The First Break

By: Robin Laborde

The email was matter of fact:

Dear Robin:

Thank you for your submission to the annual Ghosts of Downtown flash fiction event. Your story will join those used by Downtown Colorado Springs to spook visitors on their tours in the month of October.

It was SO matter of fact I had to read it again. Wait, did that just say my story had been selected? Well, not exactly. My story “will join” the others, which I suppose, is a selection of sorts. Or at least not an exclusion.

Now, there was no money involved in this contest, no byline, and quite possibly, no mention of it anywhere else but in this brief email and during the tour itself. But it was still one of the most exciting moments I’ve had as a writer, because it was a first.

That sense of wonder, that tickle in the brain, that is the rare and precious thing. I’ll happily chase it for the rest of my life.

After I graduated with a spanking new bachelor’s degree in English, I can remember being so hungry to see my words in print that I would write ANYTHING. Sales letter? Sure! General website content? Absolutely, I’m your girl. Contest instructions? You got it! (Actually, I enjoyed writing contest instructions, in a passive-aggressive bossy sort of way.) I jumped at the chance to write unpaid concert and theatre reviews for a short-lived independent newspaper, parlaying this experience into a few paid articles for a slightly longer-lived independent newspaper. I earned twenty-five whole dollars for each bland little item that probably six people in the world ever read, including me. At last I landed a job as a technical writer and was able to make a decent living with my writing, producing pages and pages and pages of methodical instructions, informational tables, and bulleted lists.

But somewhere along the way, I became numb. I started to feel like writing was a pedestrian thing, a kind of space filler measured between the thumb and forefinger of an art director. I heard the phrase, “Nobody ever reads the instructions anyway” more times than I can count. I lost the excitement of starting a new technical manual because I knew how it would end up: slashed up, pissed on, and pasted back together like a half-dead Frankenstein’s monster, unrecognizable as anything that came from my brain, stripped of even the infinitesimal shred of creativity that attended its conception.

So that’s why I am so excited for this little story. Because it is a STORY. I made it up, 430 words about a the ghost of a dead girl haunting downtown Colorado Springs, something that didn’t exist before I thought of it, and which will (hopefully) entertain and amuse those who hear it read aloud on a crisp fall day, and make them wonder if maybe, just maybe, such a thing could happen . . . That sense of wonder, that tickle in the brain, that is the rare and precious thing. I’ll happily chase it for the rest of my life.


Robin Laborde

Robin Laborde is not sure exactly how long she has been a member of Pikes Peak Writers but she enjoys it very much. She worked as a technical writer for over ten years and has had nonfiction articles published in newspapers and magazines. She is currently writing a speculative fiction novel and working part-time at the East Library in Colorado Springs.