Category Archives: Reading

Science and Me Redux

Over seven years ago, I posted “How and Why I Don’t Know Science,” which was “Freshly Pressed” by WordPress. I’m going to paste it here so you can read it if you like and if you didn’t at that time. Why am I posting it all over again?

I am reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This is how the book is described on Goodreads:

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Werner, the German boy, is a genius at science, math, engineering, mechanics. I am not quite 1/3 of the way into the book and the two main characters have separate threads. Werner’s thread makes science, especially applied sciences, sound so fascinating that it makes me regret that I never learned much science in school. Thinking about this reminded me of my post all those years ago. The post explains how it came about that I didn’t learn science.

Once in awhile I like to go back and look at something I wrote a long time ago. I’ve had seven years of writing experience after composing that blog post. I’ve also changed as my life has evolved over time. Since I wrote it I have become more involved with my writing and more involved with cat rescue. And I’ve gotten farther away from my childhood.

The main reason for feeling that I am further from my life (and me) as a child is that because I have written so much about my childhood since then I have been able to let some of it go. Once I write about an event, I unpin it from deep inside me and it begins to float away. Very useful way to get rid of bad memories.

Until one goes back and reads a memory, of course ;).

###

Here is HOW AND WHY I DON’T KNOW SCIENCE.

After I heard we had to dissect the body of a cat in tenth grade biology class, I requested to take a replacement course instead. Today many school districts are sensitive to this issue and students can opt out without creating a stir. But back in 1971, school administrators at my Michigan school had never heard of a college-track student requesting to skip the foundation of high school science classes—and all over a dead cat. (How and Why the cat would die wasn’t divulged). Although they were surprised by my request, they allowed me to switch over to a course called Earth Science, but the only connection it had with its name was interminable dullness like dirt.

At fifteen I saw the world through a lens like a microscope and never from the top of a cliff. My father often said, “You can’t see beyond your own nose. It’s the bigger picture that counts.” My father, though, only saw the world as if it were a coloring book—large geometric blanks to be colored in by him, sloppily, with loops passing wildly beyond the black lines.

My view worked well for the science projects I had performed at home for years. When I was nine, my mother had bought me a How and Why book with scientific experiments kids could do at home. I grew mold on potatoes, made a weather station, something different every week.

But Earth Science class turned out to be a playpen for students who would not much longer be called students, kids who had troubles at home and troubles at school. Because I didn’t have the capacity to look at the longer range consequences, I didn’t realize that by not taking biology I’d left science behind. I wasn’t able to study physics or chemistry as all the science classes were lined up like the begetters in the Bible—biology begat chemistry which begat physics.

The SAT didn’t require any scientific knowledge, and somehow, with my intuitive test taking abilities, I managed an eighty-something percentage on the science portion of the ACT. The next year I attended a college chosen for its proximity to my boyfriend and satisfied the lone science requirement by taking a course called “The History of Science,” which taught no science.

Today I don’t know much about science, but my conscience is clear where my four cats are concerned. Too bad I couldn’t have a clear conscience and science both.

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Obviously seven years ago I had four cats. But now I have six!

Kana says, “Have the best week possible!”

Kana is next to my cardboard standing work desk

and the painting on the wall behind her was by my MIL;

the table is one we call “kitchen” but actually functions as cat feeding station

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Reading, Vintage American culture

Medusa’s #Metoo by Luanne Castle

So thrilled that my poem “Medusa’s #Metoo” has been published at North of Oxford. Most of my life, I took the myth of Medusa as I had been fed it: that she was a monster who turned men into stone when they looked at her. Perseus was the hero of the story for cutting off her head. But look further. Medusa was a beautiful woman who was raped by Poseidon in Athena’s temple. For Poseidon’s crime, Athena blamed Medusa and turned her into the deathly face framed by serpents instead of hair that we know her by. Surely Medusa’s #metoo story is an important one.

North of Oxford

medussa cave
.
Medusa’s #Metoo
.
Blackness shellacs my cave
but for the locked foyer with its glass
a moth born in the time
of dinosaurs and grown over-large
stopped spread-winged
on the pane, still and completed.
What is there about my walls
that stop life? The finch
that saw its soulmate
in a reflection, lying broken-necked
on my porch, the man whose eyes
caught mine, my own
famished for his form that perfected
itself in Brazilian granite
by sight of my teeming serpents
my out of control weeping
from this solitude I keep
My revenge from Athena this curse
a coverup through tweet and text
a smear campaign of slut and sext
Poseidon in Athena’s studio apt
My pterodactyl wings catch
on the limestone, grow runners,
they call me floozy, stink, death.
.
Luanee
Luanne Castle’s Kin Types (Finishing Line), a chapbook of poetry and flash nonfiction, was a fi-nalist for the…

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Filed under Poetry, Publishing, Reading, Writing

Pandemic and the Plague: I Read Camus

In the midst of the quarantined life in the pretty garden created by the gardener and in the house with our six sweet cats, I’ve been reading The Plague by the existentialist Albert Camus since March 20 and just finished yesterday. I don’t know why it took me so long except that I am too exhausted to read at night and can only read 20 minutes a day, tops. It feels as if I have always been reading this book. It was first published as La Peste in France in 1947 and then in English in 1948.

I don’t think the novel is scaring me, although I am plagued (sorry) with dreams and nightmares that poke the surface of my consciousness every morning.

As I’ve read, I’ve highlighted passages (percentages are where quotes can be found in my Kindle version) that resonated with me from today’s pandemic. The translation I selected was by Stuart Gilbert. Here are some of the quotes with my “annotations” or questions:

“Thus the first thing that plague brought to our town was exile . . . . that sensation of a void within which never left us, that irrational longing to hark back to the past or else to speed up the march of time, and those keen shafts of memory that stung like fire.” 23%

  • Does that sound familiar? A weird void that just won’t fill in, no matter how much chocolate or wine you feed it. A desperate longing to get this over with once and for all?! Wash our hands of it, so to speak.

“And though the narrator experienced only the common form of exile, he cannot forget the case of those who, like Rambert the journalist and a good many others, had to endure an aggravated deprivation, since, being travelers caught by the plague and forced to stay where they were, they were cut off both from the person with whom they wanted to be and from their homes as well.” 24%

  • Do you ever have strong feelings of sympathy for people who didn’t get to quarantine where they are most comfortable? Or with the person they most want to be with? Awful. I am cut off from my kids, like so many, but at least I am here with the gardener and our cats.

“Looking at them, you had an impression that for the first time in their lives they were becoming, as some would say, weather-conscious. A burst of sunshine was enough to make them seem delighted with the world, while rainy days gave a dark cast to their faces and their mood.” 24%

  • As soon as I felt locked in, I started desperately searching for sunshine so I could get some of it on my bare skin. I hadn’t had this feeling since I was a kid in Michigan, desperate to feel the warm sun on my skin that had been buried under dry epidermis layers and woolens. The gardener intensified his radar searches for weather forecasts.

“But the gaunt, idle cranes on the wharves, tip-carts lying on their sides, neglected heaps of sacks and barrels–all testified that commerce, too, had died of plague. ” 25%

  • Yup, most businesses are tipped over, lying on their sides, and beginning to rot.

“Their first reaction, for instance, was to abuse the authorities.” 25%

  • Haha, we all do it. And mainly for good reason. I blame every politician and government employee/appointee involved over the last hundred years since the government has been responsible for protecting us from a pandemic at least since the last pandemic. But they didn’t. Not one of them. They washed their hands.

“Nevertheless, many continued hoping that the epidemic would soon die out and they and their families be spared. Thus they felt under no obligation to make any change in their habits as yet. Plague was for them an unwelcome visitant, bound to take its leave one day as unexpectedly as it had come.” 30%

  • Most of us are probably still in this phase. But those of us who have lost someone or watched someone suffer with the disease have gone beyond that one.

“At first the fact of being cut off from the outside world was accepted with a more or less good grace, much as people would have put up with any other temporary inconvenience that interfered with only a few of their habits. But, now they had abruptly become aware that they were undergoing a sort of incarceration under that blue dome of sky, already beginning to sizzle in the fires of summer, they had a vague sensation that their whole lives were threatened by the present turn of events . . . .” 32%

  • As it gets warmer and we get closer to the beginning of summer, more and more people are going to start “chompin’ at the bit.” And will feel more desperate. Let’s hope it doesn’t go that far.

“[T]he way in which, in the very midst of catastrophe, offices could go on functioning serenely and take initiatives of no immediate relevance, and often unknown to the highest authority, purely and simply because they had been created originally for this purpose.” 35%

  • Oh man, when I run up against the dumbest bureaucracy still operating at molasses-speed, it makes me angry.

“Now and again a gunshot was heard; the special detailed to destroy cats and dogs, as possible carriers of infection, was at work.” 36%

  • In the United States this “disposal” generally takes the form of dumping animals outside and at shelters. Stories are that it has been more like in the book in certain areas of China.

“‘However, you think . . . that the plague has its good side; it opens men’s eyes and forces them to take thought?'” 41%

  • Do you hear people talk about the positive aspects of the pandemic? Do you feel weird about thinking about the “good side” of something catastrophic?

“‘We’re short of equipment. In all the armies of the world a shortage of equipment is usually compensated for by manpower. But we’re short of man-power, too.'” 49%

  • We’ve heard a lot about this!

“The plague victim died away from his family and the customary vigil beside the dead body was forbidden, with the result that a person dying in the evening spent the night alone, and those who died in the daytime were promptly buried.” 56%

  • And this: people are dying alone, without their families or friends, and then their bodies are zipped into plastic bags. Wash hands.

“It is true that the actual number of deaths showed no increase. But it seemed that plague had settled in for good at its most virulent, and it took its daily toll of deaths with the punctual zeal of a good civil servant. Theoretically, and in the view of the authorities, this was a hopeful sign. The fact that the graph after its long rising curve had flattened out seemed to many . . . resassuring . . . . the old doctor reminded him that the future remained uncertain; history proved that epidemics have a way of recrudescing when least expected.” 75%

  • This analysis could be a conversation about our current pandemic.
” . . . and to state quite simply what we learn in time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.”
  •  For an existentialist and for the writer of one of my favorite (and very dark) novels, The Stranger, this is quite an upbeat ending.

I have asked myself if it’s been helpful to me to read The Plague. When I am reading it I feel it is because I can contextualize that all the reactions to Covid 19 are typical of a pandemic, especially in a modern era. Camus’ story was based on, I believe, a 19th century case of plague, but he set the story in a vague period in the 20th century. Why is this understanding of the “typicality” of our reactions good for me? How does it help me? Maybe that is only part of it. Maybe by reading a story of the bubonic plague in France in the mid-20th century I can displace some of my emotions about our plight and our future onto this fictional world created by Camus. The book takes on some of my emotional burden, in a way.

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Did watching Outbreak do that, too? Hah, maybe. I watched that movie on my iPad because the gardener didn’t want to see it.

As we wait and wait for I am not entirely sure what (because the experts really do not know–they just hope) I am grateful that we are not sick and that our cats are also ok for now.  I wish I were taking advantage of National Poetry Month, but I have been too busy and too exhausted. I have written one more poem. I will try again this week! Please stay safe, everyone.

How do you handle the burden of your emotions over the Covid-19 pandemic?

 

 

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Filed under #writerlife, Arizona, Reading

Bits and Pieces of Living

At least October’s poetry writing month is over so I don’t have to feel guilt about not writing much. We are now into the big novel writing month, which I don’t participate in, having NO clue how to write a novel. I’m still spending more time revising, organizing, and submitting than I am writing anything original.

I’m also reading several new-to-me poems a day. I’m reading at least one novel, two memoirs, and one children’s book right now.

And I’m getting my morning pages done by bedtime.

But I also am juggling work-work, home-work, and cat-work, as well as trying to fit in the other bits and pieces of The Artist’s Way.

And I cannot stop my hit or miss exercising, which mainly consists of stationery cycling, some stretches, and a few weights.

It sounds like a lot, and it is, so can I keep it up? Through the holidays? HAHAHAHA.

All this and worries about what recipe to use for gluten free stuffing.

I almost forget the most exciting thing. I discovered Christopher Buckley’s poetry. I guess there is a political person with that name, but this is Christopher Buckley the poet. Here’s a sample.

Getting There

Time to give up
grieving my mother’s loss,
faulting my father and
his Neolithic moral certitude
about every detail
on the evening news,
his general absence
hanging like the gray
sheets on the line.
Never mind how
mismatched in the heart,
I should be grateful
they were there at all,
for that moment
that childhood stretched
like fog, the beach empty
and unmarked.
It comes to little now
who I forgive, mourn,
or thank. The dust shifts
and we are barely
suspended in the light.
I know this little thing:
there’s a boy somewhere
in a station where
the trains still run,
wearing scuffed brown shoes,
gray overcoat, and cap;
someone has neatly parted
and combed his hair.
He is waiting
to be taken by the hand
and told where we are going,
to hear we are headed home—
though I can see nothing
beyond the smoke
and midnight haze
at the far end
of the platform,
where I am not
even sure of the stars.
Poetry (May 2012)
I do love how this poem speaks to the importance of our childhood experiences of family and place.
For the week ahead: Go get ’em, Tiger! (Haha, does that date me or what?) And, no, dear Tiger is not involved in that expression. Tiger says hi from her outdoor playpen.

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Filed under #amrevising, Family history, Memoir, Poetry, Reading, Submissions, Writing, Writing Talk

Author Kelli Donley on the Arizona Indian Schools

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.

We stood in front of one of them.

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 MoonBasket 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!

 

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Filed under Arizona, Book Review, Fiction, History, Reading

An excerpt from Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Work Published

by Windy Lynn Harris (guest blogger)

 

Writing short stories and personal essays is a marketable skill in publishing. These types of short pieces are submitted and accepted every week. And the great news about this kind of writing: Writers don’t need a literary agent to participate in the process. We can independently market our prose and land bylines that make us proud. It just takes sending our work to the right editor, at the right time, and in the right way.

In 2009, I founded the Market Coaching for Creative Writers program to help writers get their short stories and personal essays published in magazines. In that program, I teach writers how to create targeted cover letters, professionally format their manuscripts, and find hundreds of perfect markets to match their voice. They study magazine guidelines and submission etiquette, learn the difference between copyright and the rights available to sell, and set up a system for keeping their submissions organized. By the end of a Market Coaching session, writers are not only able to submit their work to viable magazine editors with confidence; they’re able to repeat the process for every piece of short writing they produce in the future.

Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays is going to teach you all of those things, too and more. This book is a complete conversation on the topic of publishing short works.

 

THE SHORT STORY

A short story is a short work of fiction. Many of the same craft techniques used to write novels are used to write short stories, but the short story stands apart as a separate form of prose—one delivered with concise language. The use of compression and microscopic storytelling makes short stories unique. A short story isn’t a chapter from a book but a complete experience delivered in a small package.

Besides length, short stories are unique because the action usually revolves around a single dramatic event. It is a glimpse of a character’s life—perhaps one year or even one hour. Every moment in the story is a dance between action and reaction that is related to a single dramatic event. These stories begin as close to the main conflict as possible, giving an unmistakable immediacy to the prose.

Short stories can be enjoyed in one sitting, but that time frame varies from story to story. Short stories can be as simple as six words or run eighty pages long. Most short stories published today fall somewhere between one-thousand and seven-thousand words, but longer stories and shorter stories can still find homes. There is no hard rule to follow with word count.

The terms “flash fiction” and “microfiction” refer to the very shortest of stories. Microfiction is a story that tops out at one hundred words. Flash fiction is anything between one-hundred to one-thousand words. Anything above one-thousand words (and up to twenty-thousand words) is simply called a short story.

Well-written short stories are highly desirable pieces of prose. There are plenty of markets to place this type of work. You’ll find short stories in literary magazines (The Literary Review, Black Warrior Review, Passages North, etc.), genre magazines (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Lightspeed, etc.) children’s magazines (Cricket, Highlights, Ladybug, etc.), and commercial magazines (The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post, Reader’s Digest, etc.). Some are even sold as digital shorts on Amazon or other digital retailers.

I mention the caveat “well-written short stories” because even though there are many outlets for short stories, the competition to earn a space on the pages of a journal is quite stiff. For any writing project, you must create, revise, and polish your work until it meets the standards of the market to which you’re submitting, and in the world of short stories, that standard is skyscraper tall. Short stories are some of the most clever, experimental, urgent, and fresh prose being written today.

Part of the reason is the long-respected history of great storytellers and their iconic short stories, such as Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral,” Ernest Hemingway’s “The Killers,” Flannery O’Connor’s “Greenleaf,” and William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” I could go on for quite some time before running out of names, but the point I’m making is that short-story writers still aspire to equal the masters. This category’s authors and publishers will always hear the echo of notable writers in the distance. So today, editors search for contemporary yet barrel-aged stories that have been given enough careful crafting to mellow into greatness.

PERSONAL ESSAYS

Personal essays are appealing first-person stories often found in magazines and newspapers. They’re true stories told by people willing to share their intimate thoughts and feelings about life. They are incredibly popular to read, with plenty of submission opportunities for writers.

These stories are nonfiction, but they stand apart from other nonfiction pieces because of their purposeful use of storytelling. We’re not talking about self-help, how-to, or informational articles, which all require the writer to slip into an invisible narrator’s voice. Essays bloom well beyond that informational tone. Well-written essays harness cadence, individuality, a narrative arc, and creativity.

Studying the craft of writing is essential to creating publishable personal essays. Writing the truth is important, but great storytelling holds equal weight. Personal essays have rising tension, compelling characters, and mini-plotlines that push the reader toward a conclusion or a realization. A personal essay isn’t simply an anecdote but an in-depth exploration of a subject.

Essay categories include travel, parenting, grief, humor, satire, nostalgia, divorce, friendship, personal growth, and much more. Essays can cover a trip with your mother-in-law to Las Vegas or a midlife moment in the mirror. They can explore the injustice of racism or the beautiful healing nature of butterflies. They can be filled with hope, anger, or angst. Essays have that delicious inclusion factor that grabs readers by the heart and makes them feel something.

Personal essays whose style  strongly emphasizes literary elements (symbolism, setting, style, tone, theme, characterization, etc.) find homes in literary magazines like Tin House, The Sun, The Paris Review, etc. Reported essays—an essay that contains a personal narrative with some degree of reporting and statistical analysis—are found in news sources and lifestyle magazines like The Washington Post, Aeon, The Guardian, etc. All other essays, including well-written prose with any degree of literary emphasis, are found in nearly every other print and online publication.

Many places that publish personal essays will state clearly that they are looking for creative nonfiction. Creative nonfiction is an industry term that includes literary essays along with other creative nonfiction, including travel essays, parenting essays, and pieces of inspired reportage, among other things. Outlets looking to acquire creative nonfiction are advertising, essentially, that they publish personal essays on a variety of topics that contain a large amount of scene development.

The key to well-written creative nonfiction is in the use of scenes to convey the story. Creative nonfiction essays use less narrative and more scene-by-scene storytelling—a technique that pushes the sensory experience for readers. When readers feel the action of an essay, they can make inferences, judgments, and emotional connections. They can experience the events with personal investment. Readers can then examine their own experiences in comparison.

Creative nonfiction is the fastest-growing area of nonfiction, with opportunities for writers in magazines and newspapers across the country. The genre allows for experimentation in a way that appeals to readers of fiction and nonfiction alike. Not every magazine is looking specifically for creative nonfiction, but if that’s the direction your work takes you, know that you will have many opportunities for publication.

Author Susan Pohlman has written creative-nonfiction essays for a variety of print and online outlets. She likens these essays to fiction, in terms of technique: “Creative nonfiction is an umbrella term. It is an easily accessible genre encompassing a multitude of forms such as the personal essay, the profile essay, participatory journalism, memoir, features, travel essays, biography, and inspired reportage on almost any subject. In short, creative nonfiction is the art of applying storytelling techniques to nonfiction prose. They are true stories that read like fiction.”

That’s right—they read like fiction. Don’t let that confuse you. They feel like fiction because they employ such a big dose of scene development, but creative-nonfiction essays are all accurate depictions of people’s lives. They are true stories crafted to elicit an emotional response.

Want to learn more? Grab a copy of Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays, available in bookstores everywhere.

My bio: Windy Lynn Harris is the author of Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Work Published (from Writer’s Digest Books) and the founder of Market Coaching for Creative Writers, a mentoring program that teaches writers how to get their short work published in magazines. She’s a prolific writer, a trusted mentor, and a frequent speaker at literary events. Her long list of short stories and personal essays have been published in literary, trade, and women’s magazines across the U.S. and Canada in places like The Literary Review, The Sunlight Press, and Literary Mama, among many other journals. She is also a developmental editor-for-hire, specializing in short stories and personal essays. She teaches the craft of writing in person and online. More about Windy at her website: www.windylynnharris.com.

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Note from Luanne: I posted a review of Windy’s book here: Write Short First. Please direct your comments to Windy as I am entertaining Mom this week!

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Guest Blogger: Anneli Purchase and Her Latest Book “Marlie”

My name is Marlie Mitchell. That’s me on the cover of Anneli’s book.


Anneli’s friend Jan Brown painted my portrait. She made my hair a bit wilder than it really is, but I do have trouble keeping it tamed. Jan certainly got my eyes right. One shows the hurt I’ve felt, and the other shows my determination to pick myself up and be strong.

You see, I had great plans to teach young children and build a happy life with a husband and maybe a couple of kids of my own. Hah! That dream went down the toilet almost before I got started. Everything in my life seemed to go wrong.

I was the perfect candidate for an escape to a remote teaching post in the Queen Charlotte Islands, now called Haida Gwaii, off the coast of northern British Columbia.

Many of my students lived in poor homes in Haida village, but the children became very dear to me.

I hadn’t expected the islands to be so beautiful. Neither had I expected the lifestyle to be quite so different. In real life, it wasn’t all as romantic or perfect as I’d hoped.

People on the islands help each other even if they don’t know who you are. Unfortunately, I found out that some will just as readily hurt an unsuspecting person. In my first months on the islands, I ran into both kinds. One unfortunate bad choice I made would hang over me for months, and leave me struggling.

But I had the friendship of Skylar, who taught the grade four class next to me. She took me to the beach one day. We had an amazing time, until we came back to her van. We had a frightening experience then that left our legs shaking.


Canada geese spend a lot of time on the islands. I was lucky enough to see some beautiful flocks.

I got to know the islands better when I met a commercial fisherman. He had a love of hunting that I couldn’t immediately share. Maybe he was just a bit too real for me. He was most annoying. And yet … he showed me some scenic parts of the island. He nearly got us killed, but I suppose that’s all part of island life, and I’m still here to tell about it.
He fishes some beautiful places, like near where this sailboat is anchored, but he said it can also get really rough.

Sometimes he couldn’t even see out the windshield for the rain and spray off the water. I’m not sure I’d want to be out there in bad weather. I soon found out what kind of screaming wild winds would visit the islands in the coming winter.

Juggling my problems and feelings about people I met on the islands, I began to wonder if my fresh start was going to work out for me. I had two choices: quit my job and go back to the mess my life used to be, or sort out the new mess I had gotten myself into and figure out a way to survive up here in this beautiful, godforsaken place.

Why don’t you come spend some time with me in Anneli’s book? I could use a good friend right about now. You might even meet some people you’ve met in Anneli’s other books. Remember Jim, Andrea, and Foissy? You would have met them in “The Wind Weeps” and in “Reckoning Tide.”

Come see me inside the covers of “Marlie.”

Here’s where you can find me.

Links:

For Kindle and paperback:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.ca

For e-books other than Kindle :

Smashwords.com

Blog: https://wordsfromanneli.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/anneli33


About Anneli Purchase

Anneli loves to write and to do copy-editing for other writers. She spent six years living in the Queen Charlotte Islands. She loves nature, gardening, and photography. Animals, especially birds, are a special interest, and although they are never the main focus, they always find their way into her books in some small way. Anneli lives on Vancouver Island with her husband and two spaniels.

Marlie is her fifth novel.

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Poetry Ancestry

Last week I went to see three grande dames of literature at Arizona State University: Joy Harjo, Rita Dove, and Sandra Cisneros, hosted by Natalie Diaz. These are writers whose works I taught to college students for years, but this was the first opportunity I had to hear them talk in person. They were seated on stage in a conversation area–a couch and armchairs. What I hadn’t realized was that they are all graduates of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which has long been considered to be the top place to earn an MFA in writing. These women all know each other–and Harjo and Cisneros were friends in grad school. I felt I was eavesdropping on their conversation with each other.

Since these women are all poets, but have published prose as well, I was fascinated to hear what they had to say. Their voices come from disenfranchised groups–Harjo is Native (Muskogee Creek), Cisneros Chicana, and Dove African American–so it’s important to listen carefully and sympathetically in order to hear things from a variety of perspectives. They were also talking about timing, and how timing was very helpful to them in achieving the level of success they have had. You can look them up if you want the deets. In fact, Dove mentioned that when she was a grad student she didn’t know the work of a lot of poets who were mentioned in her classes. She would surreptitiously write down the names so she could find them in the library and read their work. In that way, she was partially self-taught.

I’m leading up to something here.

Of all the wonderful ancedotes and tips I heard that Saturday afternoon, the one that stood out the most to me is one from Harjo. She said she teaches a course about poetry ancestry. It’s studying the genealogy of your poetry writing. You look at the poets who most influenced your own writing. Then you see who influenced them. And go back as far as you can, studying the work that turns up in your research!

I wanted to see where I could go with this, but it will take time. I’ll just start by mentioning some of my poetic influences. Keep in mind this is NOT an exhaustive list by any means.

  • Sylvia Plath: there is no doubt that I found her big mouth and aggressive imagery very liberating
  • Emily Dickinson: her spare and sometimes wry writing appeals to me, but the downside is she keeps herself out of most of her poems, and that is too convenient for me
  • A. R. Ammons: I so admire his oneness with nature and spirit and his very smart use of language
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins: his spirituality and fresh imagery speak to my heart
  • Linda Hogan: like Ammons, her oneness with nature and spirit inspires me
  • Adrienne Rich: she broke the ice at the top of the ocean she dove into in Diving into the Wreck
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay: maybe the first poem not written for children that captivated me was Millay’s “Renascence.” When I was a kid, I took an LP record out of the library and listened to her read it over and over and over and over and over again.
  • classic children’s poetry of the 20th century, as well as nursery rhymes: these are what first instilled a love for poetry

Do you notice anything about my little list? Lots of women, not too much diversity (except Hogan who is Native and Rich, a Jewish lesbian). But what else? The poems I read that first inspired my writing were written mainly before 1980 all the way back to Dickinson who was writing before and during the Civil War! Of course, I’ve read a lot of contemporary poetry over the years, but poets who first influenced me were not my contemporaries or even those just a little ahead of me. They were considered masters when I read them, except for maybe Hogan.

I’m thinking I need another list of poets whose works next influenced me–people writing after the poets listed above. That might then offer more of a platform for the “family research.”

Do you know who your first influences were for your own writing? Have the type of influences changed over time? For instance, if blogging is your main writing format, who were your first influences?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reading from Doll God and Kin Types

If you happen to be in the Phoenix area this Friday, please come hang out with me at {9} The Gallery! There will be an open mic, and then I will read from Doll God and Kin Types. I’ll have copies of Doll God to sign for a discounted price of $10 (regular $14).

Link to info: Caffeine Corridor Poetry feat. Luanne Castle

This series is pulled together by the wonderful Phoenix poet Shawnte Orion.

Let’s hope I don’t screw up too badly.

Make it a great week!

 

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Filed under Arizona, Book promotion, Doll God, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Poetry reading, Reading, Writing, Writing Talk

Is It Really a Choice Between Twitter and Poetry?

In April, for Poetry Month, the LA Times ran an OP-ED by Lori Anne Ferrell, who is the director of Claremont Graduate University’s Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and Kate Tufts Discovery Award. These are giants in the world of poetry awards. Ferrell’s piece argues that poetry is complex and cannot be reduced. She argues that we should all find a poem that startles us with its “lasting truths.” She wants us to put our favorite poems in our pockets. She speaks very well for poetry and for the month of poetry.

You can read the article here: A Book of Poetry That’s Worth $100,000, And So Much More

Near the end of the short piece, Ferrell suggests something she calls revolutionary: that we quit Twitter and send a poem to someone we disagree with. She thinks poetry will span the divide between us. What she seems to hope for is akin to what I felt Tony Walsh did in his poem “This is The Place” about Manchester.

At first, I took her quite literally. Yeah, I should stop wasting so much time on the internet. On Twitter, yes, but also Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even WordPress. Maybe not Goodreads ;). After all, it makes sense, right? Every minute spent online is a minute that could be spent reading a poem or sending someone else a poem.

But then I wondered who I would send a poem to and it led me to think about the difference between Ferrell’s life and mine. She is a humanities professor on campus at a graduate university. I work at home and live a split personality existence, helping run our business and writing creatively.

Maybe you, like me, work from home. Maybe you don’t and you have a vast network of coworkers. If you work from home, you don’t see too many people on a regular basis. But you might correspond and communicate regularly using the internet and even social media.  If you have coworkers, but unlike Ferrell, don’t work in a field that automatically values poetry or novels or painting or photography (whatever your art, there are commonalities between them all), you still might find the need to communicate online with others who do.

So why would you quit your “Twitter feed”? Or WordPress or Facebook or whatever forum you most value? I sure don’t want to be that isolated. I want to talk to people about what I care about.

And as for sending a poem to someone: Since the postal service is a declining service, most people will choose email to send a poem. Last time I checked, emails were part of our online world.

NEVERTHELESS,

It is true that reading well-written poetry and prose adds a richness to our lives that we can’t get from Twitter. And it doesn’t provoke anxiety in the same way either. (Don’t tell me social media doesn’t give you anxiety, at least some of the time).

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Perry took his first dose of deworming medicine a week ago. He takes the 2nd dose in another week. In the meantime, he’s shut up in a bedroom with a view of birds, lizards, snakes, and bunnies. Although I still don’t pet him, if I reach out my “paw” to him, he reciprocates by touching it with his own paw. Then he gets excited and stretches and rolls on his back.

Look at how his paw pads have changed in the past two months!

 It’s been so hot in Arizona (up to 120.8 one day) that he must be so relieved to be inside in the air conditioning and with a clean water bowl.

Writing was set aside for the past week so that I could focus on all the work I needed to do for Perry on top of my regular work. But I hope to be #amwriting this week! What do you plan to do for yourself this week?

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