short stories

The BPRS Live TOMORROW, 10/20, 7:30 pm at Freddy’s!

Books and bands and booze, oh my! Can’t wait to perform and celebrate with y’all tomorrow, Saturday October 20th, 7:30 pm at Freddy’s Bar and Backroom. This will be the last BPRS gig for a loooong while; catch us while you can!

No cover, 21+. Words with What Doesn’t Kill You contributors Abby Maguire, Tiffany Berryman, Matthue Roth, and two-time National Book Award Finalist Eliot Schrefer. Americana tunes with Eli Bridges at 8:30, followed by experimental pop rock with duo The Brooklyn Players Reading Society (that’d be me!) at 9:30. See ya there!

What Doesn't Kill You Launch Party

How We Tell (and Edit) Our Stories

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the micro memoir. I’m a wordy writer (and person in general), and I typically fall victim to over-explaining my ideas in an effort to be extra sure that I am understood. This often results in clunky sentences and unnecessary repetition, not to mention how time-consuming it is. When I edit both my fiction and nonfiction, I try hard to channel my inner Hemingway and delete, delete, delete. Focus on the power of what is left unsaid. Except I’m bad at leaving things unsaid.

I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about the choices we make when it comes to the mood and tone of our stories, the language we use silently in our minds versus the language we share with our mouths and our fingers. So much of how we see the world, our place in it, ourselves in general, is our own choice, and this is so deeply affected by the way we frame our own stories. Yet how much of this framing really is our choice? How much of our personal narrative comes from our parents, their parents, and their parents? How much comes from early childhood memories we don’t remember but feel like we remember because our family has remembered them for us? From our genetic makeup, from the makeup of our neighborhoods, from the makeup we put on before we go out into the world?

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Last year, Lew loved the ocean water. He would run into it and shout with glee, jump, splash, run away, run back. This summer he is two-years-old and has developed the capacity to fear. Now when he goes close to the water, he freezes and screams, partly playful, mostly afraid. He loves it when I carry him in, he’ll beg me to go deep enough that the waves splash against his delicious round belly, yet he clings to me so tightly that I can let go of him and he doesn’t even slip down my torso. The other day, as he and I were digging holes in the sand and filling them up again, my friend asked me if Lew liked the water and I said, “Oh he loves it but he’s also scared of it. It’s a new development this year. I hope it doesn’t last long.” Later that afternoon, Lew and I walked to the shore hand-in-hand and then right when we approached the ocean’s edge, he stopped, scrunched his nose and eyes together, reached his arms to me and cried, “Mommy, up, up, I scared of ocean water!” He had never used the word scared before.

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In thinking about my story, Lew’s story, the story of my family, and the tiny pieces that come together to make up these stories, I am deeply grateful for all the things I get to experience. Yet at the same time, I am deeply exhausted. An editor might say that my story is going in too many directions.

Leave more unsaid.

I’m reminded of Rivka Galchen’s book Little Labors, a beautiful, unique collection of short essays about new motherhood. I feel like these snippets, these micro memoirs, capture the reality of our existence so well. In the end, isn’t life really just little pieces of memory put together and called a whole?

Flash Fiction with Babies

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My College Years in Sunglasses

Our first kiss was in Chinatown, red and yellow and boring. At the age of 41, he was ashamed about loss. It was an easy joke: a possible husband. We had a few summers, a cute story. Door signs to another future. As I rode the express train that took me away, I didn’t even pretend to feel sad.

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One of the most amazing things about my life as a new mom is the Mamas Writers Group I belong to. These two women and their adorable boys have kept me motivated and inspired during the past few months, which in turn has made me a more fulfilled person and a better mother. Our biweekly meet-ups include hang out/play time with tea and chocolate and milk and rice puffs, commiserations about the difficulties of being a creative mom, some type of writing exercise that we take turns leading, and a round of goal-setting for the upcoming two weeks. The boys chase the cat, grab our pens, rip our papers, and generally have a blast. Somehow, we actually manage to get shit done. I look so forward to these Monday afternoons.

At a recent meet-up, I led an activity inspired by a workshop with Thomas E. Kennedy in which each person tears up other peoples’ writings then makes a list of words that pop out at them from these torn pieces of paper (we used the leftover copies from my latest ESL class, which included fiction, creative nonfiction, journalism, and grammar IMG_4344worksheets). The writers then use this list to write something (anything) in a set amount of time (our time limit was flexible as we were also trying to keep our babies alive). From my understanding of the original workshop, the idea is to push yourself outside of your typical boundaries as a writer, to engage with English in a new way, and to use a process you would normally never consider. It can be quite inspiring and also revealing; I think this type of exercise shows us parts of ourselves we may not encounter through our regular writing. As a novelist, it also felt really good to sit down for 20 minutes and come out with a product. I’m the first to confess that I don’t understand flash fiction, but I felt okay enough with the way mine turned out that thought I’d share (plus, I needed a good excuse to post these adorable photos).

Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net Awards

sundress pubI am incredibly excited to announce that my short story, The Roof (appearing in Serving House Journal’s Fall 2013 issue), has been nominated for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net Awards!  Winners will be announced in October, but no matter the results, I’m incredibly excited and honored.  Many thanks to Clare McQueen of Serving House Journal for nominating me.  Click here to browse last year’s Best of the Net anthology, and stay tuned for this year’s winners!

Sundress Publications’ logo pictured above.

“The Roof” to Appear in Serving House Journal

servinghousejournalI am very excited to announce that my short story, The Roof, will appear in Serving House Journal’s fall issue.  This is a very exciting step for me, as my previous publications have been either creative nonfiction or journalism.  I’m very eager to hear your thoughts!

For Emma

For Emma
By: Becky Fine-Firesheets

Emma writhes in my lap.  I hold her against my chest, one hand on her head, the other across her back.  The sweat from her forehead soaks my t-shirt.

“We have to go back,” my wife says.  She hits the brakes, stopping the car in front of a Welcome to Springton sign.

Emma gasps.  Her legs jerk against my stomach.  “Just keep going!” I shout.  “For Emma.”

Shea looks at our daughter then up at the rearview mirror.  Her teeth clench so tightly her head shakes.  She takes a deep breath, shifts her eyes to the road and slams on the gas pedal.  Our rundown Corolla tears wildly through the night, squealing around the country road curves, past the trees and farms toward the city lights in the distance.  Emma’s breaths become shallower, more painful.  Her fingernails cut into my skin as she squeezes her tiny hand tighter and tighter around my arm.

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Fifteen Years Later

“Do you have siblings?” Shea asks.

Greg nods as he chews his bite of spaghetti.  “I used to have an older brother,” he says after he swallows.

Emma smiles supportively at him.  I like them together.

“What happened?” I ask.

“A wreck,” Greg replies.  “He was hit by a car when I was a kid.”

“Oh,” Shea says.  “That’s terrible.”  She glances at me then back to her salad.

“Truly an awful thing,” I add.  Greg shifts in his seat.  Emma reaches out and squeezes his knee with her delicate hand.

“Where do you live?” I ask, to change the subject.

“In Ossipee now.  I grew up in Springton, but we moved after my brother died.”

Shea drops her fork.  It clangs loudly against the plate.  “I’m sorry.  Excuse me,” she mumbles as she wipes her lips with her napkin.  She stands and walks toward the bathroom, her usual confident stride replaced with hurried, shaky steps.

“Springton,” I repeat.  “We’ve passed through there before.  Beautiful farmland.”  I pick up the breadbasket.  “Anybody need another roll?”