Tuesday, May 31, 2016

NEW Work @ Gay Flash Fiction



A new story is up on the home page of Gay Flash Fiction.

When I was fifteen a prophet came to my church. What I really wanted was for her to speak over me, a laying on of hands.

I came at this piece many different ways through the past 5 years. I always knew I wanted to do it, but each time—in such a small space, in so little words—I was never sure who was speaking. Of course the protagonist doesn’t exactly know either—that’s why he/she needed a prophet, someone to tell them exactly what they needed to know.

You see it isn’t always clear.

Please read and share the link with others. It’ll be up for a week before being archived into the blog. THANK YOU.

ALSO another acceptance. This piece is a reprint, In Her Garden, which will be at Penny Shorts a British on-line journal. I will definitely let my readers (both of you) know when it is posted. Again, thanks. Really.

"laying on of hands" ceremony in the Pentecostal Church of God

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).

ME
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.

JANE:
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!

https://aroomofherownfoundation.submittable.com/submit/57325?step=submission

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: http://www.splendidtable.org/story/mary-karr-memory-is-what-you-can-smell-touch-and-taste

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Happy Hooker



My neighbor down the street is a hooker. She even has business cards she hands out. Happy Hooker. She crochets beanies and caps.

My neighbor down the street is homeless. She sleeps in a tent under the viaduct and people drive by and leave food for her on the sidewalk. Late at night creeps honk as they speed by, the loud horn echoing off the peeling cement walls. She rarely gets a good night’s rest.

Yet every day she is up and knitting, sitting in the coffee shop or else in a lawn chair in the park, waiting for customers. She customizes her orders—though she reserves the right to refuse service.

Let me know if you’d like Linda to make you something.
http://oddlovescompany.com/about/ 
 
photo by Stacy Rupolo, http://chicagoreporter.com/a-community-out-in-the-cold/

Monday, May 9, 2016

Gun on the Roof



This one goes into the column of—What Was I Thinking, not so much a question as a statement.

As a teenager I loved playing tennis. I had a wicked backhand—a two-handed one like Chrissy Evert. And, since I could never find anyone to play me, I was constantly challenging myself, hitting a ball off the wall of the elementary school down the street.

I’d scoop and dive for the long shot, recover and return the volley back to me. It was actually a bit pathetic. I was desperate to play but could never find a partner.

Something that happened regularly that was a blessing and a curse was that I’d lose my ball on top of the roof. There was always the ball boomeranged off the wood or handle, the off-shot that went bonkers. I found a way to scale the wall (though in my memory I can’t recall how it was possible. There were no fences etc to give me a head or foot up. And, the wall was perfectly flat. Go figure.)

Once on the roof I’d be rewarded not only with my own ball, but several others. I collected a laundry basket full. So, you see, I never really needed to climb the roof for a ball (I had a million in reserve) I just wanted to.

One time while scouting for balls I found something entirely different. A gun. (We should all be shaking our head right now.) I picked it up gingerly with one finger. (How would I even know if it was loaded—or a real gun?!) And tucked the pistol in my short’s waistband and climbed back down. I hid the gun in the back of my closet in a shoebox.

It became my secret. Occasionally I would check on it. Pull it out and take off the lid, to see if it was still there. I wasn’t so young to think that perhaps it had been used in a crime—and now MY fingerprints were on it. Maybe that's why I kept mum.

Even if it was fake (again how would I know???) it still could have been used in a stickup—who argues with a gun?

I graduated high school, went away to college etc and the gun stayed there, in the shoe box. I came to Chicago and my parents retired. Time to sell the house.

Sometimes, in a kind of flash, it comes back to me: Whatever happened to that gun I found on the roof?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Hot Flash Friday: The Daily Flash

Sometimes we have to write in a flash--because it's Friday, because there isn't always a lot of time, because the kettle on the stove will soon blow and you have to clean up and get the kids off to school.

Sometimes there is only enough time to flash. The Daily Dash to Flash.

Last week (Fridays is my submit day)(which you would learn about if you purchased my eBook 365 Affirmations for the Writer that carries with it tips, prompts, and other handy ways to be encouraged, get organized, and WRITE). Anyway, I was submitting last week and saw a call for The Daily Flash and sent in two 50-word flashes I'd composed for another journal but which weren't taken. 

And, in a flash! these were accepted. 

All this to say: today is the day to flash. Ready, set, go.

And, if you haven't ordered 365 Affirmations for the Writer--here is a snippet to tease you.


May 1
A Lonely Business
On the other hand, I mean, that is what writers have always been supposed to do, was to rely on their own devices and to—I mean, writing is a lonely business.
― Donna Tartt, her third novel, The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer Prize

Find a mentor. There are those who view mentors as saviors who will rescue them, make the right calls and find you a publisher. Others take a cannibalistic approach and view a mentor as someone they can harvest recommendations and letters of introduction. It is a two-way street; it is about building a relationship. Attend the reading of local writers working in your genre or whose work you respect. Like or follow an author at Facebook. Eventually opportunities will arise where you maybe able to join a conversation or comment or see that they’ll be in town or at a conference you plan to attend. Never rush to hand them your manuscript to read, but let them know you appreciate their work by telling them how it impacted or influenced your own writing. Stay open for ways to connect!

May 2
A Lonely Business
Writers, particularly poets, always feel exiled in some way—people who don’t exactly feel at home, so they try to find a home in language.
― Natasha Trethewey, U.S. Poet Laureate

May 3
Write From Experience
I was such a sullen, angry, sad kid. I’m sure there are writers who have had happy childhoods, but what are you going to write about? No ghosts, no fear. I’m very happy that I had an unhappy and uncomfortable childhood.
― Isabel Allende, whose own childhood included exile and having to flee repressive regimes. When her grandfather was dying, Allende sat down to write him a letter which later evolved into The House of the Spirits (1982)

May 4
Write From Experience
Writers do draw inspiration from their own lives, which, quite frankly, might be more interesting than fiction.
― Monica Johnson, American screenwriter known for writing strong woman characters

Start with a moment, spread out from there, from that one true thing. Feel free to conflate events and make composite characters of your family. Or try writing about your family from an outsider’s point of view.
 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Firefly Magazine

Check out Firefly Magazine (a Journal of Luminous Writing), issue 6
Where I have a new story out: Marathoner 
It was the fall he was running 50 miles a week. In the morning he would get up in the pre-dawn dark and step into his shorts. Those nylon shorts felt like the hand of the devil on his ass, so cold and so clammy, but he always wore them, knowing that after the first mile he’d warm up. He pulled his grey Northwestern sweatshirt on over the T-shirt he’d slept in. Katie would still be asleep on her side of the bed. Before slipping out the front door, he laced up a pair of Adidas, the goosepimples on his hard thighs standing out like Braille. The sun still not up yet.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Hippocampus Hypotheticals



As a child I was anxious, prone to a wild imagination. Upon hearing news of some catastrophe half-way around the world, I would immediately assume it was happening here, happening now, going to happen to me. Impending doom.

Maybe this is the result of too many fairy tales where girls were always the victim. Or perhaps this was the actual fallout from the Cold War—to be ready for any eventuality.

I remember one night hearing on the radio about a volcano erupting. I could imagine liquid fire pouring out of the mouth and down the sides of the volcano like icing on a cake, pulsing and ebbing ever closer. I could hardly sleep. In fact I was so terrified I sprung from my bed and opened the door and ran outside into the night. It took both of my parents to convince me that this eruption, this volcano was thousands of miles away.

I soon learned to brace myself for earthquakes. I practiced ducking and covering, diving under a wobbly card table. My classroom at school would often conduct tornado drills where we kindergarteners were herded into hallways and taught to crouch against a southwestern wall. At least a tornado could happen in Ohio.

Then there was the tidal wave. How does one escape a wall of water? There were no hills to climb in Washington Township. I devised a plan where I’d run to our neighbor’s house, the Bingosheas(spelling?). Somehow the old lady who sometimes looked after me when my mother was sick would keep me safe.

It took a number of these incidents to teach me that I wasn’t in danger. But, I never got over the fear—that my parents weren’t able to protect me.