The places we go when we’re not looking

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post about not having the energy to write about my roots and being able to accept the fact that I faked the writing that day. I was (and still am) okay with my decision not to push myself that day, but I am amused by the subsequent turn of events. I also have to laugh about Charli Mills’ writing challenge this week over at the Carrot Ranch as I am more and more convinced that Charli has spy-bots in my brain.

When I write, I like to dig deep. Many writing experts harp on the need to overcome our fears when writing and even embrace them. Honestly, I don’t know any other way to write; when I don’t expose those deep dark feelings, I feel like I am phoning it all in or that I am fraud. So when I called myself out publicly in my last blog post, it was partially to give myself a pass for once and partially to remind myself  that I was giving myself a pass.

But I absolutely refused to give myself another break.

And then I got an editing project that took all of my energy. While working on it, I felt more drained than ever before. The project was amazing and fascinating, but it was also extremely painful. The book was written by a recovering addict; it detailed the deepest, darkest depths of her addiction using a no-holds-barred approach. Her family situation while growing up was far from ideal, but she seemed to overcome those challenges and traveled the world, established a meaningful career, and took the steps to build what most would deem to be a highly successful life…only to succumb to her own demons several years later.

Although her story was radically different than my own, I found so many points with which I could empathize that I ended up (tentatively!) exploring my roots even when I had just said I wasn’t emotionally ready to do so. I can’t help but think that, had I delved into my roots and dug deep for my writing two weeks ago, I never would have survived that editing project. As it happened, I slept for nearly two days after completing the project because I was physically and emotionally exhausted from the work.

Can you say serendipitous? Charli Mills can, because that is her prompt for this week’s challenge: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that reveals or explores a moment of serendipity.

In the Cards

Madrid, New Mexico, was barely a blip on our map where we stopped to eat runny eggs and salty hash browns before stretching our legs downtown. We stepped into a mom-and-pop store with hand-painted silverware in the window. We picked through geckos carved into metal and chunks of turquoise until we found old black-and-white photographs turned into kitschy postcards for the tourists. We bought the one showing our seventeen-year-old mother wearing cheap lace. She was laughing with a man whose flattened boutonniere sagged from his lapel. Back on the road, we studied the first clue to finding our father.


Waaaaaay back in September I used one of Charli’s prompts to develop the context of a new short story. I can finally share the story with you, but just as a heads up, it has some pretty vivid (and gory) details. It is the season of Halloween, after all, so I am hoping a little extra gruesome is okay. If you’re up for the challenge, it’s called Therapy Sessions.





  • Oh, wow! Lots of serendipity colliding here. Sometimes the gift is in recognizing that stuck moment and being grateful we were stuck. Better to get through the difficult project and be able to reflect better on your own points of connection than to push for it before you are ready. Great flash! I often wonder who those people are in those kitschy postcards. And now there is a clue! And your short story! I remember that flash…oh, yes, gruesome but great dark humor. Love seeing the expanded version.

    Charli MillsOctober 20, 2015
    • I’m waiting for the day when I recognize one of those “old photos” as someone I know (especially now that Polaroids from the 70s are considered old…ouch)

      C. JaiOctober 21, 2015
  • October 21, 2015

    […] In the Cards byC. Jai Ferry […]

  • It was a good thing you decided to give yourself a break – it prepared you for the whammy that life had in store. I can just imagine how draining it would have been and how much you needed the sleep afterwards.
    I love the flash. How exciting to find a parent/both parents while digging around in a bric-a-brac store! I hope they find their father too.

    Norah ColvinOctober 21, 2015
    • The break was definitely an unexpected saving grace, yet even today I am beating myself up for just phoning in the writing. *sigh*

      C. JaiOctober 21, 2015
  • First time stopping by your site C. Jai and glad I did. Wow. I love your audacity 🙂 Or maybe it’s just sheer honesty. Anyway, I am inspired. Exposing the deep dark feelings is hard, but when it’s done sincerely and not for cheap thrills, well then that’s honest writing. And loved the flash. I’ve been in plenty of places like the one you describe, in Arizona and New Mexico. Never tire of looking at those old photos and always appreciate the kitsch that is born out of our fascination with the past. It speaks deeply, too, of the mystery that our parents really are to us….Oh, read your short story too. I think there are many women out there who would a real Thelma-and-Louise thrill from it.

    Jeanne LombardoOctober 22, 2015
    • Audacity — one of my favorite words! (And boy did I get in trouble with it as a kid…and as an adult). Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting 🙂

      C. JaiOctober 22, 2015

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