Monthly Archives: September 2013

Honorable Mention: “For Ian”

For Ian

by Regenia Spoerndle         

The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the breeze warm, gentle and perfect. It was a take-your-kids-to-the-park-for-a-picnic kind of day, not a go-to-the-doctor-with-four-children-who-can’t-stand-waiting-rooms-any-more-than-you kind of day.  It was a summer day that begged changing goals, ambitions, and schedules into a book at the park and a nap. It was a perfect day. I didn’t know this was the day my son had died.

We drove to the doctor’s office. I read Doctor Seuss to children and People to me. They called my name. I shared a threatening look of discipline with the children, leaving them behind. I hoped the doctor would move quickly.

###

There’s a problem with the stethoscope. We’ll get the doctor. A distant fear creeping toward me ready to grab my throat and shake every fiber of my being until I no longer recognized life. I didn’t want to know this was the day my son had died.

Sometimes it’s just a game of hide-and-seek. Let’s look again. A grimaced face, furrowed brows, and deep sadness in his eyes–unprofessional, but compassionate. A knock at the door. Your children miss you; here they are. Six people in a room made for one, crowded with dread so thick I wonder if we should slice it and hand out the pieces. It’s unspoken, yet the doctor and I know.

An announcement of an opportunity to check with an image, the innocence of childhood excited to see, a shout of celebration, a hidden painful glance from the doctor pretending to look at his shoes. We begin to walk to the room where it will be confirmed.

A quiet pronouncement, youthful giggling, questioning, not understanding. I’m sorry. My daughter stops, her sensitive spirit catching a shift, she looks at my face, reads it and cautions, What’s wrong Mom? I can’t. I don’t. How do you speak the words?

I say them somehow. I hear those awful, wretched words, and watch the world shift. The faces crumble, the tears form, the arms wrap around. It is the circle of life and death, and the sorrow that chases it. This is the day my son has died.

Regenia credits her love of writing to wonderful children’s literature that filled her childhood, a black metal Underwood typewriter with an unlimited supply of paper, and an inspiring high school English teacher who’s only comment on her essay was, “You really have talent as a writer”. Besides her love affair with the written word, Regenia enjoys adventures with her six children, husband of 25 years, foreign exchange students, and the family dog, Daisy. Regenia is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Akron and Notre Dame College of Ohio, where she teaches undergraduate English, Public Speaking and Newswriting classes. In addition, Regenia serves as a Local Coordinator for Academic Year in America (AYA), matching up high school aged foreign exchange students and host families.  Regenia attempts to chronicle her diverse, and sometimes crazy life, on her two blogs found at regeniaspoerndle.com and ayaexchangestudents.wordpress.com/.

Watch for another Honorable Mention story on Wednesday!

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Third Place Contest Winner

So It Happened Like This

by Mike Durr

  1. Covington

In every generation there is a vitality that did not exist in previous generations. This vitality, this burning heart fire is what makes us great or greedy, good or bad. For me the fire in my heart was not realized until I was in the fourth grade. Growing up in Covington, Kentucky in those days was no different than growing up in any other small town along the muddy brown Ohio River.   Only a mile across the river, Cincinnati was the home of those fantastic Royals, led by Oscar Robertson. And the home of America’s first professional baseball team, the Redlegs. The tall buildings and bright lights were just over the suspension bridge, which most people pointed to with pride, declaring it was the original model for the Brooklyn Bridge. Covington had then and still does a melancholy feeling. As if leftover ghosts from the Underground Railroad still existed in the damp, dark, hand-burrowed passages of the hidden tunnel—a tunnel dug in a desperate effort to gain freedom from slavery by escaping to the North. It was a secret tunnel dug ages ago, but all of us kids knew where it was and we knew the ghosts were there. The ghosts also walked the alleys and quiet places of the town at night. Sometimes in the heat of summer you could hear calliopes from riverboats and see reflections of spectral images gliding north toward precious freedom.

The summer after my tenth birthday I broke into the tunnel and explored. The cool, dripping, moss-covered passage, blanketed in darkness for nearly a century, called to me with a promise of freedom and I answered the call. I walked where no one had since the Civil War. With the mighty river coursing above, I moved fearlessly through the dark. After awhile I could feel the great desperation and fear of those who had dug the tunnel, and they bore into my spirit and stayed with me long and hard as I grew up. To me they seemed to offer a warning: “Look what had to be done for our freedom. Nothing less. What will you do for your freedom? Stay here, like those who were afraid to cross under the water, and you will never have it.” I was just a kid and the message was not quite clear. I was too simple to understand, too unaffected to know. As the years passed I never went back to the tunnel. But I felt the ghosts and their influence was great within me.

By the time I was nineteen I was desperate to get away. The ghosts of freedom had stoked high the fire in my heart. So on Christmas Eve, just two weeks after my birthday, I joined the Navy.  Three days later and for the first time in my life, I was aboard a jet, strapped in, scared and sweating despite the cold December snow outside the window. The plane gathered speed and left the runway, carrying me North above the dirty ice-caked river. Carrying me to freedom? In reality carrying me to the Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois. I still remember the fear on that freezing, dreary gray afternoon. I was more afraid than at any time in my life. Only the ghosts sustained me. “What are you willing to do for your freedom?”

Late December in Illinois was much the same as in Kentucky. Everything was hard frozen, dirty gray and cold. The Naval Training Center was a collection of sooty, peeling, white wooden buildings, leftover from the Second World War. Old steam-heated buildings, well past their prime, with skins of frost on their warped wood-framed windows. Cracked and peeling paint covered the doors and walls like the dermis of an old leper long since resigned to death. No spit- and-polish Navy Pride, just a winter way station on the road to Vietnam. Oddly enough I felt ghosts here also. Not spirits in desperation but of it. They carried a fear and stink of wars long ago fought. Salt spray and fiery North Atlantic combat. These were spirits of unforgiving conflict and loss. I could sense them, hear them in their anguish, but I was unable to understand the message. I couldn’t yet realize what I would do for my freedom. So I trained with 71 others and grieved the absence of my family and friends. I ate, worked, slept and even breathed Navy. If the training center was not a proud place, I was becoming a proud seaman. Like the ghosts of this place, I was headed for war.

My war was not to be a conflict of cruisers and battleships. No destroyers hunting submarines on the high seas of the North Atlantic. No cobalt-blue shipping lanes of the tropical Pacific. No dolphins riding my bow wave through the vast clear sea. I was headed for the dirty brown water and deep green jungles of Indochina. Headed for the sweltering heat where every insect knew the taste of human blood. A place where the desperation of the oppressed was matched by the desperation of the oppressor. A place where every day spent outside a body bag was counted as a good one. A place where every good day meant 24 hours less to spend in hell. But I did not know these things until later. I could not even have guessed what I would do for my freedom.

###

Sam (the Marine in hat) and Mike in Phu Bai

A little levity before the serious work begins

Mike Durr is originally from Independence, Kentucky. He attended Holmes High School, University of La Verne, and University of Southern Mississippi.  A member of the Department of Defense for 21 years, Mike is also a former High School Science teacher and  Nuclear Security Training Supervisor. Currently, Mike lives as a pirate in either Florida or Bocas Del Toro, Panama.

Watch for the Honorable Mention stories next week!

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Second Place Contest Winner

Waste Not, Want Not

by Lisa Ellison

Four years before my brother ended his life, my grandfather and I held mass in a tiny kitchen in upstate New York. The sweet tang of simmering sauce offered the opening rites. The three-gallon kettle he had commandeered from work held the holy water that would bring forth our salvation in the form of tender white noodles, our Eucharist. When he twisted the knob on the chipped white stove we began.

“Things keep changing in this world. One day I hope they get it right,” he said, stirring the sauce.

“I hope so,” I answered, grating cheese and savoring his service in our hot little cathedral.

“You see, you’ve got to waste not to want not. Your generation . . . you’re always throwing things away so you can buy something new.”

I nodded in agreement. In two months I would start the tenth grade. I carried a scrap of paper in my back pocket with my shopping list—sweaters, jeans, new shoes. Typically I wore mine until they had holes in them. I felt around with my toes and panicked. Maybe later I would get a steak knife and discover a hole above the heel.

“Back when I was a kid, if you didn’t take care of things, you just didn’t have anything.” He sidestepped towards the cupboard. Heaps of mismatched glass bowls tottered precariously on the thin bowing shelves, chiming like church bells when jostled. “It’s that way with everything nowadays. You tell everybody your business. Words are precious, you know.”

I scooped the cheese into the serving jar. It fell like snow from the spoon.

“You say everything that’s on your mind. Everybody’s got to know how you feel.”

“Seriously?” I looked right at him.

He went to check the water. Small whiffs of steam floated up from the pot, apparitions.  “Some words are sacred, like I love you. Those words are for matrimony. You don’t just throw them around anytime you want.”

He stirred the sauce again. You could taste the air as he pulled meatballs from the electric skillet and tapped off excess sauce, bowls chiming in sweet melody.

“What do you mean by that?” I wrinkled my brow. Surely, he couldn’t be serious.

“I haven’t told anyone I loved them, except for your grandmother, in all my years. I love you is for marriage. It’s sacred.” He smiled and stared out the window, thinking of what? His worn, thin wedding suit draped across his neck?

My jaw dropped as the blood rose in my chest. What was going on with my priest? “You mean that’s it?” My voice raised half an octave as I spit out the sentence. “You don’t tell people you love them? It’s wasteful?”

“Actions speak louder than words,” he said, with grim finality. The water began to rumble. “Talk is cheap. If you say the same thing over and over it loses its meaning.” He ripped the top off two boxes of ziti and dumped them into the pot.

As he stirred the wild water, sweat poured off the brow of his ruddy Irish face. He was my father, son, and holy ghost. This was the man who took me dress shopping before recitals, who slept on the floor at age 63 so my brothers and I could share the only bed in the house. He was the man who walked three miles in the summer sun to borrow a car to take us swimming, who bought me a pair of Reebok sneakers when he worked as a dishwasher in a school because he couldn’t afford to retire. He was the man who looked down tearfully and said, “It’s just alcohol,” when we returned, pale and somber, after a meeting with my mother. I caught his gaze and said, “Grandpa, we know the truth. It wasn’t just alcohol.”

I reflected on all our times together—the walks to the store, the pancake breakfasts, the weekly kitchen sermons. He had never once told me he loved me.

He continued to alternate between stirring the pasta and spooning meatballs and sausage into iridescent serving bowls.

“But that’s wrong!” I blurted, fist clenched, pacing. I had never challenged the service before. “You have to tell people how you feel.”

“You’re just a kid,” he said, glaring.

“Well, you’re wrong,” I repeated. “I get all that other stuff about waste not, want not. But you have to tell people you love them. One day you may be sorry and wish you’d said it more.” A shiver ran down my spine as I uttered those prophetic words.

He spooned a noodle out of the water and popped it into his mouth. “One more minute,” he said, stirring the water again. “When you’re my age you can talk about what is and isn’t right. Until then, you just remember what I said—waste not, want not.”

“You remember what I said. One day you’ll be sorry.”

He looked up at the clock then walked over to the sink with the colander. ”Move on out before you get burned.” His tone was gruff and loud.

He always shooed us out of the room whenever he drained the spaghetti, worried he might burn us with the steaming pot. I obeyed and walked to the doorway. We didn’t know right then that we would all be sorry, that four years later we would see how profoundly you can be burned even when you’re not in the kitchen, that we would spend our Sunday mass in a dimly lit funeral home instead of the kitchen, language swallowed whole.

Later that night, as we got ready to leave, I kissed my grandfather on the cheek, peered into his eyes, and said, “I love you.” He patted me on the back and smiled. “Waste not, want not.”

Lisa Ellison lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with her husband, Mark, and two cats, Smokey and Beulah. She has a life long love of writing, and currently co-facilitates a mindfulness based writing group with her wonderfully supportive literary friends. Lisa volunteers as a pro-bono therapist through a local non-profit agency.  Her poem “Furious Houses” was published in the Winter 2012 edition of the journal Blooming in the Noise.

Watch for Third Place Contest Winner Mike Durr’s story, “So It Happened Like This,” on Friday!

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First Place Contest Winner

The Lady’s Coat

by Lynne Nielsen

Slipping the Thrift Store coat over her forearms, easing it onto her shoulders, the woman smiles as she senses the weight settling into place, cloaking her frame. Glancing into the mirror she considers her reflection, graying hair swept into a simple up do, rolled and pinned into place, the simplest of pearl studs gracing her delicate ear lobes. The woman possesses an air of simple grace and beauty, yet the coat she is wearing suggests a different, more opulent story. Enfolded within the coat, the woman recalls someone she once knew, long ago in a younger, more naïve time.

The coat, constructed of the finest Persian lamb’s wool, is exquisite, yet simple. The crossover collar frames her tired face and the sleeves with accompanying wide cuffs adorn her arms and wrists.  Wrapped warmly, as though with a hug that’s luxurious and sensual, she lets her mind go. After all, this isn’t just any Thrift Store coat; this was a lady’s coat. Gazing into the mirror the woman sees reflected back the image of one once so beautiful, so once-upon-a-time naïve.

The woman imagines the stories the coat could share, if only coats could speak. Imagine the daily excursions to town, the dining out, as surely as this was once a lady’s coat.  Imagine the owner, a fine lady, head held high, sashaying to church or to the shops about the city. The local butcher would have paused, eyes focused upon the vision wearing the Persian lamb coat. How may I help you, ma’am? The locals’ whispered comments, Who is this lady? A banker’s wife? Someone’s mistress?

Closing her eyes, the woman recalls distant memories, focusing on a time outside a city café. Through the window, the woman views a younger vision in a Persian lamb coat, seated in a booth at the back of the café. The dark auburn hair in a simple up do rolled and pinned into place. The eyes, cast down, the lashes as noir as the Persian lamb coat she wore. The simplest of pearl studs gracing her delicate ear lobes. The young woman possesses an air of simple grace and beauty, yet the coat she is wearing suggests a different, more opulent story.

Glancing at the watch upon her wrist, the young woman wears an expression of concern, or is it disappointment? Perhaps shame clouds the lovely features. Glancing toward the café door, she waits. Focusing on her coffee cup, slowly, gently, stirring the spirals, gazing as if into a mirror. He loves me, he loves me not, words whispered. What does the young woman see, what is she searching for? She recalls a time when she had felt hopeful, which was more than she felt at that moment, patiently waiting in a café for someone.

Surely this someone would show tonight. After all, he had promised to meet her at 5:00.  Glancing at the watch upon her wrist the young woman notes the time, 5:45. Still, this man is an important man, people steal his time, and meetings run over the scheduled minutes. This fact she understands. How many times has she phoned his desk line, offering up an excuse to exit? Let’s get lost, Shirley, his words luring her further into their web of deceit. Those simple words, provocative, led her deeper into the place where lies entangle, until she became a willing victim of his terms.

The young woman in the booth glances at the watch upon her wrist. Why bother checking? Of course, he is late again. Are you ready to order, ma’am? For the waiter recognizes this woman, how could one avoid noticing such a vision, the lady wearing the exquisite Persian lamb coat? May I refill your cup, ma’am, allowing the lady time to think, to plan the next move.

The older woman can’t help but feel sympathy for this younger woman seated in the back booth, a vision in the Persian lamb coat. For whom does she wait? Is it a man, her husband, perhaps a lover? Is she the mistress? Why does she wait? The younger woman stands up, a careless wave, a slightly forced smile. The man she waits for has arrived, bearing flowers, clutching a briefcase full of excuses and lies. She senses this fact, knows it to be true. Let’s get lost, Shirley!

Shirley slips the Persian lamb coat over her forearms, easing it onto her shoulders, smiling as she feels the coat settling into place, surprised at the weightlessness. Gazing at the café window, the younger woman sees reflected back the image of one so beautiful, so elegant, no longer once-upon-a-time naïve. A fine lady, head held high, Shirley walks out of the café, leaving the past behind.

May I help you, ma’am? The woman returns to the present, glancing back at her image in the Thrift Shop mirror, a vision in the Persian lamb coat. It’s a beautiful coat, a lady’s coat, the employee gushes. The lady who owned this piece must have paid a dear price for it!

Enfolded within the coat, channeling all thoughts luxurious and sensual, the woman allows her mind to wander. After all, this wasn’t just any Thrift Store coat; this was a lady’s coat. The woman hands the ten-dollar bill with change to the cashier. Gently, she slips the Persian lamb over her forearms, easing the weight over her shoulders. She clasps the fastener of the crossover collar, noticing that one fur cuff is worn, slightly tarnishing the vision. In her ear she hears his whispered words, alluring, ensnaring, Let’s get lost, Shirley. A fine lady, head held high, the woman exits the Thrift Store, a vision in Persian lamb.

Lynne Nielsen is an educator and aspiring writer. She blogs at Alice and Molly.

Watch for the Second Place Contest Winner, Lisa Ellison’s “Waste Not Want Not,” on Wednesday!

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The Winners Are . . .

The results of the creative nonfiction contest are in!!!

Thank you so much for your submissions. There were so many wonderful stories that it truly was difficult for the judges. After reading them all, I was so glad that I was not judging!

As you know, we asked for your best work in your best style and had no preconceived ideas of what type of stories would take first, second, and third places.

The judges used a system which ranked them in order.  I then took their ranking and assigned a number to each ranking, added and subtracted by two (judges) to average the scores. This turned out to work very well because their results were so similar.

Amazon.com gift cards will be winging themselves through cyberspace to the three winners!

Here is the list of the winning stories:

  • FIRST PLACE:  “The Lady’s Coat” by Lynne Nielsen
  • SECOND PLACE: “Waste Not Want Not” by Lisa Ellison
  • THIRD PLACE: “So It Happened Like This” by Mike Durr

Here is the list of honorable mentions in no particular order:

  • HONORABLE MENTION: “The Relaxation Group” by Jackie Dinnis
  • HONORABLE MENTION: “For Ian” by Regenia Spoerndle
  • HONORABLE MENTION: “Water Droplets” by Enrique Guerra-Pujol

The judges provided comments about the winning stories:

THE COAT

This essay possesses mystery and imagination. [It] has resonance and a sense of wholeness. The prose is appealingly lyrical with compression of images and feeling.

This story’s use of sensory details and description works well to set the stage for the coat to become a central character of its own – the vehicle that serves to transport the narrator back in time.  The many references to time help the reader to become even more aware of the passing of it.  The overall story premise is very unique and the sense of mystery created draws the reader in immediately.

WASTE NOT WANT NOT

This writing has much to recommend it. There is a sense of a past, present, and future, where lives are blighted as a man refuses to tell his child and grandchildren that he loves them. The irony is that the man clearly loves his family, showing his affection through care and self-sacrifice. Still, he considers saying “I love you” to anyone but a spouse a waste of words. While the reader does not know why the man’s daughter turned to alcohol and, possibly, drugs or why his grandson will eventually kill himself, these acts seem tied to the man’s refusal to “waste” words of love.

The sustained metaphor of the weekly meal as mass is captured well with unique imagery.  The grandfather/granddaughter relationship is demonstrated well by showing the two of them interacting together. The well-crafted dialogue helps to develop these characters on the page. The overall message of love being shown rather than spoken comes through clearly. I particularly like the subtle  example of the young girl having to walk to the edge of the kitchen as a means to protect her from being burned.

SO IT HAPPENED LIKE THIS

Obviously the start of a longer piece, this writing can stand alone. Precious freedom is its focus. The narrator is haunted by the ghosts of slaves who tunneled beneath the Ohio River to flee north. They ask, “What will you do for your freedom?”

This writing is vivid, from the dripping tunnel, to the cracked and peeling Naval Training Center, to the sweltering jungles of Indochina, where “every day spent outside a body bag” is a good one. And always, there’s the heartbeat of What will you do for your freedom?

Wonderful opening line. It hooked me right away.

The use of detail to place the reader in scene is employed well. Many of the descriptions evoke not only a clear image of a place, but also a sense of what it felt like.

The universal theme of seeking freedom is woven throughout the story relative to history and geographic elements that leads the reader on a journey alongside the narrator.

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I wanted to make one other comment about the submissions in general. With the exception of only a couple, the submissions could all have used an outside eye reading for typos and grammar errors. I bring up this point because before you submit to journals, magazines, and agents, find a friend you trust to read over your work and search for missing words, misspellings, and grammar errors. My judges ignored these issues (within reason), but some professional readers will not do so.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR STORIES . . .

It was such a gift to be entrusted with these stories to read. Thank you for allowing the judges to evaluate them and for me to post them on this blog.

I will begin posting the winning stories on Monday!

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One Day in May

Not too many months before it happened, my husband and I had opened a small accessory and brief case store on South Street in downtown Kalamazoo.  He worked a job selling dictation equipment while I ran the store.  The store was long and narrow, with scarves and jewelry at the front, near the plate-glass window and glass door, the goods “hardening” to brief cases and attaché cases at the back of the store.  This rental space included a full, remodeled basement where I kept my desk.

On May 13, 1980, I was at the store with another woman who I will call Helen, for privacy’s sake.  When I heard on the radio that a tornado was traveling toward us along the old highway my first thought was for my husband who was driving back along that road from a call to customers located in South Haven.

Then the siren sounded.  I had lived through numerous tornado watches and warnings in my life.  Making the trip to the basement several times a year in the spring and summer was common enough.  Nevertheless, since I was right downtown, the siren from the National Armory sounded much closer, more threatening, than at home.  The winds outside had picked up to a roar.

Helen and I ran downstairs; as we took the steps two at a time, I heard the glass door banging alarmingly and because I didn’t want it to shatter and ruin my window display, I darted back up to lock the front door, while Helen screamed at me to get back downstairs.

Our store was just down the block from Bronson Park.  The park was built in the old-fashioned town square style.  Every outdoor event of consequence was held there.  I had attended art fairs, concerts, peace rallies, lectures, and art classes under its oak trees.  As we walked through the park on Christmas eves, the lights reflected off the icy outlines of the trees, forming a magical canopy.

I heard the sound of the tornado slamming the park as I ran back downstairs.

The wind and noise abated quickly.  Helen and I gingerly climbed the stairs and looked around.  Other than a crack in the glass, and a broken sign, we had no damage.   I think I was in shock because I remember being drawn to walk to the park, more than considering much else.  I still didn’t know that my husband was all right.

I walked alone to the park and stood at the corner of South and Rose staring across the street at the park.  Centuries old oak trees were leaning every which way like so many pickup sticks.  A few of them looked like macabre divining rods.

Photo by Amy Jastrzembski

Photo by Amy Jastrzembski

I can’t say the destruction of those trees truly entered the back recesses of my brain until weeks later, when most of the downtown cleanup had been accomplished and I saw the park denuded of its beauty.  Twenty-six oak trees had been downed or crippled.  One of those trees had sheltered Abraham Lincoln during an anti-slavery speech in 1856.

Kalamazoo Gazette photo

Kalamazoo Gazette photo

The tornado effectively bombed Kalamazoo that day.  As you can see from the photo above, the entire back wall of Gilmore’s department store ripped off, leaving an effect like a five story doll house, as if you could put your hand in back and set up the shoppers and merchandise in miniature.   But the trees, as I see them in my memory, are the most lasting image for me.

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TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO SEND US YOUR STORY!

THE DEADLINE TO SEND US UP TO 1000 WORDS TO WIN AN AMAZON GIFT CARD IS TONIGHT AT MIDNIGHT, PACIFIC TIME!!!!

 

WHAT TO SUBMIT:

A short memoir story of 1,000 words or less.  We are looking for submissions in the genre of Creative Nonfiction–stories about events which actually happened to you and which are told with artistic flair.  We don’t know whether we’ll prefer strong technique or powerful natural storytelling ability. A clean, clear-cut plotline or a slow meander through a lyrical garden of metaphor and description.  Just show us your best work in your best style. We have no preconceived ideas of what will be awarded first, second, and third place.

The story should not have been previously published anywhere online or in print–not even on your own blog.  Writer Site reserves the right to publish your story on its website. After that, rights revert to the writer.  The three award-winning stories will be published on Writer Site.

Please submit a Word document without your name or identifying information.

WHERE TO SUBMIT:

Email your stories to writersite.wordpress@gmail.com.

WHAT YOU CAN WIN:

  • $25 first place
  • $15 second place
  • $10 third place

Prizes will be in the form of Amazon gift cards by email.

WHEN TO SUBMIT:

Email your submission by September 16, 2013.

WHO WILL BE JUDGING:

I will be involved in the judging process, but the final decisions will be made by two guest judges, Wilma Kahn and Kimberly Keating Wohlford.

CONTEST JUDGE BIOS:

Wilma Kahn has an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, as well as a Doctor of Arts in English from SUNY-Albany. She is the published author of poems, short stories, essays, and a detective novel, Big Black Hole. Wilma has led writing classes for adults in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, since 1987. In her spare time she tends a little wildflower garden with ironweed seven feet tall.

Kimberly Keating Wohlford is a writer in Charlotte, NC where she free-lances for the arts community.  In 2011, she left an established career in newspaper advertising, to pursue a dream to write her own stories.  Kimberly is currently working on a memoir that follows her journey to Glastonbury, England where magical things happen to redirect her path in life.  She will receive a certificate in creative writing from Stanford in March 2014.

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TWO MORE DAYS TO SEND US YOUR STORY!

THE DEADLINE TO SEND US UP TO 1000 WORDS TO WIN AN AMAZON GIFT CARD IS MONDAY!!!!

WE CAN’T WAIT TO READ YOUR STORIES!!!

WHAT TO SUBMIT:

A short memoir story of 1,000 words or less.  We are looking for submissions in the genre of Creative Nonfiction–stories about events which actually happened to you and which are told with artistic flair.  We don’t know whether we’ll prefer strong technique or powerful natural storytelling ability. A clean, clear-cut plotline or a slow meander through a lyrical garden of metaphor and description.  Just show us your best work in your best style. We have no preconceived ideas of what will be awarded first, second, and third place.

The story should not have been previously published anywhere online or in print–not even on your own blog.  Writer Site reserves the right to publish your story on its website. After that, rights revert to the writer.  The three award-winning stories will be published on Writer Site.

Please submit a Word document without your name or identifying information.

WHERE TO SUBMIT:

Email your stories to writersite.wordpress@gmail.com.

WHAT YOU CAN WIN:

  • $25 first place
  • $15 second place
  • $10 third place

Prizes will be in the form of Amazon gift cards by email.

WHEN TO SUBMIT:

Email your submission by September 16, 2013.

WHO WILL BE JUDGING:

I will be involved in the judging process, but the final decisions will be made by two guest judges, Wilma Kahn and Kimberly Keating Wohlford.

CONTEST JUDGE BIOS:

Wilma Kahn has an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, as well as a Doctor of Arts in English from SUNY-Albany. She is the published author of poems, short stories, essays, and a detective novel, Big Black Hole. Wilma has led writing classes for adults in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, since 1987. In her spare time she tends a little wildflower garden with ironweed seven feet tall.

Kimberly Keating Wohlford is a writer in Charlotte, NC where she free-lances for the arts community.  In 2011, she left an established career in newspaper advertising, to pursue a dream to write her own stories.  Kimberly is currently working on a memoir that follows her journey to Glastonbury, England where magical things happen to redirect her path in life.  She will receive a certificate in creative writing from Stanford in March 2014.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing, Writing contest, Writing prompt

Millions of Cats

I feel like talking about cats today. It’s true that I’m always posting here about writing and stories and art and nature. But my four cats* are important to me, and I interact with them a lot. Interact means pet, kiss on the mug, talk to, and talk for. The latter two go something like this:

Mom, I’m hungry again.

Sweetie, you’re not hungry. You just think you want food. What you want is a big hug.

Mom, I don’t want one right now.  Mom, stop!  You’re slobbering on my fur and I just bathed!

Ooh ooh ooh, Mom lubs you!

Oddly, both my cats and I have high-pitched new-mom-type voices.

In addition to Macavity, Pear Blossom, Felix, and Tiger, both my kids have cats–one each.

The other day my son sent me a video of his kitten dreaming. Meesker, a solid black spunky boy, lies on his back to sleep. In the video, he was eating and licking his chops–obviously dreaming of a delicious meal. Hilarious. This is the kitten who walks on a leash.

My daughter and her cat are living with us temporarily while she (not the cat) performs in a regional show. The cat, Izzie, is a good-natured sweetheart. My daughter rescued her right after she (daughter, not the cat) graduated from college, three years ago. Four days after they got to our house this summer, she had a lump removed from her (the cat this time) lip which turned out to be Mast Cell Cancer. She (still the cat) will have to be examined regularly because once a cat has this type of tumor she can get another . . . and another.

One week later, my 2nd oldest, Pear, a tuxedo lap cat, had her dental cleaning. The vet and I both decided to remove a teeny tiny little pimple on her nose. It was so small the vet couldn’t use stitches and had to glue the skin. It turned out she had Spindle Cell Cancer. The margins were clean, so she should be fine. My husband thought he’d be funny and called her Scarface a few days later, but I hid the coffee until he asked her forgiveness.

My oldest, Mac, is a darling. At least to me. He’s a master of intimidation, but he’s also a huge orange and white tabby whose beauty lures humans in for a touch, even if they are afraid. And with good reason.

Felix, my brown tabby, and Tiger, my calico, have been featured in previous posts.  I wrote about Felix in “Unease in the Desert,” a story about living in the desert at night. In “How and Why I Don’t Know Science,” I showed off a photo of the simply marvelous Miss Tiger.

The only problem with cats is they don’t mix well with just anyone or anything. I used to have finches for pets. No more birds for me since I became a (crazy) cat lady. I had a lovely pet rat named Nutmeg Noodles; she slept on the back of my neck, under my hair. I can’t have any more rats–just in case. And my husband used to get me flowers for every birthday, Mother’s Day, and Valentine’s Day. But my cats like to eat poisonous flowers–and so many of the florist flowers, even Baby’s Breath, are toxic to cats.

Luckily, roses and orchids are non-toxic to cats. Here is a beautiful orchid a friend sent me for my birthday a month and a half ago–still blooming radiantly. My cousin raises orchids in Arkansas, and I can’t help but wonder if this is one of his.  He’s got cats, too.

*  I have 4 cats, not millions. But I love that Wanda Gag picture book Millions of Cats: “Millions and billions and trillions of cats.”

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Photographs

FIVE MORE DAYS TO SEND US YOUR STORY! and TAKE MY POLL ABOUT WP ADS

I just noticed a little box at the bottom of my post; it said that some of my readers might see an ad in that box. My options are to either run my own ads there or I can pay $30 per year for an upgrade to keep out the ads.

I am wondering what others have decided to do about this and why.  Please take my poll and let me know!

CONTEST INFO

THE DEADLINE TO SEND US UP TO 1000 WORDS TO WIN AN AMAZON GIFT CARD IS MONDAY!!!!

WE CAN’T WAIT TO READ YOUR STORIES!!!

WHAT TO SUBMIT:

A short memoir story of 1,000 words or less.  We are looking for submissions in the genre of Creative Nonfiction–stories about events which actually happened to you and which are told with artistic flair.  We don’t know whether we’ll prefer strong technique or powerful natural storytelling ability. A clean, clear-cut plotline or a slow meander through a lyrical garden of metaphor and description.  Just show us your best work in your best style. We have no preconceived ideas of what will be awarded first, second, and third place.

The story should not have been previously published anywhere online or in print–not even on your own blog.  Writer Site reserves the right to publish your story on its website. After that, rights revert to the writer.  The three award-winning stories will be published on Writer Site.

Please submit a Word document without your name or identifying information.

WHERE TO SUBMIT:

Email your stories to writersite.wordpress@gmail.com.

WHAT YOU CAN WIN:

  • $25 first place
  • $15 second place
  • $10 third place

Prizes will be in the form of Amazon gift cards by email.

WHEN TO SUBMIT:

Email your submission by September 16, 2013.

WHO WILL BE JUDGING:

I will be involved in the judging process, but the final decisions will be made by two guest judges, Wilma Kahn and Kimberly Keating Wohlford.

CONTEST JUDGE BIOS:

Wilma Kahn has an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, as well as a Doctor of Arts in English from SUNY-Albany. She is the published author of poems, short stories, essays, and a detective novel, Big Black Hole. Wilma has led writing classes for adults in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, since 1987. In her spare time she tends a little wildflower garden with ironweed seven feet tall.

Kimberly Keating Wohlford is a writer in Charlotte, NC where she free-lances for the arts community.  In 2011, she left an established career in newspaper advertising, to pursue a dream to write her own stories.  Kimberly is currently working on a memoir that follows her journey to Glastonbury, England where magical things happen to redirect her path in life.  She will receive a certificate in creative writing from Stanford in March 2014.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing, Writing contest, Writing prompt