Friday 18 January 2013

New Year! New Love! RFW Challenge for January 2013

Welcome to Romantic Friday Writers' a monthly writing challenge founded by Denise Covey and hosted by Denise Covey and Donna Hole. REWers' flash fiction writing challenge for January 2013 is "New Year! New Love!" Our texts should be less than 1000 words. Here is my story:

Title: "New Year, New Love", or "Shyness is a burden"

Is this a dream? thought Sanna Stark as she found herself walking along a high stone wall. It was a snowy January afternoon and she had been out riding her horse, Blixten, when something happened. What exactly, she did not know. Now she stood in her riding boots in front of a pair of huge, mother-of-pearl-embellished wooden doors that had lots of bell-buttons and signs saying 'Welcome to the Pearly Gates; Please ring bell!' in about 70 different languages. Sanna found one in Swedish, but it had a post-it note with Ur funktion on it, so she rang the bell by the sign in English. One of the giant doors opened and a wisp of a woman dressed in white asked her to come in.

'My name is Agnes, what's your name?' asked the angel while looking through a long list on a clipboard.

'Sanna Stark'.

'Oh yes, here you are, Sanna. We've been expecting you. We're helping the Swedish-speaking angels while they are out on assignment.'

'What's going on? Am I in Heaven now?'

'No, not really. Not yet. All I know is that you fell off a horse and hit your head. Maybe it's just a mild concussion. Would you like to have a cup of tea?' asked Agnes as she led Sanna to a small sitting room with Roccoco-style furniture and pastel-coloured silk curtains. A tea-tray appeared out of nowhere.  'Milk or lemon?'

Milk and sugar please', replied Sanna taking a seat. She decided not to comment on the tea-tray.

'Welcome to 'The Pearly Gates'! This is a place where all who deserve to go to Heaven arrive first before continuing to Paradise.'

'Does this mean that I am not dead yet?' asked Sanna, eager to return to life, but not wanting to show it.

'You are still breathing, as far as I know. Why don't you wait in the main hall while I check on some things? Take your tea with you!' said Agnes and escorted Sanna out to a  cathedral-like room with rows of cushioned benches that reminded Sanna of Washington-Dulles Airport's departure terminal - except it was cleaner and whiter. Most seats were taken. There were all kinds of people waiting; even tiny premature babies held in the arms of angels like Agnes. No one looked  ill or damaged in any way. As if Agnes could read her thoughts, she explained: 'They all look healthy because they are good souls ready for Heaven or a new life on Earth. I'll be back with you soon.'

Sanna stopped to watch as a handsome woman in her sixties, called out to one of the children. 'Grandma!' the eight-year-old child cried, running toward and then hugging the white-clad woman, who was not an angel, but a resident of Heaven. The two figures walked away together and disappeared into a white mist.

Sanna then looked down and saw that she happened to be standing in front of a pleasant-looking man who was about her age. He smiled and removed a briefcase from the seat next to him: 'Would you like to sit down?' 

Sanna thought he looked Swedish, but kept on speaking English.

'Thank you wery much, she replied, proud of how well she had been speaking English with Agnes. She had got the th-sound alright, but over-compensated and pronounced the 'v' in 'very' like a 'w' -  a dead give-away. He continued the conversation in Swedish, without commenting on her faulty English.

'Jag heter Nils Frej. The Swedish angels were already on assignment when I arrived.'

'I'm Sanna Stark. It's nice to meet you. Agnes says that I may be able to return to my life on Earth.'

'Oh really?' said Nils with interest.

'Excuse me for asking, but how can you have a briefcase with you? I thought we couldn't take anything with us.'

'Oh, it's just my novel, my manuscript.'

'Your manuscript?'

'Agnes is trying to help me. If I survive, I will send it off to a publisher. But if I don't, I'd like my brother to do it for me. We've always been close. It's dedicated to him.'

What an unusual fellow, thought Sanna, but he is kinda cute. Nice that he gets along with his brother. Sanna thought of her sister.

'Perhaps you can help me,' suggested Nils. 'If you go back, would you give it to my brother?'

'Yes, I guess I could, if you give me his address.'

'You would be doing me a great favour. My brother is going to miss me. Please be kind to him. You'll find the briefcase in your hospital room. Tell him that there was a mix-up at the airport and that he has your bag. Agnes will arrange so that he will have an idential case with things that a woman might want to have along on a trip. Please pretend that it is yours. That way there'll be no need to talk about how we really met.


Then Nils rose from his seat, took the briefcase and headed for angel Agnes' room. He came out empty-handed and waved good-bye to Sanna. Then he continued walking away from the waiting-area and disappeared in a mist.

Oh my, thought Sanna, he did not survive. What a pity.

Sanna awoke in hospital.
'You gave us quite a scare!' said Sanna's mother, 'But you are coming home with us today.'

'Is this yours Sanna? asked Karin, Sanna's syster, holding the leather bag that Nils Frej had shown her at the Pearly Gates.

'Yes, it is', said Sanna and quickly peeked at the manuscript's title page: Shyness is a Burden, a novel by Nils Frej. Health permitting, Sanna did exactly as Nils had requested and met his brother Lars, who was Nils' identical twin.

[Text copyright 2013 Christina Wigren]

Word count according to WordCalc: 983; FCA - Full Critique Acceptable.

Best wishes,

First Commenter:

Yolanda Renee
Defending the pen 

For this story, I have reworked and expanded a text called "Being the Perfect Ex" from June 15th, 2012.

I've thrown in a few Swedish words and phrases:  
'Ur funktion' - means 'Out of order' or 'Not working
'Blixten' - Sanna's horse's name means 'Lightning'
'Jag heter Nils Frej.' - means 'My name is Nils Frej.' 'Nils' is derived from 'Nicholas'. My own brother's first name is Nils. According to Wikipedia, 'Frej' is the Norse pagan god 'associated with sacral kingship, virility and prosperity, with sunshine and fair weather'. I don't know if anyone has it as a surname. I was going to check the phone book. 
An allusion to a sunny personality is the character in Alfred Hitchcock's film The Lady Vanishes. The name of the lady who vanishes is 'Miss Froy' (that rhymes with 'joy').
My protagonist's name,  Sanna Stark, means three things. 'Sanna' is a nickname for 'Susanna', but also the plural form of the adjective 'true'. Her surname, 'stark' means 'strong'. It is a real name that some people actually have. I have an ancestor whose name was Eva Stark.

The inspiration for the setting is partly taken from all of these air trips to Dulles Airport and one of the scenes from the last and final Harry Potter film, where Harry Potter meets Professor Dumbledore in a dreamlike place that resembles King's Cross Station in London. Dulles Airport is to me something similar to what King's Cross Station is to J.K. Rowling.
It might interest you folks to know that I am trying to teach my children English. My daughter Elisabet has decided that she hates the English language; she thinks it is ugly and refuses to go to her extra lessons. When I try speaking English with her she shouts at me 'Jag hatar dig' (='I hate you!'). So I have lots of material for dramatic stories, but nothing very romantic. For the moment, I've given up the struggle with her. But I have a secret ally: her brother Erik; he likes the lessons and wants to learn English

I am inspired by blogging friend, Adura Ojo, who has sometimes used Nigerian words to spice up her stories/WIP. I thought I would put a few Swedish words in, to remind you all that my characters live in a bilingual, multilingual world. But it is experimental. I am still trying to learn how to do this. For the sake of making it technically easy, I have only chosen words that don't have special letters. 


Yolanda Renée said...

What a wonderful story. I like that you are teaching all of us a little Swedish. I don't blame your daughter, English is ugly!

I love the idea of getting a manuscript published via heaven, and meeting a new love.

dolorah said...

Anna this was intriguing. I really liked the concept here; and the Swedish terms. I like cultural pieces. Every time I read one of your excerpts you writing improves; and so does your English - ugly language that it is, lol.

I enjoyed this very much. I liked your characters, and the setting, and the plot concept. A little darkness is ok, Anna. Life isn't all roses, and this excerpt gave the MC purpose for her tragedy.

Well done. Thank you for participating with RFW this month.


Denise Covey said...

Anna, it's good that you're teaching your children English. It may be very helpful in the future as it's the International language. It's probably ugly to your daughter as she doesn't want to learn it. Keep trying!
Meanwhile, i love it when i come across snippets of another language in stories as long as it's able to be followed. You've done well.
I liked the premise of your story-nice touch with the manuscript. It added an interesting fillip to the story.

I hope things have settled down a bit for you Anna, and you don't have too many more trips to Dulles airport!

Happy New Year!

Denise x

Unknown said...

Dear Yolanda,
My maternal grandmother always said that English was an ugly language too, but she actually started learning English at age fifty and succeeded in becoming very fluent. So my eight-year old daughter still has time.

Dear Donna,
Thanks for reading and commenting. I have learned so much from you; especially about dark stories. But I think my dark stories are a little lighter than yours. No one has a mean thing to say in this story. Did you notice that?

Dear Denise,
I am so glad that you like the manuscript in this story. Did you understand the title 'Shyness is a burden'? Here is a writer that has put off sending his manuscript until he is on his deathbed through an unexpected accident. I wrote a lot about what had happened to Nils Frej; that he was still on the operating table etc. But I deleted all of it because it was just too gory. It is enough to say that he died.
Nils Frej dedicates his novel to his twin brother, Lars: 'Thanks to you, brother dear, I never had to feel the pain of extreme shyness or loneliness'.

So far, I've only read Yolanda's post. But I'll be reading making the rounds, even if it takes me a few days.

I'm glad that you changed the schedule to a post once a month and will allow more words. Maybe more writers will be able to submit something.

You are doing a great job with REW, Denise and Donna!
Best wishes,

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Anna,

I really enjoyed your story. The Swedish words only added to its charm. By all means continue to use them in your writing. This was a VERY successful attempt. You should be very pleased with this story.

Charming ... just about covers it. Well done. I do see vast improvement in your writing. The classes are helping!

Unknown said...

Saturday January 19th, 2013

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your encouragement.

It's nice to know that others see improvement, but it is not from taking a class in creative writing. I am teaching myself to write by reading different kinds of 'how-to'-books about novel-writing. Many of these handbooks use as examples, excerpts from different well-known novels.

So far I have read:
Nancy Kress, Beginnings, Middles & Ends
J. Madison Davis, Novelist's essential Guide to Creating Plot
Oron Scott Card, Characters & Viewpoint
Oron Scott Card, How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy

I have ten to twenty more books about novel-writing that are waiting to be read.

Best wishes,

Gina Gao said...

This is such a wonderful story!

Scheherazade said...

How very whimsical and amusing. Well done. Is that manuscript going to be self-published? :-)

Sally said...

I love the idea of Heaven being a waiting room similar to a busy airport while people's lives are in transition with some going back to their earthly lives and some moving on.

I love the fact that Sanna can meet his identical twin and get the manuscript published, a manuscript with heavenly approval has got to have a lot going for it.

Laura said...

Such a lovely story - I haven't been around for months - and I have to say, your English had jumped forward massively! Really really enjoyed this- looking forward to your next story
Laura x

Roland D. Yeomans said...

My Stetson (a really wide brimmed cowboy hat) is tipped to you for your great improvement in English -- a very nasty, mind-hurting language to have to learn. I was truly fascinated by this enchanting and "heavenly" love story with its unique elements. :-) Roland

Nilanjana Bose said...

What a charming take on the prompt, Anna. I really enjoyed your story - a tragedy that doesn't feel like one! Loved the Swedish terms peppering the dialogue too, made it feel all the more authentic. Sorry it has taken me so long to get here, but I have been travelling most of January, and circumstances haven't been kind to blogging :)

Translate a text here: