Thanks to everyone who’s voted for “Touch the Sky, They Say” in the 2011 Aurora Awards. It means a lot. If you haven’t voted, you can do so up until October 15. I’ve posted details on how to vote.
That enough of you took the time to nominate it and shared your thoughts on this blog and the AE site moved me. So, I want to share a little bit about why this nomination—and this story—is important to me.
One of my best stories
I consider “Touch the Sky, They Say” one of my best works. Quiet, subtle, with some strong themes and all told in very few words. A lot of my short fiction runs in the 5,000 to 8,000 word range, so I was glad I could tell a complete story in less than 1,000 words (considering my opinions on flash fiction).
And I can’t take offense at some criticism it’s received about being too short—not really a story but a scene—or the plausibility of the world falling apart under scrutiny. Although I could debate both points, as an author I present my work and accept the criticism graciously because these critics took the time to read, ponder and analyze the story.
“Touch the Sky, They Say” was the first story I wrote after my mother’s death in May 2010… though I did not appreciate the effect her passing had on the story until later.
The origin for the story came during the summer of 2010 while riding the bus home from work. I overheard a woman talking about a new job she was considering, but it would mean travel, late nights and time away from her young children. That got me thinking about the glass ceiling: could a literal glass ceiling be used as a speculative element in a short story? By the time I got off the bus, the glass ceiling had become a grey, fallen sky trapping us all. By the time I got home and walked my dogs, I had my main character in mind and the crisis he/she would be facing in this grey new world (the original title of the story, by the way).
Sitting in my backyard, I hammered out a quick draft on my laptop, gave it a polish and sent it to my writers group, the East Block Irregulars, for critique.
What the story is really about
It wasn’t until after their critique that I started looking at the story critically and saw how much of my emotional situation I’d put into the story. Ideas of depression, giving up, wanting to have something back that you’ve lost—it all came from what I was feeling, but not willing to admit to myself. Every character in this story—even the staffer who announces that time is up— is suffering through something and is on that platform contemplating giving in.
Luckily, the story ends with something else I’d been feeling: not giving up, moving forward, dealing with your situation. The main character and the kid with the spiky hair resist the angry looks from those who have given up and resent their determination.
If there’s something I want people to take away from this story, it’s that lesson—don’t ever give up because it’s hard or others have thrown in the towel.
A peek behind the curtain
So, at the risk of being too personal, that’s why this story and nomination matter to me. My mom has always been supportive of my writing. Something good (the story) came from the mix of emotions I went through after her death. And I hope this story has had an effect on its readers: to not give up, not give in, and keep fighting for what they want when others have taken the easy way out and given in.
I won’t beg or use some gimmicky “Do it for my mom” cliché. But I will say if you liked what the story is about and dig what I’m trying get across, please give it your vote.