Drowning In Extremes

I want to talk about life’s ups and downs.

About extremes and trying to find the middle ground.

A wonderful week in Florida; two magical weeks in Prague.

Then I come home.

Husband laid out, on oxycodone,

After work accident led to surgery.

A new kitchen floor installed.

Refrigerator and dining table in living room.

Washer, dryer, dishwasher in driveway.

No hot water in kitchen sink.

Piles of dishes.

Lugging hot water from downstairs bath in pitchers.

Piles of laundry.

Dragging baskets to parents’ houses.

Husband in tears from pain; his boss whines,

“I’m losing money without him. I’m so stressed I need a massage.”

Then just as things are looking up, it happens.

Mother-in-law has a heart attack.

Survives five bypasses, only to end up with blood clot and paralyzed legs.

Emergency surgery doesn’t save her.

Funeral plans. Countless phone calls to relatives.

Final viewing. Burial.

Father-in-law’s blood sugar plummets.

Picked up by the PD for erratic driving.

Rushed to hospital.

Okay for now.

Then,

Two co-workers announce they have new jobs.

Boss is leaving for China.

Work follows me on my so-called vacation.

Thanks to invention of Smartphone.

Is there enough wine in the universe to help me forget?

Will this, too, really pass?

They say when it rains, it pours.

It is pouring.

But I am alive.

I am healthy.

I am free?

Still, I wonder,

Is there always a price to pay

For joy,

For love,

For beauty,

And the desire to be free?

Risk and Vulnerability

vulnerability-quoteWhat is the riskiest thing you’ve ever done? Jump out of an airplane? Travel abroad alone? Leave a job or relationship that wasn’t working? Start a business? Pursue a dream? Something else?

For me, it was to put my uncensored writing out there for others to see – and to criticize. I thought I would be safe when I signed up for a creative nonfiction writing course, with a small group of adults who had a passion for the craft. Our instructor set clear ground rules, one of which was to critique the writing, not the writer. This rule gave me the courage to share my work without censuring myself, for the first time ever.

So imagine my shock when, during a group critique of one of my essays, a classmate said, “I can’t imagine writing that about my [insert very close relation].” A pair of middle-aged women (I was in my early 30s at the time) nodded their heads in agreement as they whispered to each other and sent me disapproving glances. I looked to my instructor to correct them, remind them of the ground rules, but she didn’t. I felt betrayed by my classmates and by her. Worse, I felt like a naughty little girl who had done something very wrong.

After that class, I went back to writing in the closet for years and stuck mostly with fiction. Fiction felt safe because the characters weren’t real people and the stories came from my imagination. For a while, I also wrote feel-good news stories for a local newspaper. Then I started blogging, where I walk a fine line between speaking my uncensored truth and carefully choosing my language so as not to offend others or incite their  wrath. All low-risk writing.

Recently, I was reminded of how vulnerable we are when we put ourselves out there in any way, whether it’s speaking our truth, sharing our art, making decisions others don’t understand or approve of, or bucking society norms and/or traditions to follow our dreams or live more authentically. We open ourselves up to all kinds of judgement and criticism from others, some constructive and well-meaning, some downright mean. Sometimes it is the silence of indifference that hurts the most.

Risk-taking requires courage in the face of fear; it also  requires the willingness to be vulnerable. There is always a chance that we might be harmed, whether emotionally, financially, physically or in some other way.  But if we want to step out of our comfort zones and grow, if we want to pursue goals and dreams, if we want success that goes beyond the ordinary kind, or if we simply want to share our art in the most authentic way possible, we must take risks. That almost always leaves us vulnerable.

Have you ever felt truly vulnerable? I went through a brief period where someone had hurt me deeply, and as a result I felt incredibly vulnerable. It was as if every armor and shield of self-protection I had ever worn was ripped away, leaving me raw and exposed. Instead of fighting the feeling, I gave into it and an odd thing happened; I started to like it.  The softness of it felt light, and it carried a beauty and authenticity I hadn’t experienced before.  I was enveloped in a sense of peace and contentedness. Then after a couple of days, the outer shell started to harden again and the feeling went away, though I never forgot it.

Next time you’re wrestling with whether or not to take a risk, I encourage you to move beyond courage and embrace vulnerability.

soft-is-strong

Help Wanted: Query Letter And Synopsis Feedback

Dear Readers,

I am bypassing a traditional post this week to ask for your assistance with helping me to fulfill a longtime dream of having my romance novel published. As some of you may know, I recently completed a historical romance novel set in 1929 Newport, Rhode Island. Sweet Irish Kisses tells the unlikely love story of a wealthy debutante and an Irish shipbuilder whose paths cross when the heroine is on the run from an arranged marriage. Writing the 75,000 word novel was easy compared to having to condense it into a 200 word synopsis for submission to Avon’s Impulse line. Then there’s the tricky matter of the 750 word Query Letter. Quite frankly, this process is torture! And it’s scary. Especially when one considers the 200 words could determine whether an agent even bothers to read the query letter and story excerpt.

If you have the time, interest and willingness, could you please take a look at my three synopses and tell me which you prefer? If you think all need work or that I should start over completely, please say so and give me some specifics. Each synopsis is a work in progress and I fully anticipate having to revise one or more. Likewise, I seek feedback on my query letter. If you are a published author or have other knowledge of the publishing industry, your professional critique is most welcome. If not, then your opinion as an every day reader is most welcome. If you have no interest or time to read either, I completely understand. Thank you in advance for your feedback. I look forward to (and in some ways dread) your comments!

michael-gorman

Michael Gorman, my husband’s great-grandfather, whose portrait hangs in our living room, and who inspired the name of my hero. Michael came to the U.S. from Ireland in the late 1800s and bought 12 acres of land, which my father-in-law now owns.

The End – A Poem (For Writers)

How it feels to type ‘The End’ –

Like drinking coffee in the garden
sleepy in the morning on a summer day,
bare feet caressing the cool, dewy grass,
on holiday, work two weeks away,
and suddenly a hummingbird appears.

Like watching your child born,
who’s lived in your heart for years,
a slippery, raw, perfect being emerging
and knowing, without a doubt,
that s/he belongs here.

Like being young and in love and surrendering
to the aliveness that’s taken over your soul,
and remembering the feeling years later,
when life has taken its toll,
as your lover holds your hand.

But mostly it’s like being a child,
who finds joy in everyday moments;
the wings of a butterfly,
the splash of a wave,
bubbles and bicycles
and the latest kid craze.

For to type ‘The End’
is one of life’s greatest joys
for one who has toiled over
word and phrases and endless pages,
through months, years, and countless fears.

It’s a gift,
a release,
a letting go.

So squeal with delight,
shout with glee,
jump up and down,
you’re finally free,
to type ‘The End’ all over again.

How does it feel to you when you type ‘The End’?

Flash Fiction Challenge – JFK asked me…

A giant THANK YOU to fellow blogger and poet AJ O’Brien of Monochrome nightmares for encouraging me to share this piece of Flash Fiction with you. AJ has given me a couple of FF prompts to play around with recently, and the one below is my latest creation. His rules were to begin the piece with the prompt he gave, write an exactly 50 word short story, and give it a title. It is so much fun to play with story like this, and I greatly appreciate AJ’s spirit of challenging and supporting me as a writer. I want to spread the love by inviting you to try your hand at Flash Fiction. Feel free to post your own story as a comment, or on your blog with a link to it in the comments, using the rules above. Begin it with the following prompt (courtesy of AJ, whose own flash fiction can be found here):

Prompt: JFK asked me…

Rewriting History
by Kim Gorman

“JFK asked me to get Marilyn to sing at his birthday gala.”

“You’ve got to be shitting me.”

“I know, it’s insane, but he’s pissed at Jackie, wants to stick it to her.”

“Now what?”

“She’s skipping the gala. Said she’d rather be riding horses than celebrating a cheating ass.”

In case you don’t know the history behind the JFK birthday gala, it’s said that when Jackie Kennedy found out that Marilyn Monroe would be singing Happy Birthday to her husband at his 45th celebration, she decided to skip it and take part in a horse show instead. Rumor had it that JFK and Marilyn were lovers, and Jackie was furious and insulted that the actress was invited to the gala.


So, are you ready to give Flash Fiction a try? What did JFK ask you?