Monthly Archives: July 2020

Animals, a List

This past week the lit mag North of Oxford posted a list of the 10 most read poems from their magazine from January-July 2020. It was exciting to see my poem “Medusa’s #Metoo” make the list!

10 Most Read Poems

After writing about my kitty Toby in No Goodbye: A Cat Story I decided to write about my other childhood pets, as well as other animals I encountered in life. Sort of clearing my head about my upbringing with animals. So this isn’t a story, per se, like the one about Toby. It’s more of a list of animals.

The first memory that comes to mind that involves animals I actually already wrote about on this blog almost eight years ago. You can find it here: A Ride with Memory. It’s about my earliest scary memory, and I wasn’t even three-years-old yet. This story involves a horse.

When I was in kindergarten my grandmother babysat me every day before school and all afternoon until almost dinner time. My aunt and her springer spaniel Sandy lived with my grandparents. I was repeatedly warned not to touch Sandy. I needed to stay away from Sandy because Sandy was a biter. Actually, the only person Sandy had ever bitten was me, when I was a baby. She bit my eyelid off, and at the hospital, a doctor sewed it back on. I didn’t remember that trauma, and I still insisted on making a meat pie to celebrate Sandy’s birthday.

When I was five or six, the neighbor’s Dalmatian bit me in the leg, but it wasn’t too serious.

Before we got Toby the cat, we had a bowl with goldfish a couple of times, but they always died. I think I overfed them, and it polluted the water. I had small turtles, but they invariably walked away out of our yard and never came back. Once my father brought home baby ducks at Easter time. Not chicks, ducks. I don’t know what happened to them, but I was terrified of how fragile they were and that I could hurt them. We had chicks one year, too.

I am starting to see the thread here. My father bringing pets home for the family. I’m sure it irritated my mother. Then he brought home a big cage with two guinea pigs.  My mother made us keep them in the basement. I’ve written a little story about this for my never-finished memoir, but to sum up: the guinea pigs were unfixed male and female. My dad helped me through the crisis that ensued.

A few months later, he brought home a puppy. A man he worked with had found the puppy at a lake where someone had tried to drown the entire litter. I suspect Perky was the only one left alive, and my father brought her home to us. My mother named her Perky after the man who found her: Mr. Perkins.

Here’s a scrapbook page my mom made for me of some childhood pets. The photo in the upper right is an example of how I always loved feeding the animals. But I still remember being bitten by a llama at Deer Forest Park.  Perky is the dog with the collie-type coloring.

Yup, that’s me and the gardener in the center, bathing Perky. She was already getting old there. In the lower left she was playing on the beach at our lake cottage with a “local” puppy. My brother is almost eight years younger than me. At some point, Perky really became his dog because Perky could hang around him while he was playing outside. The gardener and I were out of town when Perky had to be “put to sleep,” and my father and brother went together to the vet and stayed with Perky. That was as it should be.

In 7th grade, the girls and I cut through a vacant lot and someone’s backyard to get home from school. We didn’t notice the white German Shepherd in the dog house. He lunged at us, incensed at our audacity. We ran like crazy, but he was on a chain (poor thing, no wonder he was crabby) and so we were safe. Or so I thought. I slowed down just a moment too soon. He could still reach me, s0 he took a chunk out of my ankle. After that, I was scared of German Shepherds until I became an adult.

When I was fifteen I bought myself a cage with two finches: a brilliant scarlet one and a beautiful green. Of course, the green one managed to get herself egg-bound and although I held her over the steam like the book said to do, she still couldn’t pass the egg and eventually died from the exertion. I kept finches for years, but they were all gone before my kids entered my life. Good thing, or my babies would have been eating birdseed off the floor. Finches are lovely to look at, but very messy because when they eat they hurl the hulls of the seeds across the room.

As an adult I’ve had dogs, cats, the finches, hermit crabs, and a rat. (She was the best pet). I’d like to have donkeys, but it’s looking doubtful that that is going to happen.

Lots of sad times with the animals. And some painful ones when I was bit (three dogs and one llama). But none of it deterred me from being an animal lover–from fish to horses, I love all the species I encountered.

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In this pandemic I am so grateful to have my six cats. But last night Felix had to go to the ER. He had diarrhea, wouldn’t eat, and hadn’t peed in 38 hours. The vet said his bladder was small, so that was a mystery, but I was glad he wasn’t blocked. I hope he gets better fast and that it’s not something bad. Poor baby.

Here’s Kana to say HI and BYE!

Perry hasn’t said HI in awhile, so he wanted to hop in here, too. Cutie pie.

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Filed under Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

The Year I’d Like to Return: Refund, Please

I hope you and yours are all well, and that you are handling all this chaos and sometimes isolation.

We had some sad news this weekend. My cousin’s son passed away after all those weeks in a coma/on a ventilator/ on dialysis. He left behind a 6-year-old son, wife, mother and father, sister, and grandfather. I feel very sad for him, as well as for his son and wife. And my cousin and her husband have had a lot of tragedy in their lives before this, so it’s just too too much.

I have to stretch to find something positive right now to share as I want to retreat to my couch with an ice cream bar. I saw a cute hummingbird and took a couple of lousy pix and a short movie. And today is my birthday, by the way. A big one. Woohoo. Heh.

I can’t figure out what kind of hummingbird this one is. We live in Maricopa County, so I looked up hummers in this area, and he/she doesn’t really look like any of the ones pictured. The closest would be a male black-chinned hummingbird.

My mom got me this book of cute poems by kittens. It was written by the same author of I Can Pee on This.

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Filed under #writerslife, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, Nonfiction, Writing

No Goodbye: A Cat Story

Five years ago, when the gardener and I adopted Kana, our black cat, I wrote a little bit about my first cat who also happened to be black. I thought I’d tell you the whole story this time. Here is TOBY’S STORY (and I’m sorry, but it’s not a pretty one):

The cat that lived with the Cuban brothers across the street had kittens the year I was seven. My parents had never shown an interest in animals, but because I was an only child and begged so desperately, they gave in and let me choose an all-black kitten.  My mother named him Toby. The only other interest I remember her taking in him was when he had a hairball, and she read up about how to care for cats with hairballs.

Toby spent most of his time hiding under my bed or in the basement.  Mom would tell me to take him outside to go potty, but he would refuse to come out. I had to find him in a dark corner downstairs or slide under my narrow bed and grab him so that he wouldn’t make a mess in the house.  I wonder if Toby and I were afraid of the same things in that house.

I don’t know how I got this pic of Toby in the living room!

One day my mother screamed. “Look what that cat’s done to my drapes!!” I ran into the living room. Tears streamed down her cheeks. The silk drapes had dozens of snags on them. Unfortunately, the drapes were the most elegant furnishing in our bungalow. They were cast-offs from one of my grandmother’s wealthy clients, and she had altered them for my parents.  I realized then that my secretive cat ventured out to the living room when everyone was asleep or not home.

A few months later, we picked up the baby brother I had been waiting for from the adoption agency office. Ted was a 6-week-old infant with a red rash covering his face. My mother hadn’t taken care of a baby for many years, and she became nervous and worried, imagining dangers.

One day that spring, when I got off the school bus, my father met me in front of the house. I was not used to seeing him home during the day. He sat me down and explained that Toby was gone. “Toby had to go away because of your new baby brother.” He told me he took Toby to a house in the country where he could live with more freedom. I don’t remember particularly believing him, but grief welled up in me like bile. Up to that point in my life, the only other serious loss I had encountered was three years before when I accidentally saw my mother cramming my white blankie into the garbage. Later, my mother would tell me, “Cats are dangerous to babies, Luanne. Toby could accidentally smother Ted.” But in those moments after I arrived home, only my father was there for me.

I still feel ashamed about what happened next. To stop my tears, Dad offered to take me to the store right then to pick out any toy I wanted. I had never in my life been able to pick out a toy. A Golden Book, yes, but not a toy. When I did receive something lovely, it was usually a hand-me-down or a gift my grandmother had sewn. We always had enough food to eat, but we were upwardly mobile poor, and my parents never bought me trendy, name-brand toys. While my friends had Barbie dolls, I had a Miss Suzette doll from Grant’s basement.

Although I continued to cry, I followed Dad to the car, and we drove to a fancy children’s store I had only seen from the outside. Once inside, my tears and confusion made it difficult to concentrate. I tried to focus my eyes, and the first item I noticed was a black imitation patent leather Barbie doll case. It epitomized the type of toys I could never dream of owning, so I pointed at it.

On the way home, I clutched the case in my hand, knowing I had betrayed Toby. I had begged to have him, which altered the course of his life. Then I accepted an empty plastic box with a handle in exchange for his silky fur and beating heart.

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I don’t know what ever really happened to Toby. I think it’s probably true that he went to live in the country because my father knew a lot of people and could have easily made that happen. But was he safe in his new home? That I don’t know. I hope he was happier than at our house. My father yelled too much, and that probably scared Toby. Since he would hide under my bed, I have to assume he wanted me to protect him. But I couldn’t protect him while I was at school. My parents would have never intentionally hurt Toby, but they didn’t make his life any easier. While I think it’s a likely story about Toby going to live in the country, I have never actually asked my parents if that is what really happened.

Alternative end to memory: I asked one of my parents, and he/she lied to me because they know I love animals and freak out about any harm to them.

I really can’t remember. What do you think?

 

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Filed under #amrevising, #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

Where Do I Send My Story or Poem?

The other day, Ellie from Crossed Eyes and Dotted Tees asked me how I find magazines/journals where I can submit my writing. On the chance that maybe what I do might help someone else, I thought I’d share my haphazard method for finding good places to submit short stories (both fiction and nonfiction) and poetry.

First, though, Kana says hi.

My list items are effective by themselves, but I also think that there is a synergy that develops from doing them all or a large portion. Kind of a 2 + 2 = 5 result. Some journals show up repeatedly, and I’ve learned more about them in this way. Then a new name springs up, and I check it and wow! a wonderful new mag for writers and readers to discover.

  • Let’s start with social media. I have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, my blogs, and a website. For the purposes of finding journals and magazines, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are arguably the most important.
  • On Facebook I joined writers’ groups and engage at least occasionally. I also “like” the pages of journals that are mentioned. When Facebook gives me suggestions to like journal pages, I either “like” and check out later or check out before I decide to “like.”
  • On Twitter, I follow lots and lots of literary magazines and journals, as well as writers. The more you follow, the more suggestions for journals you discover and, hence, the more you follow.
  • On Instagram, I follow “suggestions” for journals to follow.
  • I’ve taken writing workshops in the past where I met writers. I stay in touch with many of them.
  • When I find journals and have a chance to read and check them out, I keep track of them. I used to bookmark them on my computer. But the other day I deleted most of them because this method had become unwieldy. I also found that I have reached the point where I didn’t need it as much any longer.

What else do I do?

  • Search Twitter and Facebook for submission calls. Sometimes that search can produce a request for submissions from a journal you have never heard of before. Or maybe a themed issue that fits well with something you are working on.
  • Use the Poets & Writers literary magazine list as a guide.
  • Check out Clifford Garstang’s Pushcart ratings lists. They are invaluable for seeing which journals have published Pushcart-selected pieces (doesn’t predict the future, but looks at the past). Here is the 2020 list for Fiction. You can look around for nonfiction and poetry once you’re on the site.
  • Search for submissions through my Duotrope membership.
  • Read Allison Joseph’s site. She used to run CWROPPS, a valuable Yahoo group. When they shut the groups down, she started posting on her blog: Creative Writers Opps.
  • Read Trish Hopkinson‘s site for poets only.
  • Read collections of stories or poems. Then I check out the acknowledgements and see where the writing was first published. That gives me a solid list of journals.
  • Every time I encounter a journal new to me that looks promising, I read at least a good portion of an issue. Try it. See the bios of the writers published in that issue? They often give names of other magazines that have published their writing. Go check those out!

You can see that this process is extensive and symbiotic, but not exhaustive. I certainly don’t do this all perfectly. But I’ve done it for a long time, and I don’t stop going through the process: the literary journal world is ever-changing. It’s important to keep up. Many journals have closed up shop in the last year or two, but many more are publishing their first or second issue.

If you have other ideas for finding places to which you can submit your work, please share!

This cactus flower was a little slower to bloom than the others. It’s nice to have one open now while it’s so stinken hot.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Literary Journals, Publishing, Submissions, Writing, Writing Talk, Writing Tips and Habits

Nonfiction Story Up at Twist in Time Magazine

My nonfiction story about an important little house in my past was published in the new issue of Twist in Time Magazine. Thank you to editor Renee Firer.

And guess what? Merril Smith has two poems in the issue, too!

You can find my story here:

The Changing House

The issue with Merril’s poems and some other excellent pieces is here:

Twist in Time Magazine Issue 9

Here is a photo of The Changing House itself in  its very first manifestation.

And here is a photo I took of some of the neighborhood kids with my little camera. My brother is in this pic, second from our left.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Essay, Inspiration, Literary Journals, Memoir, Nonfiction