A big thank you to Underfoot Poetry for pushing me to inquire. Where did the poems for my full-length collection Doll God come from? I tried to figure it out!
Monthly Archives: November 2018
What lovely news I had yesterday! Longridge Review nominated “The Secret Kotex Club” for a Pushcart Prize! Thank you so much to the magazine and editor Elizabeth Gaucher for their support of my work. I am gobsmacked and verklempt and shocked.
The gardener and I had a lovely Thanksgiving day with daughter and her boyfriend. The cats were happy to see us all happy together. We started the day with a hearty breakfast and mimosas spiced up with Grand Marnier.
The gardener made rotisserie turkey on the grill outside (Arizona weather, you know), plus I bought a small spiral-cut ham. Then there were the sides. Both kids made dishes, and I made more. By the way, I don’t need to be afraid of gluten free stuffing (dressing for you southerners) because it turned out great. You would never have known it was free of gluten.
Now this coming weekend we are having a holiday party with all four kids and my DIL’s parents (as well as some other festivities).
To give you a smile for this week, here are my boys decked out in gift bowties a lady made them.
Felix has a halo because he is always a good boy.
Perry is not as good, but he sure is cute.
The scratches on his nose are caused by one of the girls. He annoys them, and they tell him to get lost (with their claws).
If you think Perry is cute, I will tell you that my friend is fostering another gray and white boy cat in Phoenix that is ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE and a cuddle bunny and of a perfect disposition! She can’t keep him much longer with her other cats (she has as many as I do). His name is Asher (I helped name him), and we desperately want him to go to the best possible home.
Here is his bio:
Asher was found abandoned on the streets. He is a real sweetheart, a darling cat who does not have a single mean cell in his body, he is truly a gentle giant. He will follow his person around the house like a puppy, wanting attention and company. He’s good with other nice cats, dogs, and people. He is 13 lbs of love, loud purrs, and he is a big kneader and talker too. His estimated age is between 2 and 3 years old. He is desperately looking for someone who will give him a warm, loving forever home and family and will never abandon him as his previous humans did. Even though he tested FIV +, his lifespan is no different than those cats who are FIV-, as long as he is fed good quality diet and kept healthy. Asher appears to be in excellent health now. His adoption fee is $50 and it includes neuter, microchip, FeLV (-)/FIV(+) test. It also includes a free wellness exam in a cat-friendly hospital with a veterinarian who is up-to-date on FIV and can offer professional advice and guidance regarding proper care for Asher. For most up-to-date information and to learn more about FIV visit this website: https://www.fivcatrescue.org With all inquiries about Asher please contact his foster at email@example.com or text at (480) 652-4852.
Make it a good week. My solution to minimize holiday stress is to plan like crazy with itineraries and lists and then relax and be flexible, using the written notes as guidelines to be used when necessary and ignored when possible.
Some of my relatives whose lives I wrote about in my chapbook Kin Types were heroic, but for week five at BROAD STREET magazine, I discuss the research for family history that is not heroic. Instead, I found it to be devastating.
Recently, I read a suspenseful and engaging novel that gives context to a controversial piece of Arizona history: Counting Coup by Kelli Donley. I had met Kelli at the Phoenix MEET YOUR LITERARY COMMUNITY event in early October. I wrote about it here. My booth was right next to Kelli’s, and as we sat and chatted, I looked over her three novels. They all appealed to me, but Counting Coup is her most recent–and the first sentence grabbed my attention, as did the subject of the “Indian schools” in Arizona.
I asked Kelli to write a guest post about the Indian schools. If you are intrigued by the subject, you will want to rush to purchase a copy of Counting Coup. (If you like contemporary romance, you’ll love it, too!)
MEET KELLI DONLEY, AUTHOR OF COUNTING COUP
I grew up in a suburban ranch-style home in the middle of Mesa, Arizona, just off of Alma School Road. The neighborhood was like so many others. We had a basketball hoop in the front yard, a swimming pool in the backyard, and a series of colorful goldfish in a bowl on the kitchen counter. My bookshelves were marigold, lined with precious Nancy Drews my mother had collected before I was born. My brother and I would fight over the remote on hot summer days, arguing over “I love Lucy” or “Brady Bunch” episodes. When my mother was at the point of putting us on the curb in a box marked “free,” the calendar would switch to September and we would be shuffled down the street to school.
We were Astros, attending Alma Elementary. It never occurred to me to ask any questions about Alma School Road, even though our school had a different address. But when we’d go to Phoenix to visit my grandmother in her tiny, smoky apartment, we’d drive down Indian School Road. Indian School? I saw neither Indians nor schools from the backseat of my mother’s Chevy Citation.
I remember asking my mother and receiving a brief, vague answer that brought forth images of the trailer park-ridden, dry desert reservation we’d see from the highway when traveling to Tucson to visit our other grandparents.
Indian schools were where Indian children went to school.
“But, Mom,” I persisted, smelling a mystery, “Mom, we have Indian kids at our school. Wayne is in my class. His brothers are older. You know them!”
“Oh, well those kids live in our neighborhood. Of course they attend your school.” And then she did that little toss of her hand that meant, “Don’t bother me. We’re done with this topic.”
Was the Indian school like the one I attended, with chalkboards and globes and a music room where the recorders always reeked of Pine Sol? My questions went unanswered.
Some 25 years passed. I went to college, traveled, joined the Peace Corps, wrote a couple novels, and to everyone’s surprise, married a man in my hometown. I’d found my professional passion working in public health, and loved being a wife and stepmom in Mesa.
One cold December day, I was invited by two colleagues to visit their recent project at the Phoenix Indian Steele Park in central Phoenix. They’d been awarded a grant to restore one of the remaining buildings at what was once the Phoenix Indian School. They explained the school was opened in the 1890s, and at its biggest, was hundreds of acres of farmland that students were expected to tend. The school closed in the 1990s, and the land was purchased by the City of Phoenix from the federal government. Too quickly, city officials bulldozed buildings, dug lakes, and created the modern-day park—all with very little input from the local American Indian community. Three buildings were saved from destruction.
I followed the women into an adobe building so old the window panes were wavy from time. Cobwebs kept aging beams above woven together. Missing floor planks made navigating the long narrow walkway a game of hopscotch. Two steps into the doorway, taking in one long look of the now empty rooms, goosebumps rose on my arms and my stomach began to ache. I turned on my heel, retreating outside.
They followed, confused.
“What happened in there,” I asked rubbing my arms and trying to calm my breath.
“What do you mean?” one of the women asked.
“Something terrible happened in that room,” I blurted, feeling my cheeks turn red from unexpected emotion. I felt crazy, but only momentarily.
The women’s heads nodded. We sat together in a clump on the concrete stairs leading into the adobe music room. It was here, sitting next to them, I would learn that for more than 100 years, American Indian children were placed at boarding schools, and not just in Arizona, but across the United States, Canada, and Australia. The initial motivation was to break Indian culture and create new Christians. “Kill the Indian, and save the man,” was a commonly repeated refrain.
It is a complicated history, but eventually, children were no longer taken against their will to attend the schools. Instead, many attended in later years because there was no other option on their tribal lands.
One of the women shared a story about how her grandmother, from a northern Arizona tribe, had been kidnapped at age 5 by federal employees and brought to the school. She hadn’t been able to return until she graduated at age 18. By then, she no longer spoke the language of her parents. This would forever impair her ability to connect with family, tradition, and culture.
The same colleague went on to then tell me how her parents divorced when she was in junior high. Her mother struggled. She sent her two older daughters to the Phoenix Indian School until she could care for them herself. They spent two years together at the school.
I had a thousand questions. First, how could I have spent more than 30 years in Phoenix and never known about the school? This history wasn’t included in our education, or field trips. It wasn’t on any test. There was no day of honor or remembrance. In the shade of a date palm, I looked up at the haunted adobe music room, and realized the park was sacred earth. Children died here, their bones buried under the grassy lawn of today.
This chance meeting planted the seed for my latest novel, Counting Coup. This is the story of Avery Wainwright, a professor who uncovers a stack of 60-year-old letters. Written in the 1950s,
the letters tell of a year Avery’s grandmother, Alma Jean, spent teaching in the Indian school system. The ghostly yet familiar voices in the letters tell of a dark time in her grandmother’s life, a time no one had ever spoken of.
Today, the American Indian boarding school system remains, albeit voluntary. Health outcomes for American Indian children in the United States remain among the worse. These boarding schools allow children to graduate, but still keep student at a fragile age away from their families and home.
I have a thousand more questions to ask, and many more stories to write about my homeland. Thank you for reading!
For more information about Counting Coup and my other novels, visit: kellidonley.com.
Kelli Donley is a native Arizonan. She is the author of three novels, Under the Same Moon, Basket Baby and Counting Coup. Inspiration for this novel was found hearing colleagues’ stories about childhoods spent at the Phoenix Indian School. Kelli lives with her husband Jason, children and small ark of animals in Mesa, Arizona. She works in public health, and blogs at www.africankelli.com.
Thank you for visiting, Kelli!
I’m so jazzed to have an article about the aftermath of the fire at my relatives’ home in 1902 up at the wonderful creative nonfiction magazine, Broad Street! It’s week 4 of the 6 week series. This is the only piece featured that is flash nonfiction, rather than poetry, although I am hoping you can find some “poetry” in it.
The poem this week is about the brother of a relative through marriage as told by their dead mother. They grew up in an abusive orphanage, but the subject of the poem did not keep quiet about it!
After I tell you about a new book for poets, I’ll tell you where I was at the end of last week 😉 so keep reading. Hint: fabulous hotel in Phoenix.
Diane Lockward has published her third wonderful craft book, The Practicing Poet. Click on the following image to find the book at Amazon.
If you have read her earlier books, The Crafty Poet and The Crafty Poet II you already know how incredibly helpful Diane’s “portable workshops” are. Although the new book is third in the series, you can start with any of the books. They all offer tips, prompts, and sample poems, based on the prompts. There is also a connection with the free newsletter that Diane publishes. You can sign up for the newsletter here.
I will tell you that one of the sample poems was contributed by moi. The prompt, which I first encountered in one of the newsletters, involved choosing a home you once lived in and returning to it after a long absence. I wrote about the house of my early childhood in “Finding the House on Trimble Street.” I wrote it in the form of a haibun (a prose poem that ends with a haiku), although the prompt had not asked for that form. This is one of my favorite parts of the poem: “Sometimes it was a tornado with its green sky, and sometimes it was a bomb with its puff of smoke and a white rabbit in the magician’s hat.”
I’ve loved Lockward’s first two craft books more than any other that I’ve used in the past, so I can’t wait to practice my poetry with this one.
This past Thursday-Saturday was the NonfictioNOW conference that was held in Phoenix at the gorgeously reconstructed Renaissance Phoenix Hotel. My friend Kimberly is a cohort from the Stanford creative nonfiction program we were in, and we were able to spend time together. I also saw local friends at the conference, as well. Some good sessions, one not so interesting to me, and all in all a good experience. I want to give a lil shoutout to the Renaissance. They were positively amazing. They had plenty of smiling staff to help, from parking our cars, to helping us find our way, to serving breakfast and beverages and so on. I have never had a hotel experience with such attentive staff. Unlike the AWP in Tampa last March where I was parched and couldn’t get to water between sessions, water stations were set up and refilled frequently. If you are a nonfiction writer, this is a conference you might want to consider for 2019 or 2020. 2019 will be outside the U.S., but I believe 2020 will be back in a location here.
Week two up at Broad Street Magazine! So thrilled. How did I learn that my great-great-grandfather’s sister was an artist?