And the winner is…

Thank you for all of the fascinating entries in my very first blog contest.  Reading your stories was so much fun, I’m sure I’ll have a contest again before the year is out.  I wish I could have chosen you all, but you’ll understand why I chose this CNF piece when you read it.

And the winner is…”Locks Without Keys” by Mary Popham.  Congratulations, Mary!  It’s a well-deserved win.  Disclaimer: while Mary and I both attend(ed) Spalding University, I have never met Ms. Mary, though I’d love to.

I chose Mary’s piece because of its flow, and because of the variety of voices and techniques she uses.  I’m also a sucker for “stream of consciousness.”  This is a dreamy, pardon the pun, piece that hints at subterranean emotions, things the reader will never know but still feels a part of.  It reminds me a bit of a piece I wrote a few years ago called “How to Hug A Candle,” so that adds to my affinity for the story, I am sure.

I like that Mary uses modern references such as face book, juxtaposing them with dreams and Jung.  There is such longing in this piece.  I have to say, when I first read it I got “happy prickles.”

Why am I still talking about Mary’s piece?  Here, read it for yourself:

Locks Without Keys

I dream of locks. Many dreams to decipher, to untangle their locked meanings.  A locked door and I have no key. Illogical serial numbers that must be translated with a code. The Jewish man in the office knows it but won’t give it to me. “C’mon, Sly, what is the code?” I ask. His response is a request. “What will you give me? I have no blood.” I don’t know what he means.

My counselor relates Jungian theory. All dreams are good. They allow you to gain balance. Even if you don’t understand your dream, it is a positive, working, healing—a movement toward wholeness.

          I ponder locks without keys and a Jewish man who seems to need blood. Is the Jewish man Jesus? Have I as part of a collective taken blood from him? Or is this a Shakespearian reference to Shylock, the Merchant of Venice, who demands a pound of flesh from me to pay for the code?

In another dream, I have five locks, each on a side of a rectangular block of wood I’m holding. Mama is with me and wants me to unlock all of them. I am wearing a long, purple housecoat, one piece without a zipper or buttons—a pullover with long flared sleeves. All down the front and back are printed instructions in blocks of writing, something like short magazine columns. To open each dead-bolt lock, I have to take off my gown and be naked in order to read the instructions. I easily unlock by pushing the dead-bolt into the wood, but I have to take off my gown, read some instructions, open a lock, be embarrassed about my nakedness, and put my gown back on. Then repeat.

Jung saw that numbers were not just artifacts of the conscious mind, but had a deeper significance, a mysterious numinous aspect…”

One-piece gown. One rectangular block. I remember five locks on five sides of the wood, but do not calculate that a solid rectangle has six sides. In wakeful study, I like the second meaning of numinous from an on-line dictionary: surpassing comprehension or understanding; mysterious.

Mama wants me to unlock the locks. She had forever stressed learning. Reading. If I were doing my homework or just simply reading, I didn’t have to help get supper. All her seven children worked for accomplishments just to hear her say, “Isn’t that wonderful?” and clap her delicate hands in the air.

Early one morning I wake from a dream where I have been given a sheet of paper that I must memorize. However, it’s written in code with letters and numbers. My younger cousin has the code. “SC is for South Carolina,” he says, and “NC is for Northern Country.” It takes him an instant to read and understand it, but I cannot even begin. “The whole key is that you only have to read the top part,” he says. “The top is telling you that the rest is unnecessary.”

Jung says the shadows are all the roads you did not take. A dream may take the hood off shadow and it’s not scary. It’s something you’ve covered up.

What road did I not take? Why is my cousin in this dream? Have I read something on his facebook page that conflicts with my knowledge of self?  Months of the same dream scenario. I need the key, the keys to unlock a lock, the locks. A road to take, a light to shine on a shadow? There are those who have the codes, the keys. I persist in finding mine.

          In the collective unconscious we have images in our psyche from all previous time.

For me, the unconscious became conscious last Thursday. It was a chilly day. As I left the house, I held my keys with bulky gloved fingers. Somehow, in my hurry, I jammed the key into the front door lock and could not move it. It wouldn’t lock, it wouldn’t unlock. I twisted and pulled and the key broke off. I stood holding a useless piece of metal, looking at the smiley face on its round end. My spirits sank as I stared at the shard remaining in the lock. I spent the day in scenarios of expensive locksmiths removing the lock, the door panel, the door. Of being outside in the cold.

          I call my sister who lives out of state and ask her to do a Tarot card reading for me.

Tower 16: Upheaval, which is often a blessing in disguise. Plus-minus factors. Magician: You are about to embark on a new enterprise that you are well able to carry out.  You’ve had most of what you want from life but still feel something is missing.

Ace Cups: A very positive card to draw if a creative venture is in the works. It will be a great success. Old skills and contacts will help you. Outcome: World 2—A satisfactory card to find. You will begin a new phase. A phase of life will be ending but you will be happy with the change of events. It won’t come fast enough.

Mary Popham is a seventh generation Kentuckian raised in Nelson County, Kentucky. From high school she moved to Louisville, raised two daughters and after thirty years retired from Customer Service at the G. E. Company. After studies in the English Honors program at the University of Louisville and retirement from the corporate world, she began a writing career. In 2003, she graduated with the inaugural class of Spalding University’s MFA in Writing program. She has published a collection of poetry, The World and All Its Charms, and her fiction, nonfiction and book reviews have appeared in The Courier-Journal; The Louisville Review; Blue Moon; Pegasus; and Wind publications. She is an active member in The Cherokee Roundtable a writers’ group in Louisville, where Popham lives with her husband, Ronnie. She is currently looking to publish her first novel.

Mary Popham

 

 

 

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Chicken Soup for the Soul: Parenthood, Update

Have you ever had a moment when you knew something was meant to be, but all evidence pointed against its ever happening?

You might recall that I recently mentioned that I have another essay coming out in Chicken Soup for the Soul, the Parenthood edition.  I just received word that it will be in bookstores March 12, 2013, so look for it then.

My story is called “Our Sunshine,” and it features (with his approval) a story about the first day I met our son, Zackery.  Even as I write this I am welling up a bit — I knew from the moment I met him that he was meant to be our son.  The problem?  He was with another foster family.  It looked like my wish would never happen.  Would I ever have a son?  My son?

Well, you can read the essay for yourself, if you like, in March.  The books will be available at all of the major purchase points, both brick and mortar and virtual — Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and more.

As much as I adore writing fiction, I also like making people feel good and sharing the joys and struggles of my own life.  Chicken Soup “feeds” that writerly side of myself.

Have you ever had a moment when you knew something was meant to be, but you had lost faith in its ever happening, until unexpected events caused things to sway in your favor? Please share your thoughts with me here — I know many of you are readers of the series, and I’d like to hear your comments.

Mary Shelley, The Synergy of Writing, and oh yeah: I am a finalist in a flash fiction contest!

During my art history research the day before yesterday, I paused to enter a flash fiction contest sponsored by Janet Reid, literary agent.

Here was the assignment: Write a 100 word or less flash fiction piece using these words:

ratline

swords

bond

lodger

asylum

This was a challenge, for sure, but I love a challenge, so I gave it a go.  And I just found out that I am one of the seven finalists!  The winner will be announced later today.  Of course I’d love to be the winner, but being a finalist is awesome, too.

The link is here, if you’d like to read my entry: http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2013/01/ratlines-contest-winner-finalists.html

This reminded me, by the way, a bit of the competition Mary Shelley and her friends had one stormy night that resulted in, of course, the birth of Frankenstein.   Not that my entry is to be compared with her story, but I was thinking of the results of such challenges: would Mary Shelley have ever written her story at any other time, under any other circumstances?

The brain writes about what preoccupies it at the moment, of course, even if in twisted ways.  I, for one, am thankful for that sleepless night Shelley spent, and for that group of bright minds that lit one another.

I am likewise thankful for the opportunity to combine words in a way I wouldn’t have without this contest.  I didn’t even know what a ratline was when I first read the word, but I will never forget what it is now.

To synergy, to Shelley, and to contests.  Happy New Year!