Behind the Curtain Flash Fiction Contest

In vain have I struggled, but it will not be denied. I swore 9 times sideways of Tuesday that I would not run another flash fiction contest. After Fairy Ring, Once Upon a Time Writing Contest AND Faerypin, I vowed I was done with contests for the year.


Instead, I found myself awake at midnight AGAIN with a brain buzzing with suppressed creativity. And then someone must have cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war. Not one or two but over a half-dozen of my friends started poking and prodding me about when my next contest will be. So you have Ruth Long, Kern Windwraith, Jo-Anne Teal, J.B. Lacaden, Jeff Tsuruoka, Angela Goff, and Lillie McFerrin to blame, along with the countless other Fictionlings who’ve been baying for another chance to enter one of my eccentric pen-fests.

So be it. Too late to back away now. #MOOGHOOHAH

Methinks this contest needs a darker twist, a jagged edge, a crooked seam to counterbalance the beauty and light of the other contests.

My friends, it’s time to go dark. All Hallows Eve is nearly upon us. A chill wind blows, dead leaves rattle past, and good people everywhere lock their doors and light a candle against the dark.

Hear that distant music playing? It’s time to go Behind the Curtain.

Behind the Curtain Flash Fiction Contest

Greasepaint and floodlights and cheerful music out front, but behind the curtain sometimes darker dramas unfold. Whether theatre or circus, pantomime or ballet, there is the world presented…and then the world hidden.

Too often, a gorgeous, painted stage facade conceals dry rot and warped wood. The clown’s smile wipes away to reveal bitter rage. The ballerina’s twisted foot, the leading man’s alcoholism, the abuse of performing animals, all carefully hidden from the audience. For the price of just a ticket, the artifice is yours.

Yet I challenge you to pull it aside, to peek behind the curtain. Who do you see, what do they feel, and most importantly what do they hide?

The prizes are better than ever and will be announced later. Gotta keep you reading, don’t I?

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Dreaming the Impossible Dream

From the Archives:

This is a repost of an entry from my old Livejournal blog. I’ve reposted it in its entirety, because it captures a moment seven years ago. The details have changed, but the swell of emotion from remembering that moment has not.


One of the passingly beautiful memories I have of my mother’s Amphitheatre was exploring the subterranean prison set from Man of La Mancha. It was bleakly magical, with a terrifyingly long, winding staircase. There was a blood-shuddering creak of an opening door; from that cold shaft of light, the Inquisitor descended. Within the crawl space of this set, there were cells – the persecuted prisoners could lean through the bars and tug at the clothes of their passing persecutors. Dante could not have envisioned it better. During one of the dress rehearsals, I crawled into a cell with one of the actors and played out the scene with him, all hunched over; I howled for mercy on cue, banged on the unyielding cell door, drooped hopelessly into the corner like the wizened, diseased, forgotten prisoner I was. That night was the first night that I saw Don Quixote sing “The Impossible Dream” in costume, on the set.

To dream the impossible dream.
To fight the unbeatable foe.
To bear with unbearable sorrow.
To run where the brave dare not go.

He had a thrilling voice, a trained opera singer, and he thundered out with a tenderness that I could hardly bear. I, balled up in the darkness of the cell, strained to see through the rusted grate where he stood in a pool of light.

To right the unrightable wrong.
To love pure and chaste from afar.
To try when your arms are too weary.
To reach the unreachable star.

Every night, I was spellbound during the song. He was a battered old man, ridiculous to most and consumed with delusion, but had a dignity that was transcendent.

This is my quest, to follow that star.
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far.

I have found my star.

I have been drifting for a long time, as I have tried to deny the undeniable. Theatre courses through my blood and to try and do anything else is a bit of a farce. It is my birthright.

I never realized how unorthodox my upbringing was until I was much older. From the time I could toddle about, I was underfoot backstage. My playpen was the orchestra pit. I learned to sew buttons (badly) in the costume shop. I dodged wood shavings in the workshop, perched under the conference table at auditions. I ate ice cream at Ehrler’s with Ado Annie and played hopscotch with Little Orphan Annie. My first kiss was in the lobby, the son of my mother’s assistant director – purely by accident. We were playing tag and bumped smack into each other. I had the best Halloween costumes in my school.

Once I was eight, I was permitted to audition like everyone else. If I was cast, I could do no more than one show a season. Still, I accompanied my mother to endless rehearsals, gorged on Moon over My Hammy at Denny’s at two in the morning. I was her Best Girl, her P.I.C. (Partner-in-Crime). I took scores of notes for her on legal pads, fetched her Diet Coke, always called her Mrs. Meade. I watched, enrapt, as she scolded, praised, and inspired her actors. I watched whole worlds unfold, worlds that were once only inside her head, now shared with the world outside.

On the vastness of the empty stage, late at night, when no one was around, I bowed countless times in endless curtain calls to an invisible audience.

Last week, I stood on another empty stage and looked out at the audience. I was four states away, a decade and a half later, and yet for a moment I was that girl again. Saint Augustine has a brand-new, 4500 seat outdoor ampitheatre that has no theatre company. The official state play of Florida, Cross & Sword, has been shelved for ten years. In the space of the last month, I have met a woman who studied costume design in school, a lighting/sound designer friend has moved down from Kentucky, and my mother said in passing that I should start a theatre company and she would come down summers to help me. Last night, I was having cocktails with a friend and she confided that she had always dreamed of doing set design…before I’d even told her about the theatre project. Events are overtaking me and I am a little afraid.

But I know this is what I ought to be doing. And I’m a little scared of failing, but I’m more scared to not try it. I am the youngest among the people I have collected around me, people whose talents complement and underline my own. I tell myself, ‘I am the Artistic Director’, and it sounds like a role  I am playing. But I have to do it. My beautiful, brilliantly creative mother is scrapbooking and arranging flowers. My friends are all working jobs that are not fulfilling, daydreaming of doing what they really want to do. And I’m there with them, but I’m not willing to wait any longer.

Now is the time and I’ll follow my star.

A Tribute to My Muse

Tonight, I think of my Muse.

When I first saw her in the gallery, I was startled; she was so…throat-catchingly beautiful. I had seen photographs, but nothing had prepared me for the sight. It was like being struck. I was walking and I had to stop. I felt a tear slip down my cheek. She was me and yet not me. She was the me I wanted to be – serene, graceful, and entirely still…poised for the next moment.

I told myself for weeks that I couldn’t have her and grew more and more miserable as she continued to sell, moved to grace the homes and lives of others. So few and slipping away. I looked at the massive price on her and thought it a bargain, knew I would pay twice that (I, who could not afford once that).

Still, I didn’t allow myself even to hope. Every time I passed her in the gallery, I stroked a cool bronze cheek, traced the fine grooves of her hair. It became a running joke how I would hug her as I walked by. It was irresistible; I couldn’t help it. I was in love. I was Pygmalion, with a Galatea that did not have to become real to be loved, but who would very shortly not even be within sight.

And then only two weeks later, in Paris of all places (because all beautiful and solemn events happen in Paris), I am walking down the Boulevard de Picpus with my father on a sunny late June morning. We walk aimlessly, stroll past the boulangerie, the patisserie, fish and croissants and fruit so lush and gorgeous that you want to stop and take a picture of it. I spoke effusively of my Muse, for I already thought of her as “my” sculpture…for twenty minutes. When I finally paused to take a breath, my father turned to me and said, “Well, then I think you should get it.”

Words are words, but my father is good for his word. He did not buy it for me, nor would I have wanted him to do so. Instead, he helped me get the financing, allowed me to acquire her for my own. My parents have always encouraged me to believe in the impossible, to find ways to accomplish that which I never would think I could do.

Already, she inspires me. I think of her and become radiant.

Hurry, Muse.

Frederick Hart

The purpose of my art is to seek beauty and truth, and to explore and glorify the human being and the universe.
Frederick Hart
[Repost from 6/29/06 -ed]