November 20, 2019

Moving on to 2nd Round of the 250-word Microfiction Challenge!

Like many people, I'm very happy in my comfort zone. I mean, it's comfy, right? That's why we stay there.

At the same time, I know that if I don't force myself out of my comfort zone, I won't grow as a person or as a professional. And communication challenges are particularly interesting to me, as a way to expand the skills I use and teach as a public speaking coach.

Last year, I took a chance and submitted a story idea to the Storytellers Project, even though I had never considered myself a storyteller. Sure, I "tell stories" all the time. But calling myself a "storyteller" had a whole different connotation - one that implied that I was actually entertaining. And wouldn't that mean I had a big head and was full of myself?

Well, I submitted the story, and I was selected to tell my story among a lineup of six others with stories within the theme of "New Beginnings." Was I nervous? HELL YES. I'm a presenter. I'm a trainer. But I did not see myself as a storyteller. (And I had to memorize ten minutes of content, which I never have to do!)

It was a thrilling and nervewracking experience, and I'm so glad I did it! I think I have another story brewing that I will likely submit again. You can watch my story here. (And watch the others as well, because they were brilliant.)

In October of this year, I came across a short story competition. A short-short story competition, in fact. It was a microfiction contest where the submissions had to be completed in 24 hours, and each writer was put into a group with a shared genre, action, and word assignment.

I haven't written fiction in over 20 years, but as someone who prefers to take action rather than spend a lot of time planning or dwelling, I thought: "I can write a 250-word story in 24 hours!" And away I went.

My group, Group 10, was given the following assignment:
Genre: Ghost story
Action: Riding a bus
Word: Broken

We submitted our stories on October 5, and then we had to wait over six weeks for the results. The top ten stories from each group will move onto the second round, each person placed into a new group with a new genre, action, and word.

I made it! My story came in #6 out of the 13 in my group, and now I wait for November 22, when the clock starts ticking down 24 hours again.

And since my story is super short (micro, in fact), I'm pasting it here to share. Wish me luck in Round 2!

The Bus to Bogota

Gina takes one final drag, inhaling deeply, disappointed to waste half of a cigarette. Isn’t there any place where you can still smoke on public transportation? Not Colombia.

She boards the bus and settles in for the long ride from Manizales to Bogota, hoping to sleep, hoping for peace. But her body abruptly stiffens, the hair on her arms standing on end. It's not the arctic air conditioning causing the sudden chill.

"Nat?" Gina almost says his name out loud, but it's crazy. He's not here.

And yet, she feels his presence surrounding her, like a binding embrace. Like old times.

She breathes in through her nose and out through her mouth, eyes closed. A trick she learned while in therapy.

She had come halfway around the world to escape the places and people who reminded her of her life with Nat. They didn't know about the violence. They didn't know about her prison. While her heart was broken the day he died, it was also the day she was freed from his brutality.

"Nat can't be here. He's dead." She says it out loud. Firmly. Convincingly.

She knows he's dead because she had administered the overdose herself. She had watched his painful, gruesome death. She had called 911. She had planned his funeral. She had tossed dirt onto his casket.

"I'm here, Gina." Where is Nat's voice coming from? Is this real? It must be a sign of exhaustion.

The chill deepens. She feels his oppressive grip.

"I'm here."

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