Monday, February 5, 2018
A short story I wrote, “The Illustrated Queenfisher” was just published in Abstract Magazine (I'm digging that art they've paired it up with). Read it here: http://abstractmagazinetv.com/2018/02/05/the-illustrated-queenfisher-by-matt-poll/
Fooled another one, heh heh. I just re-read it, and I hate it now – ugh, I guess that’s normal. I’ve written close to twenty of these “X-files/Twilight Zone” birding tales, it would be cool to put ‘em all together some day.
The inspiration for this story came from the moment when I saw my first Common Kingfisher in Korea way back in 2005. It was hovering over a misty pond at dawn, a beam of sun lighting it up in shades of neon turquoise and orange. For a few seconds, I thought I was looking at an actual fairy.
Admittedly, this story, while about birds, is not exactly about birding. There was a whole birding story arc in the original story, which rambled past 6,000 words and wasn’t close to being done. Not knowing where to go with it, I scrapped it and remolded the best parts into a “flash fiction” story, which generally means 1,000 words or less.
For the writers out there, I would recommend writing a few flashes as a way of salvaging failed ideas, or just as an exercise in trimming the fat from your storytelling (I’ve still got a long way to go on that front). It can be challenging to tell a story in under a thousand words, so it forces you to cut to the chase. For example, in this latest story, I initially spent three paragraphs describing how a character was disheveled and downtrodden, and the troubled life that led him down that road. That cost me about 600 words, so I replaced all that with the word “unshaven,” hoping the reader would fill in the blanks. Another advantage to writing flash fiction is that if the story sucks, you’ve only wasted a day or two on it, instead of a week or two.
Birds Korea has just come out with their 2018 Checklist, hurray! Download and/or view it here: http://www.birdskoreablog.org/?p=20395
Nial Moores and some other folks put a whole lot of work into this, and this time, I was able to put in a little of my own (editing/proofreading). While there were a couple of long nights, it was rewarding to get elbow deep into the mud of it, get an intimate feel for the list, and the changes since the 2014 checklist. The statuses of some species have shifted for the worse - more evidence of the disturbing downward trend of bird populations in Korea, and indeed all across our thin-skinned little orb.
It was also a reminder of the species that have turned up in Korea for the first time over the past few years (Grey-sided Thrush! Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher!), and indeed, the huge repertoire of birds I’ve yet to see there. A good reason to go back, amidst a turbulent sea of reasons not to.
Hey, I’m going to Cuba next week! Tody or not Tody, that is the question.