“The Hive” by Elaina Acosta Ford
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
This week, Elaina Acosta Ford battles a crippling addiction to criticism.
You tiptoe through the dark labyrinth of the Hive until you reach the tiny room where you’ve spent every Thursday night for the last couple of months toiling away to no avail. The stench of Gouda, Kathleen’s patchouli, and the tang of potentially unfulfilled dreams waft through the air. A metal chair screeches against the gray linoleum when you pull it out, causing everyone to gawk at you. Kathleen rolls her eyes but does not relent. The weak smile spreading across your face fades as you remind yourself that this is the last time you’re going to see these people—your people. You promise yourself that you won’t sip wine or munch crackers or make small talk when this is all over. Saying goodbye is hard enough without all the empty calories and tedious chatter. You swear to yourself this is going to be the last time you pay to play. Your pocketbook and soul can’t take it anymore.
Once you settle into your seat, you whisper an apology. You kick yourself for being tardy, for creating such a ruckus, and for interrupting Kathleen. Your hand cramps as you scrawl notes in your black marble notebook.
Tonight is the last session of your writing workshop. Kathleen—the New York Times best-selling author and your instructor—spoon-feeds you one-liners to help you succeed in writing the next great American novel.
“Show. Don’t tell.”
“Come in late. Leave early.”
“Murder those fucking darlings.”
You devour every word, regardless of how many times you’ve heard the advice. No matter how hard you try to apply these sage pearls to your work, your eager fingers dangle above your keyboard and then become paralyzed. Eight workshops in two years and a couple thousand dollars later, your book is still a never ending and shoddy story.
What you need to do is stop workshopping and start just writing again, but writing and writing workshops are your main vices. What a rush it is to see the jumbled thoughts floating around in your brain transform into eloquent sentences. When a whole page just flows out of you, it’s like you’re mainlining pure ecstasy. You lose yourself for days, months, and even years scribing away. All of those pages compound, and you feel like because all these beautiful, hilarious, and poignant chapters have sprung from your subconscious with the greatest of ease that you must share them with the world. You email the first three hundred pages to a high school English teacher friend. He calls your work riveting. He suggests you enroll in a workshop at the Hive—the home to a collective of professional writers who moonlight as your teachers—to get some second opinions. You figure it would be nice to meet some other writers for support. You long to be a member of a literary community like the Bloomsbury Group or something.
Maybe you and your peers aren’t Virginia Woolf or E.M. Forester, but somehow you manage under expert tutelage. All of the instructors at the Hive are published authors. Kathleen is your favorite. She skips the sugarcoating and crams a healthy dose of reality down your throat with her feedback.
She once said to you, in front of everyone, “The narrator’s mother’s bedazzled sweater is supposed symbolize his virginity? Please. This is embarrassing, even for you.”
Your heart sings because you know she really read your piece. While your classmates claim you’re the second coming of Anaïs Nin, Kathleen’s calling you out on all your bullshit. The masochistic part of you—which is the majority of your being—craves this kind of radical honesty. If praise is orgasmic, then a hardcore rejection is next level tantric bliss. Seething critiques also make you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. At three hundred dollars a class, you deserve to get your money’s worth.
Kathleen finishes her spiel. She then mentions she’s teaching another workshop in a few weeks. “If you think I’m a bitch, if my comments have ever made you cry, if I’ve ever crushed your spirit and made you want to quit writing, then maybe this one isn’t for you.”
You avoid eye contact and convince yourself you don’t need it. You don’t need her. You can finish your book all on your own.
“Fifty dollar discount if you sign up today.”
With no knowledge of how your mouth became filled with Gouda or why merlot is dribbling down your chin, you say, “Sign me up.”
ELAINA ACOSTA FORD lives in San Francisco with her husband, son, and dog. She is a writer, a psychiatric nurse, and a drummer. Her work has appeared in Milk Sugar Literary Journal, The Westword, and Our USA Magazine. She studied writing at Denver’s The Lighthouse, San Francisco’s The Grotto, and San Francisco Writer’s College. Her first book, Something Close to Happiness: A Something Close to True Story, is something close to complete (eleven workshops later).
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected], and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: Sep 25, 2014
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