Topic: Hello All, Old but New!

It's hard to believe that I haven't been here in 4 years, but I contracted for annual renewal, so here I am again, and my membership is up-to-date. Amazing! At any rate, this place has changed so much, I barely recognize it. Things that I came looking for, like groups that talk about self-publishing, are hard to find. But the most important feature is still here - I get to post my stories.

Four years ago, I had a muse. No, wait, 35 years ago, I had a muse. And together, we wrote abundant poetry. I think many teenagers have muses and write poetry. So I can't say if mine was good or bad. But my muse was so incredible. She could inspire me to pour poetry onto a page in effortless mania. I can't begin to describe how wonderful it was. And then she left. I didn't notice much - I was busy doing other things, but then I started dating a writer. He encouraged me to write, and I found a story in me that I tried to put on paper. But, being used to poetry, writing a full-length novel did not suit me, and I abandoned the project. Fast forward to 5 years ago. My muse came to me, unexpectedly. I don't know what I was doing. I've always journalled, I've always communicated in flowing prose, but I didn't expect a story. But Mourning Angela screamed to come out, and when I wrote it, it was so satisfying that I wrote another, and another. I wrote a total of 9 stories. Not enough for a collection, but each one a joy to see come to fruition. My therapist reminds me that it was a dangerous time. Because it consumed me. All I could think about was my stories. Writing them, nurturing them, honing them. And then as magically as she came, my muse left me. I have no words for the pain. I must have been going through something that created a void that needed filling. My muse filled that void and when she left, I struggled to get through each day. Eventually, I recovered myself, and went back to life without a muse. I didn't try to write. It was pointless. When my muse was with me, words flowed from my fingertips. Effortlessly. There was such creative passion. And when she was gone, there were no new ideas, no flow. If I tried to form an idea, it wouldn't come out. So I put it aside. With some reminiscence, but life was fuller, job called, husband called, mother called. Maybe my muse had to go because I had so many other responsibilities. But I missed her terribly.

Fast forward to a family reunion a week ago. I walked past a list of people who were going to perform for a talent show and something sparked inside of me. It said "You have a talent; read one of your stories." It came right out of nowhere, but it felt right, so I went and found one. It had a few rough edges, but I was able to polish it up. I read it to myself, and it took 15 minutes, so I knew I could only read an excerpt. I burned with excitement. I was going to share a story! And then the MC announced that there was no time for the talent show. And I felt punched in the gut. I wanted to get and shout - you have to let me read this!!! Someone must have heard my internal cry, because the talent show went forward. Dancers and singers, some good, some bad. And then it was my turn. Dead last. I read my story and got thunderous applause. People came up to me afterwards with praise, and I burned with pride. One cousin offered to publish my stories... for $1700. It was tempting, although way too high. I promised myself I'd shop around. And then, the thought hit me - could I write more stories? I didn't think so, but I started to write anyway. And all of a sudden, my muse was back.

"Swimming" is the first story I've written in 4 years. If you've read this far, you know I'm going to ask you to critique it. And if you write short stories, I would be happy to read yours. I'm not good at critiquing. I'm more likely to give an emotional response. That I liked it and what I liked about it. But if you're anything like me, you love feedback. So let us exchange.

I am going to have to control my muse. There is so much going on in my life that I can't let her take over. But during lunch, or in the evenings, I will set her free and we will go together into the magical flow of words.

I am so happy to be here.

Lauren Foster