Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Memoir by Nancy Dachtler

It starts early in the summer far back among the grassy woods… The single sound is that of the forest – birdsong and children’s play. We all played in the sandbox at the edge of the forest. We made tunnels and roads and houses for snakes we’d found -- then rounded up buckets, filled with water, and flooded the sand – Destruction everywhere! And we built the tunnels and houses up again, only to destroy them over and over.

We played in the forest behind the neighbor’s house at the Elderberry Tree. We would dangle from the limbs and pretend - pretend - pretend. One time it would be a ship and we were all pirates. Another time the tree and its limbs would be an airship, and we would be the pilots.

Now years later, I thought I understood for the first time what a safe and carefree childhood we all had…no worries intruded and we managed to carry on in our playing and pretending until dark made us wander home -- Or a whistle from my father’s lips – or the clanging cow-bell that my mother used -- would call us from our perch up in the Elderberry Tree.

[This is from a recent workshop at The Sequim Library.]

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Musing; About Writing Classes

A couple of years ago, I attended a private, poetry, writing group near my home. We met at my friend’s center on fifteen, wooded acres. The Center has two ponds, and a corral containing llamas, goats, sheep, and miniature horses. They all looked up to greet the workshop members as we parked and walked up the hill to the meeting space.

Nine of us met under the guidance and tutelage of a MFA student working on her degree in a program at a nearby college. She prepared a curriculum for us, but based on a few hours’ work with us, and considering our personalities, age, experience, likes and dislikes, she was willing to adapt and adopt.

She provided a number of handouts that described and included examples of various poetry genres. We enjoyed the selections of poems that she picked for us to read and discuss. After a number of free writing exercises, based on single word cues, we picked single words from a glass jar to assemble the first line of a piece for an exercise. We learned that the Dadaists were the predecessors for the practice that later became known as found poetry. We wrote haiku, sestinas, pantoums, and free verse. Each of us had a favorite form that we clung to, but overall, the experiments forced us to explore new territory in order to find our voice and to polish our writing.

As part of our homework for the next meeting, we were asked to write a contract with ourselves. My contract would include how many hours I would commit to writing each week between workshop meetings and “to write like my parents were dead.” My parents were deceased, but had I written as openly and honestly, and with no inhibitions, when they were alive, I believe I would now be a better writer – at least a writer that was not afraid to embarrass his parents with his published work.

After the third session, we had established a strong bond of trust, allowing us to use vocabulary and images that were personal and capricious. Some rough and risqué words and topics were shared, as well as deep, personal observations or intimate stories about our past or lost loves. We shared, read aloud, took turns making comments about the readings, revised, and then shared our re-writes.

Reading aloud to peers is one of the surest ways to discover your weak areas. A word that doesn’t flow, or a subtle reference that is misunderstood stands up from the page when reading to a group – especially a group that has leaned in closer to hear your words and give your work the attention that is required to make helpful and earnest comments.

Folks quickly find themselves growing close to their workshop mates in a small class, meeting in a private, quiet room in the country. The word that I recall hearing often was resonate…as in “the words resonate with me.” That was one of the highest compliments I received, in addition to the laughter I had hoped to elicit
with some of my sillier pieces.

[This is adapted from a poem I wrote, under a pseudonym, about the workshop experience:]

Nine of us sat around the folding tables, covered with drink stained tablecloths, baring our souls and changing our lives at bit at the end of each line we cautiously shared. For eight weeks drinking green tea and snacking on nuts and homemade puddings, we took our turns growing bolder and bolder. Sally, the owner of the meeting house, a housewife with a runny nose, a chubby caretaker, a retired CEO, a personal caretaker that loved her cat, a large man wearing gray sweatpants, his thin wife filled with the spirit of the Lord; the grim, suspicious moderator with no sense of humor, and me – a middle-aged man with an attitude and a loathing for rules of grammar and authority.

My second memorable workshop was earlier this year. I submitted a couple of pieces and was subsequently invited to participate in a writing workshop with the local college’s artist in residence, Nancy Rawles – a playwright, novelist, and teacher. Of the dozen or so participants, three were teachers and three were artists. The mix of personalities, enthusiasm, talent and area of writing interest was immediately apparent, and as a social experiment, I made an effort to track how the artists and teachers participated and what they produced. I am a retired educator and a practicing artist, so my curiosity guided me and influenced me to pay close attention to my workshop mates that had backgrounds similar to mine.

I dove right in, and contributed my work as we took turns reading our finished pieces and discussing how we felt about it, what prompted our choice of reading or recitation, and what we learned from the finished work.

It is my belief that we learn from the piece. The poem or story “writes us”, and we do not know what it says or what it is about, or what it will teach us until we are finished with it.

The right workshop leader is what makes a workshop a success. A leader that joins in, cajoles, teases, participates, laughs, cries, smiles and hugs makes all the difference.

Several years ago, my on-line writing teacher, Ann Linquist, wrote this in response to one of my assignments. I had mentioned that I was dreaming about my writing. This had scared me a little--as the experience was intense and I was feeling a little out of control, but Ann’s response was comforting and exquisite: “You’re doing all the things writers do—looking, sniffing, touching, noticing, recording, exploring, lying awake, obsessing, planning, feeling great, feeling bad, and following your urge to write about what’s going on. Strange land, but familiar too. Welcome to this new place that has the feel of home.”

Flash Fiction: A List of Resources | The Review Review

Flash Fiction: A List of Resources | The Review Review

Shop — Stationery | Omoi Zakka Shop

Shop — Stationery | Omoi Zakka Shop Gifts for the writer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The #FridayFlash Report – Vol 3 Number 25 | Friday Flash » Friday Flash

The #FridayFlash Report – Vol 3 Number 25 | Friday Flash » Friday Flash Sample of #FridayFlash posted by authors at Twitter.

Lulu Blog » How to Write a Great Press Release

Lulu Blog » How to Write a Great Press Release

Thanksgiven (sic)

On Thanksgiven, remember the Native Americans.

Don’t eat too much canned cranberry, with that sweet, gelatinous solidity, or too many pearl onions.

Keep your degenerate hands off your first cousin, and don’t fight with your stepfather.

Be nice to granny, and help her cut her ham.

Don’t laugh at your uncle Ted when his upper plate slips out when he bites down on a leg.

Brush Aunt Marietta’s hand off your thigh when she gets drunk on the house red.

If you are asked to say grace, be nice, and don’t make jokes.

If the “men” want to play football after dinner, tell them you have a bad knee.
If the ladies ask you to help clean up in the kitchen, tell them about your knee, then sit at the kitchen table to dry dishes. Drink.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My editor, Vic, writes:

Flash fiction needs an ending that completes everything, ties up all possible loose ends, and leaves the reader feeling fully satisfied.

Now, if the ending is there and it is so subtle that I missed it, then shame on me. But others might miss it also. Would you be prepared to add an extra line that somehow adds a punch?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Flash published today.

Aubrey My story was published at FF World. Another short piece is forthcoming on their site. This is a British publication.

A 2nd story, Mustache, was also published today at:

Online Countdown Timer | timerrr.com

Online Countdown Timer | timerrr.com Write in ten minute bursts to warm up. Use this FREE, on line timer.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Nadsat Zoo [With thanks to Anthony Burgess]

Nickiwata glumped Tallywagg with his suspender sausage, knocking him head over trottercase into the vat of millysoup. Nickiwata was upset with Tallywagg. Tallywagg was spending far too much time at the playground with Ninnygupta and fondling her sallytreats and brooko. Nicki wanted to take a britva to Tallywagg’s mumblecluve, but he calmed down with a firegold and some old inandout with Ninnygupta. Nicki’s friends thought he was gloopy moodge for loving Ninnygupta and her jelly molds.

Myrna Pancakes; A Portrait

Each mile that she drove and each corner that she turned tested the shocks and springs of her old Saturn. She was a big girl and filled most of the front seat, spilling a bit onto the passenger seat, and dribbling into the back. Both front windows were made of plastic sheeting and duct tape. She didn’t seem to mind. Myrna, her large bosom pressing against the wheel, pushed ahead; proud and determined. She was late for the first serving of pancakes at The Pancake House. Every morning at seven sharp, she drove the Saturn as fast as she dared to the lot behind the restaurant so she could be the first to be seated. All the waiters knew her. She squeezed into the booth, holding her breath as she did, and when her flesh came to rest, she was trapped in the booth; her bosom covering a good part of the table and pushing the syrups, napkin holder and utensils away from her reach.

She ordered the large, all-you-can-eat stack and two glasses of milk, large. When her pancakes came, she slathered on the butter, asking for more right away, and drowned each of the pancakes in a thick, blanket of maple syrup and more butter. She ate them quickly, keeping her eyes focused on her plate and making calculated and deliberate moves with her silverware so she wouldn’t waste any motion getting the large portion to her sticky and shiny lips – by this time, dripping with butter and syrup. She asked for another stack. When they came, she had finished both glasses of milk, so she ordered another as she built her pyramid of cakes, butter and syrup – a little faster this time, as the time was drawing closer to the time to get to her morning appointment. She always saved the best bite, and the biggest bit for last. It was her way of giving herself a special treat.

Myrna had an appointment to get her nails done this morning. She wanted some silk wraps on her acrylics this time, and was determined to get the exact shade of red that matched the lipstick that her boyfriend liked. Her boyfriend, Gordon, was a retired dock worker. At one time, he weighed 450 pounds, but after his stomach was stapled, he dropped to 300. He had back trouble, foot trouble, hip problems, and had a score of operations performed for various things, including hernia operations, thyroid, teeth extractions, etc. In his late 50’s he had worn out most of the useful parts of his body, but managed to coax his penis into active duty with a double dose of blue pills purchased on the Internet.

The Contest - Flash

The invigilator spoke to us for a few minutes, laying out the strict rules of engagement. We heard very precise and deliberate instructions, and a no-nonsense sternness painted everything else, including the invigilator’s suit, glasses and accessories.

Each of us were to have a turn, then as necessary, each of us would offer suggestions for improvements, deletions, methods of operation and so on. Mary went first. She showed her device, put it through its paces, and running it full speed, and over-clocked, without any external cooling or venting. We were amazed, and Mary gloated. Don was next with his apparatus. It was almost at the limit of the size allowed, but it performed beautifully, and no one could detect any output errors at first inspection. Debbie was next. She based her appliance on some older models she had shown before. This one was a little different. It was faster, seemed to pull power out of the air, and was extremely prolific. We didn’t have time to run any quality checks on the output, but we trusted that it did a good job. Billy Bob was next in order to demo his contrivance. He pulled it out of a sleek, aluminum case and plugged in a small, hydrogen fuel cell. It hummed for a few seconds and a flexible, oleophobic lens slid out of the side to project a hundred or so lines of text on the far wall of the room. We all could see the text of the piece of fiction he was working on. He fed his device a few more parameters, shut off the granny filters, and pressed a few buttons before a second piece of fiction was displayed on the wall. His optional hard copy device supplied a copy of the second piece for each of us to read and edit. There were no questions or comments. The Invigilator appeared, smiled, shook Billy Bob’s hand and awarded him the grand prix. The winning piece of fiction was published within days, and the machine was awarded patents and was subsequently purchased by a big publishing house.

Quarterwide - Flash Fiction - UPDATED WITH CRITIQUE

Harold lived in a salvaged, single-wide trailer on his mother’s property. All that was salvaged from the original structure amounted to a quarter-wide, mobile home. He needed just enough room for his bookshelves and his three-legged dog, Stumpy. Harold had no college education, and only finished high school. He was not educated, but he was wise, and no one ever said he was, or accused him of being, an ignorant man. Harold made a game of all this. He let, and often lead people to believe he was an ignorant bumpkin. He spoke slowly, plainly and matter-of-factly, never using ten-dollar words to express himself. He dressed in second hand clothes, cut his hair short himself, wore no rings or watch, and always had a yellow pencil or two clipped to the shirt pocket of his second-hand dress shirt, buttoned at the collar.

Harold had an extraordinary self-education, having read all kinds of books, including: literature, science, psychology and history. He had opinions on everything, and could back them up with facts and examples, but he kept most of this to himself, as his friends were simple folk – “salt of the earth”, as he would say.

Naming his dog, Stumpy, was expected of a man that lived in a tin house with a three-legged dog, and it was assumed that such a man was slow and backward…and so he named his dog Stumpy, when she lost her leg to an accident when she was a pup.

People tried to take advantage of Harold and his mother. Her property was worth a fortune, as her acreage bordered the most beautiful property owned by the country club. A developer offered her a great deal of money for her property, but she had no reason to sell. She was happy in her little house, surrounded by her large gardens that she and Harold tended, the greenhouse, and chicken coop. She had three wells on the property, all of them capable of delivering enough water for the whole town, and a stand of old-growth cedars towered over the back twenty acres of her land.

Representatives of the developer would stop Mrs. Mason at her mailbox at the head of the driveway and try to engage her in conversation, hoping to convince her to sell, but she ignored them, and reminded them she had no intention of selling. When the developers came to learn that Harold was her son, they approached him at the grocery store and tried to convince him that he should do all he could to get his mother to sell. Harold would just listen, nod his head once in a while, and then go about picking the best treats for his dog, and a little surprise for his mom. After two years of a number of attempts to buy The Widow Mason’s land, they gave up and looked elsewhere.

No one knew that Harold was an especially sentient being. Harold was finely tuned. He was extraordinarily sensitive as witnessed by his ability to perceive things that others could not see or did not notice. He could sense the feeling of security and contentment in the whole body of his dog when he stroked her back or rubbed her ears. He could do the same when he took his mother’s hand to help her up when she had been on her knees for hours in her garden. Harold could touch someone’s shoulder in the store when greeting a friend and know, immediately, how their mood was, and if they were under any kind of stress, ill, or in a fearful state.

Once a week, Harold would drive the family truck thirty miles South to visit his old friend, Alan, in the Veteran’s Home. After visiting his friend, he would go to the recreation room and take a chair by the window and sit looking out onto the flower garden and the scores of bird feeders. The same group of residents of the home would stop by to say hello. Three men came by one by one to sit with Harold for a few minutes. He greeted them, took their hand for a moment, and gave each of them a spiritual “examination”. He could tell by their skin texture, the color, the skin temperature, and the grip on his fingers how they were fairing. If he sensed something different or amiss, he would ask them how they were doing and say a few words, quietly, to each of them in turn.

Every Thursday, Harold would go to the market to play at his little charade. The wealthier folks used to gather near the back of the store to gossip, and when Harold approached them, they clammed up. He thought they were silly, and as he passed by, he would tip his hat or smile. If anyone said hello, he would turn to acknowledge them and nod his head. No one ever taunted Harold, as he was a big man, and no one wanted any trouble with him.

No one knew Harold’s touch unless they had deep feelings for him and if he felt the same way about them. Harold had laid hands on a dozen or so residents at the Veteran’s home, and all of them found themselves feeling better than they had ever felt in their life. All of them left the home within a few months of befriending Harold, cured of any ailments, pain or depression. No one knew Harold’s secret. He didn’t know it himself, but his mother knew, as Harold’s father had also had the touch.
Here is the critique I received from Every Day Fiction:

Dear Thomas Pitre,

Thank you for your submission to Every Day Fiction. I regret to inform you that we are unable to use it at this time.

I really like the title and the concept of a "quarter-wide". That established the frugality and simplicity of Harold (and the tone of the piece) right off. The piece does an excellent job of developing Harold and introducing some potential conflict points about the land and his "powers". The problem is, none of the conflict ever gets played out, and the character development is all told instead of shown. The land issue becomes a non-issue. His power simply leads to people feeling better. And even Harold himself doesn't appear to have any problems, so we don't experience "man vs. himself", either. This made the story feel stagnant at worst, and like a first chapter at best. Take this wonderful setting and character and add tension, conflict, and resolution. Technical issues: this felt a bit off: "Harold had no college education, and only finished high school." If he had no college education, it stands to reason he finished high school without repetitive explanation. If you mean only JUST finished, eked by, that could be made more clear. I think "Naming his dog 'Stumpy' was expected..." would be more effective (punctuation-wise) than this: "Naming his dog, Stumpy, was expected..."
-- Joseph Kaufman

Some very nice writing here, and I loved the character of Harold. But I agree with Joseph's comments that we are "told" the story rather then being being allowed active participation in it. Lots of potential though, and perhaps the author can narrow the focus of the piece to Harold's sentience and healing powers: there's a whole story right there.
-- Carol Clark

Unfortunately due to the insanely massive amounts of submissions in our slush pile, we cannot reconsider your piece at this time.
We wish you good luck in placing the story elsewhere.

All of us at Every Day Fiction

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Poetry Submissions: How And Where To Submit Poems For Publication!

Poetry Submissions: How And Where To Submit Poems For Publication!

SPOT - a poetry paper

SPOT - a poetry paper

Aubrey ¬

Southern, slow moving, slow talking, and not a remarkable man. He was tall, bald, and his color—a greenish-gray. Driving home from the pet store with two fat rabbits in a little wire cage in the back seat, he looked forward to the upcoming long weekend, and time with his pet, Charlotte. He took the cage into his modest house, showered, and changed his clothes. He and his wife had a meal of lamb chops, biscuits and gravy, and then he went out into the garage with the caged rabbits.

Charlotte was waiting for him. He turned on the lights that illuminated her cage, and the light brought her out of her slumber. Her pupils grew larger, and she came awake. This would be Charlotte’s last meal of the winter, so Aubrey was giving her two fat rabbits. A seventeen foot python uncoiled itself from the heavy, bare limb in her enclosure, and waited for Aubrey to drop the rabbits into the cage. Charlotte was motionless for several minutes, then she struck. The rabbit screamed. It was a loud, high-pitched, who-waa,who waa, who-waa—like the sound of a baby. Charlotte grabbed the rabbit in her jaws, then threw the coils of her body around it. She tightened her hold and the suffocated the rabbit. Nudging the dead rabbit into position with her snout, she swallowed it head first. A few minutes later, she killed and swallowed the second rabbit.

Charlotte was a thick tube of muscle. Aubrey admired her strength and her majestic beauty, as he witnessed the whole feeding a few inches from Charlotte’s cage, eating a piece of pumpkin pie as he watched. He was hypnotized. His wife never watched Charlotte feeding, and since the garage was kept very warm, she didn’t like to go out there. Aubrey loved Charlotte more than his wife. He thought Charlotte was more beautiful.

He bathed Charlotte in the family tub, but only when he was alone with her. Aubrey’s wife knew that the snake had to be kept warm and clean, so she didn’t fuss. Aubrey’s wife didn’t like the snake, and Charlotte didn’t like her because she would sometimes tease her by going into the garage when Aubrey was at work and making loud noises, banging a heavy spoon on a pan, blowing a tin whistle, or turning the lights on and off. After feeding, Aubrey left Charlotte to digest her meal and he left for bed, not double-checking the latch on her cage, as he always did.

The next morning, Aubrey missed his alarm, so he hurried for the door, grabbing a paper cup of coffee and a strawberry donut. When his wife got up, she dressed, made breakfast and decided she would give Charlotte a little “extra attention” this morning, feeling more resentful than usual about the care and attention her husband give the snake. When she opened the door between the kitchen and the garage, she put the tin whistle to her lips, ready to blow it as loud as she could. She took a deep breath, ready to blow, just as the snake slid from the shelf above her head and quickly coiled itself around her neck. She struggled, and seemed to make the same high-pitched scream as the rabbits. The snake tightened. Her breath was squeezed out of her as she fought for another. As she was falling unconscious, she could hear bones in her neck cracking.

Charlotte had taken her revenge. She had dispensed pure and true justice. She nudged the woman’s head a few times, but since she had eaten last night, she only flicked her tongue near the woman’s face to be sure she was not breathing.

[Pub. at Flash Fiction World, 11-14-2011.]

Friday, November 4, 2011

Concision Fiction

Waiting Room

The doctor’s office had a small waiting room. It was crowded, and the water cooler in the corner was making burping and gurgling noises as I waited for my appointment. I had gone in because I had a red lump forming in the middle of my forehead. It came up quickly, overnight, and was about the size of a ping pong ball. It didn’t hurt at all, but it was bright red and had a golden yellow center. Other people in the room kept sneaking a peek at me and whispering to each other. One old guy kept gesturing to his hat as if to tell me to pull my wool camp down lower over my head to hide it. He lifted his ball cap to show me a baseball size lump on the top of his head. It glowed red in the room.

[kənˈsɪʒən] n
the quality of being concise; brevity; terseness

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

TWO GIRLS By W. S. Di Piero


By W. S. Di Piero

Eighteen-sixty eighteen sixty-four,
six hundred ten thousand men
gaseous gray, blackened body parts
like chopped wood in Virginia sunshine.
Or nineteen-fourteen nineteen-eighteen,
trench rats, thousands, big as badgers,
rip chines from horse and human flesh.
IED's, cluster bombs, punji sticks,
primed to shred feet, thighs, spine, sack,
yesterday, when we were countless.
Conscience says Count them up and be good,
suck on me like red candy stick
in casual lookaway moments.
Protected by neighbors, two girls
villagers know to be deficient
doll themselves up as bombs
for market day's chickens and yams,
and like a world-body neural surge,
their protectors fly into fatty parts.