Night Train to Bucharest – 1992 – Flash Memoir

FLASH MEMOIR

Photo on Foter.com

Photo on Foter.com

Squeezed onto a hard bunk, high up the compartment wall, she settled into the night journey. She would not see the countryside slip past the black window below. But she was alone, on a train, and headed to a far-off city that only three years earlier had been forbidden.

On Christmas Day, 1989, after crackers and pudding, she had gaped with others at the TV screen – BBC images of Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena, bullet-ridden.

Now she lay in the dark, the ceiling so close her breath circled back to her face; aware of the other women in the cabin – crinkling paper, digging about in baggage, whispering in an unknown tongue. The piercing whistle. The ka-chunk, ka-chink, ka-chunk, ka-chink. The shush. Shush. Shush. The steady rocking of the bunk – so began the long night.

She did not sleep but lay in adrenalin fueled alertness, absorbing every metal-on-metal screech, every curve in the track, the way her center of gravity shifted on the vinyl and pressed against the compartment wall.

Through the mesmerizing rhythm a new sound broke. Stomping, clapping, fiddling. Young men’s voices singing patriotic folk songs built to a crescendo as the train reached a station; the celebration fading into the distance as it moved further east.

Throughout the night the same pattern: mid-night celebrations, rising and falling, as new recruits set off to join the army in a changed world.

Mombasa to Nairobi – 1992 – Flash Memoir

FLASH MEMOIR

We’re running late – again. He says.

Our train won’t make it from Mombasa to Nairobi in time to greet some important visitor at the airport. How could a guy who’s lived in Africa for five years keep getting this wrong?

What does he do? Come to my compartment before light and tell me we need to get off. I slide out of the dark upper bunk, hoping I won’t disturb the other passengers.

Get off where? Where are we? Not sure? Just need to get off? Oh, walking to Nairobi will be faster? Hush, hush. You’ll wake the sleepers.

He’s spoken to the conductor. There’s a village coming up. They’ll stop the train so we can get off.

He grabs my bags. I follow down the narrow corridor stumbling side to side through broken florescent light. What else to do?

We drop into a sleepy village; earth and huts amber in the rising sun. People stare. They’re drawing water, washing, building fires for breakfast. A Korean guy and a white girl with packs are traipsing through their world at dawn.

We reach the main road. Dead straight and empty – both directions. Just scrub, asphalt and sky. In the middle of Kenya. But we’re late. So, I guess walking makes sense.

When the western horizon becomes a large, dark sedan, he sticks out his thumb.

Car stops.

Oh, great.

We climb in. Two men. I’m thinking – we’ll never be heard from again.

Turns out, they are headed for Uganda. Returning home from a business trip. Will be going right through Nairobi.

We make it to the airport on time.

Maybe our train would have too.

Flash Memoir – Beginning Thoughts

Photo on Foter.com

Since my main writing projects are historical novels, I’ve been longing to explore another form –  something at the opposite end of the spectrum. Work that I could finish short of decades!  And, needing no research. Wouldn’t that be grand?

Flash memoir is about as opposite as I can get. And gives me the chance to record personal experiences—no interlibrary loans!

So, I’m using my travel adventures to toy with words at a level I can’t yet apply to my fiction. (Those endeavors aren’t ready for close word-crafting).

I’m experimenting with tone, voice, rhythm, point of view, etc.

Starting with a series based on train rides – I’m just throwing them out there – wondering how they feel to anyone outside of my own head.

 

The post that follows will be my first effort. Further flash memoir posts will be linked to this one as explanation.

7 Things I’ve Learned About Twitter

Call me slow, but I have finally joined the Twittershere.

Here’s what I’ve found so far:

  1. Twitter is not so much about relationships – I guess that time has passed.
  2. No, I don’t want to buy your book. “I mute you. I mute you. I mute you.” (Yay! for Tweetdeck!)
  3. I find it weird that people tweet about themselves in third person.
  4. I’ve found lots of new resources: writing, marketing, history.
  5. And medieval manuscripts –  – images work! I’m an artist. I’m visual. I’m giddy with the eye candy.
  6. But I quickly decided pictures without links to the original source irritate me. So I’m being careful not to post them myself and I’m no longer retweeting them.
  7. I lurked on my first live Twitter chat. That was like drinking from a fire hose. But I figured out how to just follow the feed of the main speaker and block out the other noise.

Not too bad for a newbie.

I’ve updated my Creative Accountability Page with my writing progress.

And added a blog post to the Long Ago & Far Away site. (The blog for Historical Fiction Off the Beaten Path).

I’d love to hear how you are using Twitter these days. Have you been at it for a while? Has it changed for you? Do you use it to interact directly with people? Or just participate in the big shotgun fest?

Getting Your Work Done

I am fascinated by the methods other people use to get their creative work done in the midst of life’s demands. I am especially amazed at people who can produce art while enduring the worst of this life’s burdens – their own or loved one’s illness, broken relationships, war and death. Not trying to be morbid, I’m just amazed at how some people manage to carry on.

Even the daily routine of better days fills life to the edges with activity – all urgent and consuming.

Most artists/writers advocate getting up in the wee morning hours to get the writing/painting done and I have found it to be true for myself. Once the regular day begins there seems no way to disengage.

So, up early. And what else? Creatives establish little rituals. For me, it’s a humongous mug of PG Tips (that’s English tea) with half & half.

And goals. Many writers have daily word count goals. I have been participating in an online group of writers whose only connection is a commitment to write 250 words per day, every day. When you’ve done your words, you enter your daily total into an online Google document. People with the longest unbroken stretches and highest word counts get to be in the leader board. That’s it. No prizes. But, we cheer and spur each other on. It works wonders.

Last Spring I managed 53 days in a row. Then I went into research mode and then was consumed by my resurrected painting business.

That’s 250.

Whew. Made it for the day.

How do you do it? How do you make the time, energy and emotional space to do the creative work only you can do?