I’m excited to be presenting for the second year in a row at the Writer’s Digest Short Story Conference. This year I’ll be talking about one of my favorite ways to write flash fiction: using the power of implication to manipulate found forms. Come for the whole weekend (and some replays are available for conference participants).
This will be one of my few virtual workshops until the fall: I’d love to “see” you! xo N
From the website: Writer’s Digest is pleased to present an exclusive virtual conference for short story writers! On May 20-22, our 2nd Annual Short Story Writing Virtual Conference will provide expert insights from SEVEN award-winning and best-selling authors on the finer points of how to write a short story. Spend the weekend learning techniques for honing your craft skills, marketing your short fiction, editing, and getting the tools you need to advance your career as a writer from seven different published authors*, then (if you choose) submit up to 500 words of a short story to an editor for critique.
I was kidnapped by the coyotes when I was 15, when my breasts and hips were soft enough to distinguish me as a woman. Not that they hadn’t been watching me before—they had. I remember the friendly neighborly warning—you should be careful letting her out, he said to my mother.A coyote has been watching her. In the daytime? Oh yeah, they don’t care if it’sday or night the neighbor said, tipping his hat. My mother didn’t pay attention, saying it was ridiculous. Coyotes don’t even like little girls she said.
The night I was kidnapped she tried to call me back inside but I was already wild, I’d already jumped through the tear in the screen door and out into the gorgeous summer night, the air thick like black cake. The last thing I heard was—fine then, stay out there. I was smoking a stolen cigarette on a stoop still warm from August, my long body stretched out and barefoot, when I heard the first scuffle, the hiss of a cat. Then the shadow moving up the sidewalk, eyes locked with mine.
I wonder what my mother heard. They called it a nervous breakdown in those days. Could she hear the scream, the quick silencing pounce, the way we folded into the sewer drain? Did she cry for me, my mother, or was she still grieving her own life when the coyotes came for me, when the full smell of coyote hit my face, tufts of black fur still stuck to the sides of his mouth when he reached for me, followed by a nauseating tingle through the tip of my right breast that I would never, ever be able to scrub off?
Strange, but what I remember most from that evening was how beautiful it was to be alive. The sweetness of lightning bugs. The silent, witnessing stars. The crickets, pausing when we passed. My last breath of free air and my final glimpse of the world, framed through the circular sewer pipe and bluish with the moon. Watching. Complicit.
Did she finally put it together from her bed, the doctors asking who did you leave watching her? the doctors telling her to get home quickly, the doctors telling her it might be too late. What did she do when she found me already gone, my skin left suspended in the air like dust particles stirred up in a sunbeam?
This story does have a happy ending, but here it goes:
When Going Short was first released as a print book in 2020, I knew the decision to release it in a quarantine year would mean some sacrifices: no live events, no release party, no fancy cake with a picture of my book cover on it. However, I felt strong enough that it was the right book at the right time that I embraced the virtual book tour and all the wonderful virtual events (and I don’t regret it!)
BUT…here’s the cake story: The night before the official release, I was in the kitchen, thinking about that cake with my book’s picture on it that I wasn’t going to get and I just lost it. All the self pity and all the fears of 2020 just bubbled up and out and I was found by my partner, sobbing at the dining room table about how I never get to have a cake.
So, like any good partner, Nick went on a mission to end this sobbing immediately (and for anyone reading this, if anyone in your life is ever sobbing over cake–heed this course of action!)
As the story was later relayed to me, he went to the nearest grocery store bakery, but since it was already 10 pm, the bakery was closed, and the decorators were gone. However, the teenagers on the night shift, wanting to be helpful, (and maybe having had a sobbing cake episode in their own lives) suggested they could let Nick into the kitchen with some frosting tubes and he could decorate the cake himself.
The situation was of course, desperate.
When I woke up in the morning on the official Going Short release day I saw this cake in the fridge:
And honestly, it’s my favorite cake ever.
So now, two years later, it’s a thing. This past weekend, in preparation for the Going Short Audiobook release, I still haven’t hugged most of you or had a pre-2020 style release party, but I’m eating cake. All week.
And I’m hoping you not only love the new audiobook (and my narration debut!) but that you eat a piece of cake with me!There’s no way I would rather celebrate than to eat virtual cake with you! For real!
Thank you all for the many years of support, inspiration, and friendship. If I’ve learned anything in these last two years, it’s to cherish your tribe in all the ways, hug them when you can, and always know they are eating cake with you, wherever they are.