No Pressure

So this weekend is going to be a little weird…

This afternoon Jack and I drive up to Fairfax to old friends Barbara and Bernard, of the Celtic Band Iona. We’re doing a house concert for their Swift Run series tomorrow night.

We’re going up today because at 11:59 pm tonight, the prompt drops for Round 3 of the NYT Short Story Challenge. It’s been on my bucket list to enter for years, and finally I got around to it. And am now halfway through the challenge, whittled from more than eleven thousand entries to just 215 writers advancing.

The contest gives you a character, a setting, and a genre. My first one was action-adventure, coast to coast, and an oddball. Yeah, thanks. But they loved my story of a murder victim who crocheted the killer’s identity into a shawl. (Whew!)

Next up was drama, a personal chef, and the digital divide. Having spent my life working with people caught in poverty traps, that wasn’t quite so hard, and the feedback was wonderful.

How I found out I was advancing in the competition: a friend needed to be picked up at the Roanoke airport about 10 pm. Back home about 11:45, I did what Americans do to try and calm for sleep: checked my messages. There it was, notification of the second round winners. You clicked on the group you were assigned, and the name of the five selected stories and their authors would appear in a row.

I clicked twice to confirm what I was seeing: Wendy Welch “Across the Great Divide” SYNOPSIS: Forty Cornish hens are all that stand between Rona’s family and homelessness. A cell phone would have been more useful.

And stayed up for another hour, just clicking again and again, staring at the notification.

So Friday night I will get up about 11:45, read the prompt, jot down some ideas and go back to sleep. Saturday, I’ll get up at my friends’ house and start writing. They have offered to leave fruit and crackers outside the door for me. It is the sweetest thing when friends you haven’t seen in forever set up to isolate you so you can fulfill a fun dream.

Saturday night we do the concert, and a dozen lovely friends will beta read the draft I send. Sunday morning, get up early and get that puppy edited and sent, then drive home for a 7 pm online book launch. Stories for Social Action has been in the works awhile, and the Healing Story Alliance is celebrating its release. I’m on at 7:30. By then the NYT story will be in.

I will sleep the sleep of the dead (or the deeply troubled) and get up Monday rejoicing as a befuddled person to run a race. My day job has a board meeting that afternoon.

Monday night, I will sit and stare at the wall, methinks. That sounds good.

The Folly of Youth

Jack’s Wednesday guest post makes it on time again – –

I don’t know if this is common, but I often have tunes or songs pop into my head, unbidden, from time to time every day. Yesterday morning it was a song by Cyril Tawney called ‘Sally Free and Easy’, and it brought back memories.

Cyril Tawney

When I was in my late teens, and living in my hometown of Dunfermline, where there was a nearby royal navy base, the tiffies (naval artificers) would get the bus into town on Friday and Saturday nights. They headed to the local dance halls and pubs.

Cyril was in the submarine service of the British navy and must have been to the local dockyard many times, and must have taken the bus into town.

In those times I also frequented the pubs and some of the dances and a particular girl was always around. Her name was Marie and she was my first encounter with what Wendy and I now call a ‘china doll’. She was always immaculately made up and immaculately dressed! We weren’t exactly friends and she clearly didn’t see me as a ‘catch’, be we would occasionally chat amiably (actually she frightened the bejasus out of teenage me).

So I wondered if Cyril had met Marie and if she was the inspiration for the song. There is some information that he was also based at times in Gibraltar and there really was a ‘Sally’, but still I wonder if maybe – – –

Here is Cyril Tawney singing Sally Free and Easy –