New Song: Let You Go

Every cloud has a silver lining. I do believe that. In my case, I try and turn that heartbreak into harmony:

© Joanna Rubery 2017

The Beach at the End of the World

Stewart Island Harbour by Day

I had washed ashore on the beach at the end of the world.

That wind-whipped afternoon, the ferry crossing over the dire strait from Invercargill had been, I’d scrawled in my diary, “like the Pirate Ship” – we rose and fell with each wave, the floor splashing with spilled tea. After an hour, I slid down the jetty with a handful of hardy fishermen, spangled with sea salt.

“Welcome to Stewart Island,” said the captain, shaking hands from a fish crate.

In the half-light of Half Moon Bay, I held my breath. The harbour was a glassy grey, scattered with small boats, clinking in the ripples. On the far horizon, the sun was a low glow of unearthly light. I felt, as I always do, the tingle of the unknown.

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Flash fiction: short stories with a long lifespan

Nested Russian dolls

Here’s a tongue-twister of a question: just how short should a short story be?

When it comes to word count, the literary short story has always resisted absolute rules. Outside the specifications of individual publishers, there’s no real definitive guide to how long a ‘short’ story should be.

Instead, it could be more useful to think of a short story as a standalone work that can, as Edgar Allen Poe said, be “read at one sitting” – or as a tale that has been whittled down to its essentials in a way that makes it “almost impossible… to summarize”. Or, perhaps, to consider the defining element of a short story as not so much its length, but its effect. It could be argued that the best short stories resonate in the mind for long after the last word has been read, triggering a “complexity of afterthought” in the reader.

In short order

Given the nebulous nature of the short story form, it’s not surprising that several sub-genres have sprung up in recent decades with word counts that are more sharply defined. Since Anton Chekhov is widely considered the original “supreme artist of the short story”, it’s nice to picture these sub-genres as a series of Russian dolls, each one fitting neatly inside the other.

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More competition news!

Jam Jar Lights Phnom Penh

I’m very happy to say I came 6th in a flash fiction contest – this time, we were asked to write a microfiction story of 250 words. I’ll post the story here once certain rights issues have been sorted.

Nanofiction: The Ring / L’alliance

Man with wedding ring

[Here’s a piece of nanofiction – a story in 25 words – in mirrored languages.]

The Ring

“I love you…” he said, bare-fingered.

“I love you too,” I told him, bare-souled.

“…but not enough,” he said, and put the ring back on.

L’alliance

«Je t’aime…, me dit-il, le doigt nu.

– Je t’aime aussi, lui répondis-je, l’âme à nu.

– …Mais pas suffisamment », déclara-t-il, et il remit son alliance.

© Joanna Rubery 2017

The List

The List

[I belong to an online writing group, and each month we write a story with a theme and a word count. This time, we were asked to write about ‘The List’ in exactly 1500 words.]

It’s unexpected, the text. So unexpected that when I glance at the number, I nearly drop my phone.

I’m sorry, Sarah. My heart crashes into my ribs. I’m sorry about everything.

I can’t believe I’m reading this. I can’t believe –

Are you free tonight?

I take a quick breath in and start to choke.

“Hey,” says Rochelle, from the window, “Take it easy,” and she comes over, hovering uneasily.

I wave her off, but I feel like I’ve been hit over the head. My fingers prickle with adrenaline.

“Bad news?” asks Rochelle. She’s doe-eyed and dainty, the kind of woman I’ll never be.

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