Amy Mitchell is a stay-at-home-mom blogging at Unchained Faith. Her passions are faith, social justice, and creativity, all of which she fuels with caffeine and sarcasm. You can read her short stories at Amore con Formaggio.
While I was classmates with Ashley in college and enjoyed her feminist sass in class discussions, we never got to know each other very well. I always looked forward to her submissions to the school’s literary magazine I worked on — her pieces were well-written and punchy. I knew she kept writing after graduation, so I was excited when she submitted a couple stories for this week. This one stood out, and I think you’ll enjoy it just as much as I did. -H
I was delighted to get this submission from my best friend’s husband. I didn’t realize Michael was a fiction writer, and I’m pleased to tell you that he’s doing just fine for himself in this department. I hope you enjoy this piece of his. – H
Stories get me excited. Especially ones that are true, honest, cutting to the quick of an emotion, a moment. This is why short stories are my favorite — there’s not enough space for a saga, just enough to cast for the reader quick character studies and a moment or two that let the reader in on their deepest emotional realities. In essence, the short story form provides case studies on being human.
Today’s first offering comes to us from Samantha Fields. Be sure to leave her some feedback in the comments and let her know what you think!
I love reading. When I was in third grade, my mom had me make a list of all the books I’d read in the last year. Once we got through the library loan records and my Sonlight reading list, I discovered that I’d read between two and three hundred books that year.
When I was in tenth grade, I fell behind and stopped working on most of my schoolwork for a lot of reasons–my mom had just had twins, I was babysitting for her a lot, I was stressed and probably depressed, I was socially isolated in unhealthy ways, and I coped by reading everything in sight. I read and drew and wrote lots that year, but mostly I read. Sometimes I think that books were my lifeline to sanity while I lived at home.
During college, people would ask me why I chose to be an English major. I’d jokingly tell them that it was so I could get good grades just for reading all the time like I would do anyway.
Writing has always been part of who I am, as well. I wrote a historical fiction “novel” in high school, various short stories, and lots and lots of essays. In the last few years I have begun to explore poetry, write more fiction, and really focus on honing my craft.
But my favorite thing is still reading, challenging myself to read the greats and develop a good ear for quality language and voice and presence. To push myself to enjoy what I might not find easy in order to learn and stretch my own writing. And to just read for reading’s sake, savoring the presence of an author’s story and losing myself in someone else’s world and words.
Short stories are my very favorite of all. They fit well into a busy life. I love how they can be tight and focused like poetry, but the genre allows them to also be broader and more narrative. However, the form seems to be fading, and fewer authors are writing short stories and fewer schools are studying them. They’re not yet outdated, but there’s a slow fade happening for short stories in the publishing world. And that’s sad, because you’d think there would be a bigger market for them in the world of e-readers and online publishing venues and Twitter and blogs.
Inspired after attending a speaking event by Lorin Stein a few months back (promoting The Paris Review‘s new short story collection, Object Lessons), I decided I wanted to do more here with writing and promoting this great genre.
So here’s the plan:
During the first week of April, I’m going to host a short story week on Wine & Marble.
And I want you to help.
I’d like to feature a short story every day from March 31st (Easter Sunday) to April 6th.
That’s seven stories.
You write it, I’ll help you clean it up, and we’ll publish it here.
I’ll be accepting submissions from now until March 23rd. Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To kick this off, I’d like to give you a short story I wrote a couple years back.
Click here to download Wine at Christmas.
This new year, I’m trying to be deliberate about self-care. Things that I would have shoved off as unimportant before because they only meant something to me — I’m taking these up and owning them. I’m fighting the lies in my head: “It’s not a big deal. I’m too busy.” “It’s not important.” “I wouldn’t be good enough/I’m too old to start that now.” “I need the money for other things.”
No more. I don’t mean that in an I’m-obsessed-with-making-myself-happy-with-things way. No more self-denial for its own sake, or because of fear or because of self-consciousness.
So. I am doing new things. I’m taking part in a story coaching group with Elora (a few slots left and only two days more to register, if you want to join us!). I’m going to write the stories in my head and have accountability and community to help me keep going. I really need this.
I’m taking mandolin. It’d been a old dream of mine to pick it up, but I couldn’t afford it/find one/find a teacher, and over Christmas everything fell into place. I have a mandolin. I have a teacher. I have the emotional space to learn it without pressure from anyone who is more musically advanced criticizing or judging me. It’s so healing. I’m making music. It’s mine. No one else’s.
The community of bloggers I’ve found has been incredible. If you ever feel like you’re insane and the only one seeing that maybe your church is legalistic, or your conservative community is prejudiced and hurtful to minorities, or that maybe women shouldn’t be treated they way they are in your church or at your school, or that the relationship standards in conservative Christianity are oppressive, or that your depression might be real and not “lack of faith,” please hear me:
you are not alone.
The latest evolution of this community? Elizabeth Esther and I talk about how expectations for emotional purity are terribly damaging and dehumanizing. An excerpt:
So, how do girls in strict, courtship environments cope? We shut down our emotions.
The bad news is that you can’t shut down one feeling without shutting down them all. I thought that by ignoring, denying, shaming and shunning my romantic feelings for Matt I was preserving my “emotional purity” and “guarding my heart.” Instead, I ended up completely numb.
It got so bad that eventually I believed if something felt good it was probably sinful. If I was happy, I wasn’t suffering enough. Sometimes I wished I were a robot so I could turn off my feelings with a push of a button.
When we finally received courtship approval and it was OK for me to have romantic feelings for Matt, I was a mess. I was depressed, exhausted, confused and literally sick all the time.