The story behind a story, I recently had published The City that Stole His Daughter, offers insight into the kind of an exercise that can stoke the imagination of a writer.
In Rolf Potts‘ course, Travel Writing as Memoir, in October 2019 sponsored by Santa Fe Workshops, he set before us a “pyschogeography” exercise to prompt the imagination as a flaneur, wandering not so aimlessly through the streets of San Miguel de Allende.
We were to select a color — I picked blue. Wander the street to find the first instance of the color while walking the streets and follow it until it disappeared or ran out of sight. Then pick up the next element of blue and follow it until I walked past it or it fell out of sight. Again and again until a story or fragments came into being.
This process led me to notice a man on a park bench with his hat tipped to shade the sun with a big fat yellow lab asleep underneath. I imagined he had come to the city to see an adult son or daughter who had left the countryside for a better way of life.
I sauntered to a yellow coffee shop with a lavender blue door and shutters, Lavanda, for lemonade and asked for the owner. The manager, Karla, came to visit me about where they purchased their lavender and leapt to the topic of “specialty” coffee.
I recall her excitement as she told me, “Our coffee is fair trade. It is good for the farmer, the roasters, the coffee shop, and our clients. It is a win-win for everyone. It makes a good economy for our community. When asked by customers if our coffee is organic, I must tell that that ‘Yes, it is farmed without pesticides and with the old ways of tilling the fields and harvesting, but sadly no, our government does not regulate for an organic label’.”
When I combined the image of the old man and my imagined story of him with the enthusiasm of Karla about speciality coffee, I had my story.
The Resulting Story
I have submitted the story to contests and for publication several times, revised it each time a bit, and then won honorable mention by WOW! Women on Writing in early 2020 but it was not published. I submitted it for review and feedback by Flash Fiction Magazine and then received substantial recommendations to make changes. They published my 1000-word flash fiction, The City that Stole His Daughter, this week, August 18, 2020. Thanks to Flash Fiction Magazine.