It’s the Year of Writing Dangerously and keeping with the theme I entered my first competition last week. The self addressed envelope arrived yesterday with the stamp – meaning the story made it there. Putting something in the post seems archaic in the digital age and I was beset with a thousand worries about where my short story manuscript may end up (even though none of my letters for Pipers Reach have gone astray).
If you’re wondering about the title of the post – it’s not some medieval evocation for safe, speedy travels or blessings for the Goddess of Postage Delivery. Kelip-Kelip is the Malaysian word for firefly. It means ‘to twinkle’, which if you’ve ever seen fireflies in action, you’ll know is a very apt name.
The Selangor River fireflies provide the backdrop for my story “Firefly Epilogue” – and science fiction cross over story. It is a story which has its roots in Tony Noland’s Great April Fools Day Blog Swap last year. I was partnered up with Kate Pilarcik and we were given the prompt “insect repellant”. My first thought was – fireflies! We’d had to douse ourselves in super strength stuff in Malaysia to venture anywhere near the Malaria sodden river. Kate agreed and off we went.
I have no idea how I thought I could pen a story of suitable quality while juggling three anthology projects. The upshot of it was: I couldn’t. To make matters more tricky, the story I wanted to tell would not confine itself to flash fiction. It wanted to longer. Much longer.
Then Kate’s Mum, Franny, got sick and we wrote to Tony asking if we could withdrawal. It just wasn’t a good time for either of us. Several months later, long after I’d decided on the core premise for the story, Franny slipped from this world.
I always intended to come back and finish Firefly Epilogue. If not for myself, for Kate and Franny. It was a story that needed to be told. When I discovered The Raspberry and Vine competition was open to all genres and had an upper word limit of 4000 words, I pulled out the original draft and set about fleshing it out and tidying it up.
With the help of my writing partners Adam Byatt and Laura Meyer, along with Daniel Simpson from my online writing group and Janette Dalgliesh who has been my coach and mentor, my story clocked in just under 3000. I’m not used to people telling me my writing is “beautiful”… I write dark, disturbing narratives. I sent the story to Dan Powell, my long time beta reading buddy (just for a little bit of light reading!) and he said: “I think this story is great example of what you do so well, worlds recognisable as our own but with a tweak of the future here and there, grounded in characters the reader cannot help but care about.”
Here’s hoping the judges care too!
Firefly Epilogue has a special place in my heart because it was the last story I wrote in our Borders store before it closed in April last year. It only occurred to me, when I sat tidying up the final draft, that the story represents the end of an era in my writing.
Now I play the waiting game. I’ll hang out with Zena Shapter’s Pati Ence and think about the next big writing project, while I plough through the back log of editing.