Category Archives: #AmWriting

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.

###

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

Poem Up at Sleet Magazine

A big thank you to editor Susan Solomon who has published my poem “How They Fall” at Sleet Magazine.

The poem is an important part of the themes I’m working with in my new collection: flight, falling, the ups and downs of life. It’s also very cool that all of the very few poems in the issue feel connected with each other.

How They Fall

 

My daughter’s skydive

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Inspiration, Literary Journals, Poetry, Poetry Collection

Poem Up at MockingHeart Review

Editor-in-Chief Tyler Robert Sheldon has published my poem “When I’m in Charge” at MockingHeart Review.

This poem was written before the pandemic, but it certainly fits this traumatic period of time.

Have you ever wished that you were in charge?

WHEN I’M IN CHARGE

Emperor’s New Clothes monument in OdenseВладимир Шеляпин / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

If you have a WordPress blog, try following MockingHeart Review!

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Mamas in the Yard

It’s been five years since the hummingbird mama grew two babies to adulthood in a nest right outside my back door–and then a few weeks later nurtured a second nest of babies! I was lucky enough to capture on video a baby leaving the nest in flight for its very first time.

Now it’s May once again, and we have two hummingbird nests in the yard! These are in the front yard–one in an oleander tree and the other in a wind mobile.

See her nest right there in the middle of the photo?

Look for the mama in the next photo! It’s a little harder haha.

She looks like she’s trying to blend right in. Here she and the nest are from a different angle.

Right underneath the mobile are a few flats of flowers that we have not yet planted. She keeps going to them for nectar as if we set them there for her babies.

Maybe these mamas are the babies of the ones I saw fly off into their lives!

Cat news: Perry is so stinken smart. It’s become clear that he absolutely knows what “Hold on” means and is willing to do it every time I say it. If we are walking somewhere in the house (he follows me), and I have to turn back for something, I say, “Hold on.” He then sits right where he is and waits for me to come back and then picks up following me again! If I were so inclined I think our boy might be trainable for Youtube.

One last note: I hope these mama hummingbirds and my cute boy Perry give you a little glimpse of hope after a tragic and sad week. Here is Emily Dickinson on the subject of hope:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

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

A Walk in the Neighborhood, Arizona Style

What do I see and hear and smell on a walk near my house?

From the moment I step outside I smell flower fragrance. So I take a big sniff and keep walking. I hear songbirds singing.

Next I see the seedpods. Everywhere. Here are just a few.

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Then I see the pretty Mexican bird of paradise plant.  See how fiery and unique the blossoms are!

I come upon flowering saguaros.

 

Closer.

The sounds I hear are silence, then a rush of cars, then this: babies in their nest–inside a saguaro.

Apparently some baby birds are very noisy when being fed.

On the writing front, I wrote a little essay this weekend. We’ll see what happens with it. Best part: #amwriting

Make it a good week if you can figure out a way!

Leaving you with a wild baby in my yard. This is a baby kingsnake.  They are not only harmless to humans, but they kill rattlesnakes. We have been nurturing a family of kingsnakes ever since we moved here. Isn’t he cute?!

 

 

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An Unintended Visitor


Last Tuesday, a hawk showed up on my patio. It was directly below a hanging plant, a long drapey succulent. Hidden underneath the thick spongy leaves was a dove nest with two babies. The gardener and I assumed the worst, and when we saw one little head moving up there, thought the hawk had killed the sibling and was hanging around to get the other.

I went inside and took this closeup through the window. I banged on the window to get the hawk to leave, but it just sat there.

Before too long I began to worry that it was abnormal for a hawk to just sit there on the ground without leaving.

I put in a call to the local wildlife rescue that specializes in birds. I have brought them quail chicks, doves, and pigeons in the past. But nobody called me back. I made some other calls and posted on next-door app. I was finally able to talk to a second wildlife rescue. They said to let the bird sit there overnight because it might have a concussion. If the bird was still there in the morning I was supposed to call them back. A concussion made sense because there was a window right by the plant with the dove nest.

While they first assumed it was a juvenile bird that was afraid to fly, one of my daughter’s best friends volunteers with raptors in Tucson. I showed her photos and she said it was an adult red-tailed hawk. That was helpful information because the rescue paid attention when I told them that it was an adult bird, so that the lack of flying was abnormal.

Next morning the bird was still on the patio, but in a different spot, and looking more bedraggled. About a half an hour after I got up, the bird stepped into the pan of water I had put out for it the night before and just stood there cooling its feet.


Through a series of events it ended up that the first rescue group that I called sent a volunteer to capture the hawk.

The hawk actually escaped twice after the events of the video, but was quickly recaptured each time. That afternoon, I wrote a poem about the hawk, making it a female.

The next day, the volunteer texted me and said that the hawk turned out to be a female (but I already knew that!). She wanted us to look for a nest. The thought of starving baby hawks motivated the gardener to search our neighborhood and me to post on next-door app asking people to look for hawk nests. We found two, but not hers so perhaps she didn’t have a nest after all. The volunteer said that if there wasn’t a nest close by it’s doubtful that she had one because she would have done anything to get to the nest, even if she couldn’t fly. She would have walked!

You might wonder how she’s doing. I sure do, but they don’t let people know. That is frustrating, but I’m satisfied I did what I could for her. What a magnificent bird. An interesting note: I read up on red-tailed hawks, of course, and discovered that they generally don’t go after cats and dogs, although they are huge and their wing spans can be six feet.

By the way, both dove babies are still alive!

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Writing

Another Poem Up at Zingara Poetry Review

“Finally Going to Tell You about the Staircase Ghost” was published today by editor Lisa M. Hase-Jackson at Zingara Poetry Review.  This poem relates a couple of the “super”natural experiences I have had.

As befitting Mother’s Day, one of them occurred when I was a new mom. The other is a ghost story.

Finally Going to Tell You about the Staircase Ghost

 

I closed comments over here, but comments are allowed at Zingara.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL THE MOTHERS OUT THERE–AND THEIR CHILDREN

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Two Poems Up at Superstition Review

Superstition Review is a literary journal from Arizona State University, and I am so tickled that they published two of my poems. Also, they posted an audio clip of my reading of both poems. Follow this link:

TWO POEMS BY LUANNE CASTLE

So you don’t even have to read them yourself, just put up your feet and listen for two minutes.

The first poem is called “One of Her Parents was a Float.” It’s a poem inspired by adoption. Until the poem I published with Plath Poetry Project a few months ago and this one I hadn’t written an adoption poem in a long time. I feel really pleased with the originality of this way of looking at the subject.

The second poem was inspired by seeing a photo online of a little girl named Minnie Rae PREGNANT in 1871 San Francisco.

In those days, there weren’t any services to help girls like this. Charity and all the baggage that came with it was all anyone could hope for. What baggage? Demands about doctrine, religion, and lifestyle, all the while not providing enough to live on.

But if you think nothing like this has happened in a long time, I’ll give you an anecdote from the late 70s. That is a long time ago now, but it has teemed in my head since then. The gardener’s cousin was married to a wonderful man who taught in an inner city school in a very poor area of NYC. One of his students was 8 years old and pregnant. He struggled with how to deal with the horrors he faced every day in the classroom.

Is stuff like this still going on today? Let me know what you think!

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Inspiration, Literary Journals, Poetry