Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Margie slams fiction

Rob came to a few of our NHWorD writers group meetings, so I followed him on Twitter. Last week he tweeted about a 3-minute Fiction Slam going on in Manchester Monday night. I didn't think I had any 3-minute fiction--I've been writing a saga-length story for most of my adult life--but I thought it might be of interest to the other members of my writing group. I forwarded the tweet to the NHWord email list.
Rob Greene (@rwwgreene) tweeted at 11:06 AM on Tue, Feb 04, 2014:
It's a fiction slam in the #MHT http://t.co/0by1WbhpQN #writing
For the rest of the week there were some replies and discussions. I didn't open the emails, but Gmail gave me a preview of the first lines of each email. Sunday, while waiting for my writing group meeting to begin, I read the emails. So and so didn't think they could handle being 'slammed', Rob assured them that it was a 'gentle slam', but even so, it was just a bad week for that, with Boskone starting this Friday. No takers.

Our meeting ended around 8. I remembered that I was out of deodorant and didn't think I should start a work week without it. Wal-Mart closes horribly late on Sunday night, so I headed over there. I bought deodorant, motor oil, bubble bath, tried to remember what kind of toothpaste my daughter wanted... So I was driving home at 9:37 when it occurred to me that I did have a short story that could probably be read in three minutes. I got home, found the story on Google Docs. Its word-count was 630. I tried reading my story with the kitchen timer and found it was too long. I did more editing. I sent an email to Rob, saying I might be able to slam, but didn't know if I could get there on time. He replied:
I can put you at the top of the waiting list, which is pretty much a guaranteed slot. I hope you can make it. -rob
The next day I googled "Word Count Three Minute Fiction" and found that the limit was 600 words. I snatched time to work on the story. By nightfall it was down to 548 words. I finished the work I promised to have ready by the next morning and left after 7. The Fiction Slam had already begun. I was 50 miles south.

I arrived at 8 pm, snuck in, sat down. There was a  piece of paper with a list of names on the table in front of me. There were ten names under "Guaranteed to Read" and three names under "The Wait List". Mine was at the top of the "Wait List". All of the names had checkmarks next to them except mine.

I listened to 8, 9, and 10. In between, I reread my story. I cut out 8 more words. I didn't know if my reading would really be within the three minutes. I figured that my turn would come at the bottom of the wait list, since I got there late, so while Number 10 was receiving judge's feedback I looked at my cellphone's clock feature. I chose the mode that counted down from three minutes and started to time my mouthing the words to the story. Two minutes in, only a few paragraphs left, they called my name.

I wasn't at the end of the wait list--they were using the original order. I shoved the phone into my pocket and walked up to the microphone.

Halfway through, I started to hear beeping. First I thought it was a cafe noise--a coffee maker or something. Then I thought maybe it means I've gone past my time. Was it really a 2-minute fiction slam? They didn't tell me to stop, so I figured I should read to the end. It was distracting with the beeper going off. When I finished, I turned to Rob and asked, "Was this a 2-minute or a 3-minute story?"

"Three minutes," he said.

"Oh. I thought the beeper was because I'd gone past my time."

"I don't know what that beeper is."

Then I realized what, and pulled my cellphone out of my pocket. Even though I had set the sound to zero, that only turned off the ringer. The three minute timer had been going off.

"I sabotaged my own performance," I said to the judges.

One of them said, "I thought it was a special effect."

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