Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Quandary of “Me” Time

From the Corona Files

Lately I’ve been in a state of limbo, where time has very little definition or meaning. This actually feels different than “time off” or “vacation” time. During the holidays I let go: go to bed and sleep late. With the caveat that it is all provisional—that eventually after the first of the year etc I will go back to work. In time suspended, in the time of corona I still set the alarm and get up as normal because I don’t want to forget. I want to remember what it feels like to have a schedule.

In this surplus of time I’ve found another dimension. What about “me” time? Maybe I have a much bigger quotient of self-guilt; I know I can be harder on myself than others around me are—but when one cannot be productive how to quantify “me” time? I guess it could all be considered “me” time. Yet, during what would normally be considered working hours I spend that time stressing out about being unproductive; I worry about all the stuff I’m not doing.

But once late afternoon hits, then I give myself permission. I venture out for some exercise, I’ll sit and have a snack with my tea—as if to reward myself. Well-deserved “me” time. In the evening, after supper, I can sit guilt-free in front of the TV or choose to read or cross-stitch, because I’m now off the clock.

Who’s clock?

I can’t seem to shake off the perception that all of it, all the minutes and seconds, hours, days, weeks, months are going into the same hopper, down the drain of time wasted during the corona virus.

Having a lovely relaxing bath, mum style

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Call to Duty


From the Corona Files

I am slowly beginning to understand a call to duty.

Full disclosure: I am anti-nationalist, anti-militaristic. Yes, I stand for Pledge of Allegiance and respect the flag; I just don’t wave it around. Remember right after 9/11 when every house you passed down the street had a flag out front. It creeped me out. I do not believe in American exceptionalism. Friends from Norway like to remind me that their country is first in funding the UN, their students do better than ours, and that their happiness quotient is off the charts. In Sweden they have words for this kind of lifestyle where residents are relaxed and cozy—while Americans are traumatized by school shootings.

I find it hard to rally up patriotic spirit.

Except lately. I am totally committed, 100% behind what my state governor and the Chicago mayor have called for: the stay-at-home order. I wear a face mask when out in public. I social distance. It is my civic mission to help keep others alive. I have friends in my building who are post-op, in the midst of cancer treatments, who have just given birth, who need heart surgery—I do not want to do anything to complicate their health. Every new change in my behavior that can further their life, I do. It is my duty for myself, my family, my community to do the things laid out by the experts.

Down the street is Weiss Memorial Hospital. When I take my daily walk I see the ambulances pulling in and out, lights flashing and sirens blaring. I see the medical crews racing out to the bays to accept patients, suited up as if running into a barrage. They are in a fight. I do whatever I can to support them. They are doing a job they have trained for, but never expected might kill them, yet they put themselves on the line. I see their sacrifice and acknowledge it. It makes me weepy at times.

I wish I could do more.

So please, stay home.



Tuesday, April 28, 2020

What Are You Wearing?


From the Corona Files

Folks have been making a big deal lately about wearing pants. I get it. There are days where I stay in pajamas until noon. I’m lying—there are days I never get out of pajamas.

For Zoom meetings no one needs to know I’m only wearing underwear.

BUT when I do decide to get dressed I’ve come to realize my wardrobe resembles gardening clothes. It is the over-sized comfy shirt with threadbare elbows thrown on over the ratty T-shirt with bleach stains. I’ve never been big on jeans. Even as a teen I found them restrictive, but I sure as hell would not wear stretch pants, the polyester kind with the elastic top. Now—I live in yoga pants which is stretch pants by any other name. I have not worn shoes with heels now for a number of weeks. I scuff around in slippers or else garden togs. For the longer walk I wear paint-spattered tennis shoes.

Every time I look at Dr. Birx in her countryclub get-up at the presidential press briefings I think, sheesh, lady, get a life.


Dr. Deborah Birx's scarves are bringing joy to fans and viewers ...

Monday, April 27, 2020

My Upcoming Webinar--Hybrid Writing

OCWW is happy to announce the following upcoming event:
Jane Hertenstein - The Memoir/Fiction Hybrid: Writing that Doesn’t Fit a Category- Remote Session Remote
Date: April 30, 2020 9:30 AM CDT

Remote Session
Often our work crosses boundaries, blurs the lines. Today many writers are publishing hybrids. Examples of metafiction and autofiction that blur the lines are The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, winner of the National Book Award for fiction, and History of Violence by Edouard Louis. 
Jane Hertenstein will talk about what constitutes a hybrid, the freedom to color outside the lines, and also some practical and ethical questions that pop up when considering how to evaluate and place work that blends memoir and fiction. Come prepared to explore all the many directions your writing may take you.
Jane Hertenstein is a repeat instructor at OCWW having presented on topics such as memoir and flash. She is the author of over 80 published stories both macro and micro: fiction, creative non-fiction, and blurred genre. In addition she has published a YA novel, Beyond Paradise, and a non-fiction project, Orphan Girl: The Memoir of a Chicago Bag Lady, which garnered national reviews. Jane is the recipient of a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in: Hunger MountainRosebud, Word Riot, Flashquake, Fiction Fix, Frostwriting, and several themed anthologies. Her latest book is Cloud of Witnesses from Golden Alley Press. She can be found blogging at http://memoirouswrite.blogspot.com/@memoirjane.
Special Bonus! Jane, our resident flash expert, will  accept 500 word flash manuscripts from members for a free flash contest. Write about a special memory, a moment you witnessed under a streetlight, write flash romance, flash mystery, or a flash of anger. Condense a darling you had to cut from a longer work or write whatever flashes into your mind. You choose your own writing adventure! Submission deadline is April 16. Please see manuscript guidelines on our website: ocww.info. First Prize: 20 page manuscript critique Second Prize: 10 page manuscript critique. Third Prize: Speaker's's book. All will be selected by the winners during our 2020-2021 program year. 


For more information and to online registration: Jane Hertenstein - The Memoir/Fiction Hybrid: Writing that Doesn’t Fit a Category- Remote Session

Hope to see you there,

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Submit Flash, Spartan prose

Spartan considers literary prose submissions of fifteen hundred words or less. Please read an issue before submitting.
We accept simultaneous submissions, with the request that we are notified immediately if a piece is accepted for publication elsewhere.
We do not accept multiple submissions, except in the case of linked micro fictions and/or prose poems. For linked micro fictions, the entire series must be two thousand words or less. For micro fictions and prose poems, please send no more than five at a time.
To submit, paste the entire text into an email and send it to spartaneditor (at) gmail.com. No attachments. We only accept electronic submissions. Please do not query regarding your submitted piece until thirty days have passed.
We release online issues quarterly and short-run print issues, compiled from stories published online, annually. For accepted pieces, we require non-exclusive rights for both online and print appearances.
Starting with our Spring 2017 issue, we will pay contributors $20 for each published story or series of micro fictions and prose poems. 
Evocative Imagery By Kevin Lozaw Photography - Photographer San ...

Monday, April 20, 2020

Submit to Eastern Iowa Review: Hope and Renewal Issue

SPECIAL ISSUE #11: "Hope in Renewal" (An Intermission)
Lives around the world have been disrupted by the current situation. We wait in limbo for what might lie ahead in our own homes and outside our doors. And though we'll be documenting it for months and years to come, Eastern Iowa Review is sending out a call for writing and artwork in April focused on "hope in renewal." We welcome many interpretations of "hope," and realize not everything hopeful will be bright and shiny. If you're bringing us something darker, please make sure it ends with hope, with something that lifts our spirits. We all need that at this time. Scroll down to find the submission link.

http://www.portyonderpress.com/

A radical hope for humanity and the environment | Allen Thompson ...

Friday, April 17, 2020

Am I almost there?


From the Corona Files

So far I’ve played 85,000 games of Solitaire

I think I'm reaching the peak, hopefully flattening the curve of loneliness

What Does 'Slowing Down' The COVID-19 Curve Mean? | WLRN

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Empty skies

 Cloudless Empty Blue Sky Background Stock Photo - Download Image ...


From the Corona Files

My building is beneath a common flight path. I’m used to seeing in early evening, like fireflies appearing, planes queued up out over the lake. Tiny little pinpricks of light in the twilight sky, circling before lining up to proceed to the airport about five miles west of my building. These days the lavender night skies are nearly empty.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

This Next Great Depression


From the Corona Files
Today’s Headline: 'World faces worst recession since Great Depression'

I was made for times like these

I’ve always been a tough mudder—a reference to the race run through an obstacle course of water and mud challenges, but also an innuendo for a tough motha. One time when I was straining the meat out of some disgusting casserole to make a sloppy joe sandwich, a friend saw what I was up to and said, “In the apocalypse I want you on my team.”

I was a saver, before saving was cool. For example, check out my bread tie collection. I re-use plastic wrap, getting multiple uses. I salvaged elastic, buckles, and buttons from old clothes before cutting them into rags to wax the floor, polishing my shoes with holey socks. Today I’m fashioning raggedy T-shirts into face masks—using hair ties stashed here and there for the elastic that slips over the ears.

I am the daughter of a daughter of the Great Depression.



Submit to ADANNA

SPECIAL ISSUE Information:  ADANNA Seeks women's stories during the Pandemic of Coronavirus outbreak  

 DEADLINE:  May 15, 2020


Adanna Literary Journal is a women focused print publication.  We are seeking essay, poetry, and creative non-fiction that speaks towards the experience of mothering in a time of crisis—caring for children, especially those with children in college returning from affected areas, those with younger children exposed to media and the anxiety of school shut-downs, as well as women who are caring for elderly relatives or those in the medical profession.  To submit, please e-mail adannasubmissions@yahoo.com.  The subject line should read “Special Issue” to distinguish this from our annual issue.  Art & Photography will also be accepted in submission.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

This Week


From the Corona Files

So this is the week I would have been going to Grand Rapids for the Festival of Faith & Writing. Instead I’m sitting at home. Last week I realized that when I opened up my non-fiction project, made changes, and saved it—that I’d accidentally “wrote” over my file—thus the stuff I’d saved earlier before going on coronavirus hiatus was lost.

Is any of this making sense?

And, the only two “jobs” I’ve had lately: 1) running deliveries to our front desk upstairs to people in lockdown and 2) volunteering at the homeless shelter, serving dinner once a week—I will likely be giving up as I’ve been deemed high-risk.

Does my life feel insignificant? Small? Yes.

Even Thomas Merton at his hermitage (within Gethsemani Abbey) in Kentucky was able to work in his garden, break the intense isolation by walking down the hill.

They say these next two weeks could be the worst (been hearing this for awhile) and that perhaps by early May things might loosen a bit. For right now, we wear masks when outside or in the lobby or common areas, constantly wash hands, and only go outside to take exercise or “necessary” errands. I’d like to think that someday we will look back on 2020 and be able to say—remember that time we all had to stay inside.

*Pray I can get started back to my project and remember the stuff that was lost—a horrible thing to happen.


GDi - Ensemble for Disaster Risk Reduction

Friday, April 10, 2020

Who will you end up being?


From the Corona Files

I was talking to a friend the other night, speculating that when this is all over and we’d made it, I will be diminished. Today I see better what I was trying to say—

                                       we will have lost our innocence.


Historical Photos Of The 1918 Spanish Flu That Show What A Global ...

Thursday, April 9, 2020

A Voice From the Past


From the Corona Files

A Voice from the Past

We’re hearing a lot these days about keeping in touch with friends—via social distancing. So I’ve been making and receiving calls. Last week I answered the phone and was thrown into mental gymnastics. “Guess who this is?” I racked my brain.

Mary Anne?

I’d last spoke to Mary Anne maybe 30 years ago. In 1980 when I moved out of the house after high school, Mary Anne was my first roommate in Dayton. So yeah, it’s been a minute.

We took a good while to catch up. We each had gotten married, divorced, had kids, now grown kids. She has grandkids. It was actually hard to imagine. When we lived together in Dayton near UD it was the “bad” side of town. Not exactly a ghetto, but working class in a working class town. Mary Anne told me that the district had gone through gentrification and urban renewal. The house we lived in would likely sell for half a million.

I remember the electrical being so fragile that we couldn’t run an air popper, the seeds just danced around on random bursts of warmish air. There wasn’t enough watts or umph to pop a pimple let alone pop corn.

She surprised me by saying: Every time I pass a church advertising VBS, I think of you. Yes, I answered, I LOVE VBS!

You see, my mom would usually check out during the summers when all us kids were home and out of school. She suffered from depression and that’s when she was usually hospitalized. Neighbor ladies pitched in to watch us while Dad was at work. And, being it was the 60s and there was no such thing as consent, these friends would just drop us off at VBS, despite the religious institute. It could be Baptist one week and the Methodists the next.

Mary Anne reminded me that I ran a bootleg VBS out of our rental house. I mimeographed leaflets and went door-to-door inviting kids to come one day a week for a Bible story, songs, treats, and a craft. Nowadays it sounds creepy and weird, but back then people didn’t care; they sent their kids. We spent time talking and during the week, if I saw them on the street, I’d wave hi!

It seems like a gazillion years ago. I hardly know that Jane anymore, but she seems earnest and nice, tending to her own wounds while at the same time trying to help others.

How about you? Are you getting calls from folks you haven’t heard from in years? How will you be remembered?

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

I'm gonna make it through this year

This Year, by the Mountain Goats

From the Corona Files

A Lockdown To-Do List

What comprises my day? The high-functioning Jane is gone, the one who could get a foot-long to-do list done in a day, the one used to doing three things at once. For example cross-stitching while watching TV—a foreign film with subtitles.

Now there’s no to-do list. There are no deadlines or dates. If I’m lucky there’s a Zoom on the schedule.

I’ve been reduced to the elemental, to sitting and staring out the window, drinking tea, and the occasional quarantine snack. My to-do list is made up of calling old friends, writing letters, baking bread. Reach out, be kind. And, if I do half of that, I’ve been highly productive.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A Poem about the Pandemic Went Viral

And people stayed at home
And read books
And listened
And they rested
And did exercises
And made art and played
And learned new ways of being
And stopped and listened
More deeply
Someone meditated, someone prayed
Someone met their shadow
And people began to think differently
And people healed.
And in the absence of people who
Lived in ignorant ways
Dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
The earth also began to heal
And when the danger ended and
People found themselves
They grieved for the dead
And made new choices
And dreamed of new visions
And created new ways of living
And completely healed the earth
Just as they were healed.

poem by Kitty O'Meara, a former teacher and chaplain from Wisconsin, in trying to process the worsening news surrounding the catastrophic spread of the coronavirus. She had adopted the persona of a poet writing years before the Spanish Flu, then even made up the idea that it presaged that pandemic and now this one. From O Oprah's mag: “a poem written in 1869 by Kathleen O’Mara” that was “reprinted during 1919 Pandemic.” Nevertheless, its sentiment and message are just as profound as if it had serendipitously reemerged from more than a century ago. "It was just a post on Facebook. I don't know that I even considered it a poem," said O'Meara. "You know, it was just a way of offering some comfort to my friends and myself." 

I loved that she pretended, that she pushed her imagination and created an illusion that seemed to span time.
Photos: How People Tried to Protect Themselves From Flu Pandemics ...


Monday, April 6, 2020

The Memoir/Fiction Hybrid: Writing that Doesn’t Fit a Category, sign up--share with others

OCWW is happy to announce the following upcoming event:
Jane Hertenstein - The Memoir/Fiction Hybrid: Writing that Doesn’t Fit a Category- Remote Session Remote
Date: April 30, 2020 9:30 AM CDT

Remote Session
Often our work crosses boundaries, blurs the lines. Today many writers are publishing hybrids. Examples of metafiction and autofiction that blur the lines are The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, winner of the National Book Award for fiction, and History of Violence by Edouard Louis. 
Jane Hertenstein will talk about what constitutes a hybrid, the freedom to color outside the lines, and also some practical and ethical questions that pop up when considering how to evaluate and place work that blends memoir and fiction. Come prepared to explore all the many directions your writing may take you.
Jane Hertenstein is a repeat instructor at OCWW having presented on topics such as memoir and flash. She is the author of over 80 published stories both macro and micro: fiction, creative non-fiction, and blurred genre. In addition she has published a YA novel, Beyond Paradise, and a non-fiction project, Orphan Girl: The Memoir of a Chicago Bag Lady, which garnered national reviews. Jane is the recipient of a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in: Hunger MountainRosebud, Word Riot, Flashquake, Fiction Fix, Frostwriting, and several themed anthologies. Her latest book is Cloud of Witnesses from Golden Alley Press. She can be found blogging at http://memoirouswrite.blogspot.com/@memoirjane.
Special Bonus! Jane, our resident flash expert, will  accept 500 word flash manuscripts from members for a free flash contest. Write about a special memory, a moment you witnessed under a streetlight, write flash romance, flash mystery, or a flash of anger. Condense a darling you had to cut from a longer work or write whatever flashes into your mind. You choose your own writing adventure! Submission deadline is April 16. Please see manuscript guidelines on our website: ocww.info. First Prize: 20 page manuscript critique Second Prize: 10 page manuscript critique. Third Prize: Speaker's's book. All will be selected by the winners during our 2020-2021 program year. 


For more information and to online registration: Jane Hertenstein - The Memoir/Fiction Hybrid: Writing that Doesn’t Fit a Category- Remote Session

Hope to see you there,

Off Campus Writers' Workshop

Friday, April 3, 2020

My upcoming remote session from OCWW, sign up!

OCWW is happy to announce the following upcoming event:
Jane Hertenstein - The Memoir/Fiction Hybrid: Writing that Doesn’t Fit a Category- Remote Session Remote
Date: April 30, 2020 9:30 AM CDT

Remote Session
Often our work crosses boundaries, blurs the lines. Today many writers are publishing hybrids. Examples of metafiction and autofiction that blur the lines are The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, winner of the National Book Award for fiction, and History of Violence by Edouard Louis. 
Jane Hertenstein will talk about what constitutes a hybrid, the freedom to color outside the lines, and also some practical and ethical questions that pop up when considering how to evaluate and place work that blends memoir and fiction. Come prepared to explore all the many directions your writing may take you.
Jane Hertenstein is a repeat instructor at OCWW having presented on topics such as memoir and flash. She is the author of over 80 published stories both macro and micro: fiction, creative non-fiction, and blurred genre. In addition she has published a YA novel, Beyond Paradise, and a non-fiction project, Orphan Girl: The Memoir of a Chicago Bag Lady, which garnered national reviews. Jane is the recipient of a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in: Hunger MountainRosebud, Word Riot, Flashquake, Fiction Fix, Frostwriting, and several themed anthologies. Her latest book is Cloud of Witnesses from Golden Alley Press. She can be found blogging at http://memoirouswrite.blogspot.com/@memoirjane.
Special Bonus! Jane, our resident flash expert, will  accept 500 word flash manuscripts from members for a free flash contest. Write about a special memory, a moment you witnessed under a streetlight, write flash romance, flash mystery, or a flash of anger. Condense a darling you had to cut from a longer work or write whatever flashes into your mind. You choose your own writing adventure! Submission deadline is April 16. Please see manuscript guidelines on our website: ocww.info. First Prize: 20 page manuscript critique Second Prize: 10 page manuscript critique. Third Prize: Speaker's's book. All will be selected by the winners during our 2020-2021 program year. 


For more information and to online registration: Jane Hertenstein - The Memoir/Fiction Hybrid: Writing that Doesn’t Fit a Category- Remote Session

Hope to see you there,

Off Campus Writers' Workshop

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Decameron


Another in my series of the Corona Files


The Decameron seems like the right book for the right time. Composed in 1348 the premise involves a group of young people who have fled the Black Death to a secluded villa outside of Florence. They’re bored; they’ve eaten through their quarantine snacks; they’ve binge-watched the latest Netflix. And, because they don’t know about social distancing, they sit around together and come up with a plan to entertain each other. For each of the days of lockdown one of the members will share a story.

The author, Giovanni Boccaccio, is himself a young man. The plague, ravaging all of Europe and his hometown, has claimed the lives of Boccaccio’s father, step-mother, and many of his close friends. I’m wondering if he is self-soothing by writing the tales that number The Decameron (one hundred).

The book is structured as a frame story—meaning that the setting, the prescribed situation of death hanging over their heads, the end of the world as it were, is the frame, and the stories are not linked or sequential to one another. There are silly stories, some a bit off (ahem, sexy), some are object lessons. They were meant to entertain and take one’s mind off the situation outside their door.

Throughout runs the common medieval theme of Lady Fortune, and how quickly one can rise and fall through the external influences of the “Wheel of Fortune.”  Boccaccio had been educated in the tradition of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which used various levels of allegory to show the connections between the literal events of the story and the Christian message. Boccaccio borrowed and expanded upon known tales from Persia, the Orient, and from other places, ones that had been in the milieu for a while. He just played around a bit with some of them. The Decameron is a source for several stories in Geoffrey Chaucer more famous Canterbury Tales written decades later. The tales also influenced Shakespeare.

Words Without Borders has put out a call for your Decameron submissions, tales from the Covid-19 pandemic. In the midst of all the quarantine boredom, why not challenge yourself and your friends to email between yourselves stories. Chase the wolf away from your door.
A Tale from the Decameron (1916) by John William Waterhouse.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Last Week


Another in my series of the Corona Files

Last month.
I was upset that my conference got canceled, my email inbox was stuffed with notices of cancelations or postponements, I couldn’t plan from one day to the next if I’d have an appointment or a meeting. I learned to pivot, getting used to the new normal. Purell was still available. I rode my bike to my workout class where we laughed about the people we knew who were over-reacting.

Then. The workouts got cancelled.

Three weeks ago I downloaded Zoom and learned about Google chat. It wasn’t the same as meet-ups and the audio was glitchy, but hey, it worked. First it was groups of 50, then 20, then 10, we couldn’t congregate. We were told to social distance. I bought the last roll of toilet paper. I found myself switching back and forth from my work to the latest news. A friend gave me a link to a pattern to make masks.

Then. The governor called for a shelter-in-place.

Two weeks ago I picked up the phone and called people I hadn’t talked to for a while. I messaged friends in Italy, checking in on them. I added runs to the lake because I was basically sitting on my butt all day and eating “quarantine” snacks. It was hard to concentrate—I found I could write for about twenty-minutes a day. I made it a priority to catch the daily press briefing—while sewing face masks.

Then. The mayor sealed off the parks.

Last week my movements were prescribed. I quit even trying to write. I lost hours on Netflix. I figured out when the latest numbers were added to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus interactive map and checked daily. I cried every afternoon at 2 pm. The death rate in Italy sky rocketed. Friends shared Covid-19 playlists. All the books I’d waited to read when I had time stared me in the face—I was no longer able to focus on words on a page. The idea of prayer appealed to me more and more. If even for a minute to distract me from the TV and radio, the waves and waves of numbers rolling over me.

Then.

This week I wake up in the middle of the night to check the news. I await what is about to come. The numerous changes both great and small. The expected announcement of celebrity deaths. New restrictions that narrow my world even further. I will sew masks. There is no routine, there is no normal; the old world is passing away.

“Drop, drop -- in our sleep, upon the heart sorrow falls, memory’s pain, and to us, though against our very will, even in our own despite, comes wisdom by the awful grace of God.”
Aeschylus, Agamemnon

How the Plague Reshaped the World | JSTOR Daily