Nothing Special, But Why I Do It

A few years ago, we went to visit my in-laws. My mother-in-law, a professor at the time at a small, prestigious higher education institution, was talking about her students: young men and young women fortunate enough to be favored by talent as well as privilege. She spoke about how impressed she was by these students – deservedly so – but she also said, very specifically, how these young people were special. And, how we were – how I was – decidedly not special by comparison. How I was “mundane”.

Intellectually, I knew she was right. I’m not an Earhart, a Da Vinci, or a Hawking. I’m not epic; I won’t change the world; I have no revolutionary ideas. But, damn it, if hearing those words didn’t twist my guts around my spine and make me want to stab a stake into my hand.

I’ve also never completely gotten over that feeling of being called mundane.

I write all this without fear of repercussion or rebuke because (A) it’s true, and (B) nobody from that side of the family has ever read this blog, or anything I’ve written, actually. There’s a (C) reason in there, too, though. Because, while I might never be special, I still get up every day, and put forth my strongest effort at my job, support and care for my family the best that I can, and give my damnedest for every story I write. They’re not epic; they won’t change the world; they have no revolutionary ideas. But I still do it. Because if we don’t make the effort, what’s the point of any of it?

I wrote this year’s holiday story not to prove to anyone how special I am, or to force down anyone’s throat how special I think my stories are. I wrote it because I love these people and the little life situations they find themselves in. It’s a story about family, and love, and how we’re all worth it, even if we’re part of the mundane. Click the link if you’re interested (will open in a new post).

“Actually and Indeed”
A holiday “Finding Mister Wright” fic by Mayumi Hirtzel (c) 2016
~3400 words / 14 pages

Is there a type of story you like to write best: fantastic or ordinary? Maybe some combination of both?

Out of Decline

Earlier this week, I updated the main header image on this blog. The last image was a photo I’d taken a few years ago in La Jolla, and its setting sun scene was pretty, but, over time, I came to associate it too much with decline. Decline of readers, decline of interaction, decline of my self.

A header image is rather like a book cover. It should say something about the writer, and that “declining” feeling of the old header image wasn’t what I wanted to project as indicative of me or my work. So, I went through my drawing archives and picked out a bunch of pictures that represent me and the stories – or attempts at stories – I’ve made over the years. Long-time readers may recognize one or more of the characters and stories on display, but, from current left to right, they are:

  • My adulterer/lovers, from many 100 Word Challenges for Grown-Ups and Five Sentence Fiction entries
  • Amber, from Fearless
  • Chie and Yousuke, from 1 More Chance!
  • Nev, from Fearless
  • Fram, who is the only one not from a story, but whose helmet I spent too long researching and drawing not to include here
  • Sally, from “Slave Girls and Shining Knights”
  • Ross, from Fearless
    and
  • Zera, from “Anywhere but Here”

These selections may change over time, as I hope to develop my drawing skills along with my writing, because I really want to get some representation for my Borderlands From Hell (A Love Story) continuity up there. Someone or someones from my “Finding Mister Wright” stories needs to be up there, too, because even as I write this post, I’m finishing up yet another tale of love, growth, and honesty with the Wrights and McAllisters. But, for right now, this is what I’ve got.

This is me.

A Quiet Thank You

This is just a brief post to say thank you to everyone who has clicked on one of my “Finding Mister Wright” PDF story links over the last two-and-a-half years, since I started writing them. The characters who live in those stories – Marshall, Daniel, Rob, Paige, and more – have been a source of such bright light and love for my writer self, and it has given me such great joy when one of you has taken a chance on them (and me) and read one of their many tales of family, life, and love (22 and counting!). That said, I decided to take down the links for all of the stories, save the latest one, though that one will probably come down in a month or so, as well. I didn’t remove them because I’m ashamed of them – or of myself – but because I am planning to put them together into a series of short story collections that I will be able to go to on my shelf whenever I’m feeling lost, lonely, or in need of a little pick-me-up.

I’m certain I’ll talk more about that here when it happens, but in the meantime, thanks again to everyone who’s offered their support over the years with likes and especially comments. Many days, even just those little notes have kept me going. <3

I dared to write. Will you?

Chateau des Alpilles - panoramio

I have a handful of writer friends I’ve been lucky enough to find through the wonders of blogging. One of them is writer/editor Kate Johnston, whom you may also know as 4amwriter on Twitter. Kate recently sent out a challenge: dare to write something new this summer. On her own blog – https://4amwriter.com/ – she offers eager participants looking for summertime motivation to send her a poem, short story, or even part of your novel-in-progress, for reading and general feedback! You also have a chance to win one of these fabulous prizes: a free copy of her e-book (Amazon.com buy link here, if you can’t wait), or an in-depth critique of your work!

Personal plug-time: Kate has given me critique on my own work, and I can attest that the insight and compassion in her feedback helped draw out a better writer in me – and it can do the same for you! So, if you need motivation to get that chapter or story down on paper this summer, this is it. Head over to Kate’s blog for more info! While you’re there, don’t forget to check out her e-books, with strategies and stories for writers of all permutations.

Kate’s “Dare to Write” challenge was just what I needed. I’d been struggling through slow rewrites of my science fiction team adventure story, and my writer’s heart was failing for the lack of progress. When the “Dare to Write” post notification popped up in my inbox, I headed over there right away. Partly because I have always enjoyed writing challenges, especially when I’m in a rut, but also because when a writer and coach like Kate says we should dare to do something, it is always worth the risk. This effort proved to be no different.

It took a few weeks to get down on paper all of the pieces and scenes for this latest “Finding Mister Wright” pre-fic, but I finally put together the short story of how being a parent can throw a romantic evening off-course…but also how that new course can lead to a far better destination. It’s a story I’ve had in my head for many moons, now, and it brought me a lot of joy to get it out of my head and into a form more tangible.

This particular story clocks in at just over 6000 words, so I will give folks here the same warning I gave Kate when I sent it in for the “Dare to Write” challenge: the story is not short, so I understand if length is a deterrent. It also features a minor sex scene between two consenting adults of the same gender, so if that makes you uncomfortable, no hard feelings if you don’t click on the link. I will say that the sex is not so important as what’s happening around it. It may sound strange, but these are as close to real people as I can make them, with personal concerns and hangups as well as desires. I’ve also been trying to temper my sex scenes – especially between these two characters – to lean more toward the PG/PG-13 side than some of the explicitly graphic stuff I’ve written in the past. Being my own judge, I can’t say whether the effort is successful or not, but it certainly has been interesting to swing the pendulum the other way. If you’re interested in checking out this story, you can click the link below:

“Sleepover, or, A Taste of Happiness” [PDF will open in a new tab]
~6000 words / 19 pages DS

Summer is a busy time for many of us, but I hope that you are trying new things and exploring new worlds in your imagination. I also hope that you’ll make time to hop on over to 4amwriter.com to join in on the “Dare to Write” summer writing challenge!

What are your writing goals for this summer? Have you dared to write something new? Or, work more on something older? Let me know in the comments – it all counts!

Image attribution: Thomas Julin [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Greater Than the Mundane

Several weeks ago, we took the family up to visit my mom, to help her clear out the old house. As we were throwing away my father’s seemingly lifelong accumulation of magazines (among which we did find some vintage Playboys which, sadly, were not as groovy as we’d hoped upon flipping through them), I started to ruminate on how many stories were in those old National Geographics, Air and Spaces, and even the Playboys, and how many unknown moments had been spent reading them. And here we were, just throwing them into a dumpster like so much trash. So it was during a rest break that I asked my husband:

“Do you think it’s foolish of me to keep things like my stories, when I’m the only one who cherishes them? I mean, nobody’s going to care about them when I’m dead.”

He replied, “Well, since you’ll be dead, you won’t care, either.” That didn’t help my mood any, until he added, “But, they bring you joy here, now, while you work on them and when they’re finished. And, everybody needs that joy in their lives. That’s what art is for: to make people feel things. Even if you’re the only person your work affects, they still give you something greater than the mundane in your life.” He patted my knee and smiled, and pushed himself up again as he added something else: “Besides, most artists don’t get recognized until after they’re dead, so, if that happens, at least you’re in good company.”

“Thanks,” I said, half-snarling at him. But, he was right, in articulating a perspective I’ve often had of my own work: that I need to love my stories. Because nobody else will, but, more than that, because those stories are a source of such great joy for me. Without them, even with so many blessings I already have, my life wouldn’t feel half so full of beauty.

Binder

Pictured above is a 2″ binder holding my printed collection of “Finding Mister Wright” short stories, 21 in all. Each red sheet indicates where a new story starts; my (fuzzy) thumb is added here for size reference. Now, my favorite authors of late have been crime novelists Craig Johnson, Henning Mankell, and not at all least or last, the gifted Ross Macdonald (whose graceful and insightful flair for repeatable descriptions I’ve tried and failed on more than one occasion to emulate in my own fiction), because I believe wholeheartedly in reading other – better – authors not only to enjoy a ripping story but also to make me a better writer in return. But, there are days when I like to go back and read the stories I’ve made, too. To see how far I’ve come, and to remember what conflicts and passions pushed me to write each one, yes…but also because I just plain love those characters. I love finding their stories with them; I love giving them lives that are beautiful and sad and worth every fighting moment. It’s exciting and fulfilling to look at those stories and know I made these. They may have started in my head as floating words, phrases, and ideas, but I made them stories. Nobody could have done that for those characters except me.

Someday, when I’m dead, someone will just throw my stories into a dumpster. I won’t care then. But for today, these stories give me joy. They make me feel greater than the mundane. And shouldn’t that make them worth it?

We all have stories we’ve read that we love. What are the stories you’ve written that you love?

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