Category Archives: #writerlife

Irony, Heartbreak, Depression

I’ve become obsessed with a 1966 hit by The Statler Brothers: “Flowers on the Wall.” A bluegrassy-sounding song, it won a Grammy that year, and yet it’s weird and chockful of irony. I can’t stop listening to it. See if you think it’s one of the most ironic and sad songs you’ve ever heard:

(Take a look at those Mad Men outfits!)

Anyway, do you know the song or did you just listen? Here are the lyrics:

I keep hearin’ you’re concerned about my happiness
But all that thought you’re givin’ me is conscience I guess
If I were walkin’ in your shoes, I wouldn’t worry none
While you and your friends are worried about me, I’m havin’ lots of fun

Countin’ flowers on the wall
That don’t bother me at all
Playin’ solitaire ’til dawn with a deck of 51
Smokin’ cigarettes and watchin’ Captain Kangaroo
Now don’t tell me, I’ve nothin’ to do

Last night I dressed in tails, pretended I was on the town
As long as I can dream it’s hard to slow this swinger down
So please don’t give a thought to me, I’m really doin’ fine
You can always find me here, I’m havin’ quite a time

Countin’ flowers on the wall
That don’t bother me at all
Playin’ solitaire ’til dawn with a deck of 51
Smokin’ cigarettes and watchin’ Captain Kangaroo
Now don’t tell me, I’ve nothin’ to do

It’s good to see you, I must go, I know I look a fright
Anyway my eyes are not accustomed to this light
And my shoes are not accustomed to this hard concrete
So I must go back to my room and make my day complete

Countin’ flowers on the wall
That don’t bother me at all
Playin’ solitaire ’til dawn with a deck of 51
Smokin’ cigarettes and watchin’ Captain Kangaroo
Now don’t tell me, I’ve nothin’ to do

Don’t tell me, I’ve nothin’ to do

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Lewis Dewitt

Flowers On the Wall lyrics © Unichappell Music Inc.

The song was written by Statler Brothers tenor Lew DeWitt. The lyrics are astonishing with irony (and the sound of a ripping heart) just dripping out of every line. What an amazing description of deep depression.

Do you think the irony makes the story even more tragic?

Can you think of other songs that are equally ironic and yet heartbreaking?

Irony works the same way in poetry (of course). My top choice of an ironic poem is probably Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art,” a villanelle that is one of my favorites.

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
playing card deck
Photo by Israel Garcia on Pexels.com

34 Comments

Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Vintage American culture, Writing Talk

Is it Real Life or is it Fiction?

Six years ago, I published a piece of flash fiction at The Story Shack called “Parking Lot Superhero.” I posted a link on this blog and yadda yaddaed about fiction giving me more freedom for structure. The story was one of the first flash pieces I wrote.

Here’s a confession. I don’t even know why I wrote that about freedom because the truth is that this story is completely true except for the names. So maybe the freedom actually came from changing the names. And by changing the names I was able to change the structure and how I ended up structuring it made all the difference. So, yes, I submitted nonfiction as fiction by changing the names.

colorful cars on parking lot
Photo by Erik Mclean on Pexels.com

Is this a character defect? Or is it just a genre, like a roman à clef (novel where real people occur, but their names are changed)?

Have you ever written nonfiction and disguised it as fiction?

If you have read this blog for a long time, you might remember the story, but here it is: https://thestoryshack.com/flash-fiction/drama/luanne-castle-parking-lot-superhero/

This story is not one of my most well-written (and at some point I might revise it), but it’s still one of my favorites because the hero of the story (not me) was such a larger-than-life character in real life.

Going back to my title–Is it Real Life or is it Fiction?–maybe fiction is often real life, just many different aspects of real life glued together in a different combination and order.

One more thing. Why did I want to come clean about this story being true? Although I published it as fiction to protect “Jack” and his family story, I have felt guilt at not giving him credit for being a hero. I still won’t publish his name, but I feel better letting you know that he is a real living hero.

47 Comments

Filed under #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Publishing, Short Stories, Writing

Distant Flickers Book Review

Distant Flickers: Stories of Identity & Loss is an anthology of engaging short fiction that varies in subject, style and tone. As the subtitle suggests, explorations in identity and the different faces of loss provide a thematic focus for the collection. After each story, an extended bio, author perspective on the story, and information about the author’s other publications is provided, and I really like that. So often in an anthology I don’t feel that I “meet” the writers of the short stories or poems. Here, I am asked to slow down and get to know them a bit.

Every story in the book is special, but I will write about just a few of my favorites. In “1975: East Ocean View,” Elizabeth Gauffreau develops a character study of a young woman whose childhood has been ended by the birth of a baby. The girl, unexposed to early feminism, hasn’t had a chance to grow up on her own, but instead must negotiate a life of poverty with an immature husband and a baby. Gauffreau’s skill with deft understatement and deep understanding is clear in this piece. “1975: East Ocean View” serves as a reminder to me of the best of the short story genre—and what I love about it. No big splash, but lots of dangerous undercurrents. In her second story in the book, “Diary Omissions: The House on Edgewood Road,” Gauffreau demonstrates a flair for dry humor even as she writes poignantly of a family tragedy.

“Two Boys,” by Carol LaHines, is a thought-provoking look at a mother’s loss. The approach to the subject, as well as the writing style, reminds me of Shirley Jackson’s delightful and unsettling “domestic” stories.

“Where Secrets Go to Hide” by Keith Madsen is a charming and humorous exploration of what makes a secret a secret. An undercurrent of darkness occasionally breaks the surface and shows itself, thus providing tension and suspense to the story.

I enjoyed all the stories in the collection immensely. You couldn’t ask for a more satisfying variety of approaches to both identity and loss. The protagonist in “1975; East Ocean View” has lost her future even as she has lost her past. In this way she is in danger of losing her self. In “Two Boys,” the loss affects the mother’s and the child’s sibling’s identities. Madsen’s story is about the loss of innocence, which affects the identity of the protagonist and his family.

You can purchase the book through your favorite book seller here: https://books2read.com/-distantflickers?format=all

18 Comments

Filed under #amreading, #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Book Review, Fiction

My Wacky Migraines

Note: if you have trouble posting a comment on this blog or any other, here is something I learned from blogger Marian Beaman: If you use the back arrow after the error message appears, fill in your email address and name again. Then your comment should go through, and WordPress will recognize you in the future. 

I was recently diagnosed with something called vestibular migraine. Or hemiplegic migraine. Or maybe both. There is a difference because vestibular is awful, but hemiplegic can be dangerous. Apparently there is no way to tell for sure, but I am not going to accept that answer. Story unfinished. But let me back up.

For twenty-four years, I have been plagued by something that was called “complicated migraines” by the neurologists I had seen. After Loma Linda mistakenly diagnosed me with TIAs (mini-strokes), UCLA and, later, Barrows in Phoenix, diagnosed these episodes as complicated migraines.

They are a migraine disorder, but they are not migraine headaches. I used to get the headache version until they turned into this other sort of migraine. In fact, I had some horrific migraines when I was a kid–seven to ten years old. The version I’ve been getting for 24 years is generally without headache. The symptoms include sudden severe vertigo, heaviness, inability to stand or sit, weakness, burning through the sinuses, widely fluctuating body temperature, brain fog, squinched up face on one side only, numbness of limbs, nausea, vomiting, falling asleep at the tail end of the acute episode, etc. It’s very difficult to go anywhere by myself, and this is why I don’t travel alone any longer. I can’t attend concerts or sporting events with lots of lights. I had to leave daughter’s wedding reception early once the goofy lights came out. Although we had planned ahead, what the DJ thought was mild was not. That’s ok because her friends all had a wonderful time, and I was tired anyway.

When I moved to Arizona, the complicated migraines got worse in that I felt sick every day and had acute episodes every couple of days. I had to go on preventative medication in the form of a blood pressure med. The meds kept the acute episodes from happening so frequently.

I would say my migraines have been under control for a dozen years until this spring when I started feeling sick (sore eyes, nauseous, slight vertigo) all the time. So I went back to Barrows, to their headache clinic. That’s where I was diagnosed with vestibular and/or hemiplegic migraines. No such thing any longer as complicated migraines.

My worst trigger is light, especially flickering artifical light. Fluorescents always have a flicker, even if you can’t see it. But LED can be bad, too. And fluorescents that have a noticeable flicker are the devil. When I have to go under artificial lights, such as the doctor’s office or grocery store, I wear a brimmed hat and sunglasses. Other triggers are sleep disturbance, stress, too much paperwork where I have to look down instead of across (computer better than paper on the desk or table).

Another thing that happened in the last few years is that I occasionally get migraines with very traditional aura in the form of sickle-shaped kaleidoscope images. And, yes, it is as vivid as in the image below.

I am going to try to continue to search for answers. My symptoms are consistent with having both conditions at the same time, but I haven’t been able to find anyone yet with my regular set of symptoms. There are rare individuals who have both vestibular and hemiplegic, but the forms occur at different times. Some of my regular symptoms apply to vestibular, and some apply to hemiplegic (especially the one-sided face squinch). So onward. And in the meantime, please hand me the hat and sunglasses!

21 Comments

Filed under #amreading, #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Arizona, Nonfiction, Writing

Summer Junky Art Journaling Project

For the past 75 days I have been participating in a class, taught by Kasia Avery, through Everyday Art called 100 Small Steps. The course was designed a couple of years ago which is when others took it. But it’s still up at their site and the price is minimal. So I am taking this class all by my lonesome. The structure is that of a daily prompt, a guideline, and a bonus life enrichment prompt and is meant to “force” one to do something creative every day. There is a Facebook page related to the course, and I am posting a photo every day of that day’s work. Of course, I am the only one doing so. And there are people who took this course in the past who are kind enough to give me regular encouragement although they are long past this experience.

At this point, I am 3/4 of the way through the program. Even when I had to go out of town for work or had distressing life events, I still made sure to do something in my art journal. There’s a lot of crap, but every day taught me something. And there are a few pages that make me very happy. One important thing about pushing myself through the 100 days is that I keep going. It would be easy to miss some days, but then it will be even easier to miss a few more. And time spent with my art journal is my zen time.

For the first 25 days I used a zippered binder and its “cardstock” dividers. This binder had been left at my house by a previous boyfriend of daughter. For the second 25 days I used an address book. 26 letters of the alphabet is pretty close to 25 days! Then I started a journal that Kasia had recommended as an inexpensive type she likes. It’s a Decomposition Book (hahaha), made of 100% post-consumer-waste recycle pages and printed with soy ink. This one has a topographic map on the cover and graph paper inside. The pages are a bit thin, so sometimes I glue two together. And the gesso helps strengthen them, as well. My big dilemma now is whether I continue in this book or switch to a fourth book. I think I’ll switch because the journal is already getting pretty thick with gesso, paint, collage, fabric scraps, safety pins, and the like.

The kitties are a lot of work because of integrating all these various personalities. But they sure are cute. I discovered that Meesker is talented at catch. We bat one of his toy mice back and forth. He catches with his claws extended and then smacks it right back at me. Lily is a talented eater and excellent lovebug.

I had a couple of poems from my Red Riding Hood project accepted at a wonderful journal (I’ll share when they are published) and have one of my Rooted and Winged Grandma poems accepted at another. I want to start a writing project before too long. Maybe when 100 Small Steps is completed. Go have a great week!

45 Comments

Filed under #amreading, #poetswithcats, #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Art and Music, art journaling, Cats and Other Animals, Writing

Up to My Cat Ears

writersite.org

Yes, I’ve been up to my kitty ears with kittens and cats this week. Eight of them. Yesterday, the two smart little hamsters kittens went home with their fully vacationed parents. The two senior cats will be living with us indefinitely. More on those two later. For now, I am exhauserbated.

Callie and Zona, bonded forever
These girls loved the app “Mouse for Cats” on my ipad.

Here’s a link to preorder my new book Rooted and Winged. https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/rooted-and-winged-by-luanne-castle/

I will donate $5 to Liberty Wildlife in Phoenix for each preorder if you let me know and give me your email address for a donation email from LW.

Going to try to catch up on work and blog-reading this week, so I’m closing comments. Make it a good week!

Leave a comment

Filed under #poetrycommunity, #poetswithcats, #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Book promotion, Books, Cats and Other Animals

Lots of Stuff about Writing Besides Actually Writing

Eilene Lyon of Myricopia has written a beautiful review of my chapbook Kin Types. She writes on her blog about her family history (among other things), and is finishing up a book  about it as well. About my chap:

This slender volume is saturated with spirits brought to life by Luanne Castle’s soulful words in prose and poetry. It’s a collection I will read again and again, as it inspires a hope that some of her magic will rub off on my attempts to reinvigorate my ancestors’ stories. The writing is not just creative and lyrical, but draws on deep research and compassion.

Though there are instances of tragedy and death—universal human events—not all is gloomy within these pages. I love how “Half-Naked Woman Found Dead” conjures the purple prose of 19th-century journalism, and despite the dire subject, makes me laugh out loud with the final line. In “Genealogy” she takes a simple subject, the name Frank, and in a few words imparts both a legacy passed down and a deeper meaning tied to the name itself.

The details Castle creates to evoke time, place, and experience, continually astonish me. The veil clouding the past is pierced and we step into the shoes of her long-gone loved ones.

Coincidentally, two of the Kin Types poems were just reprinted by Verse-Virtual in the May issue. You can find them here:

2 Verse-Virtual poems

Check out the other poems in this issue, as well. Some lovely work.

You know that first poem, “Genealogy”? As you can see it’s about the name Frank and looks at another meaning of the name. So when I first heard about the great Diane Seuss’ phenomenal book Frank: Sonnets I knew the ambiguity inherent in that one-word title and was intrigued. In fact, her collection is a frank exploration of her life in poems, as well as inspired by but completely different from the work of poet Frank O’Hara. If you read one poetry book by a “great” this year, make it Seuss’.  The book has just taken these awards:

Winner of the 2022 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection
Winner of the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry
Winner of the 2021 L.A. Times Book Prize for Poetry
Finalist for the 2022 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

Pretty darn amazing, but you will see why the book earned them.

On another note, I have a bundle of yummy looking poetry books to read by Merril D. Smith, Justin Hamm, Caroline Goodwin, Millicent Accardi, KB, and John Sibley Williams. Woohoo!!!!

And, finally, I am tinkering with the memoir. Is a writer’s work ever done? Kind of like being a woman (if you remember the expression).

Finally, on a completely unrelated topic, I found out there is a haunted hotel in Phoenix, Hotel San Carlos. That’s right. You can read about its checkered history here.

Make it a good week!

44 Comments

Filed under #amreading, #amrevising, #amwriting, #poetrycommunity, #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Book Review, Family history, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing

Poetry in the Blogosphere: The Video Recording

Liz Gauffreau has made a video of the March 23 poetry reading for those who wanted to attend, but were unable to. Here ’tis.

Now, how do I stop saying um before every sentence? Are there online lessons available in that? Do I use a shock collar?

20 Comments

Filed under #poetrycommunity, #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry reading, Reading

Furry Grandbabies

I am a fur grandma all over again. And again. My daughter and  son-in-law adopted two kitten sisters.  Last July, their dear cat Izzie died quite unexpectedly. They didn’t want to get a cat leading up to their wedding because they were so busy, but daughter has been jonesing for a cat.  She knows it is better for the kittens if two are adopted together. I’ve taught her well. Cute enough?

So now I am the proud Grandma of 4 cats and 3 dogs (between both my kids). Most of my cats weren’t interested in meeting these babies, but Perry was. When he sat next to their carrier and looked in at them from above, my daughter said, “Looks like in ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,’ with his big head and their little bodies.”

 

***

Our blogger poets reading is this coming Saturday, April 23!  If you want to and are able to attend, please register at the link below. And if you feel like sharing with friends, please do :)!

https://tinyurl.com/Poets-in-the-Blogosphere

The theme for National Poetry Month 2022 is There’s A Poem in This Place. Two places to find contemporary poetry at its most vibrant are in the blogging community and at live readings. On 23 April 2022 from 4-5:30 PM ET, the two places cometogetherwhen a select group of poets from the blogosphere present a live reading of their poetry at Poets in the Blogosphere. Most poetry is meant to be read aloud, and hearing poets read their own work is a heightened experience.The event is moderated by Elizabeth Gauffreau. Please register in advance at https://tinyurl.com/Poets-in-the-Blogosphere

#NationalPoetryMonth

#blogpoetsread2022

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Elizabeth Gauffreau, Luanne Castle, Serena Agusto-Cox, Ken Gierke, George Franklin, Stephanie L. Harper, Carla McGill, Robert Okaji, and Merril Smith!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

53 Comments

Filed under #poetrycommunity, #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Cats and Other Animals, Poetry, Poetry reading, Reading

Tiny Books

You may or may not recall my book Doll God and chapbook Kin Types. Now it’s time to see the miniature versions.

After the release of Doll God, the doll on the cover was named Mary Gold by blog readers. I lost track of her for awhile, but then she turned up. I’ve been keeping her safe. Then I bought her a tiny Doll God. 

Joy Neal Kidney wrote a splendiferous review of Doll God today over on her blog! You can read it here: DOLL GOD REVIEW BY JOY NEAL KIDNEY

Of course, after seeing Mary Gold’s photo shoot, my other dolls started crying for their own tiny book. This doll, with her roots from the same heritage as so many of my ancestors, was selected to pose with a mini Kin Types.

When the gardener sees me doing photo shoots of dolls and kitties (like for Tiger’s birthday), I know he thinks I’m a weirdo. But he’s the bigger weirdo because he keeps sweeping up the same dead leaves and dried flowers day after day. How boring is that!

***

Reminder to register for the blogger poets zoom poetry reading scheduled for Saturday, 23 April! Link below.

https://tinyurl.com/Poets-in-the-Blogosphere

The theme for National Poetry Month 2022 is There’s A Poem in This Place. Two places to find contemporary poetry at its most vibrant are in the blogging community and at live readings. On 23 April 2022 from 4-5:30 PM ET, the two places cometogetherwhen a select group of poets from the blogosphere present a live reading of their poetry at Poets in the Blogosphere. Most poetry is meant to be read aloud, and hearing poets read their own work is a heightened experience.The event is moderated by Elizabeth Gauffreau. Please register in advance at https://tinyurl.com/Poets-in-the-Blogosphere

#NationalPoetryMonth

#blogpoetsread2022

 

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Elizabeth Gauffreau, Luanne Castle, Serena Agusto-Cox, Ken Gierke, George Franklin, Stephanie L. Harper, Carla McGill, Robert Okaji, and Merril Smith!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

39 Comments

Filed under #poetrycommunity, #writerlife, #writerslife, #writingcommunity, Book promotion, Dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry reading, Reading