About The Bar Room Door

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My flash fiction piece, “The Bar Room Door,” is up at the great new online literary magazine, Cease, Cows. It’s kind of about Madison. In a way. And yes, there’s an explanation for the name of the lit mag (Cease, Cows). It has to do with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Check it out.

Fast facts
First draft written: August 2013
Number of drafts: around 5
Number of rejections: 4
From submission to publication: 2 months

The idea

I must have been driving up to campus, early in the morning. I always go down 2nd Street in Madison, past The Central Hotel bar. This is a bar in Madison that I’ve never been in, but the kind that does business all hours of the night and day.

Madison Historic District in Madison Indiana

The Central Hotel is on the far left, and you can maybe just see the door

That morning, the door to the bar was open. It was a nice day, and I wondered what it would be like to get some fresh air into a bar like that. I’ve spent some time (mostly in college) in smoky bars, and the smell never seems to go away. Would it be possible, I wondered, to air it out? Could you sit in the bar and think to yourself, what a nice day?

Bars sometimes seem like they are as far removed as possible from what’s happening outside; they are the places you go to escape the rain or heat or cold. What if you opened up the bar door and nature came in?

The writing

The first draft of this story was written out by hand, which is strange for me. I’d been working most of the summer on the draft of a novel, which involves a lot of sitting with a computer. I think I liked the idea of writing something so short, you could do it in one sitting in a notebook. I might have written it in bed one night.

In August, I had just come home from the Midwest Writer’s Workshop, where I attended Roxane Gay’s session on the Art of Compression in fiction. I was discovering all the amazing things people are doing with flash fiction. The great thing about the form to me seemed to be the ability to capture tiny, tiny moments of life and make them interesting and beautiful. Anything at all could become a flash fiction piece, like an open door to a bar.

The who

I liked the name “Rob” for the bad guy. It seems so innocuous, and it’s also what my family calls me. My husband read this piece, too. I believe what he said was, “Weird,” which is about right. This story might be slipstream–not really science fiction, not really fantasy, a little bit like magical realism. Or, as my husband put it, weird.

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Comments

  1. Lynn Carlson says:

    I read it. Weird, but in a good way. Some of my writing veers off into magical realism too.

    I spent too much time in college in those kinds of bars. I have a vague memory of being really drunk at, like, 10 a.m. and peering out one of those doors, asking my then-boyfriend, later ex-husband, “When are they going to let us out of here?”

    Thanks for the insight into your creative process.

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