Friday, May 27, 2016

Hot Flash Friday: Collaborative Letter

Well it's FRIDAY.

And I don't have a clue as to what to write--or even prompt YOU to write. Except I had this idea. A collaborative letter between me and my friend of over 40 years (of course we were infants when we met, more about this later). I tried to think the other day about WHEN DID WE FIRST MEET. So together Jane
Jarrell McSweeney and I put this together (some edits to protect the innocent).

Meeting Jane

When did we first meet?

I believe I first met my friend Jane at a Young Life event downtown, in the city. If one can imagine: the idea of downtown Dayton sounding cool, exciting, the high life. I couldn’t wait to attend. It would start at the YMCA pool and perhaps end at Chris’ (the college age women’s leader) house for an overnight. I think we were also planning on having a late-night treat at Frisch’s Big Boy Restaurant. They had a hot fudge brownie cake to die for.

I remember doing baby laps in a half-size pool the temperature of Nome, Alaska and being introduced to “another” Jane. I knew there must be others out there. Little did we realize we were about to embark upon a lifetime of friendship.

Forty years ago.

Unreliable Dust

Wow. You may be combining a couple of memories. There was a Young Life lock in at the Y, at about that time. I was miserable. I guess those things are fun for teens who like to you know, socialize! Chris absolutely was key. She "discipled" or "trained" us for work crew and it seems like we spent a lot of time with her. The hot fudge sundaes may have been involved at any time. They were good. I remember being at a campaigners weekend retreat with you. Up in central Ohio? And Bob ---- was working the weekend as staff. Was that our senior year? Maybe in the fall? I remember you pointing out that he was my boyfriend and we did not date my whole senior year. Maybe we were introduced at the lock in. How did we get chosen for work crew? I'm glad for that work crew time--I think that in some ways, it changed my life a bit. Solidified some spiritual stuff anyway. Do I remember you from the coffeehouse on Saturday nights? What was it called? The Rock? I think I just put two and two together after I met you and saw your name on the prayer list. Memories rise like dust. Unreliable dust!

Right now, write. Use the technology of Facebook, email, or even a phone call to work on a flash about how you met your best friend, mate, spouse, cousin’s boyfriend’s son-in-law. What do you remember, what do they remember, and put the two side-by-side to see the difference in recall and perception. Happy holidays!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

AROHO Looking for Flash up to 500 words

If you’re a woman writer or artist, you’re invited to submit. There are no restrictions as to subject matter and form (other than the necessary word/line limits). We are open to all kinds of work. Along with your creative work in any genre, including artwork, we welcome additional submissions from women who attended the 2015 Retreat Waves Discussion Series, and we’d like to suggest that anyone who has applied for the Gift of Freedom consider submitting some portion of her application. Submit thoughtfully, and check our website for more inspiration as the wave grows.
We are hoping for a mix of established and new voices for this anthology, featuring Maxine Hong Kingston. Hear more about Diane Gilliam's vision as editor here. You may submit unpublished or previously published work. If you are submitting we would be glad for you to invite women writers who have been your teachers and mentors to submit. And in order to find those new voices, we’d also be glad for you to invite your students and women you are mentoring to submit.
As far as length is concerned, we’re looking for:
poems of up to 36 lines
in all other genres, pieces up to 500 words long(and we’d like to keep open the option to sometimes excerpt from submissions, with the author’s permission of course).
Other details:
  • The deadline for submissions is August 1, 2016.
  •  There is no fee to submit. 
  • Accepted pieces (full or excerpted) are unpaid. Contributors receive two copies of the book upon publication.
  • You may submit multiple times and in multiple genres. Please, upload only one poem, essay, story, or image per submission.
  • There are no font or margin requirements, only word limits (500 for prose) and line limits (36 lines of poetry).
  • We accept Word docs, PDFs, JPGs, and TIFFs through Submittable only. No hard mail submissions will be accepted.
  • We will be in touch with applicants to update them about the selection process in mid-September.
We look forward to considering your work!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Everybody Loves—get inspired

How do the professional writers, the ones making money, the ones writing for television—how do they come up with their material? They mine it from everyday life.

The other day I was eating lunch and listening to a podcast and the person being interviewed, a writer for a couple popular TV sitcoms talked about the Monday morning writers meeting. This was when he was working on Everybody Loves Raymond. First thing the head writer would say was: What happened this weekend?

So the men and women around the table would talk about family matters, misunderstandings, household chaos—the mundane. And, it worked. It fired scripts, kept a show running for 8 seasons.

Surely from your crazy/boring life comes a tidbit/germ you can render into a story or incorporate into a longer narrative. Often I will draft half-done stories, knowing there is something missing. A piece to the puzzle that I must wait on. This seldom comes as true inspiration as much as paying attention. If I think what’s missing is some suspense or a moment of discomfort I have to mull this over and look for real life examples.

It’s Monday. Write a first draft—and leave it to finish on Friday and see if in between you come up with the unique twist or element it lacks.
Writers Room, 30 Rock

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hot Flash Friday: Spring is in the Air

Our six senses is one of the easiest pathways to memory. According to Mary Karr, the sense of smell is one of the oldest.

I had a friend who is a neurologist say that it's the oldest sense -- the primary sense is smell. Animals can smell changes in territory. Even one-celled amoeba, who have no brainstems, can smell. So much feeling is attached to it.”

Currently I am reading Karr’s The Art of Memoir and she is hitting all the right notes. So many questions new memoirists struggle with are covered in her book. Here is where you can link to for an interview about the book:

A few years back I wrote a piece called Sense of Smell which was included in an anthology based upon small memories (what I call flash memoir) “Sense of Smell” Spring 2012, IMPACT: A Collection of Short Memoir

The piece emerged simply from standing at a corner waiting for the light to change. Spring time. The lilacs in bloom. And BAM! That’s all it took=memories came rushing upon me.

Right now, write using your sense of smell. What will it take to arouse some long-sleeping memory: fry oil, lilacs, laundry detergent, cinnamon? Wake up and smell the roses.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

New Work to Watch for

A couple new acceptances:

"Summer of the Seventeen-Year Locust" will be published in the summer issue The Vignette Review.

And an untitled piece in an upcoming issue of Gay Flash Fiction, publishing quality fiction for over 6 years!
And a couple of close calls, 2016 is feeling good so far! 
the cicada lifecycle

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Time to Weep, a Time to Cry

And a time when you just cannot bullshit. An acquaintance of mine, not really super close, but we know each other professionally just got a diagnosis that has shattered me. Selfishly all I can think of is me. You see we are about the same age, same everything, yet she has early Alzheimer’s which I think is a real bitch. We aren’t even Facebook friends, and I went to her profile and looked up pictures. That smile, that face—it will slowly fade. Those plans for travel, the books she was going to sit down to write, future weddings. They still may happen, except she might not be involved, or if there peripherally, and the memories one should hold dear—those will disappear.

I think of myself in the middle of mid-life, middle-aged, and the very idea of Alzheimer’s freaks me out. Losing memories, losing time. It changes everything. The shared bits and pieces, the memories that make us uniquely us, gone.

Right now I am in the midst of planning a thousand-mile bike trip from the top of the UK to the tip, John O’Groats to Land’s End. Friday night I rode back in the dark, in the warm spring night, so glad to be alive, so happy to be healthy. So lucky.

My last couple of bike trips I’ve carried with me memories of someone I’ve lost. When cycling Florida winter of 2015 I took Don with me. When I was in Sweden fall of 2014 Fred came along. At times Mom and Dad have popped up beside me. Always the thought is never too far from my mind that all our days are numbered, finite, and that these miles and scenes will never be re-lived. That we are only passing through.

So when her husband wrote to inform me—I knew I couldn’t bullshit. It’s sad, it’s stupid, it’s so unfair; it makes me question the universe because there is no silver lining. With news like this one can only weep and rage against fate.

Friday, May 13, 2016

This is Water

I’ve always heard it talked about, but last week in an effort to put off a bit of writing I needed to finish I fiddled on Facebook and came across a link to David Foster Wallace’s timeless commencement address, “This Is Water.”

I always thought I knew what it was about, but this time came away with new impressions.

Now we all know these kinds of speeches can be extremely cheesy. Or if not cheesy then extremely boring. And if not extremely boring, then drudgery, the thing you need to sit through in order to get to the next thing. Life. Debt. A job? Your future. Out to eat with family, friends, your girlfriend/boyfriend/the person you are about to split from. The promised road trip, European vacation, summer of freedom. Grad school.

But what struck me the most was that Water was Life. The thing one can easily overlook, dismiss, become so used to that it is taken for granted. Just like water for a fish—yet so essential. Ordinary life is just that—life. The stuff we swim around in until it is pointed out to us that we are indeed swimming, indeed living. In comparison to what? It is all we’ve ever known. No big deal.

The subtitle of the essay is: About Living a Compassionate Life.

Maybe we need to take time, take stock, smell the roses, hear the birds sing, help an old lady with her groceries out to the car, hold the door for someone, mail your favorite charity a dollar or two. We all get caught up in the routine of living that we lose track—just like those fishes in his opening story: What the hell is water? That we forget that it is the ordinary that makes up the bones, the blood, the very humanness of life.

Commence and write an ode to the ordinary—what is your water? What is it that you need to pay attention to?

Congratulations Mike H. on your Master of Arts in Theological Studies
I love Bissell's work and this is also a great essay