Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 16

Here’s my Friday Flash Fiction Entry for this week.

This is this week’s picture prompt:


First Woman Jury, Los Angeles, Nov 1911. PD photo by Library of Congress.

The required story element the conflict between man (not gender-specific) and self.

what struck me about this picture were two things: the empty chair and the hats! How varied and amazing they are. I would have liked to write a story about those hats, but unfortunately my knowledge of millinery etiquette in US at the time is non-existent, so I didn’t dare venture into that territory.

On the other hand, I stared at that chair and wondered what the women were looking at, the camera? the accused? the victim?

Well,I decided they were looking at the photographer, and the following dialogue ensued in my mind…


The Empty Chair 


“Smile ladies. This photograph will make history. The first woman jury. You are indeed privileged.”

“Please wait. I’m afraid you can’t take the photograph yet, sir.”

“Why not?”

“Someone is missing,” said the woman next to the empty chair.

“Who’s counting? Smile, I haven’t got all day!”

“We have to wait for Hazel. There has to be twelve in the picture,” she insisted.

“Where did she go?”

“Her husband needed his lunch.”


“She had to prepare lunch for her family.”

“Her duty is to the community. She has been appointed to be on the jury.”

“I’m afraid her husband only understands it’s his lunchtime.”

“Does he realise she could have serious problems for not fulfilling her municipal duties?”

“She’ll be back soon, I’m sure,” the woman implored.

“Your honor,” started the photographer. “I suggest calling the police to bring her back.”

“If her husband’s lunch isn’t on the table, she’ll have more serious problems than a visit from the police,” explained the woman.

The gavel hit the sounding block as the judge glared at the photographer, “We will adjourn until four o’clock. You can take your photograph then. Tending to her husband is far more important than a simple speeding motorcyclist. Don’t you agree, Young man?”


I wonder how the men of the time accepted women on the jury? And even what women themselves thought about it?

Fortunately we’ve come a long way since then, and I can imagine the emotional struggle each woman fought to reconcile the  advances in civil rights for women and their traditional obligations to their families.

According to the Library of Congress the photograph shows: the first all-woman jury in California who acquitted the editor of the Watts News of printing indecent language, on Nov. 2, 1911. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2009 and Los Angeles Times, Nov. 3, 1911)

If you’d like to know more about this weekly contest or check out some of the other stories follow this link.

Building from Bullying. #1000Speak 20 March

A Peer Mediation Project

While I was a High School teacher, I witnessed a lot of bullying. Mainly seemingly minor incidents such as: name calling, hiding or stealing personal objects, excluding by ignoring, spreading cruel gossip, etc. More recently, cyber bullying also became popular, where the same actions were performed on social media.

Although teachers are often the first to identify these events, a great deal of bullying goes unnoticed by adults, including parents, because the bullies are devious, and they have many accomplices, or people who are prepared to turn a blind eye, and even take part in the torture by watching and enjoying.

I started a peer mediation project at my school, which I’d like to share with you today, because it helped with many cases, but first, I’d like to share a piece of flash fiction on this subject, which I believe illustrates the point dramatically.


Mary was Alone

Miss Smith wrote the five words on the blackboard: Mary was alone at home.
“Now let’s finish the story together,” she invited the students.

Mary trembled. It was happening again in broad daylight.

“Mary? Stop daydreaming. Could you give us the next line?” ordered the teacher.

How could she know the child was struggling with a recurring nightmare?

“Let’s give Mary some ideas to proceed with the story. Can I have a second line from someone else?”

Mathew put his hand up and spoke, “She saw him watching her from across the parking lot, opposite her bedroom window.”

“Sounds good. Does that help, Mary?”

She shook her head, thankful that her hair covered her tearful eyes.

“He took pictures of her as she undressed,” continued Mark.

“He shared them with his friends on Facebook,” volunteered Peter.

“Can you continue now, Mary?” asked Miss Smith.

“She’s a nervous wreck, because she can’t eat, sleep, or study.”

“Change that line for: ‘she enjoyed the attention she’d never had before’,” Luke smirked.

“How does the story end, Miss Smith?” Mary asked desperately.

“She tells her teacher, who helps her understand she’s a victim of bullying and needs help.”

“She better not, Miss. Teachers’ bedrooms have windows, too,” warned Shirley.


I wrote this in response to a photo prompt on today’s Flash! Friday Contest, check out the other entries here:

It is my opinion that children, including adolescents, cannot cope with bullies on their own. They need the help of understanding and experienced adults, especially teachers, and other students, too. I became interested in this topic after taking part in mediation training courses for teachers. Students at my school also took part in similar courses.

I realized we needed students in the school mediation project because students who are being bullied can be more easily identified by other students, and students can understand and relate to each other more easily and willingly than with an adult.

We established various stages:


  • Building awareness, and making the mediators and project known to students. Mediators were allocated a room, a mail box, and information was given to the community.
  • Reception of information /cases. This could be done by means of an anonymous or identified written communication by a third party, or a personal request by someone who was experiencing it directly.

Both parties have to agree to take part in mediation.

This is the best part and the biggest drawback. You can’t force someone to take part in mediation, and I hate to admit it, but I believe that the worst cases can’t be solved by mediation, because the bully refuses to cooperate.Fortunately, once they agree to take part, 50% of the work is done.

We offered all parties involved absolute privacy in all proceedings and a reduced (or even no) reprimand if they agreed to take part and reached an agreement.

Stages to mediation:

  • Separate interviews. Peer mediators speak to each party separately about the events.
  • Joint discussion. Mediators guide a session where both parties speak in turns about (i) what has happened, (ii) how they feel about the events, and (iii) what they ask of each other.

Active listening is encouraged by asking each party to rephrase what the other has said, immediately after each intervention, to make sure they are listening and understanding each other’s feelings and motivations.

Surprisingly, we sometimes discovered that the victim was doing something, unknowingly, that the bully interpreted as an offence, or that the bully had got the wrong end of the stick. Amazingly many of the cases were, or had started as misunderstandings.

Closure. Finally, an agreement, which could be total or partial, was reached by both parties.

  • The worst scenario was that they agreed to ‘ignore’ or ‘keep away’ and not harm or provoke each other in any way.
  • The best scenario was a mutual understanding and a return to normal relations between both parts.

Post Mediation Stage

  • Students (mediators) follow-up informally to make sure the situation hasn’t worsened.
  • Students who insisted on bullying after mediation suffered harder disciplinary measures. This rarely occurred.

The only drawback is that this works with ‘reasonable’ children who suffer or indulge in ‘routine’ or simpler cases of bullying, however, more serious cases which often go beyond the school walls need much more specialized and coordinated action with families, psychologists, social workers, and even law enforcement.

I’m convinced that the vast majority of incidents of bullying in schools, which I have witnessed, are not of the complex type, and therefore can be improved with peer mediation projects.

Have you had any experience of similar projects at your schools?

How Flash Fiction Has Improved My Writing

I started writing Flash Fiction for fun, and because it was a challenge.

I read and write mostly Victorian novels, so I tend to get verbose at times!

I’m trying to write more concise prose, and I find that the linguistic and mental exercise of having to cut out all the unnecessary words has been enlightening.

How did this awareness of the need for concise prose happen? Basically following the strict word limits imposed by the challenges, reading other writers’ flash fiction, and realizing that there are many superfluous words, so less can be more.

These are some challenges I’ve been taking part in: 99-word Carrot Ranch  and Bite-Size memoir , Writer Wednesday Blog Hop, and Flash! Friday challenge which used to ne 150 and is now 200 words.

How do I go about my ‘flash’ writing process?

The same as my normal writing process. I think about the situation, idea, or prompt I’m going to write about, until I ‘see’ something in my mind’s eye, and I write.

I let the ideas flow uncurbed and I don’t count the words. When I’ve finished the first draft, I stop to reread and count.

I used to be disastrous at this, writing 250, instead of 150, for example. It used to upset me because cutting back was so traumatic. I love all my words. I believe I put them there for a purpose. They’re all essential, I thought, until I started consciously cutting them down and realized that there were far too many.

When you write Flash Fiction, you have to think about every single word. These are some of the questions I ask myself which help me decide which words stay, and which are crossed out.

  • Does the word move the story on?
  • Does the word tell the reader something essential?
  • If I read the text without the word does the sentence still convey my intended meaning?
  • Can I include the idea behind the word in another shorter way, for example with another expression or a different verb?
  • Finally I have to prioritize. I may need all the words, but I must decide which words, or groups of words, even whole lines, are more essential than others to convey my meaning?

Awareness gradually grew, and after about six months of writing flash fiction, I’m usually able to congratulate my subconscious counter (censor?) because much like our biological timer, I am not usually too far over the mark.

Unfortunately, as a result of writing Flash Fiction, I’ve come to dislike certain words, so that whenever I see them, I cringe.

I never thought I could dislike a word, a harmless, nice little word. I love words. But the more I read and edit my own work, the more I have come to hate not only one, but various words, because they’re often useless, and become a bad habit.

I am convinced I’ve become a far more conscious, critical and demanding reader of my own work, and the work of others, as a result of reading and writing flash fiction, and there’s no going back.

I feel annoyed when a novel has a good plot and compelling characters, yet the writing is careless. I sometimes finish and actually enjoy parts of such novels, although it’s like eating a delicious meal on a dirty tablecloth. The meal itself is satisfying, and although I feel like praising the cook, the crumbs and stains around my plate are distracting and off-putting. I’d certainly give the book less stars for this reason.

There’s no excuse for careless writing. Every writer must have an editor and/or proof reader. I had two for my first novel, and I’m convinced it’s the best thing I did, after writing the novel!

Unfortunately, it often seems that some writers either don’t bother to hire an editor, or perhaps there are some unprofessional editors out there.

However, before your manuscript reaches your beta readers, and later your editor, writers should ensure they do so in the best possible conditions.

Everyone who has published a novel knows that a first draft will undergo many changes before the final version is produced.

However, this first draft needs to be polished, and left to rest, and edited again, perhaps even more than once depending on how much you edit as you write, or how attune to detail you happen to be.

I carefully read over every single word when I’m out to ‘unclutter’ my writing, however, the following are the most irritating words for me. I always run a word check on my own work to see if I have too many of them, because they’re a nasty habit.

Very, Really, A bit, Really, Rather, There is and there are, start to, begin, thing, this type of, so, well. Prepositions where they’re not needed like ‘near to’.

As we’re on the subject of cleaning our prose, there are a couple of other things which irritate me.

I have a big issue with ‘gotten’ and ‘get to’’, and sometimes even with ‘get’ itself when it becomes repetitive.
Why say, ‘I didn’t get to go,’ instead of ‘I didn’t go’?

Why say, ‘it’s gotten late,’ or ‘It got late’, instead of ‘it’s late’? I realize there’s a slight difference in meaning, but is the ‘process of getting late’ going to move the story on or tell the reader something he/she doesn’t already know?

Does every adjective and adverb have to be there? Do two adjectives together add essential and diverse meaning?

Try to avoid well-known expressions and clichés, and if you do use them, don’t repeat them throughout the novel. When a character’s heart is continuously ‘racing’ or ‘thumping’, the reader will start to worry that he/she needs a heart valve!

Here are some more interesting articles on self-editing: ‘Tightening your Copy‘ , 200 Common Redundancies, Ten Top Tips to Instantly Improve Your Writing

What’s your experience of writing flash fiction? Has it helped you improve your writing, too?

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 10: Androcles, the Lion, the Kitten, and the Gladiator!

George Bernard Shaw is my second-favourite playwright.

It all started at school, when we had to read Androcles and the Lion, surprisingly at a R.C. Convent school. The play humorously and ironically portrays different types of Christians, and criticizes the hypocrisy and absurdity of some practices and beliefs.



Lavinia has some is brilliant lines. For example, when the Emperor visits the Christians who are about to be martyred:

Lavinia: Blessing, Caesar, and forgiveness!
Caesar: (turning in some surprise at the salutation) There is no forgiveness for Christianity.
Lavinia: I did not mean that, Caesar. I mean that we forgive you.
Metellus: An inconceivable liberty! Do you not know, woman, that the Emperor can do no wrong and therefore can not be forgiven?
Lavinia: I expect the Emperor knows better. Anyhow, we forgive him.
The Christians: Amen!
The Captain: A martyr, Lavinia, is a fool. Your death will prove nothing.
Lavinia: Then why kill me?”

Later, on my own initiative, I read a few more of his plays, courtesy of my local library; Man and Superman, A Doctor’s Dilema (my second favourite of his plays), Pygmalion, Saint Joan, and Mrs. Warren’s Profession.


I actually saw this one at the Old Vic. Those were the days…


But the play I enjoyed most was Candida. I was nineteen when I first saw Deborah Kerr playing the main role in London’d West End, and I imagined myself playing that part (I wanted to be an actress then). I waited for hours at the back stage door for her autograph on my programme, and it was worth it, although she never came anywhere near my programme.



This Programme is 37 years old! I can’t believe I’ve kept it (and found it) after all these years…


She offered us a smile, which I can still remember, and was wafted away like a feather into the London skyline.

Now, I’m the right age to play the part (a year younger than Ms Kerr), but I’m in the wrong profession, unless I ever join an amateur dramatics group and convince them to put it on. There’s an idea!




Back to Androcles. Last Friday’s Flash! Friday prompt was a Gladiator and a picture of a cute kitten. This is what I came up with, inspired by my dear G. B. Shaw and his Androcles, both of whom seem to have been forgotten to younger generations, so let’s remind them about the story…

My entry for Flash! Friday 13th February

“So, is this flash fiction about gladiators?”
“It’s about a guy called Androcles who was a Christian in pagan Rome. He saw a lion with a huge thorn stuck in its paw.”
“A lion in Rome?”
“There were lions everywhere then. It was a wild and savage world. No electricity, running water, or mobiles. So Androcles took out the lion’s thorn and they become friends.”
“This is a fable; a story including animals, with a meaning.”
“And what’s the meaning?”
“You’ll know when I finish telling you the plot. Androcles was taken prisoner. The Romans didn’t believe in free speech or freedom of religion.”
“Poor lion, lost a nice owner.”
“The lion was taken prisoner, too. Lions were used in the coliseum to fight with the gladiators, sometimes they ate up Christians too, for enjoyment.”
“A gladiator at last!”
“Chance would have it that Androcles and the lion came face to face in combat.”
“No kidding! I bet the lion remembered Androcles and refused to fight.”
“Exactly! He purred like a kitty when he saw him. How did you guess?”
“Because in all the films I’ve seen, it’s the gladiator who does all the killing. I suppose the gladiator does away with both of them, right?”

No drama this week 🙂

Would you like to read some of this weeks’ other entries? Check them out here

Flash! Friday Contest and King Sisyphus

I’m back again! I’ve taken part in most Flash Friday Contests since last summer, but this is my first one this year!

What do Flash Friday Contest and King Sisyphus have in common?

Basically the recurrent and repetitive nature of the challenge they face. So, is that a good thing or not? Isn’t everything we do repeated periodically… incessantly? What’s new in our lives? in the history of humanity?

Life often seems monotonous and disheartening. We do essentially the same things day after day, endlessly. We have the illusion of moving forward, and then we have to start all over again.

Winter with its leafless trees and barren fields reminds us of death, and the inevitable cycle of life, and long cold evenings invite our minds to search for impossible answers to eternal questions…



Sisyphus by Titian (1548–49) by Titian, Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain

The repetitive nature of life reminded me, once again, of what happened to the avaricious, deceitful, and murderous King Sisyphus. Zeus condemned him to roll a huge enchanted boulder up a steep hill, and once he reached the top the boulder rolled downhill again. Sisyphus followed it back down and resumed his useless task, time and time again.


Albert Camus, became my favourite writer when I read La Chute for my French ‘A’ level, as a teenager, and my appreciation grew when I was studying French, at College. In his 1942 essay The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus introduces his philosophy of the absurd, comparing the absurdity of man’s life with Sisyphus’s futile occupation.

On his way down, burdenless, Sisyphus searches for meaning in an incomprehensible world devoid of God and eternal truths or values, while on his way up he is occupied with the unachievable task: the boulder will never stay at the top.

In spite of this, according to Camus, Sisyphus is finally happy because he has understood and accepted his absurd fate. In other words, the knowledge and acceptance that life is a meaningless task with no hope of completion, is our only chance of happiness. Or is it?


The struggle
I still admire Camus’s insatiable search for the meaning of life, however, I used to think I wasn’t so pessimistic or critical, any more. Perhaps because I have children and grandchildren, who have given my life another perspective, or perhaps because over thirty years have passed, and my rebellious search for a rational explanation to the ‘meaning of life’, has been dulled.

Yet last Friday, something happened. I saw a picture and wrote a story, and I realized that Camus’ ‘absurd’ is more ingrained in my subconscious, than I thought.

Photo prompt Flash Friday Fiction Challenge 6th February


Dragons bidding


My entry: North and South.

I looked over the barren fields, dry wells, famished cattle, and dug my blackened nails into the thick, crumbly earth. My parched lips made a last feeble effort to cry for mercy.

I remembered how just before the meteor struck our planet, she had appeared and walked through me. I felt a shudder and my body froze for less than an instant.

“Ask and it shall be given,” she said.
“I want to live,” I begged.
“Go south,” she whispered and was gone.

That’s why I was there, dying in the waterless south.
Once again, I sensed the shadow of the spectre approach.

“Ask and it shall be given,” she teased.
“Water,” I implored. “My people need water.”
“Go north,” she whispered and left.

I turned to my people and said, “We must go north.”
They followed hopefully.

When we arrived, the streets were wet. We rejoiced and drank, and thanked the Gods.

The next day, the flooding started. Within days we were living in boats, frantically searching for dry land.

The fleeting ghost returned once more.

“Ask and it shall be given,” she smiled.
“Will it always be like this?” I cried.
She nodded and left.

@LucciaGray (200 words).

Want to To read some of the other stories? You’ll find them here

I’d like to finish on a more optimistic note. I’m sure we can be happy, but only Today.

Today is all we have, so make the most of it.

Have a wonderful day!


Flash! Friday (Micro Fiction) Contest

Eternal Love

The evening sun was waning and I needed her consent before conversion.
‘I offer you eternal love, Mina,’ I promised.
She looked into the glass of wine, lips pursed, and shook her head.
‘I prefer mortality.’
Seconds later I rushed out to the sound of the opening door. Lucy had arrived unexpectedly.
‘I couldn’t wait!’ She cried as she pushed past me into the hotel suite.
She kicked the door shut, grabbed my hand, and pulled me into the bedroom.
I heard the gust of wind waft into the adjacent room as the sliding balcony doors were pushed apart.
‘Did you miss me?’ she asked.
‘We need to talk.’ I answered.
‘Later…’ she whispered.
I heard the click of the door.
‘Let’s have some wine first,’ I said as I pulled her out to the balcony.
‘Sure. Whatever you were having,’ she said picking up the glass on the railing.
The sun set.
No time to explain.


I’ve never written a vampire story before and I’m not a fan of vampire novels or vampire films!

However, I must admit I do love the gothic aspect of vampire literature, and I did love Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’ll never forget Christopher Lee in the film role, perhaps because I was young and impressionable when I first saw it…

I can’t imagine what I saw in the photograph and glass of wine to concoct this crazy story!

Now I need to go back to re-re-re proofreading All Hallows at Eyre Hall for print…

By the way, Do you want to take part in Flash! Friday?

There’s still time today! or you can do so any Friday.


* Word count: Write a 150-word story (10-word leeway on either side) based on the photo prompt.

How: Post your story here in the comments. Include your word count (140 – 160 words, excluding title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Monday

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Wednesday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity.

Whatever you do, make sure you have a great weekend!