Nearly five years ago I began writing short mystery fiction. I’m not a prolific writer and usually write only two or three short stories a year, most ranging between four and six thousand words. Although I have written a few longer pieces, never once have I written anything shorter.
In May 2009 I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. A few weeks later my thyroid was surgically removed and until the end of my radiation cycle in October, 2009 I functioned (barely) as though I was continually overdosing on sleeping pills. Writing was out of the question because coherent thought was impossible. After radiation I began taking Synthroid, adjusting the dose on a weekly basis until my blood work became somewhat normal, but my brain continued to dawdle.
In January 2010, while my brain wandered around on its own, I was beginning to doubt I would ever again be able to create a readable story. Then Kathleen Ryan, my blogmate at Women of Mystery http://www.womenofmystery.net/ mentioned a contest on NPR. The required theme was “Apartments and Neighbors” with a submission length no longer than 750 words. The topic dragged up an old memory. The length presented a real challenge. Such a tiny word count means that every word MUST count. Still, I needed to restart my writing career and I chose this as a beginning. I struggled to write the story and, because I actually finished it before the due date, I paid the $25 contest fee, (something I never do) entered and didn’t win, but that was fine because “For Keepsies” got me back to the keyboard. In the following months I wrote three additional stories, all of which I placed, including one purchased by Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. http://www.themysteryplace.com/eqmm/ I also spent a couple of months doing the story edits for an anthology, Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices, to be released this September.
So, “For Keepsies” revved me into a highly productive year and—sat in the file cabinet. In my heart I was glad the story hadn’t been selected for the NPR venue because I believed it was too personal to share. Every story I write is made entirely from whole cloth. I’d never taken a person, an incident, or even a quote from my real life. Only the settings of my stories come from the real world. But this story is based on a true incident from my childhood, and drawing from my own life is a very new experience for me as a writer.
Now and again I would take “For Keepsies” out, read it and then put it back in its folder. Last December it finally dawned on me that the story is fiction, and didn’t need to be locked away like some teenager’s secret diary, so I sent it to David Cranmer, publisher of Beat To A Pulp. David is a good friend and BTAP, as I’ve often said, is a site where writers can move away from what they normally write, try something new and get polite and, often, brilliant critiques from writers and readers alike. I was thrilled when David accepted the story.
I’d like to invite you to read my first flash piece, “For Keepsies,” which was published at Beat To A Pulp last month.