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Flash Fiction Friday – The Key and the Door

Today is Friday, and one of my blog themes for this day of the week is Flash Fiction. Here is a topic I took from a prompt back in September. It was to write a six-word story, but you know limitations and conditions are “more like guidelines than actual rules”, as Captain Barbossa once said. So, here is my

Story about a Found Key

Amshar’s heart burnt. His passionate love of his mother and the determination to find a cure for her illness set his course. He left home at 16. The priest promised to guard his mom from the evil spirits until Amshar’s return.
One night, he couldn’t go further. Dropping to the ground, he hardly had the power to pull his carpet out and lay it down under a great tree. The dark branches whispered ingratiatingly above, so Amshar leaned against its trunk. When he touched the ground, something small and hard poked his left hand. Hardly seeing in the dark, Amshar realised it’s a key!
Every key belongs to a key-hole in a door somewhere. Filled with hope, the boy clutched the cold object and closed his eyes.
When he woke, it was still night. Standing up to move his numb legs, Amshar circled around the tree and saw the door in the bark on its other side. A door! His heart almost stopped stopped and Amshar held his breath fumbling the key until he almost dropped it in the thick grass. It fit and clicked lightly. The door opened. What he saw on the other side made him freeze.
His sick mother lay on a bed near a window, and a fire burned at the far end of the room. The village priest stood up from a low stool in front of the fire and moved towards him with a beastly flame in his eye and agile step.
The air around them stirred and everything dissolved in mist.

Watching a Film: Passengers, 2016

#WebWednesday

Although I didn’t bump into it on the web, it was thanks to the web that I watched Passengers. It can be found on Netflix, and you need an Internet connection for that. That’s how the film found a place on my blog in this particular #web topic.

Don’t read if you haven’t seen it and you want to find everything out for yourself, because I am about to make a synopsis of the plot.

Passengers was released in 2016, and I read that before getting to our screens, it was in some hell of its own. Many works of art nowadays are. That thing aside, the plot is not too complicated. A sleeping ship full of people travelling to a colony planet 120 years away from Earth to start a new life on, malfunctions due to serious asteroid collisions. A passenger is awakened, Jim, starring Chris Pratt from Guardians of the Galaxy. A year later, having done nearly everything there is to do onboard, Jim awakes another passenger, Aurora, not telling her the truth but pretending her awakening was just as accidental as his. For a year both live together on the ship, gradually falling in love and settling in for a happy life. Then suddenly, the truth about how Aurora was brought up resurfaces, and their harmony is shattered.

The fact that the ship is in critical condition and their attempts to prevent its destruction finally brings them together for a happy ever after. Perhaps they didn’t have children, or maybe they did, but that’s not part of my story.

I enjoyed the film mostly because of Jim’s character. He is a mechanic who left Earth where “when something breaks, we don’t fix it, we replace it”. He wants to go to a new world where he can help build it. All the time we saw him on the screen, if he wasn’t at the bar or with Aurora, he was making something. Making, fixing, changing, adapting – never stopping. When Arthur, the android bartender, asked him what he had been doing to get so soiled, Jim said simply: “Improvements.”

He found the bio area where they carried the plants and succeeded in planting a tree in the middle of the Concourse – the ship’s spacious lounge. Not only did he accept his fate – that he will die on the ship before it reaches the colony, but he also did all he could in cool mind and intention to make his life there count… for him, at least. It seems to me, Jim had the meaning of life figured out very clearly and neatly. He was fine with being quietly happy in a small family and house. He didn’t put an equation sign between happiness and popularity. His astonishing and extraordinary deeds may seem too everyday, but in the universe of his soul, they were huge.

Aurora’s character evolved from a girl who thought that only extraordinariness can make her happy to someone who realised that being part of the perfect couple is all you need to feel accomplished.
At the final difficulty, when Jim had to stay out of the ship in order to hold the door open for the reactor to vent, my husband said: “Here’s how one should never give up.” My husband likes pointing such signs to me, just so as I don’t forget.

Passengers was one of the few films I really enjoyed since a long time ago. I have been getting lazy and used to series lately, so I don’t often sit down for over 1 h to see one full-length piece. I liked the film much more than The Martian, that was widely-acclaimed as another never-give-up survivor story. To me, The Martian was boring, I don’t know why. Maybe due to the lack of an Aurora in it.

Cheers to all the unrelenting mechanics who never stop improving their surroundings, and to all the Auroras who inspire them with their starlight and faltering enthusiasm!

Butterfly

poetry_01April is a month for poetry writing. Thirty poems in 30 days. At least, that is. I stick to Haiku Heights. They make the A-Z challenge, every day the prompt starting with another letter of the alphabet. In case you are wondering how they go about the several extra days that have no letters, here is their trick: every Sunday is an Open Day, so you may take a rest from ABC. I also follow Poetic Asides, where I first met the so-called PAD (short for Poem-A-Day) Challenge.

1. Haiku Heights #02 – Butterfly:

they wait, looking up

picking colours from sunshine

flutter fragile wings

2. Poetic Asides – Dark Poem:

Up the alley

I crawl

Dimmed

And dulled

To dumb sobriety

Yet drunk on

a monstrous lack of relation to

Reality.

© 2013, Mariya Koleva

 

Rebelling the NaNo, Guest at WSS

#MondayMention/guestblogging_

Today is very special for me. My guest blog post appears in the Wordsmith Studio blog. That community fills me with pride. I am one of its Founding members. I have never been a founding member of anything before in my life. When I started the April Platform-Building Challenge at the My Name Is Not Bob site, I was not sure what to expect. Luckily, I found myself among active people, who really wanted to make a difference. Not a difference to the world, perhaps, but to ourselves as authors. I myself rarely take initiatives. I am a slow starter. But, once I start, I am a steady goer. Once I am convinced, I am a fast learner and soon ready to offer tangible cooperation.


In a matter of a month this community was formed and had groups over Twitter, Facebook, a Facebook fan page and a site of our own. At first, we were the Not-Bobbers. Then, as our project took a living of its own, the steering committee – the most active of our founding members, experience in design and organization, cast a vote for a new name. The name Wordsmith Studio was chosen and I am amazed at the brilliance of it. I am in vow before the talented ladies and gentlemen forming this community, before their sincere efforts to make it better, more useful and more helpful for all of us and future members.


In another month there was vote for graphic design. We chose our group logos and then the Founding Member badge. The designs presented were great, and we chose the greatest.


Now, the page is ready to launch. There we have Groups, Forums, Profile Accounts… the chance to interact with other Members. We are about to transfer our activities from our FB groups to our page. They hold regular Twitter chats. I can never make it, due to time zone difference. They hold regular Book discussions at Goodreads, too. I can’t participate there either, because I can’t afford to buy any of the books. Yet, Monique who moderates the discussions there, offered to scan some pages for me, to be able to take part in the group activities. I find that very touching and worth remembering.


That is where my guest post makes its live appearance today. Head over and read it. Leave me a comment there. Go visit our wonderful community of creative souls and then spread the love!

© Mariya Koleva, 2012

Two For Tuesday: F2K and NovPAD

#twofortuesday

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Today I am very lucky to have the chance of a twosome Tuesday, because I have at least two topics to write about. It is November, so everybody guessed it already: NaNoWriMo and NovPAD would be my two things. Quite right, yet, not quite.

The first thing I plan to discuss is my participation in the F2K free writing course, held at the WWU. That course was suggested to the Wordsmith Studio community by Rebecca Barray, who had already taken part in it and highly recommended it. As it was free and demanded nothing in return, I decided to give it a try. Of course, such a decision is never a simple thing with me. I rarely step down from the course of action I have decided upon, so making a decision is very similar to concluding a binding contract for me. A contract between me and who know whom, binding to me mainly.

The F2K course takes part several times a year and lasts for 7 weeks. In this particular session, the schedule started on Sept. 19th. Each Wednesday a Lesson is posted comprising theory on a particular aspect of the art of writing, together with a writing exercise to be accomplished as part of the Lesson. Each attendant then reads and studies the Lesson very carefully and writes a text in answer to the exercise. Attendants are divided into different Classrooms, have a mentor and an intern to guide them and answer their question and some extracurricular activities offered as part of the programme.

At first I had to find my way round the site and spent some time to make friends. There is a Wall, similar to the one on Facebook, there are Groups, Friends, Direct Messages and the option to “expose” yourself by posting pictures and videos. You can chat to friends of yours who are online and see others’ activities on the Wall. You may “like” and/or comment. Everybody involved gets notifications about all related activities. That happens in the Play section.
In the Work section, the attendants take part in the Forums. There is a Caf?, where I went only once due to lack of time, a Support Forum to address all issues technical, and a Creative Lounge, where additional prompts are posted, in case writers have spare time and strength to practice more after they have posted their Lessons. I visited the place a couple of times, all before the end of Week 3, but never really got down to writing to the prompts.

Initially, I was worried I won’t be able to follow. Then, I learned that once a Lesson is posted by the Headmaster on Wednesday, we have all the week till next Tuesday to write our own Lesson. Only that. There were some additional activities, such as optional Warm-up exercises based on a book we could buy and the Global Chats, which were scheduled way beyond my time zone, so I never bothered.

The hub of activity is feedback. The entire course is held on it. The classroom mentor only gives feedback in Weeks 1 and 2, and that not to all participants. After that, if you want your mentor’s feedback, you have to pay a small fee. It is really a small amount, so were I in the States, I’d most probably have paid it and enjoyed the benefit of our mentor. As it was, I mainly practiced after consciously reading and learning some theory on the art of writing. As a first time, that was enough.

At first, we all needed to write an introductory post and then give feedback to each and every one of our classmates. That is the rule. During that first session I managed to count 25 participants in our classroom. I was overwhelmed with the perspective to have to give feedback to so many people, after actually having read what they’ve written. That seemed time-consuming. Besides, after receiving some feedback for Prompt 1, I started feeling that the course was useless. Most people would just say: “Oh, great. Good job. You’ve done a perfect job with this one.” I received a couple of neutral ones, like: “It could flow better, but overall it’s OK.” What I craved for was feedback from our mentor for the first prompt and for Lesson 1. When I saw her giving feedback to each participant in the turn of their posting, I was sure that would be the case for those first weeks. Sadly, she never chose to comment on my texts. So, when Lesson 2 came and promised to be very time-consuming, I was halfway out of the course. I was so disappointed and angry that I couldn’t help sharing my resignation. My wall-posts got immediate answers, most certainly kindled by the general policy of this place to try and appease all rebels, variance of opinions, etc. After all, that is a friendly and supportive community, and not a fighting ground.

All of a sudden, time passed and my classmates who would post their Lessons became fewer and fewer. It was becoming easier to give feedback. Another all of a sudden, it turned out that the rule of “proper giving feedback” in our classroom was not giving feedback to each and every one Lesson assignment posted there. Somewhere along the way, our mentor said we need to give feedback “to at least three Lesson assignments”, which I easily accomplished. There was a participant who would receive many comments, and I was always looking for less-commented posts, so I would spend my time on not popular posts, and sometimes couldn’t fined the time to get to his posts. And, to be honest, he wrote very interesting texts.

Another routine is that one Lesson per classroom is selected for the F2K Ezine. I never made it there. I really hoped to appear in the Ezine and made sincere efforts in Lesson 1, which I loved most of all, because it was all about me.
The only thing I wrote from scratch was my first Optional Prompt and Lesson 1 and 2 assignments. For all the rest, I happened to have ready texts. I must admit that, the first short fiction I wrote was after the April Platform-building Challenge, when I decided to develop an Editorial Calendar. When I did that, I had some idea what topic I would write to on particular days, so for some time I would write flash fiction, instead of blog posts. The very first one I wrote, Twisted Minds for the #TwistedTuesday stream, was the one I chose for Lesson 3 when we had to re-write a paragraph from a different POV. Then I would use another, and then another of my pieces which I edited and polished in order to fit the assignment. Some classmates chose to follow a certain theme or to use the same characters throughout, usually the character who did the initial introduction. I chose to follow a different path and use different stories, in order to show what I am able of and receive feedback to the various aspects of my writing. Week by week, the feedback became more useful and to the point. That was mainly a result from the Headmaster’s instructions, as he included specific questions to consider for each task.

Overall, I found the exercise useful. I didn’t write anything new, but I managed to take a new angle viewing my fiction. For example, I found it was not so dull and uninteresting, as I thought it was. I actually intended to edit and work on some of it further and see what happens.

The main problem with this particular course was the partial uselessness of feedback. I say partial, because from time to time a classmate would post really helpful opinion of my texts. Yet, the tendency is different. Normally, your classmates would only tell you what they liked in your piece, but very rarely what they don’t. I did no different, of course. Being aware of my own poor quality as a writer, I never dared to express the real issues I would see. Several times I read awfully written stories, and yet kept a neutral to positive tone. That problem is best overcome when you pay for Mentor’s Support, so you are sure to receive line-by-line feedback from at least one person. A couple of times I ran into misunderstandings because of feedback and it was really awkward.

I am still unsure what to think of the course and the perspective of taking it again. Most probably, I’ll try it again. Maybe next time I’ll join a session at another time of the year. The final week of F2K free writing course starting in September coincided with the first week of November, so it got somewhat assimilated in the new challenges. The possibility of joining the WWU is also very attractive, as it holds creative writing courses which have amazing annotations.

#twofortuesday
Now, briefly of NovPAD
This is my third time. That is the first event I joined in my early months on Twitter, which led me to become part of a supportive and friendly poetry community. Gradually, I made friends, we started visiting our blogs, participating in other prompt-challenges and got involved in a group to share and comment each others’ celebrations and lamentations. The NovPAD holds a special charm for me, as it coincides with my other great challenge, that really helped me start writing and fully realize my not-all-conscious desire to develop as a writer. I have been building myself as an author for two steady years now and looking back, I can see the long way I have come and a larger portion of the whole picture. My greatest acknowledgment came as my prompt was selected by Robert Lee Brewer to kick off the NovPAD challenge. I was overwhelmed by all the positive reactions and the “thank yous” I received for an excellent prompt. Considering that it came just a day after my first short story, “Diamonds Below the Agulhas Negras”, was published in the Snake-Oil Cure, I had almost a week of praise and hails on FB, Twitter and on my blog. In that way, NovPAD is still a very special event for me and I am really attached to it. I’m not sure how it will end, but I have liked the month of November very well so far.