Thursday, March 29, 2018

Cover Reveal--Coming Fall 2018!!

Fall 2018
Cloud of Witnesses by Jane Hertenstein
ISBN 978-1-7320276-2-6
Golden Alley Press

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Super Excited About This

Fall 2018
Cloud of Witnesses by Jane Hertenstein

ISBN 978-1-7320276-2-6

Golden Alley Press

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Monday, March 19, 2018

Uptown, A Walk Through

Uptown, A Walk Through

I am the tarnished penny abandoned on the sidewalk
the lone glove left on the fence post
the key-shaped pacifier gathering grit on the park path
I am that plastic bag floating, caught in the shrubs
the empty Starbucks cup blown into the curb
the scratch-off littering the pavement in front of the 7/11
the limp condom by the loading docks behind Ace Hardware
I am the footprint in the snow between

The House of Prayer and the House of Hair.

Image result for uptown chicago house of beauty

Friday, March 16, 2018

Fear, Hard to Forget

I remember going to the lakeshore with my daughter
on a weekend day. The brightness, the blue,
the dizzying crowd as we unfurled blankets,
set up chairs, dumped sand toys from a plastic bag.
I watched as she darted to the edge of the water
and back again, making sure I was watching.
Then sometime during this game I slacked,
I looked away—lost her.
Just as water seeks its own level, people
flowed in and surrounded her. For an absolute second
everything stopped, time and space peeled away.
My senses lurched, razor-sharp.
That’s a lot to remember, yet still to this day,
I recall relief
when at last a blonde head bobbed,

she, squealing in delight.

Image result for at the beach waves

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Writing Update:

Recently been working on edits with my editor Nancy Sayre at Golden Alley Press for my upcoming novel Cloud of Witnesses (FALL 2018). This is one side of my brain.

Also been working on a hybrid poetry slash prose chapbook about Art Week at Great Spruce Head Island. A project that has almost no future as a niche work. BUT if you know someone who loves the New York School of Poets and appreciates quotidian observations laced with melancholy let me know. I’m looking for a reader/critiquer/breathing person to give feedback. Maybe @Eileen Myles?!

Then there’s also You Are Here: A Flash Memoir—that’s getting little to no traction. I produce enough work to keep a single critique group in motion. Yet this has been the year where I struggle to find that group. After several years of maintaining a circle of readers, I’ve suddenly been floundering. There have been some nibbles and false starts, but so far nothing has gelled.

Still waiting to hear if “Arriving at Night” advances to be included in Pushcart anthology. I think I’ll hear more in April.

Finally, an acceptance! A small flash fiction-ish piece called Celebration of Life in the Vassar Review, to be included in an upcoming print edition. Whew!

In about 3 weeks I leave for the Festival of Faith & Writing in Betsy DeVoss country (Sad!), but I look forward to meeting authors and being introduced to some really fabulous literature. I lead a Festival Circle on Flash Memoir.

Stay tuned for more updates (hopefully).
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Friday, March 9, 2018

Woolworth's, Pet Department

When I first came to Chicago in early 1980s there was a recession. The homeless I was used to seeing were single men and women down on their luck. But the first summer I was in Chicago and working at a church mission was when I was introduced to whole families being homeless. Often we discovered they were living in their cars. One of my first jobs was driving around to pick up ”donos”: donations, but also used to refer to doughnut donations. We’d pull up in our station wagon and load in sacks of day-old doughnuts. By the time we got back to the mission it had become one giant day-old doughnut. The glazed had congealed together.

We were volunteers meaning we made no salary. We were basically working for room and board, and the experience. Much like interns do today—except we didn’t go into debt.  We had NO money. On days off we got as token to ride the train and went to the end of the line. Up to Wilmette to the Bahá'í Temple or downtown. Since we had no money we window shopped, meaning we tried the samples at the perfume counter.

In my neighborhood there was a Goldblatt’s around the corner. I’d never seen so many bras. There was a was an entire floor given over to bras. It was like a sea of lingerie.

Image result for woolworth's uptown chicago
In cold winter while I was waiting for spring I’d go to the Woolworth’s where in the basement was the pet department. Along one wall were cages of birds. I could hear them twittering before I even reached the bottom step. For a few minutes my soul felt lighter. I knew it couldn’t be too much longer and we’d have green. Until then I hung out with the tropical-colored parakeets and yellow canaries, dreaming. 
Image result for woolworths on broadway in uptown chicago

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

PK Hardware

Image result for rike's

I remember, growing up in Centerville, Ohio, near Dayton, going to department stores. You could spend the day shopping at Rike’s, then have lunch in their restaurant and get your hair done at the store salon. Elder-Berman was possibly one step down, but a notch up from J.C. Penny. Unbelievably places where you placed orders and had the products delivered was not considered as classy as actually shopping. I still have a fancy hand-painted hairclip manufactured in France that I bought at Rikes one day on a whim.

Rike’s have now gone the way of Field’s, consolidated into a Macy’s. Which will probably go the way of all things. One day there will just be Amazon.

To shop local we went to the hardware store. The hardware store was where we bought most of our stuff. I was reminded of this when someone wanted to know where they could buy some ice skates. I bought my Huffy bicycle and ice skates at PK Hardware where my mother worked as a cashier and, thus, we got a store discount. My mother purchased patio furniture there as well as replaced our shower curtain.

Even today, the first place I think of going when I need something is the hardware store. 
Could be the old Howland Hardware Store in my town....same shelves, same counter, same ladder!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Weird Jobs I've Had

I’ve done a lot of crazy things for money. Collected bottles and cans for cash, There was the usual: babysitting, mowing grass, cleaning the kitty litter, and shoveling snow. I got up at 4 in the morning to deliver newspapers. One summer me and the neighborhood kids built an amusement park in the backyard and charged admission. We sold Zagnut and Zero bars at our concession stand.

The weirdest thing I’ve ever done was answer an ad looking for someone to dress up in a broccoli costume and walk around the mall offering samples of raw vegetables. It seemed surreal—probably because I was sleep deprived. It was my final semester of college, I needed a few extra bucks. But surreal in the sense that I, a vegetable, was asking people to eat me, to eat my fellow vegetables. It felt cannibalistic. Obviously, I was overthinking the job.
Image result for broccoli suit

Whenever I see broccoli on the salad bar line I’m reminded of that time in my life—and usually skip it.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Stuart Dybek=Lights!

I recently got a chance to hear Stuart Dybek (The Coast of Chicago) talk at OCWW, Off Campus Writers Workshop, the oldest continuing writer’s workshop in the US. The topic of discussion was re-visioning our revisions. I know, not sexy.

It was incredible to look at a marked-up copy of “Pet Milk”, The New Yorker, August 13, 1984. Can you imagine the highs and lows. A story accepted by The New Yorker! They need a few clarifications and copy edits, no problem! Only what Dybek gets back in the mail looks like algebra. Oh my God, he thinks—is it this bad. The copy he hands out to us is insightful—the editor asked Dybek to go deeper, re-imagining his story.

I’ve written here in a much earlier post about “Pet Milk” and how it is a story launched from a flash memory. Dybek more than substantiated that theory in the class. Of course it was and wasn’t him, more who he wished he were. “The author thinks back to a time when he was sixteen . . . .” We can imagine ourselves on that EL platform witnessing first love in its youthful formation, the sudden embrace of a couple on a passing CTA train. I live in Chicago and see all kinds of stuff on the train.

When I first read “Pet Milk” I fell in love with that story and the image of the couple has stayed with me to this day.

I got a chance to chat with Dybek after the class. I told him I’d also always love the short short “Lights”, a 125-word gem. Stuart’s face lit up. That’s the story I was talking about how we know when something is done. I read it over the radio and when I heard it aloud I knew it was done. That’s all there was to it.

LIGHTS by Stuart Dybek
In summer, waiting for night, we’d pose against the afterglow on corners, watching traffic cruise through the neighborhood. Sometimes, a car would go by without its headlights on and we’d all yell, “Lights!”

“Lights!” we’d keep yelling until the beams flashed on. It was usually immediate—the driver honking back thanks, or flinching embarrassed behind the steering wheel, or gunning past, and we’d see his red taillights blink on.

But there were times—who knows why?—when drunk or high, stubborn, or simply lost in that glide to somewhere else, the driver just kept driving in the dark, and all down the block we’d hear yelling from doorways and storefronts, front steps, and other corners, voices winking on like fireflies: “Lights! Your lights! Hey, lights!”
Stuart Dybek photo
Stuart Dybek, raised in Chicago’s Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods in the 1950s and early 1960s.