Thursday, 26 May 2011

Short Story/Novella Week: A Polish Heart by Stephanie Burkhart

What I like about writing short stories is that they challenge one to focus on one or two characters and to get to the "heart" of the story using a word count. I cut my teeth as a writer refining my short story skills. In fact, my short story" "Spontaneous Decision" won 8th Place in the mainstream category at the 77th Annual Writer's Digest Competition.

My short story, "A Polish Heart" is a bit of a departure for me, but one I enjoyed. Why is it a departure? It's an international inspirational romantic contemporary. (I tend to gravitate toward paranormal, steampunk, fantasy romance and horror) In fact, "A Polish Heart" is my first inspirational!

The opportunity to write an inspirational provided itself when Rebecca Vickory put out a call for the Victory Tales Press Spring/Easter anthology. She was looking for sweet family inspirationals. I jumped at the chance to try something new.

I like contemporaries, but I enjoy giving my contemporary stories an international flare; partly because of being stationed in Germany when I was in the army, and partly because I love Mona Risk's international contemporaries. I knew I wanted to visit another country with the story. But where?

I took a page from my own family background. I have strong Polish roots and these roots were my starting point for the story. We'd all go over my grandmother's house for Easter. She'd cook a lamb and traditional Polish food – pierogi and stuffed cabbage. We'd visit the twins "up the hill," Johnny and Stanley, and share in their feasts. Easter was a time to see family, visit, and eat. It was also a time of spiritual reflection and though I was young, I understood the focus on the spiritually of Jesus' death. Out of these roots, "A Polish Heart" was born.


Darrin Riverton is an American architect who is hired by a Polish construction company to help build the National Stadium, a 50,000+ seat soccer stadium in the heart of Warsaw. When he arrives, he meets his interpreter, Sophia Buraczynski. Darrin and Sophia can't deny the attraction between them. Can Sophia's faith give Darrin his heart back?

The story has a 15K word count and a little bit of everything. It takes place before Easter. Darrin is a gentleman, which Sophia's family appreciates. Sophia's family opens their hearts up to Darrin, sharing their world and Easter customs. In turn, their openness and honesty allow his heart to soar.

The story is "sweet" with Darrin and Sophia sharing a kiss or two. It stays true to family and the spirituality of the Easter message.

I can't gush enough at the wonderful job Becky and Laura have done with their anthologies. The themes, including their holiday anthologies, allow for authors to be flexible with their stories and heat levels. The books are offered as ebook books and print. VTP is a nice atmosphere for an author. I'm glad "A Polish Heart" is a part of the Spring/Easter anthology.

Enjoy this excerpt:

Her teeth nipped at her lower lip as she ran her eyes over this beautifully proportioned man, her body warming at the sight of him. He looked tough and lean and his handsome face kindled with a sort of classical beauty she hadn't seen on a man before. His leonine stride radiated self-confidence. His hair was sandy blond in a short, neat cut and his cobalt blue eyes pierced her professional armor.

He stopped in front of her and held out his flowers. "Dzien dobry."

A wide grin crossed her lips and she dropped the sign she was holding. "Hello, Mr. Riverton."

A look of relief passed over his face. "You know I practiced that phrase all morning on the plane."'

"I admire the effort. Are the flowers for me?"

"Yes." His smile was full of pride.

Sofia took the flowers and held them up to her nose. "Freshly picked. Thank you."

"You're welcome."

He paused and it grew awkwardly silent between them. Sofia realized for the first time in meeting a client, she had forgotten her professionalism.

"Forgive my manners. My name is Sofia Buraczynski and I'll be your interpreter while you are here." She put the sign under her armpit and held out her hand for a handshake.

He took her hand, his grip warm, full of strength and his eyes brightened, laced with appreciation. "I'm Darrin. Darrin Douglas Riverton III It's very formal. I wouldn't mind if you called me Darrin."

"Should we get your bags?" She pointed to the conveyor belt. Most of the people were gone, but a few milled around.

"Oh, sure, yeah," Again he paused and Sofia thought he was a bit nervous. Charmingly nervous. And she wanted to put him at ease.

His bags were already on the belt and he went right to them. Once secure, he let out a deep breath. "Where to?"

Sofia couldn't help but smile at his boyish charm and adventurous grin.

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Diane Craver, author of "Whitney in Charge"

Burkhart's writing caused me to fall in love with Warsaw, even though I've never been there. Her descriptions of the setting and culture made me feel like I was experiencing firsthand Poland's interesting country. Burkhart's dialogue and romantic scenes make this story a page turner.

About the Author: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. She also served as an MP in the US Army. Multi-published, she has a children's book, "The Giving Meadow" with 4RV Publishing. She's an avid reader , loves coffee in the morning, and her favorite movie "werewolf" is David Thewlis, Lupin from Harry Potter.

You can find me at:


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Sounds a lovely story, Steph, and I enjoyed that excerpt. Great idea those collections.

StephB said...

Rosemary, thanks for popping in. I really enjoy writing for the anthologies. Maybe because I know I really enjoy writing short stories.

Mona Risk said...

Hi Steph, thank you for the reference. I am so proud I am a small reason for you writing these beautiful international romances. Ever since a reviewr told me on Barbara Vey's blog that she loved the armchair traveling I gave her with my books, I'm delighted to take my readers to countries they would never visit otherwise. I have your book and need to make time to read it.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Fascinating blog, Steph, as ever! Your inspirational story sounds wonderful and I love the setting.

Very pretty cover!

Celia Yeary said...

Steph--Oh, we loved Warsaw...and Krakow, even though they suffered different fates during the war. Using it as a setting for a romance is truly Inspirational...oh, is, isn't it?
I agree that VTP does such a good job. I, too, am happy to be associated with Rebecca and Laura.
Congratulations on your wonderful short story and best wish with your foray into contemporary inspirational. I know you'll do well. Celia


Awesome post, Stephanie. Love reading short stories, but they are hard little buggers to write. Am in grand anticipation of reading.

Maggie Toussaint said...

What a charming story, Steph! I'm glad that you are so versatile and can write short as well as long. You've got it all!


LK Hunsaker said...

Hi Steph, kudos on having your stories as part of the collections. It's great when authors add their personal travel to their work, as it adds an authenticity research doesn't provide.

StephB said...

Mona, like Barbara, I enjoy armchair traveling and your stories really speak to me.

Thanks for popping in, Lindsay. You've done a great job with short story/novella week. I'm glad to be here.

Celia, I bet you are pleasently surprised by my foray, aren't you? hehe. I think setting the story in Warsaw was very inspirational. A great book that really invigorated my Polish roots that I read a couple of years ago was called "Push Not The River." I highly recommend it.

Linda, a short story can be a challenge, but I love that I can write fairly quickly.

Maggie, thank you, Sweetie. I think it helps to branch out and it's allowed me to grow as a writer.

Loraine, I agree - by traveling it helps to give the writing an authenicity it might not have had.


Linda Swift said...

Just now reading your blog, Steph. It was very enticing and made me want to read the entire story. I also write novellas and short stories and they are NOT easier to write than novels where you can meander around for more pages. Congratulations on exploring a new genre and I wish you great success.