Friday, May 26, 2017

New Work up at Watershed Review

Check out a brand new story at Watershed Review

Delivery Man by Jane Hertenstein

A couple of summers ago I delivered pizzas. I came home from college and, rather than doing my normal camp counselor job, I drove pizzas all over town for Joe’s, in order to be there for my mom who was battling end-stage breast cancer.
Overall it was a shitty job, but someone had to do it. And it seems for as long as I’ve been in this family, on this earth, it’s fallen to me. How do I know this? Let me tell you.
I think it was my first week on the job, a dumb-fuck job that Joe the manager always acted like I should be lucky to have. I mean, yeah, it was last minute, but that’s because every other driver who’s worked for him has quit. I should have too. There were some nights when all I wanted to do was make it back alive.
At least no one tried to rob me.
So this one particular night I came in around 7 p.m. and picked up two orders. None of them to the greatest part of town. Understand: no tip.
My first delivery was to a mobile home court, not the worst, one with nicely trimmed postage stamp-size lawns and neatly groomed gravel driveways. I pulled up to a trailer with whirligigs in the yard that rotated with the passing breeze and wooden wind chimes that bonked and rattled as I got out of the car. It’s always a question of do I leave the car running? An old guy pushed the curtains aside and looked out at me. I waved. Embarrassed, after a second I lowered my hand. This wasn’t old home week. Just deliver and go.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Exit West

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Book Review

I’ve read The Reluctant Fundamentalist and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, the latter a bit tongue-in-cheek, very self-conscious of the global economy, and man’s place in the universe of commerce. In fact many of his stories play with contemporary history—not through the eyes of a romantic, but a pragmatist. The world is basically screwed—which is why I loved his latest novel because moving instinctively with this premise he gently leads us into a dystopia, something not unlike what “could be.”

Yet, the novels I’ve mentioned and this latest addition all are love stories. So maybe he is a romantic. Maybe there is hope after all.

Exit West is about doors, doors that connect us other lives, just as his books are portals into the lives of others—mostly what might be considered third-world, whatever that means because these definitions are quickly shifting.

The US used to be a world leader, used to stand for democracy. How quickly things can change.

A young couple sits at a cafĂ©, an awkward first date with their phones between them, screen down on the table. Very millennial. Nothing in this scene prepares us for a coming apocalypse. We are comfortable that life will continue as it always has in a somewhat ordered and reasonable manner, but yet in dark corners there are hints that all is not as it should be. I’m surprised at how easily the couple accommodated, adjusted to each new reality. Much like a couple dining in a burned out rubble house during World War II. We burned electricity until it no longer came out of the wall and then lit candles until we ran out of matches and wax. From disaster to catastrophe with the instincts of a survivor.

The metaphor or use of doors to: travel. To suddenly end up somewhere else speaks to the sudden shifts in population we are now experiencing. The crisis magnified by native reaction. Scenes in the book read like headlines. Women in train stations fearful of holiday-making migrants, refugees pulling down fences, foreigners living in tent cities. Constantly the push and pull of humanity to resettle and start afresh.


I would pair this book with Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. There is a speculative nature to the story, the fantastic where people groups move out of slavery or away from war and certain death, and how the contemporary informs the story. I wouldn’t classify either of these works as science fiction. More like: What if?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Post-Language

I've written here now numerous times about life post-Trump, and my frustration with how the world of words has turned inside out. A recent article by Masha Gesson, "The Autocrat’s Language", speaks to this phenomena. Specifically how language was manipulated in the Soviet Union and now in Putin's Russia--how the very word for something now means the opposite. 

I experienced this first under George Bush. 

In her piece, Gesson analyzes a recent interview with Trump, what she calls word piles or what David Brooks describes in a New York Times editorial: "We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar."

For example, "fake news" refers to the press pool and anything printed about him that he objects to. Or how the head of the EPA is working against environmental protections.

Et cetera.

Check out Masha Gesson's, "The Autocrat’s Language" and how this current administration has corrupted language and misled with words.



Monday, May 22, 2017

Closing Sale

So far this year feels a lot like the end of 2016=filled with loss. Though a death of a different kind, the closing of my favorite tea shop makes me mourn.

Pars is run by a reverent Iranian gentleman. I remember stopping in there the morning of the British vote to leave the EU. The owner and his friend, perhaps a retiree because he was often there, were streaming the news on their computer. Together we watched. What could we say to each other? Things come to an end.

Always after my purchase he would look me in the eye and say God bless you. I felt as if I’d entered a confessional and was given forgiveness. I know, I know, it’s just tea, but it means everything to me.


I begged him to stay, to arrange for some else to manage the shop, but he said, no, it’s time. I scanned the shelves, already they were emptying. I quickly filled a baggie with Monk tea, an aromatic mixture of orange peel with hints of vanilla and a spring garden. Where will I now go—on a winter’s day to feel love, to receive mercy? To return home warm and cozy, with subsistence?? The stuff of life . . . 


Friday, May 19, 2017

Ever Bloom



My friend Tammy Perlmutter has a poem in this anthology. Tammy is a persistent blogger and founder of The Mudroom, a blogging alliance.

From her blog:
In 2009 Zadie Smith wrote a piece called “The Rise of the Essay.” She writes about the problems of even the highest-regarded classical literary fiction and the arguments that “all plots are ‘conventional’ and all characters sentimental and bourgeois, and all settings bad theatrical backdrops, wooden and painted.” 
Instead of mourning the demise of the perfect novel, she poses an important question: “Will the ‘lyrical essay,’ be the answer to the novel’s problems? Is the very idea of plot, character and setting in the novel to be abandoned, no longer fit for our new purposes, and all ground ceded to the coolly superior, aphoristic essay?” 
Virginia Woolf herself wrote an essay on essays called “The Modern Essay” in which she wrote. “There is no room for the impurities of literature in an essay. The essay must be pure—pure like water or pure like wine, but pure from dullness, deadness, and deposits of extraneous matter.” I think that is precisely what draws us in. Because it is a true story, you know the plot is already perfect.
In this collection of essays you have true stories from the women of Redbud Writers Guild,  “a diverse group of authors, writers and speakers who communicate in order to empower women to use their voices to be world-changers.” These women invite you into their hearts and histories with narratives of confession and lament, healing and remission, finding voice and standing ground. 
Check it out and buy a book! Support a fellow memoirist/pilgrim writer.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Two Dreams


I usually don’t dream. I think it comes from being sleep-deprived. Once I hit the pillow, I’m gone. They come before the alarm. And now with the daylights savings time—or whatever place we’re in, ordinary time—it’s getting light earlier. I awake panicky, thinking I’ve overslept.

Anyway, I remember 2 dreams from this week. One was PTS. Post-Trump Syndrome. I must’ve been watching the news before bed because I dreamed ICE was pursuing me. Ironically, I was a dreamer. So in my dream, I dreamed I was a dreamer—my dream about to disappear. Then the alarm went off.

The second dream took a little longer. I remember setting it up. It took awhile to get everything into place for the dream or fantasy/story to begin. In fact, I remember thinking in the dream that this reminds me of Grace, my daughter. She’d get out all her Fissher-Price peoples, get them set up, get the drama ready and—lo and behold—it was time to clean up, time for bed, dinner, bath. Some impending interruption that sent her over emotionally. I completely understand—I was already to dream!

I guess the Jungian take-away is incompletion. We might never get a chance to finish what we’ve started.


Except I plan to sleep in this weekend.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Resources for the Flasher

Memoirous gets about 10,000 hits a month!

I want to say thank you and encourage all my readers to BUY my books. If just one in 100 of you buy a book (or books), then I will . . . I was never good at math, but I like the sound of 1 in 100! 

I'm about to release FLASH MEMOIR: WRITING PROMPTS TO GET YOU FLASHING. Until then  . . .

Freeze Frame is available as an eBook for 2.99. Many of us are looking to write memories—either in the form of literary memoir or simply to record family history. This how-to book looks at memoir in small, bite-size pieces, helping the writer to isolate or freeze-frame a moment and then distill it onto paper.

365 Affirmations for the Writer, an eBook for 3.99. Writing is a journey. Every time we sit down to begin a piece or write the first chapter or the first line we are venturing into uncharted territory. 365 Affirmations for the Writer is about listening to those who have gone before us and letting them guide us with their insight, their own trials. By reading what others have said, we can survey the path before us, count the cost, and plunge ahead.

Every morning I read 365 Affirmations for the Writer by Jane Hertenstein. It's a daily shot of encouragement in the arm. http://groggorg.blogspot.com/2015/04/meet-sue-shanahan-by-suzy-leopold.html

More than affirmations there are countless writing prompts to get you started and keep you inspired.
Also check out Orphan Girl. Available as an eBook but also in paperback. Tens of thousands of homeless people walk the streets, forgotten, yet each with their own story to tell. Marie James, a 69-year-old bag lady, and a frequent guest at an inner-city mission in Chicago, sat with Jane Hertenstein through the summer of 1995 and recorded this shocking and moving story of life filled with sorrow, loss, mental instability, and hope. Her memoir will break one's heart, yet encourage and inspire. -- "Harrowing inside view of homelessness", -- Publishers Weekly, August 11, 1997

Also available through:

Smashwords

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