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Blame Cupid: My stab at love stories

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UPDATE 4-15-2011: Since this post, I have changed the name of this blog from Forks & the Road (which I never really liked) to Nowhere from Here because I never travel anymore. (Work doesn’t allow for effective trip planning.) From this point forward, this blog will reflect my comings and going around here, in Northern Virginia, as well as whatever else I’m up to. The following post is about my most recent flash fiction that was published in February. ~J

I really need to change the focus and name of this blog because it seems as if I never travel (I don’t these days), and my dining options are limited to a) my desk and b) around Northern Virginia.  So this post really has nothing to do with food or travel; it’s about my fiction writing. One story does mention supper, and two are set in Portland, Ore., so could that count as travel and food? Yes? Please?

I’m happy to report my short “Flip Side of Paradise” won first place in the Doorknobs contest at Doorknobs & BodyPaint, and two companion pieces — “Sub Rosa” and “To: Harpocrates” — won second place in the Dorsal competition.

The stories had to be about being madly in love — in honor of the month of February. For Issue 61, the Doorknobs contest had the following restraints, er, guidelines:

  1. Maximum length: 250 words.
  2. The sub-theme is: irritated.
  3. The year is: 1921.
  4. Within the story, this text must be used: wildly excited.

You can check out “Flip Side of Paradise” here. I based it on the premise that Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were coming to dinner, and what a pain in the ass that would be. I crafted my protagonist by drawing on Scott’s circle of former Princeton classmates, colleagues and peers. I was going to have her be a wife, but she wasn’t yet married to Scott’s friend, John Peale Bishop, a poet and editor at Vanity Fair. Yes, he was a real guy, and he and his wife did end up living in France for some years. This was a fun story to write, and I was surprised how much I liked it in the end. I felt like there was some real emotional truth in it, even if it was irritation.

My Dorsal pieces — “Sub Rosa” and To: Harpocrates — spun out a submission I sent to the very cool Paragraph Planet, where I’ve had several pieces featured. This initial 75-word piece was based on the idea that Cupid is a really lazy bastard and that’s why there are so many lonely people in the world. (Think Will Ferrell drunk, eating Cheetos and in a diaper. That’s my vision of Cupid.) To: Harpocrates was originally written and submitted for the Hayward Fault Line contest, which used these guidelines:

  1. Maximum length: 450 words.
  2. The sub-theme is: wraithful.
  3. The setting is: Portland, Ore.
  4. Within the story, you must use this bit of text: gale swept across

After I finished the piece, I decided to have a go at the Dorsal contest — using the same story but with a different point of view. The Dorsal guidelines included a 450-word limit and using external and internal dialogue to reveal the narrator’s hidden feelings about a friend, lover or spouse.

In the end, the editors decided to put both pieces in the Dorsal contest, which is kinda cool because they do belong together, like the characters. I’ve since been told by Mom and my best e-mail friend (Amy, the BEF) that I need to write a sequel. I don’t know about that. I’m pretty sure I will do more with the idea of a Will Ferrell-type as Lazy Cupid, but I’m not sure I’ll return to the florist and hacky-sack guy. Who knows, maybe I will. I hadn’t planned on writing anything when I sat down that day, but at the end of the night, I had three pieces that were fun to write — and had surprised even me, the writer.

That, friends, was a good writing day.

Author: Jacqui Barrineau

Jacqui Barrineau is a writer and editor who lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., with husband Trey, a Shetland Sheepdog, and two unhelpful-but-funny cats. Her work has appeared in "So to Speak" and "Calliope," and she's a regular contributor to the flash-fiction sites Paragraph Planet and Doorknobs & Bodypaint. Once upon a time, she was the audience engagement editor at USA Today. Now she does other fun things that involve advertising, marketing and social media. The views expressed here and in other outlets are hers, not her employers'. Outside of work, she's proud to serve on the Northern Virginia Community College Marketing Advisory Committee. As a committee member, she joins industry leaders in lending their knowledge and expertise to ensure the college's Marketing curriculum is relevant and responsive to the needs of the students and the surrounding business communities.

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