flash fiction? What sort of fiction satisfies you?