Tag Archives: Nonfiction

3 Poems Up at Furious Gazelle and More Writing News

Hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had a lovely one. My daughter’s in-laws had us over for an Italian Christmas feast, including gluten free versions for the gardener.  We had a wonderful time, needless to say.

I had some minor good news the other day. An excerpt of my unpublished memoir Scrap was a finalist in the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards. Woot! That feels like a step in the right direction for this project that has been in in the works since 2008 hahaha.

Coincidentally, on Christmas Eve, the journal Furious Gazelle published three poems, and these poems all relate to material found in Scrap. A big thank you to the editors.

You can read them here:

3 POEMS AT FURIOUS GAZELLE

In this photo my father is on our left and his twin brother is on our right. They look like they belong in an Our Gang movie, and it’s true they were raised by the streets as much as by their mother or sister.

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My Essay Published by North Meridian Review

This news has been in process for some time, but I’m thrilled to share an essay I wrote about the loss of retail business, featuring my hometown Kalamazoo, Michigan. I am so thankful to editor Wesley R. Bishop and the journal North Meridian Review for publishing this essay. NMR is a super cool journal hosted by academics from several Indiana Universities and specializing in interdisciplinary scholarship, culture, and art.  In other words, NMR is a hybrid entity, straddling the creative and academic worlds.

“A Long Time from Burdick Street” is named thus because Burdick Street was an important artery for retail in days past–and still is the heart of the downtown. In fact, Kalamazoo was known for building the nation’s first outdoor pedestrian mall. Time changed, and eventually the downtown section of Burdick had to be reopened to traffic, but I grew up with the mall. Further south on Burdick Street my grandfather grew up–his family home and parents’ businesses were on Burdick–and he stayed there and raised his own family, running a Sunoco gas station at the corner of Burdick and Balch.

Disclosure: I used a fake name for the gardener because he’s such a private person. I keep changing his identity in my writing. Maybe he won’t be able to find himself that way. 😉

Here is a link to the issue–you can find my essay starting on page 104:

NORTH MERIDIAN REVIEW

My MIL painted the mall when the gardener and I were first going out. It had been commissioned by Irving Gilmore, of the department store family. She used to sit in her burnt orange Opel hatchback, painting. When she picked me up from work her car smelled like oil paints.

 

I’ve written in the past on this blog about the loss of retail: RIP Dreamland. At that time, I was focused on the loss of Marshall Field (“Field’s”) and shared a photo of the location of my family’s 19th century retail business in the Netherlands.

Hope you enjoy this new piece!

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10 Real Life Home Fashion Choices from the 1970s

Part of research for writing can be mining one’s own past environment.  I made a list of the early 70s fashion items which impressed themselves most indelibly in my memory. Maybe you even have some of these goodies in your own home today. (I admit that I have two of these items).

  1. The fork and spoon on the kitchen wall. Ours came from an interior designer who rented an old house from my dad for her business. When she couldn’t pay the rent and wanted to move out, she gave him some merchandise in lieu of the back rent. These items included the big wooden eating implements. I couldn’t find a photo of ours when I wanted them, but there are images all over Google.
  2. The long, low brown, tan, or gold couch with the beige drapes. The sample here is from my in-laws’ house. Being Canadian, my MIL still called the couch a chesterfield. Also please note the Stiffel lamp and the leggy houseplants.
  3. The small, light-colored television set. In the following photo, once again we have a long, low brownish couch–this time it’s in my parents’ living room. The same beige drapes that my in-laws had. To watch our TV you had to sit in one of the two arm chairs that were facing the couch. Remember that these couches were not for lying down to watch TV. Most people weren’t couch potatoes. This couch was “Swedish modern,” and it was very uncomfortable. Photo shows Dad, brother, and me at one of our usual pastimes, Monopoly.
  4. The odd hotel-like artwork on walls. In this case, we have a rug in a fake design (as opposed to a real hooked design). Bland paintings and posters were other common wall hangings, as were macrame plant hangers. Notice that the following image also features a couch of the time period–in this case, there is a pattern. The lamp and shade are similar in shape to the Stiffel.
  5. The table/lamp combination. Here is my MIL at another relative’s home. We all had these lamps.
  6. Large feathers, even peacock, or pampas grass stuck in vases or baskets to decorate corners of rooms. In the following photo, the chair is a mini version of the couches, and the lamp once again has the same shape.
  7. Paneling on the walls. Wood paneling was particularly popular in living rooms, family rooms, and basement rec rooms. This one is a rec room, and my brother is trying to keep from being stabbed with a dart.
  8. Another favorite for walls was flocked wallpaper. Which was worse: the wallpaper or my perm?
  9. Long strands of beads instead of draperies. In the window behind Uncle Frank we have a “wall” of green beads on our kitchen window. Also, please note the strange plastic “canisters” for storage, both on the counter and hanging from the cabinet.
  10. The large, free-standing microwave on its own cart. Good grief. As if it’s a kitchen altar. I must mention the gold wall phone. That cord was always tangling up dishes, food, and pens.Make it a great week, everyone!

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Celebrity Story

In honor of William Shatner’s trip off the earth, I am reblogging my Shatner story.

Luanne Castle's Writer Site

Every family has its stories. The ones that cause us to post links and odd comments on the social media of our family members. Nobody else “gets” it because they don’t know the stories we’ve developed over the years.

One of our private stories (no longer private with this post, I guess) may or may not be apocryphal. I’m going to tell it as I know it, but maybe somebody else might have a different take on it.

Years ago, before I had kids even, it was very special to be able to tour Burbank Studios (now part of Warner Brothers). They only allowed a handful of people to tour each week, and you had to have some sort of connection to the industry. They were private tours.

When the gardener and I visited Los Angeles, I decided I just had to go on the tour.  So I had to…

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When You Were a Kid, Who Was Your Hero?

Seven and a half years ago I posted about a childhood hero of mine. He was my 4th grade teacher. You can find the link here: Everyday [Super] Hero. I want to take a break from writing this week, so I looked at my stats for the first time in a loooooooooooooong time to see which post had the least amount of views. Other than two “WP business” type posts, this one had the least. That made me a little sad because heroes deserve to be recognized. I’ll close comments over here, but if you leave a comment over there I will see it. Let’s make it a healing week.

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In a Fog

This has been such a difficult three months for me. On the one hand, I am blessed that I am not recently mourning any of my human relatives or close friends. But two of our long-time kitties and one of our kitty grandkits have passed away–one in July, one in August, one in September. Isabella Rose, or Izzie, was my daughter’s cat, only 11 years old, and I used to babysit her alllll the time. I loved babysitting her. She would walk in as though she owned the place. She had the other cats convinced of just that. We had Felix for fifteen years, and he was such a gentle, sweet soul. He endured chronic GI problems for years, but we set up a camera over his litter box and monitored his “schedule” for two years. I didn’t mind at all because I loved him so much.

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that the latest loss is my closest friend, my heart, Pear Blossom. She was 21 1/2, but that only makes it harder because we were together for so long. So many of my people have known her over the years. And with her kind and helpful personality, she touched so many lives. Pear and Felix were from my first group of three cats. They were very good friends–the three mousketeers. Macavity passed away in 2015. If you would like to read the story of how Mac, our first cat, came to be a part of our family–and how the gardener changed from a self-avowed cat hater–you can read this story: My Own Cat Hero or a Loss Upon a Loss

Why do kitties always take a turn for the worse on the weekend when one is least likely to find one’s vet available? Izzie passed on a Sunday, and both Felix and Pear on Saturdays. And yesterday, on Saturday, Tiger got sick!!!!! I took her to the ER after calling them and making sure. But when we were getting checked in, the vet called in sick. They sent me to another ER across town. At that one, the vet was just going into surgery and the wait would be hours. I was concerned that Tiger could have a urinary blockage as she had been running in and out of the litter box, unable to pee. By this time my vet was open (only open mornings on Saturdays) and although they were completely booked up, she let me drop off Tiger so she could be examined between patients. Luckily, Tiger turned out to have a UTI, not a blockage.

Being there at the euthanasia of three cats in three months has made me feel like the Angel of Death. I’m a benign zombie, not fully in the moment. The couch is soooo lonely without Pear next to me, even if another cat comes to me. I can only sleep at night with the little blanket Pear used in the last few weeks of her life.

Of course, life keeps on happening, right in the face of grief. But I’m trying to go easy and not push myself right now.

I had posted the following pic on Instagram in September 2019, while I was babysitting Izzie. I felt like Snow White with the 7 little cats–so happy to have them all together in my home. But now it’s easy to see the devastation.

Don’t worry: Tiger and Kana still make me work hard with all their needs. And Perry needs lots of attention because he’s grieving more than the other cats. He is at loose ends much of the time, with a sad look on his face.

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The Babies and the Stories

Hummingbirds make such wonderful mothers. Six years ago, the hummingbird who raised two nests right outside my door was a good example. When one of her babies turned out to find it more difficult to learn to fly, she spent hours one afternoon patiently teaching the little one. The green hummingbird raising her babies in our oleander right now is another good example. First, before she ever laid her eggs, she completely moved her nest from the windchime/mobile to the oleander tree when she realized the first place was not safe. Now we’ve noticed that because the sun beats relentlessly on the babies in the mornings, she sits on them for protection even though they are now big kids. We expect them to fly away any day now. Here she is shielding them from the sun.

Last week I told you that Kana was enjoying a manuscript box, but Tiger would lie down in it when Kana wasn’t there.

I think I forgot to mention that my daughter gave me Storyworth for Mother’s Day. I had never heard of it before. Every week for a year I get a story prompt mailed to me. The idea is these stories are all about my life. As soon as I email one back, my kids get the story dumped in their inboxes. I am allowed to include photos if I like. And if I hit send and regret something I can easily edit it. At the end of the year, the kids will get books of “the story of my life.” Why is this different from creative nonfiction and memoir writing? These stories are geared for my kids and (hopefully someday) their kids. Some of the stories are already part of family legend, but now they will be written down in a permanent form. If I don’t like a particular prompt, I can change it out, but so far each one (I’ve done four) have been fruitful lines of enquiry ;). I’ve written about my first memory, most memorable birthday, favorite trip, and a time when I was brave. I’m not saying I wouldn’t share any of these on this blog, but not today, folks.

It’s a genius idea that I wish I had thought of before these people did hah. The reason it’s genius is that it’s got to be a money maker as it’s pricey. But I kind of think it’s worth it because who does this anyway? And keeps it up for a year? You could do this completely on your own. But will your loved ones keep writing those stories every week? They will if they know you paid for the subscription!

Make it a fine week!!!!

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Off to See the Wizard

Cutest 11 seconds on video: my sweet Perry.

I’m off to be seen by the infectious disease doctor this morning. Fingers crossed.

Here are a few photos of our wacky garden.

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A Little This, A Little That, and a Lot of VF

My life has slowed down to a crawl, but I am still learning things. For instance, this. Sloopy Anne has to eat her meals in the bedroom because she has a sensitive nature and Perry will keep her from eating if he can get to her. She is so skittish that if I set the food  down, turn around, and start to leave the room she will run out of the room ahead of me, unless I walk out backwards. Hahaha. So she watches the direction my feet are pointed. That should not surprise me because cats are all about gestures. That’s how they communicate. A flick of the tail, a tip of the ear.

When you see how innocent he looks when he sleeps or cuddles it’s hard to believe Perry can be so naughty.

I’m learning a lot about this stupid Valley Fever. I still have the same pneumonia I had a month ago and it’s possible that my blood levels have gone up (they will be retested in a couple weeks); this is because the fungus grows very very slowly and then very very slowly is pushed into an onion of a lung nodule (the rings, you know). This will take months. The fungus doesn’t just evaporate. It gets pressed by my immune system like a pearl in the making. In the end there will be a nodule in my lung.

Another thing I learned about VF is that my neck pain–remember my neck pain from a few weeks ago?–was the first symptom I had of the disease. For some people that is the first sign. A man in an online support group told me to hydrate like crazy (my GP had told me that, too) and that the pain would be diminished because it’s displaced pain from the inflammation in the lungs. I was glad to hear of something to use because the neck pain had come back, radiated into my upper back on the left side (my left lung is the affected one), and I had even bought a little brace from Amazon. (Gee, Mom. It cost ten bucks–how much could one have cost in the late 60s?)

I’ve also learned that the brain fog from VF makes me make stupid mistakes, so I need to avoid impersonal social media as much as possible. I hope I don’t make an egregious error on here, but I guess y’all will understand if that happens. That word “egregious” is so much fun. Years ago I bought a book on sale called I Always Look Up the Word Egregious. After that, I never forgot what it meant and it’s a lot of fun to say.

This fall has brought a lot of rejections from lit journals. Some of them even praise the work I sent, but say it doesn’t fit. Um, ok. What does that mean? I think it means it’s weird. But I did have a pleasant acceptance finally this past weekend to The Orchards Poetry Journal. Another problem with publications right now is that there are a few poems that were accepted many months ago, but the issues have not been published yet.

Keep on staying safe, please!!! Grab this week by the horns!

 

 

 

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Learning from the Past (haha)

The gardener and I went to California for a couple of days last week. That was our first time out and about in six months. The only interesting thing I saw on the trip was a fire in the mountains near Palm Springs. A huge red helicopter was sucking up water out of a pond that had been created for the purpose of firefighting. Then it flew up toward the smoke pouring out of the side of the mountain.

This photo was taken through the car window as we zipped along the freeway. Notice the pond under the helicopter.

The day after we got back from California my neck went BONKERS. It was so painful that I couldn’t even lie down as the pressure was excruciating. It reminded me of when I injured my neck in sixth grade.

That incident belongs in the category of what were my parents thinking? 

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I was eleven, and we had been tumbling in gym class. I’d always been so-so to lousy in PE. My best events were sprinting and square dancing. Definitely not gymnastics.

The kids from both sixth grade classes were in a line, rushing through barrel rolls on a padded-top vaulting “horse.” As I eased myself over the vinyl for the third time, almost folding my over-long neck in two, I felt something crack. By the time I completed the mile-long walk home after school, the pain demanded attention. It gored me anew as if with an awl with every slight movement of my body.

At the emergency room, my parents gathered round the doctor as he pointed to the damaged vertebrae on an X-ray. “This is why she has to brace her neck. It will also help keep down the inflammation.” Mom’s shoulders were hunched. She had pulled into herself. Dad bounced on the balls of his feet.

At home, Dad wrapped my neck with a faded beach towel and pinned it with one of my brother’s diaper pins. The towel still held the out-of-context smell of sand and Coppertone.

After a night spent awake more often than asleep because of the lump under my neck, I finally fell into a deep sleep sometime after the glow-in-the-dark hands on my alarm clock displayed 5:30. But at 6:30, I awoke to find my arms wrapped around my limp ragdoll, my mother gently shaking my arm. “Wake up. You’ve got to get ready for school.”

I couldn’t believe what she was saying. “School? I can’t go to school.” I wrapped the covers tightly around my shoulders.

Mom pulled the cover down to the foot of the bed. “Rise and shine, Lulu. Your friends will be here for you pretty soon. I made eggs and sausage.” Every morning, the neighbor kids stopped by my house so I could join the group walking to school.

“What about the towel?” It had gotten twisted while I slept, and I tugged on it, trying to straighten it.

As Mom unpinned the towel, I could smell fried pork patties on her hands. “You have to wear it,” she said, as she re-wrapped the towel around my neck.

I didn’t think I had understood her correctly. “I can’t wear a towel to school!”

“You heard the doctor. It’s not negotiable.” I knew that voice, and I knew Dad’s iron hand lurked somewhere behind Mom’s no-nonsense tone.

Reluctantly, and perhaps in shock, I got dressed, ate a few bites of breakfast, and when the doorbell rang, I was ready to go, beach towel and all. When I opened the door, my friends all spoke at once.

“Gaaah, what’s that around your neck?!”

“What’s the deal?”

“Wha . . . .” Karen collapsed into a sputtering laugh.

That day I suffered. Kids pointed their fingers and mimed explosive laughter attacks as they walked past me in the hall. In class, they whispered behind their hands, staring openly at me.

I stood alone at my locker and caught a glimpse of my reflection in the windows across the hall. A girl with a giant donut around her neck.

A neck brace would have drawn attention to me in a negative, pitiful way. But a beach towel and diaper pin? That launched the pitiful on a swift path to the ridiculous.

Underneath the towel, the swelling increased, the pain intensified, and my voice began to diminish. By lunchtime, I could only rasp. Pain closed off all but the sensory part of my mind.

I sheepishly approached my teacher’s desk and croaked unintelligibly.

“Let’s go to the office.” Her suggestion seemed a relief. The office was far from the laughing eyes of the kids.

To the secretary seated behind the counter who stared with an open mouth at my beach towel, my teacher said, “I don’t think school is the place for her. Can you please call her mother to pick her up?”

In the car on the way home, my mother said, “Why didn’t you tell me it hurt?”

I thought I’d made clear that I was in no condition to go to school and that a towel did not make a neck brace that I could wear in public. But my mother seemed to think it was my fault that I didn’t communicate better.

“I did tell you! And it got worse today at school!” I gulped in some air. “It was horrible!” Sobs burst from my mouth before I could control them and that began a shuddery crying jag. Every time my mother would try to pat my arm with a jerky, awkward movement, I cried louder.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you disliked it so.” My mother frowned as if she were confused.

The doctor must have set my mother straight when she called him about the swelling and pain because she kept me home from school for a month after that.

Now that I’ve been a mother long enough to see my kids reach adulthood, I can see the scene through Mother’s Eyes. The reactions of my parents perplex me more than they ever did. I never doubted that they loved me, but they didn’t listen to me or imagine things from my perspective.

###

Having lived through that experience gave me the idea the other night to wrap a pair of yoga pants around my neck. Perfect! I was able to sleep through the night wearing that “brace” around my neck. My neck got much better because the brace took weight off my neck. So now I am sleeping with the pants around my neck every night!

Do you have a childhood memory where you wondered what in the world your parent or parents were thinking?

 

 

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