firefly o’clock

Two years ago today I woke up my eldest daughter to see the fireflies for the first time. Her little hand was warm and sweet inside my own as she peered out into the dark forest. “It’s not as dark as I thought it would be,” she announced.
I tried to point out the fireflies among the wildflowers, but her eyes gazed steadily at the seldom-seen stars of the hazy night sky, eagerly devouring them with her entire being. “Wow,” she whispered, transfixed.
We walked further along the wooded lane, with her looking over her shoulder now and again to make certain that the moon was still there. “It’s my friend, the Moon,” she’d tell me in a hushed voice, then shout “Hi Moon!” and give a joyous wave to the jolly orb. Now and then he winked at her with wisps of fog, much to her delight.
A green firefly lit up in a patch of clover not far from us. She gasped. “A firefly!” The green light flashed again, and again, as she counted…poorly.
“I want to see another one, mummy!” she said, So we circled our lawn, traipsing through the wet grass as we watched for fairy lights in wild places.
“We have to whisper, and tiptoe. Whisper and tiptoe,” she hissed loudly to me as she stomped through the wet in her beloved rubber boots.
She squeezed my hand tight as a moth flew too close to her face and they startled one another, but it’s easy to be brave when you’re three and your friend the Moon is right there and your mummy is holding your hand. “What was that?”
“It was a moth.”
“Was it a fairy moth?”
“It might have been, it’s hard to tell in the dark.”
As we neared our little pond a handful of fireflies whispered luminescent greetings and we settled in to watch the twinkle of their phosphorescence. Some nestled in the devil’s paintbrush, while the bolder ones soared as high as the branches of the nearby trees. Her eyes, glazed with the sleepiness of one who should be in bed before dark, wandered back up to the stars in wonder.
In sitting still the mosquitoes discovered us and began to bother. We swatted until she suggested we go back inside. Hand in hand we walked back to the house. “So what did you think of the fireflies?” I asked her.
“I thought there’d be less bugs. And more faeries,” she said, her most serious look upon her face. “But I liked them very much.”
webonbluebottles

eighty unicorns under the hood

When she was young, Granny volunteered at a retirement home for imaginary friends. She would read them books, listen to their stories,  and keep them company. Her favorite resident was an aging, black unicorn with an opalescent alicorn who’d been popular in the 1700’s.

“You know, I’ve always been jealous of horses,” he told her. “I was James Watt’s imaginary friend when he was a boy. He grew up to coin the term ‘horsepower’. I’ve never gotten over that. He could have used ‘unicornpower.’ No one would have minded. It sounds good.”

Granny tested it out. “This baby has eighty unicorns under the hood.” She whistled. “Oh my. That does sound good.”

“Doesn’t it? I think he did it just to spite me for not spearing his sister with my horn when he wanted me to. Told me he’d rather have a real horse that listened to him than an imaginary unicorn who wouldn’t.” He let out a sad knicker. “James never imagined me again. He was only five years old.” A few tears dribbled down the unicorn’s muzzle. “Stupid horses.”

Granny always referred to engines in units of unicornpower after that. When she took up farming with Gramps she liked to brag she was the only woman in the county with a thirty-two unicornpower tractor. Drove him absolutely nuts.

tractorpower

review: Short Story Mechanics with Richard Thomas

My first writing teacher was my high school’s gym teacher. What could go wrong?

There we were: a small group of sensitive, bespectacled book nerds, our heads full of poetry, our thoughts a jumble of hormones and innocence, eager to pursue our dream of becoming a writer.

Toss in an angry meathead who doesn’t want to teach writing or have any respect for the craft. Boom. Mentally dismembered young writers, their unwritten stories bleeding on the linoleum floor, wondering what the hell hit them.

The experience turned me off writing classes for decades.  I wrote here and there for the following year, a twinge of PTSD with every word. That passed with time, and writing became a joy again.

After my first small publications, I wanted my writing to grow further and faster than craft books and critique partners could take me. I took a deep breath and hunted around for a class.

I ended up taking a short story class with Gamut (horror fiction magazine) editor Richard Thomas at Litreactor. I did my research to make sure I respected his work, finding some of his short stories, reading his Storyville column, and asking writers I know if they’d had the experience of working with or learning from him. The responses I got were favorable, so I signed up for the class.

And I got so much out of it.

Richard picked out my weaknesses and addressed them. He pointed out my strengths and built upon them. At multiple points in his lectures I had a ‘eureka!’ moment where I figured out what was making some of my stories fall short (and how to fix them). Never once in his critiques did he try to make my voice sound like his voice, and that’s what impressed me the most.

Now that the class is done, I’m going back to stories I’d given up on and getting excited about them again.

What the heck is your point, Jenn? I couldn’t find actual reviews of writing classes when I was hunting for one. There’s kajillions of them out there, and they cost money. For a struggling writer, money is often an issue and every hack with a wifi signal is onto the ‘masterclass’ buzzword. It can feel like a gamble.

I believe most writers will benefit from a class with Richard. The value is well worth the cost. Yes, this is an honest review. I’m not getting any compensation for it.

Richard Thomas has another Litreactor class starting up in late July, this one focusing on flash fiction. Check out his website and you’ll see even more. My kid’s got cavities we need to fix, so I can’t take another class for a while. Don’t be like us. Brush, floss, and take Richard Thomas classes.

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he may look grumpy, but he’s no phys. ed. teacher. (Photo from litreactor.com)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some short stories to work on.

 

 

 

 

gentle whimsy from my tattered thoughts

At long last, I have found the place where stars go during daylight hours.

stars
#notscientificallyaccurate (that was for you, James)

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I saw a single firefly last night in the rain. His little blue light glowed beneath the shelter of a plantain leaf. The light reflected back from the raindrops all around, and he didn’t seem lonely at all.