I am delighted to announce that a piece of short fiction I wrote, The Red Mug, has been published by Compass Literary Journal and you can read it online. This is the fifth story of the collection to be published and the fourth story to be published that began its life during my stint at the Playa Summer Lake residency in 2012. I’ve said it before, mostly as a joke, but now I’m beginning to take it seriously: There is some serious creative mojo emanating from that place.
Here’s the inspiration for the story. I once owned a red mug. It was my writing mug. I had it throughout the 1990s, and I was so attached to it that I took it with me to Washington State where I did my first artist residency in 2001. If it’s possible to love an inanimate object, then I loved this red mug. At the end of that residency I had a feeling that I should leave it in my studio. I felt like this idea came from the mug. It had served me well and now, it told me, it was time to spread its magic to the artists who would be in that studio after me. So I left it there, without remorse and with some pride.
You should stop here if you haven’t read the story but plan to.
This is a rare instance when I don’t have anyone to thank for helping me out with my work. I didn’t give it to anyone to read for feedback or comments. I had the latest draft on my computer and read it on the plane to Arizona a couple of weeks ago. I thought all it needed were a few small changes. I made those and submitted it to Compass the first day I was at Arcosanti, one day before their submission deadline. What drew me to Compass? Their mission statement includes this sentence: “We as a magazine aim to explore how individuals experience and articulate loss (whether in their lives or others).” Oh yes, the collection is very much about loss.
Okay, really, don’t read any more if you haven’t read the story.
Okay, here’s the rest of the story.
In 2004 my mother died. Six months later I was kind of pulling it together. Still numb, but not crying all the time and not terribly depressed. One afternoon I went to a Bed, Bath & Beyond shopping for I don’t remember what and I came upon shelf after shelf of that brand of mug, same style, multiple colors, blue mugs, white mugs, black mugs, green mugs, yellow mugs, and red mugs.
I stood in front of them, paralyzed and overwhelmed by a sense of loss. Not only of my mother, but of myself. I felt like my life had gone off the tracks, though I couldn’t say how or why or when, and that the person I was, the person who was creative, funny, smart, curious, the person who had so much potential, that person was gone. Gone forever.
It was part of my grieving and it seemed right for this character in the collection to have a similar experience.
Other stories in the collection:
12-Bar Blues (Sorry this one is not online. You’d have to buy it from the publisher, Pilgrimage)
Want still more writing?