Flash Fiction Winner: Kaitlin Burkhart

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Steinbrenner High School’s 1st Annual Flash Fiction Fest!

In March, I had the amazing opportunity to spend some time chatting with Steinbrenner HS creative writing students during their 1st annual Flash Fiction Fest. I talked about creating an engaging short, short story (avoid blathering on and on) and grabbing people by their emotions and reeling them in like trout.

THEN WE HAD A CONTEST!

Since I’m a lover of all things contesty, we decided to have each student prepare their very best flash fiction piece and vote for the favorite, based on some criteria established by themselves and their writing teacher, Eric Vona.

Readers, they chose a winner and I’m delighted I get to share her flash fiction piece with all of you. This young woman’s piece is dark (just how I like it), and twisty (even more how I like it) and leaves you with some questions (MOMMA LIKEY).

So, without further ado, here is Kaitlyn B.’s flash fiction piece, “When the Clouds Clear.”

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When the Clouds Clear

by Kaitlin Burkhart

Relief was the shower of rain approaching the end of its descent from the sky. It coated Mona’s body and soaked through her pores, making its way to her very core.

She had not only left an heirloom at that pawnshop, she had left a part of herself. As she took each step towards her car, the force of her footsteps causing little droplets to make parabolic paths in the air, she felt like the strongest tether was being frayed strand by strand, and as she opened the door to her Honda Accord with a few too many dents and scratches, she felt that tether snap.

Mona wished she didn’t have to dispose of the rosary. It was beautiful with its golden plate and adorning pearls, all molded into a cross. But even if it wasn’t cursed, which she hoped was the case, it had too many bad memories tied to it.

Each of those bad memories had occurred after her mother had gifted it to her on her death bed, handing her prized possession to her sole child. She had cradled its cold, metal frame, knowing the rosary was her mother’s promise to watch over her.

Mona tried for so long to appreciate the rosary and the sentiment behind it. When she crashed her car leaving the hospital, she hadn’t suspected anything. But when her fiancé ended things two weeks later because he needed “space,” she began to wonder why everything had taken a sudden turn for the worse. One awful event occurred, then another: two car accidents, being laid-off from her accounting job, and a broken engagement all happened while in possession of the rosary.

Two years later, Mona was ready to discard the only difference between her past and present: the rosary.

She found a pawn shop far away, so she would never stumble upon the formidable thing again and drove to its destination, the rosary glinting in her periphery.

She didn’t care how much they gave her, even though her mother had once claimed it was worth $10,000. The pawn shop guy settled on $200, and Mona knew her mother was cursing her name in heaven.

Sitting in her car, she put her forehead on the steering wheel and let out a sigh. Before she had been given the rosary, she had experienced joyous moments, but sitting there, she couldn’t recall ever feeling this content. She remained like that, just letting the stress exude itself from her tense shoulders and knotted joints. Glancing at her phone, she lit up in surprise as her ex fiance’s name lit up the screen, asking if she wanted to grab dinner later and “catch up.” She replied with “of course,” not wanting to seem too excited.

With that, she eagerly put the car in reverse, backed out of the parking lot, and barreled down the interstate, still slick from the rain, each mile further distancing her from the cursed object.

              *****

Mona was an hour away when she got a text.

“Hey, I can’t meet for dinner anymore. I’ve been sick all day.”

Opening her phone, she read the text a few times over, wishing he could somehow feel better. She was looking forward to seeing him.

Disappointed, she took a deep breath and looked up from her phone, deciding that she wouldn’t let this shortcoming ruin the ease she developed since disposing of the rosary.

Her eyes made contact again with the road, and she realized she was an idiot for thinking her bad luck was tied to an object. She was utterly clueless for thinking objects were cursed, for letting her guard down, and for not realizing, she was the cursed one.

A silly object didn’t dictate her fate, she did, and her carelessness was what led her to all of these tragedies.

 So when she ran the red light and collided with a semi-truck, no match for her little Honda Accord, she wasn’t even mad at herself. It was deserved for her stupidity. She didn’t scream when glass shattered and her body thrashed inside the car. She didn’t pity herself when her vision faded and she was carried into death, chaos ensuing around her.

No, she was content.

 

Write like the WIND

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When the guy in the baseball cap and shorts waved me down in the University of South Florida parking garage on Tuesday night, I thought it was a college kid with a cougar thing. 

Until it wasn't. 

The "kid," who admittedly looked about 15 years younger than he actually was (not jealous of that at all) was Eric Vona, the director of I.C.E., the Imaginative Creative Explorers, the name chosen by the first group of youth writers in the Tampa Bay Area Writing Project 17 years ago. 

Eric laughed when I told him how young he looked, and said he gets it a lot.

He fits right in with his students who range between 14 and 22 years of age, all of them hungry to learn more about writing, four of them who have already written complete novels. He'd invited me to speak to his group about character development, a subject I knew very well considering I was raked over the coals for not having any of it in my first book, the novel that shall heretofore be known as JUST BURN IT because it was so horrible.

Naturally, I was happy to contribute to the conversation about character. 

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With huge smiles and a palpable eagerness, the students welcomed me into WIND, the new name for the group, although "Writers in Need of Direction" is a bit of a misnomer in my opinion. Once we started talking, I was incredibly impressed with the level of knowledge they already had. They were light years ahead of where I was when I first started drafting! We talked about giving their main characters desires to propel their stories' plots and making sure their mcs have misconceptions about themselves or the world (or both) that get resolved so they have strong arcs. 

Since I stopped teaching years ago (has it really already been ten years??) I SO MISS interacting with teenagers on a daily basis, so this little snippet of conversation was such a boost to my spirits. 

I'm hopeful I gave them something in return, too. Maybe it was just some inspiration that someone like me, someone who has repeatedly failed, can chase after her dreams and grab them. Or maybe it was simply a little more information than what they already had. 

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Either way, I'm so appreciative of the evening and hope to do it again very soon. Eric, thanks for having me!! And to all the students I hope you realize just how much you made my day. More than anything, keep learning and keep AT IT, even when you lack the motivation to do so. 

XOXO
Kell

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