Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Great Pumpkin

Pumpkin latte
Pumpkin parfait
Pumpkin flambé

Pumpkin pie
Pumpkin fries
Pumpkin chai

Pumpkin cheesecake
Pumpkin pancakes
Pumpkin shakes

Pumpkin soup
Pumpkin mousse
Pumpkin juice

Pumpkin oats
Pumpkin compote
Pumpkin floats

Pumpkin spice
Pumpkin diced
Pumpkin n’ rice

Pumpkin gelato
Pumpkin dough-nos
Pumpkin gumbo

Oh pumpkin, late have I come to know ye

Monday, October 27, 2014

My Foreign Cities--or Places I Don't Want To Go

Lately thinking about mortality. Maybe it's because I have an impending birthday. Maybe it's because we're beginning to talk about retirement--not actually doing it, but the difficult conversation of "Are we ready?". Then there was the devastating news this week of a friend a few years younger than myself who got a terrible prognosis.

It was like a punch in the gut.

It's hard to talk about. In a phone call with my daughter who is only just getting started with all the big life decisions, I told her about my friend. Though she empathized and asked how I was doing, it wasn't something she could relate too. not yet. As it should be.

I remember as a kid my mom telling me about a friend of hers who had cancer. "In every part of their body." Back then cancer was synonymous with death. Most people didn't recover. I remember thinking that isn't this what old people are supposed to do. Die. But not in their late forties, is what I'd like to scream, right now.

But, in reality, death at any age is pretty unfair. It seems unnatural though it's supposed to be part of the natural process.

A book I read recently speaks to the issue of mortality and how it is an unfair master. The book by Elizabeth Scarboro is My Foreign Cities. It is about a young girl who falls in love with one of her high school friends, they date, go about their daily lives--and take the plunge to get married. Are they crazy!!?? He has a disease which will make the future untenable if not downright scary. But like two young and crazy kids they take the risk, and it proves to be doubly hard. Young married couples aren't supposed to have this kind of pain. It's unfair.

From a review from Booklist: Though Scarboro never idealizes the relationship—they can each be petulant and selfish—the power of the love she portrays is undeniable. With grace and humor, Scarboro shares the couple’s most intimate moments: her dismay at Stephen’s feeding tube, his dependence on painkillers, her grief-stricken decision to freeze his sperm.

It is a book that doesn't exactly have a happy ending, but one that reflects hope.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Best Summer Ever

Every time I change clothes I notice my tan line—which reminds me of this past summer. Already it is over—after waiting for it to arrive, it is now time to say good bye. Yet—
it was the best summer in a long time, for a good long time. It began with a bike ride. Trying to cycle around the south end of the lake, from Grand Rapids back to Chicago. But ended in snow and wind and a phone call from a hot chocolate shop. Come get me.

And on the way driving back into Chicago, after being rescued, I got a phone call letting me know that I’d been chosen for an artist residency at a dune shack at the tip of Cape Cod. Mid-May I was on my way to Provincetown. I had no idea of what to expect from a cold, unheated shack without electricity. What I got was sun. Lots of sunny days sitting out on a deck watching the ocean and birds flitting about, reading and writing and tanning. I came home refreshed with millions of words on paper. Some of them stories.

This summer I camped out, rode my bike to new places, grilled out at the lake, picnicked, did concerts in the park. It was as if my summer broke out of a shell like a bird or split the cocoon of winter like a butterfly. And got free.

At the very end of summer I went to Sweden where most of Scandinavia was having its best summer ever. There were days on end of bright sunshine and blue skies. I bicycled and backpacked and came glowing, healthy from being outdoors.

Now as the days are growing shorter and the street lamps turn on cloudy days at 4:30 in the afternoon, I catch a glimpse of my fading tan line—and remember. The best summer ever.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Art? What's it good for?

Imagine here the Edwin Starr song--War (What Is It Good For? with that booming Huh? Good God! thrown in.

In an article I read on-line for FREE from The Globe and Mail a Canadian newspaper, I learned that Iggy Pop is a poor struggling musician. Actually I shouldn't have been too surprised. A recent survey in the UK says that artists' salaries are collapsing. Seems no one wants to pay to read "content" or for photographs or for music. Not for that pesky TV programming or films that they torrent or download for free.

Elizabeth Renzetti in her article "When Iggy Pop can’t live off his art, what chance do the rest have" Answers her own question--with one word.

She ends her article with a quote from Iggy, himself:  “When it comes to art, money is an unimportant detail. It just happens to be a huge unimportant detail.”

 The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs is offering grants to artists of all disciplines. Some are fixed deadlines and some are rolling. Check out their website (DCASE) and see if you qualify to apply.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

NOW 99 Cents (through Friday)

Our writing should be about taking the ordinary and turning it on its head. The home movies of our childhood—we love them not because they are unique or exotic, but because of their familiarity. They are the stuff of every-day life.
― Jane Hertenstein, from Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir

NOW .99!!
This book is helpful for those of us who are new to flash fiction and flash memoir writing. It is a good reference book to read when we have questions. As a writing teacher, I will continue to use it with my students--Glenda Council Beall
I thought this book was quite helpful. Good exercises, to help understand what flash is; prompts to use in writing sessions; and fantastic information on where and how to submit flash pieces.--Linda Schmidt
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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Places to Submit Flash

Emerge Literary Journal Seeks Poetry/Flash Fiction For 2014

Emerge Literary Journal is an annual print journal featuring poetry and flash fiction dedicated to emerging writers and their words. Now in its 3rd year of publication, ELJ aims to publish writers who are currently emerging on the literary scene. We love, prefer free verse and flash fiction—words with passion, voice, and place. We look for succinct images and dialogue that linger, narrative that we can take with us to bed at night, ideas used in magnificent ways. Bring us your castles. Emerge Literary Journal is published under its parent press imprint, ELJ Publications.

The Drunken Odyssey Needs Personal Essays on Beloved Books

The Drunken Odyssey, an amazing writing podcast, needs personal essays for its “Book that Changed my Life” segments. Send pitches for essay ideas to

Gambling the Aisle Flash Fiction Call For Submissions

Submission deadline: Rolling
Gambling the Aisle is currently accepting submissions for Monthly Flash Fiction. Submissions must be self-contained, independent works of fiction 300 hundred words or fewer. One piece of flash fiction is published on the first of every month, and one of the monthly pieces is included in each of our biannual publications. To view our magazine and monthly flash fiction, and to submit, please visit and select "Submit to Flash Fiction," or visit us on Submittable at We look forward to reading your work!

Microfiction Monday Magazine Call For Submissions

Online, Submission Deadline: year-round
Microfiction Monday Magazine is seeking exceptional stories told in 100 words or less for publication every Monday. There are no restrictions on genre or content, just punch us in the chest with characters we can feel, images we can't get out of our heads, and stories that are complete despite their brevity. Artwork submissions are also welcome. For more information and how to submit visit

NOW .99!!
This book is helpful for those of us who are new to flash fiction and flash memoir writing. It is a good reference book to read when we have questions. As a writing teacher, I will continue to use it with my students--Glenda Council Beall
I thought this book was quite helpful. Good exercises, to help understand what flash is; prompts to use in writing sessions; and fantastic information on where and how to submit flash pieces.--Linda Schmidt

Friday, October 10, 2014

What Makes us Working Artists--Hint: not a paycheck

If you say you are an artist, but you make little money from selling your art, can your work be considered a profession in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service?

In a ruling handed down late last week by the United States Tax Court and seen by many as an important victory for artists, the answer is yes. The case involved the New York painter and printmaker Susan Crile, whose politically charged work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum and several other major institutions. In 2010, the I.R.S. accused Ms. Crile of underpaying her taxes, basing the case on the contention that her work as an artist over several decades was, for tax-deduction purposes, not a profession but something she did as part of her job as a professor of studio art at Hunter College.

The heart of the case touches on a situation familiar to many thousands of artists — from visual artists to musicians and actors — who earn a living as teachers or studio assistants or stagehands while pursuing creative careers that they hope will flourish and someday be able to pay the bills.
Really? The IRS is going after poor artists? 

How about you--are you just a hobbyist? Read the rest here.

Meanwhile, I'm running a special starting Tuesday for Freeze Frame: How rto Write Flash Memoir. If you have friends who write or family interested in memoir, please, please, please Facebook them the link to my book. Again, the special begins Tuesday and it will go for 99 cents rather than $2.99--not that that is so bad either. --Since the IRS will be getting their share later.

Monday, October 6, 2014

What Would Happen

Yesterday was a weird day. I work in an institutional kitchen and a horrible smell was coming out of the AC/Heating unit. Not good. I turned it off and called our maintenance man who took off a grate to tell me, The motors burned out.

Just great.

I saw an inscription on a panel inside the wall and it piqued my curiosity. This morning our handyman looked into the hole in the wall at the motor and was astonished. He’d written the name Joseph Garang and a phone number on the panel years and years ago. But that wasn’t what was so amazing—he told me, I just got a call two weeks ago from Lual Pach Pach a friend of Jospeh Garang's.

In 2000 and 2001 Ted had been involved in sponsoring some young men from Sudan, Lost Boys who came over from refugee camps. They were and are a close-knit group. Maybe because they lost most of their families during the civil wars in Sudan and now all they had was each other. Ted helped them out with food, clothes, and housing until they could get established and begin building a life here in America. Joseph Garang one of the Lost Boys introduced Ted to a fellow refugee named Lual Pach Pach who was still back in Nairobi. He needed some help.

9/11 put a stop to the Lost Boy flights and asylum became a lot more complicated after the World Trade Towers attack. Joseph wanted someone to sponsor his education.

As I’m hearing this story from Ted this morning, I couldn’t help but think, That sounds risky. Like the emails I get from Nigerian princes who just need for me to transfer money into their bank accounts. These are the kind of people who can suck you dry, mainly because they think we’re all rich. And, maybe we are compared to their abject poverty. Nevertheless, I know Ted and he doesn’t have a lot of money. He does ascapping on the side and recycling of printer toner cartridges. But he promised Joseph he would send $50 a month, not indefinitely but for a while. Ted helped him through high school and then with college. He graduated and got a job at a bank in Nairobi. Eventually he wrote Ted not to send any more money.

Then two weeks ago he phoned and told Ted he wanted to meet him. He intended to send him a plane ticket, take time off work, and arrange everything so that Ted could come to Kenya. I’m sure Ted never imagined how this story would end. And here we were by the guts of the burned out motor talking about how funny life is. Fourteen years ago the idea of sending so much money to a stranger upon the recommendation of several other refugees must have sounded crazyy. What would happen?

What would happen if we got personally involved? What might happen if we get ripped off, waste time, or get overwhelmed by someone else’s problem? There were a million ways this story could have ended.

While I was in Sweden a church in Tranås met to discuss the problem of Roma people begging in the streets. Suddenly Sweden is facing an influx of Roma and public panhandling. I wondered: What if this church did what Ted did—sponsored a family, took care of the kids education, made sure they saw doctors? Just one family. It would not make a huge difference, but would be an investment toward some future goal.

What could happen?

Friday, October 3, 2014


This year I’ve lost two friends
Not lost, but misplaced.
Not misplaced, just can’t find.
Gone yet with me always.

This summer I’ve lost two friends.
Not misplaced, but gone.
Perhaps forever.

This year I’ve lost four friends.
Two are gone, but here.
Two have disappeared, yet I
Look for them, everywhere.

It makes me wonder:
What is gone and what is misplaced?
I’ve lost keys, pens, and rings.
Or are they just misplaced?
I’ve misplaced relationships—
Or are they gone? Lost forever.

I still remember the ring I lost,
And I still look for that one key,
As for the pens, they are easily replaced.
But, you. You I will forever miss.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Round-up of my Trip to Sweden

I’ve been trying to tie my thoughts up about my recent 3-week trip to Sweden. There are things I miss and lots of reasons I’m glad I’m home—sort of the reason for traveling.

In no particular order:
Uniforms: other countries in general do uniforms way better than the U.S. No matter what, Americans in uniforms still look un-uniform. And, often still sloppy. Whereas even the man coming to check the meter in Europe in his bright fluorescent pants looks sharp and clean.

Same for hats. We just look like we’re hiding bad hair.

Maybe all of the above has to do with size. In Sweden there were a few plus-size people, but with all the walking, biking, and healthy food options most people carried very little extra body fat. Face it, thin people will always look good in fluorescent. And hats.

I traveled solo, this trip. And, except for the week I spent with my friend Lotta, I felt like I was seeing and doing cool things, but also at the same time felt lonely. Cool is great, but sharing it is even better.

People have asked what I liked best and really all of it was good, but if I HAD to pick a single experience, I think my bike ride around Gotland Island was fantastic. Yes, there were times when the scenery reminded me of Wisconsin, then, turn a corner and you see these wooden steeple church spires rising up ahead and if the door was unlocked and I went in, I definitely wasn’t in Wisconsin, but a place with history going back over 500 years. The painted walls and wooden painted altar pieces and fancy rosemaling on the pulpits always caused me to sigh—and wish I had someone there with me, sharing the moment.

I also loved stumbling into Fåröpalloza on the island of Fårö. Not only is it a small word with all the bells and whistles and diacritics above the letters, it was magical that evening. I especially loved the concert in the small church aglow with candles.

I’m glad to be home where people speak English—though I sometimes wonder if I’m easily understood. People in Sweden got me. They never blinked twice if I told them I was biking around the island. They just moved their skinny selves over and let me go on by.