While I was at the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference, I spent a lot of time in the book fair. I enjoyed chatting with the editors of literary magazines and small presses. If a journal had published me in the past, I stopped in and thanked them. If I wasn't familiar with a journal, I asked about what they published and what they were interested in seeing more of.
At one table, the journal Microfiction Monday was handing out large post-it notes and asking people to write a 100-word story for possible publication in the journal. I took a note, thinking that if I got an idea for a story I would write one quickly for the contest, but not really expecting to turn one in. I go to AWP without expecting to actually do any writing, hoping instead to get inspired.
At the convention, I attended an excellent panel on magical realism in Southern California. However, that wasn't the only reading I went to with magical realist elements. These readings made me think about my own writing. Was I writing magical realism? I had to conclude that with a few exceptions (such as "Psychic Cleaners," and "Friendly Beasts") I either wrote realism (most of my work) or fantastical fiction, such as the odd ghost story or fairy tale. Magical realism (as I understand it) is in-between: an fantastic element injected in an otherwise realistic tale. I felt a sudden urge to write some magical realism. Thinking about magical realism I had read, I thought about how often a person turned into an animal, or a dead person came back as an animal. A large number of those transformations involved birds. Writers seldom seemed to follow Kafka's lead and transform characters into less glamorous creatures. Immediately, I thought of opossums. Specifically, I remembered one staring at me from my backyard avocado tree, and also a small one at my parents' house that I thought was dead but really wasn't.
So I wrote a magical realist story about an opossum. I will confess, though, I wrote it on my computer, then copied it onto the post-it.
Ann Hillesland writes fiction and essays. Her work has appeared in many literary journals, including Fourth Genre, Bayou, The Laurel Review, and Sou’wester.
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