Monday, May 11, 2009

The Ring

Tonight I’m going on my first date in over two years. It’s also the first date I’ve had since my husband’s death.

The man is due to pick me up in twenty minutes, and I stand in front of the full-length mirror, assessing my reflection. One thing keeps catching my eye.

It’s a gaudy-looking thing, and I know it. Perched on my little finger, Barbie-pink and hard plastic, the ring doesn’t coordinate with my sleek, black dress. Others will see me at the fine restaurant and think me showy and presumptuous, wearing such a frou-frou piece of costume jewelry.

Still, I’ll be wearing it all evening, because it says so much more than the dress ever would on its own.

Ah, the dress. It’s black by no coincidence; I chose the color of mourning. This is a big step for me, the dress will say to this new someone. Let it be known I still grieve. And that John will always be with me.

And, what with its length just at my knee, sweet capped sleeves, modest v-neck, it says I’m to be taken seriously. I’m a respectable woman, with clear-cut expectations, responsible ideas.

But yet the ring says so much more.

Its hue pops out from the dark background the dress provides, speaking of brighter days, of the happiness I’ve managed since John was taken from me. It whispers that I have a sense of humor, and I know how to have fun. But, more than anything, it tells a man that Sosie is most important to me.

It was Sosie, my beautiful three-year-old with the jet-black hair just like her daddy’s, who put the ring—her princess ring—on my finger.

“Mommy, wear my wing tonight,” she’d said, sliding it over my pinkie knuckles. “You wook bootie-ful.”

And so how can I not wear it?

It will be a subtle reminder, throughout the whole evening, that my heart belongs to a little girl. She’s been my one and only for two years, and it’s not easy to let someone new in. Any man will have to accept it. He’ll have to accept Sosie and me, a package deal.


That’s what the ring says.

***

This is a piece of flash fiction (364 words) I wrote a few months ago. The spark of idea came to me and snowballed as I played Pretty Pretty Princess with my girls, when I caught glimpse of a similar plastic ring on my own finger.

The Ring made the first-round cuts at two online pubs, but eventually met rejection from both places. When I got notification from the second publication yesterday, I decided I'd post it here. Why not share it with all of you, and whomever happens by? That's, in essence, a large reason I have this blog, and I think it's important to continually share examples of my works and style.

Anyway, an editor from the first pub said it read more like a vignette (which is what, now?) while another thought it more a character sketch. The second online magazine didn't give any reasons as to why they were "unable to use it." (Both places suggested I submit other pieces in the future.)

Do you have any constructive criticism to offer? What would you tell me if you were an editor?

42 comments:

Amy Sue Nathan said...

It's lovely, Janna. Based on what those editors said, here are my thoughts. A vignette is a small setting, a small piece -- a scene and I see how it could be construed as such as it's one piece of something obviously much larger (even if it's not, there's more to it, y'know?) I think a lot of flash fiction editors want a beginning middle and end, even in under 500 words (or whatever the limit was). As for it being a character sketch, you tell and show us much about this mom, and even her daughter. We know them well. I think you did a very good job with this. Perhaps they'd have liked if the action in the piece was more akin to putting on the ring, getting picked up for the date, going through whatever motions? Or the date itself with some a touch of backstory when someone glares at the ring? Just my two cents. This would work well within the parameters of something larger where all that is going on too.

Strangely I can really relate to this piece - and I'm sure many could. I remember my first date after divorce like it was yesterday as well as dating debacles after the death of my ex. So thanks for sharing!

Lori Tiron-Pandit said...

Thank you for sharing your work, Janna. I am not great at critiquing, but I did love your piece: the symbolism of the cut and color of the dress, and the strong statement of the ring. It's very poetic and has powerful emotion. The only thing that I felt might be missing was a surprise, twist ending, or something like that. I don't know, I am just talking from personal experience because I really like it when this kind of small pieces of fiction have very powerful endings.

Jessica said...

Very well written! I'm impressed. ;-)
Great rejections. They're probably right about the vignette thing, but I could def. see this being a part of a novel. My attention didn't wander a bit and there's such a clear voice here.
Very, very nice.

Jessica said...

Whoops. I meant to say that I'm sorry about the rejection though, even if it was a helpful one. Rejections stink.
Are you planning to send this out anywhere else?

Terri Tiffany said...

This was beautiful and yes we did get to know this woman well but as Amy said, I have to agree that there wasn't really a beginning, middle and end. IT was mosltly a beginning and I was waiting for the action to happen--like when he picked her up and what happened now that we know what she expected from him--did he cross the line and see the same person as she wanted him to see? How did the night end?

Jamie Mason said...

Good stuff, Janna! Very nicely gets a lot of meaning out of a few words.

The Hat Chick said...

This piece had me thanking God that I was not this woman whose love had been taken. I could picture her and her little girl in my mind. So what happens on the date?

Melissa Marsh said...

Janna, this is very nice. I'd have to agree that there needs to be something more to this to really work well. I'm not exactly sure what that "more" entails, though. But I think Amy and the others gave you some great feedback.

Janna Qualman said...

Amy - Great advice! There should be more depth here (even if I haven't figured it out yet), to make the whole thing come full circle. Thanks!

Lori - So the ending just kind of hangs there, with no conclusion, you think? No meaty conclusion? It's something to consider. Thank you!

Jessica - Thank you!

Terri - All great questions to ask. Maybe I need to give more thought to the beginning/middle/end thing.

Hi, Jamie! *hugs* Thanks so much.

Hat Chick - I know, right? How heartbreaking. -- And I haven't given thought to the date itself, because in my mind it was all about the symbolism of the ring and the woman's position with the new shift in things. It's worth exloring though, because it would be a great writing exercise.

Melissa - I have gotten some great feedback! And I appreciate your thoughts, too. :)

Janna Qualman said...

Oh, Jessica, in answer to your second question... I could send it out again if I beefed it up, considering all the advice I've been given. But since I've posted it here, I wouldn't try to submit it as is.

Kristen Painter said...

I'd flesh it out more. I mean, why not? You've got a great start to something that could really be a wonderful short story.

Lady Glamis said...

This piece is lovely, lovely, lovely! It is a vignette, yes, as the other say. It paints a beautiful picture and gives a hint at something more.

I have a "short-works invite-only" blog for writers to submit their work, if you're interested. I'd LOVE to see this piece in there. That's where I do my critiques, as I don't like to critique publicly. If you're interested in an invite, let me know. It's a pretty relaxed atmosphere.

Thank you for sharing your work! I enjoyed it. :)

WendyCinNYC said...

I agree with the others that this is a very good beginning of something. I think you should give it some more work and flesh it out a bit.

Any mother could relate to this--dating or not. We've all been asked to wear macaroni necklaces and the like in public. I think on a date it has so much more meaning.

Give it some love and care and then resubmit!

Joanne said...

I cast my vote with the others, a great piece, needs a little fleshing out which might not take too much. I think I'd start the whole piece with the 3rd paragraph. Through your thoughts and imagery, we can see that the woman is a widow going out on a date, so don't really need the first 2 paragraphs. The piece seems stronger without them. Then I thought about playing with the tense, maybe tell this part in past tense, as though the date just ended, and close with an incident or flash of the date, something that puts the "story" spin on the whole piece.

P.S. Wow, you have a great bunch of editors here, I love reading your Commenters insights.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Janna, I was hooked, so you got the most important thing right off the bat. The flash really is a great snapshot/vignette, but there's so much more you could put in. (Beg, middle, end.) I'm not a big fan of FF because I enjoy longer, meatier reads. (Maybe it's a southern thang?) I'd love to see this worked into a full short story!

And thanks for sharing. Your POV here is crystal clear. Kudos.

Janna Qualman said...

Kristen - Duly noted. ;)

Lady - Thanks! I look forward to your critiques.

Wendy - That seems to be the general consensus, and I do believe I'll work on it some.

Joanne - Great thoughts! I'll keep these suggestions in mind as I work with the piece.

Angie - I mentioned somewhere already (either here or on Facebook) that I've been wanting to try my hand at a short story-length piece. This one might be just to one to do such with. Thanks!

T. Anne said...

That was great. I enjoyed it and want to turn the page! I love your MC's voice.

Janet said...

I think it's lovely. If those publications wanted their flash fiction to be stories, I can see why they said no. There isn't a plot here to speak of. But there's more than one kind of flash fiction, and I'm sure it's good enough to find a home somewhere else.

anneskal said...

I read it and loved it. I think what the one editor said about "vignette" is that it's a slice of life. And this story is, as it's easy to see right from the beginning, that that pink plastic ring came most likely from her daughter.

Now if you added a twist at the end.... :)

Anne (aka "stormie" at AW)

Melanie Avila said...

Janna, I really like this piece. You do a wonderful job of portraying the emotions this woman is going through: love, pain, hope...

Hopefully someone here has given you advice that helps, because I don't see anything to change.

Janna Qualman said...

Thank you, T. Anne!

Janet - It seems pubs expect/like different things, eh? And so many times I can all come down to opinion.

Anne - Thank you! I appreciate your looking at this.

Well thanks, Melanie!

thedomesticfringe said...

Nice piece of work. I enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing with us and sorry it wasn't used in the online publications.

-FringeGirl

Janna Qualman said...

FG - It's okay; rejection is part of the game. But I'm really glad you enjoyed it!

scarlethue said...

You definitely kept my attention with it, left me wanting more, which is probably what those editors were thinking too.

I'm jealous of that, I was just thinking today about my inability to create stories outside of my known world.

Keep writing, Janna, you have an amazing voice and I want to hear more!

Stonefox said...

I'm not an editor, so no advice!! It drew me in for sure.

Janna Qualman said...

scarlethue - Thank you! Your comment is awesome.

Heidi - That's great! Thanks. And hope you're feeling okay.

Tess said...

How did I miss this in my blog surfing yesterday? This is just the kind of stuff I like, too :) Thanks for letting me know about it.

I love the image of the ring on the mother's finger. It is such a tender moment. I already love little Sosie. So much has been said in critique that I really don't have anything to add. You have the start of something really good here...keep going with it.

M. L. Kiner said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Janna Qualman said...

Thank you, Tess! I'm glad you came over. :)

M.L. Kiner - I don't mind you plopping a blurb to market whatever this is, but I think a quick "hello" or something would have been lovely.

Janet said...

Janna, you're suffering from excessive niceness again. It's spam. Delete it without the slightest pang of conscience. This writer needs to learn some manners.

Janna Qualman said...

I know, right? I mean, have a little respect for other people's blogs. Sheesh.

So that goes under the category of spam? Good to know. :)

Sharla said...

Love this, Janna! And I'm glad to know there's a name for this type of story because I'm guilty of it. My short pieces have been critiqued the same way...needing an ending and being more of a "scene" than a full story.

This is very compelling and I was sucked in immediately!

Janna Qualman said...

Sharla - You are not alone! And thanks. :)

Amy said...

Well it touched me, but then again, I'm a mom like you w/two little girls. The only thing that I stumbled on was where you wrote phonetically, how your daughter sounds when she speaks. That's it, though. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Janna Qualman said...

Amy - I'm glad you brought that up, because it's a part I've wondered over. Was it too stunting?

colbymarshall said...

pretty Janna! I love!

Woman in a Window said...

Personally I think vignettes are a viable form of literature and I like it, a lot. It can go anywhere from here, but I suppose those publishers (what would I know?) want it to go somewhere, rise, be resolves and settle somewhere else. Sometimes publishers have no imagination!

Janna Qualman said...

Thanks, Colby! :)

Woman - Pfft. I know! ;) And thanks.

Deb Shucka said...

Simply as a reader, I loved this. I wanted more. The writing is gorgeous.

Janna Qualman said...

Deb, thank you so much. What you've said really means something to me.

Kara said...

I love this piece. I could see it on the jacket of a novel as a teaser to make us want to buy the book. I would want to find out what happens next and buy the book:)

Janna Qualman said...

Thank you, Kara!