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This Square Peg.

Happily Not Fitting In Since 1978.

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the writing life

speechless.

flannery

Writing fiction has been a no-go, party people. And I miss writing fiction. Yes, I’ve written some poems quite recently (here and here, if you feel like reminiscing), but I am 100 percent a writer, lover, and creator of fiction. I don’t exactly know what’s going on. Let’s think it through:

  1. Is it because I haven’t given my muse other platforms of art to be inspired by? Honestly, living here in the Lone Star state is still very much a transition: personally, emotionally, and especially artistically.  I’ve yet to stroll down the cool, marble hallways of an art museum. I have been to a few concerts, yes. Most recently, I sat in the audience, tears cascading my face, while Alvin Ailey dancers took my entire life with their powerful, breathtaking performances. That was inspiring, absolutely. It got me writing. But the moment was kind of fleeting. Is it because I’m not exploring art more?
  2. Is it because I’m a lazy writer? Look, there are times when an idea comes to me and I start typing and…I stop. Because I don’t want to do it anymore. Because I don’t feel like it. Because I just want to read People Magazine online and mentally judge the choices of silly celebrities.  Because I want to scroll through Instagram and “happen” to find photos of Idris. Because because because. But real talk? Even though the distractions are awesome and it’s nice to turn off the creative brain once in a while, I feel queasy when it happens. I want to write. Is it because I’m not trying hard enough?
  3. Is it because I’ve run out of ideas? Notice above that I respond when an idea comes to me. So they still come. In fact, some great ones have come and they continue. So what’s going on, dear reader? Is it because I let some of them just sit there, unacknowledged?

I’m sure you’re sitting there shaking your head and muttering that some of these questions/problems have obvious solutions. Go to the museum, then. Stop being lazy, then. Acknowledge those ideas, then.

Yeah yeah yeah.

I just wanted to write this post. Get it? I just need to keep writing. Even if it’s not fiction. Maybe that will come. For now, just keep writing, Square Peg. Just keep writing…

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the writer.

Simply put: the works that I produce need to thrive and be shared. We write for ourselves first, yes, but an audience is intrinsic. My family and friends have long supported my writing. And that was enough for me for a long time. It’s a big world. If 10 people I know and love like my work, hey, let’s throw a party. But there’s a comfort level in that. (See the above quote about shyness. That’s part of it, too.) Those you love are those you love. They aren’t the random reader that may stumble on your book and love it or hate it or scratch their heads or wonder who you think you are or applaud who you know you are. 

I’m looking for readers outside of my world, my comfort zone, my people. It isn’t about money. (Although, I mean, come on…) I want my audience to grow. I want to share my passion with more people. 

I have a new Instagram page: @sodavis_thewriter 

Kindly follow it, won’t you? Other than TSP as a platform to occasionally share my work, I’ll share here, as well: one clever hashtag at a time. 

Contests.

I recently submitted a few of my pieces (two short stories and a poem) for some writing contests. I submitted them with the reminder to myself that 1) I’m not the only writer in the world, and 2) there’s a high likelihood that I won’t even place, because see #1. I should tell you that I don’t doubt my talent for a second; gone are the days when I would compare my writing to every one else wielding a pen and/or a laptop and wonder why I couldn’t evoke emotions like Writer A or describe scenes like Writer B. For years and years now, I have wielded my pen/dusty laptop quite confidently, as every writer should. But it was also important to provide myself those two reminders because This Square Peg definitely likes being real and honest with herself. This foils disappointment and eternal irritation with judges who clearly don’t have eyes.

All that said, I received an email yesterday that with 375 entries submitted, I wasn’t selected as a finalist for the poetry contest. And how did I react, being that I gave myself those two reminders? I glared at the email and muttered to myself that I would never participate in that contest again. (It was my second time sending something to this literary festival.) And, yes, I wondered if the judges had eyes. And yes, I almost threw my phone on the ground. Of course, some time later, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at

phone
Yep.

myself–because as a writer, moments like that par for the course. They just are. Writing is entirely subjective. Person 1 may think my collected words were borne from the divinest of clouds. Person 2 may wonder why I didn’t choose basket weaving instead of writing as something to fall in love with. (And may wonder why I insist on ending sentences with prepositions.) When you think about the variety of writers and styles and then we all enter contests with each other? Kind of incredible.

However: for a few moments, more than seconds, I entertained my anger and my irritation. Yeah, I’m a writer, and I’m mostly a realist, but I’m also quite human. So there you go. But eventually, I bounced back. I told myself to cool it, to seriously stop flirting with throwing my phone whenever something doesn’t go my way, and to remember that I write for one person only: myself. When I’m happy and content with the work I produce, all is well. The icing is when my readers feel the same way. No contest needs to tell me any of those things.

But if those short stories don’t do well…kidding, kidding.

Tell me: in life, how do you deal with disappointment?

About your Author: Round-Up.

Seriously. Why are we doing this? You don’t have a book to promote. 
Is that why you think I do this feature? To promote my fiction?

What other infernal reason could there be?
We’ve talked about plenty of things via this feature. The weather, working out, health. It’s fun.

Debatable. Anyway. What’s going on? You got quite a bit of snow last week, didn’t you?
A “bit” is underestimating it. It was unreal. I’ve seen blizzards before, experienced them, but this…

Not so fun when you’re an adult. Right?
Right. Exactly. You know me so well, kitten.

Again, because I’m you. You’re essentially talking to yourself. You get that, right? Right?
Anyway, what else is going on? Let’s see. I’m making plans about the future.

ARE YOU GETTING MARRIED?
Mom, is that you?

What’s this about the future? What’s happening? What are you doing??
Just making some significant changes. When things become more concrete, I’ll discuss them here. Until then–

Until then we’re all supposed to be on pins and needles, waiting with bated breath, until you reveal the plans about your non-husband?
That cabin fever did wonders with your temper and sarcasm, didn’t it?

So, your writing. How’s that going?
I’ve actually been dabbling in science fiction lately. I included a very sci-fi-esque story in my recent collection and it certainly lit a fire. So I’ve been writing short stories in that vein. Pretty proud of the one I wrote a few weeks ago, actually. I even submitted it for a writing contest.

How would you define science fiction?
Themes that deal with time travel, parallel universes, things like that.

Interesting. Are you going to post your beloved new story on here?
In a few weeks, yeah.

What do you like about that genre so much?
Here’s how I feel about it: if I write about time travel, I feel like the science fiction genre allows me to go as far as my imagination will allow and beyond without having to go too crazy with research and facts. Because no one has traveled through time. If I write a story about Savannah’s legal system, it needs to be based on the actual legal system in Georgia. you feel me?

So this is your lazy way of avoiding research. I feel you.
You’re the worst.

And yet you didn’t disagree. 
I’m leaving you now.

*sigh of relief*
You really are the worst.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

The Wedding and the Web: The End

*

It was a lovely wedding. There was an orchestra and ice swans and roses flown in from Marseilles. My sister Charlotte was rhapsody in white; my other sisters and I wore lovely gowns in various shades of blue. Even Irene Vine, as she cried in the front row, allowed Danny to pat her hand and comfort her. The webs were all around us: between family, husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters.

Notably, a curious new web seemed to be forming. Its long, shiny string drifted from the front of ballroom, where I stood, over into the audience where Andy Flood sat in the fourth row. He openly watched me during the ceremony, a fact that intrigued and delighted me more than the silver flask peeking out from the top of Carmen’s dress.

At the end of the ceremony, Andy stopped upon reaching me in the receiving line and handed me, not a red rose from Marseilles, but a yellow daffodil. “Your favorite, remember? From the flower shop on Baker Street,” he whispered in my ear. “May I have the first dance at the reception?”

“Yes,” I whispered back, after which I watched him move through the crowd until he exited the lobby.

I gazed at the flower. How long ago had I mentioned that I adored the yellow daffodils at the flower shop on Baker Street? That I bought myself a bouquet once a month? It had to be ages ago. But it didn’t matter. He was listening. He had always been listening.

The Wedding and the Web: Part 6

*

“Nervous about tomorrow?” Andy Flood asked as he walked into the break room that morning.

I stood by the counter, stirring my coffee and deliberating over my resolution from a few nights ago. “Actually, no. I’m kind of looking forward to it.”

“Good. I’m glad.”

“Mostly because of what Carmen may do.”

I watched him laugh. Andy Flood laughed at everything I said. He conversed with me every morning, every afternoon. He was kind and flexible, especially about the general craziness of this wedding time for me, all the time, really. He respected my dedication to my family, as he said, but seemed to be aware of the necessity of setting a few boundaries without communicating this in an outright, intrusive manner. Andy Flood was a terrific guy. I hoped whomever he had this crush on would be fortunate enough to find that out.

“So, Catherine, I’m pretty curious about this royal wedding. Can I crash?”

“Absolutely. Just be prepared to wear a server’s uniform. My mother will be eyeing that guest list like a hawk.”

“Hmm. Well, how about I just come? As your date?” He approached the counter and poured a cup of coffee.

I blinked a few hundred times. “My date?”

Andy nodded, regarding me, his demeanor unreadable. I waited for a punch line that never came. “But,” I croaked, “why?”

“Why not?”

My mind, slightly scrambled, searched for a response. “I’m—I mean—what do you—?”

“Black tie, right?”

I nodded slowly.

“I’ll be there. Email me the address.” With that, he smiled at me and left the break room.

Taken aback, I rushed to the ladies room and called Carmen.

“And Hot Lips Marta Weeks told you he has a crush on someone in the office?” she asked me a few minutes later.

“Yes, but—” It couldn’t be. Could it?

“Wake up, Catherine Vine,” Carmen said, as if reading my mind. “It’s you. You’re the crush.”

“But, why?” I asked for the second time that day.

“Why not, silly? Look, we’ve been conditioned to accept the opposite for far too long, but here it is: you matter, too. To this family, to Andy Flood. You matter. We all do. Deep down, even Bob and Irene Vine know and believe that. That’s the plain truth. All right, call me later; I’m trying to sew a flask into this gown.” With that, she ended the call.

Why not? I asked myself for the remainder of the day.

The Wedding and the Web: Part 5

*

At the co-ed bridal shower a few evenings later, I watched Sanford and Charlotte twirl around on the dance floor. Our parents had rented a much smaller ballroom in a smaller hotel for the event, but it was no less swanky, as it was a black-tie affair. Caroline, Danny, Carmen, and I sat at a table. We were surprised that Danny had agreed to come, but were nonetheless happy he was there.

“You know what?” Carmen began, accepting her fifth glass of champagne from the server. “That chauvinist pig really does love her. Look at them.”

I already was. Sanford whispered in her ear; he intermittently dipped her, to her delight; he made her laugh. There were times, too, unbeknownst to Charlotte, that Sanford simply gazed at his wife-to-be, stupefied and proud all at the same time. I swallowed thickly. My sister was not solely our parents’ miracle, but his, as well.

Caroline glanced pitifully at me, as did Danny. My heart sank. Did I truly believe that my sister hadn’t mentioned my feelings for Sanford to her husband?

“When she was 7, I think, she told me that she was a princess, but she couldn’t marry a prince because she was—she was sick all the time,” Carmen continued, slowly swirling her champagne around in the glass and gazing at the bubbles. “Remember how she was in and out of the hospital for all the bronchial stuff? But, I told her, ‘you can marry a prince, Charlotte. Your prince will love you and take care of you.’” With tears now glistening in her eyes, Carmen downed the contents of the glass and hailed a server for another. Caroline vigorously shook her head at the server and flagged another server down for several cups of coffee.

With Carmen’s words volleying about in my mind, I returned my attention to the couple, really to Charlotte. She was vision in a mermaid-style, black gown, her dark hair cascading down her shoulders in loose ringlets. She no longer dealt with bronchial and respiratory issues, although my mother still forced her to wear a coat during the cool San Diego evenings. At 26, she was a healthy, vibrant woman. Coddling her was no longer necessary, but I knew it wouldn’t stop, certainly not from Bob and Irene Vine. To them, Charlotte Mary Vine was still that baby in the NICU, struggling to breathe. But I had to put a stop to certain things; to babying her, to my parents’ requests that I baby her, to my feelings for her almost-husband. Let the princess alone, I told myself. Leave her to her prince, and do it quickly.

“Cath, would you like to dance?” Danny asked.

Slightly thankful for the interruption to my thoughts, I nodded and left Caroline to mind a belligerent-because-of-coffee Carmen. We walked out onto the dance floor and began to sway to a light jazz number.

“Easier said than done,” Danny said, “but I’m sure you know that you need to get over him.”

“I know. I’m resolved to do just that.”

“Good. But how?”

“Loyalty to my sister and just moving on with my life. It won’t happen overnight, but I’m confident,” I said firmly.

Danny nodded. “I believe you. What made you fall for him in the first place?”

“We were teenagers. But he seemed to care about what I thought about things, my opinions. Something about that stayed with me and didn’t want to let go.” I pondered it over some more. “He listened to me. No one seemed to be listening to me.”

“Someone will, Cath. I know that, we all know that. You’re worth listening to.”

I smiled at my brother-in-law. One day, my parents would understand that their eldest had indeed married up.

The Wedding and the Web: Part 4

            *

Charlotte eventually settled on a venue for the wedding—the grand ballroom of the Hotel del Coronado. Gradually, painstakingly, the colors were picked, the dress was finally chosen, and the bridal party wined, dined, and fêted the bride-to-be. Specifically, this bridal party consisted of the three of us: one matron of honor and two maids. Carmen was the last to accept Charlotte’s request to stand alongside her on her big day, but not without a promise to Caroline and me that she would arrive intoxicated to the wedding and any other wedding-related events. (We believed her.)

“So do you have to wear crowns for the royal wedding?” Andy Flood asked me that morning, after I filled him in on the final stages of the wedding planning. As usual, he stood before my desk.

“Not the ladies-in-waiting. Just the princess gets the crown.”

“Ah. I’m sure you’ll be relieved when it’s all over.”

“Incredibly relieved. I plan on taking a few days off, actually—until I’m tasked with being the wet nurse for their first child.”

Andy laughed. “Let’s hope you never get that phone call.”

Marta Weeks, another assistant, then rounded the corner and approached us. “Andy, you’re being summoned by Ed.”

He waved goodbye to us before heading down the hallway. Marta openly watched him walk away. It was no secret that she had a thing for Andy, as did most of the female population at Hardy and Malloy. “That Andy Flood,” she murmured. “It’s a shame.”

“What is?”

“The fact that he’s not the least bit interested in me, despite my efforts to change that. A gal gets tired of parading herself around, believe me.”

I raised my eyebrows and left that particular statement alone. Marta’s penchant for short and tight-fitted clothing was a point of discussion around the office.

“Rumor is he has a crush on someone in the office, though,” she continued.

“Really? Who?” I knew quite a bit about Andy and his background, but a crush had never come up in conversation. But then why would he reveal that kind of information to me? We tended to discuss general topics like work, family, and things of that nature.

Marta shrugged. “It’s not me, that’s for sure.”

“Well, it’s probably another lawyer. Rachel Neal seems popular.”

“It’s definitely not Rachel Neal. She’s engaged to an aide in the mayor’s office. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Like I said, it’s not yours truly, so I really don’t care.” She winked at me before walking away. For a moment, I reflected on how difficult it was to actually like Marta Weeks.

Who did Andy Flood have a crush on?

The Wedding and the Web: Part 3

*

When I wasn’t sitting by Charlotte’s side during the wedding preparations, I was a litigation assistant for a law firm in the city. The world of lawsuits and trials was a significant diversion from frilly dresses and color swatches, and far more interesting. Nevertheless, my busy job didn’t necessarily mean I could escape from my family.

“Sweetheart,” my mother began when I answered the call on my desk phone that morning, “there’s a potential change in venue. Your sister heard about a lovely banquet hall on Catalina Island. You know how special Catalina is to her.” The island was where Charlotte and Sanford had their first date.

I sighed inwardly. “When is she planning to take a look at it?”

“This afternoon.”

Oh, God. “Mom, I can’t go. I need to be in court this afternoon. There’s a case, and—”

“Catherine.” Her voice had dipped into that lower register reserved for mothers ready to remind older sisters about miracle babies and providing them all the support they needed. I knew it well. “Your sister needs you.”

“Maybe Carmen can go. I know she’ll be free this after—”

“Carmen cannot possibly go. You know that.”

True, it was a silly suggestion. Carmen tended to get physically and verbally combative with Charlotte. Despite being largely incensed with our parents about, well, everything, this didn’t preclude her from taking it out on the baby. “Ok,” I replied. “I can check with Caroline, then.”

Mom breathed into my ear.

Oh, God.

“Catherine, it is important that you go. You know how easily turned around your sister gets, even with that GPS thing. She probably won’t find the harbor. And Sanford is in Sacramento today, so he’s unavailable. Can’t these lawyers understand that your little sister needs you?”

It was the typical guilt-trip triumvirate: Charlotte being alone, her well-being, and how those two things superseded everything. I held my breath and closed my eyes, hoping the phone would somehow disconnect. A slight tapping on my desk caused them to open. Andy Flood, one of the attorneys I supported, stood before my desk. “It’s ok; you can go,” he said softly.

“Are you sure?” I whispered, placing my hand over the phone’s speaker.

He nodded.

“Mom,” I said, “I’ll meet her.” I could practically hear my mother’s lips widening in a smile.

“Wonderful. Pick her up around 1pm, sweetie. ‘Bye.”

“Thank you,” I said to Andy after hanging up the phone. Having supported him for almost three years now, he had become well-versed in my family’s antics.

“I couldn’t help but overhear. Duties for the royal wedding, I presume,” he replied.

I laughed. “Exactly. But is it really ok? I’ve finalized most of the briefs, but there are few more left to finish.”

Andy waved his hand. “It’s 10:15. If you can finish the rest, Marta can take over and come to court with us. No worries.”

I thanked him again and got to work. I dreaded going to Catalina, but in the meantime, anything to take my mind off the island was welcome.

                                                                                          *

After Catalina and touring the banquet room (“it’s a possibility,” Charlotte had decided), I returned to the office a bit after 6 that evening. All in all, the excursion had taken a whopping five hours; my mother and sister failed to comprehend things like the hour it took just to get from the city to the harbor, where a boat took travelers to the island and back.

“Cath?”

I turned around, having walked past Andy’s office toward my desk without realizing he was inside. I approached his office.

“You didn’t have to come back,” he said.

“It’s fine. I have a ton of things to do.”

Andy smiled. “Be honest with me, Cath, really. Do you ever feel like saying no to your family?”

“All the time.”

“But you won’t. Or can’t?”

“Hey, are you a lawyer or a therapist?” I joked.

He chuckled. “I just kind of marvel sometimes, at your dedication to them.”

“You and me both.”

“Believe me, I love my family, too. But your patience is extraordinary. I respect that.”

“Thank you.” Later, the ideas that Andy “marveled” at my dedication and respected me struck me. I wasn’t sure why.

                                                                                            *

By and large, Caroline’s husband, Danny, didn’t interact with our parents. Their tense relationship started when our parents disagreed with their oldest daughter marrying an auto mechanic. It didn’t matter that, at the time, Danny already owned two successful shops. They still objected. In the end, only my father chose to attend their wedding in order to walk his weeping daughter down the aisle. Five years later and a few weeks ago, learning about the price tag of Charlotte’s wedding and their eager support of her marriage was all it took for Danny; Caroline and I had been forced to restrain him from getting into a car and driving to our parents’ home for a confrontation. (Carmen had cheered on his plans.)

The next morning, I sat adjacent to Danny in their kitchen as he sipped a cup of coffee and peered at me over the lid. “I heard you drove to Catalina yesterday,” he said.

I understood Caroline telling her husband everything, but I questioned the wisdom of informing Danny about these types of things, being that he was usually minutes away from burning down my parents’ house. And, along with everything else, my adventures with Charlotte, as dictated by my parents, didn’t rank high on his list of favorite things. I merely nodded in reply.

“What was that, like a six-hour drive?” he asked.

“About five hours,” I said, not meeting his eyes.

“And is she booking the venue for sure?”

“Danny…”

“Don’t worry about it, Cath. After breakfast, I’ll check out your car. I’m sure you’ve been logging more than a few miles on it lately.”

“Thanks, Danny.” I breathed a quiet sigh of relief.

Caroline entered the kitchen then, armed with a basket of oranges, strawberries, and other assorted fruits from their garden. “Fruit salad, anyone?” she asked, smiling at us. She playfully ruffled Danny’s hair.

He gazed up at her, beaming. Parental objections or not, not one of us doubted their love and affection for each other. It was another web, wasn’t it? I thought. Tested and challenged, but no less solid.

The person you want this kind of love with loves your little sister, a voice then reminded me.

Things need to change, Catherine.

Now.

But how?

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