Thursday, March 31, 2016

Local Boy Makes Good

Here is something you should submit to:

Call For Submissions: Hemingway Shorts

The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park is pleased to announce a new and exciting venture which seeks to promote new creative writing, and is designed especially to capture new voices engaged in the creative writing process, in fiction. The series called HEMINGWAY SHORTS seeks to utilize impetus from the famous author toward sparking energized new interest in the writing craft, and, most importantly, to open the process to entirely new writers, especially those who have never before thought they might write publishable pieces of work. Help will be provided new authors in shaping their work for entry into this new and exciting venture. Since this publication dovetails with the International Hemingway conference being held in Oak Park this year, it is hoped that attendees will be encouraged to submit work.
Submission Guidelines:

Each applicant must submit their work electronically through the EHFOP website. Applicants are required to provide (a) submission title; (b) name of author; (c) address; (d) phone number; (e) e-mail.

To submit your story, CLICK HERE.

Deadline for submissions is June 15, 2016, and submissions should not exceed 1500 words in length. Work must not be previously published.

Judging of the submitted pieces will be done by a team composed of individuals who have held the prestigious title of Writer In Residence at the Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, with the Writer-In-Residence at the EHFOP for this year, David Berner, serving as Chair. A member of the EHFOP Board will also be a member of the group.

Submissions deemed to have met the standards set by the judges will be selected for publication in the first edition of this new on-line/ paper journal HEMINGWAY SHORTS, with publication date to coincide with the Hemingway Birthday celebrations on July 23, 2016 at the Oak Park Public Library.

Monetary Award:
A monetary award of $500.00 will attach to the entry judged the best among the submissions for HEMINGWAY SHORTS.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Indian Flats H/B site

There is so much to frustrate us these days. So much anger out there. Sometimes I think it is propelling us forward—toward an abyss.

When I was out cycling this fall doing the Greater Alleghany Passage and the C & O Towpath (Pittsburgh to Washington DC) I was pretty much camping by myself every night except for one. At a hiker/biker pull off approx 45 miles from DC Larry was also unloading and setting up. This was a great spot by the Potomac—except for the active rail line next to our campsite. All night long it felt like a commuter train was running through my dreams.

Larry was on a vision quest. Needing more clarity in his life, he left a great job and family to clear his head. He might also have been tottering on the edge of a divorce and breakdown. For him he needed a clean break, and cycling across America was hopefully the answer.

I totally get this. When on my bike and bike trips there is absolutely no parallel to my “normal” life. So much so that my thought processes shifts. Suddenly I have space to think. Issues and relationships become simplified. My focus is riding, getting in the miles, eating, and then ending up somewhere where I can set up my tent and sleep. This narrowing of life is actually a relief.

One thing Larry mentioned was that he also had to get away from the Internet. He explained further: social media had brought out the worst in him.

I get this too. How can we find a way to ignore or disregard 9/10s of what we read or see daily? The news is depressing enough, but the comments—GEEZ, people can be so cruel. I saw the other day in my Facebook feed an article in the Tribune that Mayor Rahm Emmanuel is going to announce changes along the lakefront bike path. A split between bikers and pedestrians, which sounds so much safer than what we have now with mixed use.

Lately I haven’t been a big fan of the mayor and his suppression of the Laquan McDonald video, but I can get behind a transportation model that moves the city forward. Why does one have to preclude the other? The comments at the website were vitriol—not viral—plain hateful.

Can’t we find a way to disagree, to carry our own beliefs and also treat others like human beings? I’m wondering.

Larry is probably still out there on his bike, hopefully making his way toward some degree of peace. A resting place. Godspeed to you.
P.S. Haha, got comments on this particular post--that I had to delete. Really?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ghost House

Ghost House

Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963

I dwell in a lonely house I know 
That vanished many a summer ago, 
   And left no trace but the cellar walls, 
   And a cellar in which the daylight falls 
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow. 
O’er ruined fences the grape-vines shield 
The woods come back to the mowing field; 
   The orchard tree has grown one copse 
   Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops; 
The footpath down to the well is healed. 
I dwell with a strangely aching heart 
In that vanished abode there far apart 
   On that disused and forgotten road 
   That has no dust-bath now for the toad. 
Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart; 
The whippoorwill is coming to shout 
And hush and cluck and flutter about: 
   I hear him begin far enough away 
   Full many a time to say his say 
Before he arrives to say it out. 
It is under the small, dim, summer star. 
I know not who these mute folk are 
   Who share the unlit place with me—
   Those stones out under the low-limbed tree 
Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar. 
They are tireless folk, but slow and sad—
Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad,—
   With none among them that ever sings, 
   And yet, in view of how many things, 
As sweet companions as might be had.

I recently assigned a Hot Flash Friday task to writing about an abandoned structure, the abandoned houses of our childhood. I recently came across this poem by Robert Frost and I thought how exactly he captured the feeling. The feeling that spaces once habitated, once alive but now empty or hollow or ruined come to fill us. There is something compelling about a ruin that calls us to come explore.

To this day I can detail the places I’ve stumbled upon, vacated, and the stuff left behind. Some of these images impressed themselves into my writing. See Below:

Young and Dumb
Originally published in Flashquake, Summer 2009

She ran away when she was seventeen. Hooked up with a guy on the bus and together they rode to Denver. But he turned out to be trouble. One night she slipped away from the room they rented. By the neon strobe she packed a bag, took his wallet while he slept. On the way out of town she stopped at a diner with a funky name and ordered a chicken dinner. Ate it to the bone.

It was a bad space. She couldn’t go home. Let’s leave it at that. And she didn’t have anywhere else to go, except names on a map. She preferred the blue roads, the ones that branched off, growing more and more anonymous, changing names in different locales, adapting to the terrain. Often dead-ending.

She was okay on her own. She knew enough to get by. Her step brothers had taught her karate. Really more like Three Stooges gestures. She knew how to scream. Enough to do damage to her vocal cords, until her stomach muscles ached. Until black night melted and she moved on. Her few possessions tied to her back.

She carried in her pocket stray bits. A bottle cap. A white cockleshell. A key. To what door she did not know. A piece of paper with a phone number on it that accidentally blew away 

from her. It skidded across the road and whooshed up an embankment, airborne over a barbed wire fence, and landed in a field of stubble and stick grass. She cut across that snowy field to a farmhouse. Long abandoned.

The front door was open. So she closed it. A grease-yellowed curtain lightly exhaled, the window sash unlatched. Trash, swirled into corners, occupied the first room. Loose wallpaper sagged, water stained. In the back on the first floor was a kitchen. A mouse scurried from the back of the stove to a crack in the floorboard. She righted an overturned chair. The silence scared her.

A fury of thoughts flooded her brain, most of them connected to late-night horror movies watched on TV.

There was a staircase in the middle of the house, dividing it in two. She gripped a rail and ascended one step at a time. Listening for monsters. Creaks and audible breath. The whoosh of bat wings. Upstairs she found more of the same. Remnants. An old Sears catalogue. A pile of rags, once clothes. Animal droppings. A tin plate covered a hole back when there used to be gaslight. She picked up a child’s toy, a bobble head plastic boy. The wire to his head a weak neck.

Who were they, the former occupants? What moved them on? Had the family disintegrated, broken by divorce, violence, stupid mistakes? There were all sorts of reasons. She tried to draw from the clues left behind some kind of explanation. She reckoned they were young and dumb.

She never meant to stay. It rained the next day, and the day after that. A solid week of damn miserable rain. She lit a fire in the fireplace, expecting any minute for a neighbor to come check the place out, for a cop to pull into the puddle-rutted drive. Instead it was as if she’d fallen off the face of the earth. She learned to keep her own company, separate the voices inside her head. The good ones from the bad and make up her own mind. In town she bought groceries and hauled them back to the farm. Simple fare, easy enough to cook over the fire or eat raw. She licked her fingers and wiped them on her jeans. Slowly a sense of well-being came over her. The kind that comes with a full tummy, warmth, and forgetfulness, where the crazy windmill inside her finally slowed down.

                                                            * * *

Years later while slicing tomatoes, she will look up. Her memory ignited by who knows what. Another kitchen, another house, she remembers. Through the window the back yard with the kids’ swing set is aglow with late afternoon light. And putting down the knife, she breathes a prayer.

687 words

Monday, March 21, 2016

Libraries Saved My Life

Remembering the Old Main Library of Cincinnati

I remember walking into a library as if entering a sacred place, the high ceilings my cathedral. Scanning those tall shelves was like coming forward and kneeling at an altar. Libraries saved my life.

I couldn’t get enough of books—until I visited a library and came to understand that I wouldn’t ever have enough time for all the books I wanted to read.

I must’ve had to convince my father to drive me to the Kettering Library a couple times a month. Can you imagine! I couldn’t download or read online. There was no other way to gratify my pernicious itch to read except by going to a library—and for that I needed an adult.

Until a branch was built JUST DOWN THE STREET. Yay! The only drawback was I had to wait until they opened. There were nights when I made lists of all the titles I’d search the card catalog for or subjects I wanted to research. I know I’d take my library card right up to the limit. It was only in reading that I felt my truest self.

Recently I heard about the Gerber/Hart Library in Andersonville. A sanctuary for LGBT youth and adults. Over 14,000 volumes, 800 periodical titles, and 100 archival collections. Now one doesn’t need to be ashamed to come in and ask for a particular title. One time a librarian warned me, saying a title was much too mature for me. Yet she allowed me to take it out. I was afraid she might call my parents to ask their permission. Once again reduced to that feeling of being at their mercy. You see if Dad didn’t want to drive me then I was stuck until the next weekend when maybe he’d take me in the car.

I’m so proud of my city—that LGBT kids can have a home much like the Woodbourne Library was for me in Centerville, Ohio.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Hot Flash Friday=Deadlines for Themed Submissions

A feature of this blog is Places to Submit (flash). Themed issues are a good way to work on material, either new material or something in the drawer you can take out and dust off and breathe new life into. Some of my pieces might make a round of journals without ever finding a home when suddenly because of a particular theme there is new interest. Once I submitted a flash for a newish journal called The Blue Hour. The theme was somewhat nebulous, more like a feeling. I sent over an untitled flash and BAM accepted. I wrote back: That was quick! And the editor said, I know it when I see it. Sometimes all it takes is the right time and the right place for a piece that has been collecting dust to suddenly become relevant.

Here is a list of places with calls for submissions, themed submissions.

The Pedestal, flash: The Working Life, May 2 – May 29 <1000 words
Studs Terkel's 1974 classic Working is 42 years old this year. For the June 2016 issue of Pedestal, the editors will be considering flash fiction that pertains to the working life and jobs—where so many of us spend the bulk of our lives. We are particularly interested in stories that capture the nature of the 21st Century workplace. As always, we are on the lookout for imagistic writing, strong characterization, and satirical wit. Submit up to three (3) pieces in a single file. Each piece should not exceed 1000 words. Open for submissions May 2 - May 29.
Payment: 2.5 cents per word.

Hippocampus (non-fiction) For our 2016 theme issue, which hits in July, we're looking for works of creative nonfiction, of up to 3,500 words, that explore "firsts." Deadline: 4/15/2016

3 Elements: a piece that intertwines these 3 elements—labyrinth, trace, reflex. Deadline April 30.

SunStruck Magazine currently open for submissions:
May – Home – Deadline: April 5, 2016
June – Naked – Deadline: May 31st, 2016
August – TBD – Deadline June 31st, 2016
Works between 1,500-4,000 words will have the best chance of publication.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I Want To Show You More

Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
Hausfrau, Jill Alexander Essbaum
I Want to Show You More, Jamie Quatro

Lately I’ve seen these 3 titles grouped together. Possibly because they released around the same time, but I think for another reason. The main characters, females, are sexually bold. Perhaps coming on the heels of 50 Shades of Grey, reviewers have clumped these titles.

Okay, so we already know that women can have sex and that many actually do. We also have heard rumors that they like it. So none of this should be a surprise. But, the fact that these books released around the same time perhaps made it seem like a phenomena. The main characters do not shy away from sex—yet there is, lingering around the fuzzy edges, fear.

Fear that it might not be enough.

Definitely Essbaum’s Anna (often compared to Emma in Madame Bovary) begins to come unhinged. She has a husband, she has a lover, and she has flings, quickies in the backyard. Etc. Yet she is unhappy, unsatisfied. A focal point is a bench on a hill that she wanders up to in order to take in the view. Some reviewers have questioned if Anna didn’t have anything better to do. Obviously she was depressed.
Then there is frustrating Mathilde who pays for college by signing a contract of sorts to service a middle-aged man—until the day she graduates and runs away with Lotto(a playwright modeled somewhat after August Wilson), her husband for life in Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. This book was highly acclaimed and a National Book Award winner. Yet . . . Mathilde is unhappy also. Sure, she has had to work through grief (You won’t believe how! Maybe you will! Yup!)—it’s as though men are the ultimate answer to that man-size hole inside of her.

I don’t mean to be mean or rough on these authors. In fact Jill and I are friends for life. It is the character I have a beef with. And, possibly that annoying clumping effect where if a female character has sex then she must be a Gone Girl, surely a troubled person. Flawed. Ultimately a tragic character.

But publishers are discovering that eroticism sells—it just has to be literary. Otherwise it is genre fiction and ask any romance writer: that shit sells! Jamie Quatro, I Want to Show You More seems to vacillate, not quite sure. The main character in a collection of linked short stories struggles with her hungers. She has a great husband and three or four kids. They are a family. What more could she want? Yet she does. She can’t help herself. She wants to show him more, her secret lover, the one she met online. There are mysteries about herself that no one knows. At the basis of these stories is restraint, a conflicted moral center that argues with itself. Why can’t I stop? the character asks over and over. I need to stop, I need.

All of these characters are complex, layered, their motivations obscured, their hopes unrealistic—there I just clumped them together.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Greetings from Maine

I just received my first fan mail from a blog reader! To say I was confused was an understatement. Yet OVERJOYED at the same time.

I had to think—who do I know in Maine? I host quite a few travelers through couchsurfing—who did I recently meet who was traveling onto Maine (in the winter!)? No one. Then I turned the card over and read the words “I love your blog.”

I think Lynne might be referring to some posts I put up a few weeks back that encouraged readers to sit down and write a postcard. Often the bigger picture can be overwhelming. Sometimes we need to trick ourselves into writing. All we have to do is fill this one tiny space. 

Lately I’ve been talking about Fifty-Word Stories (bite size fiction everyday). The back of a postcard is perfect for limiting yourself to 50 words. The front of the card can actually serve as inspiration. If the idea of story is overwhelming—(how can one have a beginning, middle and end when working with only 50 words???)—try thinking of the 50 words as a prose haiku. 

Here was a 50-word prose poem rejected by Fifty-Word Stories—I have several more to try out with them, but until then:

Nighttime By the Tennis Courts
Like zombies, at dusk the raccoons climb out of the boulders by the lake and lurk around the tennis courts. Perched atop the roof of the field house, they watch the players in the dark with their neon eyes. Later, the coons will eat buns out of the garbage cans. 50

Friday, March 11, 2016

Hot Flash Friday: Where do ideas come from

Though not technically a flash prompt, today in a few paragraphs I would like to impart ways to work inside or “get” ideas for writing.

I’ve written here in past posts about googling images from the World Wide Web. Usually that is after I’ve written something and need something in which to illustrate my ideas/opinions/feelings. 

Here are a few techniques I use to get ideas or get inside in order to write. Images are a huge part of the process. My imagination is ignited by expanding my view. The window by my writing desk only allows me to see so much. So lately I’ve been using:

Here is a way to travel without ever leaving your chair—and possibly feel really good about yourself. Just Breathe is a group site at Facebook. Not sure exactly who is behind it, but it comes together much like the proverb It Takes a Village. The photos are not hers. They are sourced from contributors and possibly—guess who?—the World Wide Web. Lisa Simone? Is that is actually the moderator/creator has gone to the trouble to collect, curate, and archive under different headings thousands of images which she posts throughout a 24-hour day. For example—I have no favorites because I love them ALL:

I also get notifications from Tiny House. This is small simple living like tear-drop trailer size or shipping container if you want to go larger. It is all about living small and not impacting the earth with your huge house footprint. It is about simplifying in order to smell the roses, the snow, or hear the grass growing. The ideas put forth inspire me. Here are a few:

Is about more than cute lovey-dovey pictures—though initially that is what drew me to the site and to sign up for notifications. Who can resist such simple displays of attention and love. They feed my soul.
The artist is from South Korea and is a young woman. Her interest or process stems from architecture. She browses an architecture library and from interior designs “grows” a picture of a happy couple. How many of us have ever passed by a window and accidentally looked in upon an intimate scene of family. As a young teen I helped my sister deliver newspapers. The Sunday morning ones were a huge chug-a-lug. I could maybe fit only a dozen on the bag on my bike. So together she and I could cover a neighborhood before returning to re-load. One Christmas morning I was busy doing my side of the street when I looked over and there was Nancy lost in thought, standing there! C’mon, I might have shouted, get going. (It was her route, why was I the boss?) She told me that while deliver the paper to a stoop she glanced up and saw a daddy kissing a mommy in the kitchen.

There was something wonderful about this picture that zoomed me into the moment. Christmas. White snow tracked with rabbit footprints. Early morning pink and golden glow on the horizon. A morning of great promise. Humanity, mankind, family. That couple embracing before the kids came down to rip open presents, before chaos ensued. Their moment became our moment. A memory that has traveled with me for nearly 35 years. Whew!

Anyway, Puuung enters these houses, these rooms and brings us simple acts of intimacy.
So my flash for today is to explore these sites and write. Create your own moment from inside. Escape.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The One That Got Away

I wrote a couple days ago about the Book Box/Shake, Rattle, and Read and how they got me through the hard times here in Uptown. Today I’m going to write about “the one that got away.”

We all have stories like these.

For example once my husband and I were traveling and stopped in Wooster, Ohio at a used bookstore where he came upon a signed book by G. K. Chesteron. But who had $100 when we were intentionally avoiding the toll road because of the tolls! Still, he brings it up sometimes like an old war wound that has never healed. It galls him, the one that got away.

My story is similar. After moving to Chicago in 1982 I was living and volunteering among the poor. Definitely funds were scarce, but I always enjoyed browsing the bookstore. It was in fact my lifeline. One afternoon I was in there and stumbled upon a title about the Arctic. I’ve always loved stories about the North and South Pole. Usually they involve eating dogs on some barren wind-swept ice plateau or fighting off hungry polar bears or sledging hundreds of miles after being shipwrecked on the ice. The author of this book was familiar to me. Vilhjalmur Stefansson and it was autographed!

I visited the book whenever I could. I can’t remember now how much it cost—probably no more than $10 or $20. But it was still out of reach for me.

Today, more than 30 years later, I reach back in my memory and cringe. It’s the one that got away. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Book Box/Shake, Rattle, and Read, Thanks Ric


I’ve lived in Uptown in Chicago for 34 years—and that whole time there has been a little used bookstore down the street at Lawrence and Broadway. First it was the Book Box and then it changed its name to Shake, Rattle, and Read. Along with books there was a wide assortment of used vinyl.

The current owner Ric Addy will never know what a godsend his shop has been to me through the years.

Readers of this blog will have already picked up that books have saved my life. Reading has been my constant companion even before I could read. As a pre-reader I begged for the same books to be read to me over and over. I connected with story. As miserable as the Uptown neighborhood appeared to me in the early 80s it was only bearable because of the Book Box. I’d go there with empty pockets, just to browse. That’s all I could afford.

Still it was enough to stand there in that environment and breathe in words, musty yellowed pages of them, pulp fiction covers, noir. It was living water.

Now all these years later, I can honestly say Shake, Rattle, and Read has kept me going. Or rather the Free Box out front. It was a mini-miracle on days when it seemed like the sun would never come out I could stop there on the to or from the post office or tucking money away at the bank—the noose around my neck to help pay for my daughter’s education sometimes felt so tight I could hardly breathe. The Free Box was a blessing, a bit of grace in the midst of an ever-tightening economy. And, the serendipitous of it! You’d never know what you’d find!

Usually a battered classic or info-mational CD, or a pamphlet on gardening or something abstract. But that was the point—I wanted to be surprised.

Shake, Rattle, and Read and the Free Box have been a bright spot here in Uptown since 1966—and I’m sad to see it go. Ric is retiring. You will be missed.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Hot Flash Friday—What would you do with a dune shack?

What would you do with a dune shack?

From Building Provincetown, the Book by by David W. Dunlap
Cape Cod National Seashore | Thalassa (Shack 14)
Thalassa (θαλασσα) is the primal spirit of the sea and the name Hazel Hawthorne Werner gave to the smaller of her dune cottages. It was built in 1931 by the coast guardsmen, and brothers, Louis “Spucky” Silva and Frank Silva, who salvaged its windows from Eugene O’Neill’s life-saving station, gave it a front porch, and called it Seagoin’. They sold it to Werner in 1936. Her guests included E. E. Cummings, Norman Mailer and Edmund Wilson. It was here in 1996 that David Forest Thompson was first captivated by shack life. He went on to publish a delightful book of his paintings, Dune Shacks. Other artists and writers who have stayed here are Tabitha Vevers; her husband, Daniel Ranalli; and Allen Young. Thalassa has been managed since 2000 by the Peaked Hill Trust.
In May 2012 I spent a one-week residency at a dune shack at the Cape Cod National Seashore. Imagine one week alone to do nothing but write. No TV, no electricity, no indoor plumbing. It was like Ted Kaczynski meets Thoreau.
But, imagine how much you’d be able to get done.
Right now, right write. Turn everything off and get out a pad of paper. What would you write if no one cared, if it didn’t matter, if all you had to do was TRY. Montaigne wrote many essays. The French word for essay translates as attempt. Right now explore a subject, venture an opinion and work out your argument to support it. Write a poem or a few lines telling us what’s going on, right now. SEE James Schuyler’s June 30 1974

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Only a Dune Shack

On Sunday nights I meet with a group of artists, all of us working from different backgrounds ie the visual arts, media, dance, music, cross-over hybrids. There is nevertheless a lot of commonality between us.

Most of the conversation is esoteric ie where does art come from, what makes it art, what if we don’t ever have an audience—are we still legit? The question of authenticity is one we keep coming back to.

Last night I talked about using prompts or challenges to help keep the work fresh. We can all get into a rut or become blocked because whatever it is we think we need to create might nor be happening.

Lately I’ve also been thinking about that Dune Shack I spent a week in back in May 2012. There were a lot of restriction that went with that residency. Number 1: no electricity. I didn’t even bother bringing a laptop or another kind of device because I anticipated a kind of panic watching the battery symbol drain down to a crisis red. Instead I brought several notebooks and pens. I had an iPod, but used it sparingly. I kept my phone turned off except for a 20-minute call every evening—where I had to turn and face west toward the Plymouth monument in P-town in order to get enough bars.

To say I was remote and isolated is pretty accurate. At night it was just me and the waves and a waning moon. No one would have heard me scream, I thought that a lot.

But there was also no distractions.

I often reset my brain between paragraphs and projects by playing solitaire. Okay a lot of solitaire. And, Facebook checking. And news updates. I’m sure if I were a Cub fan I’d also be checking box scores, etc. These are just a few of the activities I pursue as a buffer in between work. In reality they often eclipse the work I should be doing.

So at Thalassa there was no excuse. I woke up and read and meditated and walked and wrote and fixed a meal, ate a meal, cleaned up, and then repeated this cycle—until time for bed.

I filled notebook after notebook. It was all I had to do. A week to create or not create. It was up to me.

I know we all have reasons to postpone, put off—or else drive ourselves so hard we literally have exhausted our wells of creativity. Try a retreat. Even if you don’t have a week, but only one or two hours away. Change up your routine, rhythm. Come at your work from some other way.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016



The guy walking down the street talking to himself

The guy walking down the street talking into his cell phone

The guy walking down the street pretending to talk on his cell