Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Sunday Poem at RPH Publishing

This has been a real hard week and not sure when it will get better. Days are just trivial tests of life every day, one after another. Since I try not to whine here, I tried to overcome the band of ache around my forehead and to find something positive to post. I found one!

Red Paint Hill Publishing in Tennessee has a page on their web site called Sunday Poems. This week they put up my poem Sunday Morning, 1955 for today. Thank you PRH Publishing. I also appreciate the editor using the words "love it" in her letter to me for permission to use!

Red Paint Hill is a poetry journal, non-paying but what other kind of poetry jobs are there! Ha-Ha! They do print a few poetry collections each year. You might visit if you feel you have a collection of common-themed poems ready to go.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A New Literary Journal

So many things change and writing and print publications are no exceptions. When I was younger, a magazine meant fiction…sometimes a novel, a short fiction, and occasionally a short-short story. I used to love those. They were fast and as tight as a newly knitted mitten.

Today flash fiction is becoming increasingly popular. I like it, but often find the stories rather weird. I think a piece of flash can be both good and yet traditional. However many pieces of flash fiction published now are experimental type works.

The entry fees of writing contest are going up, and now even print publications are known to charge for reading a writer’s work. I do not like this arrangement. But a good number of pubs and contests do give a year’s subscription for a hefty entry fee. That does seem a bit more fair because if a writer is serious, he should be willing to read and study the markets. I have bought a few back issues that have led me to some good reads too.

I’m not sure where I first heard about Fine Linen: High Thread Count Fiction, but the title alone caught my eye. Since I have been a weaver in the past, the idea of threads and fabric relating to well woven story intrigued me. I subscribed.

My first issue of this flash fiction literary journal arrived this week. It came in a tiny bundle, a literary journal smaller than a picture frame. When I popped it open, I was amazed at how the editors offered their fiction. The wrapper folded out to two pages of flash fiction. Inside were packed sweet little book marks, a wine list and a dessert-like menu carrying more flash fiction. Cute idea and definitely a literary journal I won’t forget or lump in stack of magazines.

I found some stories I really like, and as usual, some off the wall flash fiction I couldn’t truly understand. But…I am eager to see the next one arrive in my mailbox. They got my attention!

What is the weirdest publication you have received at your house?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

January Respite

It was the middle of January and the thermometer said 60 degrees. Was Mother Nature kidding? The intense sun rays beat down as dazzling as a freshly minted copper penny. Robins made an appearance in the yellowed grass. Despite a recent bout with Crohn’s Disease and the death of his mother, DH wanted to take a ride, a ride some direction besides east or west. So we headed for the Arkansas line which is only about an hour away with the new highways in place.

We left early, Biscuit ensconced in the way back with her seat belt and doggie pad. I did the driving this day which was okay as for once I felt fairly rested. I wasn’t sure why or where we were going. We rolled down the highway reaching Ozark hills quickly. Old cedar trees were the only green we could spot. Fields were fallow and grasses were shades of saffron. Small creeks bubbled along with winter moisture. We often have to take a mini-trip in March, that time before winter ends and spring begins to escape cabin fever. Yet this day was way too early as I am sure more winter looms ahead.

So we reached the square in Bentonville right as things began to open for the day. We had never been to the Walton Museum, a tribute to the founder of Walmart, Sam Walton. He started his business life in the Ben Franklin stores, moving up quickly. Eventually he set out on his own and the rest is history. I think he was a good example of the Greatest Generation. He served his country, felt civic pride, worked hard and was a fair man. On the square his museum has a front like the old Five and Dime stores. My favorite things were the old products. Also there was a 1960 era soda fountain connected to the museum.

From there we edged into Rogers and found the Charming Charlie store. What a riot of color there as some of the spring stuff was out. Heads up as orange and navy are the colors for spring along with a splash of mint green. While I moseyed around the store, DH and Biscuit had a winter walk across the parking areas.

Then we looked up an old eatery we had not frequented for years. In fact, it had closed and relocated in our absence, but we found it. What was once a sweet little tea room decorated in shabby chic on a brick street was now located in a strip mall type affair near a big shopping mall. Ah, okay, it was inside that would be the tea room! However, right off the menu was posted on the wall like McDonald’s and you placed orders at a cash register, were given a number, and then seated yourself at a marble topped table. It got worse. You fetched your own iced tea (although they did brew pots and bring them.), gathered your own table service and sweeteners from a wooden buffet cabinet. McDonald’s influence again?

There was not an ounce of tea room ambiance and the iced tea was a choice between overwhelmingly sweet or a bit bitter, weak brew (but the brewed pot was very good), but I will say the sandwiches were first-rate. I had a Rueben and spring salad. The Crumpet had always been known for their orange rolls and that was one thing that had not changed! They were outstanding. Yeasty sweet bread, shaped like a cinnamon roll, these buns have a subtle but distinct flavor of a slightly sugary orange. Marvelous with tea! We brought two extra home with us.

Despite DH saying I was a bit of a tea snob and I know it was true, we walked out satisfied. With no real shopping needs and no true desire to flea market, we rolled right back home to carry on with January!

               Most interesting sight of the day, Look at the size of this dog!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Novel Idea

Last week when I attended the Writing Guild, it was the first time I had made a meeting in months. Last year had been my worst attendance year ever  due to so many things. It was such a bitterly cold night that it was a real push to get there. Several new people pushed out too for a first time meeting so the room had a nice attendance for January.

One of the new visitors was R. who is an ex-Marine. He told his story and why he was there. He has suffered PSTD for years from being a Vietnam Vet, and finally his memories got the best of him. He went to a VA facility where they said the best thing he could do was to write out his trauma instead of trying to bury it. He managed to write several pieces for a Marine web page.  He said he was no writer, but he wanted to learn. He invited us to read some of his work, and he was a better storyteller than he thought.

One of the issues that came up was fiction vs. non-fiction. He writes personal essays. I suggested he consider putting the events of his life into fictional pieces. He did not want to do that saying that he wanted to tell the true story. Others took issue with my saying fiction was another way, that essays were better for Vietnam memories than fiction. I dropped it, but I don’t think fiction should be discounted. Often we can step back and let other characters act out our own story. Also, fiction might not be factual but it can be very true. The emotions and pain of a soldier does not have to be literally true to carry truth, to show truth. I believe fiction has real power.

The interesting thing is that R. wants to join the group, but he has proposed an in-house writing contest. He thinks if we “experienced” writers would read his essays and then rewrite them, he could study and learn from them. Now this is an original idea! He wants to judge them and to offer cash prizes for three places. Guess who is going to show him (hopefully) how good his stories can be turned into fiction?

I have already chosen one of his essays. Actually, it seemed to choose me. I have started working on the piece and think I have a pretty good war story going here. I have never written a war story before of any kind so this is a challenge. I have no personal experience with a battle, but reading R.’s essays, I think I got enough facts to weave a life-like story of the Vietnam experience. Time will tell.

Where do you stand on fiction vs. non-fiction?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Little Late....

It is no secret that piles of books surround me. But due to life’s interruptions, the books have been piling up around here, each begging for attention. An unread book is an exciting invitation for me, but when they pile up, they feel like accusatory fingers pointing at my sloth.

This January has been a repeated page from last January so far. Last year I had a few weeks of great writing time, an exercise program in place, and was reading until death tipped the scale forcing me to stop everything and deal with the real world. So far, this January repeats the same path. I am determined to get back on my goals somehow.  I started off writing and have several finished stories along with some unfinished pieces to show for my work. Accomplishment is like success, it breeds more of itself.

Last week I finished the book for my February book club which was Girls of Atomic City about the women who worked and lived in Oak Ridge, Tennessee as the atom bomb was being developed during W.W.II. It was a good read with lots of points to think about. So this week I was to tackle the book piles. I jumped around reading a little in each. I couldn’t settle because while reading each one the others in the stack “called to me”. Here is my shortest stack:

Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction…decent material but nothing astounding so far.
For All the Tea in China…nonfiction about how the English smuggled tea plants out of China years ago to break China’s monopoly on tea. Again decent material but rather dry reading for long hours.
chasers of the light…a light book of poetry by a very sharp-looking young man. It is love poetry I would say and reminds me of the old Rod McKuen works of the 1960s…not critically accepted but best sellers by popular demand. Tyler Knott Gregson’s poems are a success because of a special hook built around a typewriter and his intensive PR efforts on places like Tumblr and Twitter. (I confess to not knowing how to use either of these!)
Indian Givers…nonfiction about how the Native Americans changed the world. This is great read but it is packed with info so is weighty reading.
Things We Loose: StoriesI got this book at a Christmas party hosted by the author. He was an English prof at SMS in Springfield 20 or so years ago. I have only read one of the stories, but it was fantastically written! I am ready to read more.

So yesterday I made a pass by my office bookcase when yet another title jumped out at me. Oh my gosh, there sat the Christmas book I bought at PSU in September and had saved for Christmas reading. Well, life intervened and I forgot. I decided not to wait another year to read it. I am almost finished and I can say this is a very good read. Although the setting is Christmas and there are trees, lights, and holiday foods, the real story is about people, young, old, handicapped, who are on the brink of fresh starts in their lives. I like the characters, flawed slightly, they aren’t evil or dangerous. They are like the rest of us, trying to be the best of who they are while they are here. Since Christmas is a story of birth, this Christmas book fits as it tells of some rebirths…oh, and there is a baby’s birth involved in this story too.

I’m a little late but I can recommend a carol dickens christmas by Thomas Fox Averill for next December…if not sooner!

Sunday, January 11, 2015


This new year was in a place I could live with for sure. Household was back together, loved ones were as safe or happy as possible since I could do no more for them, DH and I had managed so far to avoid all the nasty flu bugs in this community, my writing was energizing, and mother-in-law was back in hospital but responding well to antibiotics. So Thursday night we braved the cold and drove out to the Joplin Writers’ Guild, a first for many months for me. It was exciting because the room was full of new and enthused writers along with old members.

But then mother-in-law died early Friday morning. If I know her, she woke up to the dawn realizing that despite antibiotics, a new hip joint, cement in surrounding bones to combat the spongy condition of 95 year old bones, a mind that no longer cooperated with her, a loss of hearing that was beyond comfort, and she thought to herself, “Fudge on it all, it’s time to go!” She was a woman who did things in exactly her own way and time no matter what.

The woman made a good part of my life miserable. She never wanted me in her family, yet she liked me too. She told me once that she did. Then she added that the mistake I made was marrying her son. She never got over that. After nearly 50 years of knowing me, she finally told me in the nursing home that she loved me.  But then again in the last visit her drugged grogginess allowed her an unchecked honesty to take a verbal swipe at me.  Inside nothing had changed.

It was DH and I who cleaned out her house, burned her private papers, and saved what paintings we could. It was I who found her wedding ring and took it to her in the nursing home. And several months ago, it was I who took her for ride to see the farm house and fields that she had called home in what seemed like forever. She who allowed me to see her furious but never crying, shed tears knowing it was probably the last trip by the beloved scenes of her life. I cried too because I loved her for what she was and not for who she was not. I felt her pain.

While she taught me tough lessons about human behavior, she also taught me how to make a great pan of macaroni and cheese. She taught me about color, about creativity. She tried to instill in me the ability to turn my face to house clutter and just write. I never could, but she had mastered the technique. She could leave a sink full of dirty dishes, pans on the stove, a table uncleared so she could stand at the easel adding color and meaning to her own life.

It is always painful to watch our parents age, to lose their ability to move freely, to see their mind begin to fail, to see the shrinkage and diminishing of who they are, but it is expected, a natural part of life. These last few months were agonizing for me with my mother-in-law though. She was not who she used to be and she hated it. Her memory was failing on top of all else, yet she was still sharp enough to know it was happening and feel helpless. Helpless was not a word she knew over her 95 years. Her 102 pound body was now just a shell. The essence of this woman was gone. I think Thursday morning she had had enough.

It was our job to go to the nursing home that afternoon to tell her 98 year old husband that his wife had died. His legs won’t hold him well anymore but his body is fairly hardy. Poor hearing but you can talk to him. His mind comes and goes. A man of few words, you have to watch carefully or you think he is just as sharp as ever saying the same phrases he has used for nearly a century. He chatted up his son for a minute but when asked, had no idea who DH was.

DH found this telling hardest of all. His dad seemed to understand, show some remorse, and then in fifteen minutes he would ask, “Where is Dorothy?”  So he was told over and over and over again. I took some turns and at one point he seemed to grasp it more. He asked me her maiden name and then he began to verbalize their first meeting years ago, 1935 maybe? For a few minutes, I stepped back with him and saw these two young people, vibrant and daring, ready to meet life head on. Three quarters of a century flashed by like a movie on fast forward.

Dismantling the farm house shredded my heart with each toss; the farm sale hurt seeing others tote away my mother-in-law’s favorite things. Putting them in assisted living was sad but necessary for them to continue to live safely. Each lessening of their abilities was a hammer blow to the heart. So when the call came Friday morning, I felt only a great sense of relief not for me but for my mother-in-law. No more pain or dehumanizing procedures. She was free, and I hoped she was at peace with a life she lived furiously, independently, energetically, vibrantly, and long. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Little Spice in Life

Some of the things about January are change, starting over, and clearing out. After the autumn’s pitching and sorting event here, there should not be anything left to toss. But that is not true. Still closets are full and drawers groan when shut. The one place that is down some is the kitchen cabinet because we have eaten the holiday food and are reaching in the back for cans of hominy, bags of beans and such.

I hate to admit this but one whole cabinet in my kitchen is devoted to mostly spices, salts,  and baking things. A few weeks ago I needed some Mexican Oregano…couldn’t find it. Found Turkish Oregano and my sister-in-law’s home dried oregano, but no Mexican. I knew I needed to sort and organize. So, like other January’s, I faced the chore of the spice cabinet today. I gathered some new ones from the utility room and few from another storage place and began to read dates, empty together small amounts, and even toss some. Still I have too much I know!

My writing mind can be like my spice cabinet. It can have shelves of peppery ideas, stores of tasty words, and some real zesty stories. But until I sort them out and really start cooking with them, they just sit there taking up space. So January is also the month for me to gather the sticky notes, make a master list and start creating something. This I have already done too by entering contests and submitting. I still have a few ideas to bake up this winter! 

Below are a few interesting writing ops if you writers need some new writing spots.

Subject: CFS: Wild Women Poetry Anthology

Accents Publishing seeks submissions for Circe’s Lament: An Anthology of Wild Women. Edited by Bianca Spriggs and Katerina Stoykova-Klemer, we welcome poems by authors of all genders about goddesses, gun-slingers, shape-shifters, blues-singers, oracles, and scandalous divorcees, or any wild woman you know, including yourself. Email 1-3 poems to: circeslamentATgmailDOTcom

The Boiler Flash Essay Contest judged by Daniel Nester

·        Submission Deadline: January 15, 2015
The Boiler challenges you to submit flash essays under 600 words. We’re open to hybrid forms of poetry, essay, and memoir. The only things that matters are whether you can sustain our attention and craft a well-written, sleek, beautiful little thing. Two winners will receive $600 and publication in our spring issue. Finalists will be considered for publication in our spring issue and other prizes. Submissions open October 31st and close January 15th. We will announce the winner in the spring of 2015. To get an idea of what we like, read magazines like BrevitySweet, or other flash journals.
 Short Story Contest: 2015 Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Short Story Award
Once again we are accepting submissions (2000 words or fewer) on the theme of "Food Stories" for the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Short Story Award.

In addition to a $200 prize, the first place winner's story will be considered for print publication in the Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC's next anthology or as a featured story in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable.
Honorable Mentions may also be published in the BWG Writers Roundtable on-line literary magazine in a month selected by the editors.

All stories must be submitted by January 31, 2015.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A First Day

This is how a day should be, but unfortunately, the last few months have been disasters of sorts. Now as a first day of the new year ends, it cold, dark, and rain begins to fall that could get nasty in these freezing temps. But the good things have by far outweighed the darkness today!
I have managed to exercise…finish both the laundry and the dog’s laundry (that be a load of old towels to clean her up from outside’s mud, snow, rain and whatever caked on some rather big feet!), a nice but simple lunch, and one last batch of spiced pecans for the season. But writing was achieved too!

I have rough drafts of both a poem and a 500 word contest entry. And I managed to check out some websites that have been marked for the “right” time. While I am somewhat into digital, I am long ways from comfortable with much of it.  I have made the transition from pencil and paper to composing easily on a keyboard; in fact, I enjoy that especially with a dictionary and thesaurus at hand on the computer too. Research is a breeze. While I can read on my Kindle, I do not enjoy reading on a computer. I find much I want to read but tend to postpone it.  
But today I set to checking out some things. I found a new and amazing poet from Montana that writes every single day. His name is Tyler Knott Gregson and here is his web page if you’d like to check him out.  It is interesting that he found an old typewriter as a muse!

I also took time to really investigate a new webpage for lovers of westerns called Saddlebag Dispatches. This is an online publication promoting western books but with western stories, western travel, history of the Old West, and even some old fashioned serials. You will find names to recognize if you are a western reader--Dusty Richards, Bonnie Tesh, Velda Brotherton, and Pamela Foster among others. I would especially like to recommend you read the light and clever short story by Bonnie Tesh called “The Unlawful Adventures of Cyclone, Boomer, and Rosie Red”. Now doesn’t the title alone invite you to lighten up and enjoy? Go here to read Saddlebag Dispatches:

Hot rolls are rising on top of an oven warmed stove. They are from a frozen state I admit, but still the house smells warm and yeasty. With a dab of jam and pot of tea (alas, herbal in the evening hours), the evening will be good and a perfect end to a first day.

How was your January 1, 2015? Off to a good start?