Category Archives: Writing contest

Guidelines for The Rooted and Winged Writing Contest

Are you ready to start writing?! Grab your favorite pen! Fire up your computer!

Writer Site’s Rooted and Winged Writing Contest opens today, Monday, June 27.

Dates: Submit from June 27-July 27

Eligibility to enter: Preorder Luanne’s forthcoming poetry collection Rooted and Winged, cost $19.99, link below (if you already preordered the book, you are exempt from this requirement) by July 15. You may enter as many times as you wish, but a preorder is necessary for each submission.

Award: $250 to contest winner. Finalists will receive Rooted and Winged swag.


Rooted and Winged explores the emotional and physical movement of flight and falling. The human imagination will always strive for flight, even as we feel most comfortable close to the earth. Brainstorm images of flight and falling, earth and sky, then write a poem or flash prose inspired by this activity.

Guidelines: Must respond to the prompt; flash prose (fiction and nonfiction) or poem up to 800 words, no name on the piece itself, identify genre in upper case at the top left of the first page (POETRY, NONFICTION, FICTION), identify word count underneath genre.

How to submit: Email doc, docx, or pdf submission to Do not include any identifying information on your prose or poem. In the body of the email please include your full name (same as used to preorder Rooted and Winged), as well as your email address. If you wish your writer name to be different from your preorder name, please include that as well. Submissions will be passed on to judges anonymously.

Additionally, I am donating $5 in the name of each person who preorders my book to Liberty Wildlife, a wildlife rehabilitation center.  Two months into the pandemic, we had a red-tailed hawk in our yard. She was unable to fly, and a volunteer from Liberty Wildlife came out to rescue her. I wrote a poem about the incident, which was published in The Orchards Poetry Journal and is in Rooted and Winged. The gardener (my partner in crime) and I have brought many smaller injured and orphaned birds to Liberty Wildlife over the years.  Some of the poems in the book are about the wildlife in our area.


K.E. Ogden is a two-time judge for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Prize and a two-time winner of the Academy of American Poets Henri Coulette Memorial Prize from Cal State Los Angeles. Her debut collection of poems, What the Body Already Knows, is winner of the Finishing Line Press New Women’s Voices poetry prize and is in presale now [[]]to be released September 2022. Her poems, essays, and fiction have been published in Kenyon Review Online, Brevity, anderbo, Claudius Speaks, Louisiana Literature and elsewhere, and her plays have been staged at several university theaters. A typewriter lover and avid book artist, her digital quilt piece “My President: A Politics of Hope” was published by writer Gretchen Henderson as part of the “Unstitched States” project [[]] . ​Ogden lives in Los Angeles where she teaches at Pasadena City College and in the Young Writers at Kenyon program each summer in Gambier, Ohio. Visit her on the web at [[]]​

K. E. Ogden

Suanne Schafer was born in West Texas at the height of the Cold War. Her world travels and pioneer ancestors fuel her writing. A genetic distrust of happily-ever-afters gives rise to strong female protagonists who battle tough environments and intersect with men who might—or might not—love them. A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIRE depicts an early 20th century artist in West Texas while HUNTING THE DEVIL explores the plight of an American physician during the Rwandan genocide. BIRDIE looks at women’s rights in the 19th century through the eyes of a teenage girl committed to an insane asylum. Suanne has served as an editor for a mainstream/romance publishing house and fiction editor for a literary magazine as well as freelance editing. Follow her on and

Suanne Schafer

Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. She holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Recent fiction publications include Woven Tale Press, Dash, Pinyon, Aji, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, and Evening Street Review. Her debut novel, Telling Sonny, was published in 2018. Her debut poetry collection, “Grief Songs: Poems of Love & Remembrance,” was published by Paul Stream Press in September 2021. Learn more about her work at

Elizabeth Gauffeau


Filed under #AmWriting, Book promotion, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing contest

Don’t Miss This Poetry Contest

Rick Lupert at Poetry Super Highway is offering a poetry contest that you might want to enter. The main prizes are cash (read below), but there are also a lot of other prizes available, including two copies of Doll God, which I am donating as a sponsor of the contest. There are lots of other books donated, too. What I love about Rick’s contests are that they aren’t to make money for a literary magazine, but to really benefit the poets themselves.

Read and ENTER. This is the best value contest around. The submission fee is $1 per poem!!! You can’t beat that. Think of the things you can buy for a buck. NOT MUCH and surely not even a large cup of coffee.

Warning: on my computer screen words do run too far to the right, but you can still get the gist of everything you need to know about the contest. I tested the links, so you can get to the entry form, etc.

Poetry Super Highway

Announcing the 2017 Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest

s p o n s o r e d   b y

Angele Ellis • Ann Christine Tabaka • Clint Hirschfield • Corey Mesler • Curtis R. Smith • David C. Kopaska-Merkel • David Flynn • Ed Werstein • Elizabeth Marchitti • Ellen Sander • Emily Vieweg • Forage Poetry Forum • Hanoch Guy • Hiram Larew • Karawane, or the Temporary Death of the Bruitist • Ken Allan Dronsfield • Larry O. Bubar • “Laughing” Larry Berger • LB Sedlacek • Leilani Squire • Lone Stars Poetry Magazine • Luanne Castle • Magalena Ball • Marianne Szlyk • Marie C Lecrivain • Marsha Carow Markman • Mary Langer Thompson • Matthew Abuelo • Muddy River Poetry Review & Muddy River Books • Neil Leadbeater • Neil Meili • Poetry Contests for a Cause • Poets & Allies for Resistance • Poets Wear Prada • Rattle • Rick Lupert • Rolland Vasin • Ron Kolm • Ruth Hill • San Diego Poetry Annual • Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association • Steve Braff • Trish Lindsey Jaggers • Unlikely Books • Unlikely Books • Vincent O’Connor • Voices Israel • Winning Writers • WoollyDocIt’s our twentieth annual Poetry Contest featuring cash prizes and 48 sponsors who’ve donated 95 additional prizes.  Last year we were able to send every contest entrant a prize for participating and we’re hoping to do the same this year. (Click here for information on sponsoring this year’s contest.)

Read below for all the Entry Guidelines, The Complete Prize List, The Judges, and the 2017 Contest Calendar.


Entry Guidelines

  • The Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest is open to all human beings on planet Earth. (except for the three judges)
  • Enter as many poems as you like.
  • Previously published poems are eligible.
  • Poems may be of any style, length, or subject matter.
  • This contest is separate from weekly Poet of the Week consideration though submissions for Poet of the week consideration must be separate from Contest Submissions and the same poems may not be submitted for both.
  • There is a One Dollar Per Poem (US Funds Only) entry fee.
  • Poems are sent to the three contest judges with your name removed. The judges score each poem from 0-5 using quarter point intervals. (0, .25, .5, .75, 1, 1.25, 1.5, etc…)
  • Poems are sent to judges only after you fill out the Contest Entry Formand we have received your payment.

There are three easy steps to entering the contest:

Guidelines on how and where to email poems will be
displayed once you submit the contest entry form.
Guidelines on how and where to submit your $1 per poem entry
fee will be displayed once you submit the contest entry form.

Click here to go to the entry form.

Deadlines Etcetera

  • Deadline for postmarking entry fees (or paying them via PayPal or Venmo) is Saturday, September 23, 2017.
  • Regardless of when you postmark, your entry fees must be received by Wednesday, September 27, so if you’re mailing your entry fee, please account for the amount of time it will take for your it to travel between your home and Los Angeles.
  • This is a not for profit contest. All of the collected entry fees will be divided between the top three scoring poems (minus postage for mailing out additional prizes. See Prize List below)
  • Once your entry fee is received, your poems will be sent with your name removed to the three judges who will score them 0 – 5 (5 being best).
  • Your poems will not be forwarded to the judges until your entry fee is received.
  • If you have any questions or need any of the contest details clarified, please e-mail


First Prize: 50% of the entry fees collected plus winning poem featured on the PSH

Second Prize: 30% of the entry fees collected plus winning poem featured on the PSH.

Third Prize: 20% of the entry fees collected plus winning poem featured on the PSH.

In addition, thanks to sponsors Rolland Vasin and Hiram Larew, an additional $275 will be added to the entry fees collected and divided with the above percentages among the top three scoring poets.

Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, we are able to supplement the cash prizes with an impressive array of prizes which would be of interest to poets and writers.

The following prizes will be used to bolster first through third prize as well as distributed to other contest entrants.

Our goal is to be able to send every single person who enters the contest something.

If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor to this years contest in exchange for promotional consideration, please click HERE for the details.

Additional Prizes:

Angele Ellis
1 Three-Book Set which includes 1 copy of “Arab on Radar” by Angele Ellis, 1 copy of the book “Spared” by Angele Ellis, and 1 copy of the book “Under the Kaufmann’s Clock” by Angele Ellis

Ann Christine Tabaka
2 copies of the book “It Is Still Morning” by Ann Christine Tabaka

Clint Hirschfield
1 copy of the anthology “2014 Pendle War Poetry Competition Selected Poems”
1 copy of the anthology “2015 Pendle War Poetry Competition Selected Poems”

Corey Mesler
1 signed copy of the book “Opaque Melodies that Would Bug Most People” by Corey Mesler

Curtis R. Smith
1 copy of the book, “I, Poetic Confessions, II” by Curtis R. Smith

David C. Kopaska-Merkel
2 one-year (3 issue) digital (PDF) subscriptions to Dreams and Nightmares magazine

David Flynn
2 copies of the book “Selected Poems” by David Flynn

Ed Werstein
1 copy of the book “Who Are We Then?” by Ed Werstein
1 copy of the book “Masquerades and Misdemeanors” by The Hartford Avenue Poets
1 copy of the “2018 Wisconsin Poets Calendar”

Elizabeth Marchitti
1 copy of the book “Growing Old Disgracefully” by Elizabeth Marchitti

Ellen Sander
1 copy of the book “Hawthorne, a House in Bolinas” by Ellen Sander

Emily Vieweg
1 copy of the chapbook “Conversations with Beethoven and Bach” by Emily Vieweg
1 copy of the chapbook “Look Where She Points” by Emily Vieweg

Forage Poetry Forum
1 copy of the book “Poems of the Decade: An Anthology of the Forward Books of Poetry” selected by William Sieghart.
1 set of “Phoenix Classic Poetry: 10 book Box Set “Phoenix Poetry: Classic Poetry – a 10-book collection including Blake, Poe, Shakespeare & Yeats”

Hanoch Guy
1 copy of the book “We Pass Each Other on the Stairs:120 Real and Imaginary Encounters” by Hanoch Guy

Hiram Larew
$25 added to the prize pot

Karawane, or the Temporary Death of the Bruitist
3 copies of the magazine “Karawane, or the Temporary Death of the Bruitist” with assorted postcards designed by Fluffy Singler

Ken Allan Dronsfield
2 copies of the book “The Cellaring” by Ken Allan Dronsfield

Larry O. Bubar
2 copies of the anthology “Breathe vol.1” by the Breathe Writers Group

“Laughing” Larry Berger
1 copy of the book “Instant Poetry (Just add words!)” by Lawrence Berger

LB Sedlacek
1 copy of the chapbook “Mars or Bust” by LB Sedlacek

Leilani Squire
4 1/2 hour creativity coaching sessions

Lone Stars Poetry Magazine
1 Issue of Lone Stars Poetry Magazine

Luanne Castle
2 copies of the book “Doll God” by Luanne Castle

Magalena Ball
1 autographed copy of the book “Unmaking Atoms” by Magdalena Ball

Marianne Szlyk
3 copies of the book “I Dream of Empathy” by Marianne Szlyk
2 copies of the The Blue Hour’s Third Anthology
1 copy of “Literature Today”

Marie C Lecrivain
1 copy of the book “Philemon’s Gambit” by Marie C Lecrivain

Marsha Carow Markman
2 copies of the anthology “If We Dance . . . A Collection of Poems” edited by Joan Wines

Mary Langer Thompson
1 signed copy of the book “Poems in Water” by Mary Langer Thompson

Matthew Abuelo
2 copies of the book “The News Factory” by Matthew Abuelo

Muddy River Poetry Review & Muddy River Books
1 copy of the book “Love Poems From Hell” by Zvi A. Sesling

Neil Leadbeater
2 copies of the book “Finding the River Horse” by Neil Leadbeater

Neil Meili
2 copies of the book “Missing Leonard Cohen” by Neil Meili

Poetry Contests for a Cause
1 copy of the anthology “Paw Prints in Verse: Poems about Pets” edited by Stacy Savage

Poets & Allies for Resistance
1 copy of the book “The Bottle & The Boot” by J.L Martindale & Daniel McGinn
1 copy of the book “Deed” by Rod Smith
1 copy of the book “Rise of the Trust Fall” by Mindy Nettifee
1 copy of the book “Open 24 Hours” by Suzanne Lummis

Poets Wear Prada
1 $15 Gift Certificate for poetry editing services (worth 5 pages) from Poets Wear prada

2 one-year (4-issue) subscriptions to Rattle magazine

Rick Lupert
1 copy of the book “Donut Famine” by Rick Lupert
1 copy of the book “Romancing the Blarney Stone” by Rick Lupert
1 copy of the book “Professor Clown on Parade” by Rick Lupert”

Rolland Vasin
$250 added to the prize pot divided by the 3 winning poets

Ron Kolm
2 copies of the book “A Change in the Weather, poems” by Ron Kolm

Ruth Hill
1 pack of 3 recent poetry journals

San Diego Poetry Annual
1 copy of the San Diego Poetry Annual 2016-17

Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association
2 .pdf subscriptions to “Star*Line”, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association Journal

Steve Braff
1 signed copy of “Forty Days” by Steve Braff- a chapbook of Ekphrastic poetry inspired by the included color photographs of Joshua Tree National Park .

Trish Lindsey Jaggers
1 signed copy of the book “Holonym: a collection of poems” by Trish Lindsey Jaggers

Unlikely Books
2 copies of the book “Ghazals 1-59 and Other Poems” by Sheila E. Murphy and Michelle Greenblatt
2 copies of the book “Scorpions” by Joel Chace
2 copies of the book “brain : storm” by Michelle Greenblatt (2nd edition)
2 copies of the book “Soy solo palabras but wish to be a city” by León De la Rosa & Gui.ra.ga7 (2nd edition)
2 copies of the book “My Hands Were Clean” by Tom Bradley (2nd Edition)”

Vincent O’Connor
1 copy of the book “Mouthful of Forevers” by Clementine Von Radics
1 copy of the book “Thirty-Three Minnesota Poets” edited by Monica and Emilio DeGrazia”

Voices Israel
2 copies of the anthology “A Second Decade of Poems from Voices Israel”

Winning Writers
2 free entries to the Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest (value $12 each)

1 purple velvet covered WoollyDoc pocket journal
1 spotted velboa covered WoollyDoc pocket journal
1 canvas covered WoollyDoc pocket journal


Meet Your Judges

  • Ben Britton (Exeter, United Kingdom)
    Ben Britton is a poet and short fiction writer currently living in Exeter, in the UK. He was brought up in London, and would like to think that as a youth he roamed through the disquiet of the city at ease. But instead he was brought up in suburbia (and not the gothic kind either). He alternates his time between writing, sleeping, and attempting to study literature and film at uni.
  • J.P. Grasser (Salt Lake City, Utah)
    A 2017-2019 Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, J.P. Grasser attended Sewanee: The University of the South and received his M.F.A. in poetry from The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. He is currently a doctoral student in Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Utah, where he teaches undergraduate writing and serves as Managing Editor for Quarterly West. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, Best New Poets 2015 (selected by Tracy K. Smith), The Cincinnati Review, Meridian, The New Criterion, Ninth Letter Online, and West Branch Wired, among others.
  • Jo Angela Edwins (Florence, South Carolina)
    Jo Angela Edwins teaches creative writing, American literature, and composition at Francis Marion University in Florence, SC. She has published poems in a variety of venues including Calyx, Sojourn, New South, and Adanna. She is the 2014 recipient of the Carrie McCray Nickens Fellowship Poetry Prize from the South Carolina Academy of Authors. Her chapbook, Play, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2016.

2017 Contest Calendar

  • July 5: Contest begins
  • July 10-16: Judges featured as Poets of the Week
  • July 23, 2:00 pm (pacific)PSH Live Judges Event: Live broadcast where Judges will have the chance to read poems and discuss the contest and you can call in live and ask them questions. Click here for more info. and to tune in.
  • September 23: Final deadline for contest entries. (Entry fees must be received by PayPal or Venmo, or postmarked by September 23 or they’ll be returned.)
  • September 29: Judges deadline for returning scored poems.
  • October 6: Second round scoring deadline (in the event of tied scores.)
  • October 82pm (pacific) PSH Live Event: “Winners Announced” in a special broadcast. Listen to it live and if any of the winners happen to be listening, they’ll be invited to call in and read their winning entries live on the air..
  • October 9-15: Contest Winners featured as Poets of the Week.

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Filed under Doll God, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing, Writing contest

What in the World is a Chapbook?

Sometimes we get so used to the jargon of the field we’re in that we forget it’s a specialized language. And that others don’t always  know what in the heck we’re talking about when we use it.

I was thinking the other day that when I say that I wonder if Perry is a feral cat or a stray cat that the nuance between those two types of cats could be lost. A feral cat is so wild that he is not used to humans or civilization and oftentimes cannot be persuaded that we are ok. Unless quite young when the socialization begins, it might not be possible to ever get a feral cat to accept human touch. But I say that with a caveat: every cat must be treated as an individual because you just never know which feral cats can be socialized and which socialized cats will never be lapcats–based on temperament, environment, and so on.

Speaking of Perry, I have been reading him Cindy Rinne’s story in verse Quiet Lantern about a Vietnamese girl named Mai Ly who is on a spiritual quest. The farther I go into the story and the more poetic prowess I discover, the more impressed I am with the book.

Another word I’ve flung around the blog lately is chapbook. Kin Types is a chapbook, rather than a full-length poetry collection like Doll God or like Rinne’s book (which is over 100 pages). But what is a chapbook? Historically, a chapbook was a small pamphlet that was truly around before books as we know them today were invented. The first written fairy tales were chapbooks. They were small. They were a few pages. And they were really roughly printed.

Chapbooks today, though, usually meet these qualifications:

  • Generally poetry, but not always
  • Less than 48 pages in length, generally around 25-30, but even as short as 15 pages (full-length collection is around 55-75)
  • Generally has a sharper focus than a full-length collection
  • Some of the most famous poems were first published in chapbooks–poems by T.S. Eliot, William Blake, Philip Larkin, and Allen Ginsberg
  • Poems can be used in a full-length collection later (or not)
  • There are many chapbook contests and small presses publishing chapbooks
  • There is only one after-publication prize open to chapbooks in the U.S., whereas there are many for full-length books
  • Poets are encouraged to publish chapbooks, as well as full-length books, and many poets first publish a chapbook rather than a book
  • Sometimes the binding is more beautiful than that of a book
  • Sometimes the artistic quality of the binding is poor and the pages look typewritten
  • Sometimes the book is stapled or bound by cord
  • Although modestly expensive, chapbooks are not meant to make money (yup, that’s a fact and probably true of all)
  • Chapbooks are a way to take a risk and strive for art for art’s sake

I did enter Kin Types in a few contests, but they are expensive (entry around $15-25 each) and when the manuscript was accepted by Finishing Line Press for publication, I decided to go with them, rather than spend more money on contests. Still, Kin Types was a semi-finalist in the Concrete Wolf chapbook contest and a Highly Commended title in The Fool for Poetry International Chapbook Competition.

The only writing I’ve been able to do lately is a poem for my son’s wedding. It’s being framed and will be on a table with photographs of the grandparents (of the bride and groom) who have passed on.

Today is the anniversary of my maternal grandmother’s birth in 1912, two days after the Titanic sank. Her birthday was two weeks after that of my paternal grandmother (though they were born 19 years apart). They were both Aries, as is the Gardener.  It’s hard to think of anything that is similar about the three of them, except that they have all been count-on-able.

My maternal grandmother’s name was Lucille Edna, although she was known as Edna. (Luanne is created from Lucille and my mother’s middle name Ann). Edna was Class Historian at graduation (her older sister was Salutatorian the same year) and  always wanted to be a writer. She thought of herself as the “Jo March” of her family (like in Little Women).

When she was elderly and ill, she made me promise I would never give up writing. That comment from Grandma found its way into a Kin Types poem.

from Grandma’s graduation scrapbook


Filed under #AmWriting, Book contest, Cats and Other Animals, Doll God, Family history, Kin Types, National Poetry Month, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing, Writing contest

The Dilemma of Writing Competition Protocol

I started reading over the guidelines for a few writing competitions and was once again annoyed by a dilemma that they provoke.

Most of the contests tell you all the wonderful stuff they can think of about the poet/writer who is judging. Then they slam you with this one.

Poets/writers are not eligible to submit a manuscript if they know the judge or the [insert name of press here] personally.

What does this mean regarding the judge? If you’re her father or sister or niece? I get that. If you’re her best friend? If you took three courses in an MFA program from her? That all makes sense.

But what if you took a workshop a zillion years ago and that workshop was a total of less than six hours and she has absolutely no idea who you are?

Does that count?


Pear says Hi!



Filed under #AmWriting, Book contest, Writing, Writing contest, Writing Talk, Writing Tips and Habits

A Truck to Remember

When I was just past thirty,  I wrote a poem about my father. It took an Honorable Mention in a contest sponsored by The MacGuffin literary journal and judged by Diane Wakoski.  I gave him a copy of the journal after it was published, and he acted like he always did when he didn’t know if he was being subtly criticized or if he should be flattered. I told him to be flattered.

“Little old ladies” (his term) always loved my father. And I think that’s how he found some of his treasures. Maybe that is where my trunk came from, now that I think of it!

A Scout Truck Grows Older


The only time my father did not bury

himself with obsolete and imperfect things–

rice-paper widows with old iceboxes and documents

to give away to someone who cherished them

for their age–was when he loved a ‘sixty-four

gray-green Scout, still toddler-new and shiny.

I took this as an omen of better times;

not knowing he wanted to see the decay of beauty.


My father and I travelled long and alone

in that truck that was not really a truck–

no caked mud flaps, corroded door frames,

three-year-old garbage under cab seats.

In January he cranked its heavy plow,

flexing the biceps of the Scout’s compact body.

It whined and startled from the weight

of Kalamazoo’s heavy winter, my father

pushing it on and on way into dark.


That summer he steered us bouncing across

the spongy edge of Long Lake, passing closest

when breath-near the bottomless drop-off.

I imagined the truck tipping and me

with no orange life jacket to endure

the cold whirlpool, those obsidian depths.

But we spun on, tilting, along that damp sand,

crushing the last fishtail-smelly driftwood

and snail shells that lake would ever spew out.


The Scout began aging–coughing and slowing.

When it held enough soiled shirts and rusty tools–

things not new, too common to call antiques–

I was too grownup to dress in boy clothes

and pretend to be my father’s son, loving

the feel of destruction beneath our wheels.

The MacGuffin 5.3 (1988): 18

I couldn’t find an old photograph of the truck. I realized I don’t have many photos of those years.

I’m not sure if my dad’s truck was #1 or #3 in the ad. I remember running away and getting out to the garage and seeing the Scout sitting there. The world looked exhausting from the garage, so I hauled my little laundry bag of clothes into the truck and fell asleep.





Filed under #AmWriting, Family history, Literary Journals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Publishing, Writing, Writing contest

Honorable Mention: “The Story of the Water Droplets”

The Story of the Water Droplets

by Enrique Guerra-Pujol

Whenever my wife and I return to Jamaica to visit our family and friends, we like to begin our day by waking up early to see the sunrise and walking on the beach. As the soft sun appears above the horizon, I will wade into the warm tropical waters and perform a peculiar and private ritual. In brief, I lunge into the gentle waves, clasp together the palms of my hands, and splash the ocean waters as high as I possibly can.

This motion produces hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of tiny water droplets, flying every which way. Each airborne droplet sparkles under the rising Caribbean sun, yet the duration of this chaotic ballet of droplets is but short- lived. This transitory constellation of water droplets falls back into ocean in the blink of an eye.

I confess that I never tired of performing this strange aquatic sacrament. But why?

Perhaps the ephemeral droplets are a poetic reminder of my mortality, for on a geological time scale, the life of one man is like the lifespan of a single, fleeting droplet.

In the alternative, maybe I am attracted to the unruly geometry of the airborne droplets, for with each splash of the waters, I produce a unique and inimitable choreography of dancing droplets.

Or perhaps the flying droplets are a collective symbol of the inherent limitations of our knowledge, for just as I am unable to take a precise census of the innumerable droplets, we may never be able to fully understand the unceasing dynamics of human conflict and the role of law in promoting cooperation.

But, often times, knowing our limitations is a good place to start. I may not be able to count the entire constellation of droplets at any one time, but perhaps, by narrowing my gaze to one droplet, I could develop a simple and testable model to find an approximate measure of her trajectory and lifespan.

There is no moral to this story. It’s just about one man’s sense wonderment amid the beauty of the water droplets.



Enrique Guerra-Pujol is a law professor, an indiscriminate reader, and a struggling writer. His main areas of research are the evolution of conflict and cooperation and the application of Bayes’ Rule and other mathematical ideas to law. In addition, his extracurricular interests include bird-watching, rafting, star-gazing, and the arts, especially literature and the cinema.


Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, WordPress, Writing, Writing contest

Honorable Mention: “The Relaxation Group”

The Relaxation Group

by Jackie Dinnis   

My arrival at the group will be a minor miracle. Venturing out of my four walls into unfamiliar territory is like asking me to fly to the moon. The past few days have been spent rehearsing in my mind as an actor would walk through a forthcoming scene in a play. Being a glass half-empty type of person I spend my life constantly expecting the worst, but it still came as a slap in the face when the worst actually happened. I won’t bore you with the details because I no longer feel the need to tell everyone about my catastrophic life. Finally things all caught up with me and I am receiving treatment for anxiety. I hope the relaxation group will play a major part.

I am on the number 5 bus, after many hours of pondering, poring over bus timetables, taking practice rides in the car, and walking to the hospital. So many decisions to be made, and I feel incapable of even deciding whether to drink tea or coffee at the moment. My mind tries to think logically; if I walk, I am more in control of things. I know how long it takes me to make the journey, so there is no doubt what time I need to leave the house. The bus trip needs to be taken in two parts and will take just as long as walking, but I will be able to sit on the buses and not get hot. I could drive. I know where to park when I get there and it is only a ten minute drive on major roads with no tricky right hand turns into busy traffic.  Everything is such a worry; there’s no rest for my mind at all. Who would have thought the treatment for anxiety would be so scary? In the end my decision is made for me. Since I find my car boxed in by visitors to the local park, there’s not enough time to walk and the bus is my only option.

I rush to the bus stop and sit by the window, then mentally count off the number of stops as we progress along the tree-lined avenue. No one sits beside me, so I can ignore the worry of having to ask them to move as I get off the bus by the town hall. That was the shorter journey, and I change to the number 5 bus to complete it. There are fewer people on this bus, the sun shines through the windows and I try to remember to keep breathing. As the bus slowly progresses through the town centre to the outskirts, I take the official looking letter out of my handbag, noting again the time of the appointment and where I am to enter the building. Somehow the actual going in is on my mind more than anything else, as once I am inside there will be no turning back. All the time I am still outside, I can decide to turn around and go back to the safety of my home. I have control.

I recognise the road we are on; it leads into the hospital grounds. I prepare to leave the comparative safety of the bus.

Going into the hospital is, in the end, no problem at all. Everywhere is clearly labelled and signposted. I am gently shown into the relaxation room and told where to sit. Did I really think they would make it difficult to gain entrance to a group designed for people suffering from anxiety?

On entering the relaxation room a quiet, steady background sound permeates the interior–the constant low sounds of water flowing and birds gently singing. It comes from a CD player on a shelf by the window. Panic rises along with my temperature. This sound of water might make me need the loo, and I have no idea where it is. I sit there, unsure whether or not to remove my coat, and if I do, where should I put it?

Welcome to my mind, the place of constant turmoil, one decision after another, worry piled on worry until it all topples over like a pile of laundry constantly overfilling the basket.

The sweat trickles down my top lip, and casually my tongue pops out from the corner of my mouth, mopping up the salty liquid. It’s no good, my coat will have to be removed, and I can feel everyone’s eyes on me as I struggle to get my arms out of the sleeves while remaining seated. Standing up would be one step too far at this stage; it would make me fill more space in the room and draw even more attention to myself.

Suddenly I notice a bubbling sound coming from the corner of the room, a kettle is having its own little panic attack on the table as it reaches boiling point. I want to rush over and switch it off, allowing it to calm down, but it automatically stops itself after a while. I wish I had one of those switches inside me.

I risk lifting my eyes, noting with some relief that the other occupants of the room all seem as mad as me. We’re all wearing clothes that could have come from a dressing up box at a nursery or the reject pile at a charity shop.

Worry, worry, worry. When will this group start? Looking around the room out of the corner of my eye, I see: twitching limbs; fingers scratching naked arms; tapping feet; crossed legs flapping uncontrollable; a horrible sense of loss of control.

‘Hello everyone, here we are then, and first it would be good to introduce ourselves–just our first names. I’m Tom.’

I don’t hear anyone else’s name, struggling to remember my own, saying it under my breath again and again until it comes to be my turn to speak. What is my name anyway, and who am I?

Jackie lives with her son in Brighton, England. After leaving school at 16 in 1974, she continued her education recently, studying at the University of Sussex and gaining a degree in Community Development. She now does what she wants to do which includes writing, researching her family history, watching Brighton & Hove Albion and enjoying her life.

Watch for another Honorable Mention story on Friday!


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Honorable Mention: “For Ian”

For Ian

by Regenia Spoerndle         

The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the breeze warm, gentle and perfect. It was a take-your-kids-to-the-park-for-a-picnic kind of day, not a go-to-the-doctor-with-four-children-who-can’t-stand-waiting-rooms-any-more-than-you kind of day.  It was a summer day that begged changing goals, ambitions, and schedules into a book at the park and a nap. It was a perfect day. I didn’t know this was the day my son had died.

We drove to the doctor’s office. I read Doctor Seuss to children and People to me. They called my name. I shared a threatening look of discipline with the children, leaving them behind. I hoped the doctor would move quickly.


There’s a problem with the stethoscope. We’ll get the doctor. A distant fear creeping toward me ready to grab my throat and shake every fiber of my being until I no longer recognized life. I didn’t want to know this was the day my son had died.

Sometimes it’s just a game of hide-and-seek. Let’s look again. A grimaced face, furrowed brows, and deep sadness in his eyes–unprofessional, but compassionate. A knock at the door. Your children miss you; here they are. Six people in a room made for one, crowded with dread so thick I wonder if we should slice it and hand out the pieces. It’s unspoken, yet the doctor and I know.

An announcement of an opportunity to check with an image, the innocence of childhood excited to see, a shout of celebration, a hidden painful glance from the doctor pretending to look at his shoes. We begin to walk to the room where it will be confirmed.

A quiet pronouncement, youthful giggling, questioning, not understanding. I’m sorry. My daughter stops, her sensitive spirit catching a shift, she looks at my face, reads it and cautions, What’s wrong Mom? I can’t. I don’t. How do you speak the words?

I say them somehow. I hear those awful, wretched words, and watch the world shift. The faces crumble, the tears form, the arms wrap around. It is the circle of life and death, and the sorrow that chases it. This is the day my son has died.

Regenia credits her love of writing to wonderful children’s literature that filled her childhood, a black metal Underwood typewriter with an unlimited supply of paper, and an inspiring high school English teacher who’s only comment on her essay was, “You really have talent as a writer”. Besides her love affair with the written word, Regenia enjoys adventures with her six children, husband of 25 years, foreign exchange students, and the family dog, Daisy. Regenia is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Akron and Notre Dame College of Ohio, where she teaches undergraduate English, Public Speaking and Newswriting classes. In addition, Regenia serves as a Local Coordinator for Academic Year in America (AYA), matching up high school aged foreign exchange students and host families.  Regenia attempts to chronicle her diverse, and sometimes crazy life, on her two blogs found at and

Watch for another Honorable Mention story on Wednesday!


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Third Place Contest Winner

So It Happened Like This

by Mike Durr

  1. Covington

In every generation there is a vitality that did not exist in previous generations. This vitality, this burning heart fire is what makes us great or greedy, good or bad. For me the fire in my heart was not realized until I was in the fourth grade. Growing up in Covington, Kentucky in those days was no different than growing up in any other small town along the muddy brown Ohio River.   Only a mile across the river, Cincinnati was the home of those fantastic Royals, led by Oscar Robertson. And the home of America’s first professional baseball team, the Redlegs. The tall buildings and bright lights were just over the suspension bridge, which most people pointed to with pride, declaring it was the original model for the Brooklyn Bridge. Covington had then and still does a melancholy feeling. As if leftover ghosts from the Underground Railroad still existed in the damp, dark, hand-burrowed passages of the hidden tunnel—a tunnel dug in a desperate effort to gain freedom from slavery by escaping to the North. It was a secret tunnel dug ages ago, but all of us kids knew where it was and we knew the ghosts were there. The ghosts also walked the alleys and quiet places of the town at night. Sometimes in the heat of summer you could hear calliopes from riverboats and see reflections of spectral images gliding north toward precious freedom.

The summer after my tenth birthday I broke into the tunnel and explored. The cool, dripping, moss-covered passage, blanketed in darkness for nearly a century, called to me with a promise of freedom and I answered the call. I walked where no one had since the Civil War. With the mighty river coursing above, I moved fearlessly through the dark. After awhile I could feel the great desperation and fear of those who had dug the tunnel, and they bore into my spirit and stayed with me long and hard as I grew up. To me they seemed to offer a warning: “Look what had to be done for our freedom. Nothing less. What will you do for your freedom? Stay here, like those who were afraid to cross under the water, and you will never have it.” I was just a kid and the message was not quite clear. I was too simple to understand, too unaffected to know. As the years passed I never went back to the tunnel. But I felt the ghosts and their influence was great within me.

By the time I was nineteen I was desperate to get away. The ghosts of freedom had stoked high the fire in my heart. So on Christmas Eve, just two weeks after my birthday, I joined the Navy.  Three days later and for the first time in my life, I was aboard a jet, strapped in, scared and sweating despite the cold December snow outside the window. The plane gathered speed and left the runway, carrying me North above the dirty ice-caked river. Carrying me to freedom? In reality carrying me to the Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois. I still remember the fear on that freezing, dreary gray afternoon. I was more afraid than at any time in my life. Only the ghosts sustained me. “What are you willing to do for your freedom?”

Late December in Illinois was much the same as in Kentucky. Everything was hard frozen, dirty gray and cold. The Naval Training Center was a collection of sooty, peeling, white wooden buildings, leftover from the Second World War. Old steam-heated buildings, well past their prime, with skins of frost on their warped wood-framed windows. Cracked and peeling paint covered the doors and walls like the dermis of an old leper long since resigned to death. No spit- and-polish Navy Pride, just a winter way station on the road to Vietnam. Oddly enough I felt ghosts here also. Not spirits in desperation but of it. They carried a fear and stink of wars long ago fought. Salt spray and fiery North Atlantic combat. These were spirits of unforgiving conflict and loss. I could sense them, hear them in their anguish, but I was unable to understand the message. I couldn’t yet realize what I would do for my freedom. So I trained with 71 others and grieved the absence of my family and friends. I ate, worked, slept and even breathed Navy. If the training center was not a proud place, I was becoming a proud seaman. Like the ghosts of this place, I was headed for war.

My war was not to be a conflict of cruisers and battleships. No destroyers hunting submarines on the high seas of the North Atlantic. No cobalt-blue shipping lanes of the tropical Pacific. No dolphins riding my bow wave through the vast clear sea. I was headed for the dirty brown water and deep green jungles of Indochina. Headed for the sweltering heat where every insect knew the taste of human blood. A place where the desperation of the oppressed was matched by the desperation of the oppressor. A place where every day spent outside a body bag was counted as a good one. A place where every good day meant 24 hours less to spend in hell. But I did not know these things until later. I could not even have guessed what I would do for my freedom.


Sam (the Marine in hat) and Mike in Phu Bai

A little levity before the serious work begins

Mike Durr is originally from Independence, Kentucky. He attended Holmes High School, University of La Verne, and University of Southern Mississippi.  A member of the Department of Defense for 21 years, Mike is also a former High School Science teacher and  Nuclear Security Training Supervisor. Currently, Mike lives as a pirate in either Florida or Bocas Del Toro, Panama.

Watch for the Honorable Mention stories next week!


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Second Place Contest Winner

Waste Not, Want Not

by Lisa Ellison

Four years before my brother ended his life, my grandfather and I held mass in a tiny kitchen in upstate New York. The sweet tang of simmering sauce offered the opening rites. The three-gallon kettle he had commandeered from work held the holy water that would bring forth our salvation in the form of tender white noodles, our Eucharist. When he twisted the knob on the chipped white stove we began.

“Things keep changing in this world. One day I hope they get it right,” he said, stirring the sauce.

“I hope so,” I answered, grating cheese and savoring his service in our hot little cathedral.

“You see, you’ve got to waste not to want not. Your generation . . . you’re always throwing things away so you can buy something new.”

I nodded in agreement. In two months I would start the tenth grade. I carried a scrap of paper in my back pocket with my shopping list—sweaters, jeans, new shoes. Typically I wore mine until they had holes in them. I felt around with my toes and panicked. Maybe later I would get a steak knife and discover a hole above the heel.

“Back when I was a kid, if you didn’t take care of things, you just didn’t have anything.” He sidestepped towards the cupboard. Heaps of mismatched glass bowls tottered precariously on the thin bowing shelves, chiming like church bells when jostled. “It’s that way with everything nowadays. You tell everybody your business. Words are precious, you know.”

I scooped the cheese into the serving jar. It fell like snow from the spoon.

“You say everything that’s on your mind. Everybody’s got to know how you feel.”

“Seriously?” I looked right at him.

He went to check the water. Small whiffs of steam floated up from the pot, apparitions.  “Some words are sacred, like I love you. Those words are for matrimony. You don’t just throw them around anytime you want.”

He stirred the sauce again. You could taste the air as he pulled meatballs from the electric skillet and tapped off excess sauce, bowls chiming in sweet melody.

“What do you mean by that?” I wrinkled my brow. Surely, he couldn’t be serious.

“I haven’t told anyone I loved them, except for your grandmother, in all my years. I love you is for marriage. It’s sacred.” He smiled and stared out the window, thinking of what? His worn, thin wedding suit draped across his neck?

My jaw dropped as the blood rose in my chest. What was going on with my priest? “You mean that’s it?” My voice raised half an octave as I spit out the sentence. “You don’t tell people you love them? It’s wasteful?”

“Actions speak louder than words,” he said, with grim finality. The water began to rumble. “Talk is cheap. If you say the same thing over and over it loses its meaning.” He ripped the top off two boxes of ziti and dumped them into the pot.

As he stirred the wild water, sweat poured off the brow of his ruddy Irish face. He was my father, son, and holy ghost. This was the man who took me dress shopping before recitals, who slept on the floor at age 63 so my brothers and I could share the only bed in the house. He was the man who walked three miles in the summer sun to borrow a car to take us swimming, who bought me a pair of Reebok sneakers when he worked as a dishwasher in a school because he couldn’t afford to retire. He was the man who looked down tearfully and said, “It’s just alcohol,” when we returned, pale and somber, after a meeting with my mother. I caught his gaze and said, “Grandpa, we know the truth. It wasn’t just alcohol.”

I reflected on all our times together—the walks to the store, the pancake breakfasts, the weekly kitchen sermons. He had never once told me he loved me.

He continued to alternate between stirring the pasta and spooning meatballs and sausage into iridescent serving bowls.

“But that’s wrong!” I blurted, fist clenched, pacing. I had never challenged the service before. “You have to tell people how you feel.”

“You’re just a kid,” he said, glaring.

“Well, you’re wrong,” I repeated. “I get all that other stuff about waste not, want not. But you have to tell people you love them. One day you may be sorry and wish you’d said it more.” A shiver ran down my spine as I uttered those prophetic words.

He spooned a noodle out of the water and popped it into his mouth. “One more minute,” he said, stirring the water again. “When you’re my age you can talk about what is and isn’t right. Until then, you just remember what I said—waste not, want not.”

“You remember what I said. One day you’ll be sorry.”

He looked up at the clock then walked over to the sink with the colander. ”Move on out before you get burned.” His tone was gruff and loud.

He always shooed us out of the room whenever he drained the spaghetti, worried he might burn us with the steaming pot. I obeyed and walked to the doorway. We didn’t know right then that we would all be sorry, that four years later we would see how profoundly you can be burned even when you’re not in the kitchen, that we would spend our Sunday mass in a dimly lit funeral home instead of the kitchen, language swallowed whole.

Later that night, as we got ready to leave, I kissed my grandfather on the cheek, peered into his eyes, and said, “I love you.” He patted me on the back and smiled. “Waste not, want not.”

Lisa Ellison lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with her husband, Mark, and two cats, Smokey and Beulah. She has a life long love of writing, and currently co-facilitates a mindfulness based writing group with her wonderfully supportive literary friends. Lisa volunteers as a pro-bono therapist through a local non-profit agency.  Her poem “Furious Houses” was published in the Winter 2012 edition of the journal Blooming in the Noise.

Watch for Third Place Contest Winner Mike Durr’s story, “So It Happened Like This,” on Friday!


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