Fiction that explores the monsters and strangers among us.

Friday, May 22, 2009


When I entered the coffee shop, one customer stood in line. Behind the counter, three attractive teenage girls bounced with youthful joy.

As it turned out, the woman in front of me was the mother of the first young lady behind the counter, the one on the left. When her daughter gave her the drink, her mother said something sweet, “Thank you, my blessed beauty.”

The girl in the middle brightened. “Hey, that’s what my mother calls me!”

The third girl, the one on the right, cast her eyes upon the floor. “My mom calls me her ‘blessed mistake.’”

We sometimes say things to our children as a joke or to tease them, not meaning the words to be hurtful at all, but we forget who we are in their eyes and how much our children look to us, even in their teen years, for approval and recognition. The young lady attempted to cover her hurt with a forced smile.

When my turn came, the young lady on the left took my order and the one on the right, her mom’s “blessed mistake,” filled it for me.

Is there wisdom in keeping quiet at such times, giving my silent approval to the pain upon a stranger’s face? On the other side of the stainless steel machinery, she started making my drink. When she looked up at me, I said, “You were never a mistake, you were a gift.” She smiled and held back all but one tear that trickled down her right cheek as she whispered a hoarse “Thank you.” When she handed me my drink, I found I was blessed with the richest, most chocolaty cafĂ© mocha I had ever tasted. So I guess we blessed each other that afternoon and there’s wisdom in that certainly.

When are our words blessed gifts and when are they blessed mistakes? Wisdom, it seems, is silent until the question itself is asked. Wisdom knows when to speak and when to refrain from speaking. Wisdom knows when to question and when not to question. Wisdom knows when to bless and when to withhold a blessing. Wisdom knows when to teach and when not to teach. Wisdom endures the bad times knowing good times will follow. Wisdom knows in which direction to travel and which path to take, for wisdom knows the goal and is steadfast in achieving the goal.

What is wisdom? Wisdom is not knowledge, for knowledge alone goes nowhere. Wisdom is not cunning for cunning alone does not bless. Wisdom is not intuition, for intuition alone knows no discretion. Wisdom does not reside in the head alone, but also in the heart. Wisdom is the product of a heart that seeks faith, hope and love for these are the true treasures of life. Above all wisdom seeks to love. For in loving, wisdom learns all that it needs to know and do to be happy. Wisdom teaches that you were never a mistake, you were a gift.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thank You, Judge 09-40-MS9034j

STEEL PENNIES, my unpublished novel entry in The Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mainstream Mystery/Suspense Unpublished Division, earned 123 points out of a total of 123 possible points for a perfect score from one of the judges. It takes guts for a judge to make so strong a statement about an unknown work. I benefited from Judge 09-40-MS9034j's positive remarks because the comments reinforce what I know to be my strengths.

Judge 07-23-MS9034j, who awarded me 119 points out of 123, indicated I use too many "extraneous" words, such as "it" and "that." I keep a list of words writers should avoid and those words are on my list, but somehow those two escaped my editing process. I'm going through the manuscript now on a search and destroy mission to eliminate them. My other scores were 107 and 86. I'm making corrections based on the comments from these judges. Bottom line: I'll have a better novel to enter in the next contest. Recommendation for writers: Enter the contests that give you feedback. You'll become a better writer.